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London- How would you have handled this?

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I was with a group of 6 last night at an Italian restaurant in Pimlico. Four of us ordered Peronis which were poured into glasses in the back. The server brought all four beers at once on a tray. She successfully placed three of the beers correctly but the 4th ended up hitting the table, the glass shattered and beer went all over the table and my shirt, pants and shoes. The mess was cleaned up quickly, but my clothes were still wet.

We went on to finish our dinner and all liked the food we received and thought the service after the spill was fine. We were surprised when the bill came to see that we were charged for everything and they even included the 12.5% service fee.

I am an American (from the NW part of the US) who just moved to London. I have lived here for about three weeks and I am wondering realistically what is a reasonable expectation of what should have happened.

What did happen is that we complained to the manager about nothing being removed from the bill after I sat there and ate dinner in beer-soaked clothes. The manager made things far worse as far as I was concerned by telling me that the restaurant had already removed the charge for the beer they spilled on me. He ended up removing the service charge (I understand that it is not required I pay this anyway) and took off an additional 10%, all the while arguing with us about why he didn't need to. We all liked the food enough that we would likely have returned to this restaurant again if it wasn't for the rude treatment of the manager at the end of the meal.

I know how it likely would have been dealt with where I am from (apology from the manager, no charge for the beer and likely free dessert, all without asking), but I know that I am in a new country now and I would like to have appropriate expectations in situations like this. After all this, I am really wondering how others would have expected a situation like this to be handled here?

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  1. How generous of them to not charged you for the beer that was spilt all over you...

    Service here is just generally not as good but there are plenty of places in London where you'd have been treated exceptionally well after something like that happened - discount, free dessert etc.

    Service charges are 'optional' but on the few occasions in 12 years that I've asked for them to be removed generally all hell breaks loose and you get an experience much like you had.

    I think you're right to be offended though, they broke several golden rules of hospitality.

    1. Standard experience.

      Requesting a discount or a free round of drinks here is likely to be more unpleasant than whatever event precipitated your belief that you deserve a free round of drinks or a discount.

      Brits generally don't complain so complaints to staff aren't taken well. I'd omit the discount next time and pour a beer all over the manager.

      1. I'm an American, too, Ranier.. have lived here quite awhile now. I'm often surprised by reports that a restaurant had poor service because I honestly have rarely been the victim of that, and I don't know the reason.

        It's true that Brits don't complain as readily as we Yanks and the servers here are not as outgoing or doing that awful, 'Hello, I'm Jim your server for tonight' thing that's common in the States.

        You'll get accustomed to how things work here.. it takes time and lots of dining experiences. My son lives in the NW so I know what a friendly, outgoing and laid back area that is, even large cities. It's not quite the same here, not to say that's better or worse. I do feel you should have been treated much better and were a good sport to eat in wet clothes. And whatever you do, don't ask for the check. You'll get a blank stare. :-)

        1. So, in fact, the restaurant manager reacted positively, albeit grudgingly, to your comments, removing 22.5%. Was this just on your share of the bill, or on the whole bill? I assume the former as the latter would be a very generous compensation for an accident.

          As a general comment, our restaurant culture in Europe is different from what you will be used to in America. I read the US boards and form a view that Americans are very quick to complain and expect compensation for matters that would hardly get a mention here. Having a drink spilled over you is not one of those matters and, yes, of course there should have been an apology. I would have also reasonably expected a small amount of financial compensation, along the lines of paying for drying cleaning the trousers, etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            Yes, Harters has this exactly right. Standard practice in good restaurants is to apologise profusely, offer some form of discount and then ask the guest to submit their dry-cleaning bill afterwards, either by post, email or in person.

          2. Did the manager offer to pay for cleaning your clothes?

            3 Replies
            1. re: treb

              No. He literally only offered to have me not pay for the beer that spilled on me.

              1. re: Ranier

                "He literally only offered to have me not pay for the beer that spilled on me."

                Conclusion - manager is a complete fuckwit and arsewipe who has little understanding of the meaning of the British hospitality industry. Care to grass up which restaurant it was?

                If we discussed it further, I'm sure we would reach an amicable disagreement about whether service is generally better in American or European restaurants.

                1. re: Ranier

                  Hey, at least you were not charged for the spilled beer. That is a step in the right direction.

                  Hunt

              2. Thanks for all the responses so far. I had read that customer service can be a bit lacking in London, but it sounds like the beer issue was far enough out of bounds that it should have been dealt with better. I am glad to hear my expectations aren't too far out of line.

                I am not one who usually makes a stink, but I did in this case. It was so shocking that the manager offered exactly zero after what had happened that I couldn't hold it in.