Monday, February 12, 2007

crappy service

do white people demand excellent service when they go out to dinner at a restaurant? i mean, if they're treated badly or get poor service, the first thing that pops into their mind is obviously NOT that it's because they're white. Geez. wonder what that feels like. when a white person complains about poor service, they're taken seriously. but, i feel like when i (or another person of color) complains about poor service, the response is like "oh god, they're going to play the race card...they're going to say they were slighted because of being black... Great." or that the only reason why i think i got such bad service is because i'm black and hypersensitive.

saturday, the husband and i went to local BrewPub . i don't know why i keep going back there when i keep getting such crappy service. the last 3 times that i've gone there (and i don't go there often), i've gotten crap service. but i'm not much one for boycotting a place if i really like their food. i just suffer through it. although, hte main reason i don't go there more often is because of their lame service.

so, The Husband and i walked in. the sign read "Please wait to be seated". the place was packed. we waited. and waited. and waited. like 10 long minutes had passed and the hostess chick walked back and forth in front of us, doing this, doing that. she even looked as us and kept going, ignoring us. honestly, i didn't think it was a black and white thing. i really didn't. even if it was, i was tired and starving and didn't really care.

i was getting hot under the collar. i told The laid back Husband that it was time for me to speak out. he told me to just pipe down and wait. yeah, whatever. so here came the hostess girl again, a Tonya Harding look-a-like, right in front of us, ignoring us. "excuse me" i said. she looked like she couldn't understand what we could possibly want. mind you, i DO know how to complain in a diplomatic manner. i asked her if she noticed that we had been waiting for about 10 minutes without ANY acknowledgement whatsoever. not even a hello. "oh, we're just so busy, etc, etc...". i asked her if that was their usual procedure when they're busy, to just let their patrons stand there without any acknowledgement for....ever? how were we to know when or if a table was available and how long the wait would be? she started to act uncomfortable, because i had put her on the spot. i wanted her to know that being ignored was unacceptable. regardless how busy they were. "and what is your name???" i asked. she told me her name. i had to let her know that i KNEW who she was and i would REMEMBER.

a moment later two other white couples came in. this was perfect. the perfect opportunity for me to see how they were treated. i couldn't wait for the hostess to come and greet them right away so i'd have something to be pissed about and prove exactly what i know to be true. they waited and waited too. good. so it wasn't a race thing.

when the hostess came back, she apologized and told us it would only be a few minutes or so. then i got kind of worried. this is the kind of stuff that gets you marked by the cooks. you might have some spit or dirt or something in your food. i was mad at myself for even saying anything. now i had to worry about my dinner being prepared on the floor, or worse. the Husband and i discussed going elsewhere but we were too tired to think of another place.

when the hostess came back again to seat us, i thanked her profusely. i thought maybe that would help me get some untainted food.

when we got seated, i was much more relaxed after i had a hefeweizen. i tried to ignore the fact that we were seated kind of in the middle of the restaurant for all to gawk at us, the only interracial couple in the place. the hefeweizen helped. it even helped when my plate was brought to me and my food was cold. anyway, i could continue on about the service, but i wont.

i looked around. i was the ONLY black person in a sea of white people. i'm getting kind of sick of that feeling. i mean, really. it's very underrated. okay, so then a black guy with a large group of white people came in a little later. that's still 2 black people out of about 120 people.

i'm just still trying to figure out why my roots are so deep here and why we stay in a place like portland. it's great and all, but the overabundant whiteness really gets to me at times.


lc said...

I can sympathise with your feelings and wouldn't want to undermine your observations, but here's another:

Being ignored by service people is such a Portland thing!

I'm white, and get it ALL the time. I have started a one-woman campaign to let management know when I've been ignored. Service people have a duty to acknowledge customers. That's their job, and I know this because I've spent some time in the service industry. All it takes is a nod, or a "I'll be right with you."

When I'm just plain ignored, I speak up. I give it a few minutes. I point out that I've been waiting and haven't been acknowledged. I give the first-line person the opportunity to make it right.

And I let management know in most cases, that people didn't even look at me while I stood in front of them for five minutes. I'm sure the owners don't want staff scaring off business.

I also give my repeat business to the places with good service.

Kevin said...

Yeah, restaurant service in Portland tends to run from indifferent to completely clueless. Weirdly, a lot of it seems to do with age - places that hire older people for hosts and servers seem to do a better job. I don't know what the problem is unless they're trying to show that they're not "real" servers, but that they're creative snowflakes whose heart is really with their indie band or their art or whatever.

On the other issue: During the NFL playoffs I went to a sports bar to watch the Saints/Bears game. There were about 200 people there, and they were all white. It was hard not to notice. Finally a group came in that had one black guy.

Sometimes I think that black Portlanders just get tired of being the only black person in the room, so they just stay home.

Aly Cat 121 said...

Girl don't even torture yourself with eating at a place with bad service. Shoot my azz hasn't been back to one of the BEST bakery's in my town since they messed up an order of mine back in 1998. Like my father used to always say "you ain't GOT to take my money". I've been seated in restaurants and left because I "just wasn't feeling it" and have yet to regret my decisions. Don't eat some place that YOU pay for and can't enjoy yourself cuz you feel uncomfortable. There is NO food anywhere that's THAT good, you know?

That Black Girl said...


i do get tired of being the only one in a crowd of white people. i try not to let it cause me to stay home though. i went to some park concerts last summer and there were no black people but i had such a good time that i didn't care. there are places that i avoid even when i'd like to go, like beerfests because it's actually so DISTURBINGLY white. it's just more enjoyable to go and be around familiarity.

coffy said...

i just found your blog, and your experiences mirror what i feel everyday in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Can't relate exactly but I did go to a Chinese restaurant on 82nd and was the only white person there. I wasn't worried about my food being poorly prepared, but I was not offered the menu written only in Chinese. I wonder sometime why the activities I enjoy are so white. Skiing, bicycling, micro brews. It is not like I am avoiding Black people but I don't think I will meet any on the slopes.

Anonymous said...

I've had multiple bad experiences with service and food at the alameda brew pub and I have promised myself I'll never go back. Thanks for giving me one more reason.

Troutdale Councilor Canfield said...

The service at Alameda Brewpub was poor the last three times we were there. So we don't go there anymore.

PDX restaurant folks don't get it that there is SO much foodie competition in this town. The only thing that differentiates one brewpub from another is the service. How hard is it, for crying out loud, to acknowledge your customers and treat them with respect? And don't give me the suffering server whine about customers are so rude. Don't like it? Get a different job! We're rude because you're rude!

Three poor service strikes and you're out, is our motto. And I'm a big tipper.

D said...

I had almost the same exact experience about three months ago. A friend and I met for dinner, the place was packed. She wanted to ask the hostess why we hadn't been seated, but I could see the place was packed - so I just asked how long it would be - she said 15 minutes - we waited - sat down, and ate. Then talked for a while, until the server said "we're really busy, so would it be okay if I brought your check so someone else could sit down?" We got kicked out. C'est la vie, they've got a business to run.


On another topic - let's hypothetically say I moved to Africa. To live. In most areas I would be a white person in a sea of black. Honestly, I don't think it would bother me. I'm pretty sure I would sometimes be discriminated against as the minority. It even happens to me sometimes in the United States when I am a minority for some reason in whatever group I'm in. Yes, it makes me mad, and yes, I usually try to address it, but not always.

It is what you make it.

If you want to move somewhere where there's more black people, then do it. But in my mind, I think I could be happy as a white person in a sea of African, Indian, Chinese, Russian, or Thai people. And I know people who have actually done this. All alone.

I know exclusion can be insidious and subtle and disempowering, but it sounds like you're uncomfortable even in situations where there is no exclusion factor, only a lack of more people like you.

So you could either move to a neighborhood and frequent restaurants with a greater black representation, or move somewhere else, i.e. Atlanta.

Or you could get comfortable with it... race should not be an issue unless someone MAKES it an overt issue, which is hopefully not very often. You can represent, or not represent, as is your wont, but either way, you can just be you.

Or maybe you could invite some minority, interracial, or multi-racial friends to party with you.

In a way, I'm glad you're there. You're "sitting down together at the table of brotherhood". And as I said elsewhere... we can't sit down together... without sitting down together.