Monday, October 12, 2009

The Case Of The Three Butter Pats

I've been wondering about something that happened last weekend. Small thing. Definitely a small thing, but it stuck in my craw a bit..

We'd had friends over from Scotland for about two weeks. (That's not the part that stuck in my craw. That was good fun.) Last weekend, at the end of their stay, we drove over to Gloucester to spend a couple days by the sea. We went out for a big seafood dinner. All was going well. Meal was great. Our waiter was very professional, like a career service dude, very courteous. We ordered appetizers, three lobsters, two other main dishes, beer and wine. We were giving them good business, I'd say.

Toward the end, though, I got a bright idea. We were staying in a self-catering bungalow. We'd bought some stuff for breakfast, but we didn't have any butter. I thought, "Hey, they'll have a couple pats of butter to spare here at the restaurant, right?" So I explained the situation and asked the waiter if he bring us a few.

That's when things got strange. The waiter sort of got stiff, went a little awkward, didn't meet my eyes. He said, "I'll have to see what I can do about that." When he left I glanced around the table. Everyone agreed that something weird had just happened.

Meal continues. Got a little dessert. And as we're getting ready for the check the waiter asks how many pats of butter I wanted. I said, "Oh, three will do. Just to makes some eggs and toast tomorrow." He asks if that's really all I want. I say yes. Just three will do fine.

So now I'm thinking things aren't that weird after all. Musta just been me, right?

Well, when he brings out the bill he brings out a little sandwich box and says, kinda under his breath, "I put six in here cause I had to charge you a dollar."

I almost said, "What? A dollar? No, forget it, then. I didn't want to buy them. I just figured..." But the others at the table silenced me with mollifying words and gestures. I wasn't paying anyway, so I accepted it, grumpy and annoyed, but silent. When we left I opened the box and took the three pats I'd asked for, left the others. At the time this felt like a weighted gesture, heavy with import. Now I'm not so sure.

I am, however, still convinced that it would have been perfectly reasonable and easy for the guy to slide us three pats of butter without charge. More so because we'd been good customers, and that it would be the final icing on his earning a nice tip from us too. Am I wrong, though? Did I cross some line that nobody told me about? The don't ask for free butter line?

Please advise.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Incubus Jax said...

I'd have just given you the butter. Seems a little overboard to me.

Heck half the time I go into Taco-Time they upgrade me to a large soda and give me a student discount. If they guy is really nice I get some free chips and salsa.

But, I have noticed there are two types of restaurants/service employees. The first is like the Taco Time guy, pretty laid back, makes sure you get lots of stuff in your order, etc.

The other is becoming more common. You pay more but get less. Like how you have to literally beg for ketchup at McDonald's these days, and even then you get like 2 packets if you're lucky. I had a manager like this years ago when I worked at Arby's.

She made us save all the "spare" roast beef - the gunk that the blade couldn't shave for a sandwich, and she would make the Arby-Q (don't think they have that anymore) out of it. Gross.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have owned a cafe so understand the value of a good customer and of course the profit of all potential business one customer can generate.

I would have given you the butter free of charge and it would have been my pleasure to be able to go that little bit further for your party. I would write off the value of the butter with the thought you rembering the business fondly in years to come it is something that simple that makes a difference.
There is of course a line that has to be drawn, it is way above a couple of pats of butter. The cheek some of the general public used to drive me nuts until I realised that the ones that asked are the good guys they are not the ones that go into the loos and steal the tissues and liquid soap or any other decorations that may not be glued down.
I agree with you.
Chris (Edinburgh)

7:18 PM  
Blogger Mary Robinette Kowal said...

I'm going to bet that they had some bizarro manager set that rule and that the reason the waiter went stiff is knowing that he was going to have to deal with the stupidity of it.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Jonathan DiMarco said...

To build on what Ms. Kowal said, perhaps the manager or owner likes to seed the restaurant with fake "customers" who aim to entrap the servers. Maybe, in the server's eyes, you weren't an innocent diner seeking a dab of dairy, but a devious plant seeking to test said server's adherence to The Rules. I hope it's something as goofy as that, at least.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Josiah said...

I think that there are some people out there that take life far to seriously. I believe that it could have simply been a determination to go by the rules down to the last detail.

The thing that people like that forget is the rest of us don't take life so seriously and place great emphasis on good and generous service. Like "Anonymous" said, three pats of butter is an excellent trade for returning business. The man might have seen himself as being dishonest presenting the butter (unlikely) but he should have seen himself as paying for you to return and obviously making a profit in doing so.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Ethan Iktho said...

And imagine if David had asked for jam instead of butter...

The waiter's pleasant expression turns sour, he says he's gonna see what he can do and goes away. Comes back a good while later, stone-faced, explains the manager will lose money if he charges only 1 dollar for 3 jam tiny pots, points his Kalashnikov on the once happy people at that doomed table and... well, you know, no more hope for an "Acacia III".

Very bad script, I confess, but Tarantino could have made a "Pulp Fiction II" out of the incident !

All in all, it's not so bad because this didn't happen, and remember : butter is not so good for your health.

Always look on the sunny side of life...

4:41 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Thank you all for your wisdom on this. Taken together, you've lead me to a place of resolution on this matter. Thank you. I will now move on...

10:58 AM  

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