On Saturday night we had one of those customers who thinks it is cool to complain. A lot – And loudly. Well let me tell you, he picked the wrong restaurant to do that in.
You can tell the sort as soon as they walk in. In fact, you’ve probably seen his sort before: so cool in his eyes that he wears a huge, patterned shirt with at least the top 3 buttons undone, Armani jeans with a massive Diesel buckle, a huge f***-off watch which is so heavy I am surprised he can even lift his arm to w*** and usually some horrendous footwear he probably calls boots but look to me as if he nicked them off a pixie.
And he talks constantly, loudly and arrogantly. He slouches, smiles insouciantly at his girlfriend and clicked his fingers at Gordon, my head waiter, which let me tell you is taking your life in your hands.
Then he made his fatal mistake. He sent back the Amazonian Gecko, saying it was under-cooked (WTF does he know if a Gecko is under-cooked?!) and asked to speak to the chef. Which was absolutely bloody fine with me.
There are 3 ways I have used over the years to deal with such people:
- Steal their wallet and then make them wash-up. I don’t actually recommend this anymore since my court case. And we only used this approach when we had Jonno, one of our waiters who had spent a couple of years doing time for HRH. The basis was that he would finger the customer’s wallet and then when the customer found he couldn’t pay, we made the goon wash-up. It gave us great satisfaction but I did sometimes start to feel a bit sorry for any ex-dining companion who would be left alone with a glass of tap water. Plus, invariably the customer was crap at washing up so we would have to do it again anyway.
- Get their car towed away and only tell them this was happening just as it was being towed off. Again, I’m wary of the legal position of this one now. But it works a treat. It wasn’t difficult to spot the customer’s car – often they’d leave their keys ostentatiously on the table anyway, and if not then you can guess what they are driving 9 times out of 10.
- Suggest they arm-wrestle one of my waitresses. This is my current approach and is very popular amongst my staff and other customers. It works like this: Me to customer: “If you are not happy, I suggest you arm wrestle Yan, one of our waitresses. If you win, the meal’s on us, if you lose…” and I jerk my thumb towards the front door. The customer looks across at the waitress I am indicating. Yan is a 5 foot 2 Chinese girl and looks like she wouldn’t hurt an ant. So there is no way the customer can say no and lose face, so he accepts the challenge. Unfortunately for him, Yan could arm wrestle a bear and win. As I said, the other customers love it and the customer has to slink off with his tail between his legs.
Having said all that, what I would really like to do is to take a custard pie and just slam it in the customer’s face. That would be the very best approach. I am consulting my lawyer at this moment as to whether this is viable.