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Jan 4, 2010 01:13 PM

Dim sum disaster

We decided to go for dim sum today. Just before we got up to leave, our waiter came by and began to clear the table. In doing so, he knocked over the soy sauce which landed on my hubby's lap. His entire leg from the knee up was covered in the stuff. Okay not the end of the world BUT I was really surprised that they did not offer to either pay for cleaning, reduce our bill, offer us complimentary desert - nothing. Not that we needed anymore food or anything but it would have been nice had they at least made some type of offer to make it up to us.

I know the waiter felt badly, he apologized a few times.....but still! Am I right? Or petty?

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  1. The restaurant needs to be responsible for the cleaning. The restaurant has a right to ask you to get the cleaning done first, and present them with a bill.

    I'm in the Chinese restaurant business. But for Italian tomato sauce, I think the Chinese restaurant wields the most horribly staining sauces known to man. We bend over backwards for customers who've been splashed on by our servers (not that it happens that often, but when it does, it's usually a doozy). My heart sinks when I suggest the name of the only dry cleaner in town I know can successfully tackle the sauces we make, only to hear that the customer will take it to their own dry cleaner. I've said "I told you so" several times to people who want me to buy them an entirely new garment.

    Needless to say I almost invariably comp the table a round of drinks while we're fussing over the spilled-on customer with paper napkins, cloths and bar towels soaked in club soda...

    1. This happened to me at a local Italian place. The busser dumped a plate of balsamic vinegar/ olive oil all over me. I'm not sure if there's a worse stain than oil and dark grape juice. Of course it happened on one of the few times I wasn't wearing black and everything I was wearing, head to toe, was brand new and never worn.

      At the time, the busser didn't call over a manager or even let the server know. I should've asked for the manager myself, but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. It was our anniversary and I was hoping to still enjoy the night. By the end of the meal, I was smelled like a salad and just wanted to go home. Cancelled the rest of our evening.

      It was then that I noticed the stains on my brand new shoes, and the inside lining of a very expensive purse. I wrote to the managers and they were very apologetic. Sent me a gift certificate for about $75. My shoes and shirt alone were $600. The shirt was ruined, the cleaner couldn't salvage it, and the shoes still have a small stain visible to this day. I dealt with the stains on the suede inside my purse until I retired it and gave it to a friend.

      Best of all, when I went to use the gift certificate they wouldn't honor it. It expired 3 months after they sent it to me. I've never been back.

      Anytime a guest is harmed or has something ruined, a manager should be called over even if the guest insists they're fine. And yes, they absolutely should pay to clean/replace things. Otherwise, it's the fastest way to lose a customer.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Azizeh

        How come you waited over three months to have your stuff cleaned? It's not like stains are easier to remove the longer you wait.... and especially with such expensive wardrobe.... baffling.

        1. re: linguafood

          Most likely Azizeh used the gift certificate at a later date. It sounds like the orginal article of clothing had been sent to the dry cleaners before the gift certificate was received.

            1. re: millygirl

              I understood it to mean they sent her a gift certificate for the restaurant, not for the dry cleaner.

            2. re: linguafood

              Did you read the paragraph as saying the gift certificate was for the dry cleaner? I read it as a gift certificate for something unnamed, most likely for a return trip to the restaurant itself.

              1. re: KTFoley

                Yep, read it as in 'for the dry cleaner'. Am realizing now that that doesn't make a helluvalot of sense. I mean, how would the restaurant manager have a gift certificate for the dry cleaner? >rolls eyes<.

                Maybe I should've had that extra cuppa joe this afternoon.

                1. re: linguafood

                  Yeah, now I'm wondering myself. Although they sent the certificate to her so they could have very easily picked one up. But $75 is a lot of dry cleaning. Who knows...I'm beginning to regret ever starting this damn thread.

                  1. re: millygirl

                    Trust me, that won't be the last time if you stick around, especially on the NAF board '-)

                    Just look at it as human comedy.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Sorry guys, not my finest set of sentences up there.

                      I did attempt to clean everything the day after I was splattered. It wasn't until the shirt came back from the cleaner without any results, the shoes from the shoe repair place just slightly better, and after Louis Vuitton told me to live with the staining on the inside of the bag that I got annoyed enough to write the restaurant manager.

                      They sent me a gift certificate for apps, entrees, and dessert for 2. It's not a pricey place at all, so the $75 would require ordering the most expensive things on the menu. When we attempted to use it, they refused even after I explained it. I was honestly amazed that the manager would write an expiration date on the gift certificate at all, given the circumstances.

                      1. re: Azizeh

                        Well don't keep us in suspense, where was this place with such terrible customer service??

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          It's called Fritto Misto, here in Santa Monica. I believe they have another location somewhere in the south bay. People love it, but I was never really that impressed. Food is just okay.

                          Funny thing was that I was trying to be a bit frugal for our anniversary. We were leaving the next day for a week in New York City where I knew we'd be eating and spending like maniacs. Turns out, my cheap dinner cost me way more in ruined clothes and cleaning than a nice dinner elsewhere would've been. Go figure.

                          1. re: Azizeh

                            Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh ho ho ho ho ho... oh, I should have guessed.

                            It's a concept that SHOULD work and food that's better-than-average (or used to be) but the service, UGH. And they've no incentive to improve because they've lines out the door.

          1. I think it's appropriate for the restaurant to pay for your cleaning, but I also think that if they don't volunteer to do this (or compensate in one of the other ways you mention, if you think those are more appropriate), then you need to ask for it, instead of leaving unsatisfied. Politely and reasonably, of course.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              You know we contemplated asking but decided against it. Quite frankly I was disappointed in the food and the restaurant itself seems to have gone downhill since we were last there so it's not a place I plan to revisit. I figure it will cost approx. $6 to dry clean and it just wasn't worth the aggravation of having to ask for the money. Besides that, we had a guest with us and didn't want to make a scene. I am though still pissed about it, and may call them just to let them know.

              1. re: millygirl

                "I am though still pissed about it, and may call them just to let them know."

                Go back to the restaurant with the cleaning bill and if you have a credit card receipt from the day you were there and if you can point out the waiter do that too. Demand they reimburse you for the cleaning.

                That's the only way you'll have satisfaction.

            2. Best to always call over the manager and tell them what happened. Depending on the circumstances the best thing to do is tell them you want to be reimbursed for the cleaning.

              Too many posts I've read with similar incidents the customer "expects" the whole dinner check comped or part of the dinner comped or like you they leave unsatisfied and post their complaint here. Having been in restaurant management where I worked we only offered to reimburse the customer for cleaning or if the article of clothing is ruined we would replace it and depending on the cost of replacement our insurance company would pay out the claim. I think customers expect way too much when something like this occurs. They deserve an apology and reimbursement for cleaning. (PERIOD)

              Sometimes the "help" is afraid of losing their jobs over incidents like that and don't want the management to find out, so they become very apologetic, next time ask to speak with a manager and tell them what you expect, but I think a comp of any kind is out of line.

              8 Replies
              1. re: monku

                I guess I'm of the school where if you have to ask, it's just not worth it. They should have come forth on their own and offered to reimburse for dry cleaning. A customer should not have to ask for this. But yes, I am pissed and will not return. And if anyone should ever ask my thoughts on the place, this is the story I will tell. That's just the way it is. They said $6 but lost a customer.

                1. re: millygirl

                  I would say you have no right to be pissed at anyone for not voicing your concerns to the right people and not us the readers.

                  I'm sure the management would have been more than happy to reimburse you for the cleaning and offer an apology if they would have known, but they didn't. Don't rely on the "help" to correct a situation in the restaurant for you no matter what it is. They'll often make an unsatisfactory attempt at correcting a problem which they did in this case.

                  Bottom line is you have to speak up, no one can read your mind.

                  1. re: monku

                    sounds good monku however you are jumping to conclusions. The fact is management was well aware of the situation because it was the manager that brought a damp cloth for my husband.

                    Again my point is that a customer should not have to ask when something like this happens. It should have been offered.

                    Botton line - I don't believe that all management have the same guiding principles as you seem so certain they do.

                    1. re: millygirl

                      My conclusion and understanding of the situation is based on the circumstances as you originally presented them.
                      I never said "all" restaurants follow the golden rules of customer service. All customers have their right to an opinion on how a situation should be handled. You asked, I gave my opinion, you didn't like it.

                      1. re: monku

                        Actually it seems the other way around monku. I gave my opinion to which you said stated above "I have no right" in feeling as I do.

                  2. re: millygirl

                    "I guess I'm of the school where if you have to ask, it's just not worth it."

                    I don't understand this. Can you explain?

                    I mean, don't you ask for more bread on the table, more water, more tea, more cream for the coffee, for the bill, etc. . . Why is asking if they would cover the cleaning too onerous?

                    Also, does the clothing even need special cleaning? I have spilt soy sauce on myself and had soy sauce spilled onto me many times and had the offending sauce come out in the wash just fine.

                    If this was a genuine accident (i.e. not the result of poor thinking in clearing the table), I probably wouldn't ask for anything and I certainly wouldn't expect them to offer without being asked.

                    But, that's just me. Clearly some restaurateurs do expect to offer in such situations.

                    I once bought a leaky bottle of bleach from my grocer and I went back in to request a refund on my bottle. The manager saw my bleach-ruined shirt and insisted on paying something towards that (offered $30 I think). I was flabbergasted. I really thought that was more than they needed to do. I don't think I'd have done it in their place – it wasn't their fault, it was Javex's. Plus, I don't know what they got out of it. I don't make a point of shopping there more than elsewhere, I don't recommend the place to friends particularly, and so on. . .

                    1. re: Atahualpa

                      I guess we differ in that regard Atahualpa. If my local grocer went out of his/her way like that I would be sure to highly recommend the place whenever I had the opportunity. That is what good customer service is all about, and the benefits of providing it. Hopefully it will improve your business. You should consider making a point of shopping there more often!

                      1. re: millygirl

                        They simply don't measure up in other regards and I don't rate good customer service all that highly (it's something, not everything).

                2. We were in a restaurant in Vegas, and the table next to us stood up so quickly to leave, that they overturned all their plates. I had tomato sauce in my hair, vodka sauce on my shirt, and oil on my sneakers. The floor was a mess.

                  I asked to switch tables; we were told nothing was available. Our food came- mine came wrong. Waiter argued with me about switching it to what I said I ordered. Meanwhile, I still felt kind of sticky and unsavory. Called the manager over, explained that I was taking a red eye flight, if there's anything he could do. Manager looked at me like I was a moron, told me it's my problem, and refused to comp anything. He wouldn't even arrange for the hotel (restaurant was in the hotel) to let me use the health club to shower.

                  Totally not a good experience, but I guess we all have bad experiences in restaurants...

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    OMG that' sounds like a real nightmare cheesecake17. Yikes!

                    1. re: millygirl

                      The worst part was I didn't sleep on the plane the whole way home.. I thought I smelled like a bowl of spaghetti!

                      1. re: millygirl

                        I guess there could be worse smells ;)

                      2. re: cheesecake17

                        cheesecake17, you were wronged. Big time.

                        A restaurant is definitely responsible if food gets on you (especially a lot of it) and they're responsible whether it was their staff or another customer that did the spilling.

                        Now, I've never been in your situation. If I were, I'd have called the police after the manager did nothing for you. After all, you were, technically, the victim of an assault -- by the table that hurled food all over you.

                        At the very least, the restaurant should've made arrangements for you to shower. I don't know how I'd have handled the issue of stained clothing.

                        1. re: shaogo

                          Honestly, I wasn't looking for a free meal. I just wanted them to pay to clean the clothing. The manager said that I could leave it with them, have the restaurant send it to be dry cleaned, then I would have to pay to ship the items back to NY. That's just insane...

                          Do you really think it was a situation worthy of calling the police? I didn't want to cause a scene.. I just didn't want to sit on a plane smelling like a restaurant.

                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            You didn't tell us that the manager made any offer to clean the clothes, even the ridiculous inclusion of the requirement that you pay shipping to NY. I said that had the manager done *nothing* at all that's when I'd call the police. The reason to call the police is because, as I understood it, you got covered with sauce(s) from the plates of another table because of the actions of the diners at that table. If the restaurant's not going to be responsible for what happens to their customers on their property, then the next-responsible party (actually, the primarily responsible party) is the group of diners that caused the food to end up on you. The restaurant really dropped the ball on this one.

                            By all means, if you don't want to cause a scene then don't cause one.

                            But if what happened to you had happened to me, I'd have been sufficiently angry to take drastic measures.

                            1. re: shaogo

                              He didn't offer, I asked a few times until he finally agreed with the terms that I would pay shipping.

                              I was angry, and when I got home, I called up the hq of the restaurant- it was a chain- and complained. The answer was that they can't tell their managers what to say... but managers are expected to handle issues as they come up

                              1. re: shaogo

                                I think calling the police in these kind of situations tend to be too extreme and causes more problems, especially if cheesecake had to catch a red eye flight and was not a local.

                                However, I would have absolutely no problem standing up in the middle of the dining room, clinking a glass and describing in a calm loud voice to the entire room what happened. Thank everyone for their time and apologize for interrupting. That's not going to cause any more ruckus than calling for the cops and probably will be more effective. At the very least, I know I would get my money's worth out of paying for my dry cleaning.

                                Caveat, I've never done this in a restaurant setting but have done it a couple of times in a crowded retail store when the manager flat out was violating policy and refused to refund my money even though I had all receipts and unopened package which complied with their policy. I got my money back immediately.

                            2. re: shaogo


                              Call the police? Because an adjoinig table's diners spilled food on you? Isn't that taking it a bit far?

                              (And by the way, technically, because the food actually touched you, it would be "battery" and not assualt in most states.)

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Yes, call the police.

                                *Not* because another diner spilled food on me.

                                *Because* you're covered with food and the restaurant isn't doing a thing about it.

                                ipsedixit's a lawyer -- thanks for the actual definition of the wrong that was done to the diner. Can you perhaps suggest a different way to recompense the poor person who had to fly cross-country smelling like spaghetti?

                                1. re: shaogo


                                  In theory, you could call the cops but for all practical purposes what do you expect the local police department to do? Come out and arrest the offending diners for .... assault with deadly Italian food? Ok, I'm being facetious, but my point is just that the police wouldn't even pay attention to something like this (trust me on this one).

                                  And in theory you could also sue the other diners for damages to your clothes, incld. the cost of replacement and/or repair, as well as emotional distress damages.

                                  Now both of those options -- calling the cops and filing a civil lawsuit -- all are valid IN THEORY but in practice neither are really practical, nor plausible.

                                  But, now that I think about it some more, I suppose you could take the other diners to small claims court, and also sue the restuarant for $$$$ for emotional distress damages.

                                  At the end of the day, however, sometimes bad things happen to good people and you just suck it up and move on.

                                  It's like getting a door ding in your car in a private secured parking lot. The offending car owner is long gone, but are you really going to sue the parking lot owner? In many cases (maybe all) the person assumes the risk of door dings when parking in a lot. Same could be said about dining at a restauarant. Sometimes you just happen to sit next to clumsy people, or worse yet get served by clumsy servers.

                                  Sigh ...

                                  1. re: shaogo

                                    Some wrongs don't have a legal recourse... in this case, though, why was cheesecake upset at the restaurant when it was a fellow diner who sent the food flying? What did the other diner say? Did cheesecake even say anything to them?

                                    I this case, I wouldn't suggest calling the police as (if they even show up) it's more likely the diner with the spaghetti on him/her will be hauled off for disturbing the peace or misusing 911 than that the police will actually do anything to help him/her. If the resto refused to do anything, I'd have gone to the hotel and talked to their customer service staff. They'd likely take pity and let you use the gym showers at least, and would proabably let the resto know that they were unhappy at the diner's treatment and how it reflected on the hotel.

                                    1. re: akq

                                      ipsedixit and akq have both made a great case for not calling the police. And akq, I wasn't suggesting using 911 -- that number's only for *true* emergencies.

                                      I'm also not litigious, either.

                                      I love akq's idea about taking it to the hotel. I didn't think of that before.

                                      I asked my wife what she'd do if either or both of us were covered in spaghetti sauce and all we could do at the restaurant is wipe it off with napkins. She said, without missing a beat, "wouldn't you get a hotel room and go clean up?" Indeed I would've. But I don't think that cheesecake had the time to do so, with his/her flight leaving imminently.

                                      1. re: shaogo

                                        I've been on this merry-go-round New Jersey, if the house refuses to make out an incident report on any accident;

                                        You call 911 if you do not know the local number for the police. The dispatcher asks you first if this is an emergency......after your reply of no, the county 911 system redirects you to the local police department.....and yes, for a civil matter. That how the system is set up in my podunk town/county


                                        NellyNel....are you reading?

                                        1. re: fourunder

                                          Silly to involve police. Like calling the cops when someone doesn't tip. The clothing incident is a civil matter anyway.

                                          1. re: DallasDude


                                            what if they spill a big old nasty hot buffet in your lap or on your backside when the staff was clearing the room. Your clothes are ruined/ or simply wet from the water in the chafing dish heated by sterno and you have received possible burns as a result...I say possible, because the swelling has not yet appeared. Now the manager doesn't see any visible signs of burn, other than redness to your skin and sees no need to record the matter. Still consider this scenario like someone who doesn't tip? Well, you would be wrong. This exact misfortune happened to me 30 years ago.....the redness turned out to be a burn and the blisters did not appear until a few hours later, right on my beltline....I was in discomfort for about a month from the burn and the friction from my clothes and belt whenever I moved. As a result of the accident, I had to go to the emergency room for treatment in the middle of the night.... which incured some medical bills to me. After 3 months of inaction by the restaurant, I had my lawyer send them a notice of intent to sue, along with the police report, if the matter was not resolved within two weeks. Within five business days of receiving my attorney's letter, I received contact from the restaurants insurance company with an offer to settle.

                                            In event the restaurant does not record the incident, the police will. This is the only way you can can prove injury for your civil matter without question.

                                            however, you have the right and can choose whatever route you wish for your own personal injury mishaps in the future.

                                        2. re: shaogo

                                          We had about an hour to leave for the flight. But what was I going to do? Take a $300 hotel room for an hour? The hotel was sold out anyway; it was a holiday weekend

                                        3. re: akq

                                          The other diners started running away from the table once they realized what they did. They were obviously not American and didn't really speak English. My husband told them something like 'look what you did' but they just ran out of the restaurant.

                                          We were upset at the restaurant because we were sitting there! The manager wouldn't move us to another table, even though there were tables available.

                                          After the incident.. we asked the hotel if I could use the health club to shower. I was told no because the spa/health club is owned by a different company.