A magical unicorn writes:
Last night, my boyfriend and I went to Macaroni Grill for dinner and, in the course of the evening, experienced the worst service either one of us had ever witnessed. My boyfriend used to wait tables, and as a result is usu ally a very lenient and understanding customer. Unfortunately, as a former waiter he is also quick to recognize when the server has done something wrong. In this case, something went wrong at literally every point of interaction between ourselves and our waiter; the service was so bad as to become the single point of conversation for almost the duration of our dinner. I apologize for the length of this comment, but I feel that it is necessary to get across the consistent nature of the terrible service.
We arrived and were shown to our table. No complaints there. We look over the menu, decide what we want to get, look over the menu some more, and discuss how my boyfriend has only been to Macaroni Grill one other time in his life (in Phoenix, Arizona; oddly enough, the service was memorably sub-par there as well, although it pales in comparison to this). After about 10-15 minutes, we realize that no waiter has come to our table, and that no one has even gotten us water. My boyfriend, thinking that maybe our waiter just doesn’t know that we’re there, goes up to speak with the host. He sits back down. Another 5 minutes pass.
And another 10 minutes will pass before you read everything after the jump.
A waiter shows up, introduces herself (I forget her name) and informs us that Sam will be our waiter for the evening and will be there shortly. There was never any explanation of why Sam wasn’t there from the beginning, or why no one has come to our table yet. Anonymous Waiter then proceeds to pour us a dish of olive oil and crack some pepper into it. She asks if she can get us some drinks, and we inform her that (unsurprisingly after 20 minutes) we are ready to order. We tell her we would like a liter of sangria, and that we’ll be splitting both the chicken Florentine salad with olives on the side (something I’ve ordered before with success), and the vodka rustica pasta. We also tell her that we’d like some water. Her manner is decidedly irritated, but we forgive her that since she’s probably annoyed at having to wait a table for which she won’t be receiving a tip. She leaves.
I go to the bathroom. While I’m gone, Sam arrives and introduces herself to my boyfriend (without explaining why no one came to our table for such a long time, or why we ended up ordering with Anonymous Waiter). She brings us foccacia, and asks if there’s anything we’d like. My boyfriend tells her we could use some water. She says sure. She asks if there’s anything else, and my boyfriend tells her “well, we already ordered
“She cuts him off, “Oh, I already got your order. The salad and the sangria. Right.” She leaves. I return, and my boyfriend and I discuss our day, having now shifted into the “post-ordering, pre-eating” part of the meal. We also discuss our worry that perhaps we won’t get our vodka rustica, as she didn’t mention it as part of our order.
She brings the sangria and our waters. She asks if we need anything else, to which we answer in the negative. She then asks, “How’s your day going so far?” We both say good, and appreciate the friendly gesture, but don’t engage her in further conversation since we were already in the midst of our own conversation when she came by the table. “Good?” she asks, we nod, and she stands at the table expectantly for a bit. Probably she thought we would ask how her day was going; probably, earlier in the meal, or after less-frustrating service, we would’ve. But we did not; we just smiled politely. She leaves.
Time passes. My water glass is only 1/3 full, and Sam passes our table with the water to refill the booth behind my boyfriend. She does not refill my water.
After a bit longer (not longer than I would normally expect to wait for food at a restaurant) Sam returns with our vodka rustica, plated separately. She says, “here you go,” and leaves. We’re a bit confused about the location of the salad at this point, but didn’t have the chance to process its absence in the brief period that Sam was with us. I point out that maybe she couldn’t carry both simultaneously and is returning with the other momentarily. This does not happen.
When our entrees are a little more than halfway through, Sam stops by to see how everything is. We ask about the salad. “Salad? What salad did you two order?” I respond by saying, “chicken Florentine with olives on the side.” She repeats this back to me, and walks off. Significantly, she does not explain what could’ve happened to the salad, why it wasn’t brought out earlier, etc. She returns with a chicken Florentine salad plated separately, and leaves again, after apologizing. We also order more bread. About two seconds later, I realize that there is no side of olives. Which is ominous. My boyfriend (who detests olives with a passion) notices that the salad has olives in it. We flag down Sam.
“I’m sorry, but this has olives in it,” I say, pointing at the salad. She looks at me blankly. “And we ordered it with olives on the side,” I prompt her. “You did?” she asks, with apparently no recollection of the fact that she repeated this very same order to me less than 5 minutes ago. At this point, my boyfriend and I are getting full, so we ask that she just take the salad off the check. She leaves with the salads.
About 2 minutes later the manager comes over. He apologizes for “our little chicken Florentine mixup that we had there” and asks if there’s anything we need. His attitude implies that we asked to see the manager, or that we have been problem customers in some way
which we certainly hadn’t been, at least for a reasonably competent waiter. We ask for more bread, since we clearly won’t be getting it from Sam, and he responds as though we’re getting something that doesn’t already come with the meal. He assures us that the salad we didn’t eat will be taken off our check. At no point did he explain how the “mixup” occurred, offer to get us a new salad on the house, or offer anything else.
Sam brings us more bread. My water glass is empty at this point, but she apparently does not notice. At some subsequent point in this course of events, Sam again walks past our table with the water
to refill the booth behind my boyfriend. My water remains empty.
The check comes. The chicken Florentine salad is listed as a line item and the total comes to $38-something. We fail to see the part UNDER where it says “TOTAL: $38.XX”, which is also underneath the Mastercard logo on the credit card sleeve and thus tot ally obscured. On this section, the salad is listed as a “comp” and there is a new total listed of $29-something. Lacking both x-ray vision and the instinct to check for a second total underneath the part of the bill where the “total” is listed, we c all Sam back over and inform her that the chicken Florentine salad was still on our bill. She points out the real total (something she should’ve done initially) and my boyfriend gives her his credit card.
She comes back with the check, and gives an excessively long explanation of how to complete the transaction. “Just put your signature here and leave the top merchant copy with me. This is your receipt
” etc., as though my boyfriend has neither eaten in a restaurant nor used a credit card before. He takes the check from her and sets it on the table, as we still have a good 1/3 of our sangria left, and some bread.
About two minutes later, certainly less time than she was gone with the check initially, she comes back with my boyfriend’s credit card, saying she forgot to give it back. My boyfriend’s surprise at this, coupled with the fact that the check is sitting exactly where she left it last, should have indicated to her that he hadn’t actu ally signed yet. But it didn’t, and so she lunged for the check, asking if it was ready. My boyfriend informed her that it wasn’t.
After we’d finished the sangria and entertained ourselves by head-shakingly recounting the litany of errors that made up Sam’s attempt to wait our table, we left a one dollar tip and departed. As people who routinely tip 20% for good service and usu ally 15% for the mundanely bad, it takes a lot to shake our habitual generosity toward waitstaff. This was one instance where we simply couldn’t feel justified in leaving anything more.
Surely this isn’t the worst wait experience in the world. Who will top it?