How to complain? Now, that’s the question
To tell or not to tell
Whether I'm dining out in the line of duty, or for pleasure, one thing I've consistently noticed over the years is the inadequacy of our responses when food we are served is not up to scratch. You would have thought that, eating out being such a pervasive part of our culture, we would have worked out how to deal with it, or that evolution would have equipped us with the skills to deftly steer through a potentially sticky situation with restaurant in question. But, no, sadly, that hasn't been the case, which is why we continue to veer between silent sullenness and over-the-top aggression when a meal just doesn't meet our expectations.
The Asian way, as we all know, is to sit in tight-lipped frustration, subjecting our dinner companions to an artillery of reasons why the food is inedible when the waiter is out of earshot, but smiling disingenuously when he returns, and assuring him that "everything is just fine" when he enquires. Then there are the apologists. The ones who, when they have finally decided to say something after having spent the meal agonising about whether or not to complain, then open with "Sorry, but..." Don't get me wrong. I'm not standing in my ivory tower looking down with disdain at you mere mortals and your inability to complain with efficacy. Oh no, I've been just as guilty of this as you, my friends. Which is why today we are getting a cheat sheet on how to complain politely, in order to obtain a fair and satisfactory result.
1. The customer may always be right, but that doesn't mean you have to be obnoxious. Think before you complain. Are you getting your food late because the staff is having a good old yarn whilst meals get cold in the service area, or do they look harassed and understaffed, as happens when someone calls in sick at the eleventh hour? A little scrutiny before you say something goes a long way.
2. Was the food bad, or just not to your taste? If a dish is genuinely, inarguably inedible, then no question about it, tell the wait staff politely and invite the chef to try it to ensure you are not wrong. I've found this to be generally extremely effective, but remember, a dish not tasting the way you like to have it done, doesn't automatically make it a kosher reason to declare it bad.
3. If you're going to complain, do it already. Don't wait until there are only two sad flaccid little moules left treading water in the pot before you alert the waiter that the mussels weren't fresh. Any high ground you would have earned has evaporated and you now just look like an opportunist. Trust me on this one.
4. Having been a waitress myself, I can assure you that being treated like an idiot or being talked down to is just not on. Don't tell the staff about your expertise in Wagyu marbling when you want to send your steak back. Far from appearing erudite, you'll just come across sounding like a pompous git
5. And, finally, remember to use social media discriminately. Too many people use the Net as a vehicle for their rants, founded or otherwise, conveniently forgetting in the meantime that restaurateurs have to earn a living too. If you have to complain, do it responsibly. Talk to the manager, or send the restaurant an email. You wouldn't like your spouse to air your dirty laundry in public so why would you do the same to someone else?
If you've abided by the aforementioned primer, chances are you will have your meal replaced, and-if the restaurant knows service-the cost of it removed from your bill. However, if all you get is justification, and plenty of shoulder shrugging, with no signs of redress on the horizon, then take it as your cue to leave pronto, and don't ever return
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- Image: iStock
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