For Valentine's Day dinner, my husband and I went out to dinner with our friends, another married couple. We had a bit of a debate at the dinner table, which I think was so interesting.
Now, I don't really want to give away the restaurant because this post is supposed to be in the Hypothetical World. All I'm going to say is that we were at a famous Italian chain restaurant that, for the sake of this entry, I will call: Pimento Greenhouse. Do with that what you will . . .
Now, at Pimento Greenhouse, one of their signatures is unlimited breadsticks. My favorite thing (since I don't really like bread all by itself) is to use the alfredo sauce as a dipper for the breadstick. This is a common enough occurrence that if you request it, Pimento Greenhouse will actually bring out a special dish of alfredo sauce just for this purpose. On this particular night I was very verbal about wanting the alfredo sauce for my breadsticks, but the dish is pretty small and I wasn't the only one dipping, so we ran out.
Either that or I'm a hog and ate it all myself. Could be.
When I asked our waitress to bring out more alfredo she made this regretful face and said that she couldn't without charging us. I thought that was weird, since everyone knows Pimento Greenhouse is swimming in alfredo sauce, so who even cares about giving away extra? But then the weirdest thing happened:
Our waitress did a nudge-nudge, wink-wink thing and said she'd sneak some out to us.
A serious debate ensued after she left . . . we were all shocked that a little extra alfredo sauce was such a big deal. Really, does Pimento Greenhouse employ someone to keep tabs on how much alfredo sauce is going to each table? Or, did our waitress just want to get on our good side for a better tip? Does she say that to everyone that wants more alfredo sauce?
Does she hope that her table will ask for more alfredo sauce just so she can act like she's breaking the rules by sneaking some out? How much is gratitude worth?
I immediately felt cheap; like I was being bought for the measly price of a cup of alfredo sauce. A teeny cup of alfredo sauce.
Our debate ran its course and was left unresolved. As dinner continued I'll be darned if it didn't happen again. Same response to a different request for more: can the person who had soup also have salad? "He's not supposed to; I should charge him more." There is no way this was a coincidence! Is there?
We went back and forth between feeling like we were getting a good deal and wanting to thank her, to feeling like we were getting misled and wanting to punch her.
In the end, we decided we probably got misled, but we thanked her anyway by giving an especially large tip. She was a good waitress, there was no doubt about that, and she probably earned it regardless of the Sneaky Debate. It was a busy night for Pimento Greenhouse, and she was being run off her feet. We got refills on our drinks whenever we wanted (only once was she a little slow), our food came out in a timely manner, there were no major screw ups. We were happy to give her 30 percent.
Although I can't help wondering how the math works out for what the extra shot of alfredo cost us.
PS: This is in response to the comments.
I just want to make sure everything is CRYSTAL clear. I absolutely love Pimento Greenhouse. It is one of my favorite restaurants. Although this post may have seemed very critical, okay I guess it was, I think that's all right sometimes. And, although our waitress was very nice and an excellent waitress (that snuck some breadsticks and extra mints to us just before we left, I forgot to say), most of my criticism was meant for her. There's a right and a wrong way to go fishing for a bigger tip. Giving great service, remembering what beverages we had and bringing refills without being asked . . . she did all that. She didn't have to make us feel guilty on top of it all.