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Feb 12, 2011 03:38 PM

Can we complain?

As parents of a 20 month old, we rarely go out to eat anymore. After much research, screening and work, I found 2 babysitters for us. One younger, who is so far 99% unavailable when we need a sitter (ok, she's younger, she has a life, I get it). One a young Grandma type. Mr. RNR had reservations about regularly booking someone older since the things we usually want to go out to now are later night, such as seeing friends' bands, but she has been the one more available so we've gone with her a couple of times so far. In an attempt to give her a chance to get to know little RNR, we booked a super early dinner tonight. Note that our kid is one who is very schedule-dependent Or Else, so time was important. Booked her to arrive at 3:30, we had reservations at 4 at a restaurant about 25 mins away. 3:30 came and went and nothing. Finally at 3:40, I called her. "Oh," she said, "what time is it?" I told her. She said she had gotten wrapped up with something and would leave right away, it would take her 15-20 to get to our place. She arrived at 4. Meanwhile, when I got off the phone with her at 3:43 or so, I called the restaurant to ask if we could change to 4:30. They said, "Well, can't you get here any sooner? We have some other reservations at 4:30." I explained what happened with the sitter so they'd know we weren't just lollygagging for no reason, and said if you can't take care of us, I understand, just say so and we will try to come another time. They said no, I'm sure we can accommodate, sorry about the sitter and c'mon over. This is a mid-sized Midwestern town. Even places that are booked are not often so booked that they don't take walk-ins. Plus hello, 4:30. Sitter arrived, we gave brief instructions for din, headed out. Got to restaurant at 4:26. Guy remembered talking to me on the phone, said don't worry about the sitter, relax and enjoy your meal and we were sat.

I will note here that the orig reservations were made by me through Open Table and I mentioned that this was our joint B-day celebration, which it was (we were born 8 days apart so we celebrate them together, aw).

We were sat and ordered champagne and mr. RNR gave me a card. Server disappeared for awhile and was gone long enough and we were worried enough about the new sitter, that when he finally came back and asked if we were ready to order, I said yes and we ordered an app and 2 entrees, and I said if you could please, order everything together, fire entrees when app is placed, thinking the app (whole artichoke) would come out first and then little to no delay when entrees were ordered. When I ordered my entree, which was the listed special for a Saturday (beef bourg), the server looked at his WATCH. I was like oh, is it too early to order that dish? and he was like no, it should be fine. Mr ordered the duck legs confit. Waited and waited and finally, app and entrees arrived together. Very little room on our tiny, 2-top table for all the plates (the choke came with an extra plate for the hard stuff) but we made do. My beef bourg had hard potatoes and carrots. I didn't mention it as I am extra-non-foodie about things being cooked all the way through (no crunchy broccoli for me, thanks) but when we switched entrees halfway through (standard for us), Mr. also noted the carrots and potatoes seemed underdone. I'm thinking, if the dish wasn't done, why are they serving it when they're open for dinner and this is the advertised dinner special for the night? But whatever.

Meanwhile, our server avoided our table like the plague, and the girl in the adjacent station kind of took over waiting our table. We heard her reciting specials to arriving guests and realized nobody told us of any specials (yes, there were 2 opportunities and yes, I would have ordered 1 of them, especially after the watch-check, I would have changed my order). This new server guided us on some dessert choice and dessert wines and I also ordered a coffee at that time, and asked for the check. When she finally brought the check, it was after our dessert and dessert wines were gone and I never got the coffee. Not only was the coffee on the check, but also a hot chocolate, which we didn't order. I brought her back over to the table and said yeah, this coffee and hot choc should come off, these are not ours and she said oh, my mistake, and left.

Mr had a $50 Visa gift card and presented that with credit card for the check to yet a 3rd server. Told this girl there was $50 on the card and put the remainder on the credit card. The original server finally reappeared with the charge slip, and said I don't know how much the gift card was for, but we put $25 on it, and here are the 2 charge slips, one for the gift card and one for the remainder. I was livid and explained about the $50 and how that had been explained to whomever took the check. He said that she said (he said that she said? Really?) she tried to run it for $50 and it was declined so they just DECIDED to run it for $25. I'm sorry, but if you present a card and it's not approved for, say, $100, do you just decide to run it for $90 instead and bring it back? They should have asked. I would have known there must be a $4.95 fee with the card (many have this now) and would have said oh, can you please try running it for $45 instead of 50, it will probably go through, and problem solved. Yes, our fault for not reading the fine print on the card but I just didn't think of it. Honestly, with the gift card, we ordered a lot more than we would have without it, like the whole dessert course, and it was a frustrating end.

They were very busy and we had to get back to the sitter, so I did not want to bother the MOD at that time and decided to write separately. But then I thought, maybe we don't have any right to complain about anything, because we changed the reservation. But if they couldn't provide good service with the time change, I think they should have said so. And the server switch mid-meal, the lack of telling us about specials and zero acknowledgment of an obvious special occasion, plus the credit card thing at the end have left a bad taste, no pun intended. I know my CHers will have some input. What is it? Is it ok to complain?

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    1. I don't think you're required to lower your expectations of service or to sit in steerage due to the change. If they couldn't serve you properly, or with properly cooked food, they shouldn't have told you to come in. I'm not sure I'd complain, but I think I'd share your account of the experience with all the detail and thoughts you've included here. You don't sound like a high maintenance PITA to me. Sorry you didn't have a better time, but happy birthdays!

      1. If this was an Dear Abby column I would have wondered if this was a Harvard Frat joke letter.
        Personally, maybe a "don't sweat the small stuff..." might be a choice you might look into.
        I do think there was alot you could have done to prevent some of the aggravation you felt.
        Known the sitter better. If it was me and I interviewed folks and my sitter was 5 minutes late on a time dependent schedule, I would have called. Also know you had to move back a 4PM reservation (that's early!) might be hard, but the restaurant accepted. After that they have NO, as in NO! reason to treat you differently. But again, I do think you could have mitigated it a good bit. Remember no one can insult you without your permission. You arrive apologizing and took some of what you felt was bad behavior. You gave some rope and well you got a bit hung.
        Gift cards are always a problem unless you know the place well and used them there before. So could you have called to ask about this ahead see if there were service charges etc. Yes. you can complaint, one can always complain, we see that here enough. But did you do it at the right time right place? Is here the right place? And complaining is allowed, but just because you are allowed does not mean you are right.

        In short, you have some culpability here, you assumed and allowed things and so you have to know you have some blame. But Live and learn! Bet this will be the last time you have an experience like this!

        1. You have all the rights to complain. It's terrible service, regardless of whether you changed the reservation or not. (But you could sum up your entire first paragraph in one sentence. It took some effort for me to read through to the important part.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: PeterL

            I know. I'm a writer and have a tendency to blather on. I didn't realize how lengthy it was til after i posted! Thx for the response.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              Writers self edit and read before submitting. Wrote this just after ya got home, right?

              I am sorry that your Joint Birthday, Date night was messed up...and you know there is a helped.

              I think a large portion of your aggravation came from leaving your mini rocker with a sitter. You know doing that is a big step, not only for you but for mini. You need to do it. If who you searched before did not make the cut, seek more resources. Heck you are a writer, you know research.
              Check Vo-Tech schools in your area. Call daycare places, call churches.
              I honestly think that the mind set you had about leaving your child (1st time?) was so huge that when problems that you would have normally breezed though, became overwhelming.

              As I tell some friends at some times, Breathe. Just breathe.

          2. I guess I got stopped out when I read that you were late to your reservation and the BB vegetables were undercooked ................... how would they have been if you'd been "on time"?

            Having young children changes your life in so many ways; try to focus on the good stuff. We all have babysitter horror stories. It's not the ideal way to celebrate a joint Bday, but no one was injured or died. Press on and keep smiling. I'm still focused on the vegetables, which had an additional 30 minutes cooking time .........................................