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How WRONG do they have to get your order...

...or what kinds of things to they have to get wrong, for you to send it back?

I was having lunch in Little Saigon and ordered pho with rare beef and tendon (no mistake in ordering, I'm sure - the waiter even repeated it back to me in Vietnamese AND English). I got rare beef and tripe, which I don't really like at all. But I ate it anyway, thinking in the moment that the entire bowl was probably going to go in the trash. It's not about money because this resto's not hurting for business, but I guess I weighed the conservation to the minor dissatisfaction of eating tripe and opted to eat the tripe.

On the other hand, if I order a steak medium rare to rare and get something medium to well, that's almost certainly going back. Obviously, I find a well done steak a lot yuckier than tripe. :P

When do you just suck it up and eat it? When do you send it back?

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  1. I would always send back tripe.

    1 Reply
    1. 'When do you send it back?'

      - If it's undercooked/raw and could give me food posining.

      - If it's supposed to be hot and is cold, or vice-versa.

      - If it's oversalted and inedible.

      - If it has 'artifacts' (hair, bugs, etc.) in it.

      1. I send it back when it's not the thing that I ordered. If I ordered tendon and got tripe - it would go back. Cooking the steak is much more subjective. One person's medium rare is someone else's rare, for example.

        The only time I've ever not tipped was one time when I ordered a chicken sandwich and asked them to hold the onions. The first time the waitress came back, she brought me a salad. I said no. The next time she came back, she brought me a hamburger. I said no. The next time she came back, she brought me a chicken sandwich with onions. I took the onions off, ate the sandwich, paid the bill, left no tip, and departed.

        1 Reply
        1. re: 512window

          "One person's medium rare is someone else's rare, for example."

          Very true. That's why I always order "medium rare to rare, warm in the center but still red." It usually (but not always) works.

        2. I was having Sunday brunch with a friend last weekend - my friend ordered a salad topped with grilled duck. The waiter brought her a green pea soup. My friend said, "Oh, but this is not what I ordered". The waiter hesitated then said to her, "Oh, sorry Ma'am, but ... would you like to have this instead anyway?"


          For the record, my friend responded, "Are you out of your mind?"

          1 Reply
          1. re: klyeoh

            That is too funny. Delete the *instead*, that's a different story...

          2. In order for me to send it back it either has to be the completely wrong item, contain something that I asked to be omitted that will ruin the dish for me (eg yellow mustard - can't stand it) or have a significant error in cooking, such as undercooked chicken, way overcooked beef or enough salt for an ocean.

            If there is a problem I usually just let it go, as it doesn't completely ruin the meal. However, my tolerance for problems decreases as the cost of a meal increases. I will be pretty forgiving of an error on a $12 entree, but not on a $50 entree.

            2 Replies
            1. re: CanadaGirl

              That's true for me too, CG. I expect greater precision and attention to detail at finer dining establishments, but even then if the error or omission doesn't seem at the moment that it would diminish my enjoyment of the meal, I'm not that likely to send it back on principle.

              1. re: inaplasticcup

                Agreed. Plus, you never know when you might discover you actually like it the "wrong" way.

            2. Given I just won't eat a meal that does not satisfy me, and given I am a real picky eater, I find myself leaving the food behind and paying for it anyway. I know that when I am traveling, for example, I can't expect miracles and finding all meals to my liking is much more challenging. But when I am in my home,town and like you mentioned, order something i know I will like, but it is arrives cold, or under/over cooked, then I would mention it. But once again, I seem to tolerate a lot before returning food :(

              1. Depends on the price and the company I'm with.

                A $50 steak that's not cooked right? Back it goes.
                A $5 appetizer that's not the right one? Eh, whatever, life's too short.

                Dining with family and friends? More inclined to send it back.
                Dining on a business meal? Suck it up and pretend nothing's wrong.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I'm with you on this one - can depend on context. If I am in a hurry at a greasy spoon, I will put up with a hard yoked poached egg. In a Michelin starred leisurely lunch, not so much. Company is also important -romantic date or impressing clients, I would be less inclined to make a fuss (but that could be the British in me!)

                2. I like this question, did make me think a bit. :)

                  Steak: well-done would be a deal-breaker, I like mine still mooing. I have tolerated medium though.

                  Chef's toupee (or finger) floating in the bisque would also cause a return; but I can admit to plucking out a stray hair and continuing to eat (salad, pizza, pasta).

                  I've received Pinot Grigio instead of Pinot Noir, 3x in maybe 8 years. Loud places, busy bartenders/waitresses, inexperience and/or inattention. No biggie. Each time I'd meet my husband's/friends' eyes in amusement and I'd drink it without complaint. (LOL, and before someone suggests it, no, I didn't mistakenly/drunkenly order Grigio; I'll drink it at home but never order it out. Reds just seem to make a meal festive.)

                  1. Never send things back. If they screwed it up too much, I would just leave, though.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Chowrin

                      This is funny, Chowrin. I'm imagining a person looking at their wrong order, thinking about how wrong it is for 5 or 10 seconds, and then just getting up and walking out the door. :P

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        maybe it's just that I don't go out to eat much... but I've never had a wrong order? (maybe once when I was five, or so...) [cooked to different standards, maybe but...]
                        Are there some restaurants that are just more prone to it?

                        Did ask to be comped in Vegas when the way-underdone burger was sickening to eat (literally).

                        Sending things back to the kitchen is a recipe for having your food spat upon (and then, presumably, cooked to order). And that's if you're Lucky.

                    2. Only recently mentioned this on another thread - but I've only sent food back on two occasions. I remember them both - one in August 1972, the other in 1980.

                      First was because the food was cold. Second because the food was undercooked.

                      1. I don't tend to count being served the wrong dish, which has happened (my thinking is that *someone* might have ordered that dish, and I don't want to say nothing, and eat their dinner while that diner/table gets thrown off). I just count the dishes that were, technically, mine.

                        I tend to put up with quite a bit, and have only sent back food twice. The first incident was a pasta dish I had ordered. When it came to my table, I said, "Wow, that's a lot of parmesan." I was surprised that I had been 'pre-cheesed', but whatever. I took a bite, and it was crunchy. Crunchy, crunchy, garlic. It was not only unlikely to have met a pan, but wasn't even a *component* of the sauce, and had just been sprinkled all over the pasta. When the waiter made it back to the table, I hesitated to say anything, but my then-boyfriend brought up the issue. The protest was met with "It DID say garlic on the menu." I countered that if it was raw, it should say that as well, and that I'd like to order something else. It stayed on the bill, and remains an almost fond memory. I laugh every time I think of it. It was just such a surprise, that garlic.

                        The second dish I sent back was a few years later, and I was given a thoroughly cooked steak instead of the medium rare I ordered. I had tried to order a rare steak, and was told it was 'illegal'. Which may have been true, but I had to settle for a medium rare, stressing that I would be grateful to get as close to rare as the kitchen was allowed. Turns out, it wasn't that close. At all. I sent it back because I was hungry, not flush with cash, and really looking forward to splurging on a meal with the boyfriend. It didn't stay on the bill, but took quite a while for my new steak to arrive. It was medium. I ate it.

                        Both times, I was young (in my twenties), and each time the staff made me feel like an ass. And I may, occasionally, behave as one, but not on either of those occasions. I do understand why a server hesitates to expedite an re-order (throwing off other tables, and angering their co-workers--especially the kitchen staff), but that remains my biggest deterrent to sending anything back. I felt like I was in food purgatory, and if your companions refuses to eat without you, then so are they--with cold food as a prize for their courtesy. So, now I'm a pick/off/around type of chick, and the boy and I have driven through a drive-thru or two as a result. I'm fine with that.

                        I once picked one of those plastic squares that closes bread bags out of a sandwich. And then ate the sandwich, much to the disbelief of a friend. But our server/cook was on alone, busy, and extremely nice. I ate the sandwich. I would have sent the sandwich back if it had been something . . . sharper tucked in there. So, I guess I'd have to say obvious danger is really the only thing that causes me to speak up now. I'm happier that way.

                        1. I don't usually send something back unless I trust the kitchen to get it right. This means I am more likely to send back a dish at a high end, generally regarded as competent restaurant than a chain, where I'm pretty sure they'll just mess it up again. With a chain or a lower quality place, I'll just suck it and deal. Nobody's perfect unless I'm paying for them to be. ;+)

                          The exceptions are, as arktos summarized so well: undercooked, dangerous, or dirty food. My son has nut allergies, so of course food that contained nuts would go back. When he was younger he had dairy and egg allergies as well, so if that plain burger came out with cheese on it, it would go back. (Actually, with allergies, you keep the food at the table until they make you a new one unless you know for sure they're not just going to scrape the offending ingredient off.)

                          1. When I order a steak, I tell the waiter/ress to tell the cook to put it on the grill for 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness), flip it over for another 3-5 minutes, then throw it on a plate. I not only want the steak to bleed when I cut it, I want the damn thing to moo!

                            1. As I cannot eat gluten (celiac) I have had to return a few things - for example, a lovely salad that was brought out with house made cornbread croutons that contained wheat flour after specifying I could not have them. What did they do? Picked off the croutons. They had to go to the kitchen and prepare an entirely new salad for me. This is quite common. You have to be a bit of a detective when you have food intolerances/allergies.

                              Other than that, a deal breaker would be if poultry was food-poisoning raw. I had food poisoning once at a restaurant years ago and will never, ever forget it.

                              1. Interesting thread.

                                As far as I can recall, I have only sent food back when whatever went wrong would truly ruin the dish for me for whatever reason. If I specifically asked for something like a spread to be left off and it arrives with it on, I might send the sandwich back, but if I asked for no tomatoes or something, I would just pick them off. The one that's hard for me is spice - I can't tolerate even the least amount of capsacin (sp?) or similar, so I'm always very particular about asking how spicy a dish is, but when it turns out spicier than I was sold, I usually just set it aside and munch on the bread. It's not the waiter's or resto's fault that my palette is so sensitive... DH often will complain on my behalf, however, which is one of his finer points. Having worked in service jobs, it makes me HORRIBLY uncomfortable to complain or send back, but I also hate splurging on a meal and not being able to enjoy it.

                                The only two times I can specifically recall sending things back is a lentil soup that literally tasted like cigarette butts (and I was put in food purgatory as a pp coined as a result) and a glass of wine that tasted like soap - we had ordered the whole bottle, but clearly my glass hadn't been rinsed well, since mine was the only one that was awful. They comped me a glass of something else, but they were NOT happy about it.