Today, I was feeling like a new woman. I had recently conquered a debilitating headache brought on by a spinal tap which, coincidentally, was cured by a second spinal tap. The sun was shining brightly and, as I walked my faithful dog in the crisp morning air, geese flew overhead and honked incessantly as if to say “Look at me, world, I’m flyin’!” As far as I was concerned, all was right with the universe.
Until . . .
I ventured out to lunch this afternoon with the intention of having what I had hoped would be a great—or at the very least, palatable, meal at a local restaurant that is reputed to be one of those spots where, once you go, you keep going back. It was supposed to be that good. After parking my car in the back of the building, I walked around to the street side of the establishment and waltzed through the front door of the restaurant at 1:35 p.m.
Henceforth, for purposes of anonymity—although why I am even courteous enough to protect their now-sullied-and-soiled reputation is not yet clear even to me—this restaurant shall be called by its code name, “LArdmeadow7.” (As crafty as I purport to be, those in and around Stamford probably won’t find it too difficult to decipher which restaurant I am referring to.)
My morning pinch of food—a couple of stale crackers and a glass of V8 juice—wasn’t exactly the breakfast of champions. Believe me, my mouth was primed and ready for a real meal.
I would love to tell you how much I enjoyed the Duck Confit Quesadilla. And my mouth certainly was watering for a taste of the French Onion Soup. After viewing LArdmeadow7’s menu online, I had already made up my mind that I would order the Diver Sea Scallops and, since I am a veritable slave to certain desserts and fight it tooth and nail with little success, I was going to round out the meal with the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Smash.
I would love to express to you the wonderful flavors that filled my mouth and stomach from this sumptuous and gluttonous meal fit for a queen. . . dare I say, me. Unfortunately I cannot.
When I walked into LArdmeadow7 I was, for lack of a better word, ignored. The bartender glanced at me not once but twice, and said nothing. There was no host, hostess, maitre‘d, sous chef, dishwasher, floor sweeper, crumb catcher or anyone at the front to greet me. I felt so alone—standing at that tiny wooden podium looking around like a lost child—that I half-expected to see tumbleweed rolling past my feet.
Oh, but inside was a different story. There were about a dozen men sitting at the bar, and, periodically, they would glance at me like I had stepped into an exclusive gentleman’s club and I just did not belong in the same building, in the same room, sharing the same space in time with them. After a few minutes, I walked over to the bar. The bartender looked up at me and managed to squeeze an inhospitable “Yeah?” from his narrow lips which, mere seconds before, had been happily flapping away with the barflies lined up along the bar like they were patiently waiting for their requisite free shot of tequila. Gee, I’m sorry I was such an intrusion in the bartender’s day.
“I’d like to be served for lunch,” I spat back at him, obviously on the wrong side of being ticked off and, in my agitted state, ready to flip over a bar stool or two like my name was Godzilla. He stiffly instructed me to “take a seat anywhere,” and proceeded to ignore me once again.
About eight minutes later, a young woman emerged from a door near the front of the restaurant. She was carrying a large wad of money, as if she were on her way to replenish the till. She glanced at me, turned away as if she had looked right through me, never opened her mouth to speak to me and proceeded to go behind the bar to assist the barflies.
And still I waited.
Another five minutes passed, during which time I tapped on the table sharply with my fingernail, sighed heavily and loud enough for folks down the street to hear me and, finally gave in to my annoyance. I stood, slid my arms into my coat sleeves, donned my gloves, grabbed my car keys roughly off the table and walked, nay, stomped, to the bar.
The woman behind the bar had the audacity to purse her lips to form the question, “May I help you?”
For a brief moment, candyland thoughts of scratching her eyeballs clean out of their sockets and using them to chuck at the other bartender filled my head. Breaking free from my trance, I told her it was far too late for her to help me, that I had been sitting for almost fifteen minutes without so much as a “Boo!” and I was now leaving. I so wanted to make a dramatic exit.
Her reply? “Sorry.” This was said without a hint of remorse, embarrassment or conviction.
“Give me the manager’s name,” I demanded, with equal parts venom, anger and tiny beads of spittle.
I was curious to know if this lack of customer service was commonplace in LArdmeadow7? I went in with the very best of intentions . . . namely, to have a great lunch and, ultimately, write an article on the restaurant that was to be published this week. Obviously, I cannot do that now. Well, not exactly. There is this article, which is an ode to poor customer service and for which LArdmeadow7 will forever be associated with, in my mind.
I was so ruffled by the experience that I wrote an email to the General Manager of LArdmeadow7 and, among other bits of tirade, closed the email with the following:
“I just wanted you to be aware of just how much disregard I was shown at your restaurant today. It is such an unnatural feeling – Stamford is such a nice community, but that reputation is beginning to take on a tarnished glow, especially if today’s display of respect—or more appropriately, lack of respect—is to be expected from any of the dozens of other restaurants in the area that I’m sure would be more than willing to welcome new customers. “
Three hours later, I received a response in which the GM expressed how appalled he was that I would have experienced such horrendous service in his restaurant. He invited me back “to try our restaurant and what we have to offer,” and said he understood if I declined said offer.
Even though I’m leaning heavily on the side of holding a major grudge, I have not yet decided if I will lick my wounds and go back to LArdmeadow7. Sometimes apologies are issued only to appease someone and have absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. I would hate to think that the management of LArdmeadow7 is as shallow and self-centered as to follow that insidious path. However, as much as I love my own special brand of stubborn pride, I do so love a good meal.
I’ve made my decision. Will I go back? Definitely not!
Well, I’m not sure. . . .
One thing I do know for sure, though: I really do miss the lost and seemingly forgotten art of good, old fashioned customer service.