Thursday, September 22, 2011

Frugal Disdain from The Palm Restaurant

Two nights ago, my wife and I decided to take advantage of the fabulous Restaurant Week here in San Diego.  If you are unfamiliar with Restaurant Week, the basic idea is that a bunch of restaurants offer two or three course meals for a somewhat discounted price, the advantage to the restaurant being that new people will come in, try the food, and maybe become regulars.  After deliberating through our options, we decided on The Palm restaurant (mostly because of the 9 oz. filet mignon).

While the food was delicious, I can't really say I plan on going back.

The reason?  Our waiter made us feel like we were about five inches tall.

You see, when my wife and I were seated, the hostess didn't give us the special (read: less pricy) Restaurant Week menu.  From the moment that we asked our waiter, Ryan, for the special menu, he treated us in a very different way.  He was colder, more apathetic.  His interactions with us were labored, as if he'd just as soon punch us in the face as talk to us.  While I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps he was having a bad night, my wife and I couldn't help but notice how much more animated, helpful, and pleasant he was to a larger party (read: a party whose bill, and therefore tip, would be higher).

Now, I've thought about the meal quite a bit, and I can't remember anything that my wife said or did that could be construed as rude.  The restaurant wasn't even particularly busy when we went in, so it's not like we were keeping him from higher paying customers.  The only reason I can think that he would, apparently, show disdain for us is that we weren't going to spend more on our dinners.  He didn't like that we weren't going to drop buckets full of money on our food.*

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't think that waiters or waitresses need to bow down before me.  I'm not so great.  In fact, not a day goes by that I'm not to some degree disappointed with the person looking back at me in the mirror.**  All I would ask is that if I'm paying what is (to me) a lot of money for a dinner, and I'm not behaving rudely or irresponsibly, that I be treated, well, nicely. 

I sure didn't feel that way last night.

Readers, what do you think?  Have you ever experienced something similar?  Have you ever seen people's attitudes toward you change when they find out you're planning to use a coupon or going to save money in some other way?  Or am I just being a baby?  Let me know in the comments.

*It should be noted that while we were getting a better deal than most of the meals at the restaurant, our dinner was still fairly pricy (with a 15% tip, our meal was close to $140).
**In the words of those immortal poets, Blink-182, "I guess this growing up."

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Anonymous said...

There's a subset of waiters that do this as soon as we don't order wine. Bastards. My reaction is then generally to also not order appetizers or dessert because who wants to stay when the waitstaff is being unpleasant?

Mrs. Money Mustache said...

Interesting post. What an annoying thing to have to deal with. This is exactly why I hate fancy restaurants. It's almost like this type of behavior is expected of them in order to make the more fancy pancy clients happy.

I'm not sure I've ever spent $140 on a meal for 2, but I do know that I feel much more comfortable in the regular world. The world of valet parking, luggage carrying, wine tastings, dressing up, and those bathroom attendants that hand you towels are far beyond me. They make me uncomfortable and usually feel extremely fake. Even having my room cleaned at a hotel doesn't jive very well with me. I generally don't like being waited on.

I'm sure I would have felt exactly the same way you did in this situation, but I probably wouldn't have been so nice as to leave a 15% tip. ;)

Note: I do usually tip quite generously to those who deserve it and are clearly underpaid for their work.

Bryan said...

nicoleandmaggie: We ordered drinks too! It was a frustrating experience. I totally agree with not ordering more because of not wanting to stay longer. We usually don't order appetizers or desserts in general though.

Mrs. Money Mustache: In looking back at this post, $140 for a meal is kind of stretching the limits of what could be considered frugal. :) I do agree that fancy restaurants are kind of a different world; maybe I didn't realize that I had violated some unspoken rule, and that's why he didn't like us?

Also, as an explanation about the tip, my wife was on the hook for paying for that maeal (she doesn't always pay, but she was excited about the evening and wanted to take me out), and she always tips 15% rain or shine. She has a good heart.

Anonymous said...

Hm, when we have bad service, we only leave 15%. Usually we leave 20% or a little bit more.

Unknown said...

Bryan, that sucks. I always only order water and never dessert or coffee - not for frugal reasons, just out of habit. Sometimes I feel bad, since waiters are so excited about their specials, but I've never been treated like that.

ANYWAY - you need to let me know what you had for $140 dinner! I bet it was delicious!

Bryan said...

nicoleandmaggie: I'm realizing that I may be a little stingy when it comes to tipping. I usually leave somewhere between 15 and 20%, probably most frequently in the 16 or 17% range (a lot of times, I'll just double the tax and round up; here in San Diego, the tax is 7.75%).

Annabelle: The food was delicious! I had a mushroom bisque, followed by crab cakes, and the dessert was cheesecake. My wife went the salad route with the huge filet mignon. Second to not spending more time at the office, my biggest regret in life is not also getting that filet. There were also adult beverages imbibed.