Thursday, September 01, 2005

Go Phyllis Richman!!!!

So the Washington Post has two articles on their food section. One from a disgruntled restaurateur about the rudeness of customers (complete with a guide on n how to show restaurants respect) and One (THANK GOD) from Phyllis Richman. As a frequent diner I really take exception to the characterizations Mr. David Hagedorn makes about diners. As if these crazy unreasonable folks speak for me and all the diners of DC. Judging by what I see from the Food Blogs, the diners are a fairly considerate and appreciative group. I know there are the crazies out of the world but there are crazy restaurateurs in the world. Complaining about people stealing or expecting freebies is focusing on such a tiny swath of diners. How often does that happen? Because most diners are fairly gracious as are most restaurant staff. Phyllis rocks the house as show goes through each of David Hagedorn's complaints. The two things I will focus on are his water complaint and the complaint about being hit up for silent auction donations. The first is his complaint about people being offended when as server asks: Would you like sparkling, still, or ice water." I think that's a crappy argument because if the server at Belga cafe gave me THAT choice (as the wonderful servers did at Sonoma and Corduroy), I would never complain and I don't. While I would never call that a scam (more like an honest mistake), it's a shitty feeling to have seven dollars added to your bill. But as the esteemed Ms. Richman so eloquently says, "Let's address that bottled water scam. Why do so many waiters ask whether you want "sparkling or still water" . . . as if tap water didn't exist? Selling water is clearly the point of the question. After all, the waiter doesn't ask what kind of bread you want, or how you prefer your napkin folded, or even whether you want your salad before or after the entree." Well said Phyllis.

The second is the "compensation for patronage" issue. I am on the silent auction committee for three organizations' fundraisers and hit restaurants up for donations all the time. And the thing is, I don't feel entitled for a donation. It's a DONATION. Something someone gives of their own free will. If they can't, no problem. When we bring up that we are a regular diner, it's because we have a lot of enthusiasm for your food and want to share it with others. We know that a gift certificate from you would be a hot seller because of our own experiences there. This isn't extortion, it's admiration.


David Hagedorn said...

Whatever you may think of my opinion, it had my name, David Hagedorn, attached to it, "J" and "T."

You mischaracterized my work, misunderstood the piece, and missed the point. I wrote about the alarming growth of poor behavior and suspicion toward restaurants amongst the dining public. Thank-you for demonstrating that behavior so nicely.

You chose to characterize an adult discussion between two professional people who respect what each other has to say as a battle.

You proved my point that guests have lowered the standard of good manners they exercise in restaurants when you refer to them as a "fairly considerate and appreciative group" and "fairly gracious" as if that were good enough. Whereas civilized people used to be considerate, appreciative, and gracious, it is now allowed for them to be "fairly" so. Somewhat nice. A little gracious.

Then, I was unreasonable to complain about people who stole or constantly expected freebies, because they represent such a "small swath" of diners. How large does the "swath" have to be ("swaths" are wide, by the way)before I am allowed to take exception to theft? What expertise do you have to contradict my accurate assessment of the size of this problem? What research did you do? How many restaurateurs did you ask about this issue?

If you think the "swath" of people expecting freebies is small, go online any Wednesday and see the litany of people who expect their meals to be comped because a busser dropped a glass of water.

Then you chose to describe my scrupulous sensitivity to the mineral water issue as proof of my venal nature. Of the many adjectives that could accurately describe my shortcomings, venal does not count amongst them. I suggest that people not bandy about a word like "venal" so casually, especially people whose names are letters of the alphabet. Perhaps we have differing understandings about the meaning of that word. Maybe "T" (so close to "V") should look it up in the dictionary, stopping along the way to look up the word "libelous."

Do you think having a blog gives you the right to distort and defame so carelessly?

And enough of this water business. The servers asks a question; the guest adds their drama, meaning, and interpretation to that question. By all means, drink tap water. In fact, drink a lot of it. Yeesh.

You completely misunderstood my comments on donations. Whereas you suggest that reminding me that you are a regular customer when you ask for a donation is an expression of your great admiration for me, any thinking person would understand the subtext of that juxtaposition.

You say I "cannot handle human nature and don't see that most folks are open and accepting." On the contrary, I understand human nature quite well and therefore chose not to have to handle it anymore. And you have once again proved one of the points I made in my story: folks are constantly open to accepting. It was their "closedness" to "refusal" I took issue with.

Then, you tell me to seek therapy. I sought therapy already. It appeared in Wednesday's paper.

You end by saying that "(you) for one are glad (I) left the restaurant business" to make room for others who "value their customers." How touching. Thanks to your having so beautifully displayed the behaviors I sought to expose in my article, I for two am glad I left the business. I will truly miss valuing all that admiration you showed for me with your hand out.

As thousands of my actual guests would concur (people with whole names), I valued them greatly and expressed that sentiment with abundant generosity and graciousness.I valued those who valued me. I gave to people who expected nothing. I donated to thousands who asked and few who demanded. I extended that generosity to our entire community. You may consider doing some research about your subject before your next ad hominem attack.

I tried to before I wrote this, but GOOGLE came up with nothing under "J" and "T."

Methinks that "J" and "T" doth protest too much.

Jon said...

So now that everyone has poo-pooed on each other, let's get down to the nitty gritty and have this debate.

I think J and T -- and really, who cares what their names are and that they aren't on the blog -- make some very valid points. But Mr. Hagedorn, you also make some really good points. J and T HAVE done their reasearch for this post by simply being regular diners. However, I've been witness to unbelievable and unacceptable behavior by GUESTS in restaurants, and I agree with much of what Hagedron has said.

And lastly, as for "libelous" and "defamation" -- I don't think so.

David said...

Good point, Jon. The only term I considered defamatory was "venal." I felt strongly about it and still do, as it speaks to one's honesty and honor. There was an apology and I appreciate that. Many others would not have fessed up and I have tremendous respect for people who take ownership of their mistakes and rectify them.

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