Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Won the battle, lost the war.....

There is nothing that scares the bejesus out of a restaurant manager more than a letter of complaint, well that and hard work. I mean a guest ranting and raging and frothing at the mouth over the lethargic lettuce or the penne in their pasta (ha!) is far easier to deal with than someone who has taken the time and effort to put bic biro to a page from their kids school jotter. In most cases a manger will roll over and play dead if that's what it takes to satisfy an unhappy punter and whilst we waiters will scoff at their, perceived, lack of spine it is almost always the right thing to do. After all it is our job to make the guests happy.

Or so I'm told, constantly.

blah blah fucking blah.....

A letter of complaint means that someone has fucked up royally, unlike Prince Harry who is fucked up royalty. Not only does it mean that someone has truly made a turd out of a turnip but that the manager didn't spot it and deal with it on the night. Unless of course it was the manger who was doing the metaphorical shitting. Or actual shitting.

For managers and working staff, hehehe, alike a letter of complaint is like a case of genital warts - you don't want to talk about it and you really want it to go away as quick and as painlessly as possible. Now normally what happens is that the manager investigates, the waiters prevaricate, the chefs remonstrate (and generally mess themselves) the process eventually ending in someone being warned about future conduct or quality of work. Pfft.

The manager then has to pen a big sad faced letter saying how sorry we all are that we didn't meet our usually high standards during their recent visit and that we all promise to really try harder next time. Shucks. The letter is signed, bunged in an envelope along with a voucher for a meal for two and posted. That's normally the whole thing put to bed.

The process is normally the same no matter what the complaint or wether the complaint was really justifiable. I mean I have lost count of how many times over the years I have threatened to leave if, "that lying fucker gets a voucher" only to end up serving them again a few weeks later. It hurts but it's the right thing to do. It rarely matters if you are right as winning an argument with a customer over semantics and details isn't going to win you any friends. You gotta keep them happy, that's the bottom line and we all know it, from the staff to the managers.

Well nearly all of us know it.

This story of a letter of complaint sent by a woman, Marilyn Fletcher, in England to a restaurant made me dribble down my shirt with laughter. It's from The Daily Tory.

By all accounts Mrs Fletcher hadn't been a happy bunny by the time she and her family had left the Manor Restaurant in Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property and home of "the finest Rothschild wines available". The food wasn't up to it and the service was said to be even worse. And that's what she wrote in her letter to the catering manager, one Simon Offen. But Simon wasn't gonna just take her word for it and say sorry, which is what he should have done. Oh hell no Simon had other ideas. Ideas like scanning the CCTV footage to see exactly what had gone on.

Probably didn't want to do that as Mrs Fletcher took her complaint and Mr Offen's response right up the food chain to the head of the National Trust Dame Fiona Reynolds. That cant be good can it, I mean having an actual Dame as your boss? Mr Offen dismissed her complaint and said he had "watched and listened with interest to the video recording of her table" and then added, "You sat at your table at 14.31, at 14.41 whilst the staff in your room were running about, you stormed over to the cash desk to make your point. At 14.44 your order was taken."

Now this may very well be true but it's not going to make Mrs Fletcher and her family and her friends and their friends and their friends friends rush to his restaurant now is it? You see he thinks he had won the argument by being able to quote exact times and what have you. But he didn't win anything. He had lost sight of what he is meant to do, make punters happy, make them leave happy, and give them a reason to return and not with a writ either.

Plonker.

31 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Medbh said...

Maybe if he took the trouble to make sure she was happy at the time it'd make him look better. I think watching a tape of the dinner is creepy.

Manuel said...

Medbh: creepy? it's downright wrong, sleazy, and beyond words.......the guy has clearly lost the plot.....

bendersbetterbrother said...

Give him a break. He just got a little confused. The camera that records sound is the one in the bogs.

Manuel said...

bbb: hehehehe.....and just to remind everyone that you are all responsible for your own comments....legally

B said...

I was in a coffeehut thing(or whatever they're called) in Donnybrook a few weeks back and was stunned to see that not only were there filled in letters of complaint there in a box beside the blank ones, they're were at least 2 filled in while I was there.

Imagine the sort of pricks that must go there.



If you wrote "does a very good job" on one of those complaint forms, do they presume it's sarcastic?

Manuel said...

b: i fucking detest comment cards and have a special "filing" system for them.....it involves the bin and sometimes tippex

B said...

but they were on the counter,
right in front of the poor employee,
who was doing a great job,
and they still filled it in

Jeni said...

I think his wording in the response letter was wrong - it does sound creepy and a little odd, but the number of places I've worked where the punters word was taken over mine does make me wish that managers stood up to complainers more often...and giving the people who DON'T like your place a free meal etc is just backwards - people who leave good comments should be invited back rather than those who don't who come back to complain again...to get more free stuff...imho :)

Boxer said...

I've gotten complaint letters about ME - ahaha - they are sent to the "Manager/Owner" and once they demanded I fire myself.

Oh, I wish I could.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

They say if a person likes their meal they will tell maybe two others about it but if that person had a rotten meal they will tell ten times more people.Bad news travels faster so it is always management's job to make the punter happy no matter what. No matter who is right or wrong.

savannah said...

that is so wrong, sugar. i read the article to get the details! i think the manager was suffering form post holiday distress...or he was just an idiot xoxox

silverstar98121 said...

Since in most restaurants I go to the host/ess who seats you takes the drinks order, I would be pissed just that no one showed up for 20 (or even 10) minutes. If any of the other things are true, I would be really pissed. And then to be told someone had watched and listened to what went on at my table? I think Mr. Offen is really Mr. Offensive.

Old Knudsen said...

Ok Boxer I said I was sorry about those letters.

Captain Smack said...

I fully support his handling of that particular difficult customer, and here's why:

I worked at an Italian Restaurant for over three years. We had a full menu, and the food was very good. Not fancy, but rock-solid, tasty Italian food. Our cooks actually took pride in the food, even though their pay was shit.

Our claim to fame, however, was the pizza. It really was the best pizza in town.

Whenever a customer gave us shit about something that, upon investigation, wasn't actually our fault, we would tell them to go fuck themselves. Literally, we would say "go fuck yourself". Not just the managers, but both the owners. It was sort of our "motto" or whatever.

Even though some people were highly offended by our attitude, word spread that our restaurant "didn't take no shit", and the people loved it. They admired us for it. Hey, our food was good, and if you wanted some, then shut the hell up. We symbolized the true, old skool Mom-n-pop type of restaurant that you don't see anymore.

Of course, it probably didn't hurt that everyone believed that our restaurant was owned by the Mafia. It wasn't, but we certainly didn't go out of our way to quell those rumors.

In short, I don't think that a restaurant having a cocky attitude is always a bad thing. Besides, customers who easily go ballistic are usually more trouble than they're worth. They'll always bitch about something. Screw 'em.

sheepworrier said...

I gotta say the smart thing to do would've been for the manager to grab his ankles and just take it, but it's refreshing to see some backbone every now and then.
The customer is not always right - that's why god created bouncers...

Conan Drumm said...

So, complaining by letter is basically a way of getting two meals for the price of one? Ok. Noted.

Manuel said...

b: man, some people are just bad people...

jeni: they are always gonna take the customers word over ours....whatyagonnado?!

boxer: hahahahaha! ah that's tremendous, did you reply and them that you gave yourself a good talking to?

steve: it's sad but true......like adam sandler....

savannah: i go for the latter....

silverstar: ooh hello again....ha, good one

old k: yeah like stop going on about it.....sake....

captain smack: BEST. MOTTO. EVER.......

sheepo: which is what most of them do......

Manuel said...

conan: sneaked inn there didn't ya? Ah but you would know in your heart that it was wrong and end up choking, to death, on your bread roll......wouldn't you?

Evil Twin said...

What a prat - and a creepy one at that; imagine how badly frustrated this guy has to be to study the CCTV, let alone think about it in the first place. No the customer is not always right, but really all he's gone and done is turn a small problem into a news-fest - can't imagine his reservations shot up after that article!

Manuel said...

evil twin: cant imagine he has to worry about the reservations any more......

Queenie said...

God what a creep!

That has cost him so much more than the meal, what an idiot, even I wouldn't stoop so low as to eavesdrop on a customer, unless they had some really juicy gossip.

MJ said...

I dine here sometimes.

Motto: Food and Service is our name. ABUSE is our game.

conortje said...

I not sure I see what he did wrong - I don't believe you should always take blame if it is not warranted. Maybe I've lived too long in NL but he was right wasn't he? And the customer was being a tit? Being a customer does not give you a the right to be wrong...

Stephan said...

Oh, I feel his pain. Our hotel gets people who clearly write to the corporate office just DYING to get something off of us for free, knowing it's going to happen just that way. But every once in awhile, enough is enough and we put our foot down (Like the guy who tried to blame us for his wife getting drunk at a restaurant OFF-property!) and it feels strangely vindicating to say "No."
But, this guy did go about it the wrong way altogether. Still, Manuel, can you honestly say you didn't get even a moment of satisfaction out of hearing about this woman NOT getting her way?

Native Minnow said...

He may have driven business away, but that's still funny. I wish more people would refuse to bow down to whiny people like her.

FMCGMCCLLC said...

Wrote a letter one time, at a hotel we spend thousands of dollars year after year. This was about attitude on the part of the Maitre D. We only wanted someone to tell him to tone down his personal opinions. Ok, this about smoking before all the laws were passed. Anyway that letter went from Corporate all the way down to the parking valet, everyone knew about THE LETTER. We got an apology, which is all we wanted, but this guy was ragged on for quite some time. I almost felt bad. However he treats very nicely now.

Bock the Robber said...

I could never tell the difference between walking and storming.

How to Get Your Food Spit In said...

Writing letters of complaint is just about the most passive aggressive thing a guest could do.

Phil said...

ah yes, bad service at an eating establishment. I have one of my own that I would like to share with you that involves a micro-brewery in Harrisburg, Pa. But I won't put up the url without permission from you.

Namaste.

Manuel said...

phil: go ahead old chap.....!

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