13 March 2009

"Would you like fries with that?"

In my teen years and during University, I worked in several restaurants. This was how I earned my extra income while in school. Because of my experience, I generally have a lot of patience with restaurant servers, and I understand when someone is having a bad day.

German customer service is notoriously bad, especially in restaurants. Generally this is because servers don't work for tips. They actually get paid a decent wage, so they aren't trying to turn tables, or sell you more food to get a larger tip. There are benefits and disadvantages to this. One of the benefits is that you can sit at your table as long as you want, even if you only ordered a coffee... Of course the flip side to this, is that if there are no tables available when you show up to a restaurant, and you don't have a reservation, they will turn you away. No waits lists at German restaurants. The first time we went out to dinner here, it tooks us three restaurants before we could find a table. It was well worth it though, because we had the most fabulous Turkish food complete with belly dancing entertainment.

You get used to not being waited on hand and food, and you adjust to having to flag a server down when you want something like another drink, or the bill. Generally the servers are friendly or at least cordial. And of course, Max tends to charm them all.

Well, for the first time in my life, I didn't leave a tip. I have never had such deplorable service, as I did yesterday. Max and I met my girlfriend and her son for brunch yesterday at the Stadt Cafe, near the Stadt Museum and Synagogue in downtown Munich. It wasn't a fancy restaurant, it's a Cafe. We specifically choose this restaurant because it's pretty open, it's large, and it's casual. Usually these are the things we look for when looking for restaurants to take our children.

Apparently the server did not like children, because she was rude to us from the get go. When she first came over, she lectured us not to let the children play with the menus, because they were very expensive to make. WTF? I've worked in restaurants, and menus get destroyed just by the nature of the business. They get food on them, they get dog eared. Sometimes they get burned with cigarettes. Our children playing with the menus was hardly going to hurt them. These weren't fancy menus either. They were laminated paper, that's it. And, I'm sorry, I know that multi-colored menus cost more to print, but if you're worried about your menu getting destroyed, maybe it's too expensive for the restaurant.

Ok, so we removed the menus from the children's reach, and let them play with our keys instead. Well, the server was rude and inhospitable the entire time we were there. I was very excited because the menu had a PastramiBagel "New York" style on it. Bagels are hard to come by in Germany, and New York style bagels are even harder. Well, when our food came back, it wasn't a New York bagel, it wasn't even a bagel. It was foccacia bread. I was very disappointed.

So, the next time she was within reach of the table, I told her that it wasn't a bagel, and in a very snotty voice, she said, Oh, we're all out of bagels. Ummmm, couldn't you have told me that after I ordered, before you brought the meal out? Now, I'd have to wait another 30 minutes to order something else, so of course I ate it anyways. It just wasn't a bagel.

Finally, as we're leaving, my girlfriend had her two year old son tell the server goodbye. The lady completely snubbed him, wouldn't even look at him, or crack a smile. Instead she got up, and walked away.

If I had left a tip on the table, at this point, I would have gone back and removed it.

To me, this kind of service isn't just bad customer service, but it's bad business. It shouldn't matter that we had children. It shouldn't matter if we were in wheelchairs, or if we were a different race. We were paying customers, and our demographic of stay-at-home moms, we're the biggest spenders out there. And if you are nice to our children, we will tip generously.


Amanda Harrison said...

Di -- I love your blog . . . I've been reading thru and it feels like I'm actually catching up right along with you. I can't believe your in Germany. So, I think Max is 3 and you have one on the way. WOW!!

anastasiadenton said...

ESPECIALLY if you're Americans!!!!! Here in Heidelberg they are nicer to us BECAUSE we tip!!!!! Hope you don't mind my reading, Nice to know someone else is banging their heads into walls right along with us! Nice Blogging!