Several months ago my husband and I went to lunch at a restaurant called the Pelican Cove in Maryland. It was a nice restaurant and we had gone there on at least two other occasions and never experienced any issues, we actually liked the place. This was a Saturday afternoon and the restaurant as usual was not very crowded. We anticipated that at some point people would begin to hear of this nicely decorated out of the way little spot and felt it was destined to become a hot spot.
We were seated at our table and given our menus. The young waiter asked us if he could bring us our drinks and I ordered a beer, my husband ordered his usual water and as the waiter set off for these we looked at our food options. On our table was a flyer that listed crab specials and it went something like 6 crabs for $18 or 1 dozen for $30, etc. I hadn’t had crabs in a long time and thought this sounded like a good choice, also it didn’t help that there was a young couple sitting directly behind me banging away and picking crabs making me crave them all the more. I decided to go with the 6 crabs because generally I max out at about 6 anyway, so when the waiter returned we placed our order, me, my 6 crabs for $18 and my husband a Shrimp Bisque and some sort of seafood pasta dish.
We settled back to wait for our food and I was astounded to see the young couple behind me get another order of crabs and French Fries. This had to be their third dozen and by my count that was close to $90… not to mention fries and drinks, like I said I generally max out at about 6 crabs anyway. Marylanders can put away some crabs and this couple was definitely doing their best to be good Marylanders. I like my crabs too and if I really forced myself I could get down more than 6 but they are just too much work so usually between 4 and 6 crabs and I’m done.
The couple behind me were very friendly and we bantered back and forth while waiting for my crabs to arrive. When the waiter put down our food he asked if there was anything else we required, no we said, and he was off, it was at this point that the couple asked me why I didn’t get the special. I told them I had gotten the special from the flyer and they said “No the special on the whiteboard as you walk in”… Apparently the special of the day was “ALL YOU CAN EAT CRABS AND FRENCH FRIES $19.99 per person”. I was shocked, I had totally missed the sign and the waiter had never mentioned this special to me. The female of the couple with her back almost directly behind me said “I would ask them to switch it up” as she sucked on a crab claw. I told her I didn’t feel comfortable doing that, it was my mistake missing the sign and I had already ordered and she said “Why not?” I responded saying I probably couldn’t eat that many crabs anyway and she said “Well at least you’ll get an order of fries”. She was right, there was no reason for me not to get the All YOU CAN EAT deal. When the waiter returned to follow up I told him that I had totally missed the whiteboard and was there anything he could do to switch me up. He said “Certainly, no problem, I’m sorry if I didn’t tell you about the special” and I said that it was okay. So he brought over an order of French Fries and seeing that I had only gotten through 2 or 3 crabs said “Just let me know when you want more crabs and I’ll send them over”. I actually told him I thought I was almost done, between what I had eaten and the fries I might get 1 or 2 more done but will definitely have one left over. Now mind you this was from the original 6 that I had ordered. I didn’t order extra. I did eat dozen after dozen after dozen like the couple behind me so all I achieved was paying $2.00 more and I got an order of fries (and the original 6 crabs I had from before switching my order to all you can eat). They didn’t have to cook a single additional crab and my $2.00 extra really paid for the fries.
In the meantime I saw that the restaurant has a pretty nice group area where it looked like as many as 50 people could dine in seclusion. Now I was running the a social group for the local LGBT population and we generally scheduled monthly dinners in which our participation averaged between 20 and 40 people (at that time, these days I’m lucky if 20 people show but that’s another story.). We were fairly close to the hostess stand and as I said the restaurant was not very busy so I waved her over and asked about the group room, I was wondering if there was a fee for the room or if we could simply book it. She was very kind and told us there was no fee for the room we would just have to book it and that’s just what I did, I booked the room for one month later and had intended on putting out a posting for our group. I told her that the restaurant could expect anywhere from $700 to $1500 (more or less) depending on the number of people and she was pleased to take the reservation.
The waiter came over and we told him we were ready for our check. I had only eaten 4 of the 6 crabs (again the original 6 crabs, I did not eat anymore although I was entitled to a dozen in my first order and all I could eat after that) and realized that I probably shouldn’t have switched my meal to the all you can eat, the fries just weren’t worth the trouble. As I said that couple (who were still munching away) had gone through dozens to my 4 individual crabs and I hadn’t even ordered more than 1 order of the French Fries so again I was paying $1.99 more and only the only difference between my original order and the change to all you can eat was getting the one order of fries. The young man brought over a carry out container for my husband’s pasta (his eyes were bigger than his stomach) and I asked if I could a small container for my 2 crabs, he returned with the container and our bill.
Okay, asking for the carry out container on an all you can eat order is where you might say I was wrong based on your perspective and apparently my request for the container had not gone unnoticed by the restaurant management. When the young man returned with our bill he told us that his manager (also the owner) said that I could not leave with the 2 crabs because they were part of the all you could eat package. He also told me that he was just reprimanded for bringing me the container in the first place and that his job was on the line. I was shocked, all this over 2 crabs! 2 crabs that if I had not said “switch my order” would have cost me $2.00 less and I would have been allowed to leave with them no problem!
My best friend says I was wrong here because I did switch to all you can eat and most restaurants won’t allow you to leave with extra food, but as I explained I never even ordered any additional crabs, these were still 2 of the crabs from my $18 order, if anything the restaurant definitely made money off of me as opposed to the kind couple that had polished off three dozen and at least 2 orders of fries. Technically I could have order another dozen or two crabs, not paid a penny more and let them spoil or be thrown out. I didn’t care about the crabs and my request for a container was not some grand scheme to get over on the restaurant, note that even when I go to places such as the Golden Corral or other buffets I am appalled when I see people exiting the building with an ice cream cone or handful of cookies, but I already had these crabs, the restaurant certainly couldn’t resell them so they were destined for the garbage.
I didn’t want the young man to lose his job over this and I could see in his face he was quite distressed so I asked if I could see the owner who upon arrival was quite arrogant in both body language and curtness of speech; “YES?” he said, in more of a why are you bothering me tone than that of concern for customer service. I told him that I was sorry there was a misunderstanding but I didn’t want this confusion in our service to reflect on the young man, that he had been a good server and had done nothing wrong. The manager answered “He didn’t tell you about the special and you had to “switch your order” and then he didn’t tell you not to take the food he was going to let you leave with it and we can’t allow that”. I was starting to become angry, I was thinking “switched orders?” sure it was a technical switch but I still had the same food I had started with so I asked “Were you so worried about these 2 crabs that were watching form the kitchen to see what I was doing with them? I mean its not like I had eaten my original plate and ordered a dozen more to carryout. These were part of my original 6”. He answered that if he were to let me leave with the crabs he would have to let everyone do it. I was surprised I asked “Why would you have to let everyone do it?” He said “Because its our policy not to let food go out that was ordered as all you can eat” to which I replied “I understand this but I had these 2 crabs from my original order when it was 6 for $18. It didn’t cost you a dime more than it did when I arrived and as far as the fries I would think that the additional $1.99 I paid would cover the cost of those.” I asked “What do you do with the left over crabs? Are you going to reheat and resell them or throw them away?” To which he replied that I could not leave with the crabs and that the young man had done wrong but that was none of my concern. I told him “Well whatever you do you should not fire him, it was an honest mistake” The man only replied “You cannot take the crabs, I will reduce your bill by 10% for the inconvenience, have a good day” and left. He turned his back on me without saying another word.
The young man was still standing where he had been during all of this exchange obviously not sure how to proceed or what to say to save his job. I told him I hoped that he didn’t get fired and apologized for what had happened. The young couple, who were now leaving stood and said as they walked by “That was unbelievable” and as they passed the hostess said “Good luck working for a guy like that”. The hostess came over to me to find out what had happened and I told her, she too found it unbelievable and explained that the owner was one of three men in a partnership sharing in the restaurant, she explained that the other owners would not have acted the same way. I told her even if I were 100% wrong and I wasn’t so sure I was (certainly we are talking perspective here), even if I had been scheming since the minute I walked in for a method to leave with 2 crabs to get over on the restaurant, the very least the man could have done was to have explained to his employee after the fact “Whoops, you made a mistake, here’s what you should have done” and prevented it from happening again, the kid brought me a container so I assumed it was okay, if he had known and said “Sorry but with all you can eat you can’t take the leftovers” I would have understood, instead this man managed to embarrass me and make a mini-scene over nothing; I could have left a happy customer not knowing about there was an issue with these 2 stupid crabs. As I was leaving I told the hostess to cancel my reservation for the Social Group and to tell the owner his 2 crabs just cost him $1500.
UPDATE: That was nearly a year ago, not quite sure exactly how long but somewhere in excess of 6 months, we happened to be driving by the restaurant again, and being a bit hungry I said to my husband “Do you want to try them again” and he said okay. It was Mother’s Day so I thought the place would be packed with families however when we walked in it was the same as it had been a year prior, 3 or 4 tables out of 30 to 50 occupied. Obviously I had been wrong about this becoming a hot spot. A young man sat us and as he did I asked hopefully “Has there been a change in management over the last year” and he said “No”. I didn’t elaborate, just took my seat. We gave him our drink order (once again I ordered a beer and my husband ordered a water) and upon the server’s return we ordered our food. As we waited we commented on how dead the place was that the we were surprised that even Mother’s Day didn’t draw much business. Perhaps they did good weekend or night business since we have never been back in the area other than afternoons for occasional shopping.
So this was a typical lunch. there was nothing really eventful and nothing really went wrong other than my husband not getting his soup prior to his entrée which always perturbs him a bit. My sandwich was okay. I didn’t like the fact that the bread on my “Grilled Crab Cheese Sandwich” had been toasted as opposed to being grilled, again not a biggie. My husband’s sandwich was supposed to be served on French Bread however was served on a toasted hot dog roll, but he’s not a big bread eater anyway and this didn’t bother him much. When we were given our bill my husband went to the bathroom and I tallied up our receipt and added our tip… (Service was ok but not great) and our bill being $42.70 I simply rounded up to $50.00… $7.30 tip which was about 17.5% which to me seemed an okay tip for a Sunday afternoon in an empty restaurant for average service and the minor problems we endured so you can imagine my surprise when my husband returned to our table and asked “How much of a tip did you give him?” apparently our server was “loudly” complaining that my tip should have been $8.00! He complained loud enough so passersby could hear his dissatisfaction. Now I became angry… I really wanted to give him the additional .70¢ so that he would know that he was overheard but we didn’t have change. I decided right then and there that I would never return to this restaurant again. Up until this point I was ready to put my history with the owner behind me because I had felt that they had made up for the terrible 2 crab experience despite the bread issues but now getting this crap from a server I realized that this restaurant has issues all around. As I was leaving I handed the young man $1.00 and said “You’re right, your tip should have been $8.00” and left.
Follow up: This restaurant has gone out of business.