We just came home from a singularly shitty meal at Mel's Burger Bar, at 111th Street and Broadway. We had made plans to eat there with John and Anna and Naomi early, at 5:30, so that we could return home in time to put the children to bed without any major meltdowns. This is smart, right? This was good thinking.
The first sign of trouble came when we asked the waiter to give us a minute to look at the menu, and he disappeared for 15. When we finally placed our orders, the food took almost an hour to arrive. In the meantime the babies were fussing and various adults in our party were taking turns jostling the kids, walking them around, or trying to distract them with napkins and the smacking-the-table game. When our food did eventually arrive -- after several conversations with the waiter in which he invariably assured us that it would be out in a few minutes -- my entire order was missing. Once my hamburger arrived, I had to ask yet again for my fries. They also messed up John's order too. I finally asked to speak to the manager, and the young man who I took for a busboy turned out to be it. He explained that the kitchen was slow and that the restaurant had gotten slammed. He was not very apologetic, and did not seem to care, although he did offer to pay for our drinks. When the food finally arrived we devoured our meals in about ten minutes; we had to go home to put the children to bed. Our waiter came back eventually and asked if we wanted a refill or anything, but I was too pissed to look at him and declined, even though I was dying for another Coke. I had a point to make, and opted to stew in my own martyrdom. When the check came, we decided, after much deliberation, not to leave a tip. And I think that was the right thing to do, under the circumstances.
What kills me about a blown meal -- whether due to restaurant staff incompetence, failure of a delivery to arrive, or the classic table-side interpersonal argument -- is that you have no way of recovering the time and the experience: that was your dinner, as shitty as it may have been, and that's that. You'll just have to wait for the next meal to try to have a nice time. At one point tonight John remarked that the evening was just totally gone for me, with no chance of redemption, and unfortunately he was right. Maybe I'm being a jerk by wallowing in my own frustration, but I still have to ask: why do I, as the diner, have the burden of addressing the shitty service that the restaurant is providing? I don't want to be confrontational. Why doesn't the restaurant realize that the best way to build loyalty among customers is to proactively respond to a bad experience? Had the manager acknowledged how badly the dinner had gone -- had he bought us dessert or comped the meal, or even just genuinely apologized -- we would have had a great time and would have had a positive experience at Mel's Burger Bar. Instead here I am writing about this, trying to repeat the name of the restaurant (Mel's Burger Bar) to improve its Google hits and noting that other diners across the internet have also experienced similarly bad service at this place, which is called Mel's Burger Bar.
I think I was a little riled up based on hearing about John and Anna's encounter with a surly, unprofessional security guard at the Natural History Museum, and my own interaction yesterday with an obnoxious line-cutting woman at Absolute Bagels. (She cut in line ahead of me to join her friend, and when I started trying to place my order, she tried to cut me off, at which point I said, "Sorry, I didn't see you standing here this whole time," and then she gave me a dirty look, although I feel I won the karmic battle when her order got messed up and I completed my transaction and left the place ahead of her.) It's incredibly frustrating when people treat you thoughtlessly, or contemptibly, and you feel you have no recourse but to sit there and take their shit. I don't know if it is a new confidence, or a new pettiness, or a new crankiness, but there are some times when I find myself uttering a snotty remark, or leaving a tip of exactly $0.00, because it's the most appropriate way I can think of to politely suggest that somebody can go fuck themselves.
And that's the end of my rant. I feel angrier than your average Tea Party participant right about now.