Tuesday, 7 April 2009

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"...oh really?

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" was a phrase popularized by the sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein. Now I know nothing about the man except for that one fact but I will wager he never worked a split shift on a Friday in a restaurant in Belfast. Because if he had he would have indeed discovered that there is such a thing as a free lunch and quite possibly dinner too and even a voucher or forty for the next visit.

If he was to work such a wonderful and fun shift he would have to agree that his initial statement was indeed incorrect unless followed up quickly with the following stipend, "unless of course the waiter drips a teeny weeny drip of water or wine or gravy on your table or Gordon forbid the kitchen chaps are ever so slightly slow getting the food from the kitchen to your fat tum tum. Then your lunch is free." Not quite as catchy but accurate.


It's a fucking shameful state of affairs.

"Me wants free stuff!!", they cry, sometimes literally, as the food falls from their mouth as they maybe waited a fraction of a minute longer than they probably should have to get their coffees. Even the most slightest of quibbles, criticisms, or pea in it's pod out of place, perceived or otherwise, is liable to produce an avaricious response from even your most unassuming of guests.

There appears to be no such thing as an accident or genuine mistake anymore. Well actually there are plenty of accidents and genuine mistakes, it's just the reaction to them that has changed. It's all, "Woe is me" and my day/night/brand new never been worn before made in the mountains of Lithuania by blind monks and costs more than you'll ever earn in your life time Mr Waiterman sweater is ruined. It's funny, not funny ha ha I should add, that in nearly twenty years of active service as a front line plate schlepper I have yet to spill, or even heard about a spill, that landed on a regular everyday shirt purchased from The Gap or Next or Gord damned Primark. It's always Armani or Gucci or one of those fellas.

I lived in the countryside and I know what bullshit smells like and it sometimes smells of red wine and cheap aftershave.

I spilled wine on a woman on night, a teacher as it happens, and she went gaga, ballistic, off the deep end. Now it was an accident and she had every right to be upset and annoyed. I was upset and annoyed too but at least I wasn't honking of cheap Cabernet Sauvignon. But yes she had every right to be be absolutely pissed with me. She calmed down after a couple of minutes when she realised that there was only a tiny bit of red wine on her sleeve. I tidied up her table and reset it and made everything all lovely again. I issued her with a new bottle of wine. I got her details and told her to bill us for the dry cleaning. I assured her that we would comp the bill for HER food. She was pleased and all seemed well.

But when I went back to the table a moment later she had changed her mind and was insisting that we furnish her table of 30 with free wine and as well as her food being comped she wanted a further discount on the entire bill. I chortled at the mere suggestion of it and got the manager who found the whole situation less chortley than I. She was firmly told that under no circumstances would she be getting any more wine or discount. She puffed out her cheeks and as casually as you like said, "Heh...it was worth a try."

And it's that attitude that irks me the most, the get the arm in attitude. It sucks and it is just another manifestation of the, "fuck you, you owe me" culture, the "where there's blame their a claim" culture. Yes you are within your rights to make a fuss and be annoyed if things go horribly wrong but you are entitled to the deeds of the restaurant and the first new born of the head chef, not that would really want that, nor does the waiter have to wear sack cloth and ashes for the rest of the service.

It's annoying that those who make the biggest and loudest fuss will always be compensated the best for any error on our behalf no matter if it's genuine or not just to shut them the fuck up. But those who just push their plate away and say little or nothing get exactly that, little or nothing. Well no more, I will fight for the meek, the quiet and the genuine. Not for the brassy, loud and vulgar sorts that mess themselves at the teeniest sight of blood on their steak or drop of gravy on their brown shirt.

Society is in a mess and it's thanks, in part, to the subscribers to the "fuck you, you owe me" culture. Meh.

And before you ask, yes it is lonely up here on my high horse. Now I must gallop off, there's a certain broadband supplier that owes me for two days down time.

Wonder what I can nail them for..........

25 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

ninetyninewords said...

A teacher? That half explains it in itself. I bet you could do a weeks worth of posts on teachers.
The magic money tree will stump up.

It should be like in football where a deliberate dive can mean a sending off.
I want to see waiters lift the chancers up and throw them out. Think how much it would add to the experience of dining out.

Manuel said...

99 words: I did for a long time.....there are numerous posts on here with regard to that profession....but I have laid off them....I'm sound like that

and think of the blog gold.......hmmmmm

sigh

Sniffle said...

How very dare you suggest, suggest, or even hint that my indignation is something other then indignant, how double dare you waiter. Dungeons too good……….. immediate and brick wire brush and dettol.

Sniffled said...

Brisk, and maybe brick too, but brisk first ................

ninetyninewords said...

Ah, you must have been lent on. Don't let them bully you. Bastards.

Manuel said...

sniffle: here have a free dessert...feel better now? sake....heh

99 words: bullied? me? arf at the very thought of it......

Medbh said...

"It's annoying that those who make the biggest and loudest fuss will always be compensated the best for any error on our behalf no matter if it's genuine or not just to shut them the fuck up."

Absolutely.
This principle runs most countries.
My personal pet peeve with this bullying tactic is that locally, it resulted in getting the tennis court where I take the pooches every night locked the fuck up because some douchebag took objection to dogs using it during the off-season. Hey, why would we want a big empty open space to remain public?
Meanwhile the gangs of teens are taking over the park now that we dog folks are turned out.
And I have to walk them considerably further every night so they can get some off-leash time in an enclosed area.
I need to write a letter, but by the time they get it, the net will be back up.
Grrrr.
The word verification is "panic" btw.

Boxer said...

I am so very tired of a society that expects retribution for ACCIDENTS. It's make the World a very lonely and scary place at times.

But Dude, totally, make your Internet provider PAY. Fake a back injury while you're at.

MJ said...

By complaining about the worms in my tin of assorted nuts I got another tin of nuts for free.

I was too suspicious of them to eat them.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Oh my gosh have I got a good customer complaint for you coming in a post probably in a couple of weeks from now on a ship I worked on. Nowadays no one can forgive an accident. If one happens it is a freebie , that is all they want. You have to be more perfect than ever to make the same meager tip from these people and teachers are some of the worst.

daisyfae said...

my favorite 'spill' story? lovely, chatty and delightful waitress in a small town diner accidently spilled syrup on the table, with some dripping in my lap. i laughed, she fussed and cleaned me up... and probably had a heart attack when she discovered after i left that there was a $20 tip on the table for a $10 breakfast bill... she was adorable. felt genuinely awful... suspect she's been throwing syrup at customers for the last 5 years...

Simon said...

You are SO right. The world is getting worse with regards to "What can I get out of this situation" and "I want mine, everyone else can go fuck themselves" but the thing is, the world tends to reward these schmucks with what they want, so if you're not trying to do the same, you're missing out. But, I refuse to turn into one of those douche bags and I get embarrassed by even thinking about pushing my luck with things like that.
Fair compensation for an error? Right. Taking the piss? Wrong.

Anonymous said...

I run a house cleaning company here in Canada (home of the never tippers) and it's odd how the broken ornament is always priceless. We had a man laugh it off when we advised him a small (really fugly) clay ornament was broken but when his wife came home from work, it magically morphed into a priceless family heirloom that was worth 2 free cleanings (value $200).

In the 70`s I had a waitress spill a pot of hot water for tea down my back and my dad tipped her quite well to make up for her mortification. It was her first day of work. And I was just fine. Soggy, but fine.

Lisa

Le Nord said...

You were going to pay for her dry cleaning? Bloody hell I'd be so chuffed with that!

Hails said...

Ha! I'm glad to have a waiter on our side. I'm one of the quiet and meek ones (that may even be why I haven't commented before), to the extent where I'll go out of my way to *avoid* a fuss. "This wine has something floating in it? Never mind, no, no, I'll drink it, see? It's lovely, mmmm..." or "You spilled red all over my white top? Ah, sure it was cheap rubbish anyway, I shouldn't have been wearing something that crap in the first place, never worry, I'll just throw it out...".

I really don't like asking for things or making a complaint if something isn't right. I'm trying to compensate for the assholes. But it means I never get taken any notice of, and they get all the attention. You're right - it does pay to be a chancer. I'd do it too if I didn't have my self-respect and general decency as a human being to consider.

Manuel said...

back shortly to respond (i mean that this time) so busy and have a black pudding to eat....awesomeo

Conan Drumm said...

Naughty chancer customers, but hold on. Spilling? What's that, waiter-speak for mislocated pouring?

Surely spilling for a waiter is like driving on a footpath for a bus driver? It's must be one of those things that-should-never-happen, like tripping, dropping, fumbling, bumping, or shouting?

Mel said...

I wish I could not believe this. If someone spills something on me, *I* am the one to apologise, and would not even dream of getting the restaurant to pay for the cleaning, unless something was really stained.

However, having worked on the customer service desk for an unpopular high street electrical store, I am sad to say this is all too common. The difference is that, these days, people do get what they want by yelling, whereas when I was working there, the manager I had would be nicer to the people that were quiet and polite.

bitsofeverything said...

I once dropped a bottle of wine down the back of a woman's dress - yes the bottle literally went down into her dress and stuck there pouring it's contents out - don't ask me how it happened, a mystery of nature. I was incredibly mortified, and she was in hysterics. Laughing hysterics. She still gave me a big tip. So nice when people recognize that every human makes mistakes, and there's rarely a need for making a scene (though she would have had the right to if she wanted!).

Manuel said...

so little time......where did all my time go?

Mel said...

I found it, Manueal. YOu spilled it on the sleeve of that teacher over there. She wants free moons on a stick. For EVERYONE

Captain Smack said...

So it's not just America, then. That's good to know. And it never even occurred to me to get comped for internet downtime. I recall being down for about 20 minutes this month, that must be worth... well, I'll do the math later.

"...Robert A. Heinlein. Now I know nothing about the man..."

Legend has it that, whilst drinking at a bar together, Heinlein bet L. Ron Hubbard (who, at the time, was mainly known as a sci-fi writer himself) that he couldn't start a religion, and that's how Scientology originated. Probably not true, but I choose to believe it anyway.

Native Minnow said...

A girl I was friends with used to date a guy with that attitude. We went to dinner once, and the waiter spilled water all over his shoulder and arm (why the waiter was pouring water directly over him is beyond me). Surprisingly, he didn't say anything.

Sooz said...

Meh, I spilt a glass of wine over a customer's delightful and no doubt designer peach suit one day (may I add it was her friend's fault, silly bint decides to move her wine glass at the exact time I set a heavy menu down, menu catches glass, not pretty)- the customer herself laughed and was happy enough with us paying the dry cleaning and comping her main course, "sweet" says I, considering the glass had actually broken and I could've been in deep doo-doo, but noooooooo, my silly "Glorious Leader" decides to give them (a 4-top) ALL free food, and an extra bottle of wine... nothing like doing yourself out of money, is there? Still, I got a nice 20 quid tip seeing they paid for nothing! Methinks I should've spilt stuff more often!

waxydan said...

Despicable assholes one and all.

@ Hails: I know the feeling. Ms. Waxy's often berating me for letting things slide.

Though, on the plus side; "I lived in the countryside and I know what bullshit smells like and it sometimes smells of red wine and cheap aftershave" is one of the best lines I've ever heard and made me blow coffee out through my nose and over my desk :(