Common Sense Should Tell Me

Posted on Sunday 18 February 2007

You are hungry. You pick a restaurant and head there at 7:30 on a Friday night. No reservation, no phone call ahead to gauge the wait. You just go. And you are unhappy when you can’t get past the podium without a pager and the promise of an hour wait.

“But I see open tables!” you say to the host staff. “Common sense would tell you we should be able to sit at one of them.”

The host staff tries to explain to you that those tables are booked with reservations You try to explain the “common sense” premise again. Stalemate.

****

You have gathered your five friends together on a Saturday night for a nice dinner. You made reservations more than a week ago and snagged the coveted 8:00 p.m. slot. You arrive and the place is packed. Walk-ins are three-deep at the bar, hoping those with reservations either don’t show or eat really fast. You, however, are immediately ushered to your table–a four-top and a deuce pushed together and set for six.

“You don’t have round tables?” you ask, making no attempt to mask your annoyance. “I like to sit with my friends at a nice round table so we can all talk. This table doesn’t work for me.”

The host politely explains that this restaurant doesn’t have any round tables for six available for several hours. You decide to take matters into your own hands. “Fine, then let’s rearrange these tables along in here to make it more comfortable. Take this one away, and move that other table from over there to here, and turn these chairs and place them on each end.”

The host is aghast. What you are asking is to rearrange heavy pieces of furniture that will have to be lifted over other guests’ heads–difficult in a tight area when the restaurant is empty; almost impossible on a crowded Saturday night.

“Sir, I just don’t know if we can do that. He looks around at the other guests hoping one of them will cave and say, “Actually, this is fine.” Instead, another member of the party comments, “Isn’t it common sense in the restaurant business to say ‘Yes’ to your guests? Do you comprehend the word ‘Yes’?”

At which point the host excuses himself to find a manager and two bussers to let them deal with it.

****

You approach the podium and ask to be seated in “Linda’s section.” You are told that Linda’s section is full, but you have another table in another area if you don’t want to wait.

“What does common sense tell you?” you ask the host. She keeps her polite host face on, but is confused.

“Um, well, do you want to wait? You are welcome to wait, it just might be a half hour.”

“First of all, I always sit in Linda’s section. So, yes, common sense should tell you I’ll wait.”

The host takes your name, her polite expression now a tad strained.

****

Over the past 18 months, I have heard more than several guests use the “common sense” ploy in three very different restaurant settings. It is a phrase at which I now cringe, and one I associate with a lack of understanding about how restaurants function–served up with a side of arrogance.

I get it that most people don’t fully grasp how restaurants balance open tables, reservations and walk-ins. It took me long enough to figure that out as a host! I also understand that sometimes people have very specific expectations about how their dining experience should progress–from the table type to the section they’re in to the server waiting on them. They’re paying for a nice evening out, they want it to be the best it can be. Fair enough.

But it’s the use of that phrase–“common sense”–in each of these and other similar incidences. It sets up an unnecessary, adversarial relationship from the onset and is clearly meant to demean the person on the receiving end.

I guess it’s partially the idea of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. I guess it’s partially pent-up frustration being expressed by people who’ve had a bad day before they even stepped foot into the restaurant. I guess it takes all kinds.

No, these folks are not, thankfully, the most common among us. They simply stand out more. Common sense tells me that.

11 Comments for 'Common Sense Should Tell Me'

  1.  
    Blade
    February 18, 2007 | 3:41 pm
     

    ARG! What gets me is that, whether they understand the operations of a restaurant or not, “common sense” should tell these dinks that: *not everyone* thinks the way they do! So, what may be “common sense” to them may be a completely crappy experience for the next party!

    I think it has to do with the what seems to be more and more people feeling “entitled”- each and every person is a unique snowflake who *absolutely deserves* to get their own way, alllll the time.

    Which, of course, is impossible (especially with all the peons like us trying to thwart them all the time, darnit )…

    (And don’t get me *started* on the people who can NOT understand that, when they’re the most recent people to be seated in a packed restaurant, AND they’ve ordered the most time consuming items on the menu, they are *not* going to get their food rushed to them in under 5 minutes. They may have to – *gasp* – wait.)

    (Oh, um: “long time reader, first time commenter”… I used to work in a restaurant, for about 7 years; I haven’t in almost 10 years until about a month ago- back in the biz and loving it, but still shaking my head at what people actually have the chutzpah to say right to your face, sometimes…)

  2.  
    Restaurant Gal
    February 18, 2007 | 6:09 pm
     

    Blade–welcome back to the biz! Yep, you’ll always have the good with the annoying, but glad you’re loving it again. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    –The Gal

  3.  
    February 18, 2007 | 7:07 pm
     

    common sense ain’t so common, if you ask me…

  4.  
    February 18, 2007 | 7:42 pm
     

    We used to get “common sense” all the time at Circuit City. Boggles the mind.

  5.  
    February 18, 2007 | 9:06 pm
     

    I rank that phrase right up there with “the customer is always right”. Both of them are laughable and usually come from the mouths of people who really shouldn’t be saying them!

  6.  
    Suz
    February 19, 2007 | 12:11 am
     

    I had one of the worst customers I’ve ever waited on last night. The only common sense she had was the veil of low self-esteem that made her feel more mighty by trying to ruin a hardworking server’s evening. Lucky for me, her reputation for being a complainer preceded her. It’s kind of laughable that people like that actually think they are so far above others. I wish I knew who said that “you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat people they don’t need to treat well.” This girl has a long ugly life ahead of her, as do some of those *common sense* entitled people of whom you write.

  7.  
    February 19, 2007 | 12:05 pm
     

    How rude of them! To me they are being condencending and treating people like idiots when they are the idiots. I think it is wise to use the common sense like one of them and have the manager deal with them

  8.  
    ivan
    February 19, 2007 | 12:28 pm
     

    It is common sense to those people. They are not considering the problem in its entirety – only their partial view. If they would see it from your perspective they would see that it is not common sense at all. The desire to get what we want makes us all myopic.

  9.  
    February 19, 2007 | 1:13 pm
     

    “Common sense” should tell these fools that everyone who works at a restaurant is human and therefore tries to do their best even when their best isn’t always enough for some. Sheesh! Blade said it well. They’re “entitled” asses.

  10.  
    wineward
    February 19, 2007 | 6:11 pm
     

    The one I always hated was when they would take it upon themselves to rearrange the furniture. Say you have a party of 20, and you’ve setup one eight-top and two sixes right beside one-another. The first 4-5 people arrive and one joker starts whining “oh my god! You can’t put us together at one table?” It’s never the person who made the reservation (to whom you’ve already explained the three table arrangement, and they’ve acknowledged and accepted).

    So after explaining that you are fully booked and it would take an additional 2 tables to seat all at one long table comfortably, Mr. Whiney enlists the help of his two buddies and they all push the three rounds together. You come back with the first round of drinks and the table is trashed. All the chairs don’t fit anymore, and there are place settings trapped in the middle of the tables at the edges where they are pushed together.

    So you scramble to reset the table and make everyone as comfortable as possible, but of course when everyone else arrives they don’t all fit properly. Some have to sit two feet back from the table and lean in to eat or even to grab their drink off the table. There’s no room for the dinner plates and the bread plates to fit at the same time, so you have to pull all bread plates before entree service. And because they are so crowded they are constantly knocking silverware off the table that needs to be replaced. Maybe they even spill a few drinks all over.

    Furthermore, they are so crowded that you can’t really serve them properly. It’s impossible to reach into the middle of the table to remove dirty glasses and plates, and almost just as hard to set plates and glasses down.

    The best thing to do in this situation is to take a deep breathe and remind yourself that the gratuity is included for big parties. Besides, Mr Whiney and his crew usually don’t know the difference between an appetizer fork and a dinner fork, nor do they know which bread plate is theirs in the first place. Hell, most of ’em don’t even know to put their napkin on their lap.

    All of these stories point out the distressing lack of civility and manners prevelant in our society today, along with the often mentioned sense of entitlement. When did people start being so rude to one-another?

  11.  
    February 20, 2007 | 2:51 pm
     

    I always found that “Common sense should tell you…” was usually responded to with “as any fool would know…”

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