In customer service, the old line is “the customer is always right.” Though we can debate to what extent that is actually true, you’d be hard pressed to argue that the customer is wrong to say he doesn’t want the comment “I have a small penis” on his bill. But as hard as it is to believe, that’s exactly the insult that landed on a printed bill four diners received last weekend at the Arlington location of Peter Chang, a chain of Chinese restaurants named after its owner and eponymous chef.
According to the Washington Post, the server’s poor judgement stemmed from an argument with the table over the authenticity of serving rice family-style instead of in individual bowls. Of course, few restaurant arguments are as dumb as the “authenticity” debate (especially when the person claiming to be an authority on Chinese authenticity is, in his own words, “just a white guy from Arlington, [Virginia[), but it’s nowhere near as dumb as printing multiple insults on a customer’s check you’re about to hand them before they pay their bill. Beyond the “penis” comment, a second note insulted a diner’s outfit, stating, “im a plad asshole.” What’s the proper tipping etiquette in that situation? Probably 18 percent instead of 20 percent, at least, right?
When the customers brought the receipt to management’s attention, they weren’t enthralled with the so-called apology either. “I would say they seemed slightly embarrassed,” a member of the party told The Post. “It wasn't like, ‘We're so sorry. This is unprofessional. We mean to treat our customers better.’ It was more like, sorry-this-is-embarrassing-it-was-a-joke sorry.” To be fair, it is pretty embarrassing. Though as far as jokes go, the punchline is pretty weak. Don Rickles these servers are not, even if the customers might have been acting like hockey pucks.
But turns out the joke was on the staff. Furious over the incident, Chang and his business partner fired two servers and two members of the management team, including his own daughter, Lydia Zhang. Maybe someone should slip her a bill with the message, “nepotism didn’t save your ass, huh?” Sure, it’s mean, but it’s very authentically American.