Bad Service: To Forgive & Forget?

“How was everything?” asked the waiter as we finished our staff luncheon at a new restaurant in town.  “Fine,” was the standard reply from those who managed to get any words out.  The others, not wanting to say what they really thought of the dining experience, filed out the door quietly.

We had come to celebrate the calling of a new Student Pastor for our church.  Having heard good things about this new Mexican restaurant that offered a luncheon buffet (too great a temptation for Baptists), we called ahead to make reservations.  As the waiter escorted us to our table, we passed by the “buffet.”  I put that in quotes because I’m not sure that what I saw that day could be considered a buffet in any meaningful sense of the word.

After determining that there was nothing on the menu that appealed to me, I resigned myself to the fact that I would pay $9.99 for the opportunity to choose from no more than a dozen items, half of which I did not like in the first place.  With plate in hand, I made my way to the food.  Looking in vain for tortillas to make a burrito, I found none.  At that moment, the waiter came out and asked if anyone would like tortillas.  “Why yes, we would love some.”  To which he replied, “We charge a quarter for each tortilla.”  As I heard this perplexing statement (tortillas are one of the cheapest foods in New Mexico), I concluded right then and right there that this would be my first and last time eating in this establishment.  If you think I’m being overly critical, almost to a person everyone else in our party said that they would not return either.

Maybe they were just having a bad day at the restaurant the time that we decided to visit.  “Forgive and forget,” some would say.  “Don’t be too harsh.  Give them another try.  It’ll be better next time.”  Following the example of Jesus, we should be quick to offer forgiveness to someone who offends us and equally as quick to ask for forgiveness when sin against someone else.  After all, forgiveness is central to the Gospel message.  “I forgive you,” are some of the most beautiful words in the English language (or any language for that matter).

But, how does the Biblical principle of forgiveness apply in a situation where you have been “offended,” not by someone’s sin against you, but because of poor service?  Must you forgive and forget the bad service you previously received at the eatery, only to willingly subject yourself (and your money) to the same quality the next go around?  Why would you continue to be a customer — at a restaurant, bookstore, church, or website — when you have been treated shabbily on your first visit.  What makes you think that your subsequent visits will be any more pleasant?

I’ve thought a lot about this in recent days, not just in the context of a restaurant, but in the context of my blog.  I may view this blogging thing differently than some within the Baptist blogosphere.  I look at everyone who stops by and reads my blog as a valued customer.  In the case of From Law to Grace, you’re not spending any money, but you are spending your precious time in reading what I have written.  I don’t expect everyone who reads my posts or takes the time to comment on them to agree with everything that I write.  Life would be too boring if that were the case.  But I hope those who read and those who take the extra time to dialogue with me will find your visits here to be pleasant.  The customer may not always be right, but you will always be treated right around here.

4 comments for “Bad Service: To Forgive & Forget?

  1. Marty
    August 9, 2010 at 6:35 AM

    You know, it’s really funny what people will put themselves through every day. I laugh at this article, Howell, not because I find your situation amusing, but because I think it’s very interesting what we will tolerate.

    It reminds me of the time my wife and I went to see the movie, Chicago. We had heard rave reviews about it: It was fantastic! The actors in it really brought the show to life! The music was incredible! The singing was surprisingly well-done! etc etc etc.

    Excitedly, Heather and I found a babysitter for our boy, planned the evening with a great dinner, and headed off to the theater. The joint was packed and we were barely able to get seats together, but we managed to finagle a couple near the front.

    Then the lights went down and the movie started. Now, I’ve seen some racy stuff in my lifetime. I’ve seen tacky stuff, too. I have never been so embarrassed to be watching a movie with my wife in my life. For twenty minutes we sat and watched closeup after closeup of peoples’ nether regions and suggestive dance poses and adultery scenes. Finally, we had had enough. We decided to get up and leave. People were shocked. Some grumbled about us walking in front of them as we left. We got out to the lobby and asked to see the manager. We informed them we wanted our money back. I said I came to see a musical, not soft porn. They told us they didn’t refund after the movie started. I told them I would be writing their offices. We left.

    We felt cheated. We had really geared up for the experience and spent a great deal of money to watch, what we thought would be a terrific film.

    I say all this, because I think too often, we tolerate lousy service. We tolerate bad prices, and we tolerate unclean restaurants.

    G.K. Chesterton had a terrific quote, and it’s one of my “life verses” or mantras, if you will.
    He said, “Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.” I adhere to that like a lamprey to a shark in addition to the old adage, “What you tolerate, you condone.”
    Heather and I have decided there are certain things we will not tolerate. We will get up and leave a restaurant if the food is lousy or if the tables are filthy. And we make a point of letting the management know why. No restaurant we have ever left for any of those reasons is ever unclear as to why we left. I won’t pay my hard-earned money to a place that doesn’t care.

    This was extremely difficult in Alamogordo. While living there, I was convinced that Alamogordo meant “lousy customer service” in Spanish. (either that or “out of stock” or “poor drainage”) But we managed to do it and a couple of times the restaurant manager would actually tell us they would fix the problem and hoped we would come back to see the changes made.

    This is America, the greatest capitalist nation the world has ever seen. We need to be willing to let our wallet to the talking. If we do not let the companies we patronize know what is wrong, they can’t fix it. If we sit and eat a meal we think is awful, or the prices are too high, or the place isn’t clean, or the buffet is bad, if we tolerate these things, they will never improve.

    I challenge you. The next time you go somewhere to eat, and it’s bad (for whatever reason) have the gumption to stand up with the wife and kids and go somewhere else. But be sure you let the management know why. They deserve that. And it can be done with gentleness and respect.

    Tolerance is NOT a virtue. The book I read says that Temperance and Kindness ARE.

    • August 9, 2010 at 2:24 PM


      Congratulations on the arrival of Gideon. I hope that Heather and the baby are doing well. I can honestly say I have never seen Chicago the movie. Sorry you had such a bad time. I was going to give another example of a restaurant here in Alamogordo, but I thought one would suffice for the post. We did a staff lunch about 6 months ago at a new steak place on the way to Holloman. Named the “Right Outback Steak House,” nothing was right about this place. We were virtually the only people in the place. I knew we were in trouble when they had printed in the menu that “good food takes time; it will be an hour wait before you get your food.” As this was not my idea, I couldn’t get up and leave. Needless to say, the whole experience was bad. The waitress was Asian and did not speak or understand English very well if at all. That made ordering quite challenging. True to their word, it was about an hour after we walked in that we got our food. It was okay, but with the prices and poor service, you would have to pay me a lot of money to go back

      The sad thing with both the steak house and the Mexican restaurants is that the owners obviously spent a lot of money on renovations. The interiors of both were very nice. However, nice interiors and decor can never make up for poor service, high prices, and mediocre food. I don’t hold a grudge, but I will not forget the next time we choose a restaurant to go to for staff lunch. Both of these will not be in the running. Hope you have a great week and thanks for the comment. God bless,


  2. Bennett Willis
    August 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    I really like the picture. I’ll remember that catsup is a fine writing instrument for some messages. 🙂

    • August 9, 2010 at 2:26 PM


      Thanks. There are a few restaurants that I have been in where I thought about leaving a message like that. I wonder if the owners understood the “message” and made changes? I highly doubt it. God bless,


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