The Salty Waitress
Photo: Highwaystarz-Photography (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Hi Salty,

On the day after Christmas, I made a reservation at a little Italian restaurant for New Year’s Day. My husband always works on New Year’s Eve, so we have our annual New Year’s date night on the 1st. He’d been so excited to try this place, so I was thrilled to see that their reservation page and website said they were taking reservations that day. We were looking forward to it all week!

On New Year’s Eve, I received a text message confirming my reservation for the next day, and I replied in the affirmative.

At 1:00 p.m. on New Year’s Day I received a text message from the restaurant’s reservation service saying “There was a glitch. We’re not actually open today. Your reservation is cancelled. Sorry.” I received this on the day of our 6:30 p.m. reservation. After a confirmation text the day before. No service recovery. No offer of a drink on the house at a later date to make up for it. I can’t tell you how angry I was!

I will say that at the very least they did let us know—we didn’t have to wait until we were knocking on a locked door to find out they were closed. But that’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel of customer service.

This is a deal breaker for me. If this is the level of service they give, I have no desire to spend my time and hard earned money that this place—no matter how good the food is or all the rave reviews. My husband disagrees, saying that our judgement has to be reserved until we actually go there for a meal and see how they do. Please weigh in on this! Is it the deal breaker I feel it is? Or does everyone deserve a second chance at service recovery?

Shar

Dear Shar,

What a crappy way to start the new year! I hope you and your husband found somewhere to go and blow off that steam, even if the only open spot in the neighborhood had sticky floors and cloudy glassware.

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I won’t deny that what happened to you sucks big time. Especially since you even made a point to confirm your reservation via text, which is something that not everyone bothers to do (because multiple texts can get annoying). And then after the screwup was detected and the reservation was canceled, it doesn’t sound like a real live human being ever made contact with you to apologize or explain the error. I’d be ticked off too, sugar!

Whether or not you choose to spend your hard-earned money at this place is, of course, up to you. To answer your question: No, you don’t owe any restaurant your business (sorry, hon, but the term “service recovery” makes me want to gag). If your husband is trying to convince you that you do, it’s probably just because he heard really good things about the rigatoni and is jonesing for a taste. He can be forgiven.

And yet… I probably could’ve told you something like this was going to happen. Ol’ Salty is a little wary of any technology performing the restaurant duties typically handled by humans, including reservation management. For being a supposedly “smart” business solution, online reservation services can be pretty damn dumb sometimes—and this was one of those times. It probably wasn’t a “glitch” like the text you received said; instead, the restaurant likely failed to log January 1 as “closed” in the computer system, which then continued to accept reservations and send out 24-hour reservation notices as usual. None of this is your fault, but let this be a lesson to you, Shar (and everybody else out there): If you’re making reservations on any sort of holiday—or during hours that Google lists the restaurant as closed—make a quick call to confirm with an actual human being. It’ll spare you so much anger and advice-column-letter-writing.

If you do decide to give this little Italian joint a second chance (like, say, if your husband has begun begging on his hands and knees and you’re feeling merciful), then call and make the reservation over the phone. Explain what happened when you used the online system, and mention that while you were disappointed by the incident, you’d still like to find a time to come in. Any host ought to be able to read between those lines. Hopefully, at the very least, you’re offered an apology—and if so, then it’s your choice whether to accept it and book a table.

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Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a question about how to handle customers? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

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