Sometimes, the service that you receive is just not good enough. Sometimes, things have gone so wrong you can’t simply ignore them and carry on with your unsatisfactory meal. Sometimes, we all have to break out of our truly British fear of causing a fuss and take the risk of not keeping calm and carrying on. Generally this takes an obscene amount of error and an incredibly low standard of service to even begin to light the fires of annoyance in most rebellious of Britons. Let’s put it this way; the phrase “I’m sure it will be just as nice” is a far too regular between mistreated diners.
But for some people, the typically British, debilitating fear known as fussophobia is not an issue. No, these emotional expats have broken free from the vocal shackles and rebelled, much to the annoyance of bungling waiters, such as myself, who have had it easy for so long.
The problem now is that complaining, like drugs (stay with me on this one), becomes an addiction which gets harder and harder to feed. In the early days, a simple free coffee or glass wine from a few disgruntled looks is enough to scratch the itch for the customer. Soon though, the need to be unsatisfied and paid off with freebies and apologies becomes greater and complaining is no longer something you might do every now and then with your mates at the weekend, it becomes a compulsion.
Soon, every restaurant is too hot or too cold, too busy or too quiet. A steak can never be cooked right, and all drinks leave a certain bitterness in the mouth that only a freebie can relieve. And when it comes to service, well, that’s just a rich vein of irritants waiting to be tapped to fuel the fires of annoyance. Complaint junkies stagger around town centres and shopping malls, high on discounts and apologies from unsuspecting waiters, sniffing out their next hit from the plethora of naïve restaurants. Torn up bills litter the streets and meals sit solemn and half eaten on deserted tables as the scent of artificial dissatisfaction lingers within each victimised eatery.
Now though, we are learning. We are becoming wise to your excuses and tricks. We know that this…this problem that you are suffering with, is not a choice, but an illness. And we can help. “Why should we?” Cry the thousands of dismayed waiting on staff who still burn from the injustice they have faced. “Why should help those who persecute us?” Because who else will? That is the reason. It is our duty to set these poor souls free from their infliction, to relieve them from the curse that ruins every social event they may encounter. For too long we have stood idly by, feeding their addiction through confused service technique and, of course, laziness. Now we, the enablers, have to stand tall in the face of adversity and adopt the tough love approach.
The next complaint you receive, stop and think, don’t apologise, don’t offer any compensation, just offer pity. Reach out to a stranger, be the good Samaritan and hold firm. No is the answer, stick up for your staff and your restaurant. Tell them that you know of their illness, and their distorted view on the dining experience you offer, tell them nothing is wrong with anything that has happened in your establishment, except for them. Remember your right to refuse service to anyone and don’t feel bad, tough love is still love, right? It might be feel wrong to be so forceful with customers, and it might not go down particularly well with the people who have been denied their fix, but one day they’ll thank you for it. And you can feel good in the knowledge that you have helped your fellow man by freeing them from the grip of dependency and giving them back a decent meal, and a full priced bill.
Just a quick note to all those sufferers and past-sufferers on behalf of the thousands of people who work in the catering trade but have never had the chance to say it: You’re welcome.