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Feb 27, 2014 07:12 PM

La Ciccia "call back tonight or else" voicemail - crossing the line or appropriate?

This afternoon around 5 p.m., I received a voicemail from La Ciccia asking me to call back to confirm my reservation for tomorrow since I had previously canceled and/or no-showed a reservation there. If I didn't call back to confirm this evening, they would automatically cancel my reservation for tomorrow.

It's true that I once didn't honor a reservation there months ago. I was urgently called out of town on a business emergency. They never called me to confirm (and they don't usually call people to confirm), so I completely lost track of it with everything else going on. It's the only "no show" I've done in the past 10 years of frequent dining.

I'm torn as to whether this call I got from them is inappropriate. I understand restaurants operate on thin margins, especially small places, but it's still a buyer's market with thousands of restaurants to choose from. To give me an ultimatum voicemail the evening before with only a few hours to respond to keep my reservation is a bad first impression on what was supposed to be a special occasion meal. Also, what if I happened to be out of pocket today. If I were flying back from the East Coast, I would've completely missed the voicemail until it was too late to preserve my reservation from getting canceled.

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  1. It's the only "no show" I've done in the past 10 years of frequent dining.
    They have no knowledge of that time line. All they know is that you were a no show.
    Did you call to explain?
    I think they were justified to put you on the no fly list.

    3 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Do restaurants normally do this or do they let it slide in the name of customer service? Again, I have absolutely no comparison data points, but it's setting a negative tone on the experience before it even begins.

      They could've called yesterday or Tuesday like most places that have call back policies...

      1. re: mikeh

        I once made an OpenTable reservation that I honored but for some reason, the fact didn't get into the OT reservation system. (Probably a matter of an omission on part of the hostess.) The next day, I got an email message from OT asking if I had actually been a no-show and reminding me that if I had been and it happened again, they might kick me off of OT. I sent them the check number, check total, etc and the whole thing was resolved without a problem, but it kind of shows you that no-shows are a big deal in the restaurant business. They cost the restaurants money that may be significant for a place that does not have lavish margins.

        The worst case scenario is when a dining Neanderthal makes reservations at a bunch of places for the same time slot only to decide at the last minute where to go screwing all the other places. People who do that should be strung up.

        An analogy to that scenario would be the person who calls all the cab companies on a busy night to get a cab only to take the first one that shows up while screwing the other drivers who drove there for the pick-up. Rumor has it that if cab drivers from the different cab companies sense that it's the case, everyone will refuse to pick up the fare and the idiot will be left stranded.

        Bottom line: While you may not be one of the bad guys, the restaurant may not have a way of knowing that, so the restaurant putting you on probation is understandable in my opinion.

        1. re: mikeh

          "slide in the name of customer service'.
          A reservation is an agreement, they agree to hold a table, you agree to show up. Don't want the agreement then cancel the reservation or just do walk-in.

      2. I've had reservations at places that required me to confirm though I've NEVER no-showed.

        1. Last week we ate at Cotogna, Rich Table and AQ... all three restaurants called either the evening prior or the day of to re-confirm reservations, and for the few voicemails left, I got the distinct impression that the retainment of our tables was dependant on a call back to verify our pressence. It's a custom I haven't really experienced outside of San Francisco. Oddly, only Cotogna was packed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: OliverB

            I eat in restaurants all over the world and all the formal ones now almost invariably ask me for my cell phone number. So do the small informal ones if they are "hot" restaurants. I often get calls from some asking for confirmation, usually the same day. I feel pretty certain if I was more than 30 minutes late showing up my cell would ring.

            1. re: OliverB

              I've had restaurants in Toronto and Montreal call and re-confirm, same in Barcelona, Berlin, etc. I've come to expect it at all high end places that don't take a credit card and most of the mid range places on the weekend.

            2. Seems like a perfectly reasonable policy to me.

              I'm sure if you had been on a plane and called them when you arrived they'd have sorted it out.

              1. Dare I say, in the restaurant industry, those who don't call to cancel and no shows are no less then a "business emergency." Reasonable policy in my opinion.

                9 Replies
                1. re: oysterspearls

                  So now that I'm clearly behind the count with this place, should I expect a bad table/indifferent service or anything else out of the norm? Is it pretty much over between me and them (at least until I regain their good graces)?

                  1. re: mikeh

                    I don't think this is the kind of place that would hold a grudge as long as you don't repeat your past sins.

                    1. re: nocharge

                      Once at A16, the staff thought we showed up an hour late (OpenTable screwed me and put different times in the computer than my email), and our server was unbelievably snotty for our entire meal, correcting our pronunciations and trying to dissuade me from ordering dishes that I had already tried on previous visits. So you never know, I guess. (You know, I was very fond of that place until that incident, and I still have not been back -- even if I had been late, there is no excuse for overt rudeness on that level.)

                      Moreover, OpenTable sent me an email saying they were going to penalize me for no-showing for the reservation that was not in A16's computer. I told them what happened, showed them the various emails with conflicting times, and I didn't get penalized, but thanks to that experience, now I always call to confirm my reservation, even if the restaurant doesn't. I'm thankful when they call now.

                      1. re: dunstable

                        I've had that happen twice with Open Table and I even had the email with the right time. Luckily I just showed the email to the restaurants and they were cool with it.

                    2. re: mikeh

                      Servers will usually be unaware of any issues regarding a reservation.

                      1. re: mikeh

                        I don't understand this post. Did you call back to confirm your reservation and eat there or not? What happened?

                        Personally, if I had done what you did 3 months ago and felt the way you felt about getting the phone call then I would have called back and cancelled. If I still wanted to eat there, I would have called back and apologized for my previous lapse, explaining it was a family emergency. Actually, I think I wouldn't have reserved at La Ciccia again without bringing up the matter myself and apologizing. You seem to think La Ciccia should understand human things happen and overlook it. But aren't they allowed to be human as well?

                        I realize many people view eating in a restaurant as purely a business transaction, where the people eating are not "guests" but "buyers", but that is not the way I feel about it (which is one reason I go to places like La Ciccia. They make it personal.)

                        1. re: kmzed

                          Touché. I too wondered about this post. Summarizing bluntly: Customer stiffs a restaurant, then reserves again, gets a request for confirmation, and asks publicly whether the _restaurant_ behaved appropriately!

                          Certain customs exist for special-occasion restaurants, and this thread's responses demonstrate that many of us customers are aware of them.

                          Another food site a few years ago had two threads by diners who took offense at restaurant actions. One had no-showed at a very small, expensive, limited-seating restaurant, then was indignant that the owner called back for an explanation. The other secured near-impossible French Laundry reservations by claiming to be someone he was not; noticed a marginal chill in the service once this was discovered; and thought even that limited reaction was inappropriate enough to complain. So much for customers being always right. The restaurant-management training schools should collect such threads, as case studies, if they don't already.

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            The ask about appropriateness was not that they asked for confirmation, but a) bringing up that they were asking because of a previous no-show; and b) they would automatically cancel the reservation if I didn't call back that evening because I had previously no-showed.

                            The argument is that the correct approach from a "customer service" point of view is to do the confirmatory call without bringing up the no-show or threatening to cancel a reservation on such short order (but maybe call a day or two earlier and give a longer period of time to respond). It could have, in theory, put one in a very difficult situation if one happened to be out of pocket for just a few hours and this were a dinner with an important client or something.

                            1. re: mikeh

                              I suppose they didn't need to bring it up in that manner, but I can still see the restaurant's point of view. A lot of people don't understand that no-showing actually hurts the restaurant -- like, "what's the big deal, they can just give the table to someone else." It sounds like that little reminder wasn't necessary in your case, but generally speaking I can see how a brief lesson in reservation etiquette might be useful, from the restaurant's perspective.