How do you know who’s looking to con a restaurant out of a free meal, and who is an innocent guest who would rather not have her salad garnished with a strand of hair?
Anastasia recently wrote “Ask The Gal” to inquire about the best way to judge which patrons deserve a comped meal. She felt her manager had improperly snubbed a group of guests who demanded a comp, when he later told her he was tired of being taken advantage of and wasn’t giving in to scammers anymore.
What a no-win game this is. Even when you know you are being had, if you call a scammer a scammer, you risk a barrage of harsh words and actions for all to hear and see–not the kind of atmosphere you want in your dining room at 8:30 on a Saturday evening. And, as far as I can tell, most people aren’t real-life scammers; they’re just unreasonable types with unreasonable demands and borderline egos.
Consider the following scenarios:
“I know I had a reservation for this evening. I made it myself. You obviously lost it,” complains the leader of a party of four at 8 p.m. when the house is packed and “real” reservations are running a half hour behind. If you are lucky, you find her name in the computer system that shows she’s a day early or a week late. If she’s not in the system, you punt, which usually means putting her near the top of the wait list and hoping she doesn’t get over-the-top angry.
Is she a scammer, or just an arrogant ass who is trying to save face with her pals because she forgot to make a reservation?
“This fish is overcooked and has no flavor!” declares one of eight guests in a party. That he has eaten three-quarters of it before making the server aware of this, is, well, a little suspicious. But the server, an old-school pro, whisks the offending plate away and offers to buy the gentleman’s meal and bring out another order at no charge. “I don’t want any more of your food,” the guest blusters. “And you better buy everyone’s meal at this table! I’ve never been so embarrassed.”
Is he a scammer or just an over-entitled, high-blood-pressure-about-to-blow type of guy?
“You do allow patrons to bring in their own wine, don’t you?” asked the guest over the phone as she made her reservation. I said, yes, but a corkage fee would be applied. She readily accepted this policy. Unfortunately, the wine turned out to be a cheap bottle of liqueur, and she wanted us to tell her guests it was a far more expensive brand. She also claimed we “ruined” her coat by spilling on it (which we did not, but we successfully removed the stain right then), and felt we’d overcharged her for several items. Yeah, she was that bad.
Scammer or just someone who can’t go through life without telling “white” lies every other minute?
The point is, it doesn’t matter. The problem is at hand, and it must be dealt with–now.
I don’t think a manager or owner must comp an entire meal, simply because one order of beef is too rare or someone’s wine has sediment in it. Sometimes restaurants screw up, and the good ones have good managers who know how to appropriately handle those situations–they fire a new entree and pour another glass of wine.
Sure, some patrons are pains in the ass, liars, or worse. I imagine that those same good managers would rather comp an entree, offer something toward a future meal, send apps or dessert to the table on the house to avoid an otherwise sure-to-unfold battle scene starring real or imagined indignity.
I detest liars, and I’d love to send them all packing AFTER I have charged them for every morsel they’ve eaten and every drop they’ve drunk. Sometimes, though, you gotta give a little to get them the hell out.
Then code them big-time in your reservation system.