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Who's Afraid to Send Back Their Food

Old Jun 17th, 2005, 09:28 AM
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Who's Afraid to Send Back Their Food

I have never sent back food in a restaurant due to it not being prepared to my satisfaction. Part of that is due to my nature. If the food is bad, I just won't go back to that restaurant. Over the past decade or so, I have heard stories of resentful restaurant staff doing deplorable things to returned food and reserving the food back to the hapless customer. And, of course, there is the infamous admission of Jesse Jackson and the dastardly things he did to food to spite customers. Any other Fodorites afraid to send back ill-prepared food?
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 09:47 AM
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Ummm, put me in the "afraid" category also.

Not saying that I expect that this is even close to the norm, but I've heard enough accounts from people in the restaurant biz to want to take the chance.

If the food's bad, I'll just not return to the restaurant.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Hi Shane, I understand what you are saying as I too have heard those stories.

I rarely encounter a problem with restaurant food except that once in awhile due to food allergies I have to talk to the food server to point out I cannot eat the dish and the cook/chef did not follow the instructions the server wrote out. I am always pleasant about it and so far I have never had a problem.

If I go to an unfamilar restaurant and am not enthused about the food I just don't go back. This happened to my family and I this last Easter. The chef refused to serve primerib "medium". I waited until I paid the bill and than explained why I was not returning. I also mentioned how pleased we were with our server (who was at the mercy of the chef who evidently has an inflated ego).
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 09:57 AM
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One time I went to a restaurant we frequent and ordered a new item on the menu. It tasted so bad I called the waitress over and said I need to order something else. I had no expectation that the bad meal would be removed from my bill and I wasn't going to ask, but there was no way I could eat that food. Although I didn't ask, the waitress spoke to the manager and they did remove it from my bill. A couple of months later we returned to that same restaurant and that new item had been taken off the menu. I bet they heard from a lot of displeased customers.

Another time I ordered a chicken breast and it was only half cooked. Chicken should never be served medium rare, so there was no hesitation to send that back.

So to answer your question, I am not afraid to send back food, but I only do it in extreme cases.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 09:58 AM
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I don;t send back food unless they actually serve the wrong thing - or something completely different than described. We simply don;t go back if the food doesn;t measure up>

But sometimes you have no choice. We recently went out to dinner for my mom's birthday. For medical reasons she has to be very careful what she eats and asked for something with sauce on the side. It came without the sauce - but swimming in a pool of butter and we had to send it back.

In this case it was a place we knew well - and the owner apologized.

In any case - if we have to send something back we do it very politely - and if someone's attitude makes it seem like it will be a problem - this has happened only once - simply left without eating anything - and telling the maitre d why. He didn;t offer to compensate us at all - confirming my suspicions of the place.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 10:12 AM
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We send food back rarely. Not because we are afraid, but we usually never have a problem. I think it depends a lot on the restaurant and how you do it. a few times I have ordered something and did not like it, so I will ask to order sometning else fully indending to pay for both items and finding the original item was not charged. Once in Mortons my husband got a sub par steak. We politely told the waiter, then the maitre'd came over and apologized many times. He got a new steak and a lobster tail - which was very nice. The only time we have ever returned anything is if it is not as ordered or undercooked, overcooked or just plain bad.

I have actually returned more cocktails than I have food.....now that's opening up a whole can of worms I'm sure. I am a grey goose martini drinker, and I can tell when it is not. I do return the drink and get a new one...but when you pay 12.50 for a drink it should be what you pay for.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 10:31 AM
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Annabel, for $ 12.50 a martini, it better be the best one you ever had. The most I ever paid for a martini was for about $ 9 at Harry's Bar in Venice.

As I said, I've never sent food back. The closest I ever came was at the Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows on Maryland's eastern shore. I ordered fries with my fish and they were not even warm. How does one screw up french fries? So I never went back to Fisherman's although it is ten minutes from my house- The Narrows and Annie's Paramount have better food anyway.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 10:33 AM
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I do return food if I have a reason.

Once I went to the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, cafeteria, ordered something from the menu, 40 minutes and 2 reminders later they brought me some different dish. Refunded money on the spot, I went to a different place.

Once in a restaurant in Walnut Creek my husband ordered chicken-vegetables, got chicken salad. Asked to change.

Once in Reno my order was late, and the waiter was very upologetic, I didn't say anything, still with my husband we got a complimentary dessert

So it depends... if I have a valid reason to send a dish back, I do so. If it's just something I don't like, don't come back.

If I was afraid the employees will do something to my food or to me I'd never go to a restaurant, I'd never see a doctor, I'd just stay at home being afraid of a terrorist act of any size.

Oh, and I got sick only once after eating on a train.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 11:07 AM
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We once sent back a dish that had an unexpected presentation.

At a restaurant we frequented enough to know the owner, my friend ordered one of the specials which was an octopus stew. When his dish arrived, I immediately knew we had trouble. It took my friend a moment or two to realize that, underneath all that delicious sauce, there was a whole octopus. The head had been removed, but the nine-inch legs were intact and still attached to one another. My friend had eaten octopus before--he was expecting the usual bite-size pieces.

As I watched him blanch (and tried to keep from laughing), I whispered, "You can send it back and have the chef cut it into pieces."

"No, I can do this," he said, but I knew trying to disect his meal would turn take away his appetite. Again, I pressed him to seek the help of the chef.

Our waiter noticed that something was up and came to our table, asking if there was a problem. My friend looked up, smiled brightly, and said, "Could you have the chef cut this into smaller pieces?"

The stew returned a few minutes later in bite-size pieces. Later the owner of the place came over, laughing, and apologized for giving my friend such a fright. "We serve it the traditional way," he said.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 11:34 AM
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I wouldn't be "afraid" but have not had the occasion to send food back.

The one instance I certainly would is if meat or poultry is undercooked or beef is extremely overcooked (you order a steak rare and it comes well done).

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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 11:45 AM
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We did once order a very expensive bottle of wine in a popular restaurant that was undrinkable. Four of us sampled the wine and agreed it was terrible. We complained and the sommelier tried it, made a face, cursed the absent salesman and quickly gave us a new bottle of something else.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 12:01 PM
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Frankly, Shane, I suspect many fo those "stories" you've "heard" about "the things they do to the food [that was returned]" may be just that: STORIES.

IMO you really are doing the restaurant a great disservice when you do NOT give them feedback about their food, the quality, the taste, the presentation, etc.

I suspect you are probably like most of the other folks who eat in an establishment and that your taste in food, quality requirements, etc., aren't all that different from anyone else's.

So, you "accept" something that ranges from less than expected to just plain bad and don't tell the restaurant folks. So, they end thinking everything is great and they keep doing business the same way after you've left {and perhaps never come back)...so who wins..NOBODY (especially including you).

You could at least give these people an opportunity to make it right for you..OR remain passive-aggressive about the whole thing.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 12:50 PM
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If you're a jerk about it or your reason is lame, be afraid.

Trust me -- I worked as a server while in college, and saw how some of my fellow workers responded to rude returners. The "stories" are real.

If you're unpleasant or petty, be afraid.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 12:54 PM
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Your argument might hold up in a world where there are limited options, Intrepid. But for most of us, with so many other possible choices, why should we care about giving a place a second chance?

And passive-aggressive? Psycho-babble! What, we can't make choices anymore? It's more like survival of the fittest for the restaurant industry.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 01:19 PM
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I order steak rare and if it is served over-cooked I definitely send it back. This happens more often than you would think.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 04:40 PM
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Just recently I had to send back some tuna that I had ordered medium rare and it was barely cooked, still cold in the middle. It was dealt with immediately and with a smile, no problem.
I also sent back an appetiser not long ago in one of our favorite bistros..it was so salty, that I actually started to cough after taking a bite. When that happens, I usually order something else, I have never noticed any hard feelings or bad attitudes when sending food back.
I must admit though, as the customer, I never feel afraid to complain or send something back, I am not a prisoner!
I believe it is all in the way you speak to people.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 04:51 PM
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Add me to the list of those who feel that if the food is poorly prepared, I probably will simply choose not to go back. On the other hand if it's something like a steak ordered rare than comes out well done, yes, I will send it back. I realize that even the waiter would have no way to know there is something wrong with the preparation.
I still marvel at our ill-fated meal at the much touted Il Mulino in New York. Our pasta course came out in bowls filled with liquid that looked like soup. Sure enough there had been an attempt to thicken the sauce and it tasted like water and uncooked flour mixed together. It was totally inedible! When the waiter took it away, he said we didn't eat much. When I told him what I thought, his response was to say, "yes, it sure looked strange to me." Then why did the chef put it out if it even looked strange, and why would the waiter serve it if he knew it looked wrong? Again, I choose never to go back.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 05:12 PM
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I wouldn't send something back just because I didn't like it, but I would certainly send it back if there was something clearly wrong with it, e.g., undercooked poultry.

The last item I sent back was a mojito made with a sprig of basil instead of mint. Very odd taste, indeed!

I once sent back a capuccino that tasted really weird and peppery. The waiter obviously didn't believe me and was a bit snotty about it, but after he took it away, he must have tasted it, because he came back and apologized. Seems someone had shaken black pepper instead of chocolate on the top!

I've always had pretty good luck with food, but I'll never forget our 10-year-old niece sending her steak back because it was not cooked the way she had requested it. (Can't recall if it was severely over or underdone.) I would never have had the nerve at that age!
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 05:21 PM
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Whenever I eat out, I just assume that there's "something" in my food. Makes life easier that way. Whether you send it back or not, wait staff and chefs still have bad days and need to take it out on someone.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 05:32 PM
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Shortly after the last time this subject came up, my DH and I went out to a new Italian restaurant -- my dish was incredibly salty, just horrible.

I kindly explained that I couldn't eat it and asked to order something else, which I did. I then noticed that 3 of the waitstaff hoovered around the plate, eating from it. I was disgusted by that, fearful of what "surprises" might lurk in my next dish, so we asked for the check -- lo and behold, we were charged for not only the dish I sent back, but the replacement.

Since that time (6 months) the place has shut down.

I'm not picky but when something is undercooked or unreasonably seasoned, I will bring it to the attention of the server. Recently I had the lemon chicken at PF Changs -- too much lemon covered by way too much sugar. They happily prepared a different meal for me and also gave me a free drink, which was unneccesary but appreciated.

Like Scarlett mentioned, it's all in the approach and I am usually satisfied. The Italian place I mentioned above was an exception -- I just had one of those feelings it wasn't going to work out.
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