Bad table manners

A cold Melbourne night, and my partner and I were deciding what to have for dinner. Having just had minor corrective jaw surgery, my partner opted for congee. Afterall, apart from soup, that’s the only food she’s allowed to consume. Solid food ain’t cut it for her still healing jaw.

One of the best places for congee – don’t quote me on that – is Supper Inn in Chinatown. I’ve heard good things about the place so we decided to check it out.

We arrived to find a crowded Supper Inn. I exchanged pleasantries with the waiter and decided to wait for a table for two. Ten minutes later, a couple left. The waiter began clearing the dishes. And then a peculiar thing happened.

Emptying the table, the waiter flipped the white table cloth over and placed the dirty side of the cloth onto the table. Had a new customer arrived just a minute later, he’d have thought there’s a spanking new, bleached-clean table cloth on the table.

I was mortified.

Before I could raise a finger – “Do something…anything damnit!” – the waiter expertly placed two side dishes, two pairs of chopsticks and a spoon onto the – I hesitate to say this – clean table cloth.

I asked the waiter why didn’t he use a new cloth.

“Company policy, mate!” he replied rather casually in his broad Hong Kong accent.

“Charmed,” I thought.

A couple of diners sitting just two tables down smiled at me and shrugged. They must have been privy to the re-used table cloth too.

Thirty minutes into my meal, I counted four tables reset the same way. Strangely, customers witnessed the whole nine yards and didn’t make a big fuss over it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Or the customers after me were regulars.

7 Comments so far

  1. White Power Bill (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 1:08 am

    How do you know he had a Hong Kong accent?
    You shouldn’t assume things like that.


  2. Jima (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 1:46 am

    You should have walked in a bit later so that you wouldn’t have known about it; ignorance is bliss! But really, you’ve got to learn to roll with the punches mate; just let the small stuff slide! Try it for a day; I promise it’ll be the best day of your life, free of all worry and complaint.

  3. Wairess Girl (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 4:02 am

    After having worked at 2 Chinese restaurants, unfortunately this is the way things have been done in both places. Whilst it was shocking to me at first, you know the table cloth is still fairly clean – the restaurant saves a lot of money in laundry costs that way as the laundry charges per tablecloth. Think of it as recycling and saving water as well.

    Seriously, I agree with Jima – I think you should let it slide and you would’ve enjoyed your dinner a whole lot more.

  4. Ron Hager (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

    If the restaurant in question is upscale and advertises itself as a “Fine Dining Experience” or words to that effect, and their prices reflect that, then the restaurant needs to be severely criticized. If that is their approach to fine dining in the dining room then what is going on in the kitchen could be far the worse.

    If, however its advertising is no more than an address and type of food and the prices there are low, then you are getting exactly what you didn’t pay for.

    Ron near Crater Lake, Oregon USA

  5. Katja (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    When I worked in a restaurant many moons ago, if the table cloth didn’t have grease or liquid on it, it was wiped off and left on the table. It was a way to ensure the laundry costs were low, water was saved, and that we didn’t run out of table cloths (did happen).

    It is kind of gross to think about it, but that’s life I guess.

  6. Huge Jarse (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

    Whether the table clothes are washed, flipped, used only once, recycled…

    You’re still a fucking idiot. :)

  7. Yash (unregistered) on July 18th, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

    thank god you dint see how they do the dishes. a frnd who worked in one of these places said all they did was drop them into a pail of soapy water which was done up once a day and then wiped clean with a wet rag.

    btw , how was the congee?

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