Thursday, July 12, 2012


Dear Reader, take note that this is not an actual transcript, but a composite, based on many many phone calls I've taken.  Nor should this be taken as a rant, for it is in fact a response to a recent "Shouts & Murmers" in the July 9th New Yorker by Joel Stein called "I will be your server".

"Good afternoon, this is ______. How can I help you?"

"Um, I have one of those groupons."

"Very good.  Would you like to make reservations?"

"Are they required?"

"Yes Ma'am.  Would you like to make a reservation?"

"What time do you open?"

"We start serving at 5:30.  Would you like to make a reservation?"

"I guess so."

"Very good.  For what day?"


"Ah, ok, it is a very busy night tonight.  I have early and late reservations available.  5:30 and 8:30 or 9:00."

"How about 7:00?"

"No ma'am.  I am afraid the middle of the night is all booked up.  I do have 5:30, 8:30 and 9:00."

"Really?  How about we come in a little earlier, like 6:30?"

"No ma'am.  I am afraid 6:30 is booked too.  I have 5:30, 8:30 and 9:00 available."

"There's just two of us."

"I realize that, ma'am, but all I have available is 5:30, 8:30 and 9:00."

"We got the babysitter for 7:00.  She's coming at 6:30, but we can come later. You can't squeeze us in at 7:30?"

"No ma'am, I am very sorry but the middle of the night is all booked up.  We can do early or late."

"Even just two?"

"Yes ma'am, even just two.  It's why we take reservations."

"What if we just walk in?"

"No ma'am, we can't do that.  I'd hate to make you wait until 8:30."

"Well, what do you do when people just show up?  Don't you seat them?"

"No ma'am not if we are fully booked."

"Is this because we have the Groupon?"

"No ma'am.  It's just the number of table we have is limited, so we can't reserve more than we have.  You understand, right?"

"I guess so.  Ok, hold on, let me check with my husband.

[No muffled sounds as she walks from room to room hollering her husband's name.  Finally we hear him call back, in a tiny background voice, but we can't hear what he's saying.  We can hear the woman bellowing in our ear, however]

"They say they can't seat us at 7:00.  [pause]  I know.  I know.  They can get us in at 8:30.  I said, they CAN GET US IN AT 8:30!  OK, I KNOW!  OK OK YES I'LL CALL HER...OK I'm back."

"Yes ma'am."

"We'll take the 8:30."

"Even though that's pretty late."

"Yes ma'am.  What's the last name?  First Name?  Phone Number?  Ok we have you in the books for 2 people at 8:30 tonight."

"Actually it's four people."

"Oh.  I thought you said it was just two people."

"I did, but I was thinking we might could get in without our friends.  But we'll be four"

"Yes ma'am.  I have you down for four people at 8:30 tonight."

"Yes.  That's kind of late.  Will you call me if anything opens up earlier?"

"No ma'am.  We won't have any changes in the reservations between now and then."

"And if we just come in a bit early, any chance we can get seated early?"

"No ma'am, but we will have your table ready at 8:30."

"Ok.  I have a question."

"Yes ma'am?"

"It's my husband's birthday.  What do you do for birthdays?"

"Well, if they order a dessert, we will put it on a special plate with Happy Birthday written in chocolate and put a candle in it."

"Will you sing?"

"No ma'am we won't sing but we will make a little fuss over him for the table."

"Ok so is it a free dessert?"

"No ma'am.  If they order dessert, we'll make it special though."

"We'd like a really nice table."

"Yes ma'am.  We'll certainly do our best.  It will be busy of course, but all our tables are very nice."

"We'd prefer a booth.  Do you have a booth?"

"No ma'am.  We don't have booths."

"How about a view of the lake?  Can we sit by the window and see the lake?"

"No ma'am, we are not on the lake.  You're thinking of another restaurant.  Have you ever been to _________ before?"

"One time, a long time ago, with my husband's company.  It must have been ten years ago so I don't remember much.  But I swear we sat in a booth."

"No ma'am, we don't have booths.  But we will have a nice table ready for you at 8:30."

"What time do you close?"

"Well, our last seating is at 9:00."

"So you close at 9:00?  Are you going to kick us out?"

"No ma'am.  Our last seating is at 9:00 but we will wait until all our patrons have finished their meals and leave at their leisure."

"So you won't kick us out?"

"No ma'am.  We'll certainly accomodate you."

"Now, we have this Groupon."

"Yes ma'am, you mentioned that.  Just bring it in and give it to your server when it's time to pay the bill."

"But is it limited what we can get with this thing?"

"Yes ma'am.  The Groupon is for the three-course tasting menu only."

"So I can't order off the menu?"

"Yes ma'am, you may order off the menu, but you'll have to pay for additional items, including alcohol."

"So it doesn't include a drink?"

"Water, tea or soda are included, but alcohol is not."

"What about wine and beer?"

"Yes ma'am, Wine and beer are alcohol."

"So they are not included?"

"No ma'am."

"And I can only have the three course menu?"

"Yes ma'am, that was the deal you bought."

"But what if we want something else.  Can we make substitutions?

"No ma'am but you do have a couple of choices for each of the courses."

"But I am a vegetarian."

"In that case, we will substitute a vegetarian entree."

"My husband can only have gluten free.  Do you have that on the menu?"

"Yes ma'am there are gluten free choices on the menu."

"But only one?"

"On the tasting menu, yes, there's just one gluten free option."

"So he has to have that?"

"Oh, we'll work with him.  We'll see to it that he has a choice."

"Me too?"

"Yes ma'am we have several vegetarian options."

"On the three course menu?"

"No but we will work with you.  Just tell you server and they'll help you with some choices."

"I hope so.  Make a note that we are vegetarian and gluten free."

"Yes ma'am. I've made a note for the server."

"I have another question."

"Yes ma'am?"

"Do I have to bring the groupon in with me?"

"Yes ma'am so we can redeem it, please."

"What if I lost it?"

"Well, did you lose it?"

"Yes.  I mean I printed it out but then the printer jammed and it didn't print."

"Do you have the number?"

"Yes.  Well, sort of.  I have the web page."

"You mean the Groupon web page?"

"Yes.  Can you look it up?"

"No ma'am.  You have to present it for us to redeem it."

"But I did have it, and the printer jammed.  You can't blame me for that."

"No ma'am, no blame, but we can't redeem it without the number."

"That's not fair.  We paid good money for it, and you say you won't take it?"

"No ma'am it's just that to get paid we have to redeem the customer's Groupon.  It's the way it works."

"Well I don't like it."

"I'm sorry ma'am.  So would you like to cancel the reservation?"

"So, if we don't use the Groupon, can you get us in at 7:00?"

"Please hold for a moment."

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