So listen to this. I was rushing to a meeting and decided to grab a sandwich from a cafe downtown. I placed my order. The nice girl behind the counter packed up my cheese and tomato on rye and took my 5.60€. So far so good.
I’m starving by the time I get to my meeting, so I tear open my sandwich and take a big bite. Tasty. I take a second bite and my life flashes before my eyes. Whatever it is that just cut into my lip is way too crunchy to be anything edible. Maybe it’s a chipped tooth?
I spit into my napkin and realise it’s a piece of glass. GLASS! Obviously they’ve got guys from the Taliban making sandwiches in this place. I can’t think of any other logical explanation for why there’s a shard of glass in my lunch.
After work I head back to the cafe. “Hi. I ordered a sandwich here this morning and there was glass in it.” I hand her the evidence. She looks annoyed.
After a few seconds of us staring at each other in silence, she finally says: “Ok. So what do you want me to do?” I suggest that a good place to start would be to apologize and refund my money. She looks even more annoyed as she takes 6€ out of the register. “Wait a second though, you took that sandwich to go, so it was only 5.60€,” she says as she grabs the 6€ out of my hand. Ok, now I’m annoyed.
It’s a well-known fact that New Yorkers are natural born complainers. When we get bad service, we give the server a piece of our minds. That’s the number one rule when you live, work and eat out in a tip-driven economy like New York.
Because we generally don’t tip in Finland, when you “make a scene” by complaining about glass in your sandwich, you’re the one who ends up looking crazy. Here, when I’m out with friends and we get bad food or bad service I’m almost always the only one who speaks up. When the server asks if we enjoyed our meal, my friends usually say something like: “Oh yes, thank you, it was great.” No it wasn’t!
How can you ever expect people to learn from their mistakes or improve their service if you never tell them what needs improvement? I guess for many people, telling someone they’ve done something wrong is almost as uncomfortable as being told they’ve done something wrong.
I think complaining is all too often (mistakenly) mistaken for rudeness. And not just here, either. Turns out the rest of America thinks New Yorkers are the rudest people in the country. I say go screw yourselves, rest of America. We’re not rude, we’re just honest.
Now. All this talk about sandwiches and glass has me hungry for lunch. Maybe I’ll give the girl at the cafe a second chance. Who knows, maybe this time there will be a nice surprise between the cheese and tomatoes – like cash.