My wife and I went to a restaurant recently and experienced something that I think is all too common, at least in Toronto. If you are not familiar with the expression from the title, a ‘bait and switch’ is when you hook someone’s interest with something that is very enticing, and then switch it to something of lesser interest or value once the potential customer has already committed. Here is our story of mediocre customer service:
We knew this restaurant in our area and had been there a couple times before. It is a mid-to-high range restaurant that serves great seafood. When we checked online their website was advertising a ‘happy hour’ menu with ‘buck a shuck’ oysters and cheaper draft beer. We were ‘hooked’ and visited the place.
When we sat down we asked about the happy hour menu and the waitress confirmed the oyster special – but not the beer one. I asked about the cheaper draft special and she said that they are ‘not doing that right now’ and that ‘probably next week’ they will start that.
Interesting that a company can advertise online a special but not honor it when guests arrive! Bait and switch tactic! I was not impressed…
We ordered beer anyway and had a dozen oysters, and a couple more items that we were sharing. Later we ordered another beer each and another round of oysters. My wife and I decided that to finish off we would split an order of fish and chips. The menu clearly states an order of fish and chips is $14, but if you want 2 pieces, it’s $19. We only wanted a single order to share so I told the waitress we’d like an order of fish and chips.
Guess what came to our table? A lovely order with two pieces of fish on it. I soured. I told my wife that I’m sure they will charge us for the upgrade that I did not ask for, and I was not happy. A server must clarify if you want the second piece of fish, even if there are two people sharing food, in my opinion. The server should not be allowed to think for me or guess what is best. I specifically asked for ‘an order’ of fish and chips.
Anyway, time to go. I had had enough of this place for now. It’s too bad really because there was a male server who sometimes helped us and he seemed really good, and I wondered if he would have made the same automatic upgrade of our dish as she did. My guess is no.
When the bill came I asked my wife to check it to see if we were charged the extra $5 and sure enough – we were! But just as I sat there thinking about if and how I would deal with this extra charge, my wife said “but they forgot to charge us for the second round of oysters!” I smiled and knew that the restaurant gods were on my side that day! Normally I am happy to let a server know if they have missed something, but today that was not going to happen.
I paid for the bill, and we left, and on the way home I laughed and smiled so much! My sour mood was replaced with a feeling of justice and equality in the world. The waitress had charged us an extra $5, but missed $12, so we were up $7! It may have been a small victory, but it was a sweet one for me.
The lesson for servers out there is to understand if you are going to increase the price of anything on any order, clarify first that the customer is okay with it.
The lesson I learned actually is something I already knew, which is that I can’t take anything for granted and must be clear to the staff of what I’m ordering, especially in a case where an item has two choices, like a small and a large portion. I shouldn’t have assumed that the server would know ‘an order’ does not mean ‘feel free to upgrade our order without my permission just because there are two of us here and you want to make an extra $5.’