Bad Service In Three Languages

We wanted desperately to get out-of-town for the Thanksgiving weekend. Warm weather preferred but we ended up in Montreal. That was OK. Billed as the most European city in North America. Neither of us had been there in ages and we were open to the magic of the city.

More on the total trip later. For now let us focus one experience that could have been just what we wanted but instead left a bad taste in our mouths.

On our first day we arrived late afternoon which left us just enough time to explore Old Montreal for a while and then have dinner. Our spirits were high going to dinner. We were together away from the stresses of normal life. The Notre-Dame Basilica was magnificent and other part s of old Montreal held promise.

Being people who enjoy joints as well as fine dining we headed off to nearby Chinatown to a restaurant that had good on-line reviews. A full place with a modest wait further raised expectation. Choosing from the usual too long Chinese menu took time but our selections were made. The waiter spoke broken English but had been polite and helpful in the selection. All good.

And then the food came. My Szechuan seafood came first and was tasty but then came my wife’s “sizzling” beef. It was not what she expected given the menu’s description, it looked bad and after one bite she knew it was not to her liking.  A different waiter had brought our food. We called him over and explained the situation. He looked as if he had never had a customer tell him a dish was bad. He he had a puzzled look and did not seem to know what to do. He finally said that he would go and speak to his manager.

At this point there were only two courses of action in my mind. The one I would have expected was that they would apologize and ask what else they could bring instead. Yet this was a small place and I was willing to accept that we would pay for a choice we made but order something else. We soon found out that there was a third alternative.

The waiter came back from peaking to his manager and whisked away the food saying nary a word. That was the last contact we had with him that evening. We had been transformed from happy tourists to unhappy invisible lepers. We waited several minutes while sharing my meal and the side dish we had ordered. We waited several minutes expecting the waiter to bring back a menu and let us select a second entree. Instead he entered and left the room several times without making eye contact. I can be overly patient. this was one of those times.

Finally I walked up to the manager and explained that we had been ignored and wanted to order. His first words were that there was nothing wrong with how the dish had been prepared. He then handed me a menu. Several more minutes went by with no waiter approaching our table or even willing to acknowledge our presence.

I became incensed but at that point my wife was resigned. We asked for the bill. They did not charge us for the meal — only fitting since they did not provide the option of keeping the food. The manager came by to ask us how our second entree was. I informed him that we had none and that we had never been approached by a waiter. He was nonplussed and unapologetic. 

This experience put a serious damper on the day even  though it was them and not us at fault.

Maybe if we had tried communicating in the French of Montreal or in Mandarin instead of English. Nah. The service at this place would have sucked in any language.

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