Friday, December 12, 2008


I am writing Part Two of this article for the second time. I wrote the whole article together and in the process of splitting it into two parts when I realized how long it was, I foolishly lost the second half. Oh yeah! So I will say that the original second half was wonderful - a full catharsis of all I wanted to say. This second writing, however, will be even better now that the thoughts have been so well organized in my head. The lesson to be learned when writing on Blogger is never save something with one name and think that when you go back and edit it and change the name, that the original save is still going to be there.

SO - Abusing A Buffet - Part 2

What exactly goes on at restaurants that are abuses? The greatest abuse is taking food from the restaurant. Though as you will read, that is not the only abuse that takes place. Taking food has gone on for years but it seems to be getting much bolder and much more deliberate. It is not just the few cookies wrapped in a napkin anymore. It has become an entire plate of cookies wrapped in napkins and pushed into a pocketbook at the end of the meal. Is anyone going to get upset if a kid is still eating a cookie as he/she walks out the door? Of course, not. But I have seen people - seniors - fill a plate of more cookies than they could possibly eat in the restaurant, wrap them up, and shove them inside a pocket and walk out the door. There goes three dollars or more in cookies that the restaurant intended to serve to a number of guests. Now there are fewer, if any, cookies out for you to take to enjoy for dessert with your meal.

It gets bolder. How about the equivalent of an entire fried chicken? I watched this go down. This was not a kid, but a youngish man who was seated with an older couple. After he finished his dessert he went back up to the buffet and overfilled a plate with fried chicken pieces. When I saw him come back to the table I thought to myself, here is another wacky eating story to tell, thinking that now the he finished dessert he was going to start the meal again eating all of this fried chicken. No. That was not it at all! He brought the plate back to the table and proceeded to unfold several napkins, laying them down overlapping them. He then put the entire plate of fried chicken parts down on the napkins. He folded the napkins carefully to contain all of the chicken in a bundle. I heard him remark to the couple that he was with that he REALLY likes this fried chicken. At that they got up and he tucked the bundle of chicken under his arm to hide it and they walked out the door. Did he know he was doing wrong? Of course, he did! He was hiding the chicken to go out. He was a thief and was acting like one. I am sure in his mind he was thinking, "Look what I am getting away with!"

How about bolder still? One of my readers reported this story to me. Four well dressed seniors (two couples) were at a buffet with a box of zipper bags on the table and a COOLER CHEST on the floor under the table. As they got plates of food for themselves to eat at the table, they also filled plates with food that they brought back and openly put into the bags, sealed them, and then put into the cooler chest. My first reaction was how did they get into the restaurant past the cashier with a cooler chest - and then out again carrying it full of buffet food? But, I know this particular buffet and the employees there never notice anything that is going on in the restaurant much less do the jobs that they are paid to do. So there, out in the open are meals for the week going out the door all for the one price of the senior discount dinner. If I were the management at that buffet I would have seen them out the door in handcuffs!

Here is one that I had to laugh at - we were in a Chinese Buffet and there were two guys in the booth behind us. At the end of the meal with a hefty plate of food still on the table, one of the guys calls over the server and asks her to bring him a take out box to put the food in to take home. She politely tells him that she could do that but he will be charged extra for a take out meal. He became indignant and said that this was ridiculous and that the food would just be thrown away if he left it. She told him that was ok; it's the rules that no food may be taken out unless paid additionally for. He and his friend could not believe this and went on and on about it. When the server left, one of the guys took the stack of napkins on the table and started wrapping the food up - all the while looking around to make sure no one could see (my wife could see and noticeably watched him all the while increasing his panic). They hid the bundles of food as they left.

Not all abuses involve taking food out of the buffet. There seems to be some need for some people to have a lot of napkins on their table. I am not talking about three or four. I am talking about more napkins than a family of six can use in a week. One or more stacks six inches high are taken and placed on the table. Now, I am not talking about the "Napkin Man" who I wrote about a few years ago (look back in the archives or search the site for that name) who had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and would cover everything at his table in napkins. These are seemingly "regular" people - again often seniors - who are emptying napkin dispensers and stacking hundreds of napkins on their table. All but a few of these napkins go unused and the restaurant cannot (SHOULD NOT) be taking these napkins back and putting them out again for others. Sometimes these napkins are also stashed into a pocket and go out the door. I am not referring to a couple of napkins to take with you - I am talking about the stack. Again, this is stealing.

Another of my readers related this story to me. At a buffet chain restaurant in the Mid-West USA a rather large gentleman eats there every day. In fact he spends the day there. On the days that buffet breakfast is served he arrives for breakfast, stays through lunch, and then stays on to dinner. On other days when only lunch and dinner are served he arrives for lunch and stays on. He brings reading material, an mp3 music player, and he eats all day while socializing, reading, and listening to music. So what is wrong with this? He only pays for one meal each day the first one that he comes in for. You may or may not know that at many buffet restaurants - in particular the chains - if you come in for one meal and the next meal change takes place while you are there you are able to go and take from the next meal selections. Generally, the price goes up from lunch to dinner, but if you are in the buffet at the time of the change, you may just stay. They have to make the meal change and they are not going to clear the restaurant so for the few who are there in-between the buffet says nothing. It has happened to me when we have gone for buffet lunch late. When 3:00 pm comes the lunch dishes are taken away and the dinner dishes are brought out - good bye hot dogs, hello steak. No one says get out or you can't take that because you paid for lunch. But in this situation - this guy is staying for three meals for the price of one! The worse part of the abuse is that he is a regular and management and employees know that it is happening every day and do nothing about it. Perhaps they feel sorry for him, you say. Well, we are paying for each of our meals and pretty soon the price is going to go up and we are going to be paying for all of his "extra" meals.

So what should you do when you see abuses going on around you at a buffet? Sadly, I am going to advise you to do nothing. There are all kinds of dangerous people in this world - even those you would not suspect. If you turn them in to the management you are going to open yourself to the possibility of physical retaliation from the "abuser". Besides, you may not like the management's lack of response because if we are aware of these things going on, they likely are aware of them also. You are not there to be the "Buffet Police". You are out for a pleasant meal and not a fight. It is the manager's job to train his employees to be observant in the dining room, intervene, or report to him/her. The manager can then do the confronting or call the police. And if they allow this to go on, they should not be raising prices because of it. I know there are good managers out there who really care about their jobs - and these are the ones who will do something about it.

Well, there you have it. And as I expected when I started the rewrite - this is certainly the superior version of the article!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still another form of abuse is taking more food than you can/intend to eat. If you're leaving more than a bit on your plate, consider sampling before taking a full portion. (Hey, this is beauty of buffets.) And take reasonable amounts of everything so that you don't find yourself unable to eat what you've taken.