Sunday, May 15, 2016

the second time around

Remember that story I wrote about our wonderful — almost magical — experience at Movie Tavern?

Well, we went back.

Prior to our last (actually, our first) visit to Movie Tavern, the brilliantly-conceived melding of movie theater, restaurant and bar, my wife had signed up for their "special perks" club. Periodically, the marketing team at Movie Tavern would send emails telling about upcoming films, special events and other information to entice us to come back — and come back often. So, taking advantage of a "Free Ticket on Your Birthday" offer, Mrs. P and I returned to Movie Tavern on a Saturday night, I can honestly say that we were excited to go back, having really enjoyed our first encounter,

Keeping with Movie Tavern's policy of seating one half hour before showtime, we arrived at 7 PM for an 8:30 PM showing of Disney's live-action remake of The Jungle Book, a film that had already been out for about a month. With other bigger and more-hyped movies opening the same weekend, we never expected to be told that the auditorium showing The Jungle Book didn't have two seats together. Disappointed, we opted, instead for a 9:20 performance of the new George Clooney-Julia Roberts thriller Money Monster, a film we knew nothing about. But we didn't care. We were happily anticipating an enjoyable evening that duplicated our previous pleasure at Movie Tavern. But now we had an hour to kill.

We scanned the suburban strip center of which Movie Tavern is the centerpiece. Most of the surrounding stores were closed at this hour on a Saturday. So we strolled down to a supermarket at the far end of the parking lot to buy a few non-perishables that I remembered I had scribbled on a shopping list I, of course, left at home. We slowly walked the supermarket aisles behind a nearly empty cart and ate up as much time as we could. We made our purchases and slowly headed back to the theater. I dropped our groceries off in our car and met my wife in the Movie Tavern lobby. 

Time crept by, but soon we queued up at the ticket-taker podium. We were informed that the theater was "not quite ready" and would be called "around 9 or ten of." I checked the clock on my phone. It was ten minutes to nine right now. A little after 9 PM, the announcement was made and we filed into Theater 8.

We scanned the menu and, with an over abundance of offerings for carnivores, we decided on the "2 for $30" special, which was one appetizer, two entrees and two fresh-baked cookies, all vegetarian-friendly. We closed our menus and settled into our reclining seats, watching servers busily scurrying about the theater. A young man passed by us, smiled and said "Hi guys! I'll be with you in a minute. " He disappeared down the entrance hallway. When he returned, he passed us by. Instead, he headed to the row in front of us. He took orders from every one in that row and, again, passed us by as he exited. He did smile at us again, though.

My wife and I exchanged glances that expressed our mutual disappointment. Finally, "Dave," as he introduced himself, came to take our order. Mrs. Pincus started off my saying, "We're gonna make this simple. We're gonna get the '2 foe $30' deal. We'd like the spinach artichoke dip and two portobello mushroom sandwiches." 

Dave furrowed his brow and pointed to the menu. "I believe you get two entrees." 

Mrs. P and I looked at each other and then back to Dave. "Yes," I said, "two portobello sandwiches." 

"Oh. Right.," said Dave. 

Curious about another item I spotted on the menu, I added, "I'd like an order of the fried pickles appetizer."

Dave frowned. "Uh," he stammered, "you only get one appetizer."

"Yes, I understand," I countered, "but, I'd like an additional appetizer. I'll pay for it. I brought money."

Dave smiled and entered my additional selection on his order pad and set off to, I imagine, the kitchen. "Well, this is a little different from the last time we were here." My wife and I uttered the same observed sentiment almost simultaneously.

The lights dimmed and the trailers for upcoming movies began. A few minutes into the preview of a new Ben Affleck film that I will never see, a different server approached us with a plate of two freshly-baked cookies. 

"Cookies?," he asked in a whisper, "You ordered cookies?"

Again, in the dark, my wife and I traded dumbfounded looks. "Well, not before our dinner.," she whispered back her reply,  "Why would these come out before our entire meal?"

He looked at us as though we were the first people to ever want dinner before dessert. What was wrong with us? He offered to bring them back to the kitchen and return with fresh cookies after we finished our main course. Still, he shook his head as though there was something wrong with our request.

Our appetizers arrived as the feature began. A minute later, another set of appetizers arrived. In hushed tones, we explained that we already had our appetizers. The server shook his head and disappeared into the darkness. Twenty or so minutes later, our sandwiches arrived. And a second set of sandwiches arrived moments later.

When the film was over, our server dropped a leatherette portfolio containing our bill on one of the swing-out tabletops connected to our seat. When the lights came on, Mrs. P scanned the printout and frowned. "Well, This is wrong.," she said in disgust.

The lengthy check included our "2 for $30" special and an additional fried pickle appetizer. Below that were two spinach dips, two more pickle orders and two additional mushroom sandwiches. This brought the total to more than double what it should have been. We summoned Dave over and, after several explanations, he finally understood our complaint. (Yes, it took a few reviews of the situation.) He took the bill and promised a return with an adjustment. As we waited for a corrected bill, we were visited by a young lady in managerial dress, complete with a walkie-talkie in her back pocket and an official-looking earpiece firmly in position. She listened to our tale of woe detailing our extreme disappointment as compared to our first visit to Movie Tavern. With sorrowful eyes and concerned expression, she offered apologies. She told a convoluted story about the ins-and-outs of their computerized ordering system. I was not interested in how their business is run and the shortcomings there of. This seems to be a pacifying tactic that corporations love to employ, not realizing that the customer honestly does not give a shit. We signed the corrected receipt and Mrs. P said, "We enjoyed ourselves so much last time. However, if this had been our first experience with Movie Tavern, we probably would not come back." The manager apologized again, very corporately, However, she did not offer any additional incentive or compensation. Not that we were looking for that, but it would have made for good customer relations. 

Will we return to Movie Tavern? Probably. But, not as anxiously.

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