Friday, February 22, 2008

Would you like some snark with that?

We went to PF Chang's last night. It's not necessarily my favorite restaurant ever, but it's within walking distance and the food (in my opinion) is really, really good.

Our experience last night was...fine, I guess. For some reason, our server had a chip on her shoulder from the moment we sat down in her section. Everything she said - everything - was said in this weird, taunting, semi-sarcastic tone. She was like "that girl," you know the one - the one who smiles while secretly hating you.

At first, Jeremy and I tried to pass it off as her disappointment in us for asking for water to drink (is there a worse thing you can do to a server? Sometimes I wonder). But we could hear her treating all of her customers the same way.

When she initially came to take our order, we weren't quite ready. No big deal, I thought. But a few minutes later, when she came back, she said in an exasperated, loud voice, "Ready for round two?!?!?" I don't even really know what that means.

So we were afraid of our server for the whole meal and did our best not to antagonize her, until the end. She brought out boxes for our leftover food and a bag to put them in. Now, every other time I have been to PF Chang's, they have cheerfully offered to include a container of rice in the takeout bag. I've come to expect it. So when she didn't offer, Jeremy decided to ask. He did so in a really nice, non-confrontational way. But our server just glared and mumbled something under her breath that might have been a reluctant "OK."

There was no way I was letting this go. I spoke up and said, "Is there a problem? Every other time we've been here, our servers have offered to include rice. If there is a problem with that, I wouldn't want you to trouble yourself."

Well, then the floodgates of sarcastic smiling/hating really opened. She fell all over herself to say that it was no problem and that she'd bring me back a big box of rice along with the receipt. The clear message underneath her gushing was that she thought I was a jerk for asking.

Oh, there's one more thing. We happened to have a coupon for a free appetizer as well as a $10 gift certificate that we were using. When she ran the card and came back to the table, she said in an extremely loud voice, "I had to have a manager APPROVE THAT FREE APPETIZER COUPON. Here's the check with ALL THOSE DISCOUNTS APPLIED." I could have sworn she was looking around the room to make sure everyone around us heard what cheapskates we were.

We seriously considered complaining to a manager at that point. I know it's not good form to leave an inadequate tip without follow-up, explanatory action. But they were so busy and we were in a hurry to walk back home that we just let it go and left a barely-15% tip. I'm sure she will not be at a loss to figure out why.

Her strange attitude hung over us like a cloud for the rest of the evening. It was just so bizarre! If she hates people for eating at her restaurant so much, maybe she should look into a different job.

(If any of you former/current restaurant employees have any light to shed on this situation, or advice on what we should have done, please share.)


Crys said...

Considering how often we go out that would have ruined probably six months for me. Goodness! I myself am more of a complain to the manager after I leave the restaurant. I know I should just complain then and there but confrontation often makes me cry and I really don't want to cry over's a little embarrassing. Maybe she was just having a bad day but really how often do you take the time to go out. So maybe a little note to the manager would be appropriate. Who knows maybe you'll get another one of those pesky free appetizers cards :) BTW I totally know what you mean about water. It really is the kiss of death. You ask for water and you can feel the waiters start ignoring you. I almost want to say at the very start, "Look I'm worried about my waist and would rather eat all my calories then order soda and I'm not going to drink alcohol which I know keeps the tab down but if you serve me nice I'll tip you very well."

Bridget said...

Crystal, you are so right - I would much rather eat my calories than drink them. When I was growing up and also before we had kids, sure, we got water because it was free. But now we go out SO rarely that if I really, really wanted a $2 glass of 7Up, I would order it.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

A good manager would want to know about your experience. If indeed this gal was having an off day, a good manager would not ruin her life by firing her after one complaint. However, if this attitude is a pattern, a good manager would be able to assess that this restaurant is not a good fit for her. So you would be doing the restaurant a favor by bringing your experience to the manager's attention.

Scotty P said...

Wow. I'm surprised you left any tip. I would have left her a drawing of my middle finger.

sarah said...

oh scotty...hee hee :)

Kristen said...

As a former foodserver, current business owner/manager of employees, and frequent diner-outer, I feel that can contribute. I actually know the sting of the "just a coupla waters, please" order. It is difficult as a server not to jump to the conculsion that such a table is going to just split the soup and salad then present a coupon and leave a tip on only the discounted amount. (In case anyone out there doesn't know this, your gratuity should be calculated on the amount of your bill before dueducting any discounts). Anyway, I worked hard on changing my attitude about that because, hey, not everyone drinks alcohol, and I am actually a water-only kind of gal myself, so why would I judge people for that? And also, sometimes people only drink water but order appetizers, prime rib, and dessert. And then other times people have that ONE glass of wine and a cheap dinner, so it all evens out. Anyway, the primary point I want to make is that the way your server treated you is completely unacceptable, in addition to being just plain confusing. You absolutely should have spoken with the manager, with an objective of informing her or him about a situation that, as your mom pointed out, she would surely want to be aware of. I also agree that the 15% tip was too much. 15% is actually standard for GOOD service for many people (unfortunately, in my former-server opinion), so she probably did NOT get the message at all. However, I also completely understand the desire to avoid furthering her little stereotype that the water-drinking, coupon-having, gift certificate-using, child-having table will skimp her on the tip. A dillemma, certainly, which is why a visit with the manager would have made sure she understood that you would have left a generous tip had she treated you like something other than the piece of Szechuan Beef stuck to her shoe. Please, write a letter to the manager. It will make you feel better and it will clue the manager in to this unfortunate situation. I have to share this experience for some odd perspective. One day, when I was working at Stanford's, I had a large group sit in my section on the patio one summer day. Upon greeting them, I wore a huge smile and made a comment about the beuatiful sunny day, and were they enjoying it? They all kind of grumbled and didn't really respond. I just continued being happy and trying to give them pleasant service, even if they were all in a bad mood. After they left, my manager approached me saying that they had complained. Guess what. They had all just come from a funeral. And I was being TOO HAPPY. I couldn't believe it. How could I have ever known that? And even if I did, would that mean that I would stop being friendly? Wow. A funny story, looking back, but it is one of the complaints that eventually led my manager, who hated me, to dismiss my employment. I was a darn good server, but this woman was possibly the spawn of Satan. She had a way of making people cry. I have gotten so off the subject, but I will return to my original point: tell the manager. This girl was definitely not being TOO NICE.

Bridget said...

Kristen, I found your response fascinating. Just to clarify (and I'm not saying you were assuming this about us) - we know the rule about calculating a tip on a discount. Also, we didn't have Miriam with us so that couldn't have been an issue this time. It really was just chance that we happened to have those two discounts. We had gone to PF Chang's just two weeks before and ordered (like you mentioned as an example) water, but then an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. It was just our luck to get this server the time we DID have a coupon.

Your story about the funeral party is disturbing. Perhaps they could have, you know, TOLD you that they had just come from a funeral. Bizarre.

momj said...

Wow...I never even considered the fact that if we ordered water we will be suspect! We have done it so long we don't give it a thought...we order "water, with lemon, please" and think we are just totally normal! The drinks do cost more than they are worth, to me...we enjoy water and often the soft drinks at restaurants are to bubbly they eat my throat! And I think often the food makes the drinks taste funny ( mexican or spicey, for example). I have not had a waiter be too happy, but I have had some be too"hello, we are on a date here and can it just be the TWO of us, please!?" I also think you were very generous with your tip given the circumstances....


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