Lunchtime poll – sending it back
February 7th, 2011
01:30 PM ET
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It took a while for my bluefish and tostones to show up this weekend. No worries - I had some sparkling Chilean wine and was still coming down from a spicy anticuchos appetizer. Close quarters, so it was easy for me to determine pretty quickly that the couple sitting nearby were kind of...jerks.

I like to like people. The world is much nicer that way. New York City restaurant seating makes that difficult sometimes because you're squashed up against each other so tightly, it's almost as if you've got extra, uninvited dinner companions. Sometimes, that's not a bad thing - I've developed some ongoing friendships with people I've met sitting at restaurant bars.

These people, though...these people... The gentleman sent his steak back - not because there was anything fundamentally wrong with it (my husband had the exact same dish and it was pretty darned delicious), but rather because it just kind of wasn't what he wanted, and because it turns out, that's just what he DOES.

He's a sender-backer. I learned this, because after the server graciously offered to replace it with another dish or just take it off the bill (he opted for the latter), he and his date got all nostalgic about the occasions upon which he - and his family - just HAD to send something back to the kitchen.

Though they had little to say about the specifics of the steak's flaws, I learned (and seriously - I was not eavesdropping; it was a combo of proximity and volume) that 1. his family was known to gather 'round, eat most of a dish and then send it back with a speck left on the plate and 2. they were NEVER coming back here ANYWAY, so it didn't matter how they behaved. His date rather rudely dismissed the server when dessert was offered, (We don't WANT anything else!) and when they finally made their exit, the air in the restaurant just felt fresher.

There are valid reasons to send back a dish - it's not what you ordered, it's polluted with foreign objects or significantly over or undercooked. I've never been of the notion that something just not being quite what you want would be cause for sending something back. If a server sees I haven't really eaten much of something and offers a replacement dish, I may say yes, but I'm not likely going to seek that out. Am I just being too sensitive or are you similarly squeamish about the practice?

soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Valerie Breslow

    I only send a dish back if it's inedible. I found a fly on my grilled-cheese sandwich at home today and killed it. Problem solved :)

    August 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  2. avmdm

    There have been times when I have kept something that was not what I ordered but was amazing. There have been times when I've sent something back that was what I ordered but was not what I expected. Sometimes menus just don't really give a good indication of what you're getting and sometimes it is a genuine mistake.
    There was also one time when my food took almost an hour to get. It was wrong. I sent it back, with a reminder of what I had ordered. Over a half hour later a second (different) wrong dish came out. I sent it back again and told them don't bother trying again. I wasn't hungry anymore, even though I hadn't eaten anything, and told the manager I wouldn't be paying for the soda I consumed while waiting because it was so unacceptable. The server was not tipped, and I have never returned.
    But a week ago at another place they brought out a small dish we hadn't ordered and it was so good we insisted they bill us for it (and bring out another!) The server was generously tipped for their delicious mistake.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Heather Jeane

    Eating most then sending back for a refund is shoplifting, plain and simple and should be treated as such, including calling in police if they refuse to pay the bill.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  4. Was this wrong to send back? Want your opinion.

    There was a restaurant that I used to go to really often. Hometown brewery with good pub food. They had the most amazing veggie burger I have EVER had. I moved to another town nearby, and hadn't gone to this place for...about a year..and then went back and ordered the same veggie burger. When it came out, it looked so unbelievably disgusting, nothing like it was when I used to get it. I couldn't get past the look to even attempt tasting it. So when the waitress asked, I just said I couldn't eat it. When she asked why, I didn't really have an answer, except that it looked disgusting. (Like mush on a ciabatta roll with this red, slimy-supposed to be ouli-stuff on it. Oh and I had asked for cheese and sauteed onions on it and there were about 3 sauteed onions that looked like they had been sitting around for a year and the cheese looked like a cross between cheese whiz and melted swiss mixed together and smeared on the patty). So I ask you, was I wrong to send it back and just have it taken off the bill? Technically, there wasn't anything wrong with it, IF, in fact, that is how they serve it now, but it wasn't what I had anticipated from previous trips to this pub and it looked inedible. (And in case this matters, i'm the person who would only ever send something back if it had a hair or bug or something in it. I've never sent anything back before because it truly looked gross. I was astonished any cook/chef would send that out of a kitchen.)

    February 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Jerv@Was this...

      Nope not wrong. If it looked disgusting I venture to say that it was going to taste disgusting. Not sense in trying to eat it and getting sick.

      February 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • AleeD

      You had reasonable expectations based on a previous visit and they weren't met. I see nothing wrong with what you did.

      There was a time I was a regular at a place called Foxy's in Treasure Island, FL. They had some garlic wings that were the best. They were lick-the-plate best! Went there many times. Then one day ..... something changed. The garlic sauce was oily, bland, tasteless ..... and the wings looked like someone had molested a canary to make this dish. I gave Foxy's about 3 more tries after that before I stopped going back.

      February 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  5. Captain Obvious

    I actually had a raw pork wellington once. I had some and had to send the rest back, I actually was sick from it later.
    Outside of that I will eat pretty much anything.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  6. D

    And then you get restaurants that go above and beyond your expectations. Once at CPK my bf and I were splitting a bbq chicken pizza and the manager came over and explained that our order came out a little too brown on the bottom and it was below their standards so he said we could box it up and take it home plus they would cook a new pizza for free that was up to their standards. We said we wouldn't mind eating and paying for the overcooked (it was barely browned) pizza but he insisted we get a new one for free. Talk about service! They didn't even give us the chance to send it back.

    February 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  7. Erin

    I've pretty much given up eating at my friends and my favorite restaurant. I'm friendly with a lot of the staff so I'll still go for drinks from time to time but I'm done paying for mistake after mistake with our food.
    The last time I got food there I ordered a burrito with a specific type of sauce (not a special order – it was an option on the menu that I often ordered). When it came out, the sauce was not there, instead they just threw some wing sauce in it (just because it's spicy doesn't mean it belongs in a burrito). I said something to the waiter and rather than fix my meal, he disappeared for awhile and just came back with a dish of sauce on the side – Not what I wanted to happen. I ended up not eating my meal. I would have pushed further/asked for a discount but the place was packed and we were already using a discount coupon so it wasn't really a loss.
    This past weekend my friends were ordering food there and they screwed up everything. My one friend is a vegetarian and they brought out her dish with chicken in it. This was completely the kitchen's fault as the waitress double checked with her twice that she was ordering the vegetarian dish. Also the appetizer everyone ordered came at the end of the meal completly wrong. It had tons of extra toppings on it that my friend did not ask for. It was crazy but everything was replaced with the correct dishes (it helps to be friends with the manager) but I was glad I didn't shell out the money to eat with them that night.
    I really only complain if the mistake is something like a sauce that I asked to be removed/replaced since you can't really pick that off your plate. Everything else (like a sandwich with no onions) I'll just remove myself. It's not worth the hassle.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  8. Melissa

    I didn't used to send food back but finally got over it. The few times that I have sent food back were because of extremely overcooked or undercooked steak.

    February 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  9. Lea

    I rarely send things back, but I will if there's something really wrong. Raw when it's not supposed to be – well done when I asked for medium rare – or when there's something nasty about it (i.e., stuff that shouldn't be there).

    But if I ordered it wrong or forgot to tell them? Too bad for me!

    February 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  10. Chef C

    If your food is bad or cooked wrong send it back and let the server know why, if it was their mistake you have no reason to worry about looking like the bad guy. As i chef i can always tell who was the one that messed up and sent out bad food from the kitchen in the first place. I once ordered a steak rare and got it charred to a crisp, i told the server and the manager came over and offered me another steak, i told him my wife will be done with her meal by the time my steak comes out so no thank you just take it off my bill. It was removed and i have never been back since. However if you are one of those people that changes your mind during a meal and says to the waiter as your plate hits the table " i actually wanted to get the steak instead of the chicken you are likely to piss some people off in the kitchen.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  11. lindsct

    As a waitress during the summers i once had a patron send back her diner. She was outraged that we had tried to "poison" her with animal flesh as she is a vegetarian.... incidentally she ordered the veal. Who can a self proclaimed vegetarian not know that veal is meat?

    February 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  12. Sent back

    I will send back food if I need to, if it's under/over cooked, if it's messed up in some way, if there are things like hair, flies or metal bits in it – all of which I have found in my food, at some surprisingly upscale places. In the case of something not being cooked or presented right (i.e. wrong side, something I asked to remove still on the plate, etc.), I am usually very extremely polite and understanding, but I do ask for it to be corrected.

    In the case of contaminants, I almost never give a second chance, mostly just because I've at that point lost my appetite, and I have no desire to keep eating something else from the same kitchen. This may be a little unfair to an otherwise excellent kitchen, but I can't control that my gut reaction upon pulling a hair from my mouth, or spotting a fly underneath my potato, or pulling a metal bit from eggs, is to expel the eaten portion of the food from my body.

    I never send back a meal if I feel the error is on my end. For instance, trying shrimp and lobster sauce for the first time and discovering I hate it. That's my fault, so I don't make an issue of it, I just eat what I can and leave the rest. Only once has a particularly perceptive and attentive waitress keyed in on the fact that I just didn't like the meal, and insisted that I order a different one instead. When I did, the resulting meal was excellent and I tipped her well, but sending back an ordering mistake is not something I would ordinarily do.

    Unfortunately as many people as I have seen that have said that they would never even think of deliberately messing with food given to a customer, I have seen an equal number of people declaring that they would gladly spit in the food of anyone committing what seem to me to be minor offenses. While I'd love to eat at the places where contaminating food is unheard of, as a customer, there's no way for me to tell what the people behind the scenes would do or not do to my food. So unless there really is something that the server can take back to the kitchen and point out, I don't find it advantageous to complain too much about my order. If it's basically right and tastes good, I don't nitpick.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  13. Merewyn

    The only times that I've ever sent food back at restaurants are when a dish contains nuts (which I'm deathly allergic to) that weren't listed on the menu in a dish that didn't sound like something that would logically contain them. Normally if that happens I'm extremely apologetic, as I feel bad for the staff for putting up with me.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  14. AleeD

    Here's another scenario I have no problem taking responsibility for: If I order something "w/o onions" and it comes out with onions, I'll send it back. If I forget to tell them "no onions" them I'll pick 'em off. Totally my bad!

    February 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  15. varanid

    I'll send it back if it's not how I ordered. I won't make a fuss. I won't be apologetic. I'll just tell the waitstaff "hey, this isn't what I ordered (or there's something wrong with it–I had glass in a bellini once), can you remove this and bring me what I ordered/one that isn't messed up." No need to bow and scrape, no need to be a twat either. Sheesh.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  16. risa

    I just had this discussion with some friends and for me, it turns out it depends on the type of restaurant. I realized that I'm reluctant to send back my entree at American-style restaurants unless it's a higher-end establishment but I won't hesitate at a Chinese restaurant (I'm Chinese) or other place that serves more ethnic food. I think I am concerned on some level that I'll upset the waitstaff. Sometimes it's not such a big deal that my order was slightly wrong but I'll mention it b/c I assume someone would want to know, but I don't usually care enough to send it back. But if I order a particular Chinese dish, there is absolutely a way they can get it WRONG and I'll send it back immediately. With American food, I sometimes assume the way I got it is the way it was intended unless it's obviously not right. Maybe I just don't like it very much, but I don't send it back unless I really hate it, and I pay for it. I do ask questions about the menu. I've sent back food that was cold to get warmed up.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  17. hecep

    A friend who helped put himself through college by waitering in the Poconos told me the following: On one occasion, a returned, underdone steak was thrown to the floor and stepped on by one of the chefs, then handed over to one of the cooks for re-grilling. (That was one angry chef.) That and other waitering stories taught me alot about restaurants: Don't do anything that could tick off the staff; the people who handle your food are not saints.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Snowbunny

      As they say... "what comes around goes around!"

      February 8, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  18. Person

    Years ago, at a chain pancake house, a friend I was lunching with found a chip of broken glass in his salad. When he complained, the manager came to the table and stonewalled, hinting that he had put the glass in himself to score a freebie. (A free side salad? Really worth the trouble?) My friend denied this, so the manager lugged a huge, unappetizing bag of cut lettuce to our table to "prove" that the salad came to the restaurant already prepared so it was somehow impossible for the glass to be the restaurant's responsibility. Faced with that kind of bone-headedness, I just never went back and in a year or so the restaurant folded. I wonder why.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  19. Sara

    A Mexican restaurant we frequent makes good, cheap tortilla soup. The last several times we've ordered it, though, it's just been soooooooooo salty – and I say that as someone who likes salt. It's been salty to the point of inedible, not just "add a couple ice cubes" salty. We've sent it back each time and it's come back better.

    I don't eat beef or pork, so if I order a turkey burger or veggie burger, I need it to be cooked on a surface that hasn't recently been used to cook beef or pork, or I could get sick. That's generally a given with veggie burgers, but turkey burgers are questionable, so I ask about how and where they're cooked. Likewise, if something I order normally comes with bacon, I'll tell the server I'm allergic to bacon, because they and the kitchen are more likely to prep one without bacon than they are to just pick the bacon off.

    When I go to PF Chang's, I order my kung pao chicken with no scallions. Actually, whenever I order a dish that I know comes with a scallion garnish, I ask them to leave it off. One time, PF Chang's left the scallions on, and I sighed a bit to myself and just picked them off. Halfway through the meal, the manager came over, apologized, offered us free mini-desserts, and took my dinner off the bill. We told him he didn't have to do that (it was just scallion garnish!), but he insisted.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  20. Perspective

    I'm more likely to send back an item if I'm at a restaurant that I'm likely to return to. The reason is that I will have an ongoing relationship with that restaurant. If I'm really dissatisfied (order wrong, something very badly cooked) I want the staff to have an opportunity to make things right for me. It's only fair that they have a chance to show me that they want to keep their end of the bargain.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  21. johnnyleen

    In Dublin a friend of mine and I were served an hors d'oeuvre made of chicken. When we bit into it, we realized the chicken was raw and still quite cold. We asked the waiter about it and he realized that he had brought out a dish that was about to be cooked instead of a cooked one. Yes, we sent it back.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  22. sockpuppet

    I always find it odd that if something is wrong with your food, that you would send it back and have them replace it with the same thing. I wouldn't bother getting the same bad food twice. (I once had a chicken potpie with a completely raw dough crust that I sent back–they offered to make me a new one but no way! If they didn't get it right the first time they probably won't the second time either. I just ordered a sandwich) I will only send something back if it's inedible due to being undercooked, they REALLY messed up my order (small mess-ups are ok) or an eyeball is floating in my soup. Otherwise I just eat what I can and move on. If it's just a matter of taste, ie they overcook, have bad recipes, etc, I just don't go back again.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:45 am |
  23. rv

    my husband and i were at a japanese restaurant in vienna. he ordered a large udon noodle soup which came in a very deep bowl and had all kinds of vegetables in it. to our surprise, he found a hard-boiled egg in there too (with the shell). we kind of thought it was odd but that maybe it was part of the dish and didn't say anything. in the end, we asked our waiter if the egg was supposed to be in there (shell and all) – he apologized and said 'no'. we were kind of grossed out after that – and i don't even think we asked for any compensation. we just got the heck out of there....
    to this day i still wonder how the egg got in there.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  24. hangedman

    The only thing I ever sent back was undercooked pork medallions. Usually I won't say anything, but, ya know, pork.... The waitress was "super polite and apologetic" and explained that they had a new cook. They also comped me the meal, which was a pleasant surprise. And she got a nice tip.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  25. Gary

    Yes I will send it back for several reasons... Poor quality like a steak that's poorly trimmed, full of fat, etc.. Something that just plain tastes bad... It's not what I ordered... It's tainted with whatever (I got a bowl of soup once with a piece of a swizzle stick in it)... or maybe it turns out to be not as advertised... Lots of reasons, but I send it back to communicate my dissatisfaction and give the place a chance to make it right, never for a freebie.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  26. chris

    Hell yes....if the food sucks...I will send it back...but only if it's BAD....not if it's OK...OK is fine...we just won't be coming back. Also...if the place just doesn't look that good...and the food bother in sending it'll suck again. It's really only when the restaurant has an attitude..."our food is excellent!" – if I do send food back...I tell them exactly why. If the server says, "'s like that because we use an organic salt...and that tastes like that." ...I may change my mind, and try to explore the flavor...even if I don't like it.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  27. Maria

    Oh, I also once sent back a burger at McDonald's. It was a hamburger for my little guy and it was pink inside! Their excuse? They were super busy so they weren't cooking the burgers as long. WTF? I reported them right away. Just because you are busy does mean you can undercook meat and potentially sicken someone. Did they not learn anything from the big E Coli Jack in the Box fiasco? Geez.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Amanda

      I once went to McDonald's and ordered a hamburger (at the Drive-Thru). Got home and opened it up to take the pickle off (I don't like pickles but don't want to wait the time for a special-made) and there was no patty! Bun, ketchup, mustard, pickle, onions, but no patty! I took it back and explained what happened to them. They were surprised and apologetic, and gave me a new one. Glad I lived close by.

      February 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  28. Maria

    I once sent back a plate at Steak and Shake. The burger was like some miniscule amount of meat and there barely any fries on the plate. I requested a new plate. They were swamped and when the waitress actually looked at the food, even she was surprised it had been served that way.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  29. tess

    The only time I've ever sent anything back was a burger because there was a bug on it. Unless there is something unedible (or just gross) going on with my food I dont send it back. Though I have asked for extra sauce etc to improve the flavor. I hate when people will send a dish back for a very slight flaw when the food is perfectly good! Unless there is a compelling reason (ie food allergies or, like me, a bug) then I don't think the food should be sent back.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • AGeek

      When you ask for Robin's Egg Blue paint and you're handed a can of Fire Engine Red, I suppose this is also acceptable to you. Just go ahead and change all the furniture, carpeting, etc. to match the incorrect order.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  30. cacmacac

    Having worked as a server in a restaurant, I can tell you that if you p.o.'d the cook/chef, you could end up with "things" in your food that you definitely didn't want. You wouldn't see or smell them but they will be there. If, as a server, I complained, I found that I would be fired. Servers are plentiful and cheap, cooks/chefs not so much.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  31. Greg

    The Poll is terrible. If this was a restaurant I would send it back. The poll goes from sending something back for it not being EXACTLY as ordered and being a jerk about it to apologizing for sending food back when the error is not your fault?! If food is cooked way off the mark from what I ordered and or tastes terrible, I will politely send it back. If the restaurant is expensive, I give them less leeway. Please learn how to write a decent poll.

    February 7, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  32. Kim

    I have had to send food bad numerous times due to having servere food allergies and after having told the waiter or waitress not to put something on my meal and yet they do it anyways. I am deathly allergic to nuts any all kinds went to a Fillipino restaurant and asked 4 times did they use peanut oil in there food I was told NO, well after reciveing the meal I started to eat and in 3 seconds I started to itch and my throat was closing. It was awful spent the evening in the ER and all because someoone failed to listen to me.

    February 7, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Merewyn

      I've had the problem where waiters try to scrape the nuts off and send me the same plate. People don't understand that even a little is enough to kill you...

      February 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
      • no restroom eating

        My friend took me to a crappy old grain building restaurant in East Aurora and everything I ordered arrived with nuts on it. They were not listed on the menu. I asked the waitress to bring me the menu (yeah-like I'm gonna order something that will kill me), when she finally brought me the menu I asked her to show me where the nuts where. she replied "Well, if you ate here more often you would know that almost everything has nuts on it." I told her it was my first and last time there. Not paying the bill and not tipping. How ignorant can a waitress be?
        Now-when I go to a restaurant I specifically tell them-if you put nuts on it and ortake them off and still serve it to me you will be paying for the ER bill, the medicine and I may sue you. I went to another retaurant in EA and asked if the salad I wanted had nuts on it already or was it something they added last minute and explained why. Talk about impressed-the owner came out to talk to me and said she had asked the kitchen to accomadate me by wiping down all surfaces associated with said salad and that they had to change their gloves. I was so happy and thanked her profusely and told her I would be telling everyone about Rick's and how decent they are. Love them!!! Told her to please tell all kitchen staff I was sorry for the bit of extra work and that the food was fabulous!!!!

        February 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  33. Tony

    The number 1 reason I send food back is bacause there is way too much pepper on it. I'm really sick of restaraunts that constantly put hot peppers, cayenne, tabasco or ground pepper in everything. If I want "a kick" or some "heat" I'll add those things myself. "Spicy" doens not mean "hot".

    February 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  34. JR

    I've eaten more terrible plates than I care to remember. What terrible food does is tell me that I'm not coming back or that is what I would expect at a particular restaurant. I've even abandoned food completely, paid and left. As someone that has eaten her body weight in hospital food, if I find it completely inedbile it's not fit for hogs. One such example? An Italian restaurant (highly recommended, HA), ordered pasta. Came in a bowl, stuck in my fork....and lifted up the entire bowl shaped wad of pasta, that had been sitting in a lake of oil. We called for the check, paid for it and walked out, stoppping for fast food on the way home.

    I've sent food back a couple of times, the most famous in a restaurant complete with tuxedoed waiters, where they served me crab cakes that smelled like they had been on the docks in the sun for a week. Waiter came back a few minutes later, carrying the plate saying 'the chef says he can't smell anything'. I said 'uh, but i'm the one that has to eat it'. Shrugged, ate my salad while the waiter fussed asking if I wanted something different, and we just didnt' have the time. Would I go back? Not on your life. If that guy can't smell rotten fish, I'm not wandering past the salad, thanks. Paid for the meal, but again, not going back.

    I can deal with 'oops, gravy', but there are certain mistakes that I can't deal with, like the aforementioned crab cakes. Or my diabetic husband receiving pancakes instead of an omelet. He can't put up with the carbs, and there has to be a line somewhere.

    I fully understand the challenges of a kitchen, and wouldn't want that job myself. But bottomline is, people are coming in and PAYING for the food, this isn't some favour that the restaurant is doing, especially not with overpriced drinks and the concomittant expected tip. Dining out isn't cheap, a little respect towards the customer goes a long way. Customers shouldn't be a PITA, but you get to have a limit as to what you'll put up with.

    February 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  35. Amy Spadoni

    I worked in the fod service industry since I was fourteen, twenty three years later....I think I have seen it ALL. People will send back anything. I will share this one....I was managing and it was late afternoon. A lady and gentlemen were eating and I was called over to the table. They were more than halfway through and they lady asked me to remove her meal from her check. I asked Why, was it cooked to your standards? How was the service? Etc.Etc. she said that she walked by a table on her way to the restroom and they lad was nursing her baby. That made her sick to her stomach and it is our fault we should ask all mothers nursing to use the restroom. (I was seven months pregnant at the time.) I said nothing handed her my boss's business card with my name. I told her under no circumstances would I be removing anything from her bill. And just to state this for the record. Yes, the Mom was nursing, she was COMPLETELY covered up. You knew what she was doing but could see NOTHING!! Funny stuff!

    February 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • LE

      oh wow. everyone else was eating, why not let the baby have his supper! TRUE baby horror story: i was waiting on a table once in our back dining room. the room was empty except for them, which for some reason made them think it was okay to change their baby's diaper at the back corner booth... ON TOP OF THE TABLE. i asked the manager to speak with them/direct them to the ladies room with a changing table provided. now THAT was unacceptable.

      one last story.... i was eating out at a restaurant where an old manager of mine was working, and he told me this KILLER sendback story. an older couple was eating at a table on their streetside outdoor patio and their puppy was leashed to the fence around the area, laying down on the sidewalk outside. they ordered grilled steak for the pup and after about 10 minutes they asked for the manager (my friend). he asked what he could do to help them and they told him their dog didnt like his steak and that it should be taken off their bill. they then asked that a new meal be prepared for the dog but that they did not intend to pay for it. WOW. nasty people like that are the ones that make waitstaff disgruntled, not nice people who just want their food done correctly!

      February 8, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • no restroom eating

      Once I was breastfeeding my child in a restaurant-totally covered up- and a man came by my table and told me to take it to the ladies room. I told him "only if you eat your dinner in there too!" people are idiots

      February 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  36. Daniel

    I'm not a particularly fussy eater and so I can't ever recall needing to send anything back. I would send something back if it seemed borderline dangerous (ie, undercooked chicken or pork) or if something got into the food that wasn't intended (ie, a fly, hair, baby's pacifier, etc).

    In my case, as an example, meat comes in 3 stages: 1) raw 2) cooked 3) charcoal. As long as it's #2 I'll be fine.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  37. Howdy

    I don't know why everyone keeps giving the serving staff a "pass". It is their responsiblity to bring you the food as you ordered it.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  38. Jen

    In general I'm a pretty easy eater, I'll happily drink cold tomato soup from a can in a pinch. I like spicy food, non spicy, veggies, pretty much whatever you put in front of me I'm ok. I have only once sent a dish back and it was an absolutely inedible chopped steak salad from the Outback. It tasted as if the entire shaker of spice had been dumped on the meat, the salt and spice physically hurt my mouth. I tried explaining it to the server, who called the manager who just flounced and huffed that it was a "spicy dish" and it stated on the menu. She was absolutely non sympathetic as I explained I have no problem with spicy dishes, it seemed as though there had been a mistake. It literally seemed like the cook had dumped the entire bottle of spice on the steak. She just kept rolling her eyes and huffing and acting like a put out high school drama queen. I finally had her remove it the dish, I probably ate 3 bites. They offered no replacement of the dish and nothing else from the menu. They also insisted we pay for the dish as the issue was "You should have paid attention to whether or not a dish is spicy". Can anyone guess if I've been back to the Outback? I have friends that routinely send items back and I just shiver, unless you are in a high end restaurant where there is an actual chef I can only imagine what the grill cook is doing to their food.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  39. Whatsagirltodo

    Of course I have sent thing back over the years..... and the more expensive the establishment, the more likely I am to demand that for which I have paid. Meat ordered rare that arrives well-done for example or hot soup that arrives at room temperature ............

    February 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  40. AGeek

    I cannot eat dairy. I tend to choose "safe" items in the first place, but *always* check with the waitress/waiter, asking them to check that what I want has no milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, whey, or other dairy. I've had food come to the table with cheese on it, or with a pat of butter, or some other obvious dairy source.

    The entire dish goes back and I leave a minuscule tip. If I'm making a fairly big deal which is obvious to the wait staff that it is important to me ...and they completely air-ball this, they they're failing to do their job. So, yes. I'll readily send stuff back and I'll politely apologize, but it's the wait-staff's fault, not me being picky.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  41. dre

    The one and only time I've ever sent anything back, it was an order of chicken strips that were still raw in the middle. I had eaten half of one before realizing the center was completely raw. They took the strips back to the kitchen and cooked them again, returning the exact same ones to me minutes later (including the half eaten one). An hour later (and for the next 12 hours or so), I was violently ill. It turns out, that was also the one and only time I've had food poisoning.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  42. r

    If something is crap and they serve it to me then I say this is crap and I leave.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  43. Harry

    Having worked in a kitchen, I want the person handling my food to like me. You have no idea what cooks will do to get back at the SOB at table 12. If the situation can't be handled with respect to the cook, just move on and don't go back.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  44. OPoe

    I will only send something back if there is something seriously wrong with it. If I don't trust the cook I absolutely will not send it back. Only once was I so angry that I never went back to the restaurant, and we had been regulars there. I had ordered a dish and they had put what tasted like oil over the top of it. Not a whole lot but I am not fond of oil, but I ate it and took note of what to ask for next time. When I ordered the next time, I asked the waitress if they could leave it off. It was one of those restaurants where the cooks cook in a kitchen where you can watch them. When my dish came out the waitress apologized as she put the plate in front of me and said "I know you ordered it without oil but they said it wasn't oil. It is butter". I said "Oh come on!". I looked over and all five cooks were standing there watching me with smiles on their faces. I asked for a second plate and a stack of napkins. The manager apologized and they gave us coupons for two free future meals. But if you can't trust the cooks.... I can't go back.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  45. kim in kentucky

    Have only sent food back a couple of times – once was a steak that I had ordered medium-rare and it was well-done and so dry, I just couldn't eat it (and it was at a restaurant that we ate at on a regular basis) and once was soup that just wasn't right, which they replaced with another that was fine

    February 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  46. Leigh

    I've never sent anything back, but once I ordered a black bean burger and it was absolutely horrible, so I just decided not to eat it. Before we got the bill the waitress noticed that I didn't eat it and asked if it was okay and I told her the truth. She asked if I wanted to order something else, but everyone was finished eating, so she justremoved it from the bill and said she would tell the kitchen. That was good enough for me.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  47. Worf's Baby Mama

    It really depends on where I'm eating if I'll send something back. If I'm in a top-class restaurant, a place where they truly cater to the diner, most of the time I can be sure my food is done the way I ordered. I'll only return it if it's entirely the wrong thing, cooked incorrectly, or contains something that I purposely asked them to remove (such as anything made of pork). If I'm in some mid-grade place, I have to really think about whether I'd send the food back or not. I don't want anything coming back with "special sauce." I also hate the dirty looks they give you (especially in mom-and-pop places).

    But I have a friend who returns things because she "doesn't like it," or decides she "no longer wants it," or somehow she's changed her mind. I find this type of behaviour to be rude. I almost hate dining out with her because it is embarrassing and I'm always afraid the kitchen will retaliate. Restaurants should really crack down on these type of people. I know they want to please their customers but really, these jerks who purposely do this are just driving up prices for the rest of us.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  48. EclecticGoddess

    I had to mark "Other", because I have only sent something back a few times, and it's always been because the dish was not presented as described on the menu. Namely, it contained significant amounts of something that I would avoid when given the option.

    Once, the primary ingredient was mushrooms, and when I mentioned to the server that I wouldn't have ordered it if I'd known, he indicated that he'd heard that a lot. The other times were dishes containing onions, which I have an aversion to, and I always ask the server in advance if a dish contains any, just in case. The few times that something has arrived with onions anyway, I've always tried to be polite, and most servers in turn are very apologetic and nice when it came to swapping my dish out for something else or remaking it.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  49. jamesB

    I've twice returned chicken that was so undercooked it was literally frozen, and fries that were ice cold.

    People that return food to try and get a freebie should be arrested for shoplifting, fraud, or whatever you call that kind of scam. It dilutes the societal ability to politely complain with no ulterior motive.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
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