Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby David M. Bueker » Tue Jan 29, 2008 3:41 pm

Max Hauser wrote:
When challenged on this detail, somm asserted that one must not decant Burgundy that has some age.


It was bizarre, and I don't think I've ever gotten a clear explanation.


The Secret Society of Non-Decanting Sommeliers (SSNDS) is notorious for not decanting Burgs. :wink:

Actually there is some general disagreement in the wine geek community about the wisdom of decanting Burgundy. Some think it destroys the wine's evolution, while others are much more concerned about the effect of sediment. If one is going to just pour the bottle around the table in one swoop (while carefully not letting it stand back upright) then the point is mostly moot. Of course this never happens.

Anyway I think your story is more about philosophical disgareement overcoming service to the customer's wishes than ineptitude.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Max Hauser » Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:54 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:there is some general disagreement in the wine geek community about the wisdom of decanting Burgundy.
Yes, though in my examples, the customers intimately knew the wines (superseding any dogma -- in one case, it was the winemaker) and knew that these wines were at their best, decanted. (Emptying the bottle in one fast pour into all glasses does work, but is precluded if you need to make small pours and leave part of the wine for later.)

But as you indicated, David, best practice isn't the issue. Very competent customers had made a choice, and took full responsibility for it. The somms knew this, or had reason to know it, in every case. What is the problem???

(I see variations of this behavior, in other spheres; still it's weird. These somms were paid service professionals and not in the business of contradicting customers -- two of them famous wine experts, the third personally known as such to the somm -- who, again I repeat, obviously knew what they were doing, and took responsibility for it!)

SSNDS must be the explanation.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Dave C » Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:59 pm

I hope Randy is following this thread - I feel a WineShoe coming on.

What do you think - Robin, David B or Randy

Cheers, Dave C.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:25 pm

Don't think I can top Max or Jenise's stories, but here's the best I have:

We took a bottle of Burgundy to a restaurant in Laguna, Betsy ordered a glass of Pinot Blanc with her oyster appetizer. My Burg was on table, we had stems for it. She had drunk half a glass of the Pinot Blanc when the hostess came over and topped up the glass- with my Bonne Mares. Luckily I noticed before more than an ounce or two was poured. The hostess apologized, I said "no sweat"

We passed on trying the new "rose'" , enjoyed what was left of the Burgm, overall we were pleased with our meal. When the check came I noticed that I had been charged $11.50 for a glass of Viognier instead of the $8 that the Pinot Blanc was listed at. Now, lots of time at the end
of a nice meal I probably wouldn't have said anything over a couple of dollars. But since the hostess had actually wasted some of MY wine
as well half of the btg white, I really didn't want to pay extra for that btg glass. So I called over waitress, who apologized and took bill
back. 5 minutes later she returned- and set down the exact same bill. OK, now I was irritated. I called waitress back, pointed out the bill
still was listing the $11.50 viognier (and mentioned we hadn't finished the PB, and that some of our wine had been wasted- she
wasn't there when the hostess made her mistake). This time the bill came back correctly.

Normally if I'm paying corkage I tip 20% of what the bill would have been if I had ordered a moderately priced bottle (in a place like
5'0", I'd probably add say $35 mentally to the $25 corkage, there are plenty of $60 bottles in that range there). Since the hostess just said 'oops" after her pouring mistake, and it was irritating that I had to point out a billing error twice, this time I just tipped 20% of the (finally corrected) bill.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby William K » Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:02 pm

Wow. I'm starting to see why waiters hate corkage customers, and it's not just the tip.

Not referencing your post above, Dale...just the number of folks on this thread who seem comfortable with what feels to me like an unnecessary degree of conflict during a meal. What's wrong with just putting your hand over yoru glass? If the waiter is paying any attention, they'll get it...and if they aren't, telling them to "leave the GD bottle alone" won't make any difference.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Dave C » Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:25 pm

Dale Williams wrote:
Normally if I'm paying corkage I tip 20% of what the bill would have been


20%? - here in the UK (unless I'm way off the norm) people would normally 'round up' bills rather than workout a percentage.

So if say the the bill was 82.50 UKPs - I'd leave 100

Now I realise in the US - waitress pay is low and 'tips' are very important - so a good tip is expected if service has been good.

Cheers, Dave C.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:52 pm

Dave, correct me if I am wrong but is it not a fact that most restaurants in the UK add a service charge on top of VAT? Also leave the bottom line open!!!!

I frequently hear complaints from servers here in Canada that some overseas visitors (I refrain from mentioning countries, wink, nod) are some of the worst tippers imaginable!!
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:58 pm

William K wrote:Wow. I'm starting to see why waiters hate corkage customers, and it's not just the tip.Not referencing your post above, Dale.


William, actually the only folks that I saw talking about corkage bottles were Max and myself. In Max's case, I totally agree that the customer being charged the corkage fee can decide how he wants the bottle served- a sommelier can offer an opinion, but if the customer still wants it decanted, break out the Riedel, baby. In my case I thought I was damned nice to just say no problem after hostess ruined both the glass of PB ordered and wasted a couple ounces of GC Burgundy. I didn't get irritated till the 2nd time they tried to overcharge me. And still, I tipped 20% on total bill including $25 corkage fee, so waitstaff was reasonably taken care of.

Dave, at least in NY area 18-20% is pretty much the standard (I understand some places still tend toward 15%). I usually do the math in my head, and round up to next increment. So yes, $82.50 would be $100. But usually if charged corkage I do a bit more, so waiter doesn't resent corkage customers. At places that offer us free corkage, I tend to go 30% or so. At one cheap Afghan place where waiters are friendly even if we hog table, and corkage is free, we often hit 40-50%.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Robert Reynolds » Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:05 pm

Dale Williams wrote:this time I just tipped 20% of the (finally corrected) bill.


I am a firm believer in "tip according to the level of service", and at that level of service, the tip would have been more like 10-12%. 15-17% is more the norm around here. I've been know to tip 25% for exceptional service, and on one memorably bad occasion, the waiter got a buck. But then, accountants have somewhat of a rep for being bad tippers. :roll:
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby William K » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:16 pm

Dale Williams wrote:William, actually the only folks that I saw talking about corkage bottles were Max and myself.


Good point, Dale. I guess I am working from the assumption that many of the folks on this board are corkage cutomers at one time or another.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Dave C » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:33 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Dave, correct me if I am wrong but is it not a fact that most restaurants in the UK add a service charge on top of VAT? Also leave the bottom line open!!!!

I frequently hear complaints from servers here in Canada that some overseas visitors (I refrain from mentioning countries, wink, nod) are some of the worst tippers imaginable!!


I guess the 'service' charge is becoming the norm - but truth be told I mostly eat out in 'pub food' situations rather than in restaurants.

But I don't like service charges - I think it should be up to the customer.

Cheers, Dave C.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Steve Slatcher » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:40 pm

I wouldn't say it is usual in the UK to have a service charge AND invite tips by leaving the bottom line open, but it is done. I would regard it as bad practice. Also if you tip in some chain restaurants the money goes to the restaurant who then pay the staff - it is used as a way of keeping wages down while meeting minimum wage legislation - scandalous IMO.

FWIW (as others have voiced their opinions) I believe tips and/or service charges should become a thing of the past. The management should pay their staff a decent wage and be responsible for ensuring that they give good service. Why should waiters be any different from professionals, e.g. lawers or doctors, who provide personal services?
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Tim York » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:46 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Dave, correct me if I am wrong but is it not a fact that most restaurants in the UK add a service charge on top of VAT? Also leave the bottom line open!!!!

I frequently hear complaints from servers here in Canada that some overseas visitors (I refrain from mentioning countries, wink, nod) are some of the worst tippers imaginable!!


Bob,

In Belgium and France, service charges are the norm and, in the 90s, that was the case in the UK and I doubt that it has changed. Menu and wine list prices are service and VAT inclusive. Of course, that does to deter many establishments from leaving the bottom line open on credit card slips and, as Dave says, a round-up can be in order for good service.

I recall that, when we visited California in the 90s, the waiters and waitresses frequently knew their European tourists' habits and pointedly stated when presenting the bill "service not included", usually with a nice smile.

It disconcerted me at first that menu prices included neither service nor sales tax, until I learned to scale everything up by about one-third.

What is the practice in Canada?
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:59 pm

How about the restaurant practice that says (usually on "Parties of more than X will be charged an X percent gratuity"?

Takes all the discretion away from the patron, who tips whether service warrants it or not. I have actually insisted on being seated and billed separately from a large wine group in order to reserve my right to tip according to service - I object to being held hostage, possibly receiving execrable service and having to sit by while paying money I would never have paid otherwise.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Thu Jan 31, 2008 7:37 pm

Jenise, Max, and Dale: thanks for the stories. Amazing all. I think Max wins the prize, for actually having the winemaker on hand!

if I were Jenise's friend, I'd've waved off the clueless waitron and spoken to the manager immediately. No need to belittle anyone but what she did wasn't right (and, no, just re-pouring the glasses is not sufficient).
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Bob Henrick » Thu Jan 31, 2008 10:10 pm

William K wrote:Wow. I'm starting to see why waiters hate corkage customers, and it's not just the tip.

Not referencing your post above, Dale...just the number of folks on this thread who seem comfortable with what feels to me like an unnecessary degree of conflict during a meal. What's wrong with just putting your hand over yoru glass? If the waiter is paying any attention, they'll get it...and if they aren't, telling them to "leave the GD bottle alone" won't make any difference.


Of course you are referencing Dale's post William, and I suppose there is no problem with that,. Except that you are IMO dead wrong. Having the waitress/waiter pour red wine into a partial glass of white is the last thing I am expecting, so not expecting that, I continue my conversation and don't put my hand over the glass. Also, if I did anticipate it, I probably would have gotten wine poured on the back of my hand. As for telling the waitstaff person to leave the "GD" bottle alone after having the wine unexpectedly poured, I would likely have said it loud enough for it to have penetrated the thickest of skulls. And, this doesn't even take the incorrect bill into account.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Jan 31, 2008 10:30 pm

Tim wonders.......What is the practice in Canada?

5% goods and services tax. No service charge is supposed to be added although it can be charged for parties over 15 covers in some establishments of merit.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Jenise » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:23 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:How about the restaurant practice that says (usually on "Parties of more than X will be charged an X percent gratuity"?

Takes all the discretion away from the patron


Yes, but I'm pretty sympathetic to restaurants in this circumstance as the wait staff typically works harder for these groups and they run the highest potential of getting stiffed. Particularly if it's a group of women--women are the worst tippers in the world!
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:39 pm

Jenise wrote:
Bill Spohn wrote:How about the restaurant practice that says (usually on "Parties of more than X will be charged an X percent gratuity"?

Takes all the discretion away from the patron


Yes, but I'm pretty sympathetic to restaurants in this circumstance as the wait staff typically works harder for these groups and they run the highest potential of getting stiffed. Particularly if it's a group of women--women are the worst tippers in the world!



So you are OK with getting horrid service and being forced to tip anyway, even though you may not have noticed the notice in the menu that you'd need a magnifying glass to read? Not this cowboy.

While we are on things we don't like in restaurants, what about the steak house cameraderie (Earls, The Keg up here in Canada, and a bunch of others in the US). These waiters come up to you and address you like you are a long lost buddy, "Hi, I'm Star and I'll be your waitress today. How are you doing?"

When I go to a restaurant I am paying for good food and good service. That emphatically does NOT include overly friendly wait staff - I want them to SERVE me, I don't want to adopt them. In my more curmudgeonly moods I have been known to just stare at them until they get tired of waiting for an answer to their faux sincere salutations and ask about what I would like, then reply that I'd like a menu and then to be left alone.

Another less (but still) annoying habit of these wait creatures is to embark on a seemingly endless litany of description of the parentage and treatment of every single ingredient in a special they are telling you about, without being asked to do so. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure it's mother was contented, but it is just a bloody steak-frites fer Crisake....
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby wrcstl » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:50 pm

Really bad or stupid service deserves some action, less tip or more likely talking to management. When I find poor service I tend to tip and then never come back. There are too many other restaurants around that offer better service and would be happy with my business. I usually pass my poor experiences on so hopefully others learn from my experience. The problem with stiffing the wait staff is that many times it is not their fault. Have to admit the overpours would be a problem and I would talk to management for resolution or never go back.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby JC (NC) » Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:19 pm

The one good thing about the waitperson introducing themselves to you is if they disappear you can catch the attention of another waitperson and say "I would like to order dessert now" or "I'm ready for a refill on my coffee (or ready for the check)--could you locate Cindy/Keith/whomever for me?" It's a little awkward to ask for the young guy with the spiky hairdo or the middleaged plump woman with the hair in a bun.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby Jenise » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:21 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:So you are OK with getting horrid service and being forced to tip anyway, even though you may not have noticed the notice in the menu that you'd need a magnifying glass to read? Not this cowboy.


In the rare situation where "horrid service" occurs, that I pay 15 or 20% that I wouldn't otherwise is regrettable. But I've been in so many group situations where not even an adequate tip, let alone an appropriate one, was left, that I understand why restaurants felt the need to develop and institute the service charge policy. Groups like the Fanatic dinner group are less the norm than the gang of cousins, say, who eat out once or twice a year on someone's birthday and consider a 10% tip--to the penny--good enough, and who plonk their money on the table and run out the door before anyone can remind them that it's not enough and oh, by the way, they forgot to cover their share of the appetizer and the sales tax. I've been stuck holding the bag in that situation a number of times--and though I always covered the shortfall, however unhappily, at least I did. Many wouldn't. As for reading the fine print, in the U.S. you can pretty much expect it with a party of six or more.

While we are on things we don't like in restaurants, what about the steak house cameraderie (Earls, The Keg up here in Canada, and a bunch of others in the US). These waiters come up to you and address you like you are a long lost buddy, "Hi, I'm Star and I'll be your waitress today. How are you doing?"


Hate it.

Another less (but still) annoying habit of these wait creatures is to embark on a seemingly endless litany of description of the parentage and treatment of every single ingredient....


Agreed, very annoying. But again, less the rule than the exception in my experience.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby JC (NC) » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:00 pm

I agree with Jenise about the set gratuity for large groups. It's rare that the service is really poor and too many times there will be someone in the group who doesn't put in their full share, let alone a decent tip.

I arranged a group dinner reservation in Carmel one time during a professional conference and I asked people to bring cash because the restaurant wouldn't be able to provide separate checks. For ten people we ended up collecting about $700 in cash to cover the meals, drinks, tax and tip. (Some did not participate in the two bottles of wine or skipped dessert so paid less than others.) Most of us would not want a $700 tab on our credit cards,especially while out-of-town where we would have hotel bill and other meals charged, or to be walking around with over $600 cash on our person if we did put it on a credit card and were reimbursed by the others in the party. Bringing cash worked out quite well for us. Service was very good that evening and the tip was deserved.
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Re: Can you top this? Really Inept Wine Service!

Postby wrcstl » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:37 pm

Jenise wrote:In the rare situation where "horrid service" occurs, that I pay 15 or 20% that I wouldn't otherwise is regrettable. But I've been in so many group situations where not even an adequate tip, let alone an appropriate one, was left, that I understand why restaurants felt the need to develop and institute the service charge policy.


It is not my favorite form of intertainment but many times we find ourselves with a group of 6-10 people at a restaurant, usually couples, always with corkage. The bill comes, someone adds the tip (15+%-20%), you divide by the number of people and everyone pays, regardless if you had a dessert or an appetizer. This is very easy and the only one who complains is usually my wife since she will many times have a small plate for the entree as many main courses in the midwest are huge. Guess we need the extra fat to combat severe winters. You now have me on the side of the wait staff if you try to divide the bill up by what each person ate. I do not like automatic tips for large groups but it happens at about 50% of the restaurants. If it is really insufficient service I just vote with my feet; don't go back; too many other choices.

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