Happy Tuesday #Jontourage,
Welcome back to the “Classy Gent Chronicles”, where staying classy is the only way to be. Let's jump right into it....
Anyone who knows me knows I am a fan of dining out. I think it is just something about the atmosphere of stepping out and talking with someone over dinner is just second to none. I would have probably been a millionaire already if I didn’t go out so much to dinner. Well one night, I had a peculiar experience that resulted in me almost never returning to a restaurant. It got to the point where I had to write a letter to corporate about it. I do not often complain (especially in writing like I did) but this situation made me realize more had to be done. I will read you an excerpt from the letter I sent to corporate and I want you to determine if you would go back after this experience (because corporate did make up for it very well, I will protect their identity and simply refer to the restaurant as “AlfredoLand”. I will also refer to my cousin who was with me as “Baby Cousin X”. The waiter will be known as “Waiter X”)
The letter reads as follows
“To whom it may concern,
CEO and best-selling author James Altucher once said, “Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.” I regret to be writing you under these circumstances but I experienced a situation recently that was so disheartening, I had no choice but to write you.
On Saturday date xyz, my cousin, came home from out of town for a family visit. He is a freshman in college and I couldn’t be more proud. I helped raise him like he was my own little my brother. Baby Cousin X took me out to dinner as a thank you for helping him get into college and just supporting him through his life. He asked “Where do I want to go?” Overwhelmed with joy at such a nice request, I couldn’t think of anywhere else in the world I would want to go to than AlfredoLand. As we pull up to the restaurant, I am always excited because I love the food and the atmosphere. The fact my cousin drove over an hour from his home to take me there just made the evening so much more special. However, little did I know an evening meant for fellowship and food would soon take a horrible wrong turn.
Although we were seated quickly upon our entry into to AlfredoLand, there was almost a ten minute delay before we were greeted by our waiter, Waiter X, and asked for our drink orders. By the time Waiter X did arrive for our drink orders, we knew what we wanted to so we placed our food and drink order all together. After we finished our food, we received our check. Total, we were supposed to pay about $35 for our bill. My cousin and I ordered the same exact entrée which was fettuccine which was a little over $16 each. My cousin order water ($0) and I ordered a Sprite ($3). So again, we were expecting a $35 bill, $36 or $37 at the most including tax. So then can you explain to me why our bill was practically $50? That’s right, $50. I will tell you why it was that high.
The table next to us had a bill for $49 and the couple left paying for our bill accidentally ($35) because the waiter gave them our bill. Since the waiter, Waiter X, realized it too late that he gave the wrong bills to the wrong tables after the couple left, he brings us their bill which is $49 and he tells us the bills are exactly the same so we could just pay this one. Like most normal people, my cousin and I looked at each other confused. What are the chances that two tables sitting next to each other would order the same exact items and the bills would come down to the same exact amount? I am sure that explanation the waiter gave does not sound logical to you either like it didn’t to my cousin and I when he explained it.
So like any other person who suspects foul play, my cousin and I each pull out the calculators on the phone and calculate our totals. Just like the order I mentioned above that my cousin and I had, our total was about $35. I'm no doctor of mathematics but since when did $35 and $49 become equal to each other? My cousin and I immediately asked the waiter to come to our table and we pointed out to him that our $35 bill and their $49 are not the same thing. A little stuck that we caught on to his scheme, Waiter X gives us the updated bill which we paid.
What does not sit well with me is the intent to wrong my cousin and I. I understand that as a waiter, the mistake looks bad on you and the missing money might even come out of your check for the mathematical error but because the other couple didn't have the integrity to speak up and say they had the wrong bill, you want us to pay for their bill that was basically $15 more than ours. What your waiter, Waiter X, did not realize is that we are in no way, shape, or form, dummies. Maybe because your waiter saw two young black males who looked like they play football and basketball, you thought we wouldn't catch the mistake but our parents raised us to always document our situations and double check over things. Maybe with two other guys, this would have worked but not us…
I am not here to say mistakes do not happen. I have been out with large parties at dinner and we all got separate checks so the waiter accidentally mixed up bills amongst the table. My cousin and I also both work jobs and we make mistakes too, we all do. It’s life! However, a mistake is usually something that is done unintentionally with no motive to harm or deceive. The second type of mistake is something that is done on purpose that you end up getting busted for, like what our waiter, Waiter X tried to do. Once he picked up the bill from the other table, realized the mistake he made, and then plotted to make us pay the other couple’s bill, then it no longer become unintentional.
The right thing to do was for Waiter X to speak to his manager and inform the manager that he accidentally mixed up the bills. Although not the popular option, I am sure his manager would have a lot more respect for Waiter X for telling the truth and maintaining the integrity of the company. I manage student workers at my job and I always teach my employees you are a face of me just like Waiter X is a face of AlfredoLand. I asked friends that work for other restaurant establishments what was proper protocol for the waiter in our situation and they assured me the actions Waiter X took were wrong, unacceptable, and embarrassing to his company and his reputation. Have we let money corrupt our minds so much we have to resort to trying to scam others? To some it may be just a difference of about $15 but it's the principle of the matter. We didn't come to your restaurant trying to scam you so please do not try to scam us... your customers. It’s insulting and hurtful.
As I conclude, I will tell you the real reason I felt compelled to write. My younger 18 year old cousin was there. He recently got a campus job and used one of his first checks to take me out to dinner. You know most college students do not make a lot of money. The fact that my cousin used the little money he makes to take me out to dinner makes this so much more personal. I honestly didn’t even want him to treat me but it is rude to turn down gifts and I am proud of his maturity to show gratitude to others. If I was alone or with another adult my age, I probably would have just gone on with my day. What I have to ask you is what example does this situation send to my younger cousin? Does it send the message that in a time of error or uncertainty, turn to tricking others to cover it your mistake? I constantly teach my cousin that integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. Well this time, someone was watching Waiter X and he slipped up, he slipped up big time. I hope that Waiter X learns a valuable lesson from all of this, do not judge a book by its cover. The next time he sees a person, I hope he will not measure their intellect by their physical appearance if that is what he did.
In life, your word and your character are truly all that you have after your worldly possessions fade. At your funeral, they won’t speak on how much money you made but they will speak on how you acted and treated others. I am not writing this to say Waiter X is a bad person or anything like that because this may be the first time he did something like this. However, I am very cautious about the messages my cousin sees because young men are still developing their personality and ethics at 18 years old. I did follow up with my cousin about the situation to answer any questions he had and I encouraged him to continue on the path he is on and do not get caught up in shortcuts because it does more harm than good. I understand that my cousin is an adult and I can’t shield him from everything. In fact, he needs to learn about different situations that could happen to him, just not like that at AlfredoLand. I hate that in his first visit at AlfredoLand, this is what he experiences.
In terms of my cousin and I moving forward with AlfredoLand, if I am ever to return again, I will be double checking my bills from here on out to make sure I am not being tricked into paying for someone else’s bill…”
Wow that situation still makes me shake my head to this day.
Moral of the story: You never know who you are dealing with. Do right by everyone!!! Would you return to that restaurant?
Remember, in order to live out your dreams, you have to think it, feel it, live it! Until next time, stay classy...
Jonathan C. Harris is no stranger to leadership, hard work, or success. At the age of ten years old, he earned the right to be a guest weatherman for a day on Fox 5 DC News. He has already received over 100 honors and awards including Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County, MD, TEDx Talk speaker, American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Outstanding Men’s Program, high school Valedictorian and the Kiwanis Club Citizenship Award. Raised in Fort Washington, Maryland, he has served in leadership positions his entire life, from being the manager of the school store in elementary school to the president of the Homelessness Awareness Club in middle school to the president of the National Honor Society in high school.