Just Own It

My husband and I decided to go out for dinner last night at a restaurant that has a great outdoor patio.  When we were seated, I noticed that most of the other tables were still waiting for their food, which probably meant that we weren’t going to get our meals very quickly.  But it was a nice night and we weren’t in any real hurry, so we placed our orders and settled in to enjoy the evening.  Forty-five minutes later, we were still waiting for our entrees, and our waiter was no where to be found.

IMG_3564A full sixty minutes after we had ordered, our waiter finally brought our food.  When he asked if we needed anything else, my husband replied, “Yes, since we’ve waited an hour for our meal,  I’d like a complimentary glass of wine.”   (I wish I’d thought to say that.)  The waiter didn’t bat an eye, but simply nodded and hurried off in the direction of the bar, returning a few minutes later with the wine.  And even though we had to ask for it, that complimentary glass of wine was the only reason our waiter got a tip from us.

My husband and I like to eat out, and we are very aware of how hard it is to run a restaurant and how hard the staff works to make sure things go right.  We never expect perfection and are more than willing to overlook mistakes, with one simple requirement.  We want the mistake acknowledged, and if at all possible, corrected.  But the most important thing is for someone to admit that a mistake has been made.

I have no idea why we waited so long for our meals last night.  There might have been an accident in the kitchen, or maybe one of the  cooks didn’t show up.  Or our waiter might have simply forgotten to turn in our order, who knows?  The point is that he never came to our table in all the time we were waiting and acknowledged that we were waiting far to long for our food.  All he had to do was tell us, “I’m so sorry for the wait,” and let us know what was going on.  All he had to do was admit that a mistake had been made.

Personally, I make mistakes each and every day of my life.  It’s an area where I tend to be a bit of an over-achiever.   So I’m the last person who is going to judge someone else for making mistakes, or get all bent out of shape just because something has gone wrong.  Yet I learned a long time ago that when I make a mistake, it’s essential that I admit to it, apologize for it, fix the problem if I possibly can, and then move on.  Because doing otherwise means that I’m pretending that I’m the kind of person who never makes mistakes.

Acknowledging our mistakes actually opens so many doors.  It gives others the chance to forgive us (not to mention the chance to forgive ourselves), and it means that we can begin to work on solving whatever problem the mistake created.  When we admit to our own mistakes, I believe we find it easier to relate to and sympathize with others who make mistakes.  It’s a way of acknowledging that none of us are perfect and that few problems can’t be solved once we’re actively looking for solutions.

By giving my husband his complimentary glass of wine, our waiter indirectly acknowledged that a mistake had been made, and we did appreciate that.  But a direct acknowledgement would have been so much better.  We all make mistakes; the trick is to be brave enough to own them.

96 thoughts on “Just Own It

  1. That is correct. I will say that while we owned a business, we always owned up to mistakes even if they appeared to be on the customer’s side. For example: we had a customer who stated she had ordered 4 dozen gourmet cupcakes to be delivered downtown (30 minutes with no traffic) and my husband was out on a delivery run , so I was alone and he prepared the order for her and I handed her 4 specialty order cupcakes and she said, “what is this?” She told me that she had told my husband she wanted 4 dozen delivered. It was the two of us: I called him back and he said tell her that we will deliver with no extra charge and somehow we did in like three hours in spite of a very busy day. the customers sitting in were treated to an interesting spectacle of me running around until he returned with the groceries! We afforded, several times, the customer giving them the benefit of the doubt. My husband’s policy.

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      • Thanks! We did have some very faithful customers. Although that day was like comedy central with me on the phone with Mike and him saying I distinctly remember she ordered one and the woman in front of me across the counter speaking loudly into the phone. Truly I double my husband got it wrong with his razor sharp mentality but all we could do was let it go. I could tell you some interesting stories!

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    • Sorry I’m just now responding to this, Kate. For some reason, this comment was put in my spam, along with 44 other comments that actually were spam. (At least I hope they were, since I hit “delete spam” before I realized there were more comments in there than I could actually see!) Anyway, yes I agree knowing we must own our mistakes means that we do try to make them less often, and keeps us from feeling guilty for not being “perfect.” Thanks for the comment!

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  2. I agree with you, Ann, there should be some sort of acknowledgment of a mistake. But for that, a person or organisation has to recognise that they’ve made one, and many people don’t realise they have. Also, you’re quite right that growth follows admitting mistakes. 🙂

    By the way, there are restaurants in the UK that take this long to serve people on a regular basis – they seem to think that it leaves people free to talk, though what the heck that does for their business, I’ve no idea!

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    • It’s rare to wait that long in the US, unless the restaurant is extremely popular, or if they are known for a “relaxed pace” for their meals. But even in those cases, the waiter does stop by the table to see you need anything while you are waiting. I do think something went wrong in the kitchen, as all the tables in the patio were waiting. Several people complained, and one couple switched their order to take-away. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Acknowledging our mistakes opens the door for authentic connection. When I own my mistakes and apologize without excuses I am forgiven almost all of the time, and most often end up having a heartfelt conversation.

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  4. I agree that acknowledging a mistake directly or indirectly is important – but I’m not sure that I would have been a patient as you. An hour seems like an incredibly long time to wait for food.

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    • It really did! We figured the kitchen was “backed up” but didn’t expect to wait that long. We once went to a restaurant where we were told that they could seat us, but that the kitchen was backed up so we couldn’t even order for twenty minutes. I like the way we were told that up front, so we had the choice to either wait or leave. I would have appreciated it if this restaurant had told us that it would take a long time to get our food before we ordered, so it would have been our choice, not theirs.

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  5. When I was just starting out (and had a few foodservice jobs) it was hard for me to give people bad news, probably especially when I was the source of the problem, like a pocket check. As I matured, I learned that, as uncomfortable as it might be, it’s always better to be upfront with the situation. People appreciate it and can adjust accordingly. When I became a manager, it was a trait that I couched for and encouraged in my team. I think a sixty minute wait for your food deserved a lot more than a single glass of wine but at least you got that. I hope at least your food was warm 🙂. You might consider sending a note to the restaurant owner or manager… not criticizing the waiter, but just letting him/her know what happened. They “should” appreciate the information (and, who knows, you might get something more than that glass of wine).

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    • That’s a good point! I actually felt sorry for the waiter, as you could tell he was embarrassed by a situation that he probably didn’t create. But, as you say, it still would have been so much better if he had just acknowledged our extra long wait and apologized. It made me wonder what the restaurant’s policy was when that happens. Like you, I would have thought that a bigger discount on the bill was in order. I might just let the manager know, because I think you’re right that they would want to do better.

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  6. I am with you 100%, Ann. I understand that admitting and acknowledging one’s mistakes is the first step towards solving any interpersonal problems. I remember one incidence in a Vancouver restaurant, when a fork was missing and my wife asked for one. The waiter took a very long time to bring the missing utensil to our table. That was not the bad party of this annoying incidence. What got my wife all revved up, was the fact that we watched the waiter spending time talking and gossiping with some attractive young ladies at nearby table. A glass of complementary wine would not have undone the insult. So my wife decided not to pay a tip.

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    • I don’t blame her! I don’t mind waiting for service when I can see the waiter hurrying around the restaurant, clearly busy doing his job. But when I am waiting for service while the waiter is goofing off, that’s a whole other story, and the tip would certainly be very, very small! There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior, I think.

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  7. I so agree that accepting your mistake and acknowledging them are game changers. Within a family, it is so important to do that. I have been practicing it with my kids now. When I scold them for something, I do apologize to them for loosing my temper. I make it very clear that what they did was not right but I should not have lost it on them. Since children just absorb and emulate whatever we parents do, I hope that they learn this important lesson of life.
    I have also seen people who don’t mind acknowledging their mistake but they keep repeating it over and over again. So, I sometimes feel that since they don’t mind saying sorry, they just don’t do anything to correct it. It is equally difficult to handle such people.

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    • I agree with modeling the behavior we want to teach our children, and I have apologized more than once to my kids when I knew I was wrong. (Losing my tempter, for instance!) And I also agree that apologies really don’t cut it when someone keeps repeating the offensive behavior or making the exact same mistake over and over again. At that point, the apologies no longer seem real, because when we’re truly sorry, we try our best not to do it again.

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  8. Ann, first, Bravo to your husband! I’ve never thought about addressing a restaurant oversight in that manner, but what a great way to point out the obvious oversight. If the waiter didn’t have the moxie to acknowledge the long wait, your husband gave him an opportunity to make things right anyway. I also think that by tipping him you probably reinforced the fact that although a mistake had been acknowledged, there were no hard feelings. That is a decent and thoughtful way to handle it as far as I’m concerned. Good for you guys and I hope you get better service next time.

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    • Thanks, Des! I was kind of impressed my husband said that, too, as I didn’t know he was going to. And although I wished I would have thought of that, I couldn’t have had another glass of wine anyway, since I was driving. (Although I could have asked for a dessert!) Anyway, I agree that the way my husband handled it changed the tone of the evening for both us and the waiter, because it gave him a chance to make things right. And that’s all that’s ever needed, really.

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  9. Here we go back to what use to be normal customer service at a restaurant. It was normal policy in the past to return to the customer to make sure they were satisfied, to explain if the food was taking a bit long to get to the table, and to ask the customer if they would like a drink on the house if it was taking a crazy amount of time in the kitchen. I worked in a restaurant and know that things happen but the customer service part of the business is above all other things the most important to keeping customers and having return customers. They should have been up front with you from the start that it was taking a long time and offered you the opportunity to make a choice. If they wanted your continued business they should have offered you the drink, not that your husband should have had to ask for it. I would not have given a tip and would have asked for the manager and explained that I thought the service should have been better. That way the person running the show and not the workers would get the message that something was not right.

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    • We thought about saying something to the manager, but we could see that all the tables around us were waiting too long for their food and a couple of them had complained. We decided to tip anyway because the waiter did give us the wine (even though we had to ask, which you’re right, we shouldn’t have had to ask), because it was obvious the waiter was embarrassed by the whole thing and we didn’t see any managers coming out to talk to the other tables. Honestly, we got the impression that the management wasn’t setting the tone that the waiters should have been giving the customers something in return for their wait, although that could have been wrong.
      When I was a waitress (many decades ago), we had the same policy: check on the tables, and if a customer was unhappy for a valid reason, offer free drinks. Although we were a pizza joint so all we could offer was a free iced tea or soda. (Those cost the restaurant very little.) Once, I forgot to turn in an order and when I realized why my table was waiting so long for their pizza, I gave them all a free salad, which I paid for out of my tips. Our manager wouldn’t authorize anything other than free soft drinks, and the table had already had those. They went away happy, I didn’t cheat the restaurant, and hopefully they came back. I kind of wonder if the waiter paid for out wine, but I guess I’ll never know…..

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  10. I remember when I was at school, everyone was afraid to admit a mistake in case you got into trouble…… It was in the days of smacked bottoms. Now, of course, I’ve no problem….. but maybe, just maybe some are still scared of a ‘smacked bottom’, they would prefer to bury their heads. Common courtesy isn’t instilled in folk so much now.

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    • I think you’re right, we don’t really teach common courtesy anymore. And we can see that in the “it’s all about me” attitude that we are all too often surrounded by. But I think you are right that there are still those who are afraid of admitting mistakes because of fear of what will happen to them. When I see that atmosphere in a business, then I know that the management is sending the wrong message. And I think the same is the case with families.

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    • I thought about that, too, Alan! (I even almost asked my husband, why didn’t you say “we” would like a complimentary glass of wine?) But then I remembered that one of us had to drive home, and clearly it was me!

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  11. Patience is a virtue but we shouldn’t become doormats. I agree that he waiter should have communicated during your wait. A little information can make the wait less onerous.I agree that the waiter bringing the wine was nice but he failed to offer it to the whole table and failed to be the originator of the suggestion… Sometimes people just need kind instruction on what is expected. Probably the manager had never provided any training on what to do in those situations…

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    • I agree, obviously there wasn’t a clear cut policy on how to handle these situations. Or if there was, then the waiter must have forgotten it. Either way, I’m glad my husband asked for the wine, and wish that it had been offered instead. We never expect perfection, we just want people to acknowledge when things are going wrong and try to fix it. I really don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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  12. Oh, Ann. As a consummate “maker of mistakes” myself I truly relate to this piece. But the acknowledgement of my errors, and the hope that I’ll make incremental positive steps forward, helps. Love the generosity on your part as well.

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  13. I have trouble waiting for long periods of time for a meal in a restaurant, too. When I go out to eat, I’m usually hungry to begin with, so waiting makes me really cranky. I’m not proud, but I live in a part of the country where everyone wants what they want immediately. So…waiters almost always apologize if the food is late because they value their lives. 🙂

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    • LOL! Yes, I was really surprised that the waiter didn’t say something before the food actually came. It would have been so much better if he did. And we live in the Midwest, but people can still get pretty impatient here. Thanks for the comment!

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  14. I’m with you. Own it and apologize with a smile. We’re all just waiting for a chance at human connection…and think of the ripples we can create by tossing that pebble in the pond. We could change the world, one smile and glass of wine at a time!

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    • It is, isn’t it? And yet the older I become, the more I realize the importance of treating people exactly the way I would like to be treated. Thanks for the comment!

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  15. That sounds like a horrible evening except for enjoying each other’s company. I went to Red Lobster once with a friend and she was a waitress so she ordered and made a request to the waitresses and we waited and waited then we asked her where is our food. she eventually. She was horrible. I wasn”t going to tip her but my waitress friend said leave one penny because she’ll have to pay taxes on it. We each tipped her 1 penny each for a total of 2 cents. She was really bad waitress. I feel for you and your husband.

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    • Thanks! As you say, the fact that we had a night out together helped make it better. But I do wish the restaurant had handled it differently. Tonight, we had dinner at a sports bar, not nearly as nice as the restaurant we went to when I wrote this post. But our food took really long to arrive —again! The difference was, the waiter apologized, then brought the manager to the table who also apologized and comped us all our drinks. And guess which restaurant we will be returning to????

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  16. Great idea about asking for the wine – but just think if it went this way…

    Waiter: We are running really slow tonight – but it is a nice night and if you are willing to relax and be patient, we would like to offer a complimentary glass of wine – and if we are really, really slow, maybe two. I will be by every so often just to see how you are doing.

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  17. An hour seems like not only an incredibly long time to wait for food, but for the server not to even come over and check on you, ask if you want a drink, etc. Something is wrong with that establishment, whether it’s the kitchen, the service or both, and yes, that comes from the top down. I hope your meals were worth the wait. Kudos to you and your husband for being calm and patient. I might have hunted down the server and asked if he’d forgotten about us.

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    • We were grumbling for sure! But seeing the other tables around us also waiting, we figured something was going on. And I agree that ultimately, it was a management problem. The waiter should have been trained to handle it better, and if he was mishandling the situation, they should have noticed and stepped in. We won’t be returning there any time soon!

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  18. My 2-cents:
    Most times at work, if I forget to do something, or unintentionally screw something up, it’s because I have too many things going at once, and then fail to write them A L L down. I’ve adopted a habit (I’m at that age [cough] 60 yrs – and work with predominately 25-35yr olds, so I’m a relic to them}, of immediately admitting I messed-up, no matter how incompetent or horrible I may appear after that admission. I do this because I’ve set a standard and stick to it with my work, always chugging along, always getting things done on time, always shooting for closeness-to-perfection, always assisting and planning – and what I find with my particular group of co-workers, is they don’t feel let down or fed-up with me, they feel good about seeing their hard-working elder peer, come-clean when they fail. As this method of full-disclosure-admission is adopted by them, it allows them to form hard-core trusting relationships with each other. When we care enough about others to be completely honest, no matter how mundane the admission, you’d be surprised how fast those little blips of honesty tighten bonds you never knew existed.
    Afterall, we all know how quickly we abandon a co-worker who tries to weasel out of blame, or push responsibility for their failures onto others, or sort-of-kind-of assume their failure . . . We never trust them, ever again.

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    • I completely agree! The best thing you can do for your coworkers is to admit to your mistakes and try to fix them. It shows them that it’s alright to make mistakes as long as we own them and make amends where possible. And how can we ever learn from mistakes we don’t admit to in the first place?
      But what I really like is what you say about how being vulnerable and authentic with our faults actually bonds us to others…that is exactly the point I was trying to make with this point, but I didn’t say it nearly as clearly as you did. Thank you for that!

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  19. I’m with you. For me it’s not just so much about the wait either but about the atmosphere the non-acknowledgement creates. It draws your attention from the pleasant to the unpleasant and has the potential to change an entire evening for the worst. It’s all in our mind, obviously, but this is where memories are stored. So we might just as well try to turn things round when they go awry. As you did. Cheers! 🙂

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    • Thanks! And yes, the real issue was that our wait wasn’t being addressed, and that did change the evening from relaxing to annoying. We figured we may as well try to make things better, and I’m so glad that the waiter did meet us halfway in that!

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  20. The key to your story is that people need to take ownership of their mistakes. Like you said, we all make mistakes. But I think that’s the key to a lot of problems that our society is dealing with, don’t you? People don’t accept responsibility and want to blame others. Hopefully it will turn around at some point.

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    • Yes, I agree. I think sometimes we are so afraid of letting others see that we are less than perfect, and in doing so, we just make things worse. “To err” really is human, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it!

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  21. Even for European standards that is quite a long wait and the waiter definitely should have apologized and explain. I’ve once been waiting for 45 minutes while everyone else in my group had nearly finished up with their meals but when mine came it was a wonderful suprise since I’ve ordered Paella (we were in Granada) and normally you get those prepared frozen dishes which are actually quite okay and what I have been expecting, but this time they had prepared it fresh and you could really tell the difference – it was the best dish I ever had in a restaurant! So my wait was definitely worth it. 😊

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    • Yes, it was too long of a wait for food that ordinarily could be produced in about 15 minutes, I think. If I’m going to wait a long time for food, I would want something as special and delicious as your Paella! Sometimes, the wait is worth it. Thanks for the comment, Sarah!

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  22. I totally agree, but regarless of the serving experience, I always tent to leave a tip. A friend that work as a waitress has influences me to always make sure I leave a tip. He said that sometimes as a worker and as a human life happens. Sometimes they are going thru some life issues – they are pass due on rent, couple’s issues, school, etc…
    As his friend I respected his opinion and honored It , if the services was trash… most likely they’ll receiving the minimum as tip.

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    • Yes, I agree. It is usually unfair to leave no tip, because often there are things that happen that are not the server’s fault. If the service is truly bad, we just leave a small tip. Thanks for the comment!

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