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Old 07-16-2006, 10:34 AM   #1
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Returns in Restaurants

I'm taking this from the dogs in restaurants thread to a new one. What do you do when you get something at a restaurant that doesn't cut it? Under what circumstances do you send something back? I live in a very small town, and tend to know my restauranteurs or chefs. How do you handle things gracefully? At what point to you just let it be, or send it back? It's a tough question, because if you send stuff back, you often wind up getting your dinner when everyone else at the table is ready to go home. I'll chime in with some experiences on this one, but want to know how you handle it.

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Old 07-16-2006, 10:43 AM   #2
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Most recently I ordered liver & onions in a local steak house where I know the owners and the regular chef. The liver was so tough that I could't saw through it with a steak knife (normally it is fork-tender). I sent it back, it obviously had been cooked way too long. But, even though it takes almost no time to cook liver, I wound up getting my meal when everyone was finishing theirs. Quite often when this kind of thing happens I don't bother to complain or send a meal back simply because it throws the entire dinner party off. At one restaurant here in town,when we first moved here, I had a perfect meal, and hubby had a truly lousy one. It was "Greek spaghetti" and the "chef" had kept the pasta half-cooked and ready to dunk into boiling water (a normal procedure, I think). However, he didn't drain the pasta (it was a long, tubular pasta), and hubby wound up with a plate of cold pasta in cold starchy water. WE complained (we'd only lived here a week or two). THe owner came out and said if we'd pay for our drinks, the food was on the house. WE'd ordered appetizers, and my dinner was the most expensive one on the menu I protested, saying my dinner was fine, we'd pay for it. His reply was "if one person in a party has a ruined meal, the entire meal is ruined for everyone." Wow. What a man.
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Old 07-16-2006, 11:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Claire
I'm taking this from the dogs in restaurants thread to a new one. What do you do when you get something at a restaurant that doesn't cut it? Under what circumstances do you send something back? I live in a very small town, and tend to know my restauranteurs or chefs. How do you handle things gracefully? At what point to you just let it be, or send it back? It's a tough question, because if you send stuff back, you often wind up getting your dinner when everyone else at the table is ready to go home. I'll chime in with some experiences on this one, but want to know how you handle it.
I don't fuss over the small stuff. However, for example, when I order steak, roast beef etc., and I specify how I want it cooked - med well, and it comes to the table dripping blood/rare, I cannot and will not eat it; and need to send the dish back. I don't mind waiting, a little bit; but I may not return if my order is not as I requested. The only other instance, I would send the food back is if the food tastes off - not fresh. Or, for example, I ordered a specific salad dressing, and it is not the dressing or dish I ordered.

I had a friend that literally sent everything back. It was an unpleasant dining experience, to dine with someone that is never 'satisfied.' If I am on a date, or someone else is paying for the meal, I am reluctant to cause a fuss, & might grin and bear it -- to a point.

When I am paying for my meal/dining experience, and the food is not up to par -- meaning something is really wrong, or not as I ordered, I will speak up - always gracefully. Could be an off-night, new staff, chef, whatever -- I still might want to return & give it another go.
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Old 07-16-2006, 11:21 AM   #4
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That is a smart owner Claire. I am sure that because of his response you guys gave his restaurant another shot. Had his attitude been different perhaps that would have been the last time you went there.

I will occasionally send something back, but it would have to be either inedible, or the completely wrong dish. If I order a steak med rare and it comes back with no pink at all then I will probably just suck it up and eat it. If it is black and way way overcooked then I would send it back.

I never make an issue out of it though as that would not be fair to the waiter or waitress. They are just the messenger so to speak. I also try to remember that these are just human beings cooking my meal and they are allowed to make mistakes. I would never get upset because they screwed up my meal. I would however get upset if they did not handle the situation with respect.
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Old 07-16-2006, 11:21 AM   #5
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In 30 years of dining out on my own, I can remember only two times when I sent entrees back.

The first was a steak that, while ordered rare, came to the table with the center not only cold, but nearly frozen solid.

Second was when I ordered a spinach-stuffed flounder & was served a crab-stuffed flounder. And yes, I know that the crab-stuffed was just as good, but it irked me that the order was completely off-base. I really wanted that spinach-stuffed flounder. What irked me even more was when the server came back & tried to convince me over & over & over that the crab-stuffed was so much better. Hello????? I ordered the spinach-stuffed. This same restaurant gave us a wine list, & then told us that none of the white wines were available chilled. Hello?????

My insisting on the spinach-stuffed flounder came back to bite me in the a**. It was awful, & I brought nearly the whole thing back & gave it to one of my cats. The cat was sick for 3 days & wouldn't touch any leftovers I gave it after that - lol!!!
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Old 07-16-2006, 11:37 AM   #6
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Claire: Pretty much the same thing happened to my husband and me when we dined at a good restaurant in San Diego. My husband's dinner wasn't quite ready so the waitress brought mine out ahead of his. The manager happened to notice that my husband had no dish in front of him and asked about it. He said our dinners should have been brought out together. He comped us to BOTH dinners. The bill would have come to 48.00. What a class act. Needless to say we went back again and again. Service like that should be rewarded with loyal patronage.

I don't understand why people are so reluctant to send back a meal that is less than satifactory. You are paying for for this meal. and you have every right to demand that it be first quality. If you don't take a defensive stand and become obnoxious, you will get another meal and possibly a comp or sometimes they offer a free dessert. At any rate, you should never pay for a meal that is not the way it should be.
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Old 07-16-2006, 11:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Drama Queen
Claire: Pretty much the same thing happened to my husband and me when we dined at a good restaurant in San Diego. My husband's dinner wasn't quite ready so the waitress brought mine out ahead of his. The manager happened to notice that my husband had no dish in front of him and asked about it. He said our dinners should have been brought out together. He comped us to BOTH dinners. The bill would have come to 48.00. What a class act. Needless to say we went back again and again. Service like that should be rewarded with loyal patronage.

I don't understand why people are so reluctant to send back a meal that is less than satifactory. You are paying for for this meal. and you have every right to demand that it be first quality. If you don't take a defensive stand and become obnoxious, you will get another meal and possibly a comp or sometimes they offer a free dessert. At any rate, you should never pay for a meal that is not the way it should be.
DQ, you raise a good point re everything coming out at the same time, courses served too close together, or your table-companion is served before or after you. Instances like that, make the whole dining experience unpleasant. I don't care or expect a free dessert or to be compensated -- I may not return. But, everyone is human, and everything is not always choreagrahed to perfection. When the timing is all wrong, it has occurred to me to just send the whole thing back and walk away. Again, always be graceful, & convey your experience to the manager. If they expect to stay in business, they will address the problems with a smile.

P.S. If I have to wait a year-and-a-day for the check, and all of the above-mentioned occur, it tells me something about the restaurant.
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:07 PM   #8
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DQ, you raise a good point re everything coming out at the same time, courses served too close together, or your table-companion is served before or after you. Instances like that, make the whole dining experience unpleasant. I don't care or expect a free dessert or to be compensated -- I may not return. But, everyone is human, and everything is not always choreagrahed to perfection. When the timing is all wrong, it has occurred to me to just send the whole thing back and walk away. Again, always be graceful, & convey your experience to the manager. If they expect to stay in business, they will address the problems with a smile.
Your post reminds me of a pet peeve of mine related to timing that I hope is not too off-topic. I am constantly amazed at how often -- I'm talking "nice" restaurants here -- the waitstaff start removing plates and generally tidying up when one or more in the party is still eating. Actually, it happens almost all the time. Shouldn't this be an absolute no-no in a decent restaurant unless the patrons have excessively outworn their welcome? I think that the next time I encounter that, I will politely ask the offending person to cease and desist.

With regard to returning food, though, I agree with those who say it's an option best left for serious offenses and shouldn't be done at the drop of a hat.
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:26 PM   #9
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This thread reminds me of something that happened to my bil. The food had been brought out for everyone and when bil looked at his, he said 'this isn't what I ordered". The waiter, a young guy (probably working his way thru school) said "you can handle it, can't you". Bil was so taken aback, he did eat it, but always remembers to stand up if it isn't something he wants. I have very rarely sent anything back, but I have a sister who complains about everything and sends it back so much that I don't even eat out with her. I don't consider myself picky, but wouldn't eat anything I didn't order, or something that wasn't as good as it is supposed to be.
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:26 PM   #10
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We had a bad experience at La Madeleine French Bakery and Restaurant in Georgetown. We ordered the chicken salad sandwiches (3 of them) and got salty chicken salad. But I mean "SALTY" to the point you couldn't even taste the salad but only salt. Gross! I was tempted to return our meals but DH asked me not to-he doesn't like returns of any kinds. He was lucky he ordered quiche and his was fabulous! We ended up having only our desserts for dinner that night. At least we ate. If this ever happens again, I will certainly return the meals until I get my money's worth.
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:27 PM   #11
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I would certainly speak up in that case!
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:32 PM   #12
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I think that this week was the first time ever for me to call the waiter over and point out a very lively weevil furiously kicking all six legs at me as he was stuck on his back in my baked potato--apparently the sour cream was acting as glue and he was not appreciative!! I didn't make a scene---this happens to be one of my favorite places to eat and nothing like this has ever happened before. The waiter promptly took it away, apologizing profusely, and then explained that they had gotten in a large shipment of produce and that's probably where my fellow "diner" originated. I thought it was quite amusing-----I had only taken a few bites of my steak when I noticed Mr. W. waving at me. My next meal, sans Mr. W., came after everyone else's but to my surprise that's because they brought out a fresh steak as well. They also didn't charge me for the dinner but I tipped the waiter as if they had--after all it wasn't his fault. Like Mish, I too, have had an acquaintance that found fault with everything that she ordered and it was embarassing sometimes to eat out with this dining diva. She even found fault with my seafood gumbo that won first prize at a contest judged by real Cajuns---mon cherie!! (Another friend "tattled" on her) Ha!
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:43 PM   #13
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I think that this week was the first time ever for me to call the waiter over and point out a very lively weevil furiously kicking all six legs at me as he was stuck on his back in my baked potato--apparently the sour cream was acting as glue and he was not appreciative!! I didn't make a scene---this happens to be one of my favorite places to eat and nothing like this has ever happened before. The waiter promptly took it away, apologizing profusely, and then explained that they had gotten in a large shipment of produce and that's probably where my fellow "diner" originated. I thought it was quite amusing-----I had only taken a few bites of my steak when I noticed Mr. W. waving at me. My next meal, sans Mr. W., came after everyone else's but to my surprise that's because they brought out a fresh steak as well. They also didn't charge me for the dinner but I tipped the waiter as if they had--after all it wasn't his fault. Like Mish, I too, have had an acquaintance that found fault with everything that she ordered and it was embarassing sometimes to eat out with this dining diva. She even found fault with my seafood gumbo that won first prize at a contest judged by real Cajuns---mon cherie!! (Another friend "tattled" on her) Ha!
expatgirl, was that a la carte?
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:46 PM   #14
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Well you see, that's the big difference. For me at least. If the problem is with the food, I definitely do NOT take it out on the server. If the service was good, a good tip is still left. You can't blame the server for a bad kitchen or meal.

As far as bugs in a meal - PLEASE - you must be kidding!!!! I'd not only be mental & loud about it, but this would be above & beyond sending food back. Geesh. If you feel you have to be polite about finding insects in your food, you're my next candidate for the Mother Theresa award. I can't believe you even have to question your questions????!!!!???


My problem - posted above - was with a server spending about 10 minutes trying to convince me to accept the wrong order. Sorry - but for me that meant no tip. When I refused to accept the incorrect order, the server became surly & unpleasant. Why the h*ll should I leave a tip???

Sorry guys - but if you're leaving tips for rude unpleasant service, you're just being taken for a ride.
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Old 07-16-2006, 12:47 PM   #15
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I think that this week was the first time ever for me to call the waiter over and point out a very lively weevil furiously kicking all six legs at me as he was stuck on his back in my baked potato--apparently the sour cream was acting as glue and he was not appreciative!! I didn't make a scene---this happens to be one of my favorite places to eat and nothing like this has ever happened before. The waiter promptly took it away, apologizing profusely, and then explained that they had gotten in a large shipment of produce and that's probably where my fellow "diner" originated. I thought it was quite amusing-----I had only taken a few bites of my steak when I noticed Mr. W. waving at me. My next meal, sans Mr. W., came after everyone else's but to my surprise that's because they brought out a fresh steak as well. They also didn't charge me for the dinner but I tipped the waiter as if they had--after all it wasn't his fault. Like Mish, I too, have had an acquaintance that found fault with everything that she ordered and it was embarassing sometimes to eat out with this dining diva. She even found fault with my seafood gumbo that won first prize at a contest judged by real Cajuns---mon cherie!! (Another friend "tattled" on her) Ha!
I had a similar experience that didn't end up quite as nicely as yours. I was eating in a Bob's Big Boy restaurant (don't know if they still exist here in SoCal) -- a casual dining experience, to be sure -- but still, I didn't think I should be stuck with a fly in my green salad. The server cheerfully brought me another one, but alas, this one had a winged insect as well. I never did figure out whether it was the same fly.
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Old 07-16-2006, 01:02 PM   #16
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Ha, Ha!! Hey, you got a bargain---two flies for the price of one!!
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Old 07-16-2006, 01:25 PM   #17
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Mish and Breezycooking--sorry I didn't see your postings------yes, it was a la carton of produce and Breezycooking, thanks for the Mother Theresa award (though I don't think she would be "honored" with me as a nominee, Ha!)----I guess had it been a roach or a fly I would have been more revolted but after being "forced" to take an insect course in college and having to make a 200 pinned collection that had to include a certain number of orders, familes, etc , and scrambling over fields, rivers, nighttime parking lots, etc, waving a net and looking really nerdy and embarrassing family members, bugs in general just don't bother me. And you're right--don't tip if you don't get the service you want especially if it's something that you didn't order and then having to be "talked" into it. The weevil is lucky that I didn't have my killing jar with me or he'd have been #201.
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Old 07-16-2006, 01:32 PM   #18
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I had a similar experience that didn't end up quite as nicely as yours. I was eating in a Bob's Big Boy restaurant (don't know if they still exist here in SoCal) -- a casual dining experience, to be sure -- but still, I didn't think I should be stuck with a fly in my green salad. The server cheerfully brought me another one, but alas, this one had a winged insect as well. I never did figure out whether it was the same fly.
Suzy, lol, I think Bob's is still there. It's been a while. Are you sure it wasn't a producer in your salad/soup?

Oh, Boy!

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Old 07-16-2006, 03:36 PM   #19
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Bugs in my food, yep, I would speak up, yuck.

And Breezy, I am absolutely on your side here.

Generally do not send things back, just suck it up and do not return to the restaurant.

Maybe that is not the right way to go but I hate to make a fuss. We are out to relax and enjoy and confrontation dos not fit into that setting somehow.

One time on our 20th anniversary, however, we went to a very well appointed and highly rated place.

The apps were a disaster. But we kept our mouths shut and awaited the main course.

If possible, they were both worse.

Don't know if the chef was drunk, not there (it was a Saturday night), or the place was having a problem but the food was bad. Not disappointing or a tad off, just ich, poo, spit lousy.

Two forkfuls through the mains we complained and the entire meal was comped and we left, sadly. We only wanted a nice meal.

The manager did not seem surprised at our complaint by the way, I guess he knew there was a problem in the back of the house.

Were I a restaurant owner I would want to hear complaints, I would think.

Better to find out what my customers don't like now than just go slowly out of business.

But we generally just don't speak up, maybe we should.
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Old 07-16-2006, 04:13 PM   #20
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Most of the time I will not send a meal back unless it is unedible. One thing I cannot stand is receiving a meal that is cold, it will be sent back to the kitchen immediately. Another peeve of mine is plates, glasses, or silverware that is not clean.

Once while eating at a Logan's Roadhouse in Redding, CA. a fly literally fell into my beer. So, I called the waiter and showed him the fly. They replaced my beer and did not charge me for it.

A few months ago a bunch of coworkers and I where eating dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. When the waitress bought out a second round of salsa it was so SALTY that we could not eat it. It was like eating a bowl of diced tomatoes with salt water. A first nobody wanted to say anything, but finally I spoke to the waitress and she took all the bowls back to the kitchen and bought us out fresh.
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