Friday, December 11, 2009

What would you do? Orta restaurant in Pembroke

My husband and I recently went to dinner at a local restaurant, Orta , that we had been wanting to try. Choosing to go on this particular evening was made easy because a client of mine gave me a gift card worth $50.00 as a Thank-you for a difficult job we had just finished. Along with the gift card she sent a lovely note that made me feel terrific. A boost that we could all use every now and then.

It was my birthday so we were hoping for a nice evening. I won't go into detail about the food or the service. It's not my intention with this post to promote the restaurant. When the check was presented at the end of the evening we presented the gift card along with the extra cash to cover the balance and a good tip.

The bartender (we almost always sit at the bar in restaurants) came back and told us that the card had no money on it. Without alarm I assured her it must have been a mistake...the card had never been used.

This time the manager, Jennifer came to us, over our shoulders so we had to turn on the bar stools to talk to her. She was trailing the receipt and carrying the card. Attention was being paid now by the customers in the bar and dining room. Human nature to want to know what's going on , right?
She explained to us that the card never had a balance put
on it.
I asked her to try again....the woman who gave me the card was reliable and responsible. She told me I should call the woman who gave me the card when I got home to find out what the problem was. I told her that under no circumstances would I call the woman .....she gave me the card as a gift and it would be the ultimate tacky act to call her. I knew she would be very upset that something she did to show appreciation was now causing embarrassment.

She came back, this time behind the bar, and said the card was not good.
I asked if the gift cards were sold anywhere other than in the restaurant. She said which I replied, "then the mistake must be on the part of Orta. The card obviously was not powered up at the time of purchase."

And her reply? She said, "Unless she acquired it by shady means." Thanks...let's add insult to injury.

I assured her again that the woman who purchased it was a fine human being who would NEVER do something like that. I asked her to honor the card...we were obviously not in there to scam them...and take my information so we could follow up.

She said it was not her restaurant and she was not authorized to comp the $50.00.

Well, I'm from the old-school restaurant world. My father was in the restaurant business for many , many years . I traveled with him several times up and down the East Coast when he was a supervisor for a chain of upscale Steak Houses. His feeling, and he expected the employees to mirror this, was that every employee was the restaurant...and that was necessary for the ship to sail right.

I looked at Jennifer, mouth agape, and asked her if she really intended not to honor the card.

She said she would not honor the card.

I told her I felt she was making a mistake.

She shrugged her shoulders and said that since the card didn't work she wasn't obligated to cover it. She took my name and number and said they would "research" the issue and get back to me.

We ended up having to use a credit card we didn't plan on using. We had enough cash to add to the gift card, but not enough to cover the entire bill...which came to $107.00 with a tip. There was just a very brief moment when I almost considered not leaving a tip , but I couldn't do that to our servers. It was not their fault.

We left Orta ,walking from the bar in the back through the dining room.
Did I mention how embarrassing it was?
It really was.
Really, really was.
You have to make a real effort to embarrass my husband , he has a high threshold. That threshold was met and surpassed. Yeah, it was pretty close to humiliating. I've never had a credit card rejected in a public place...that's what it appeared was happening to us. I hope to never experience it again.

We had planned to stop at a friend's cocktail party after dinner. Both of us were so upset when we left that we decided we wouldn't be very good company and went straight home. It is in Orta's favor that we didn't go. We both would have been ranting and spewing.

On the ride home we discussed it and decided to hold our tongues until we saw how it played out and give Orta the benefit of the doubt that wasn't given us.

This happened on Saturday night.

On Sunday night , while we were at a family party, a message was left by Jennifer. She said that they were still "researching the issue" and didn't want me to think we were being left hanging.
When we played the message it occurred to both of us that we had the gift card (although I think Jennifer took the numbers off the back) and we were never asked the name of the person who purchased the card.

Knowing Orta was closed on Monday , I waited until Tuesday to call.
A man answered the phone and I asked for Jennifer. He said she was off that day. I asked for either Jimmy Burke or Joanie Wilson (the proprietors). He said he was Jimmy Burke.

I started to explain the situation and he said he had been informed by Jennifer on the previous evening at the Christmas Party. He told me they were still "researching" with the company that handles the swiping of the cards and powering them and so on. I didn't really understand what he was talking about.
I thought he would be interested in hearing the story from me and went on to explain how embarrassing and upsetting it was.
He told me Jennifer was a very nice person.
I said I was not trying to challenge that, but it was not right of her to suggest..NAY.. say that the card may have been aquired through shady means.
I told him that the card had been sent with a lovely note, a photo-copy of the menu and an Orta business card.
Is that usually what you get with a gift card?, I asked.
It is exactly what you would get with a gift card,he told me.
I told him I still had the envelope it had been sent in and gave him the postmark date.(Oct 1) I also asked if I could give him the name of the person who gave me the card, though I couldn't say whether she had a credit card trail or if she used cash.
These two things would certainly help them with their "research". At this point, I said, I am willing to call her to inform her of the problem.

He thanked me for the information and said he would continue to work on it.

Fifteen minutes later he called me back and said he just checked his email and the company that handles the "swipes" emailed to tell hi..m the card was paid for.

Well, that's a relief.. but no surprise, I told him.

He at first said he would send me another fifty dollar gift card.

I said, " Jimmy, I already had a fifty dollar gift card. A fifty dollar gift card wouldn't get me back in the restaurant.I do think there should be some compensation beyond that."

He this is important...he asked me what would make me happy.

I said , "A one hundred dollar gift card would make up for a lot.It's not hurting the..."

He interrupted me and snapped, "Why don't you give me a chance to handle this in my way".

He was very huffy and at that point I just wanted to get off the phone and said," what you think is right."

And we hung up.

Here's my view....I went in to Orta with a card that was paid for and should have worked. The client who gave it to me wished for me to have a nice meal and relax. Instead of that we left Orta paying $107.00 ....$57.00 of which I would have gladly paid. Orta got $107.00 for my meal. Due to their mistake. THEIR mistake. If this was handled properly in the first place,it would be over.The request of a $100.00 card wouldn't have actually COST Orta $100.00. They would be getting my business and perhaps my repeat business and my good words for their Restaurant. They would be compensating my husband and I for a very unpleasant experience in their restaurant. I did not demand it....he asked me what would make me happy...and I told him.

That was Tuesday evening. This is what I got on Friday afternoon:

Dear Mrs. Weckbacher,
In this age of computer technology,mistakes often happen. Why the gift card you received did not get activated we do not know but this situation resulted in an embarrassing situation and for that we do apologize.The mistake was not intentional and resulting embarrassment you felt was unfortunate.I am sending you a check for 50.00 to cover the cost of the inactive gift card.
I had originally planned on sending you a 75.00 gift card in hopes that the extra 25.00 would help emphasize our apology. We always try to make sure our customers leave happy regardless of the circumstances in the hopes they will return. Your demand for 100.00 is excessive considering it was an honest mistake. The 25.00 I would have happily sent to you I am sending to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes, a wonderful organization that helps our service men and womenreturning from the war get back on their feet.
Again, I apologize for the mistake and wish you happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year.
Jimmy Burke,

Okay, Jimmy. There's this:

You don't have to explain Intrepid Fallen Heroes to me. I am familiar with them. I agree that it is a wonderful organization. I have given to them. I also have worked for over ten years with the Hanson/Whitman Military Support Group. We have packed and donated hundreds and hundreds of packages over the years. We also send cards and letters, mostly written by us mothers of servicemen.
My son served six years and fortunately he came home not needing the help of IFH. I am glad it is there for those who need it.
I am happy that you have donated to them in your name in an effort to humble me.
If I made a design mistake for a client that involved a degree of embarrassment for them I would go the extra mile to make up for it. I would not go work on a Habitat for Humanity home and tell them it's for their troubles.
I have had a business in this area for many years and I have
never treated a customer like that.
I consider your letter very rude and text book passive aggressive.

You asked me what would make me happy....I did not demand $100.00.

I am not a person who makes demands of people and I very seldom make an actual complaint.

My husband and I have lived in this area most of our lives.
We are always happy to find a new place to go and pass that information on to our friends. We and our friends are at the stage in our lives where our children are grown and we go out often. I know one place I will not recommend.

I regret this whole experience and if I could go back knowing what I know now, I would have just let it go and considered it a loss.

I don't know if Mary purchased more than one card on that day...because of that I
will tell her what happened so she has the chance to warn the other recipients.

I hope you found some degree of satisfaction in your handling of this.
I have not.

This all started off as an act of generosity and kindness. It hasn't ended that way.


  1. I am in 100% agreement with you Dianne, I will never go back to that restaurant. I being someone who has known you for over 30 years I know you would never had DEMANDED anything. The way this issue was handled was unbelievable. As you said we know your Dad was in the restaurant business for decades and we know he would never have allowed a customer to be treated in this way. I glad you posted this , in today's market local restaurants she be happy to get local customer's. In the future go across the street to Cafe Eleganza never had a bad meal, service is always superior.

  2. My husband took a business client to Legal seafoods last year. The food was not great and my husband was embarrassed he took a client from Texas to a seafood restaurant in New England and the food was lacking. He called legal seafood the next day to express his disappointment. Before the end of the day he had a call from the general manger of Legal seafood apologizing and two days later a personal note in the mail handwritten by that general manger with a $100 gift certificate and requesting that the next time my husband went to legal seafood he contact the general manger prior to his visit so he could personally guarantee the best dining experience possible. That is how a restaurant should treat their customers. He used tht gift cetificate to send lobsters to Texas to that client.

  3. That is BEYOND awful. When you decide to open a SERVICE-BASED business in a nationwide depression, you need to make sure that not only is the food, but the EXPERIENCE top notch. Just like the previous poster commented, you can walk into a upscale corporate restaurant and experct and recieve top-notch experience or they will do anything they can to rectify it. What a moron Jimmy Burke is. He should have done better research before opening a service industry business. He should follow the lead of trusted customer service principles or he should head back to the drawing board and think of a business where is crass, obstentious ideals will be beneficial.

    By the way, it seems to me the only way to obtain a gift card hels exclusively onsite by "shady" means, but have to have been due to negligence on his part or one of his staff.

    Next time I am in town, I will be happy to go there and make a scene! :) well, that is...if they are still in business.

  4. Hi Diann, what a LONG story. But I read every word of it. I am so glad you stood up for yourself.

  5. Hi Diann! I hung in there for every last word of your interesting story...mouth open most of the time as I couldn't believe the way the restaurant handled things and treated you!! Sheesh, whatever happened to "the customer is always right"??

    So sorry you had to go thru all of that, and at Christmas time none-the-less...

    :) T

  6. Diann, My husband and I had planned on celebrating our next big event there and are horrified by the grossly unprofessional way you were treated. In this economy restaurants should be going the extra mile to please thier customers, not insult them. $100 is an extremely approriate response as to what would make you happy. I hope that Jimmy Burke reads this. Jennifer needs a lesson in tact, her niceness not withstanding. Why offer gift cards if this is going to be the result, what a horror story.

  7. Diann, I am very sorry to hear that's how it played out. No reason for that, none at all, from the manager right thru to the owner - who you would think would be concerned how his restaurant would be viewed. I really liked the food there, but now, even with it so close to our house, I will find it difficult to return. I hope the owners somehow find this blog and read how they came across!!

  8. wow! I am also 100% whit you .
    on another note ,
    Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with cheer and a joyful new year.


  9. WOW!!!!! Thank you for sharing that story. I'll be sure not to waste my money there.

  10. I think you are over-reacting. I own a business and have had problems in the past with gift cards as well. It is the gift card company that controls the input, not the restaurant owner. I happen to be a customer of Orta and I find the staff very polite, the ambiance very nice, and the most important thing, the food is fantastic!

  11. You should be ashamed of yourself - I own a restaurant and being a restaurant owner, I would have reacted the same way as the owner of Orta....

  12. I have often received a similar level of customer service from such fine establishments as McDonalds, and the truck stop out by the old highway.

    Perhaps in the future, Mr. Burke's establishment could be referred to as McOrta's

    I stumbled on yur blog quite by accident, but have enjoyed reading your posts.


  13. Sorry Orta and every other restaurant owner who responded to this post. Diann and her husband should be given FREE meals for a year for the humiliation over this. Have you ever had a gift card refused? The restaurant was lucky they had the $$$$$ to cover the bill.
    Jennifer could have taken the extra cash, a copy of their licenses and called them later with the resolution of the situation. Bad Bad business........

  14. You should be ashamed of yourself - I own a restaurant and being a restaurant owner, I would have reacted the same way as the owner of Orta....