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Restaurant Reservations Should Require A Credit Card And A Contract


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#51 Pat

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:02 PM

It seems to me that unlike some of the examples used here, a reservation that is ignored/skipped/etc. is the only one that causes the business to lose money, not the consumer.

if I buy an opera ticket and don't use it, they are still paid.

If I buy an airline ticket and don't use it, heck, the airline makes more money (since they use fractionally less fuel, or don't need to issue a voucher to someone, or provide me with my precious Coke Zero).

But a restaurant loses the opportunity for me to spend money. It costs me nothing to skip it, and they lose out on potential revenue (especially if they are holding a table for someone who cannot be bothered to call).

So, IMHO: yes, reservations should be confirmed. There should be a penalty for no-showing, but as long as you call ahead, they should give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, there are potential walk-ins.

And if you don't know if you can make it, you should realize you're taking the risk.

That's just me.

This is actually the reason I don't often buy advance tickets for things. After getting burned for Nats tickets I bought early in the 2005 season and couldn't use because I was out of town for almost a month near the end of the season, missing two games, I didn't buy advance seats again until a moment of weakness last month. I'm going to be furious with myself if I can't use some of the tickets. I am really incompetent at unloading extra tickets and have eaten the cost enough times that I shy away from buying advance tickets for anything. I hate wasting money.

I often pay extra for hotels and airlines rather than take the super great deal that I can't change or get my money back from if my plans change.

Perhaps this is just my own peculiar psychology, but making restaurants more like these other businesses will keep me away more. I'll just gamble on walking in and seeing if I can get a seat in a reasonable time. (Again, I understand these arrangements for special occasions and events, and I will sometimes take a leap and get hotel/plane/concert tickets to see a band play in a another city. It's a gamble, though.)

#52 Mrs. B

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:03 PM

I'm going to re-ask my question. If I give my credit card number and am aware that I may be (fairly) penalized if I'm a no-show, why the contract too?

I understand if it's for a private room or even a group of 6 or more but the contract BS to get a 4 top at Del Posto really started the whole experience off on a bad note. The actual dining was quite lovely, especially the service aspect.

#53 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:13 PM

Oh, damn, I was trying to get caught up on this thread and we're having a fire alarm.
I shit you not!!!
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#54 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:10 PM

I completely agree that the whole contract process, as it stands, is a pain in the ass and flawed. Securing reservations would only have the potential to work in restaurants like Next, because the demand is so high that people will go through the process. I think this is certainly one of the best arguments against restaurants in mass/or partial mass, moving to contracts. Its simply to laborious.

We do have a tasting menu, as well as (a now 4 course) prix fixe menu (at least for the foreseable future). We've never charged extra for the table that only wants 1,2,or 3 courses. If someone wants a 4 course vegetarian menu instead of the 6 course of course we accomodate in as well we charge less than what the normal prix fixe option would be.
In answer to Heather's question of what would you do if her child was sick and she didn't come, assuming your reservation was for 2 and thats the excuse you gave us, we wouldn't charge. If you're reservation was a table of 8 and everyone was cancelling because your child was sick, much harder pill to swallow.....

I'm not really trying to be argumentative, or come across as self righteous that we do know wrong and we're the perfect restaurant, but this is a pretty intriguing topic for me, so let me try and articulate my question another way....

If signing a document meant you would get a better experience at our restaurant would you be as opposed to it, and if so why?

The thing is I think we COULD give a better experience if we didn't have as many "no shows". I whole heartedly agree with EricandBlueBoy's point that the process is way to laborious and is definitely a legitimate reason not to want to go down that road. Taking it as a personal affront that someone is doubting your character?.?.?.?....
I would certainly expect a response from some people to the extent of but the restaurant wont do anything to make my experience better they're just going to fine me if I'm late. In some cases that's probably true, but wouldn't it give the restaurants in the "hospitality industry" a better opportunity to separate themselves from those that are in "industrial provision"?

Part 2 of the answer to Heather's question goes like this. The reason why you're calling to cancel isn't going to affect our decision to not charge you, because we inherently want to believe that people are going to do the right thing. We did have a group cancel for our event last night (no contract, so I guess we brought this upon ourselves). We could have opened less expensive wine to manage the cost, but thats not fair to everyone else that did show up like they were supposed to. We bit the bullet and I'm fine doing that, but how many times can you expect someone to bite the bullet before they don't want to play anymore? Everyone I talked to last night had a really good time. Everyone I talked to last week had a really good time, with 1 constructive criticism that made last nights event even better. booklingbabe's comment was "stuff happens. its part of the business" absolutely, and I agree with that. But if there's a way to improve the process shouldn't we consider it? People complain about waiting for a table, they complain about confirmations, the process doesn't work. (or alternatively people just want to complain and if we fix this they'll merely switch to complaining about something els) Not everyone is part of the problem, but the people that no show for their reservation on Saturday night, are part of my problem, but they're part of your problem as well.....
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#55 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:15 PM

Stephanie, in response to you're query about the cc# AND the contract. It's my understanding that without the contract just having somebody's cc info is worthless.
To summarize another way if a restaurant is asking for cc info they're basically trying to filter if you're serious, but really have no intention of charging you if you don't show up. If they ask for a contract then they actually want to be in a position where they could charge you for not showing up if they wanted to.

Please keep in mind I'm a chef not a lawyer, but thats the gist of the understanding I have.
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#56 Mrs. B

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:26 PM

Thanks Eric.
Perhaps if the contract process were streamlined as suggested above?
Would it be legally binding (I know you are not a lawyer but I bet there's one hanging around here somewhere) to agree to be charged via something on the restaurant's website or via e-mail perhaps? Also confirmation via e-mail or text might work as well?
I know that lots of legally binding stuff is done all via e-mail and adobe in my banking profession.
If I recall correctly, we were travelling at the time of the Del Posto contract signing and access to both a printer and fax machine was limited making it all the more irritating.

#57 dcs

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:42 PM

Thanks Eric.
Perhaps if the contract process were streamlined as suggested above?
Would it be legally binding (I know you are not a lawyer but I bet there's one hanging around here somewhere) to agree to be charged via something on the restaurant's website or via e-mail perhaps? Also confirmation via e-mail or text might work as well?
I know that lots of legally binding stuff is done all via e-mail and adobe in my banking profession.
If I recall correctly, we were travelling at the time of the Del Posto contract signing and access to both a printer and fax machine was limited making it all the more irritating.


I think this could easliy be built into Open Table reservations if the terms were short and in plain language. Click the "I Accept" button and you agree to the terms. (I am not necessarily advocating this, btw.)

Folks have no problem signing a contract when booking a private room at a restaurant. This is just a guess, but I think if it is a party of 12 or more, most folks would not object to the contract. There is something about that under-12 number that rankles some.

#58 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:44 PM

There's nothing special about the restaurant industry. If hotels can charge you for not showing via the internet, then I see no reason why a restaurant couldn't do the same.

#59 ktmoomau

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:49 PM

I wonder if less upscale, more neighborhood/casual restaurants in general would prefer more walk ins and fewer overall reservations v. no shows and more reservations. In terms of planning and ordering. I think opentable lead a lot of people to make reservations for even small, casual dinners, over just walking in sans reservation like they would have done previously.

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#60 mdt

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:57 PM

I think this could easliy be built into Open Table reservations if the terms were short and in plain language. Click the "I Accept" button and you agree to the terms. (I am not necessarily advocating this, btw.)

Folks have no problem signing a contract when booking a private room at a restaurant. This is just a guess, but I think if it is a party of 12 or more, most folks would not object to the contract. There is something about that under-12 number that rankles some.


This can already be done via Open Table. I am pretty sure that when I made a reservation at a particular restaurant (I forget which, Craigie on Main?) they asked for my info.

Why is this so hard for people to stomach in the hospitality industry when it is done for hotel rooms all the time? They show you the cancellation policy and you either agree and continue or disagree and go somewhere else. Seems like a good situation and the folks that don't want to be bothered with a potential loss can be try their luck as walk-ins.

One thing this thread has done is remind me how long it has been since I have been to CityZen...

#61 Keithstg

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 04:22 PM

Why is this so hard for people to stomach in the hospitality industry when it is done for hotel rooms all the time? They show you the cancellation policy and you either agree and continue or disagree and go somewhere else. Seems like a good situation and the folks that don't want to be bothered with a potential loss can be try their luck as walk-ins.

One thing this thread has done is remind me how long it has been since I have been to CityZen...

Completely agree. On both counts.

As someone obsessed with punctuality, and who regularly stresses out over being ten-fifteen minutes late to ANYTHING - I can't imagine no-showing to a restaurant, as I'm sure is the case with 99% of the folks on this board. I have no issue signing a contract if necessary, or providing my credit card number to a restaurant while making a reservation. In fact, having done this with a few restaurants within the past year, I can say it had absolutely no effect on either my enjoyment of the meal or perception of the restaurant. Maybe I'm not sufficiently emo, but I just don't understand how a restaurant taking the same precautions as virtually any other industry can be perceived as a slight.

#62 porcupine

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 05:36 PM

How about this: instead of a contract require a deposit, like some hotels do. Fifty bucks, applied to the cost of the meal, refundable only if cancellation received so many hours/days prior.

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#63 jiveturk21

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 06:31 PM

I go play golf today and I miss all of this discussion, so I am a bit behind and don't have the time to read all of the comments.

I make a lot of reservations, as many people on this board probably do. I probably cancel 5% of my reservations, mostly within 48 hours of my reservation because something has come up that I cannot really control (I have to go out of town for work, etc.). On the rare occassion, maybe 1% of the time, I will cancel within a few hours of my reservation, again, always for a very legit reason (I am on my death bed at home, etc.). I have been a no show once in my life, it was at Me Jana, I totally fucked up and spaced on that one, my fault. If they wanted to charge me for that, that would be fine, because it was my mistake.

Overall, I don't care if a restaurant takes credit cards or makes me sign a contract because, imagine this, IT IS THEIR CHOICE! They will likely get a hell of a lot less customers, but if they do it, fine with me, it is up to me on whether their conditions are acceptable to me or not. Some restaurants take reservations, some don't take them at all, some take reservations for part of the restaurant or only for certain times or only for certain party sizes. Other restaurants take your credit card number or make you sign a contract, cool with me, sometimes I will take that risk (I really want to go to this place and I can't imagine what we keep me from making my reservation), other times it is not acceptable to me and I don't make the reservation.

Listen, I think that everyone's opinion here is valid, I understand this from every single angle. That is why I will always firmly believe that each restaurant should decide, on their own, how they want to handle it (an industry standard would be miserable, just think about the airlines, it is a standard, but everyone hates the airlines). In my mind, this is the only way that all of the consumers will be happy because they are able to make their own decision based on the guidelines laid out before them by the restaurants and restaurants will be happy because they can make their own decision on how to handle their business.

#64 darkstar965

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:22 PM

Stephanie, in response to you're query about the cc# AND the contract. It's my understanding that without the contract just having somebody's cc info is worthless.


There's nothing special about the restaurant industry. If hotels can charge you for not showing via the internet, then I see no reason why a restaurant couldn't do the same.


Had the same reaction to the necessity of a signed contract as Ericandblueboy. Below a certain amount, we aren't required to sign a credit card receipt at grocery stores, coffee shops and other food service. We enter credit card info into websites/telephones without any signature not only for hotels but for virtually anything bought online or by phone. I wouldn't think it necessary to get a signed contract if one can check a box agreeing to terms online with the restaurant, opentable or whatever. Opentable does allow for credit card provision now for restaurants who opt for it. And paying for stuff by phone doesn't even include checking a terms box. I'm wondering if part of the problem with driving change on this is legacy or believing it can't be done when it can?

Why can't this be simpler and better? Take the card info, set a reasonable cancellation lead time policy, enforce it loosely/trustingly as most restaurants do anyway and charge the $50 (or more) for the relatively rare and boorish no-shows. No doubt some customers would be put off even being asked for a credit card but, then again, some are put off by most anything. If the restaurant just takes the number and expiry date, no faxing or signatures and explains well the rationale to any who ask, maybe it'd be okay and the good/popular restaurants would remain good and popular (and a bit more profitable and able to do more as Eric wrote about).

#65 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:53 PM

I have to admit I was rather confused the last time I was at a grocery store and they told me I didn't have to sign anything. I'll bring it up to my lawyer next time I talk to him. Or are there any out there following this thread that would like to offer some complimentary advice. I don't mind waiting for it. :-)
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#66 darkstar965

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:14 PM

Getting an expert's input would be helpful here. In full disclosure, that expert isn't me. But, while we're waiting, was just planning an upcoming brkfst with friends at Domku in Petworth (one of those mid-range places) and here's the statement from their website for the larger parties:

**We require a credit card to hold reservations of 6 or more. A no show, significant head count change without notice, or last minute cancellation will result in a $50 charge to the card.


Is it a bluff? Or, do they think they can actually follow through with said charge and possibly do at times? I think it's the latter and, if I'm right, CityZen and any other spot could do the same for whatever sized party. No paper. No signature. Seems pretty fair, easy and consistent with rest-of-world to me but know some would protest so some risk for the restaurant.

#67 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:20 PM

I have to admit I was rather confused the last time I was at a grocery store and they told me I didn't have to sign anything. I'll bring it up to my lawyer next time I talk to him. Or are there any out there following this thread that would like to offer some complimentary advice. I don't mind waiting for it. :-)


Chances are your lawyer doesn't know the answer. I'm a lawyer and I don't know the answer. You can always ask your lawyer, your lawyer is likely to respond, I don't know, do you want to pay me to find the answer? If you really want to know without paying, try googling.

#68 deangold

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 07:10 AM

The entity that makes the final decision, in practice, is the credit card company. When you dispute a charge, the credit card company issues a charge back notice and the business can submit evidence that the charge was valid, but the only piece of evidence that seems to matter is the signature. They decide if the charge stands or not.

We have lost charge back disputes where we had a signed slip for the full amount but the credit card company only allowed a 20% gratuity {the credit card slip was a love letter to our bartender with a fairly outrageous tip and the card holder never disputed that he wrote the tip amount.

Under most credit card service agreements, you can go to binding arbitration over a disputed charge, but who really would over $50. If there is no signature, you lose.

#69 TedE

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 11:56 AM

We have lost charge back disputes where we had a signed slip for the full amount but the credit card company only allowed a 20% gratuity.


This must have been a corporate card tied to an expense account, right? Why would a CC company care a lick about what you spend your money on as long as you settle up? Does a certain percentage tip over the charge amount trigger automatic review because there have been cases of server fraud? Genuinely interested to know!

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#70 deangold

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 05:07 PM

This must have been a corporate card tied to an expense account, right? Why would a CC company care a lick about what you spend your money on as long as you settle up? Does a certain percentage tip over the charge amount trigger automatic review because there have been cases of server fraud? Genuinely interested to know!


The customer instituted the chargeback. The customer left an outrageous tip plus an obscene offer top our bartender on the signed copy of the bill. The tip was $50 on something like a $30 tab. The customer must have been rebuffed in his amorous advanced to our bartender.

The Credit Card copany ruled that they were only going to let us have 20% tip even though there was no dispute that the slip was signed for that amount. I oculd ahve tried to take them to arbitration, but over $24 or so? I had better things to do with my time, like switch credit card processors!
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#71 DonRocks

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 06:44 PM

The customer left an outrageous tip plus an obscene offer top our bartender on the signed copy of the bill. The tip was $50 on something like a $30 tab. The customer must have been rebuffed in his amorous advanced to our bartender.


Please tell me it wasn't Chris Cunningham.

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#72 Chris Cunningham

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:55 PM

Please tell me it wasn't Chris Cunningham.


It happens and while I tend to want to please all my guests, I cannot always fulfill their wishes, desires, fantasy's or weapons requests ;)

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#73 deangold

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 11:47 PM

Just a data point: Saturday night we had 5 no shows {15 covers) on the first turn and one 5 top late, weren't able to replace them as we did get walk ins but we could have still handled the walk in had the reservations showed up. The late slot could have been booked twice that night.

#74 neenjay

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 03:10 PM

Don is, once again, very current with his topics--given the article in Wall Street Journal today.

http://online.wsj.co...0886182260.html

Apologies if this post is not formatted correctly, as it's my first. or fourth (those first three, I don't remember).

#75 goodeats

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 05:57 PM

I have to admit I was rather confused the last time I was at a grocery store and they told me I didn't have to sign anything. I'll bring it up to my lawyer next time I talk to him. Or are there any out there following this thread that would like to offer some complimentary advice. I don't mind waiting for it. :-)

Your lawyer might know the answer. I sort of the know the answer and I'm a lawyer, but this relates more to financial knowledge rather than law. I know that the practice has been around for some time now, and it has to do with the banking institutions, the fees they charge merchants and the institutions' moods. However, here's a short explanation found online: Good Question: Why Do We Have to Sign When We Charge?

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#76 SeanMike

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 10:37 AM

Huh. From the WSJ article:

Perhaps most radical is the system started last year at Grant Achatz's Chicago restaurant Next. To dine there, customers must buy nonrefundable tickets for a meal in advance. A dynamic pricing system makes tickets at prime times pricier. Mr. Achatz's business partner, Nick Kokonas, says the system has been so successful they plan to use it at their Alinea restaurant.


That is very interesting given some of the analogies folks have used on here...

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#77 TedE

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:02 AM

Huh. From the WSJ article:

That is very interesting given some of the analogies folks have used on here...


I have no problem with this. I think everybody would agree that in the restaurant world there is a dining-as-entertainment continuum; Next and Alinea occupy one extreme of that range, the realm of food-as-fantasy with a unique experience. You buy tickets for a specific show, why not buy tickets to a specific theater of food? As long as those tickets were 100% transferable, that is.

Do I want to buy tickets for a party of 6 at 8:00 (which may become a party of 4 around 5:00 when flaky Sally and her friend cancel) at insert-your-neighborhood-bistro-here? Hell no. And I don't want to sign a contract there, either. A meal at that particular restaurant on that night is likely not a destination, it's a convenience for which there are other comparable options.

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#78 SeanMike

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:42 AM

Do I want to buy tickets for a party of 6 at 8:00 (which may become a party of 4 around 5:00 when flaky Sally and her friend cancel) at insert-your-neighborhood-bistro-here? Hell no. And I don't want to sign a contract there, either. A meal at that particular restaurant on that night is likely not a destination, it's a convenience for which there are other comparable options.


Obviously it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, I just found it interesting.

While we're discussing reservations - and elsewhere discussing solo dining - that made me wish I could make a solo reservation at some of the bars I frequent. If I'm with a group, I don't mind standing at a bar, or at a social bar, whatevs, but if I'm by myself, I hate it.

But I'd bet the idea of solo reservations for bar stools would be annoying as hell for most bars. And I don't like to relinquish my seat once I've had it (which has led to some rough mornings at work, unfortunately for me and my liver).

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#79 TedE

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 02:58 PM

I twist on the reservations-as-prepaid-tickets scenario that may have been presaged by this discussion:

Couple criticized for bringing crying baby to 3-star restaurant

Not to defend this couple, but it does raise the consequences of last-minute changes and how restaurants should handle them.  I would feel a little better about Alinea if the response wasn't chiding, "Really, they were out of line for doing this, this restaurant is clearly not suitable for a young child", when the alternative was pocketing $400+ of their money without having to provide any service whatsoever.  If they want people to pre-pay for a very expensive dinner which may be a once-in-a-lifetime splurge this type of thing might happen once in a blue moon.  Either that or amend their reservation policies to include a strict age limit.

 

Yes, yes, analogies to theater tickets and all that, blah blah blah


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#80 astrid

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 03:31 PM

Aachatz should not have chided.  Publicly complaining about your own diners, no matter how disgraceful their behavior, never reflect well on the restaurant. 

 

Still, I think the diners were completely in the wrong.  Sometimes, life happens - you showing symptoms for avian flu, you've suddenly deverloped unbelievably awful BO, your babysitter is abducted by aliens...  Yeah, it sucks and it's not your fault per se.  But it's still terrible manners to then immiserate other people with your problem.  The parents karmically deserve to have a loudly crying baby in the next table for all their future fine dining outings.


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