Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Birthday Meal Comp

“We’re going to comp your lunch.”

Unless you’re at Denny’s on your birthday, nothing good has ever happened prior to that statement from the restaurant manager. It usually means you’ve just spent twenty minutes in the bathroom trying to clean the chocolate shake and cheeseburger off your shirt and pants after the new trainee waiter lost control of his tray on the way past your table.

I heard those six words this past weekend at the poolside bar and restaurant at the swanky Marriott Newport Coast Villas, where my family and I were pretending to have enough class to actually fit in. We were having lunch with my sister at a poolside table while the kids swam in the giant pool. (At least, I think they were swimming in the pool. I had kind of lost track of them after I stopped caring where they were or what they were doing. It’s a big place, but they were basically trapped in the resort since they didn’t have a car, so my parental watchfulness kind of went on vacation, too.)

It was our replacement waitress bringing me the confusing news of my unexpected dining windfall. Connor, our original waiter, had vanished mid-meal, but no one cared at the time, since the second pitcher of margaritas was still over the halfway mark.

I had asked for the check, and our replacement waitress was having a hard time locating it. We got the feeling Connor didn’t give her much of a briefing before he left. After sifting through seven or eight different bills with her, we did the logical thing and claimed the one with the lowest total. Unfortunately it was still over a hundred dollars, and even more unfortunately, it was actually ours. They don’t exactly give the margaritas away at places like that.

I’d told her that I’d given Connor my credit card to start our margarita tab, and when we finally found the right bill, she walked back to the bar mumbling something about not having seen the card. Hmm...

She came back to our table about ten minutes later and broke the happy news to us. “So, um, we’re going to comp your lunch.”

Primary inside-my-brain reaction: Free margaritas!
Secondary reaction: Wait... she didn’t spill anything on us. Did someone spill something on the kids?
Tertiary reaction: I wonder where the kids are?
(I don’t know the word for Fourth-i-ary) reaction: Oh, crap. My credit card.

That was it. She was holding the bill, but not my card. My whole life flashed before my eyes. Not again!

I haven’t had the best credit card luck in the past few years. The information sharing policies at Target’s IT department have caused my credit card company to issue me new cards twice now, and a few months ago my wife had one card number stolen, and completely lost another card, all in the same weekend. Authorities believe margaritas may have been involved.

Every time we get a new credit card number it takes three days off my life. Literally. We have nearly all of our bills on auto pay with our credit cards, so every time I get a new card it takes me three days of logging in and trying to figure out where to update my billing information, or contemplating hanging myself while on hold in a soft rock phone tree maze of despair.

“Um, why exactly, are you buying our lunch?”

“Well, funny story. Connor, your first waiter... His wife went into labor and he accidentally took your credit card with him to the hospital... ha!”

Primary inside-my-brain reaction: Who has a baby on spring break? That’s just bad scheduling.
Secondary reaction: I guess we should tip him pretty good. He’s going to need it.
Tertiary reaction: I better not be paying for the delivery!
(I don’t know the word for Fourth-i-ary) reaction: That’s actually pretty funny.

“Would you like anything else?”

“Two more pitchers of margaritas, obviously. So, when will I be getting the card back?”

“We’re working on that.”

Twenty-four hours later and I still don’t have my card back. Connor has not charged any medical, gift shop, or champagne and cigar purchases on it, so I am rolling the dice and not canceling it, since I would almost rather lose an arm than have to get a new credit card number. Back at the pool bar they assure me that they have a call into him.

“I’m driving home tomorrow, and that card is my gas card. I need it back tonight!”

“We will definitely make that happen, sir.”

Four hours later I get a call from George, the front desk manager. He does not have my card, but he does have some “options,” and wants to meet in the lobby. I can’t figure out why George is in the lobby and not in a car retrieving my card. I am not happy with George. Or Connor. I meet with George and sit down in the comfortable and inviting lobby relaxation area.

“Well, here’s the thing,” says George. “Connor is six hours away from here.”

Primary inside-my-brain reaction: Why does he work six hours away from where his wife is giving birth?
Secondary reaction: Such bad spring break scheduling, bro!
Tertiary reaction: Does the front lobby here have margaritas?
(I don’t know the word for Fourth-i-ary) reaction: This George guy is about to really piss me off, isn’t he?

“Go on, George.”

“He has mailed the card back to me, but it won’t be here until Monday. I was told you were driving back home to Sacramento tomorrow, is that correct?”

“Yes. Go on.”

“When I get the card, I will overnight it to your home address. In the meantime, I will send someone right now to go buy, let’s say, two hundred dollars’ worth of gift cards to cover your gas on the way home. Will that be an acceptable solution to this embarrassing problem we’ve created?”

I try desperately to maintain my angry face, fighting back my smile. I don’t need the card for gas. My wife has the same card in her purse. At least, she did before the margaritas.

“I think that will be acceptable, George. When can I expect those?”

We got back to our villa that night to two hundred dollars in Amex gift cards and a nice bottle of red wine on the counter, courtesy of the Marriott. It’s not a pitcher of margaritas, but I guess it’ll do.

We drove home the next day and got back to an empty fridge. My wife promptly went off to Costco with two hundred dollars in free Marriott bucks.

Thanks, Marriott. You didn’t just comp our lunch. You comped our whole family’s next ten meals. And a nice bottle of Kirkland pre-mixed margaritas.

Cheers. And congratulation, Connor! I hope you still have a job when you get back.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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