There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Or dinner, as the case may be.

Back in June, while visiting Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I wrote a post about The Anvil Restaurant. It was not a good review as our experience wasn’t particularly good.

So it goes. Right?

Wrong. That particular post would have faded into obscurity (it had not been getting many hits) had it been left alone.

Yesterday someone stopped by and left this comment on that post. I’ll go ahead and insert it here via the magic of copy/paste, saving you the trouble of clicking on the link.

kay turner

I don’t quite understand the problems that you have mentioned. I have been going to The Anvil for over 20 years and the food and service is always good. As every place can have their problems from time to time, I have been there when they were unstaffed and still had reasonable service and always good food and plenty of it. It is family owned and operated and I take offense to anyone saying not to eat there! After 23 years in business, they must be doing something right!
It sounds like you want something for nothing and if you complain, it is free is the new thing! Bash someone and get it free!
Shame on you for bashing them after you got the meal for free!

I responded, perhaps not as nicely as I could have. I was offended by the implications, something I’ll get to in a bit. I feel no shame in having stated my opinion about our experience that night. I do wonder, however, if Kay really read the whole post or just skimmed through it. I also wonder why someone should refrain from giving a bad review just because a meal was comped. No explanations or apologies were offered at the time. We didn’t even know the meal was comped until after a long period of waiting for someone, anyone, to come back to the table. That someone turned out to be our waiter with the check. He offered no explanations or apologies, either, but I’m not sure he knew what was going on since we didn’t complain to him but asked to speak with a manager.

Then it occurred to me that this would make an excellent post for today as it fits right in with the NaBloPoMo food theme. Thinking about the post I would write, I decided to check the reviews on TripAdvisor. M and I had checked the reviews AFTER we had dinner at The Anvil. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone there for dinner that night.

Imagine my surprise when I found a response from the management on the first bad review and the name is “Kaybab the owner.”

Interesting coincidence, don’t you think? Two Kays in one day? With similar writing styles?

Anything is possible, I suppose.

I thought the Kay Turner who left a response on my blog might be a local who might know the owner or owners or some of the staff. It would stand to reason that a regular customer or someone who has a link to the owner or staff would have good experiences and more than likely get better treatment. That’s cool. That’s what friends are for. The differences in our food experiences can be accounted for by taste. That’s cool, too. We don’t all have the same tastes in food (or anything), and that’s a good thing.

But that doesn’t negate the experience M and I had.

The problem, as I see it, is that both Kays (if there are, in fact, two Kays) missed the point. In my case, the point was that the service was poor. I pointed out in that post, at least twice, that M and I were not looking for a free meal. We asked to speak with the manager thinking they might want to know that the dish was not as described, and that it might be possible the chef used the wrong broth. If it had been a case of our tastes not matching the chef’s dish, well, so be it. It happens. We don’t expect a free meal just because our tastes differ or because we tried something new and didn’t like it.

We were looking for good customer service, something that has been quickly declining over the past decade or so. We wanted some kind of acknowledgment of our experience, be it an explanation or an apology or both.

There’s a saying that the customer is always right. Having worked in the service industry, I know better. The customer is not always right. Good business practice says to suck it up anyhow so the customer won’t go off and complain to everyone they know. I don’t necessarily agree with this either, but can see why some businesses go this route.

I know there are people who complain just for the sake of complaining. It’s their thing or they’re only happy when they’re stirring up trouble. I know there are people who are less than scrupulous who complain not because they have a legitimate complaint but because they know they’re likely to be rewarded with something free.

Someone who is good at business, and has been at it for a while, should probably be able to read people well enough to tell the difference between a real complaint, and one that’s made for other reasons be it just for the sake of complaining or to try to get something for nothing other than being obnoxious.

I was offended at Kay Turner’s implication that M and are I either of those types, particularly the last. We rarely complain about meals at restaurants. When you eat at an unknown place, without benefit of reviews from people you trust or who have tastes similar to yours, then you take your chances. The same is true if you try something new. You may or may not like it.

I’ve had one other free meal from a restaurant. It was a high-end restaurant where the wait staff were courteous, friendly, and trained to be there when you need them. I had ordered a flat iron steak, not having had one before. I didn’t like it. There was nothing wrong with the steak. It was prepared beautifully, with a wonderful sauce, cooked as I had ordered it. But, as will happen, it turns out flat iron steak doesn’t suit my palate. The waitress noticed I wasn’t eating my steak. She came back with the owner/chef who asked if I was unhappy with it. I insisted that the steak was fine, but that it turned out to be something I just didn’t like. The owner/chef insisted on making me something else, even after I refused several times. He insisted, he said, because he wanted our experience in his restaurant to be a good one. A short while later I had a nicely cooked and seasoned salmon fillet, and we weren’t charged for the steak even though the chef boxed it up for us to take home so M could have it for breakfast the next morning.

THAT is good customer service. Well above and beyond my expectations, that’s for sure. I would go back to that restaurant, whereas I will never go back to The Anvil. Not willingly, at any rate.

Even the major corporations are trying to practice better customer relations. I recently saw a story on the news about how some of the big companies are monitoring Twitter for complaints so they can rectify the situation before too many people decide not to utilize a particular company because they’ve heard so many bad things about them. Twitter is good for spreading the news, good or bad, and big companies such as Kodak and Comcast are aware of that fact.

That’s the funny thing about my review. I wrote it here, at my little blog that barely gets more than about 50-60 hits a day. I could have written a review at TripAdvisor. I’m registered and have written reviews there in the past. Good reviews. I don’t really like writing bad reviews as I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt in most cases. But treat me badly, and I’ll write it.

So, yeah, Kay. I dared to complain even after getting the free meal, because it wasn’t about the meal. It wasn’t even about the staff. It was about the management, and the way we were treated. I’m glad I found that response from the management at TripAdvisor. It appears to make my point for me — that the management doesn’t care. But that’s just my view. Your view may vary.