Embarrassing dads: the case for the defence

Am I odd? Or simply sticking up for a fair deal? Neither I, nor my family, can quite decide

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The Independent Online

Here we are, deep into the school holidays, and all over the land in medium-priced restaurants, families like mine are being embarrassed by people like me. Whereas my wife and sons are prepared to tolerate without complaint inordinately long waits between courses, I take a more militant attitude. The result, in the case of outstanding delays, is that when I call the manager over and renegotiate the bill, they stare uneasily into their laps wishing I wasn’t.

Example (from last week, in one of a chain of quasi-Italian eateries). We were six, it was before 7pm, the place moderately busy, and quite a wait before the order was taken. At that stage, no matter. Eventually, starters arrived, and were eaten. Long wait. Plates cleared. Even longer wait.

Few meals were emerging from the kitchens, and waitresses seemed to be bringing only drinks to the would-be diners. On it went, and still no food. The five-year-old grandson fell asleep. So, I had a chat with the powers that be, pointing out the sleeping child, and that we’d been there more than an hour. I said we had a voucher for 25 per cent off, and were now expecting that discount to be doubled. The manager apologised profusely, and said 50 per cent off was the least she could do. Food turned up, we ate, paid the promised half-bill, and left.

My wife said, as she’s said many times before, that she thought it wrong to complain. “After all,” she added, “the staff were doing their best.” Indeed they were, which was why we left a very generous cash tip. My take was this: the restaurant chain, by employing too few cooks and not enough waiting staff (the manageress admitted as much), were making enhanced profit because diners were prepared to suffer the prolonged longueurs. All I did was request compensation for our “contribution”, i.e. time. My wife says she sees the logic, but would prefer I didn’t haggle.

There are, of course, a few golden rules to getting satisfaction (or on-the-spot compo): never be annoyed, never swear or raise the voice, and, in your pitch to the manager (not the waiter), express admiration for the staff’s efforts to cover the shortcomings but sadness at both a special night out not being what you had hoped, and how the chain has never let you down before.

And it helps to scatter your remarks with references to trade jargon such as “covers”, and “plated meals” so it sounds like you know what you’re talking about. Finally, on no account sound off about the experience on social media. It won’t get you a price-cut, and, however carefully you compose, the chances are the posting will make you look like a pompous berk.

On the other hand, interjects my wife, an online pipsqueak would at least spare her the discomfort of me in haggle mode. Am I odd? Or simply sticking up for a fair deal? Neither I, nor my family, can quite decide.