Kevin Warnock

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Grandma’s House Restaurant in Yreka California threatened to call the police because my waitress wrote down my order incorrectly

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Interior of Grandma's House Restaurant 123 East Center Street Yreka California 96097 USA. Photograph by Kevin Warnock. Taken December 13, 2012 with an Apple iPhone 5.

Interior of Grandma's House Restaurant 123 East Center Street Yreka California 96097 USA. Photograph by Kevin Warnock. Taken December 13, 2012 with an Apple iPhone 5.

Two days ago, on Thursday, December 13, 2012, I visited Yreka, California, USA.

I like Yreka.

I avoid chain restaurants much of the time, and that’s one reason I like to stop in Yreka (population in 2010 of 7,765) when I happen to be driving on United States Interstate 5, which passes through the town.

I drove around a bit after taking one of the three exits for Yreka. I wanted to dine in the most charming place I could find. I thought I had found a gem when I discovered a restaurant named Grandma’s House. I thought this was particularly fitting, since I had left my actual grandmother’s house earlier in the day and was on my way to my home in San Francisco, California. According to the Facebook page of Grandma’s House, the restaurant opened on July 22, 1977.

I arrived around 7:10pm, and there was only one other diner on this Thursday evening. The weather was clear, and the temperature was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit — a nice night.

I looked over the menu and selected the spaghetti with the full meal add on. The spaghetti alone was USD $9.75, but for $2.00 more the menu said I would get soup, salad bar and desert — the full meal.

The only employee I saw took my order. Her name is Kathy, according to the receipt, which does not specify her last name.

I told Kathy “I would like the spaghetti with the full meal.”

Part way through the meal, which featured an ample and tasty salad,  substantially overcooked pasta, soggy garlic toast and a wilted slice of lettuce as decoration, Kathy reminded me to leave room for desert, which didn’t sound like a presumptuous sales pitch since I had already ordered desert with my full meal.

When I was done eating the spaghetti and salad, Kathy asked which desert I wanted, since the menu didn’t specify the desert included. I asked what my options were, and she named four flavors of pie. I selected Boysenberry pie. Kathy asked if I’d like ice cream with that, and I said yes, figuring ‘why not?’ since she didn’t say there was an extra charge, and I never dreamed she would try to charge me extra without disclosing that fact.

When the bill arrived, I was dismayed to see that my order was not correctly printed on the computer printed check. Instead of the spaghetti and meal, I was charged separately for the spaghetti ($9.75), the slice of pie ($2.75), and the ice cream ($1.85). Instead of $11.75 ($9.75 + $2.00), the bill was for $14.35, or $2.60 more.

All prices are noted without sales tax.

I was and remain 100% certain I asked for the spaghetti plus the meal, because I had just calculated what a good deal it was compared to the individual prices. I have an eye for this kind of detail, and I like to save money.

When I mentioned my concern about the total, I expected Kathy to apologize for her error and quickly take the bill away to be reprinted.

Instead, Kathy became irate and told me I had not read the menu correctly. She went and got the menu, and I pointed at exactly what I ordered, and told her in a kind voice that I was 100% certain I had specified the full meal.

Kathy then pointed out that below the text for the full meal offer there was language that said the dishes without the full meal came with soup or salad, and that I should have picked up on that and confronted her when she carried me a prepared salad and didn’t bring me soup. I knew I was entitled to more than one salad and to more elaborate salads, but I didn’t care, as I was trying to not eat too much since I planned to drive for hours directly after dinner. I was irritated Kathy argued with me in such a way. Shortly before I departed, I gently informed Kathy that I was very sweet to not insist on the salad bar when she brought me a salad. She ignored me.

I didn’t memorize the menu parts I was not interested in, and I should not be expected to. I should further not be expected to continue reading the menu after I have selected my dinner. To be clear, the full menu description was first on the menu, and what Kathy repeatedly called the à la carte description was second, lower on the menu.

Kathy told me point blank that I had ordered à la carte and that on that basis she was compelled to charge me as she did. Kathy told me that the restaurant’s à la carte selection of spaghetti included soup or salad.

I respectfully suggest that Kathy and the restaurant managers consult with WikiPediA to learn their definition of à la carte. I copied the definition and present it here:

À la carte (play /ælæˈkɑrt/)[1] is a French language loan phrase meaning “according to the menu“, and used in

    • A reference to a menu of items priced and ordered separately, i.e. the usual operation of restaurants (In contrast to a table d’hôte, at which a menu with limited or no choice is served at a fixed price.)
    • To order an item from the menu on its own, e.g. a steak without the potatoes and vegetables is steak a la carte

The phrase was adopted into English in 1826, predating by a decade the common use of the French language loanwordmenu“.[2][3]

What the menu really offers is a small meal and a large meal. The menu designer did a poor job, as the small meal should be offered first, to help avoid this kind of confusion.

I am nearly certain Kathy has gotten into numerous arguments similar to the one I had with her — she had her arguments so lined up that they appeared well practiced. Kathy seemed to relish arguing with me, and the arguing started in mere seconds once I sweetly alerted her to the problem I perceived with the check.

Kathy at this point was clearly upset and not thinking rationally, since the food she delivered to me probably cost less than what I could have eaten had I availed myself of the unlimited salad bar and consumed a serving of soup as well.

She should have quickly and graciously adjusted the bill at this point.

But there was no reasoning with Kathy, so I asked that she ask the manager to come speak with me.

Kathy informed me the manager had just left for the evening.

I asked that she call him and allow me to speak with him by phone. Kathy refused.

Kathy then stated that she would call the police if I did not pay the bill she gave me.

This is the first time anyone has threatened to call the police on me, and I was and remain shocked.

I then asked Kathy to phone the manager and ask that he return to the store to meet with me, as I was quite interested in telling the manager about Kathy’s threat to call the police. She said the manager had gone to a basketball game. Kathy never called the manager while I was there.

I handed Kathy a twenty dollar bill, even though she specifically and exclusively asked me to pay by card. I didn’t want her to have access to my card.

I walked with her to the cash register and collected my change. I did not leave a gratuity, as it was unwarranted given the above. I asked for the manager’s card, and she said she would give it to me. She did give me a generic card, which I didn’t examine thoroughly until in my car. I had hoped to get the full name of the manager along with the email address of the restaurant. Sadly, Kathy only hand wrote the first name of a person on the front of the receipt. I think it says Kem, but I presume she meant to write Ken but put one too many humps in the last letter, which she wrote in cursive.

To Kathy’s credit, she apologized while I was paying her. But she never backed down from her position that she was correct and I was not. Her apology thus seemed insincere and designed to dissuade me from contacting her boss. I suspect Kathy is friends with her boss and the police, and counts on them believing her when such disputes arise.

That’s one of the reasons I am writing such a long and detailed blog post about this incident. I want this incident on the record so that if a future customer of Grandma’s House gets charged with a crime if they stand their ground, I want their attorney to be able to learn of my experience with Grandma’s House.

If I had any doubt in my mind, I would not write this post. But I am 100% certain I asked for the full meal. If this is so, then all of Kathy’s arguments fail. It makes no difference if I didn’t pick up on inconsistencies that happened after I ordered. I am not a lawyer litigating a case where finding and calling out inconsistencies is required. I was a customer — a customer ordering moderately priced food in a mom and pop restaurant.

I am writing this as a caution to everyone that deals with the public. You never know who might write about you, so be careful, responsible and thoughtful. Do not lose your cool, and do not threaten to call the police over trivial matters like this one.

Kathy appeared to be between 50 and 60 years old, so she should know better than to treat me as she did.

I have no idea what the police would do in a situation where I was disputing fewer than $3 including tax, and where my side of the story was so easy and reasonable to believe.

I was well dressed in a sports jacket and dress shoes. My shiny BMW 5 Series was the only car in the customer lot. I had plenty of cash with me. I think the police would have taken my side, but I have no experience with police in such a situation, and I hope never to acquire any. I did not and do not feel this is a situation worthy of police involvement. The person that needed to learn of my displeasure was her boss, not the police.

In my opinion, Kathy should never be permitted to interact with the public in a business setting. If I were her employer, I would probably fire her over this incident, if legally permissible in the jurisdiction where I employed her, and after careful consultation with my employment attorney.

Grandma’s House is not a chain, according to Kathy. I wanted to love this restaurant. It’s adorable, as you can see from the picture above, which I posted to my Facebook Wall before my food arrived. I don’t criticize businesses frequently, but Grandma’s House earned this negative review.

December 17, 2012: I telephoned Grandma’s House Restaurant this afternoon and asked to speak with the owner. The person that answered said his name is Tom and that he is the owner. I described my poor dining experience I had that I describe above. Tom apologized several times, and said that he would speak with Kathy. He said Kathy works a full time job during the day and works at his restaurant in the evening. Tom said the menu is being reprinted and that the new version will be more clear. Tom several times said that he was sorry but nothing could be done to remedy the situation at this point. I did not point out to him that he could send me a check for $2.60, as I was hoping that by the end of our 12 minute conversation that he would realize that was a good start to a remedy. Tom never offered to refund my overpayment. I didn’t ask because I don’t need the money, among other reasons.

If you’d like to see the original receipt and the business card from my visit, click the link below to bring up the PDF scan I made today.

Grandmas House Restaurant receipt December 12, 2012, Yreka, California

It’s so easy to send a check to someone thanks to the free check writing and mailing services from banks and credit unions. I used the service today to send a check to Taco Bell in Willows, California. I don’t normally eat at Taco Bell, but I was in a rush Friday morning to get to Berkeley, California to a PhD completion party for a friend that completed her advanced studies. I ordered a breakfast burrito and hash browned potatoes at the drive up window. By the time I found they had given me two burritos with my potatoes, I had driven away, and I didn’t have time to go wait in line to explain and return the extra and unpaid for burrito. So, I eventually ate the second burrito and paid for it by check today. The huge advantage to bill pay is they pay the $.45 postage and there is no way to overdraw your account by bouncing a check, because they take the money out before they send the check.

Written by Kevin Warnock

December 15th, 2012 at 12:38 am

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