Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Worst Service Ever @ Original Joe's
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Our friend Patrick had a 30th birthday party at Original Joe's on Friday night. Original Joe's is an American-style sports bar and restaurant across the Cambie Street Bridge from downtown Vancouver. It's kind of generic but unpretenious and I think it's a chain, but it's the only location around Vancouver that I know of. Think pool tables and Spike TV's "1000 Ways to Die" on big screen TV. It's loud. Portions are huge. It's a guy kind of place.
Now, we've been to Original Joe's before, again, for one of Patrick's events back in June 2009, but it was fine then. I think it's because we didn't have to rely on table service. He had rented all the pool tables for us for a pre-wedding get together and we had that entire section of the restaurant closed off for ourselves. It was a nice social mingler for his friends and out-of-town family members.
But my second visit to Original Joe's? It relied on table service entirely. The service was so bad, it was almost comical.
Here's the story:
We arrive and get seated at a makeshift table of 12, 4 tables placed side by side. We look through the menus and it takes a long time before our waitress visits us. When she does, she is your typical Vancouver server: a young waifish doe-eyed model no older than 22. However, unlike the typical overly eager "Hi my name is Jessica and I'll be your server!" types that we expect at such establishments, she doesn't really say anything except just stand there looking lobotomized. We order our drinks from her and she disappears. She returns much later with our drinks balanced on a tray. She takes a handful of coasters with one arm and throws them haphazardly on the table. She then awkardly reaches her arm between the full pints of beer for a drink on the other side of her tray. According to Patrick's wife Amy, she narrowly missed knocking them over.
Throughout all this it doesn't even occur to her that we might like to order food, until somebody mentions that we're ready. It had only been about 20 minutes since her previous visit. She disappears.
A while later I notice that she stands at the far end of the table and begins to take the orders. We're talking away waiting for her to eventually make her way over to our side. It isn't until I get nudged that I realize that, for reasons unknown, our waitress is taking the entire table's orders from way over there, 4 tables over, about 20 feet away in a loud and noisy environment. I am baffled. I look at the people around me in disbelief. She's looking at me and when I look at her puzzled. She looks at me, eyes kind of glazed over. Instead of screaming,
"I'll have the chicken quesadillas!"
... I decide to lean in over the table and meekly say:
She repeats what I order but I can't hear her and I repeat what I said by mouthing the words silently. She writes my order down and moves on to the next person's order by - get this - simply looking at them, again, from 20 feet away. They are in mid conversation with the person across the table. They don't notice her. In fact, nobody really notices her. But instead of even attempting to get anyone's attention, she stands there silently like a deer in the headlights. She doesn't get it. We all nudge our friends until they, one at a time, look up and realize the waitress is standing at the far side of the table gazing off into a distant corner of the universe. Patrick laughs and looks at me and says, "ummm... why doesn't she just come over here?" Indeed.
Patrick then hollars down the table,
"I'll have the Prawn Carbonara!!!"
It's like a bad skit.
After taking the orders, she finally walks around to all 4 tables to pick up the menus. Remember, this is a loud sports pub on a Friday night. It's loud. People are talking. Some people are leaning on the table, menus pinned down underneath their elbows, oblivious that she's coming around to pick them up. When she gets to those people, instead of saying "excuse me", she simply tugs and yanks on the menus until they're released. One of them hits Josh in the face. No apology. Nothing.
And that was just part of the night.
It kept getting better.
For example, well after we finished our first drinks, it would take a while before anybody visited the table to see if we'd like another drink. Empty glasses kept piling up. This is unheard of at a bar. And when they finally did come by to check up, they just removed the empty glasses!
We had to call out to say, "some of us here would like to order another drink". So she took one order, and then the next, and while the rest of the table was looking up at her eagerly awaiting to order theirs next, she just aloofly walked away. We had to yell at her to come back and tell her that many other people at the table would also like to order a drink.
We always waited a seriously long time between drinks. Sometimes the drinks were ordered incorrectly. Other times they were served to the wrong people.
Patrick's friend Nigel dropped by later on in the evening and sat next to Patrick who was finishing his prawn carbonara dinner. By that time a new collection of empty glasses had accumulated all over the table. Patrick explained to Nigel, "It's so funny... they don't want to make money tonight. Look, nobody comes by to see if we want drinks. They don't even come by to see if we want anything. It's weird!" And sure enough, a waitress came by and took all our empties, but didn't even communicate with us. Nigel laughed, "Yeah, that IS weird!"
When our waitress finally came back to the table, she looked at Nigel and asked him if he was finished his food. Nigel looked up. "That's not my food. I haven't ordered anything yet". Nigel looked at Patrick in disbelief. Patrick laughed. It was just one of those nights. A night where the service was so unbelievably incompetent that we were so amused, we started to hypothesize how much worse it could get. Fortunately, it didn't get worse, but it didn't get any better.
Unfortunately for our waitress, we didn't tip her very well that night. As Josh said, "If we had, it would have been an insult to all the servers in Vancouver".