Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just call me "A Regular"

Rachel and I have had a routine for the last year or so where we go to our nearby walkable diner to eat Sunday brunch. Brunch has become lunch, because it was really crowded at Brunch time, and then Lunch became 2:30/3P because that was when it was not crowded. So this is the routine now, we go every Sunday at 2:30/3P after I walk Max at 1:30/2P, the usual Max walking time, and Rachel walks Chloe (our older dog) at around that same time, and then off we go. The place is ours.

We have the usual!

It took a long time to establish the usual. When we first started going, the waiter would ask us what we wanted. I would gesture to Rachel in a sort of showman, you go first way, and say “why don’t you go first”. Rachel on cue would say, “I’ll have the hash and eggs sunny side up please, with French Fries, not the home fries, and rye toast, and a unsweetened ice tea. Thank you”. Then it was my turn. I would say “And I’ll also have the eggs, only instead I’ll have mine over easy with the hash and the home fries, and if you could make it only one egg instead of two please, no toast, and I’ll also have a unsweetened ice tea. Thank you”. Seems easy enough, you would think, right? It would come, and it would be a delicious, while of course a cholesterol laden eating fest, it’s tasty. Then the bill would arrive, and I would be charged for two orders of eggs and hash. Not one order of Eggs and Hash, and one order with one egg. This is where the diner entertainment starts.

I could not let this one egg thing go. I did not have two eggs. How much could one egg be? But why should the customer be charged for two eggs if they are only eating one? The egg I wasn’t eating, someone else was eating, only I was being charged for it, this seemed like a built in bonus…to the diner, not to me, not to the waiter, not to the cook, but to the owner.

Next step. I would mention the over-charge to the waiter, and they would tell me that there was no difference in the charge between a one-egg order and a two-egg order, but I was welcome to take it up with the owner. Perhaps, many customers would prefer not to take it up with the owner, perhaps the owner was counting on the fact that most customers would not be taking this up with him. Perhaps the owner thought that most people like two eggs instead of one, or didn’t mind wasting an egg. Perhaps the owner thought that most customers didn’t mind paying an extra amount for an egg they didn’t eat. Well, that could be. How much extra was I paying? There was no one-egg option on the menu.

I decided to go to the register to discuss the overcharge with the owner. I say to him “there seems to be a problem with my bill, I’ve ordered one egg, and I’ve been billed for two”. He said, “Oh sorry” and he deducts 75 cents. This may not seem like a lot to some, but to me, this was worth asking for, because once tax is added, we’re talking 81 cents for that egg. I don’t need to pay 81 cents for an egg I’m not eating.

Next week we go again, the same routine, the same meal, the same charge, the same conversation, and the same deduction. This goes on for about two months, and it begins to wear on both of us…it’s not as fun or as easy as it was back two months previous. But I continue to go up to the counter, and I’m not wearing out, maybe they were counting on the fact that I would, maybe they were thinking I wouldn’t be coming on a weekly basis, or maybe they didn’t think we would be eating the same thing.

Finally the bubble bursts…was it the meal, the bill, or the talk? The owner tells me that they really don’t have a one-egg meal and that they can’t continue to make this adjustment. I respond by saying that I can’t be the only one that wishes that there was a one-egg choice on the menu, and that perhaps they should offer it. He volleys the proverbial menu point over the net, and responds by telling me that they just had the menus redone and that they’re not planning on redoing them again for a while. This I acknowledge, because I noticed that my usual Final Bill had gone up about 5%, which is probably why we’re even having this conversation. Perhaps the cost of my egg is more, perhaps they can’t take 81 cents off the bill, it’s not as cost-efficient, or perhaps they are concerned that now that the bill is higher, I may (because I’m just that kind of a customer), be asking for more money off the bill for the egg.

This conversation is becoming tiresome. I like the restaurant, I’m sure he likes the business. I get to the crux of the matter. I say “Sir, I like it here, I just don’t want to pay for what I don’t eat, suppose I eat one egg here, and take one egg home with me? Suppose I eat one eat over easy, and take a hard-boiled egg to go?” He says, “I can do that, no problem, good plan!”

The following week Rachel and I dine, we order with the new plan. The waiter is confused, and says, I’m not sure we can do that. I say “the owner said it wouldn’t be a problem”. He says “hold on, let me check.” He comes back in a minute and tells us he can do it. It took many weeks, and many waiters, many times we heard “let me check”, and Rachel and I would laugh. We finally got everyone trained. We would order our meals, and the waiter would bring my hard boiled egg, in a paper cup with a plastic cover in a small white paper bag before the end of the meal and I would bring it home and eat it somewhere within the next day or so. It’s a good plan-it works for both sides.


So about two weeks ago, Rachel and I got to the diner around 2:30P/3P our usual time. I saw one of our usual waiters, and on that day I was contemplating saying “I’ll have the usual”. I don’t know why, but I even kidded with Rachel that that’s what I was going to say. She kind of rolled her eyes “like oh Mom, don’t do that, that’s going to be embarrassing…it’s one thing to embarrass yourself, but do you have to embarrass me?” So the waiter comes to the table and says “And what will you be having today?” And following those words…from behind his back with the finesse of a magician he materializes a small white paper bag, which is holding the usual paper cup with the usual hard-boiled egg. Can you believe it? Rachel couldn’t believe it. I said to him, you’re timing is amazing, I was just going to say, “I’ll have the usual”. We laughed, I gave him the high five, he wrote down on his pad the rest of what I wanted, and what he knew Rachel would want. I said to Rachel after he left to get the kitchen preparing our Sunday 3P lunch, this is what it’s like “to be a regular-we’ve sure come a long way in a year”. We gave our waiter a very good tip for being such a great magician. It only goes to show you what you can do if you stick to it.

No comments: