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 |
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