By Burton K. Janes
On Labour Day Monday, my wife and I left Deer Lake, where we had spent the long weekend with her parents. We stopped for breakfast at a bar and grill on the Trans-Canada Highway. My sister-in-law joined us, and we settled in for a cosy chat and meal.
We placed our respective orders. Mine included eggs, bologna, hash browns and whole wheat toast. Eventually, my meal, minus the toast, was placed before me. We had to request cutlery. I surveyed the plate, anticipating the delectable morsels I was about to dig into. First, though, I reminded the waitress of the oversight about my toast.
Sometime later, by which time I was well into my meal, my toast arrived, but it was white, not whole wheat. “I ordered whole wheat toast,” I said.
After I had finished eating, my whole wheat toast finally arrived. Within minutes, the waitress arrived at our table again, this time with the cheque, which she plunked down beside me. As she turned to return to the kitchen, I said, “By the way, I did order whole wheat toast.”
My reasoning was, “Why would I, a diabetic, order white rather than whole wheat, toast?” (I’ve been led to believe that whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread for a diabetic.)
Whirling around, she hissed, “Now listen here,” as she jabbed her finger at the “W” inscribed on the cheque, “you ordered white toast!”
I ventured forth with a question, “What happened to the customer being right?”
My sister-in-law spoke up: “He did order whole wheat toast, because I heard him.”
By now, the waitress had begun her final retreat, growling a surly “Yeah.” I was taken aback by her rudeness.
Was this incident simply a matter of white vs. whole wheat toast? Far from it. The bread was merely a symptom of a deeper problem. I usually leave waiters and waitresses a sizable tip in appreciation for services rendered. In this case, I had a tip for her, but it wasn’t a monetary one. Instead, it is this: restaurateurs have certain expectations of their customers. However, the reverse is also true: customers have certain expectations of restaurateurs. The one non-negotiable expectation on my part is respect, which should be a given.
I left the table without eating my toast and paid for the meal. To add insult to injury, the woman who accepted my payment didn’t even say, “You’re welcome,” after I thanked her.
While writing this column, I read the following on the BCC food blog: “any great restaurant is about more than the food — it has to have great front-of-house, too. In my experience, a customer is more forgiving towards mediocre food than they are to slack service. … Good manners are becoming a thing of the past. … And it’s not good enough for a waiter simply to take an order and bring the food to the table. … They need to be able to sell — with confidence — the full dining experience the restaurant has to offer.”
Perhaps our waitress was simply having a bad day. But that’s no reason to insult a customer.
Do I think the eating establishment owes me an apology? Definitely. Do I think I will receive one? I doubt it. But I could be pleasantly surprised.
Incidentally, after I left the roadhouse, two other customers, sitting adjacent to us and obviously witnessing the event, said to my wife and sister-in-law, “We won’t be coming back here again either.”
Sadly, the waitress did not “sell — with confidence — the full dining experience” the bar and grill had to offer.
Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts.