It was 3.40am when my eyes popped open. There was a cat tucked under my armpit and another wrapped around my feet, but that wasn’t why I was awake in the dead of night.

My subconscious had, in the brief time I’d been asleep, been wrestling with that one man. I’d been dreaming about the responses I wanted to give to the Facebook review he’d left, an hour after leaving the pub, about what an absolute let-down we’d been to his family on Mother’s Day. We had ruined their meal from top to bottom and frankly, his disappointment was only surpassed by his general misery that eating out always goes wrong for them these days.

A paw landed on my cheek – a reminder that I am only ever a malleable pillow for my pets. I rolled over, determined to go back to sleep before the alarm went off at 6am.

Twenty minutes later I had acquired the third cat, tucked behind the crook of my knees, but was no closer to exorcising the demon reviewer from my brain. No matter how much I tossed and turned, I couldn’t get over the fact that he had omitted certain key facts from his report. Truth is skewed by perspective and can only be realigned by facts.

It was true that he couldn’t have the table that he wanted; but he didn’t mention that he hadn’t actually specified at the time of booking that he would only sit at that one specific table. He also failed to note that we subsequently offered a choice of four other tables instead. Or the fact that on a fully booked national holiday, we can’t honour every table request or we’d have three sittings of 100 people all clamouring to get around table one.

It was true that the table he ended up on was cramped; but he didn’t mention that HE had chosen that one – the smallest of the options offered – or that he purposefully positioned his small children on the roomiest chairs and forced his parents to squeeze into the tight spots.

It was true that there was a mix-up on his order, but he didn’t mention that he had been so rude to the waitress who had not served any other table and focused solely on their party that she was entirely flustered by the time they got round to ordering, or that the problem was rectified in under five minutes.

The most glaring omission though, was the fact that they had received free desserts and 50% off the rest of their bill. To read the review, you would think we had shoved a family into a cupboard, ignored them and taken their money. In reality, there was not one single member of staff who wasn’t aware of how unhappy they were, or that they had decided they would not enjoy themselves and whatever we did would never be good enough. No one tried to sweep it under the table – we were apologetic at the time and we worked hard to try to alter their perspective.

But it wasn’t enough. Not only was it not enough, but we’d failed so badly that he felt the need to leave a public review about the situation potentially even before the kids had got a bath and bed that night. He was so incensed that he needed to let the world know about it as a matter of high priority. Which means that the three and a half hours they spent in the pub being vocally unhappy obviously had not quite quenched the misery appropriately.

I sighed, flipped the pillow over for a fresh perspective and tried to think what else we could have done to achieve a better outcome. Should we have thrown out the party who were eating their main courses on the table that he wanted? Should we have given his family the whole meal for free? Should we have explained that we’d got 340 people booked in throughout the day and sometimes you can’t always get what you want?

Staring up at the ceiling at the chink of light emerging through the curtains, the questions circled around on themselves like a cyclone of hypotheticals. The cats continued snoozing, the husband lost deep in his slumber but my brain could not be placated.

And then, like a jolt, it occurred to me. My reviewer had left his scorching decree and he had gone on with his life. I was the one awake in the wee hours trying to digest it. He wasn’t. He wasn’t awake and thinking about me. He wasn’t losing sleep over the three-course meal that he’d only paid for a fraction of. He obviously wouldn’t be coming back so he needn’t listen to the dawn chorus as he worried about his next visit. His four sentences were keeping me awake, but had likely been cathartic for him.

Let this be the worst of his troubles, I thought, as the alarm went off. And let us learn that no matter how hard we try, the truth of a situation will always be vastly different through someone else’s eyes.

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1 Comment

  1. Helen Freebury

    Indeed so right, when I have had customers complain and then write in exaggerating their experience when their complaints are rectified then they sit on it and write in after, like you I get restless but at the same time they’re not thinking about me or whoever’s but then I think you get one unhappy one of 30 nice ones that compliment and go out to have a good time and try not to let the bad overrule me.


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Like so many others, we got into this trade because we love sharing these little boltholes with others and watching you enjoy them and make memories to cherish between these walls. We do it because we like a bit of banter whilst pouring a beer. We’ve always believed in doing the best we can with the circumstances we’ve got.


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