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‘Excuse Me, Waiter, How Much is Your Restaurant’s Mouse-Spotting Discount?’

To be fair, the mouse I spotted was much smaller than this one.   Photo: Loren Javier/Flickr
To be fair, the mouse I spotted was much smaller than this one. Photo: Loren Javier/Flickr

Last weekend I was dining in a nice, popular restaurant in Grapevine. My companions and I were enjoying our meal, and I was in the midst of telling another of my famously captivating anecdotes when my wife dared to interrupt me to point out there was a (non-human) animal crawling around the floor just behind my chair.

It was a small mouse. (I realize mice are generally small, and I’m no expert on their physiology, but this specimen seemed tinier than average.) I stood and, without another thought to my own safety, corralled the creature with my foot towards the outer wall and out the door. I turned towards the rest of the packed dining room to acknowledge their praise of my quick thinking and fearlessness in the face of adversity, but I’d apparently made such quick work of the rodent that no other tables had taken notice.

Having had a lovely day, and being in a relaxed mood, I wasn’t terribly put out by what had happened. I returned to telling my story and partaking of the restaurant’s fare. When our waiter finally came back to our table a few minutes later, I decided to alert him to the presence of the creature and point out how the crack beneath the door could provide an easy route back inside.

I was certain he’d want to know. I was wrong.

Aside from a perfunctory apology and joke that the mouse must have come from one of the nice, popular restaurants next door, the waiter didn’t seem concerned. He even partially justified the appearance of the animal by noting that we were, after all, seated on the patio. (Though I will note that on cool winter nights, like last Saturday, this patio is fully enclosed.) I was also curious to see the waiter not at least pretend to immediately rush away to alert his manager to the problem. He instead casually sauntered over to a couple of other tables on the patio, chatting and taking orders, before re-entering the main dining room.

We weren’t offered any sort of discount for our trouble. No free dessert, no complimentary glass of wine, nothing. I imagine if I’d been a higher-strung person and demanded compensation for the free pest-removal services I’d provided the restaurant, I’d have been granted something. But should a customer have to ask in a case like this? Where does the burden lie?

How much compensation should a diner be granted for having to contend with a rodent? Should that offer be somewhat less when the diner is on the restaurant’s patio, even an enclosed patio? Would your expectation be any different if it’d been a rat rather than a tiny mouse?

25 comments on “‘Excuse Me, Waiter, How Much is Your Restaurant’s Mouse-Spotting Discount?’

  1. He probably didn’t mention it to his manager at all. I’m sure if he had the manager, assuming he was good at his job, would have come over to your table to apologize and offer some sort of compensation.

  2. Why do you need compensation? If you are unhappy don’t return to the offending restaurant.

  3. I never said I needed compensation, as the fact that I did not demand any confirms.

    But I was surprised not to have been offered anything at all, as I’ve had restaurants grant all sorts of concessions for much more minor inconveniences in the past.

    The questions I pose are of an academic nature. I honestly wanted to know if anyone thinks I was a sucker for not having demanded something in return. What would our readers think would have been fair in this situation.

  4. It sounds like you weren’t bothered in the least by the mouse so why would you get anything comp’d? Now, had you and your party gotten up mid-meal and said we’re out of here, then most likely you wouldn’t have had to pay for it. But your actions showed that a mouse sighting was not a big deal for you.

  5. I never said I needed compensation, as the fact that I did not demand any confirms.

    But I was surprised not to have been offered anything at all, as I’ve had restaurants grant all sorts of concessions for much more minor inconveniences in the past.

    The questions I pose are of an academic nature. I honestly wanted to know if anyone thinks I was a sucker for not having gotten something in return. What would our readers think would have been fair in this situation?

    “Nothing” is clearly your belief, and I thank you for the response.

  6. Rodents/Pests can enter any establishement that doors open, have small cracks etc. If the establishment is clean and properly maintained, then this is just an unfortunate circumstance for everyone, especially the owner/management. If they operate correctly they will discover any pests with their regular pest control proceedures and erradicate them. Concern from the server and a thank you from a manager would have been nice, but why do people feel so entitled in restaurants. Desserts and glasses of wine are not free, they cost the restaurant which then reflects in higher prices for the customesr or restaurant closures,which do no one any good.

    I went to the bank the other day, stood in line for 15 minutes next to a couple that smelled horribly like cigarettes and cursed over and over the whole time I waited. I was not thanked for putting up with them, given an extra $10 bill when I made my transaction or anything, should I be offended, should I have demanded free money. Next time, sit inside (as patios, even enclosed, are not “safe rooms”), don’t remove the pest, you were never asked to, and if you think compensation is in order, certainly don’t call it “free pest removal”. That is like saying, “I mowed your lawn for free, even though you didn’t ask me, now pay me”! Maybe, just don’t go back to that restaurant, then you might get a thank you, you mighty hero of tiny mouse corralling. I bet you get a star on your forehead when you take out the garbage.

  7. This is silly. Why would you think that the restaurant would offer you compensation? If you cornered a mouse at a Best Buy, would you expect the manager to offer you a free blue ray?

    Give me a break.

  8. I went to Paris recently. We went to a nice restaurant and I needed to go to the water closet. When I was standing there a mouse went right over my foot. Scared the hell out of me to be honest. Little, tiny mouse. We had a good laugh when i returned to the table. I did not mention it to the restaurant. I really did not care.

  9. Rodents/Pests can enter any establishement that doors open, have small cracks etc. If the establishment is clean and properly maintained, then this is just an unfortunate circumstance for everyone, especially the owner/management. If they operate correctly they will discover any pests with their regular pest control proceedures and erradicate them. Concern from the server and a thank you from a manager would have been nice, but why do people feel so entitled in restaurants. Desserts and glasses of wine are not free, they cost the restaurant which then reflects in higher prices for the customesr or restaurant closures,which do no one any good.

    I went to the bank the other day, stood in line for 15 minutes next to a couple that smelled horribly like cigarettes and cursed over and over the whole time I waited. I was not thanked for putting up with them, given an extra $10 bill when I made my transaction or anything, should I be offended, should I have demanded free money. Next time, sit inside (as patios, even enclosed, are not “safe rooms”), don’t remove the pest, you were never asked to, and if you think compensation is in order, certainly don’t call it “free pest removal”. That is like saying, “I mowed your lawn for free, even though you didn’t ask me, now pay me”! Maybe, just don’t go back to that restaurant, then you might get a thank you, you mighty hero of tiny mouse corralling. I bet you get a star on your forehead when you take out the garbage.

  10. People can get so testy! For some reason, I get the feeling that the “Why the hell do you think you deserve ANYTHING?!?!??!” folks are the same ones always harping about pulling up from bootstraps and how they are totally independent, ignoring their GI bill home loan or kid’s scholarship to UT. But I digress….

    As at least one non-irritated person pointed out, it was an excellent opportunity missed by the staff. By doing so, they possibly lost a customer, when they could have had a loyal customer who then told all their friends (and readers) how nice and wonderful and thoughtful the people were at so-and-so restaurant.

    It would have cost them maybe $5 for a dessert that could have resulted in hundreds of dollars (or more) of return business.

  11. Dining with hubby and daughter late one evening on the patio of a popular Dallas restaurant on Lovers. One of us noticed something above on the vine covered arbor. Turned out to be a opossum. It was several feet away when it decided to relieve itself, and a stream came down and fortunately missed us. We told the server, who wasn’t fazed, continue our service and didn’t mention it again. I was shocked the manager didn’t speak with us about it, but guess the server thought it no big deal.

  12. I’m amazed at those drawing comparisons to a similar situation at other businesses. They’re probably right; if I had seen a mouse at Best Buy, I wouldn’t expect a free Blu-Ray player. Nor would I expect a $10 bill for tolerating the air being fouled by the tobacco users in line at the bank.

    BUT (you knew it was coming, didn’t you?)

    Neither Best Buy nor the bank are in the HOSPITALITY business, as the restaurant is.

    I’m as surprised as you, Jason, that no attempts were made to even gauge your need for mollification. Whether or not you felt entitled to such, or would have accepted such, had it been offered, is immaterial. That you were not at least inquired after is indicative of poor management, and reason enough, leaving the mouse encounter aside, not to return to that place.

    As others here have mentioned, that establishment has lost potentially hundreds of dollars in business from you for that one apparent lack of concern.

  13. My husband and I were in Rome last summer and I had a mouse (or rat) run across my feet, ugh. I screamed, and the locals thought it was pretty funny. Rodents, unfortunately, are just part of nature. P.S. we were sitting outside on a patio, and Michael Buble was to my right in the above picture.

  14. “we were, after all, seated on the patio”

    Kind of buried an important point there….

  15. I must say I am truly surprised by the feedback from those who do not feel any compensation should be offered as I am in the Hospitality business and have NEVER met someone that didn’t want some compensation for far less than a mouse! When all is said and done an apology (at the very least) and some compensation should absolutely have been offered. Unlike Best Buy and a bank, food is prepared and served in a restaarant, I have never eaten money or electronics so any “pest” in those establishments is less alarming. Would responses be different if it was a roach? It was a disengaged server with obviously no pride in their work to not alert the manager and let them decide how to handle the situation.

  16. Your story is inexcusably a case of poor customer service. The waiter should have shown more concern and the manager should have been involved. I agree that you should have been thanked for your efforts and offered some sort of apologetic compensation. If I were managing I would have said something like, “I sincerely apologize for our uninvited guest and thank you for your efforts. May I offer you a glass of wine/some dessert as a thank you for bringing this to our attention.” This does NOT cost the restaurant much and it does leave a bad taste in the guest’s mouth when they feel that the management does not have concern for such issues. It is well known that the story of one bad experience at a restaurant travels farther than than a good one (case and point is this article).

  17. I work as a meeting planner and have worked in the hospitality industry for many years. If I were the manager of the restaurant, I would have offered him something as a kind gesture. Obviously, the point is not getting a free piece of pie it is acknowledging that kind hospitality says more than what a piece of pie is worth. We would not even be speaking about this issue if the employee really cared about the experience of his guest.

    I sure wouldn’t want to hire any of the people below with that type of attitude.

  18. I have worked in the hospitality industry for many years. If the employee cared about the experience of his guest we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. How much effort would it have been to offer a free dessert just as a kind gesture? Obviously the free dessert is not the point, it is how the customer feels about his experience.

    If I owned a restaurant, I would hope that I would have an employee who placed more importance on the customer than a piece of pie.

  19. Nice effort on your part Jason and I am sure that management would appreciate it … but I do have one general question for the masses. Why is it that a restaurant is “expected” to “compensate” customers for the least little hickup?

    After years in the hospitality industry I think we have made our own bed. Five minutes late on a reservation … a free drink. A little too much time between starters and main course … a free desert. A too cool entree … comp the meal.

    Not to say that a gesture for less than acceptable satisfaction is not good on the part of a restaurant, but why has it become such an expectation?

    If your doctor is late 30 minutes for your appointment do you ask for a discount? If you can’t find a sales person to help you at Home Depot do you ask them to comp your purchase? How about if the power goes out and your cable TV is off the air for an hour or two … do you ask for a freebie?

    I have comped a lot of stuff in my time but have come to the realization that customers often think they are “owed”something for the least little thing.