So Bad It’s Funny

I recently had dinner in Chinatown in New York City. I made sure to check the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp and everyone seemed to rave about the food. When I scroll through reviews, I tend to focus on the most recent comments and I look for trends. Anyone can have an off day, and not everyone has the same standard that I do for things. Some people aren’t as choosy and I am. Some aren’t choosy enough. Some people are well-traveled and some have higher or lower expectations. I try to account for the variety in standards people hold for places they review.   We also asked some of the staff at the hotel – although they only suggested places near the hotel.

Everyone in our group agreed that this was the place to go to so if it didn’t work out, not one had to shoulder the blame or get all the credit.

It was crowded when we entered. A good sign – we thought. There were four of us together and we were quickly ushered to a table for 8 because it was the only table available. Soon, two men were seated at our table. We didn’t know them. Apparently, rather than make them wait, they were simply seated in available chairs and the only ones were at our table. We laughed, introduced ourselves and waited to be handed menus.  Instead a waiter came to the table and asked if were ready to order.

Perhaps this is how it’s done – people already know what they want so they don’t need menus, but we did need menus so we asked to see menus first.  ‘Our’ waiter left in a huff and one by one,  a staff person tossed a menu onto our table for someone to grab before it slid off the side.

We all looked at each other and laughed. Why didn’t we get up and leave right then and there? Maybe because it wouldn’t have made such a good story.  

Our waiter came back and took our orders.  The food came to our table quickly – well most of the food. The chef in the kitchen had a bell that he rang whenever he wanted a dish to be picked up from the kitchen. The bell was being pounded on, more and more insistently throughout the meal. We tried waving for our waiter to get his attention so that we could ask where one of our missing dishes was – but he simply waived us off as he ran by the table. A few times!

The two men had finished their meal, left, and were quickly replaced by another pair of people.  We all just shrugged goodnaturedly, introduced ourselves and laughed, commenting that this seemed an odd way to meet new people.

We finished the food and when our waiter came by with the check, we asked for the remaining and still missing dish. He asked if we had gotten everything and we tried to convince him that there was still one dish remaining. The people sitting at our table joined in the discussion and were able to convince our waiter that we had not received one of the dishes we had ordered.  We asked if we might have also get some rice and glasses of water.  The waiter looked annoyed and left.

A different person delivered the missing dish. As she turned on her heels, we asked if we could have rice and water. She looked at us with a “Are you serious?!” look on her face and stomped off.  A minute later she dropped four small bowls of rice onto our table and left. We never saw her again.

Another first – there was no discussion of how much of a tip to leave. We left and as we walked though Chinatown and into Little Italy, we talked about how surreal the experience had seemed to each of us. The food – yes – it was good. But other than being greeted and seated, each one of the staff there acted annoyed that we were there. We all got the distinct impression that they were not too thrilled that we had entered the restaurant and couldn’t have cared less about our dining experience.   

It made us wonder: with all of the options, not just in Chinatown, but in Manhattan itself, why would anyone go there?  Perhaps because no one knew how badly they would be treated. Perhaps because no one checked on a travel review site or with anyone else.  Who would go there more than once?  

The tie in to what I do for a living and what my clients do for a living is crystal clear: You can’t just make people feel welcome. You should make them feel welcome, respected, listened to and appreciated throughout their interaction with you. If you want them to return and if you want them to tell others about their level of satisfaction and your appeal .

We had such lousy service that we had to laugh.

OK – Not just laugh. I posted a review on Yelp. I posted a review on Trip Advisor. I am writing a blog post about it. And the story will find it’s way into training programs or presentations where and when it makes sense. The food was good and the service was stunningly bad. SNL skit-worthy bad!

If you plan to hit Chinatown in New York City, make sure you go to Big Wong King for the show.

Then go somewhere else for the food and the service.

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