This Is So Tiring

, , , | Working | November 4, 2020

We are a group of English sports skydivers on holiday in Portugal as part of an organised trip. Each night after a day of jumping, we’ve been going to different local restaurants. There are about a hundred of us, so the organisers — a mix of English skydivers and local Portuguese skydivers — have usually been finding multiple restaurants each night and splitting the group up. It’s then common that we’ll have a set menu or we will pre-order food, which we’re fine with as the group sizes are large and it makes everything quicker. It’s worked well all week, until this night.

The organisers announce that we’re all going to a single Italian restaurant who are booking out the entire restaurant for us; they refused to accept a pre-order and are offering the full menu. This is very strange, but the organisers confirm repeatedly, in both English and Portuguese, and they assure them that it’s fine. To be safe, the organisers give out menus beforehand anyway, so we can place orders quickly on arrival.

We arrive ten minutes early for our seven pm reservation and there are still people eating with no group tables set up, so we stand around awkwardly until they leave, ten minutes after our reservation time.

The staff then rearrange the entire restaurant while a hundred people try to stay out of their way. At this point, they realise that they don’t have enough chairs for everyone, so some end up sitting at the bar, boxes are pulled out, and a couple of us smaller women share seats to squeeze in. It’s ridiculous, but it’s clearly a small, family-owned place and we’re a large group, all in good moods after a fun day, so we’re nice about it.

Then, we begin the ordering. It takes forever to place orders, even with most of us having looked at menus earlier, and while we wait, the wait staff don’t seem very organised and there’s lots of reconfirming, indecision about whether we order drinks at the bar or table, etc. Finally, the starters and main ordering is done, and we begin our wait.

Over the next hour and a half, we start off being nice about the wait for something as simple as bruschetta, ordering drinks and chatting. As it gets longer, the manager apologises and gives out some free bottles of wine. Still, the wait gets longer and some people are getting drunk and antsy; we had plans to go to local bars after dinner for karaoke and comedy nights, which are looking less likely. It’s now nine pm and our starters begin to come out. We’re starving, most haven’t eaten since breakfast due to the busy day, and the simple starters get finished quickly. We think the delay must have been getting the mains ready, too, so we anticipate they won’t be much longer, but how wrong we are!

Over the next forty-five minutes, the waiting gets more frustrated and a couple of people even leave to go on for the night, paying at the bar for their starters. We then get our main course. Many are cold and looking congealed but we eat because we’re hungry. At this point, it’s about half past ten and the majority decide to leave, again paying at the bar as they go. The rest of us hang around to get dessert, which we think cannot possibly be too long as it’s mostly chilled tiramisu and cheesecakes. Again, how wrong we are!

It’s half eleven before we actually get desserts, and in that time, all but two of us apologise to the wait staff and leave. A friend and I are committed at this point, so we wait for our desserts. Ours come out along with a third that was a spare

Waitress: “Whose is this one?”

Me: “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe one of the people who left?”

Waitress: “Who left?!”

Me: “Everyone? They all spoke to your coworker before they left to cancel their orders. I mean… it has been four and a half hours”

Waitress: “Good food takes time!”

Me: “I’m sure, but… Okay, shall I just have the spare dessert? We can split it.”

Waitress: “Ugh, fine!”

She puts it down so heavily that it splatters slightly, and she storms off to the back.

The desserts are okay, so we’re reasonably happy, figuring we got a good story out of it, at least. Now we only need to pay… And so we wait, and wait. We call out to the kitchen but get no reply, and it’s another fifteen minutes before anyone emerges. We are so tempted to skip out because no one is coming back, but we can’t bring ourselves to do it.

Finally, someone comes, huffily realises we need a card reader, takes their time to get it, and then comes back.

Waitress: “That’s €760.”

Me: “What?”

Friend: “It’s about €30 each?”

Me: “Maybe €35 with the extra dessert?”

Waitress: *Rolling her eyes* “No, you have your drinks to pay for, too.”

Me: “I don’t drink. I’ve had a soda, which I paid for already.”

Luckily, I have mobile banking and can show the payment.

Friend: “I had a couple of beers, but I paid for them already, too.”

Waitress: “Your friends, then; they all skipped on the bill!”

Me: “They all spoke to you before they left, as far as I saw. Are you sure the bill is right? The drinks were mostly going on the bar, not the group tab.”

Waitress: “Of course, it’s right! You just try to cheat us!”

Me: “Look, I’ll pay for me and she’ll pay for her, and then I’ll go to the bar they went to and speak to them, but I’m not paying hundreds of euros when I haven’t eaten that much or drunk anything, and I’m sure they paid already.”

Waitress: “You can’t do that!”

She marches past us and locks the restaurant door. I’ve had some past trauma and I’m not okay with that in the slightest.

Me: “No. No. No. Open the door. Open the door! Now! I’ll send the organisers back to speak to you but I’m not paying for food and drink I didn’t have, especially when I saw everyone come up and pay already. Open the door!”

Waitress: “Fine, but no one from [Skydiving Centre] is ever allowed back here again, and the owner will call tomorrow and make you pay.”

Me: “Fine. Let us out.”

We paid for the items we’d actually eaten and quickly left. I found the organisers, but by the time they went back, the restaurant was dark and locked up. The next day, the owner did call, but only to apologise for the poor organisation and long waits, though not for locking us in the restaurant. After speaking to the owner, the company we were with made a note to only take very small groups there in future, but personally, after being locked in, I’m never going to go back!

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