Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Hope You're Still Reading...

...because I haven't really been writing. I'm sorry about that - it has literally been coming down to the decision to either sleep or write the last few days, and the former wins every time. I'm sure my unwillingness to sacrifice my slumber makes me a poser in the writing world - because, you know, we have to suffer as gratuitously as possible in order to gain recognition and improve our craft. But seeing as it's nearly 10:30 at the moment, I don't really give a shit. It's bed time. Waking up at 4 a.m. five days a week for a year ruined staying up late for me.

But I promise, for those of you who care (all 23 of you, according to my "official" list), I have a shit ton to write (read: complain) about. I even devoted a whole hour I to my list of topics. In true dorky English major fashion, it contains underlined categories with neatly lined-up bullet points and dashes underneath.

Anyway, I promise I'm writing. It's coming. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Blog Just Acquired Dozens of Additional Followers...Sort Of...

After some waffling I decided to copy and paste the text from this entire post, word for word, into the little "contact us" thingy on Bar Louie's web site. Naturally, I signed with a fake name.

I got this reply from their manager:

Dear Laetitia [imagine my surprise upon seeing this name after forgetting I'd used it],

First, I would like to apologize for the recent service you experienced at our establishment on the evening of Tuesday, October 12, the service you received was completely unacceptable. However, I would also like to extend gratitude for you sending an email allowing this situation to be brought to my attention; customer feedback is an invaluable tool to improve our business. There were many mistakes that were made that night and the improper handling by the manager on duty at that time, only made those mistakes worse. I would like to invite you back into our establishment for another meal, on us, and hopefully we can make this situation right. We will have your name on file for a $50 visit to accommodate an evening for you and a guest. Also, we will be discussing your email, not only as a management team, but with the entire service staff, as well. Once again, we appreciate you feedback.

Sincerely,

Typhie McPhoid [what the hell - I'll just make up everyone's name today!]

General Manager

Bar Louie

[Not to be outdone, I replied thusly:]

Typhie,

Thanks for your reply. I wanted to clarify that I published that blog post on October 6, so my boyfriend and I actually went to BL on Tuesday the 5th. I felt it necessary to let you know so that innocent employees who worked on the 12th don't get blamed for something that happened on the 5th - there was some lag time between that post and my contacting you, obviously.

That said, I would also like to thank you for your offer. However, I will have to decline. I've been in food service too long to feel comfortable accepting free food just for complaining. In any case, my name isn't even Laetitia.

Thanks,

Bagel Fairy [and I really did sign it this way]

I wonder what it says about my vanity that I'm absolutely thrilled that so many people will read/hear my original e-mail. In fact, I believe this will be my first public reading!

Too bad I won't be there to bask in my glory.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Other Side of the Counter: Bar Louie Sucks and Marcella's Rocks

Last night I experienced the most appalling service I ever have at a restaurant in my life.

Being in food service, I am especially forgiving of mistakes as a customer. I know rushes are shitty when you're understaffed, that it sucks when you're trying to keep everyone happy when the people making the food are behind, and that servers are human and make mistakes. I consistently tip 15-20% and rarely complain.

But last night nearly became my first dine-and-dash. G and I went to dinner at the downtown Bar Louie, where they do a dollar burger night on Tuesdays. Not surprisingly, this place is very busy on such nights. We looked for a table for a while before spotting one on the landing between the upstairs and downstairs and sat down.

Then, we waited, for over thirty minutes. (And I actually know this because I had to put money in a meter. I point this out because most customers who unjustifiably bitch about wait times say they were waiting "twenty minutes"--regardless of whether it was two or nineteen--because it sounds long but not unbelievably so.) The server who was serving the upstairs trotted right by us no less than half a dozen times. Any attempt to flag her down would have been futile she angled her body away from our table and avoided eye contact. Do you know anyone who doesn't sense when she's being stared down by four angry eyes? I don't. However, if her vacant expression indicates anything, she doesn't seem to sense much.

We watched the servers run around downstairs. Drinks, appetizers, and burgers made their way to tables as G and I continued to bitch to each other and fiddle with our napkins. Finally, G walked down to the bar asking a guy for a manager, and the bro replied that there wasn't one (really?). So the guy summoned someone else behind the bar to act as manager, and my boyfriend asked if it was serve yourself as well as seat yourself.

The "manager" (or whoever the hell he was, since the employees seemed to have no clue who was in charge--perhaps this is the problem?) told a server, who was in the middle of cashing out a bunch of checks, to come take care of us. G pointed her out to me after returning to the table--she was one of the downstairs servers, already being run ragged by all her regular tables and one giant case of Birthday Entitlement Fever (thank you, Bitter Waiter).

She came up to the table, sweaty and apologetic, and I immediately felt sorry for her because she really did seem to feel bad about forgetting our table. She loses some points for rushing off after we ordered drinks before we could have the chance to tell her we were ready for food (I think half an hour is long enough even for us indecisive folk), but otherwise she was one of the only workers who didn't piss me off. Plus, she took the appetizer ($9 worth of teeny tiny dumplings) off our bill.

It was only then that the guy running clean glasses to the bar upstairs (who had already done so twice without even a glance at us, mind you) checked on us and made sure we'd been helped. And it was only after I stood at the bar for a couple of minutes trying to make eye contact with one of the bartenders that someone gave me change for a dollar so I could put more quarters in the meter (which I wouldn't have had to do if these people didn't have their heads so far up their asses).

We ate - finally - and I paid and tipped the server 15% because there's no reason she shouldn't make a living just because she slipped up. If it were anyone else, though, I wouldn't have bothered.

Although the service was especially bad last night, it's never been stellar. Apparently the heavily made-up/mini-skirt wearing waitresses, toned bartenders, "hip young professional" clientele and funky decor are all supposed to distract the customer from BL's vapid, neglectful staff. Don't believe me? Look at their website and tell me what you think they're all about.

Seriously, people. Customers are the collective responsibility of the staff. It doesn't matter who's assigned to which section. It doesn't matter who's doing all the work and who's picking up all the slack. (Well, it does, but that discussion belongs in the manager's office - if you know who your manager is.) There is absolutely no excuse for walking around with your eyes fixated on the floor and hoping someone else will deal with the angry-looking Italian guy at the bar.

I wish to contrast this experience with one I had Marcella's about nine months ago. I learned (as part of the brainwashing training that was my own food service experience) the statistic that customers are a bazillion times more likely to report a bad service experience than a good one, and that made me hate customers even more want to report good experiences as well as bad ones.

After being seated one evening, my two friends and I waited just long enough to notice no one was helping us before someone came up to ask if anyone was taking care of us. Let's start keeping score.

Checking on Bored-Looking Customers With Empty Tables, Even When They're Seated in Another Section

M's: 1
BL: 0

We said we hadn't been served yet, and she apologized profusely and asked what she could get us.

Accepting Responsibility and Acting Without Outsourcing Problem to Someone Else

M's: 2
BL: 0

Our server came eventually, also profusely apologizing. She admitted she had simply forgotten about us.

Apologizing and Owning Up to Mistakes

M's: 3
BL: 1 (the girl who eventually served us did, at least, do this)

They comped our wine and appetizer, to which I certainly did not object but seemed like an over-the-top gesture just the same.

Offering to Make It Up to the Customer

M's: 4
BL: 1.5 (she only took off the appetizer when G asked to be compensated)

The staff were all friendly and attentive the rest of the meal, and checked in on us often in spite of the full dining room.

Everyone Does His/Her Part

M's: 5
BL: 1.5

Guess where I'm choosing for my downtown dining from now on? Might as well go with the better service, considering dinner at BL on their "cheap" night (sans appetizer, no less) costs nearly as much as a full meal with wine at Marcella's.

Plus, I'm pretty sure Marcella's has a manager.