Returning from Midland Michigan to Chicago and home today, American Texan and I stopped for lunch at IHOP in Benton Harbor, just north of the Indiana/Michigan border.
We were seated without delay in a restaurant just over its lunch rush. People were leaving and about half the booths were unoccupied.
We had been sitting about 5 minutes before a friendly member of the staff, Sharon, asked if we’d been helped yet. She herself was not assigned our section, but she promptly found our waitress and our drink orders were taken.
Our waitress did not have a name tag and did not introduce herself, so her identity remains a mystery. But her service was shoddy and lacking of warmth or enthusiasm. So far as we could tell by watching the rest of the restaurant, we were her only table, and yet the time between her visits was long. She did not bring us refills of our over-priced “Unlimited Refill” iced tea. In fact, by the time we’d finished our drinks, she’d not visited us in around 5 minutes or even come out of the kitchen area where there was an engaging conversation taking place between all the staff. We did not see her again that service.
We’d both finished what we could of our dishes and our drinks had been empty for some time. Our car was stocked with plenty of beverages for the remainder of the trip and so we were not overly concerned about getting refills. I’m not generally a confrontational kind of person, and so it was only after sitting for several more minutes, obviously finished, that I went up to another member of the staff and asked to speak with a manager.
Bashir (sp?), the friendly and accommodating manager, was at our table shortly and after we explained the details of our service, he asked if we required anything else and gave us our check with a significant discount applied at the register.
The waitress was too busy talking with the other staff to bother herself about us.
I still tipped, but only 10%. Which leads me to a rant:
What is it with people being expected to tip 20% or more on ever-increasing meal costs? If you show up with a large family or a “party” as groups of people above some arbitrary size are called, you are shackled with an automatic “gratuity”. And if you don’t tip, or tip less than 20%, you’re the boor.
I’m already paying $9 for a wad of eggs and bacon I would be ashamed to serve to my friends. Maybe I’m the fool for eating there. There are precious few places I feel I actually receive my monies’ worth eating at nowadays. Zocalo is one of them. Both American Texan and I agree this is one of our favorite places to eat, with creative dishes, good flavor, and an acceptable price. Applebees and TGI Friday and all the other yuppy-level establishments out there seem to have been able to pull the wool over our eyes as far as quality goes, with obviously prepackaged, frozen, and nuked fresh to your table being the name of the game for their entrees. And you’re taking your life into your own hands eating at the greasy spoons, with kitchen conditions often reaching appalling levels.
The question then is obvious: why do I go?
Not sure. I’m just not sure.