How Not to Complain

I was having a bad day. My fiancé was in the hospital with what turned out to be a minor medical problem, but it was still stressful, as all hospital interactions inevitably are. A friend pretty much insisted on taking me to breakfast before I started my day visiting at the hospital. We settled on a nearby restaurant, which I cherish enough that I eat there several times a year. Old school, not a chain, very diner-ish, with an open kitchen and a staff of veteran cooks, most of them women.

That morning, I did enjoy my experience, the company of my friend and the commiseration, steeling myself for the challenges of the coming day. I normally get an omelet there, or a set of over-mediums with sides. That morning, for some reason, I off-handedly ordered scrambled eggs. Now, I rarely order scrambled eggs at a restaurant, because I know that scrambled eggs aren’t always made to order; sometimes they are made a few-to-20 minutes in advance and sit in a hot well, steaming themselves into rubberiness. But due to the open kitchen I could see them making scrambys to order, so I spun the wheel.

Our plates came. Everything was pretty much on point. The toast was crispy, the tomatoes were red, ripe and fresh, the coffee was hot and delicious and the potatoes were golden-brown. The scrambled eggs, though, were not what I expected. They were a little gray. They were overcooked. They were tiny bits of dry curd scattered under my toast. They were under-seasoned. I didn’t say anything because the kitchen was slammed, and because my friend and I were talking, and I didn’t want to interrupt breakfast with a complaint. And: I ate them!

However, later in the day, after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the atypically (for that restaurant) poor quality of those eggs. See, I am an egg-hound. I’ve often thought that if I was a head chef at a restaurant, and someone applied to get a job as a cook, I would ask the applicant to go into the kitchen and make me four perfect boiled eggs, or two perfect poached eggs, and then we’ll see what’s what. Not even an omelet. Just a plate with decently cooked eggs and respect for the product written all over it.

So, feeling pithy (and justified!) after a long, difficult day, I took to Facebook and wrote a post about how much I loved this restaurant, but that their cooks needed to step up their scrambled egg game. And I named the restaurant. I didn’t post on the restaurant’s page, only on my own timeline to my own friends. But one of the phrases in my post was “Now, I’m not trying to trash them here…”

And then… (Dun Dun Dun!) A friend whom I had once worked with at another restaurant offered this tidbit of wisdom: “But Marsha, you are ‘trashing them’ by posting this. You should have just asked the server or management to replace your eggs.”

Oh, Snap. I had broken my own rule.

I have had a firm policy for years: Before you run to social media with a complaint about a dining experience — whether it’s your own Facebook page or a Yelp or TripAdvisor review — you should first try to correct the situation by asking for help from your server and then management if the server doesn’t come through. It’s not fair to bitch after the fact, if you didn’t at least give the staff a chance to make things better. And, worst of all — I had eaten the offending item! It was bad enough that I wanted to complain to my friends, but not so bad that I didn’t scarf down those low-rent scrambled eggs.
Customer technical foul. On me.

And I didn’t even realize it was happening. I was just bitching on Facebook, looking for sympathy from my social circle because I was having a shitty day.
In my defense, I will say we left a good tip (never punish your server by docking their wages for kitchen mistakes!), but I feel real chagrin for posting my whiny complaint to Facebook without even considering the damage I could do to a local business. So, don’t be like me. Be an adult and advocate for yourself in the moment and hope for the best.

And for eff’s sake: Don’t eat that thing you find substandard and then complain about it later!

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

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