By Carolyn Manning
When is “Bad Service” bad enough to keep you from going back to a restaurant? What will we forgive and why will we forgive it?
Answering the third question first, we might forgive bad service if the food is really good, or if the restaurant is one where you would not expect world-class service (think roadside taco trailer), or if previous experience with the restaurant provides a kinder, gentler memory of good service.
With any of those variables in place, I’ll put up with a cranky waitress, a surly waiter, an inexperienced server or a clumsy busboy. I’ll forgive forgetfulness, inattention, and even outright rudeness … to a degree.
Here in Portland, we have some very skilled Professional Waitpersons. It is pretty standard to be acknowledged within two minutes upon entering a restaurant, be it frantically busy or dead as a doornail. It is common to be seated in turn, and treated with kindness and respect. It is usual to be greeted by your waitperson within moments of being seated, and it is rare to have to wait for the staff to pick up your bill once you’ve place the cash or card down on the table.
Yes, we are pretty spoiled here in Portland.
That is why, when we do not get good service here in Portland, it is a standout, and can quite negatively affect the meal … more so than in, say, Roseburg, where my husband, Marshall, and I were trapped one evening, driving in endless circles in search of some place to eat. We ended up at Denny’s … I still remember the nicely medium-rare slice of Prime Rib they served me … doused, unfortunately, with reconstituted French’s A’Jus mix, and served with what I am sure were instant mashed potatoes. Ick. But it didn’t kill us. And that was the point after all that cruising around in Roseburg and sticking our heads into a number of deathtraps along the way before settling on Denny’s.
But I digress.
I tend to be more forgiving of inexperience, forgetfulness or clumsiness, and far less forgiving of rudeness. It is quite clearly the easiest service issue to remedy, and by far the most inexcusable.
Rudeness is the offspring of an overdeveloped sense of superiority. A server will only behave rudely toward people they believe to be inferior … inferior to themselves or to their other guests.
Now, Marshall and I drive older cars … not “cool antiques” or “classics” but just plain old cars (1993s). Neither of us has a profession that requires suits, ties or impressive business attire. Everyday is basically “casual Friday” for us. We don’t buy expensive shoes, wear designer label clothes, and we don’t live high in the West Hills. And the main reason we live the lifestyle we live is to have more money to eat out at good or great restaurants and drink good wine. My life insurance is in the cellar at home with a multitude of corks in it. We don’t have the “look of money”, let’s just say. And I believe the lack of bling-bling and “fashion flash” have had negative consequences for us in the past.
We have experienced a combination of rude and inattentive service at Blue Hour’s bar, and will not be back unless someone else is paying or a visiting friend begs us to take them. Our service experience: Snotty and condescending …a bad combo in one so young … combined with inattention as she scanned the rest of the tables for customers who might be spending more … she had no clue.
We have been snubbed at the Lucy’s Table happy hour … a crowded, but usually tasty happy hour, with the famous Goat Cheese Raviolis being the star. The snub occurred right after the new owners took over, and if the food was as bad as the service, it is surely not worth a trip back. I’d love to get someone’s opinion that has been there recently. It would be a very sad thing, indeed, if the Goat Cheese Ravioli recipe had changed or if they’d taken it off the menu. Seriously … one of the most perfect things I’ve ever eaten.
But the worst treatment we’ve received in Portland came at Le Bouchon about 7 years ago. We have never eaten there, and we never will. It makes a good story now, but it was quite upsetting at the time.
Here’s what happened:
I’d been sick for quite some time with a nasty flu. On the first day I began to feel normal again, Marshall wanted to take me out to dinner. He’d heard some good things about Le’ Bouchon, a newer restaurant at the time, and made 7:15 reservations for us. Of course, he asked about corkage: $20. In Portland, a $20 corkage usually means, “We have an extensive and reasonably priced wine list. Leave your treasures at home.” So off we went without a wine in tow. (For those of you who read Marshall’s posts, you know this is unusual.)
It is a Thursday night, and as we pull our 1993 Mazda Protégé ($10K new off the lot, and not new anymore by this time) into the tiny parking lot next to the restaurant and emerge wearing dressy-casual clothes, we are eyed by the bored waiter standing out in front of the restaurant. Upon seeing us, he becomes animated and effusive:
“Bon SWA! I have a ta-bel for Ewe!”
I’m thinking, “I hope so … we have reservations.”
His accent is very thick. The restaurant is almost empty.
Moments after being seated, another couple whom we recognize from the Friday night wine tastings around town but to whom we have never formally been introduced, is seated a couple of empty tables away from us.
As we peruse the menus, the waiter appears and begins pushing specific items on the menu. He is annoying and we politely request more time to make up our minds. He bows and leaves.
As I check the menu, my eyes fall on the item “Bread with Butter: $2.50.” Excuse me?? PAY for a basket of bread to be brought to the table? This is Portland! I look up to express my astonishment to Marshall and am caught speechless. I have never seen my husband that shade of red.
Marshall is reading the wine menu. “What’s wrong?” I ask.
“These prices … they’re triple retail! Not triple wholesale … triple retail! I can’t pay this!” He is speaking softly but is visibly irritated … almost betrayed. How could a restaurant charging $20 corkage be so unfair in the bottle pricing?
This is supposed to be a celebration of my recovery (he hates it when I’m sick), so I try to soothe him with this: “It’s ok … we won’t get a bottle. Let’s just have a glass of white with our appetizer and a glass of red with dinner. It will be ok.”
The waiter has approached again, and I ask him what wines they have by the glass.
“We hev ay KaberNAY, ay Pee-no NWAR, ay ShardoNAY and ay Pee-no GREE.”
So, after glancing sideways at the other wine-geek couple in the restaurant, I ask him politely if he could be more specific … at which point he gets more general.
“Wha yes … zee KaberNAY eez ay more FOOL bodied red, zee Pee-no NWAR eez ay more LAHT bodied red …”
I cut him off … “No, I mean MORE specific, like vintage, producer, country of origin, region … anything?”
At that point he actually snorted at me, he raised his nose, the better to look down it at me and said, “Eet eez not aineething EWE wood have haird ov. Eet eez not sumthing ewe wood FAND een yore LOCAL GROSARRIE STOAR.”
Now I was the one turning a funny color. My eyes narrowed. “Try us.” My voice was flat, a dare.
He quit speaking English as he rattled off the full contents of the label from memory. His look became a dare.
I turned to Marshall. “Do you know this wine?” I asked. He nodded slowly. I looked and the waiter and said quietly, “We’re going to need a moment, please.”
“THAN AH SHALL WAIT!! THAT EEZ WATT WAITAIRS DEW!!” He was hollering now, loud enough to shut down all the conversations happening at the other 4 tables with guests. He turned sharply on his heels and headed for the kitchen.
By now, I was beyond embarrassed: I was mad.
Marshall said it was a mass-produced Languedoc jug wine now being brought into the Portland market, and despite the waiter’s condescending claim to the contrary, it was indeed a wine we would soon be finding in our local grocery stores. “It’s going to sell for about $5 a bottle … I just can’t bear the idea of paying $6 a glass for it!”
“Are you picking up a little ‘tude from the Frog?” I asked him quietly. He nodded. “Then,” I said, “Let’s get out of here and go somewhere else. We work too hard for our money to be treated this way.”
“But it’s 7:30,” said Marshall, trying not to sound worried and not succeeding. “Were are we going to find an opening?”
“Sweetheart, it’s 7:30 on a Thursday night in Portland. We can go anywhere we like! Let’s get out of here. What was your second choice for tonight?” I asked him as we got up from the table and headed for the door.
THAT is when the waiter spotted us from across the restaurant. What did he do? Got a huge smile on his face, waved exaggeratedly at us and yelled across the restaurant, “AWF WAH!! AWF WAH!!” as if we were happy customers leaving the restaurant.
Like I said: We have never eaten a meal there and we never will.
THAT was inexcusable, unforgivable, and frankly, unforgettable.
We ended up that evening at Café Des Amis … a Portland tradition for 25 years, which has sadly closed its doors. There were birthdays, anniversaries and what appeared to be a rehearsal dinner going on all around us. It was a happy, special place to be, and our dinners were outstanding. And the waiter?? Even though Marshall had no tie on and I was not dressed in velvet and heels, he treated us as if it were our 50th wedding anniversary. We received the same attention and consideration as all the other celebrants.
When it came time to order dessert, I told the waiter that this was the second restaurant we’d been to that night. “My!” he responded with a twinkle in his eye. “You must have been very hungry!”
“Oh, we didn’t eat at the other place,” I said and recounted our experience for him. He laughed so hard he could hardly breathe. “I’ve got to get the owner. He’ll love this …”
And so I found myself retelling the story a second time that evening. “Where does that guy think his restaurant is??” the owner exclaimed in disbelief, “New York City?? You just can’t treat people like that here in Portland! Dessert is on the house!”
Amazing what a little kindness and respect can do for a tip! Just ask the waiter at Café Des Amis.
Knife Diva says
Carolyn, I have read this story before (chowhound, maybe?)and found it highly entertaining, certainly, but so outlandish to the point of being almost inconceivable as it is so different than the numerous positive experiences I have had at Le Bouchon, bluehour et al.
My husband and I are not necessarily fashion plates either, though certainly professionally dressed and well groomed, and while we own a loft in the Pearl, we are not trendy 20 something hipsters.
That having been said, we have truly NEVER received the kind of service that you and Marshall have been subjected to in many of the better restaurants in Portland. Are we just lucky? Maybe, but I think that we go in expecting to be treated like honored guests and we are exceptionally friendly to the wait person(s) which helps things to work in our favor from the beginning.
Certain people, including a particular in law of mine in Florida, seem to be what I think of as “injustice collectors”. The injustice collectors I have known are frequently found in cubicle or other close quarters working environments, that imagine slights that most would even pay attention to or brush off easily. When they identify an injustice, they dissect the inequity of the situation and tell and re-tell the story again and again to any one who will listen and commiserate with them.
By no means am I saying that Carolyn is an injustice collector or even a whiner, for that matter, her experience is her experience, but I do think that those who project a positive, happy to be here attitude with a smile to accompany it when entering a restaurant or retail store etc. tend to get better service consistently. By and large, those who expect to be treated well are treated well.
After running high volume specialty retail stores for the last 15 years, I can confidently assert that customers who were friendly and nice to us when we were just trying to do our jobs received our BEST service, even if they were making a major return or exchanging something for the second or third time. Niceness counts and goes a very long ways in the service industry where often customers look down on the service providers.
“Rudeness is the offspring of an overdeveloped sense of superiority. A server will only behave rudely toward people they believe to be inferior … inferior to themselves or to their other guests.”
(So sayeth CM)
I am going to be short and blunt (and for this I apologize in advance): the foregoing is bullshit. Absolute scurrilous rubbish. The more credible generalization is that servers may react rudely to customers who cop an attitude. They shouldn’t, and most often don’t, but they are humans too.
I second the Knifester’s riposte and appreciate the “injustice collector” exposition.
I am out to eat at least a couple times a week and have been doing that–mostly in Portland, but in plenty of other ports as well–for about the last 25 years. I can’t remember the last time I had rude service. I am shocked by the number of food enthusiasts who post to various lists who seem to draw rude service like a flame draws moths. A check in the mirror may be in order.
The “please” and “thank you” bit, along with an easy smile, sincere expressions of pleasure and not too many special requests–habits my 8 y/o seems to be having little trouble picking up–yield prodigious returns.
OTOH, when one shows up sporting an attitude or playing the big shot or maven, watch out.
I would add that 20+ years of lawyering have taught me that there are ALWAYS two sides to a story. The “B” side to the Le Bouchon tale would be an interesting one to hear.
This is not intended as a personal attack on Ms. Manning. As I implied, I am simply sick to death of all the whining from so-called food enthusiasts and can’t help but conclude it’s mostly their own bad karma. Either that or my luck is so extraordinary I should be buying lottery tickets.
Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.
And one other thing: I invariably dress down like the Portland native I am.
Food Dude says
I’ve never had service that was downright nasty. I have service that was inept at times. Reminds me of the first place I ever reviewed (I never ran it on this site). The service was incredibly slow. When tables left, the waiter would wander by and pick up a glass or two and then leave the rest. Most of the time he kept running outside and talking on his cell phone while pacing up and down in front of the windows. After dinner, we went down the street for dessert. When we passed the restaurant later on, the same server was standing in the kitchen doorway smoking a joint. Suddenly it all made sense.
Food Dude says
I’ve actually heard similar comments about bluehour from several other people. Service in the restaurant has always been outstanding for me, but the bar can be a different story.
Marshall Manning says
Man, these comments are simply hilarious. First of all, Carolyn’s telling of the story is exactly as it happened. Honestly, it’s too funny to have been fabricated.
I also find it strange that anyone would think that we’d go into a restaurant expecting anything else but to be treated like honored guests. Does anyone actually go into a restaurant expecting to be treated poorly? If so, why would they go? The whole point of her article was that we went into a new restaurant hoping to have a good experience and were treated very poorly.
MCZ, since you weren’t there, how can you make the suggestion that we were the ones to “cop an attitude”? The only attitude in the place was by the waiter (who I believe was also an owner?), and he showed it to us in the little time (under 10 minutes) we were in the restaurant. We didn’t have time to make any special requests (since we hadn’t even ordered) and were simply shocked by his rudeness. In talking to others after the fact, we also found out that we weren’t the first, nor the last, customers to be treated poorly at Le Bouchon.
And while it’s nice to believe that everyone gets the same type of service, the facts are that not everyone does and it’s often related to factors other than one’s attitude towards the wait staff. Alison, do you think that it’s any surprise that you get treated very well in the Pearl, where you were manager at Sur La Table and probably had many local restaurant employees as customers? My guess is that has a lot to do with it, and I wonder if you’d get the same treatment going out in an area where no one knew you?
And MCZ, I have no idea who you are or how you act when visiting restaurants, but some of your comments are not only presumptuous, but insulting. Were I to make similar uneducated comments about your restaurant behavior, I’d guess that you arrive in your new Mercedes (dropped off at the valet station for maximum visability), make it known that you’re a “powerful attorney with 20+ years experience”, and probably hand out business cards with “MCZ, Attorney at Law (and my perfect 8 year old daughter)” to every waiter, busboy, hostess and parking lot attendant you come into contact with.
Maybe the other “food enthusiasts” who are “shocked by” poor service simply don’t kiss ass as well as you do? Or don’t flaunt their money?
If I were to guess as to where people might presume you have an attitude, it might be from reading a story whose supposed humor comes from making fun of someone’s accent and calling them “frogs.”
I’ve read plenty of crappy service stories that I’ve full-on sympahtized with, but with that type of pettiness displayed, well, let’s say it gives me pause.
As someone who has spent the last ten or so years as a server, I would like to point out, or at least express the hope that most of us are way too busy to see what kind of car you happen to roll up in, or give even a passing thought to how you are dressed. And I haven’t been working in a Denny’s for the past several years. I don’t care if you know what varietal Chinon is made from, or what region it comes from, I don’t care if you don’t know what quenelles are, or are unfamiliar with raclette. My job is to share information whenever required or solicited. A guest’s job is to let me know what they need or want, with the exception of the obvious basics.
I enjoyed a meal at Le Bouchon for the first time a little over a month ago, and except for the voluminous opinings of the poor, seemingly insecure man who had some kind of weird fascination with parrots and who was trying to impress his date with the idea of after dinner drinks at Bluehour, and who, unfortuntely, was seated next to us, and the strangely adolescent group of thirty somethings who also felt an apparently strong need to project their profanity laden conversation about cocaine (and when it’s bistro style, mostly I find my neighbors amusing, if sometimes unnecessarily loud; I am not out to lodge that familiar complaint about the fact that the interiors of a number of restaurants largely fail to reflect the sort of insular consciousness of the gated communities that seem to be all the rage these days), we had a very pleasant meal and gracious service was definitely a factor. There were two women who were running the floor that night, and both of them were very pleasant, as was the food and the $6 glass of Cotes du Rhone that I had. I didn’t ask for more specifics on the wine, I guessed that it would “do,” and it did, and for $6, I wasn’t all that worried. If I had encountered the same character described above, I doubt I would have anything good to say, nor would I have stayed for dinner. We were both wearing jeans, I don’t have a car, and my fiance drives a ’91 Mazda 323, though we arrived on foot.
As a server, I expect to be treated exactly as my guests expect to be treated; with consideration and respect. Anyone who becomes either too self important or too familiar, the distinction being the point where my ability to serve the other 6-20 or so people who may be waiting for my attention is jeopardized, will be treated with my very best white gloved formality and the sort of polite brevity that might be expected of a witless soul in servitude. I appreciate the manners of my guests as much as they can be expected to appreciate mine, and I will gladly go out of my way to honor the requests of both the most pompous of asses and the most socially inept, if only to make the time pass more pleasantly for all concerned. I hear a lot lately about the poor level of service in some local establishments, and I, too, find myself a little miffed when instead of a simple acknowledgement, I find myself waiting for five or ten minutes before being given even the courtesy of a greeting, let alone a nod. Though I will forgive any number of offenses based on my own experience, malice and inattention are not among them. On behalf of all of those of us who serve because we love good food, good wine, and good people, I would ask those of you who feel the same but find yourselves seated more often than serving to think of the similarities. When push comes to shove, most of us are only looking for nourishment; the people who take your order are working for theirs while trying to provide you yours.
If more people took that approach, there might be slightly less recrimination when these topics come up. I have rarely encountered any guest as pleasant or generous as one who has or has had a close family member employed as a server–it provides an awe-inspiring perspective of human nature.
I don’t think there was anything in Ms. Manning’s post that implied jackassery on the part of anyone but the “gentleman” who was to have been their server.
1. Rarely use valet parking and don’t drive my non-Mercedes/non-SUV into the dining room. Unfailingly forget to put business cards in wallet (not-quite-perfect daughter does not have cards–yet) and am fairly careful to prevent all those excess $100 bills from spilling out of my pockets. :-)
2. Reiterating the magic formula: always say “please” and “thank you”; smile and exhibit pleasant demeanor; minimal special requests. Further: avoid cell phone use, especially at table; use 20%+/- as dinner tip benchmark; leave “honored guest” crown at home. (I will sidestep the alcohol use/abuse question, though that too has a place in this formula.) If demonstrating common courtesy toward restaurant employees is kissing ass, I happily plead guilty.
3. Can’t say I have never been treated rudely. This dialogue stirred a memory of condescending FOH folks at the local outpost of a national high-end steakhouse chain other than Ruth’s. Server was merely incompetent, however, though woefully so. This was probably 10 years ago.
4. Providing rude service is counter to servers’ own best interest. It is why I think it is rarely unsolicited.
5. The tenor of the response to my post comes pretty close to proving my original point.
6. Two sides to EVERY story. A corollary to Newton’s third law.
I have yet to have bad service at Bluehour or anyplace in NW Portland that isn’t run by the brothers McMenamin. That is simply the worst service ever. I am a 20-something Pearl District Hipster, but I don’t think that that has anything to do with it. I always go to a restaurant with a friendly hello to whoever my server is and ask them how their day is going. I guess my parents taught me to be friendly. This system works wonders.
As far as your experience is concerned, Could it be the incredulity expressed at the charge for bread and the wine prices altered your attitude and caused the bad service? Might a hint of anger come out in your voice in times like that? Think about it.
It’s interesting, I’ve only lived here for a little over 6mos and don’t have the breath of restaurant eating most of you have.
However, of the places I’ve been (and maybe going to), these days I give the service in PDX a 50/50 chance when walking into a place.
(from my PFG comment)
I’ve found alot of waitstaff here (and I don’t mean to dis any FOH on this board) just aren’t on their game.
I like the fact that living here I don’t always have to don my Manolo’s to head to dinner. If I’m heading into your restuarant, it’s because I am interested in trying a few dishes and will invariably ask a few questions about the items. Maybe some of them are me being a bit picky.
Regardless of what I or my S.O. are wearing, though, I expect to be treated graciously.
Does that mean I need to lay out my Platinum Amex on the table before hand? (if so, I’m gonna have it laminated into a pin or barrette), But I would hope not.
The actions of the FOH directly affect the BOH. The FOH represents the chef, the owner and the ambiance/overall experience they are trying to portray. It doesn’t matter if your food reaches the heavens, if your customer’s leave dissatisfied or feel something lacking in the service, they’re not coming back.
MM: That was a little rude calling out MCZ like that. His daughter is adorable, probably not perfect, but I’ve only seen pictures and heard some stories about her. Never having dined with him, I can’t vouch for the Mercedes :)
CM: I’ve had some service stories like yours back in the late 80’s/early 90’s – none as hilarious as you portrayed this one though!
I once spent some time with Caroline Bates, the long-time West Coast restaurant reviewer for Gourmet. She was justly respected for decades for her excellent journalism and deep knowledge of food. (She also made a special and largely successful effort to stay anonymous.) When I met her, I found a quiet, older woman given to neat, almost dowdy outfits like denim wrap-around skirts, not a speck of flashiness or style about her; certainly not what you’d expect of someone who was this pre-eminent magazine’s reviewer in the hot restaurants of San Francisco, Napa and Los Angeles throughout the hyper-stylish ‘seventies, ‘eighties and into the ‘nineties. She told me that she and her husband almost always took the earliest possible table at restaurants, especially in L.A., because they liked to drive home to Santa Barbara afterward. After having met her, I always paid special attention to her comments about service in the reviews she wrote, because I knew that any restaurants that gave fine service to this early-dining, un-stylish older couple were truly well-run establishments.
Certainly, some restaurants cop an attitude based on a patron’s dress. (I remember the immortal Patrick Terrail, owner of Ma Maison in Los Angeles — the ultimate insider’s restaurant during the ‘seventies, it had an unlisted phone number — saying in that Gucci/Vuitton era that he could tell by the label on a patron’s purse whether she was worth courting.)
No patron should get rude service, no matter how he/she acts; it is part of the waiter’s and manager’s art to learn how to cope with difficult customers, and to rise above inappropriate behavior, rather than sinking to the patron’s level. Most service interpreted as rude is caused by poor training and management. If there’s an attitude being copped someplace, look at the way waiters are trained and treated by the ownership. I’m not saying you should put up with rude service — we vote with our feet and our dollars — but most of the time it’s not about YOU, the patron, and how you dress or act or wear your hair, but about deficits in the way the restaurant hires, trains and manages.
In many years of experience eating in well-run restaurants in France, I’ve noticed a nice approach. How they treat customers is not based on who the customer is or how they dress; treating customers beautifully is a matter of pride for the restaurant, a statement of who they are and how they approach their business. Also true here in the best places.
Chris Heinonen says
I find my friends and I will often get iffy service some places, and I do imagine it’s due to a couple things. We’re in our late-20’s/early-30’s, and having grown up in Portland, we don’t dress as if we were in NYC or somewhere else. Our jobs allow us to dress fairly casual, but never worse than some decent pants and a polo shirt. However, none of us drink much. Sometimes I’ll have a beer, but we don’t order a bottle of wine, or a couple cocktails, we just don’t drink that much anymore.
We visited two restaurants this weekend while people were in town for Thanksgiving. At Lauro on Wednesday night, the service was wonderful. There was a long wait, so they let us go over to Pix to have a beer or glass of wine while we waited for a table to open, then they called our cellphone to let us know. They never rushed us, they were very friendly, and it was a wonderful meal.
Friday, we went to try out Siam Society, as we all love Thai food. Dressed the same as we were on that Wednesday, we were stuck in the far back corner with nearly no light, we had a waiter who acted snooty to us all night long for no good reason, and were just never made to feel as welcome as we were at Lauro. The food was great, and I will go back, but the service wasn’t wonderful by any means, and if anything would keep me away, it was that. The chef was very nice as she came around and talked to all the tables, though.
Marshall Manning says
Fathom, thanks for actually reading the post and understanding that she was referring to one incident of really poor service and not complaining about all of our experiences in Portland. In over 10 years of dining out here we’ve generally had at least good service, often better, and that’s why we’re surprised when we run across the occasionally snooty server. In all that time we can recount 3 or 4 annoying experiences (Carolyn mentioned the snootiness at Bluehour and a recent poor experience at Lucy’s Table) , so it’s not something we experience with regularity. But the Le Bouchen experience was by far the worst treatment that either one of us has ever received in a restaurant, Portland or otherwise.
MCZ, in case you missed it, my last two paragraphs were intentionally over-the-top, and as I pointed out, those were the type of assumptions someone could make about you IF they were trying to make the same type of asumptions that you made about us after reading Carolyn’s article. Your inference in the original post was that we are rude, unappreciative diners, and that’s very far from the truth. In fact, many servers often seem surprised that we do say “please” and “thank you”, and that we are friendly and treat them like people instead of servants. I’ve also seen a lot of attitude from restaurant patrons, and dislike it just as much as you seem to. Also, while you are welcome to your opinion on anyone’s writing, I’d sugggest that publicly calling someone’s writing “bullshit” or “rubbish” doesn’t show much class or kindness.
Kris, I don’t feel my comments were any ruder than his original comments, especially as mine were prefaced with “Were I to make similar uneducated comments about your restaurant behavior…”, and were comments about how your stereotypical big-money/big-attidue attorney would act. Since MCZ has never dined with my wife and I, he has no idea of our behavior towards restaurant employees, yet seemed very willing to make inferences about us, lumping us in with customers who “cop an attitude” or “whining…food enthusiasts”. If he can’t take a bit of flack back then he should watch the things he says about people he doesn’t know and has no experience with.
Carolyn Manning says
Wow, boys and girls! Thanks for your feedback.
Your “Please” and “Thank you” points are absolutely correct and we are in complete agreement there. I have always said, “Thank you” to everyone, even the person who quietly sneaks up to the table to refill my water glass. I want them to know I noticed and I appreciate what they do. We are never anything but polite to the waitstaff. Their job is hard enough, and there are jerks at every sitting … they need one table to “make their night” and our goal is to always be that table.
Do not imagine that we were anything but polite, smiling and engaged that night. Heck, we were celebrating! The attitude we received from the waiter was a shock to us … we had done nothing … as God is my witness … nothing to deserve it. It was so over-the-top antagonistic, so unexpected, so unlike the friendly service we normally get in Portland, we were pretty dumbfounded. While upsetting in the moment, the absurdity of it made it amusing in very short order. Even later that evening, it was funny!
We laugh about it to this day (obviously) … but we’re not about to subject ourselves to a repeat performance. If the dog next door bites you when you hop over the fence, you’d be a moron to hop over the fence again, no?
If you’ve had a great service experience there, good for you. We did not. Too bad, too … we hear the food is excellent.
I’m sorry the Mannings had a bad experience at Le’ Bouchon, but as Apollo hinted, attitude in service is often a mirrored reflection in attitude from a customer. I sensed a chip on someone’s shoulder even as the story unfolded with a description of thier late model cars. I would guess that the corkage fee put them in a “dare” mode before they even got to the restaurant; the price for bread and wines only seemed to fan the flames. The waiter’s french accent also seemed to be play a role in the story, and as we all know, the “snooty french waiter” is just as much a cliche as the “self-possesed wine snob”.
Knife Diva says
From Marshall’s earlier post: “And while it’s nice to believe that everyone gets the same type of service, the facts are that not everyone does and it’s often related to factors other than one’s attitude towards the wait staff. Alison, do you think that it’s any surprise that you get treated very well in the Pearl, where you were manager at Sur La Table and probably had many local restaurant employees as customers? My guess is that has a lot to do with it, and I wonder if you’d get the same treatment going out in an area where no one knew you?”
Marshall, I now travel extensively for work and consistently receive very good to outstanding service wherever I go (at least so far!) I travel to cities where I do not know anyone, dine alone or in groups up to 10-12, make reservations directly or through open table or simply walk in etc. I am certainly not “known” in any of these restaurants nor would the restaurant have any reason to treat me differently than any other guest, but yet I continue to project a nice, friendly persona that seems to invite good service.
As far as other Portland restaurants, I am not a known face in most, just a few here in the Pearl, so there is no reason to think that I would be favored in any way. We have received the same treatment in all parts of town for the last 5 years. And besides, it’s not as if a retail store manager is a job with a huge amount of clout despite previous assertions to the contrary!
I thought the post was hilarious. We’ve all had bad service experiences. If you haven’t, you haven’t eaten out much.
Marshall, I think everyone specifically said they were not attacking Carolyn or her post btu your vitriol was levied directly at the posters. “Kiss ass” and telling a poster he doesn’t have class are uncalled for. No one attacked Carolyn or you for that matter. MCZ was speaking to “whiners” not you. Take down the shield and sword.
And by the way, having eaten with Alison once or twice, I can tell you that she doesn’t walk into restaurants and tell them she was the manager of any store. This may surprise you, but we have eaten at hundreds of restaurants all over the country (not to mention Portland) that have no idea who she is. I think she was speaking generally.
Marshall Manning says
Hunter, I guess we’ll just have to disagree on this one. Calling someone’s writing “bullshit” and “rubbish” isn’t classy, in my opinion, and it was a direct attack on her words, not comment about diners in general.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear…I wasn’t saying that Alison announced that she was manager, only that she was in a visible position in the Pearl, probably had a lot of customers who were from restaurants, as well as chefs teaching classes there, etc., and is probably known in the area because of it. I think we all can agree that people who are known or who are regulars probably get better service than an average diner.
we eat out rather often to many different classes of restaurants. i don’t have any bad experiences with the normal “higher class” or “more expensive” restaurants. what i have issue with is the bread and butter restaurants where you spend less than $20 for two people. the staff at some of these “cool” spots are too cool for school and that attitude comes out in how i am treated. it sucks sometimes because i want to support the local bar or restaurant instead of the big guys.
Chris – regarding Siam Society…I’ve been their several times since they opened and have had a great experience. The food is always wonderful and the service fabulous!
The other place I got really bad service was the breakfast places Stepping Stone. They are rude and in my opinion bigots (I am foreigner and my guest that day was too). They actually threw the forks on the table.
Staff manners are a twofold issue:
Some people just have good manners. Some people just don’t. It depends a lot on how they were raised. But if management is treating them poorly, the staff is going to be surly.
I am the most cheerful person you’ll ever meet, but sometimes I run into surly staff. It usually runs off like water off a duck’s back, but it is always reflected in the tip.
I go out to get the royal treatment, and I am willing to pay for it. If I get treated poorly because I order all the high-calorie, high-profit garbage they’ve been trained to push, I don’t go back.
If I feel like I’m pulling teeth (my “thank you” is met with flippant a “sure” or “yeah”) I make a mental note and go don’t go back.
The places that give the very best service are the small non-chain restaurants. Get to know the staff, let them get to know you as a good tipper and a good customer, and they’ll treat you like royalty every time. Not only that, the food is usually better.
I probably can guess which waiter at Cafe des Amis waited on you that evening. Until he left for Higgins (near the end of Cafe des Amis’ run), he was always my waiter (traded tables, etc.) there through many, many years and many, many meals. I think he was one of the best waiters Portland ever saw – low keyed and spot on.