Two years ago, I wrote a lengthy blog entry about a bad experience at a local Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I carefully described the entire episode in great detail and then... I never published it. It still sits in my "drafts" folder, waiting for its day in the sun.
In that blog post (which you may never get to read), I had an issue with a gift card and the unprofessional manner in which the restaurant manager handled it. Then, on a later visit, we had an issue with the way a server first ignored, then argued over, our presentation of a discount coupon. I vowed never to return to Ruby Tuesday. I usually pride myself on keeping my word on ultimatums, but since I never actually published that blog entry, there was my loophole. (Jeez! Politicians use that excuse all the time!)
One day last week, I arrived home after work at my usual time. My wife greeted me and said that she wanted to make a quick trip to IKEA to get some specialty light bulbs. (Evidently the lamps in our bedroom can only accommodate rare Swedish light bulbs. We have tried run-of-the-mill Philips brand bulbs from Home Depot, they only last a few days. In defense of our lamps, I believe they were purchased at IKEA, as well.) While we were out in the direction of our nearest IKEA, Mrs. P suggested getting dinner at Ruby Tuesday. I frowned. She saw me frown. But, I relented and agreed to give Ruby Tuesday another chance.
Trips to IKEA, in my experience, are never "quick." Maybe it's because of the sheer size of the building or the overwhelming inventory or the fact that my wife likes to shop, but a visit to IKEA rarely involves picking up one item. We snaked our way through aisles of kitchen gadgets and magazine storage boxes and folding somethings until we found the lighting department. Finding the item you're seeking in IKEA is never an easy task because things are arranged aesthetically not categorically. We finally located a display of Ryet bulbs (one of the endearing individual names that IKEA gives to their products to personify them.... I guess) and grabbed enough of a supply to keep us from coming back to IKEA for a while. We wended our way to the check-out area, paid, and headed out the door.
Content with our purchases and hopeful of our bedroom being fully lit for more than a week, we pulled into the parking lot of Ruby Tuesday. It was a weekday evening, nearly 7:30 pm, so we were seated immediately. Our server, Riley, introduced himself and handed menus to Mrs. Pincus and me. I marveled at — what I considered — fairly high-prices for chain-restaurant food. After a few minutes, Riley returned to take our order. We helped ourselves to the newly-expanded salad bar (four different kinds of mixed greens, garlic-sauteed broccoli, mandarin orange slices). We were silently welcomed back to our table with tall glasses of water and a plate of Ruby Tuesday's signature cheddar biscuits, a complimentary feature that are about as moist and flavorful as the Sahara Desert. Our dinner was okay. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay. Riley checked on us a few times during the course of our meal and even filled our water without being asked.
At the conclusion of dinner, Riley arrived at our table with a leatherette portfolio containing our check. He laid it on the table midway between Mrs. P and me. He smiled and said, "Thank you and have a blessed evening."
What the fuck?
Were we just blessed by a guy whose most recent interaction was bringing me bland tilapia and a baked potato? Were we consecrated by someone who only 30 minutes earlier told us that we could substitute the salad bar for one of our side dishes? Did our waiter just invoke a sacred bond between us and his deity for the remainder of the night? Riley just crossed the fucking line.
I was annoyed. Mrs. Pincus was furious.
Religion is a very, very personal thing and my relationship with organized religion has waned considerably over the years. I am not a fan of religion or any of the people who blindly follow it. I have respect for the people who follow religion, as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves or to the company of others they are one hundred percent sure share their beliefs. Aside from that, I get pretty uncomfortable with anyone making any sort of religious reference to me. In a routine by comedian Jim Gaffigan, he begins by telling the audience that he'd like to talk about Jesus. Then, he mutters (in his characteristic imitation of the audience): "He better not!" He goes on to say, "Does anything make you more uncomfortable than a stranger telling you he'd like to talk about Jesus?" Well, as far as I'm concerned, I don't want to hear about anyone's religion, especially someone I don't know and especially if my relationship with that someone is of a server-customer nature. You cannot assume someone's religious beliefs are the same as yours, unless you really know that person well. Very well, in fact. And dropping a plate of tilapia and a baked potato in front of them does not qualify as a close relationship.
An enraged Mrs. P wanted to give a piece of her mind to the manager on duty. I discouraged her, explaining that her anger would be falling on the deafest of ears. Instead, I continued, I will send a email to Ruby Tuesday corporate headquarters. I would let them know how offended we were and how inappropriate the sentiment was. We silently paid the bill and left.
The next morning, I composed a carefully worded email and sent it through the feedback section of the Ruby Tuesday website. The next day I received this reply:
Thank you for your message following your visit to Ruby Tuesday. Our guests, like you, are very important to us and it is concerning when anyone leaves our restaurant feeling uncomfortable. Please accept our apology. Your feedback has been forwarded to our senior management, for follow up with the restaurant team. We anticipate a response directly to you within 48 business hours.
Ruby Tuesday Guest Relations
Very nice. Very corporate. It is now 240 business hours since I received this reply. I have received no response directly to me from the restaurant team. Actually, I have not received any additional response. Guess who won't be getting a third chance?
And this blog entry is officially published.