#19 Who’s Gonna Pay?
I was working for a higher-end chain steakhouse in the North West corner of greater Los Angeles (in the valley). Valentines is obviously one of the top 5 busiest days of the year for us, we did about 500 covers between 5 and 10 PM. It’s also a restaurant with a very open concept floor plan. Booths along the 4 walls of the restaurant and an array of tables in the middle with no partitions or anything between them. A younger couple (maybe mid 20’s) dressed to the nines came in shortly after we opened and were seated at a table basically in the dead center of the dining room. They were very friendly and pleasant and I could tell that for them, dining at our restaurant was a really special treat so I did everything in my power to make it special for them. When they’re done, probably around 7, I brought their check which was around $300.
When I came back to pick it up the guy had a super embarrassed look on his face and he said he thinks he left his wallet in the car and the woman, who is embarrassed for him, doesn’t have anything with her because her dress had no pockets and she didn’t bring a purse. So he goes out and 5 minutes later comes back in looking pale as a ghost. He has left his wallet at home and asks if he can call back later with payment info. My GM won’t let this fly because there’s no collateral of any sort he can leave, so the guy has to drive home TO BURBANK to get his wallet while the woman waits, with her hair done and her red lipstick and her pretty dress, In The middle of the dining room on Valentine’s Day.
Now, on the best day with no traffic (never happens), it’s at least 40 minutes each way from our restaurant to Burbank. She was there for almost 2 hours waiting for this guy. We were all so embarrassed for her that the staff kept discreetly slipping her drinks and little amuse-bouche bites from the kitchen. It was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. When he finally got back he was super apologetic to us and to her, he paid the check and tipped like 30% and they left. It was pretty obvious it was an honest mistake but I still think about that couple from time to time and wonder how things worked out for them. —tdkme