Five Steps To A Better Complaint
March 18, 2013

Five Steps To A Better Complaint

Earlier this month, Eatocracy, CNN’s food page and blog, posted about the five ways to complain in a restaurant. Yep, you read that correctly—the five ways to complain. It was such a fun read that I wanted to post the ways here. The author, who goes by the pseudonym Manuel T. Waiter and has a very popular blog call Well Done Fillet, has a great voice, so I am going to post his advice and then follow it up with my own breakdown. Here’s Manuel T. Waiter’s words:

1. Calm down: First thing to do is breathe. Seriously, calm the f*** down. It’s a tomato on your plate not the contents of a 1-year-old child’s nappy. Flying off the handle will do nothing for your cause, no matter how justifiable it may be. This is why terrorism doesn’t work. You’re not a terrorist are you? Your waiter is your greatest ally in this situation unless they are the one you are complaining about obviously. Alienating the waiter will make everything so much harder. You need them on your side.

2. Act fast: If you have an issue with your food, then bring it to the attention of your waiter as soon as you possibly can. The countless times I have checked back on tables a few minutes after they have started to be told everything is tickety-boo only for them to complain at the end over empty plates would make your head actually spin. I CAN’T DO ANYTHING WHEN YOUR PLATE IS EMPTY!

3. Be clear: Clearly state the nature of your upset – the upset with your food that is, I care not for your religious, personal and/or political gripes. Just shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Didn’t like…not nice” like a huffy teenager will seriously get you nowhere. If I’m going to the kitchen with your plate of food to face thy mortal nemesis in ill-fitting whites, I’m doing it armed with the facts not with shrugged shoulders and the word “meh.” You gotta help me to help you.

4. Trust me: Trust the waiter to do his job. If he says he’s gonna fix it for you, then let him do so. A good waiter will rectify the food issue and make changes on your bill accordingly. Telling him you want this free and that free and wine for everyone is just gonna get his back up. Like I said, you want the waiter on your side; he’s the one that is going to go to the chef and the manager and make everything lovely again.

5. Follow up: But hey, if you still don’t get satisfaction on the night then you need to take it further. You can of course e-mail the restaurant with your complaint but if you are going to do that then don’t do it from your smartphone on the drive home. Best leave it a few hours and do it calmly. Spelling mistakes caused by anger or shonky driving will adversely affect your complaint, seriously. But nothing, and I mean nothing, works like a handwritten letter to the manager. It makes them tremble. If you really want to get your point across and instill fear and upset into the restaurant then handwrite them a letter. Woo-hoo, things get done on the back of a hand-written letter.

Now onto my own words:

What I found most interesting about his food advice is that it really seems pretty logical and commonsense. I mean, throwing a fit or just saying, in his words, “meh” is the adult equivalent of a toddler crying because he is tired. If something is truly wrong with a meal, it makes sense to treat the waiter kindly. It is not her fault; she is simply the messenger. The chef is ultimately responsible for the food. If there is something wrong or off about the meal, the waiter only takes the information to the chef. Treating the waiter like she is the jerk will make her defensive instead of helpful.

I was further shocked by number two, Act Fast. How could people eat a whole meal they were going to complain about? If something was not right about my order, I would not eat it all and then complain. That is a bit morally questionable. If it was so wrong, then why eat it? I would be suspicious of someone who did that, too.

Finally, I really appreciate his final bit of advice to follow up on the situation by writing a calm, well-written, thought-out letter. Words have power and anyone who takes time to write about a bad meal must feel strongly. Restaurants are not the only businesses who take letters seriously.

All in all, Manuel T. Waiter’s advice is good all over not just for meals. Perhaps if we would just calm down, act fast, be clear, trust, and follow up in all our interactions, we would have better experiences. I know I won’t soon forget this helpful info.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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