I have never been someone who complains much about the food I receive at restaurants. If it’s a little too done, or not done enough, or even a little cold, I’ll usually just eat it anyway, hoping the next time it will be a little better.
Service is another matter. Give me a rude or grumpy waiter or waitress, or one who takes my order and disappears for half an hour without coming back to check on me or my group, and I’ll let my displeasure be known, in my own little way.
I learned a long time ago that it’s not a good idea to be rude to a waiter or waitress, or to send food back to a cook to be prepared again.
When I was in high school, I had a female friend who worked in a snack bar. She once told me that if she had a customer who was a complete pain in her back side, she’d deposit a dead fly in their milkshake, or whatever it was that the customer had ordered. That’s when I first figured out that a busy cook, who had to cook my food a second time, might be prone to do something similar, and if they did, I’d probably have absolutely no idea.
Sometimes though, a person can’t help but speak up when their food is served horribly wrong.
One Saturday afternoon when my dad and I were taking our lunch break while insulating a home, we stopped by the carryout at a local restaurant. We had been working hard all morning, and on this particular day I was unusually hungry. When our food arrived, I greedily unwrapped my ham and cheese sandwich, and just before I took a bite I noticed there was a smashed fly stuck firmly to the outside (makes me wonder how many times I missed one stuck on the inside) of my bread.
Well, hungry as I was, and as uncomplaining as I usually am, I wasn’t about to eat that sandwich. So I hopped out of the truck, marched into the restaurant, announced none too quietly what my problem was, and had a new sandwich quicker than I could say much of anything else.
Not too many years ago my wife got a sandwich at a local restaurant and found a mangled piece of metal in it that was at least the size of a thimble. It was a long time before I could convince her to eat there again.
I was at a Bainbridge restaurant some years back when a friend of mine found a hair in his cottage cheese. So, he asked for another serving. And, believe it or not, he found a hair in that one, too. He was such a gentlemen, though, that he just removed the second hair and ate the cottage cheese.
Several years ago my wife and I were dining at a Prime and Wine in Cincinnati. I order my steaks medium rare, but the waitress must have misunderstood me because when she brought my steak out, it was pink and shiny on the outside. Now, I like to see blood when I cut into my steak, but I like it seared on the outside. So, this pink slab of beef presented a dilemma. Complain, or just eat it.
I ate it. And it wasn’t all that bad. But I’ve never eaten a raw, or awful close to raw, steak since.
Sometimes, though, it’s not such a good idea to keep quiet about a bad steak. One day a few years ago my siblings and I, and all our children, had a family portrait taken as a Christmas present for our parents. We went out to eat afterward. My youngest brother and I ordered the exact same steak. They were both terrible — tough and overdone. My brother complained. I didn’t. He got his meal free. I had to pay for mine.
While I have a good bit of tolerance for the food I’m served, lazy, impolite, incompetent waiters or waitresses do not get the same treatment. In fact, their tip is based on their performance, and has nothing to do with the food I’m served. Sometimes, after we’ve had a particularly good waitress, I’ll look at my wife and say, “Dang, this one’s going to cost me extra.”
On the other hand, give me a completely rude and incompetent waitress, and I’ll leave a tip that eases my frustration and even makes me chuckle as a I walk away — about a dozen pennies, or less, depending on just how bad they are.
I’m pretty sure that gets the message across, and they can’t mess with my food.
Jeff Gilliland may be reached at (937) 393-3456, ext. 209 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.