Ah, customer service.

Ah, Feastlings,

As much as I tug at my collar when I write these, and as much as I worry that I’m too much of a complainer, this is still ultimately a form of therapy for me, so I’ll preface today’s email with a warning: this will almost definitely sound like a complaint. I assure you, it isn’t. It’s a story of the triumph of letting a guest go whose presence is more of a detriment than a benefit and breathing as I tell myself it’s okay to 86 somebody who’s doing more harm than good. But if you don’t have the patience for a complaint from me, there’s very little of substance here for you, so just hit your delete button now and move on to the Christmas clearance deal that’s next in your inbox.

I’ve done it before- four times, to be exact, in twenty years. Three of those times, it was because we had a guest so difficult or rude that there was literally no one left among the staff who didn’t have a problem taking care of the guest, and I wasn’t going to demand that anyone keep subjecting themselves to unreasonable treatment. From the get-go, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t make a Feast employee do anything that I wasn’t willing to do myself, and there are stories of my torturous ruin that will go untold today because they’re graphic and I’ve got too much to do anyhow. Once, it was because I could no longer afford to have the guests return- they habitually sent back more in food than their entire tab, and it simply wasn’t sustainable to lose money every time they came in.

Today I had a guest pick up food to go. I’ve seen him in here half a dozen times in the past month, and he’s never appeared happy or pleasant, but it’s my hope that a good meal will turn that around. Evidently, it doesn’t, and my heart truly goes out to him, because I caught a tiny snippet of his life, and it wasn’t pretty, nor did it appear that it would become pretty in the near future. He placed an order, and both he and we made mistakes. He was told that we couldn’t have his order ready by 2, but rather 2:15, which he understood to mean the opposite- that we couldn’t have it ready by 2:15 but could somehow have it ready 15 minutes earlier. We also rang in his order incorrectly. He ordered the butternut souffle, and the person who rang it in accidentally rang in a butterscotch pot de creme. Butternut/butterscotch- I can see how it happened, and we’re all fallible. The guest wasn’t okay with it, and had some reason to be cranky. It took an extra seven minutes, and with the confusion about the time already an issue, it wasn’t going over well.

I comped his dessert, and an appetizer, and a couple of salads, which he said wasn’t the issue; it was the time and it was the fact that his food would now be either cold or overcooked, or both. The money, he said, meant nothing to him. We had a pretty long talk about how we might be able to make him feel better about this, and the upshot was this: he was going to bring this home to a wife who was very angry about how long it took, and it had better not be cold or overcooked. Not yet having mastered time travel, I comped about a quarter of his meal and crossed my fingers.

Finger-crossing, for the record, is a mere superstition, which can’t be relied upon. I’m here to testify to that. Half an hour later, I got a phone call:

Jason: “Doug, that guy with the takeout order is on the phone and wants to talk to you again.”

Me, silently: “There is no conceivable way this can end well.”

Our former customer: “I’m going to come back there and bring all this food back for a full refund. It’s all wrong, the vegetables aren’t even in here and it’s unacceptable.”

Me, audibly: “You can I went over the order together- remember? We packed the vegetables for the barramundi separately.”

OFC: “NO, there are supposed to be peppers and tomatoes in here!”

Me: “There are- if you look at the menu, you’ll see that it describes a puree of chickpease, roasted peppers and roasted tomatoes, and that’s what you received.”

Wife of OFC: “Just hang up! I’m not eating this! This is (redacted)!!”

OFC: “You don’t want me to get a refund?”

Wife: “I don’t care what the (redacted) you do! I’m not eating this (redacted)!”

OFC: “I’m bringing this back for a full refund.”

Me: “Let me save you the trip. I’m going to remove everything from your check and cancel your payment, and we’ll make the agreement that we clearly can’t make you or your wife happy, so let’s not continue to try. She’s obviously upset- I can hear her- and you’re obviously upset, so just know that you’ll see an authorization on your credit card which will drop off in two business days. You won’t be charged.”

OFC: “No, that won’t work. I’ll bring it back and you’ll have to refund me.”

Me: “I’m really sorry to tell you this, but I’m powerless over how credit card companies work. We authorized your card when you came in, and I can’t un-authorize it. I’ll remove the charge, but I can’t make Visa go back in time and un-authorize your card any more than I can go back in time and make the person who rang in your order not mistakenly order the wrong thing. You can still eat what food you want- you don’t have to bring it back- but let’s agree that we won’t try to serve you again.”

OFC: “No, something will go wrong if you don’t undo the charge and hand me a piece of paper saying it’s been undone.”


OFC: “I’m coming back.”

Me: “I’m saving you a trip. You’re welcome to email me and I’ll reply with a copy of the cancelled transaction. Or come back if you feel you need to, but it won’t be any different. I cannot physically change how Visa works.”

OFC: “No.”

Me: “Do what you want, but I can’t undo time.”

OFC: “Okay.”

Wife: (more raging.)

OFC: click.

Whatever misery I dealt with, in the end, I dealt with it for maybe half an hour or forty minutes. And it cost me about two hundred bucks. And I feel good now. Good, and a little proud for not submitting to more of it. A sound investment of $200 and 40 minutes- peace.

And that guy? He’s probably still dealing with it now, hours later. He’s likely been dealing with it for years and will likely continue dealing with it. And I wish him the ability to one day say, “it’s clear that you can’t be made happy, so let’s agree that we’ll no longer try and fail.” Maybe he’ll have the same subtle grin that I have now, the very slightly upturned corner of the mouth. Or not. I don’t know. That’s his journey, and I’m on mine. I hope that doesn’t sound insensitive; it’s just that, just like I can’t undo past mistakes and I can’t call Visa and have them rework the way that they process credit cards, I can’t help him become happy. Hell, I can scarcely ever help myself become happy. I’m just grateful that today I could comb a difficulty out of what little hair I have left, and turn up the corner of my mouth.

Suffice it to say, that little issue and a host of others- wine orders coming in cattywampus, people needing help in the wine shop on Kevin’s day off, a mad scramble to get in the ingredients for New Year’s Eve- mean I have yet to get said menu posted to the website, so I’m really hoping that tomorrow is a bright new day. We’ll see. Meanwhile, there are still a few days to treat yourself or someone you love to a snack, or something from the wine shop, or some flavored salts or vinegars, or a gift certificate that lets your loved ones decide what’s best for them. The menu and wine list are the same as ever- always changing a bit, but always to be found here


and here


and we hope to see you soon, unless you’re one of the now five people who’ve been asked not to return to Feast. Please note, there’ll be no wine tasting this weekend, as Saturday is Christmas and we’ll be closed; and Sunday the vast majority of you replied to say they wouldn’t be attending. So we’ll all rest our holiday-wearied bones, and we’re on our own for weekend wine tastings. I intend to have my own very tiny tasting, quietly, with no interlopers, and maybe a friendly game of rummy.

Thanks, all.



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