Wednesday, March 11, 2009

...And yet Another One

After my normal bad experience with customer service at China-Mart, I decided to get a late lunch or early supper at a restaurant just down the road. Years ago when I moved to town, I enjoyed eating there because of the good food and excellent customer service. Then they sold out to a new outfit who had such bad customer service that it lasted only for a year before closing up shop. About a year ago, they were bought again and this time the customer service has improved to okay status during busier times and excellent during slow times. At nearly three in the afternoon, I was aiming to get some of the excellent customer service.

When I walked into the restaurant, the "Please Wait to Be Seated" sign was posted. Since there were only about six occupied tables out of over forty, I guessed that it was just so they could keep tabs of who was coming in so not to miss them. I stood there for five minutes with a couple waiting to pay before someone finally came out of the kitchen to take their money and tell me I could go ahead and sit where ever I wanted.

The restaurant has two wings forming a giant L shape. I walked to the left which was originally the non-smoking section before Iowa passed a no-smoking law in restaurants last year. It was a force of habit. However, out of the twenty or so tables in the wing, four were occupied but every single one was piled with dirty dishes and glassed from previous diners. So I walked back past the cashier to the other wing which had previous been the smoking section only to find that it had two tables of people and another twenty tables full of dirty dishes, except for one.

The one table that didn't have a mound of dirty dishes was my choice though it had pop rings, ketchup stains and crumbs everywhere. I sat down and looked out over the restaurant where not one employee was to be seen. I didn't have a good feeling about my chances but I was waiting for the primer back home to dry and really didn't have anything better to do. So I sat and listened to the lady at one of the tables in my wing ignore her daughter, mother and father and call one person after another on her cell phone to evidently talk without any apparent point to the call.

Ten minutes went by and I was just about a hair's width from calling it quits and stopping by a fast food joint drive thru when the waitress who had originally told me to go ahead and take a seat came back and asked me if she could get me something to drink. I told her she could first get someone to wipe the table and then get me a diet Pepsi. Within a couple minutes another waitress came back and laboriously wiped down the table and set my pop on top with a menu and walked off.

I sipped at the soda, decided what I wanted to eat and since I wasn't expecting anyone to come back anytime soon, I started reading the book that I had thankfully brought with me. Another ten minutes would go by before the second waitress came back and asked if I needed some more time before ordering. I almost laughed at the thought that a man reading a book instead of a menu closed and sitting on the edge of the table was a person who might require more time to see the menu ten minutes after you first gave it to him. I placed my order and asked for another refill.

After my refill arrived and the wait for my food began, I noticed that I didn't have any eating utensils or ketchup and was guessing that I wouldn't see any until my food arrived. So I read my book and bided my time until finally the waitress plopped my food down and quickly started walking off without asking if I needed anything else. I had to say excuse me loudly twice before she came back and asked what I needed. I said some eating utensils and some ketchup for my French fries would be nice.

I didn't expect for her to come back and see if I needed anything else and she didn't. The next time she came when I was only halfway through my meal was to slap a bill down, still without asking if I wanted anything else and quickly began to walk away. Again I had to say excuse me to get her to come back and get a refill knowing full well that with the ticket delivered, she definitely didn't plan on coming back. I don't know what her hurry was since I was now the only one left in the restaurant and she and the other waitress were obviously not interested in cleaning tables.

I worked on my meal and perhaps fifteen minutes later, the two girls came back in the area and started loading up a huge cart with dirty dishes. They had the entire restaurant full of tables with dirty dishes and they had to come over to my area to start the task. Throwing dishes into the tubs, occasionally overshooting so the dish would miss and hit the floor on the other side scattering utensils and leftover food all over the place, the picked up the tables though they were still covered with food debris. At the table across the aisle where the cell phone lady and her family had been sitting, my waitress loudly complained to the other one that they hadn't left her a tip. I wryly thought I knew the answer why since during the fifteen minutes they had been sitting there, I never saw the waitress stop by once.

The two waitresses filled up their cart with two thirds of the restaurant still full of cluttered tables and disappeared into the kitchen. I decided that I had enough and made my way to the cashier stand where I proceeded to wait for five minutes before the first waitress came out and rang up my bill. I had a prepared response for when she asked how everything was but she never did so I just left. As I walked back to my car, I wondered how long it would be before the waitress noticed I hadn't left a tip and if she would even get the clue that perhaps her shitty waitressing was the reason she wasn't receiving any. I didn't hold my breath.


sage said...

I always feel funny not tipping as that's how waitresses make their living, but when I have that kind of service, I too have been known not to tip.

TC said...

Wow. WOW. You've really been getting some crappy service lately, haven't you? That's simply ridiculous.

I laughed out loud at the line about a guy reading a book and not the menu not being ready to order: clearly she needs a lesson in visual clues or something! :)

R. Sherman said...

My maternal grandparents owned a tavern/restaurant in south St. Louis when I was a kid. My grandmother was there every day, overseeing the food in the kitchen and the waitresses on the floor. Those two would have lasted precisely five minutes in her place.


The Real Mother Hen said...

See, not only China Mart has bad service, bad service happens everywhere because the culture which one takes pride in his/her work is gone. Period.

Did you have a stomachache that night?

Beau said...

What a bummer experience. It's interesting- I've noticed the customer service in some sectors has picked up greatly because everyone is competing harder for customers these days. We were parked outside, in the cold, at the Sonic a few weeks ago and the manager came around twice with a tray of extras to see if we needed anything! But with an experience like you had, we would probably never go back.

Murf said...

You're awfully patient.

When do the girls get back?

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - I feel the same way and can probably count the number of times that I've not left a tip at a restaurant on one hand.

TC - I was planning on a leisurely lunch which is why I took my book. However, I didn't expect it to be as leisurely as it was.

R. Sherman - I am beginning to think that perhaps Mother Hen is right in her assessment. Times have changed unfortunately.

Mother Hen - Perhaps you are right but dang it, I don't like it! I didn't have a stomache ache but I didn't tell her (or known) ahead of time that I wasn't going to leave a tip. I also haven't gone back and probably won't for awhile.

Beau - I'm going to say this for a second time in two posts, it must be something in the water down there. I sat here for five minutes trying to think of something like what you just said where the customer service has been above and beyond and I can't think of anything. That is pretty sad.

Murf - Like I said above, I was planning on a leisurely lunch or I would have walked before I even got my drink ordered. The girls come home in another eight days. I can't wait for some noise other than self generated ones.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Hey dude, watch this

Duffy is very '60s... like she has just stepped out from the black-and-white frame, pretty cool. The CD is much better than Youtube.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Make it easier for you

Ed Abbey said...

Mother Hen - She reminds me a lot of Norah Jones which I really like. I'll have to check out a full length CD sometime.