Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thank You, Sir... May I Have Another?

"There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line." - Oscar Levant

There is a restaurant/bar where I took dates for years, especially first dates. It was fancy enough to impress, but not too much to be intimidating.

I should say here that I always tip. I make my choices based on the performance of the bartender or server. There's no standard 15 or 20%. I've tipped more than 50% - even 100% - and I've tipped a penny. To the degree they show they're interested, function in a way that makes me believe they enjoy their job and are attentive to my needs I tip accordingly. One thing that always scores big with me is keeping my waterglass filled.

So, one night I was meeting TheArtist for drinks. It was the first time we ever got together other than for lunch with a client for whom we were both working on a project. I arrived early and thought I'd order one before she got there.

I found a seat in the corner where I had a view of the bar and the door. I find it interesting to watch people, like a fly on the wall. The server was a sweet thing with a ready smile. I asked for a Labatt's Blue, a tall glass of ice water and five or six lime wedges.

She came back with the beer, the water and a small bowl with three thin lime slices. She told me that she would have to charge me if I wanted more. I asked her if I heard correctly that she would have to charge me for limes. She said, yes. I told her I'd never paid for limes there before; she said she could only give me three without charging me.

She came back when she saw I poured the last of the beer in my glass. I asked her for another, to fill my water and to bring me some more limes. She reminded me I'd have to pay for them. I suggested she ask her manager about that. She came back with the water pitcher and said, yes, if I wanted more limes I'd have to pay for them.

At this point, I wanted to make sure there was no question in anyone's mind. Are you saying that I have to pay for them, I asked, or did the manager say I can only have three without paying for them? She said the manager said if I wanted more than three that I'd have to pay. I asked her to tell her manager that I would be getting more limes and I would not be paying for them. I also asked her to be sure to tell the manager he would be cutting the lime for me.

Back she came with my beer. The manager said if you want more limes you'll have to pay for them, she said. That was it. I asked her to go and get the pitcher to refill my glass with water. And when she came back, I told her, I wanted the name and telephone number for the general manager, the franchisee and the president of the corporation. I also told her that if the manager refused to give her the names and telephone numbers I would find them out and complain that he would not give them to me.

She came back and said that the manager said he didn't think there was a need to get the franchisee involved. I asked where the names and telephone numbers were. She said he was getting them for me. Just then the manager came out and asked what the problem was. I asked where the telephone numbers were. He started telling me he didn't think... I said I know what you think; where are the telephone numbers? He pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me. It had the names and telephone numbers. He said he didn't know what the problem was that I thought I needed to talk to the manager or the franchisee.

I told the manager to have a seat. I went on to tell him how I had been bringing dates there for years. I told him that I ate lunch or dinner there, sometimes both, a few times a week. Sometimes more. I told him that I had never paid a penny for limes there or anywhere else. I was, let's say, a bit animated in my conversation. Then, I said...I'll tell you one more thing. I asked for lime wedges. I always ask for lime wedges. And what do I get? I picked up the one thin slice that was still in the bowl, lifted it up in front of his face and shook it so juice went on him. Slices, I said. Paper thin slices. Not wedges. And I never say a word about it! Now, I told him, I want you to go over there to the bar and cut up some lime wedges for me.

When he went to the bar the bartender, who knew me and heard our conversation, handed him a lime, a plate and a knife. He brought it over and cut the lime into wedges for me. Are we going to have anymore problems about paying for lime wedges? I asked. He told me there wouldn't be any problem.

Perfect timing, TheArtist walked up to the table. Is there a problem, she asked. No, there's no problem, I told her. He thanked me for my business and told us to have a good evening. We were there for a few hours drinking; the next time I asked for limes the server brought out a whole bowl. TheArtist said something about them really liking me there.

There was no bill for drinks that night. The manager took care of it. I think he thought that would stop me from complaining. It didn't.

I never heard a word again about paying for limes when I went there. And the bartender always had wedges for me.

As for TheArtist... Those are stories for another time.

Photograph by Kilroy_60


Anonymous said...

Nice story. I don't understand why they weren't more accommodating to begin with if you were a regular. Was the manager new?

My husband is a regular at our local coffeehouse near his office. He stops in every day and the young college students there have gotten to where several times they have given him free coffee or bagels. It pays to be a regular service wise.

Kilroy_60 said...

Yes, unfortunately, both the manager and the server were new. The manager, apparently, looking for every penny he could bring in during his shift to boost the bottom line.

An interesting thing about "talking to the manager" so many places whoever happens to be the manager "on the floor" or for that "shift" or whatever other technicalities come into play people tend to want to say they are the manager so you don't talk to the person who is their boss.

I agree that being a regular can be a benefit in terms of service...which is a good thing in a way...and a really bad thing in another.

bulletholes said...

You would not believe how many dipship hairbrained policies young, inexperienced Restaurant "Managers" can come up with like that... the servers can spot 'em in a minute. The revenue generated from extra lime sales,WOW!!!

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thing I always wish I had the nerve to do, I fantasize about doing, but I rarely ever actually do. My DH and I have gotten better in our later years about complaining, and have even walked out of one restaurant before the very late order ever came. We're getting better.