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Sending it Back

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hi everybody,

I was curious, what are your parameters for sending back a plate of food? There are the obvious, burnt or underdone food, something "gross" on the plate, and the like.

I got to thinking about this over the weekend when I was out having brunch with my wife. I had an omlette, described as "French style" with the triple fold. What I got was a western style scrambled egg mass with ham and cheese scattered through it. I debated with sending it back, just on principle, but in the end I didn't. Bottom line was I was tired after a long week and just wanted some hot food. Still, I basiclly let these guys get away with false advertising.

Any comments?

--Al
post #2 of 29
In a case like yours, Allan, I might have made a comment to the server. When I do send things back it's because the item was not cooked to order- usually because it's overdone, underdone or includes an ingredient I specifically asked to have excluded (bamboo shoots or beets are the top reasons :() I'll also send it back if a hot item is cold.

Of course, that last one sometimes leads to a pet peeve: microwave heating of items that should not be put in a microwave. Examples are steaks, eggs and delicate sauces. I don't mind if most soups are nuked a bit unless it's something like avgolemono soup, which would result in lemon-flavored scrambled eggs in chicken broth. :D
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post #3 of 29
Maybe it's a matter of semantics, Mezz. But IMO, Allan's food was not cooked to order. He asked for a dish to be prepared one way, it was made another.

I would have sent it back, myself. And maybe told the owner that next time he hired a menu designer the person should understand what was meant by the terms he/she used.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 29
KYH, I'd agree, but depending on the place and/or location. My dad's idea of an omelet was to place dabs of grape jam atop a platter of scrambled eggs. :eek: That's an extreme example, but it's possible that a regional definition of a dish differs. I'm not sure about "omelet", but it's possible for other things.

Just a thought. Depending on my mood, I might send it back too. I see what you mean.
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post #5 of 29
Sure, there can be regional differences, Mezz. But, if so, somebody who lives in that area would be aware of the difference. Allan wasn't a tourist passing through. He lives there.

Although I understand your point, I think you chose a poor example.

Your dad had a particular food preference, which is his right. But when there are standard definitions it's only right that a customer expect what's written down.

Your dad did not create a menu on which the word "omelet" meant "scrambled eggs with grape jam." And I'm sure that if he ordered that in a restaurant he would specify what he wanted, recognizing that what he meant by an omelet was not the standard dish.

This just happens to be a pet peeve of mine. The folks who design menus get an unconscionable amount of money for what they do. Seems to me, for that kind of gelt they should know what they're talking about. Unfortunately, more and more often, it turns out they don't. Basic culinary language is, apparently, foreign to them. Or they recognize the words, and just use them, helter-skelter, cuz they don't know what they mean.

Ranks right up there with cookbook directions that tell you to "saute in a little white wine....."

Then there is the "it don't have to make sense if it's artsy enough" school of menu design.

My favorite example of this would be the new menu at Sonny's. First off, it's such a radical departure from anything in the past, they had to send somebody around to every location to explain the menu to the owners, cooks, and wait staff. No kidding. And then, it seems, many of the signature dishes are missing. Turns out they're not. Sonny's still offers them on a regular basis, the menu designer just didn't feel it necessary to include them on the menu!

Huh? Somebody wanna 'splain that to me?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
KH and Mezz,

Sorry to start this thread and dissapear! The two of you pretty accurately reinacted my internal debate. I guess the issue for me is one of principle, this sort of sloppy menu execution is yet another example of a dumbing down of our (North American) food culture. And lets face it, its not that "smart" to begin with. I've got to say that I take no pleasure in sending food back, or complaining. That said I do have a policy of ceasing to eat if something isn't up to snuff. I think of it as my last chance test. If the BOH bungles my meal (and I mean does something wrong, not merely serving something that I personally don't like) the FOH can swoop in to save the day. Its really sad that so many waiters see a plate of food with literally a bite taken from the main and simplely ask if I am done. There was a steak house / wine bar in Ottawa that served me one of the worst steaks I ever had. Over cooked, cold, and served with side that the staff had cut into to check doneness facing up. I took a bite and gave up. My waitress instantly set the wheels in motion to set things right. When I declined another steak I was comped my wine and a nice cheese plate. Very classy. They kept my business.

--Al
post #7 of 29
Hi Allan,
Just to add my input here, I feel you should have sent the dish back without any reservation on your part. While I understand that you just wanted some hot food, what was presented was not what you ordered. As one who agonizes over every plate, I would never allow what you described to leave the kitchen in the place of what we had specified you would receive. I would agree if it was a minor matter, but what you described is not acceptable.
post #8 of 29
Yeah, send it back. Maybe they'll learn. In the last week or so I've had at least three subpar experiences.

1) Coq au Vin raw.

2) Left out the guava jam and didn't tell anyone.

3) Substituted bratwurst for leberkase on the plate and didn't say a thing to me.

4) One bad mussel, unevely cooked risotto.

None of it went back, but I made sure to tell everyone about it. Don't be shy man, say exactly what you should say, that this wasn't what was on the menu.

The worst part is when servers try to argue with you. When I told my server about the risotto, he said, it's supposed to be like that. D'uh! I don't need no smart lipped servers.
post #9 of 29
I used to business travel a lot and a lady that I traveled with told me she would never send anything back for fear they would "do something" to the food other than correct the problem. You hear stories about cooks that might do spiteful stuff to returned food, but I don't know if they're true or not.

Since then, I never send anything back, but I do let the server know about my unhappiness. Also, if the restaurant has a website, I might send them feedback about my experience via email.

So, in your BOH experiences, have you ever seen a cook "do something" to the food other than the proper correction?

H.
post #10 of 29

Geographic Differences?

I'm wondering if geography doesn't play a role in all this.

I noticed, both in traveling and when I lived there, that Midwesterners are more reluctant to send something back (or even comment on it) than are people who live on the coasts.

Maybe I have a parochial view? Or maybe there's something to this?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 29
We're way, way too polite sometimes- I'll agree, and I'm a lifelong Midwesterner. :D Have a look (tuck your tongue in your cheek first- check the source) : State Of Minnesota Too Polite To Ask For Federal Funding | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
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post #12 of 29
Must be some sort of passive aggresive thing. They'll tell you everything is great and then never show up again. In fact that's what I did today.
post #13 of 29
Henry,

I'm the same as you - won't send it back but just leave it, when they pick up the almost full plate, I let the server know. Have got varying responses from doing this - quite often been offered another dish or a voucher for a freebie next time.

I've seen first hand what can happen to returned plates when I worked in a kitchen (wasn't a top line place). One involved a steak and some spit and nuking it - ewwwww. So yeah, I tend just to leave it.

I'll also leave the knife and fork together on the plate to indicate I'm done, but with the fork facing down. Anyone else do that? Its supposed to indicate displeasure, so I'm told.

Had what was supposed to be a steak, mushroom and guiness pie the other night. It was a game of hunt the beef - about 20 mushrooms and only 2 bits of beef - aaargh!!! And this from what is supposed to be an award winning restaurant - won't be going back there.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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post #14 of 29
Wow, this dragged out an old memory. Many years ago I was working as a land surveyor, we were laying out power lines in southwest Wyoming. We had a few long, hard, miserable days in the field. Treated ourselves to dinner at the, uh, finest restaurant in town. I was REALLY hungry, tired, thirsty, et cetera.

When it comes to some cuts of beef, I'm a "wipe its nose, clip its horns and run it by the table, I'll do the rest" kind of guy. So when I ordered the prime rib special, I asked for a nice really rare slice. A while later the server brings the food, puts a plate of brown, crusty stuff in front of me and says something like "We thought it might be too rare, so we pan fried it for a while."

If she had said "We are out of prime rib, so we rolled this moose turd in broken glass and covered it with creosote - hope you like it." it probably would have ended the same. I ordered another drink and ate my "prime rib" without complaint.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #15 of 29
everything's fair game
post #16 of 29
I guess it depends for me on a few things...location being one. In the small college town that I live in, there are 4 restaurants (and a few seedy hole in the wall places that I'm scared of, but I digress). One is strictly comfort food that I'm pretty sure is frozen then heated up in the kitchen and served as fresh. One other is supposed to be one of the nicer restaurants, but is very sometime-y -- I've had one of my best meals ever there, and I've also had some of my worst meals ever there -- after waiting forever to get it.

The other two are nicer caliber, and consistently serve good food. One is within walking distance of my house, so I usually end up there once a week for dinner.

That one in particular is what made me think about this question...Often the food that is served, while it's very good, isn't quite what's described on the menu: crab cakes served on mesclun greens instead of the described fresh spinach, or potato-crusted salmon on white rice when it's supposed to be basmati. Or once I got a turkey and peppered chevre panini with tomato and balsamic that was served ice cold, instead of pressed as described (I ate it...and then made sure the next time that I asked if it would be served hot this time, lol.)

But regardless of the restaurant, I never send anything back when it comes to these four...for various reasons. In the case of the nicer restaurants, it's nit-picky stuff, not really anything wrong with the food, so I'm not going to waste anyone's time complaining. In the case of the other two restaurants, I figure that I already have a low expectation going in, so at best they'll exceed it, at worst, they'll meet it, and I should have seen that coming and deserve whatever I'm served.

Even when it comes to larger chain restaurants, usually I'll only send something back if it's undercooked or tastes like it might be off (as in spoiled, like the lobster bisque I got not long ago that tasted as if the cream had gone completely wrong). If it just turns out to be prepared in a completely unexpected (even if badly unexpected) way, I chalk it up to my bad luck.

My mother drives me nuts sending stuff back because it's not what she expected when she ordered -- too spicy, too salty, too fried, whatever. I kind of have the mind set that you should just grin and bear it and remember the lesson for next time.

BUT...while I won't send back the food...if the server asks how I like it, then I will usually tell her simply and neutrally if something didn't work. I guess I think the kitchen has to hear it or they'll keep doing the same bizarre things.
post #17 of 29
Hmm...I read this and got to thinking that actually there is something to this. I'm probably a lot more mellow about sending food back (and about driving...and about being patient...and about a whole host of other things) since I moved to Maine than I was when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area. So probably there is something to be said for the difference between living in a more urban setting versus a more rural one.

Part of it might be that if, in the D.C. area, I sent my food book, they would actually do something about it: my food would be replaced, and the meal would be removed from the bill. Here, they *might* fix the food, and they never off to remove it from the bill -- so not really any point in refusing the food. :lol:
post #18 of 29
Excellent description!!!! (just needs a little A-1 to git 'er back ta raght...):lol:
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
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I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
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post #19 of 29

Got A Question

For all those who do not send food back when it isn't prepared properly:

If you bought, say, a new computer, and it didn't work when you got home, would you return it? Or would you take a you-gotta-accept-what-you-get attitude?

If you purchase a first class ticket and the stewardess sits you in coach instead, would you stay there? Or would you insist on your first-class seat?

If you order a lavishly illustrated, coffee-table book, and are sent a bunch of photocopies stapled together in the middle, do you accept that as value recieved?

How are any of these things different than a badly prepared meal? Or one not cooked to order? Or different from what was on the menu?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #20 of 29
There is little likelyhood of a "foriegn object" being injested from a faulty computer, incorrect seat, or poorly bound leaf of photocopies, should any of those examples be returned for "correction of deficiencies"...
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
post #21 of 29
Yes...I agree...while I see your point KYH, this point is more powerful for me, LOL.

(And again I go back to what is my expectation for the restaurant -- will it *really* be better when I get the food back, or is this as good as it gets for this particular restaurant?)
post #22 of 29
Must admit that unless it's cold, or off I usually put it down to experience. The place will NEVER get another chance however, and I won't be shy about telling anyone at every opportunity.
I understand that any place can have an off day but if you ask for a steak med-rare and it comes well done then that is basics and any chef who can't get a steak (approximately) right ain't getting my patronage!
post #23 of 29
The very last time that I sent anything back was in a very popular privately owned restaurant. The bluefish was available broiled or cajun style. Not wanting to take a chance on their interpretation of "cajun" I opted for broiled and was served bluefish cajun style. Tried to be a sport and eat the blackened mess in front of me but I really didn't like it. I received the "correct" version as everyone else at the table finished their meal. I quickly ate about 1/2 of it because we had plans and I wasn't about to hold us up. My all night race for the john began about 1 1/2 hours later. Lesson learned.
post #24 of 29
As a customer, it's your right to complain and ask whatever you want to ask. You're paying for the food and you obviously want what's worth of your money. Advertising can really be misleading. Shame on them.
Who doesn't love to cook?
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Who doesn't love to cook?
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post #25 of 29
I really think that when chef's/cooks design a menu and use classical terms or similar
terms like "French Style" the food should be cooked to what is says
At the same time The person who cooked the dish might have been taught from a chef /cook or who ever doesn't really have a clue regarding definitions of certain terms so that person really has not been really educated properley in the first place .
I would have sent it back and explained that this is not what you expected as the wording (french stlye) was used and was not cooked accordingly but happy to explain what and how it should have been done If the cook has no interest in accepting so he/she should not be cooking .i am a bit harsh but if the person cooking happily takes on board the information you should let it be and on return another day etc just drop in and if still on the menu and comes out proper like it was stated ,you need to say thanks lol but if not go somewhere else to eat
eating food is an experience that should be enjoyed to the max not a bad one just because you just wanted a hot meal is no excuse to eat something that is not right it leaves a bad taste and after working a long hard week as we all know that thats every week is like that we should accept only the best i think anyway sorry for raving on and for my grammer etc
post #26 of 29
For me, it comes down to the fact that I'm paying and I should get what was advertised or what I ordered. There's no need to be mean about it, but simply stating that the food is not prepared as ordered, is off, or whatever is the responsibility of the consumer. Why on earth would anyone lie down and get walked over AND pay for it?

On a related topic, there's a miserable woman who works in the deli of the local grocery. She is absolutely horrible to everyone! People stand there and give eachother surprised looks, but no one calls her on her behavior. Early one day last week, I had to run out of the shop to grab something we had run out of which I hate to do, both for the $$ and the aggravation factors. This woman was putting things out in the open fridges near the deli and completely ignored me. I leaned back and asked her nicely if she was the person for behind the deli counter, not knowing if I should ring the bell for someone out back. She snarled that she was but was busy putting out the hummus, wasn't she? I said thank you and I'll gladly to to the other grocery store. She almost fell over herself getting behind the deli , but I had already walked away. She chased me, beet red, asking me what I wanted, how she could help me, how she was just kidding. I ordered my ham and said thank you. I really don't think anyone stands up to her but just takes her abuse as part of the friendly service at our local Hannaford.

Again, I'm not paying to get walked on and would NEVER treat or allow anyone who works for me to treat customers with such meanness and disrespect. We all know it can be phony, but that's the nature of the service industry.
post #27 of 29
I rarely send food back. Then again, i'm not that picky....I chalk it up as a bad experience.

maybe MAYBE ill send a steak back that hasn't been cooked the was I asked...but usually not unless its a reputable steakhouse.

I don't expect much from most places I guess...
post #28 of 29
same page as RPM.
i don't send food back.
if i ordered a steak at, say, medium and it was served at either rare or well, then i'd send it back. that's a big enough mistake to warrant sending it back, IMHO.
in most cases i'd give the kitchen the benefit of the doubt and try it again later. we all have our 'off' nights... or even 'off' tickets. i understand.

if i was spending a good chunk of change ($15) at a restaurant that served me 'scrambled eggs with vegetables and meat mixed in the scramble' when i was paying for 'a delicately-turned omlet with warmed fillings', i'd just chalk it up to experience and not return to that place.

i'm sure there are people more vocal than i am, who would step up and call them out on it, but i think that it's important to know that there are people like ME out there who will NOT complain about service/food. people who will simply remove that restaurant from future considerations...

that's just how i eat. a lot of people will be more vocal. only, know that there are people with opinions who don't feel that it is necessary to waste their mouth on your cold food/ bad service, et al...

if my ravioli was cold and you took it back and microwaved it, i will know because the raviolis will be glued to each other and ruined.

a microwave will not save a cold dish.

that's just me:crazy: and maybe a few others...
post #29 of 29
Yes, none of those are meant for consumption. I worked in a restaurant and saw what the cook did to cheeseburgers that got sent back (usually every Friday night from the same customer). Talk about "chef's surprise". Ugh!

doc
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