The 13-cent loyalty maker . . . or breaker


Our family doesn’t eat out much, so we’re careful when we do go out to make sure it’s something everyone likes, a place that makes the trip worthwhile. We’d enjoyed the gourmet burger place in town a year or two ago, so decided to go there with “the kids” in celebration of our son-in-law’s recent acceptance to grad school.

My wife is thrifty to a fault, and always finds it vaguely absurd when eating out to spend several dollars for beverages that we already have at home in the fridge. However, I remind her that we’re not just paying for fluids, but the experience of being in a special atmosphere, having others take care of us for a little while.

When I noticed “hand-squeezed lemonade” on the beverage menu, I thought I’d give it a try. After all, I usually just drink the stuff made from concentrate at home, and something made with such obvious artisanal quality has got to be a grade or two better, right?

When he took our drink orders, the waiter informed me there were no refills on the lemonade—was that okay with me? “Sure,” I laughed, “as long as it’s not a tiny serving!” He nodded and slipped away.

When the drinks arrived, I realized my 12-oz glass of $3.50 lemonade was about half ice. Worse, it tasted blah, as if it were not so much “hand-squeezed” as “hand-blended” with nothing but water and sugar.

The lentil burger I ordered was fine, but I fumed when my micro serving of lemonade was all used up minutes later.

Our waiter was polite enough, but this night he was clearly in “just get through the shift” mode, not customer-care mode. When I realized toward the end of the meal that he was never going to ask if everything was okay, I signaled him over and said, “This lemonade was really terrible—I’ve had better made from Country Time powder.”

“Oh,” he said understandingly but unsympathetically, “That’s because you got the end of the last batch. See, I made a new batch!” He pointed to a glass dispenser with lemon twists galore over by the bar.

And? And? What didn’t come next? An offer to comp my drink or provide a refill. Because Policy! He’d covered that base and knew he had me on a technicality, as surely as if I’d signed a special notarized “No-Refill Acknowledgment.”

Is it ridiculous to fume over a simple glass of lemonade? Perhaps. But this was Special Family Night Out, and small details like a chintzy serving, lousy quality, high price, and couldn’t-care-less waiter hit all my hot buttons.

I wish there had been some way to let someone in charge know what was bugging me. But of course it seemed like a minor detail in an otherwise-pleasant evening, and I was reluctant to ask for the manager since several family members consider even a polite, factual interchange about one’s experience to be “making a scene.” I also didn’t want to be anywhere nearby when and if the manager lowered the boom on the guy who had almost seemed to taunt me about the no-refills policy.

So, I went home and got it all off my chest via Fancy Burger’s Google listing—a brief review outlining my beef (well, my lentils) and a vow to never go back. Because I am That Guy. Because un-tart lemonade and a tart reply took this eatery off my list forever—and I will always veto the idea if someone in my family suggests another visit.

I don’t know if management even reads those reviews, or takes them seriously. I do know that I wish I could have aggregated my experience with that of others, those who were not willing to go home and write a review. Some kind of quick, spontaneous, anonymous gesture that simply says NOT HAPPY / NOT COMING BACK! Perhaps with an option to pick one reason why.

A system like Tapyness.

Maybe Apathetic Waiter would get some extra attention from management before he did more damage. Maybe someone would reconsider a refill policy on one of the cheapest, easiest, and most refreshing beverages you can make.

Instead, one guy lost our family’s future business thanks to a by-the-book waiter and an inflexible policy on a refill worth about 13 cents.

Tom Seibold