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Bad Cafe

By Madam Cholet - 22 July 2013 63

Unfortunately we happened to find ourselves in Woden today, right about the time that Mr Nearly Five was getting hungry. We decided that we would have a hot chocolate at a cafe in the Westfield. We ordered two hot chocolates, a kids milkshake ($5) and a plain ham and cheese untoasted sandwich ($13). The kids size milkshake arrived in a giant metal container – in complete contrast to the size that the waitress indicated (smaller obviously), and the sandwich arrived toasted. I sent the sandwich back and asked for a new untoasted one (he just doesn’t like them toasted).

The next sandwich arrived, untoasted, but with only the ham and cheese inside that we asked for – no butter. So really, two slices of dry very thickly cut bread with very tough crusts, some really tasteless ham and some squares of cheese.

Call me old fashioned, but when I order a sandwich that costs $13, I do expect that it will have at least a covering of some kind of spread to make the bread more palatable. At least this is what we do in our house. I also tasted the milkshake and it tasted vaguely like they had passed fruit through the milk. But pretty much, it was just a huge container of frothy milk.

When I challenged the waitresses at the desk about the quality of the sandwich and suggested a discount due to it’s in-edibleness, she flatly refused. I pointed out that it was quite clearly for a young child (as two different waitresses would have gauged when serving us at our table), and her response was ‘the kitchen does not know who it’s for’. I gave up on the discount, but did say I would not return. Not that they care.

Is it just me expecting too much or is it really hard to get anyone in the service industry in Canberra, specifically cafes, to care about the customers they serve and to provide value for money?

We should have gone to a certain new cafe in Erindale as previously planned to claim our ‘free drinks’ from when we overcharged last week instead!

What’s Your opinion?

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63 Responses to
Bad Cafe
johnboy 1:52 pm 22 Jul 13

The name of the cafe was redacted in editorial. It’s not that important to the discussion and saves us a lot of heartache.

It does, however, emphasise the importance of telling the story when you have a really good experience.

BimboGeek 1:51 pm 22 Jul 13

That’s really weird.

You must have been dealing with some seriously stupid waiters because children can be the high or low point of a shift depending on how you deal with them.

Feed them quickly, give them an activity if they didn’t bring one (even an old magazine to look at) and don’t let them have too much sugar or fill up on drinks before they eat. It’s not hard. The only part they got right was not giving him too much sugar in his milkshake and even then they gave him the wrong size. I’d say the person who took your order may have been as frustrated as you if the bar refused to do the size you requested and the kitchen weren’t talking to them.

Decent chefs usually do know when an order is for a child because when an unusual order comes in they will clarify it with the waitress – particularly if it’s returned! They want to know the story and the customer so that they can make it properly. The chef in this place not communicating or even looking at the customer is pretty crap.

I can explain why you received the sandwich toasted the first time: the bread was stale and the chef knew that you can disguise this by toasting it. They may have had so much day-old bread left over that they even cancelled that day’s order (or they may only get bread every two days) but even so, the solution is finding the freshest unopened packet, not sending out cardboard without butter. Icky.

Unfortunately the waitress who took your money probably isn’t authorised to give discounts. Every place has their own policy on discounts, but “if you finished it without saying anything until afterward, you pay for it” is pretty standard. Protocol would be to ask to speak to a manager/supervisor although sometimes the supervisor is just the waitress rostered on that shift who makes the least mistakes, not someone who actually knows how to make decisions. It also sucks when one person has all the bad luck of the entire shift because a self-absorbed waitress will have trouble telling the difference between that and a serial complainer.

zorro29 1:41 pm 22 Jul 13

ah how i /don’t/ miss this about canberra. unfortunately it’s a captive market and people will pay those kinds of prices…

i really sympathise with you on both the quality and service issues…although #3 pretty much nails it on every point

#2….that is appalling and you did the right thing! i speak with my feet now…not that they care (as noted by OP)

a few weeks ago i was at max brenner’s in belconnen and our order sat on the counter for a substantial time while the slow waiter chatted, moseyed about lost and took forever. the order included waffles which needed to be served warm (and aren’t that warm to begin with so any delay makes them inedible)….we ended up getting them ourselves off the counter cos the waiter just took forever!

(and i love a big creamy milkshake in a metal glass but getting one is incredibly difficult…paid $9 for a milkshake on the weekend and it wasn’t even that good *cries)

JessP 1:31 pm 22 Jul 13

I fully agree – cafes do not seem to care about customer service. I dont think this is a Canberra only problem though.

I have to say though, I would have cancelled the order and left on hearing the sandwich was $13.00.

JazzyJess 1:19 pm 22 Jul 13

I’m stunned there is a kid who doesn’t eat toasted sandwiches. Seriously though the service you describe sucks.

KB1971 1:08 pm 22 Jul 13

dkNigs said :

It sounds like you ordered a toasted sandwich untoasted to be honest…

I hate how some people find it so hard to order off the menu, why do they expect a special request everywhere they go? Just because you have a fussy four year old doesn’t mean the world has to indulge them like you do.


Ordering a sandwich and asking for it not to be toasted is a hard task? Not everybody likes a toasted sandwich, I always thought toating was extra, not the tandard fare. Asking for a ham and cheese sanwich is hardly a special request, especially if they do sandwiches.

Madame, you have done the right thing and told them it wasnt acceptable. We have followed up with an email when we have done this before and recieved quite a different reception from the manager/owner so may that will help.

astrojax 1:02 pm 22 Jul 13

aussieboy said :

I can’t understand why you would agree to pay $13 for a sandwich anyway.

especially in a no-name place in a shopping mall. cheaper to have gone to coolies and purchased ingredients for one and diy…

and yes please, as masquara inquires, name of said establishment?

Joy 12:53 pm 22 Jul 13

Please tell us the cafe. Funny I thought of taking my son to Coffee Club Woden today. Glad we didn’t based on bearlikesbeer’s experience. I am not for rewarding businesses who don’t deal with customers well with my patronage

Erg0 12:45 pm 22 Jul 13

Personally, I only go to cafes that employ clairvoyants.

Felix the Cat 12:18 pm 22 Jul 13

Name and shame I say.

I think it fair enough that MC wasn’t happy with the oversized milkshake, it was for a 5yo child who might have trouble handling a regular sized milshake container (let alone drink the entire contents). The waitress (‘s) were informed that the drink was for the child, surely she could of passed this info on to the milkshake maker.

As for the no butter thing, it’s a bit subjective, some people want butter and some don’t. I guess the waitress could of checked if butter was wanted when taking the order.$13 does seem an excessive price for a sandwich, maybe they charged for the origianl toasted one as well?

Luckily (for them) cafe staff don’t rely on tips to make a living unlike the US because a lot would go broke in a short space of time.

As for discounts, IMO that’s being a bit stingy (even though you had bad service and bad food). If it were me I would juist vote with my feet and never go there again and tell all my friends what a bad experience I had and reccommend that they don’t go there either.

Masquara 12:15 pm 22 Jul 13

Madam Cholet you need to be more assertive! I absolutely would have refused to pay for food that wasn’t as described, or as ordered. And you should have sent everything back again and again until it was to your satisfaction. What was the name of the cafe?

dkNigs 12:04 pm 22 Jul 13

It sounds like you ordered a toasted sandwich untoasted to be honest…

I hate how some people find it so hard to order off the menu, why do they expect a special request everywhere they go? Just because you have a fussy four year old doesn’t mean the world has to indulge them like you do.

aussieboy 11:50 am 22 Jul 13

I can’t stand people who complain when serving sizes are “too big”. Milkshakes have been rapidly shrinking and getting more expensive for years, even though the price of milk has plummeted. Any cafe that still serves milkshakes in the metal cups has my approval. Your kid didn’t have to drink the whole thing after all. Your criticism about it being weak is definitely valid though!

As for the sandwich, I reckon that you got exactly what you ordered – i.e. ham and cheese. I can’t understand why you would agree to pay $13 for a sandwich anyway.

And asking for a discount in any cafe/restaurant is just inappropriate. If you aren’t satisfied, let them fix the problem (i.e. ask for butter).

bearlikesbeer 11:04 am 22 Jul 13

I had a bad experience at Coffee Club in Woden a few months ago. As the waiter served my food I handed him my unused water glass, pointing out that it was dirty (not just watermarked, but encrusted with someone else’s food). The waiter asked me “So do you want another one?”. I said I wanted a clean one, and he walked back to the counter. A few minutes later, standing behind the counter, he called to my table “Here you go” and placed a glass on the edge of the counter for me to get up, walk over and collect. I got up and walked to another cafe.

DrKoresh 11:03 am 22 Jul 13

You do seem to have some terrible luck with your experiences at cafes, so much so that I wonder if maybe half the time it’s a result of your own actions.

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