a real dive

My wife Kathy wrote a LiveJournal post about our experience at The Mayan restaurant last night. You really should go read her post before continuing with mine.

I had started to write my own post about it, but hadn’t gotten very far before sleep claimed me. Rather than come up with my own original work, I’ll cheat by giving you some excerpts from her post with my comments.

Last night we were invited to take the family out to the Mayan with our friends Joe and Kathleen. Tuesday is the night kids meals are free with an adult meal, so we figured we’d get a fun show, and some good food at a good price.

Let me preface by telling those who don’t know already: The Mayan is a mexican restaurant with a rain forest theme. They have a huge cliff area with a waterfall and a pool where they do a cliff diving show every half hour.

As Kathy’s post explains, we received the worst service I’ve yet encountered at a restaurant.

All together our two families made a group of 12 which IS large, so we were not at all surprised when they said there would be a bit of a wait. We arrived just before 7pm, and after 20 minutes we asked how much longer it would be. The answered 20-30 minutes. During this time we’d seen many smaller groups coming in and being seated immediately. After about 45 minutes, we asked again and they said 35-40 minutes. That seemed a bit bizarre since the amount of time was getting longer.

All in all, we spent over an hour in the lobby of the restaurant, waiting our turn to go to the ordering booth. I brought my camera, and snapped probably 40 or so pictures of the kids, the interior of the restaurant, and a striking view of the mountains. If you’ve ever had to wait for a long time in a restaurant lobby with eight kids from two families, you know that the situation is already pretty insane at this point. When they finally told us they had a table that just needed to be cleaned, they told us it had a good view of the show. That turned out to be completely untrue.

We finally got to enter the ordering line. We asked the guy to split the ticket so each family ordered and paid for their own. The order guy did so and that all went pretty smoothly. They they took us down the corridor toward the cliff diving show. Unfortunately, the table they had for us was right in this main traffic area, and we couldn’t actually see anything. So for our whole meal we had servers walking past showing other people to their tables, and we had people from upper floors running down the ramp past us to the front of the diving area to see the show up close.

I have a really hard time with noisy environments. My stress level shoots up and my mind tends to shut down*. This was already louder than your average noisy restaurant because it was such a high traffic area. That wasn’t the only mayhem, though:

Everything up to this point was irritating, but the topper was our server for the evening, Tammy. She asked if anyone wanted sour cream and guacamole, which all four adults did. And then as she continued talking, about six other servers showed up with all the food. Instead of letting our server put the food on the table one at a time, these servers would just yell out whatever was on the plate so we could point to who it was for. So imagine six servers hollering 24 different meals and drinks, while our server, Tammy, gave us her little spiel at the same time, all this while other servers and patrons are filing past our table, and our own kids are bouncing off the walls with all the noise and activity. It was totally crazy.

Things got more calm after that was dealt with, but Kathy’s food was unbearably spicy, and we hadn’t seen our server for a while.

When Tammy came back ten minutes later, we reminded her about the sour cream and guac, and asked for more water, and then I asked what was in the burrito that made it so spicy (because at the very least I’d like to avoid it in the future.) She said “Oh, is it too hot for you.” I said I couldn’t eat it, but I would just have my beans and rice with chips. She said “I’d be happy to replace it for you.” I didn’t want to get stuck paying for another meal, so I asked about that…if she could replace it for free…if that would be ok. She assured me it was no problem and walked away with my plate. A few minutes later she came back and said that would just be a minute, however she had forgotten the sour cream and guac and water again. When we pointed this out, she said “Oh, yeah, when you asked me to reorder that burrito it made me forget the other stuff. I’ll be right back with new drinks and the sauce.” Twice more we had to ask for sour cream and guac, and she brought the wrong drinks, or didn’t bring all of them.

There you have the situation setting the tone for our entire evening of interaction with this server. She obliquely tells us that it’s our fault she hasn’t brought our sauces, because we had her replace Kathy’s burrito. We only saw her about once every 10-15 minutes, and every time she came back she had forgotten at least one thing we asked her for the last time. She had an excuse every time, things like the machine screwed up, there were ten other servers in the kitchen and she couldn’t get all the sauce, and so on. Not once did she admit that she had made a mistake.

It’s totally understandable when you have a party of 12 that your server might have some trouble keeping up, but a good server will admit the mistake, apologize, and check back often to make sure everything’s OK. Those simple things go a long way towards making customers happy even when everything doesn’t go perfectly. Our server was quick to apologize, but was unwilling to take responsibility, and did almost nothing to correct the problem. It really sucks that 18% gratuity is automatic with large parties, because our server certainly did not earn it.

In the end, Kathy never got the takeout carton she requested at least three times. They never got the split check fully corrected. We finally just paid what they gave us and we’ll work out the difference between us after we figure out what our debit cards were actually charged.

* I’m fairly certain that I have a mild case of Asperger Syndrome, based on our experience with dealing with it in our children. I may write about this in a fugure blog post.

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