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Plastic in food, what now?
May 22, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Found piece of plastic inside burrito at restaurant. What is appropriate to demand from waiter?

Once I found piece of plastic inside burrito, I figured ball was in my court, but I was unsure of what I could get out of this unfortunate circumstance.
posted by calm down to Food & Drink (32 answers total)
 
Ask for nothing, simply notify the waiter in case there are larger pieces of plastic in the batch of rice/cheese/etc that went into your burrito.

Don't be that guy that demands a free meal and dessert, just be glad you didn't choke.
posted by banannafish at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2011 [28 favorites]


You can get another burrito without plastic. That's it.
posted by Sal and Richard at 5:02 PM on May 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


Demand nothing. It's not the waiter's fault. What you want to do is kindly (yes, kindly!) let the waiter know that he should pass along to the kitchen that they have let a bit of plastic slip through the system and into your burrito.

Make it clear that you're concerned for the waiter and the kitchen, because these things can be awkward with other customers. Make it clear that you're not going to be awkward about it.

Then, no matter what happens next, tip extra, because the waiter will be right freaked out.
posted by bilabial at 5:04 PM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Your purchase of a burrito entitles you to one edible burrito. If in your judgment the burrito is rendered not edible due to the plastic (which is fair I think; you have the option of shrugging it off if you feel generous, but are not obligated to do so), then it should be taken away and replaced at no charge. Alternatively, you should be allowed surrender the remainder of the burrito and be refunded the cost.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:06 PM on May 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was unsure of what I could get out of this unfortunate circumstance.

You get the opportunity to be a nice person and let the restaurant know so that they make sure that it doesn't happen to someone else, who might be less fortunate than you and could get hurt.

Of course, you also get the opportunity to choose to be a selfish asshole and try to make a business suffer because of something that was undoubtedly an innocent mistake. But then no one would like you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:08 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


You can say "There is plastic in this burrito, can I get a new one please" or "There is plastic in this burrito, please take it away, I do not want another burrito", and then you should get another burrito or not, depending on which you say. It is possible that they will give you a new burrito for free, or a dessert, or a drink (indeed, I would not return to a place that did not do something to try to make it up), but you shouldn't demand it. The plastic is not the waiter's fault, so assuming they respond nicely to the plastic in the burrito ("I'm so sorry, let me fix that for you"), you should tip normally.
posted by jeather at 5:10 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


My friend once returned a screw (yes, a screw), found in her falafel to a completely mortified waiter. He offered another falafel, which was accepted.

Things happen. No one was hurt. No reason to ruin anyone's day or make a huge deal of something that was already uncomfortable for everyone.
posted by ainsley at 5:11 PM on May 22, 2011


Agreed - just let him know. If it's a good place, he'll tell the manager who has the authority to offer you something. Or maybe both of them will just apologize. If that doesn't satisfy, don't go back, I suppose.
posted by cranberrymonger at 5:12 PM on May 22, 2011


This happened to me recently (there was metal in my food), and I simply pointed it out to the waiter. He "comped" everything, so my whole meal was free. I considered that appropriate. If he hadn't done that, I would have asked for some kind of discount. Since there's no way I would ever go to a restaurant if I knew in advance there'd be metal or plastic in my food, they really should give it to you for free or at a major discount.

This is at least as much about their interest as it is mine. The money didn't matter that much to me, but if they hadn't addressed the problem they probably would have permanently lost me as a customer, which would cost them more money in the long run (not to mention terrible word of mouth).

Saying "it's not the waiter's fault" is irrelevant. The issue isn't about the waiter's fault, but the waiter's job once this happens. The waiter has decided to represent the restaurant and serve customers. The waiter's job is to give the customers what they came to the restaurant for, and you didn't go there to get food with plastic in it. I don't understand the answers here that are suggesting that you're unreasonably expecting some kind of weird perk. There is no more basic obligation of a restaurant (and, by extension, a waiter) than to serve food to customers that's edible and safe.
posted by John Cohen at 5:14 PM on May 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


I have to disagree with everyone so far. If I had a piece of plastic in my food, I would be rightly upset about it. A restaurant's basic responsibility is to not give patrons inedible things to eat. When they do so--obviously usually by accident--they have a responsibility to make it up to the patron.

Sure, it's not the waiter's fault, which is why you should ask for the manager and complain to him or her. The restaurant, if it ever wants you to come back again, should comp your meal and give you free drinks or something.

On preview, what John Cohen said.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in Jr. College, two friends and I took a spring break trip from Michigan to Ft. Lauderdale. We packed up Phil's old Econoline delivery van with a fold out cot, 10 cases of beer, and our bathing suits and hit I-75 south. One of us would sleep while one drove and the other played GPS, our goal was to waste as little time as possible on the road, because there were hot chicks waiting for us on the beach.

It was about breakfast time when we hit Valdosta George, home of the King Frog Resturant (now an outlet mall, back then, just another greasy spoon on the route to Florida).

We pulled in for breakfast.

Now, let it be said that Phil was a jerk, especially to women. We sat down and a very cute young woman brought us menus and I heard, for the first time in my life (having never been south of the Ohio state line), a real person say "Y'all" in a southern drawl that would melt butter. I fell in love, Phil went into jerk mode.

He hit on her for ten minutes while she was trying to do her job, eventually she got our orders and went back to the kitchen.

She brought our food out, Phil attempted to marry her (or at least arrange a date), made her life miserable as he did for every female he ever met.

We started to eat and Phil said "There's a fly in my eggs." We looked. Yep, there was something in his eggs, right on top the yoke.

He called the waitress over, smiled at her, and said "There's a fly in my eggs." She looked at him, looked at the plate, leaned over and examined it closely, looked up, leaned close, and said to Phil, with the cutest southern accent I have ever heard, "No sir, that's not a fly, it doesn't have any wings." She smiled at him and walked away. Doug and I fell off our chairs laughing. Phil ate the eggs after removing the fly.

Since then, I've always been careful to treat wait staff well, you never know when you need them on your side. The plastic wasn't going to kill you, it wasn't anyone's fault, if you were on good terms with the waiter he probably will bring you another meal. The world owes you nothing other than what you earn, being an opportunist when an accident happens does not make you a better person.
posted by tomswift at 5:36 PM on May 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


It's totally fine, in my opinion, to ask/declare/demand that you would like another burrito, or you'd like to be reimbursed for the cost of the burrito. Don't be a raging asshole about it, but do say "Hey, I don't mean to be an ass, but I found a piece of plastic in my burrito. Can you make me another one?" or "Hey, don't meant to be an ass, but I found a piece of plastic in my burrito. This is making me not want to eat it. Can you take the burrito off the bill, please?"
posted by 23skidoo at 5:41 PM on May 22, 2011


Another burrito. And ask nicely. No one gains anything by giving plastic bits inside a burrito. The cooks did not plant it there in anticipation of making double the number of requisite burritos for you, and the server did not slip it in to see how you'd handle it in order to practice their apologizing skills. A good restaurant will agree that this was a less than stellar performance (for them, not you) and try to sugar-coat the ordeal by comping some of the bill and/or giving you some free stuff as a an apology. Not as an entitlement.
posted by robotnixon at 5:43 PM on May 22, 2011


You paid for editble food, you get edible food or your money back. And an apology for the kitchen being slack.

Then, no matter what happens next, tip extra, because the waiter will be right freaked out.

What the fuck? Tipping extra for inedible food and wasted time?
posted by rodgerd at 5:46 PM on May 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


There's a big difference between "what should I demand" and "what should the restaurant do."

As a customer, you should ask that the restaurant attempt to remedy the situation so that you are as well off afterwards as you would have been with an edible burrito. That means, I think, a new burrito, an apology and a discount. The discount makes up for the delay and the loss of confidence in the kitchen's ability to make edible food. But I don't think that discount needs to be 100+ percent. Maybe 20-50% off the item in question.

It's in the restaurant's interest to go beyond what the customer is entitled to. If the restaurant does what I describe above, the customer came out even, in my opinion, but is unlikely to help the restaurant by spreading positive word-of-mouth. If, however, the restaurant goes beyond simply giving the customer what they're entitled to (say, by comping drinks or the entire meal), that could turn the entire experience into a net positive for the restaurant. But it'd be rude for the customer to demand this sort of treatment.
posted by mullacc at 5:50 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I once found a tiny piece of glass in a burrito I was eating around times square. (it was my first year, i was broke, the burritos were 1$). I didn't mention it bc I figured I knew I was eating in a really terrible place and maybe should have expected it! In hindsight, as someone above mentioned, it's really important to mention it to the staff for other people's safety and also to be grateful that you didn't choke/break a tooth. I also maybe have asked for my dollar back...
posted by bquarters at 5:59 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


A new burrito or, if that isn't convenient for you anymore, a refund.

I think a decent waiter at this point will kick in a little extra as an apology - free desert, discount, a drink - and a decent restaurant would give them that discretion. I don't ask for this sort of thing because I want to see how they do on their own initiative - this may well define future patronage.

I might get a little more pushy if there was something potentially harmful (broken glass) or truly disgusting (mouse head) in the burrito. Bags rip, spatulas break, etc., a bit of plastic is not acceptable as food but understandable as an occurrence in even a well-managed restaurant.

I would certainly not punish the waiter tip-wise unless the response to the problem was really lackluster or dismissive. If I'm not offered any compensatory consideration that might be restaurant policy (e.g. only a manager can make offers and you can't get the manager involved unless the customer specifically asks you to). I do not think the waiter earns any bonus tip for bring me the plastic burrito. I'd take tepid response out on the restaurant by not patronizing it again.
posted by nanojath at 6:00 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then, no matter what happens next, tip extra, because the waiter will be right freaked out.

This gets things rather hilariously backwards. The worse the food, the higher the tip!

Let the waiter know, and see what he offers. If he doesn't offer a discount, don't go there again. You are owed something, but it's not worth making a huge stink about it.
posted by Dasein at 6:22 PM on May 22, 2011


I wouldn't be an ass about it, but I also wouldn't eat there again. I would nicely tell the waitress that I would pay for whatever I had consumed, but I would not pay for the dish with the plastic, nor would I ask for a new one. I did this at Denny's one time - I ordered breakfast and it arrived on verrrrry dirty plates. I had already drank coffee, and I paid for that.
posted by brownrd at 6:29 PM on May 22, 2011


What you're entitled to: A replacement burrito or your money back.

What a restaurant would have to offer for me ever to eat there again: A free replacement burrito.

I don't see any problem with making this clear to the management (nicely suggesting a free meal), so long as you don't mix up what you're entitled to with what will make you happy. One is an ethical/legal thing and the other is about the customer-business relationship.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:00 PM on May 22, 2011


I don't think a replacement burrito is enough. The whole meal (both the food and the experience) was wrecked and everything should be refunded along with a massive apology from the owner. This is called doing the right thing.
posted by Hazy Star at 7:16 PM on May 22, 2011


The whole meal (both the food and the experience) was wrecked and everything should be refunded along with a massive apology from the owner.

This is called an overreaction.

Replacement burrito, hopefully discounted or comped, without anyone being a jerk about it is what's called for on all sides.

The world is imperfect. As the OP's own username suggests, it's best not to get too worked up by minor reminders of this fact.
posted by scody at 7:27 PM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would treat it the same way as I do if my steak is not cooked the way I want. I'd politely tell the waiter "I asked for a medium steak. This is a bit over/under-done." and see how he or she deals with it. If it's under-done, the minimum I would expect would be for them to throw it on the grill for a few more minutes. If it's over-done, I would expect another steak for no extra cost.

If they gave me a discount or a free drink or desert or whatever, I'd be recommending the place to friends (with the caveat that your steak might not be cooked right, but they'll fix it).

And I'd probably leave whatever discount I'd received as a tip for the waiter - it wasn't their fault and they handled it well.

If it was a rat's head or a human finger, things would be different.
posted by Diag at 7:28 PM on May 22, 2011


In a shop that had a bowl of bagel chips out to sample, I got one that had a small shard of glass baked into it. I showed the proprietress this, and she just sort went, "huh," and left the rest of the bowl on the counter. At the time I was just, like, wow, she sure is nonchalant.

Nowadays, I'd at least insist the rest be thrown away, having had a few decades to think it over.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:40 PM on May 22, 2011


The whole meal (both the food and the experience) was wrecked and everything should be refunded along with a massive apology from the owner.

This seems like an over-reaction. If it's one of the fanciest restaurants in town and you're taking your partner there for an anniversary dinner, then sure, they better make with grovelling commesurate with the amount they charge and the expectations they set, but a generic burrito?
posted by rodgerd at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2011


Some of the answers above seem to me to be unfair to the OP: he went to the restaurant to have a nice meal; and now he's expected to apologize for finding plastic there and pay the waiter extra? Just tip the waiter your normal tip, really (do not reduce the tip, obviously!). Stuff like this happens and it's fine.

I think the best, most useful, and most polite way to deal with the situation is to simply point out the circumstances. Pointing out, "I've found this piece of plastic in my food." Is a polite, non-aggressive way of alerting the restaurant to a potentially dangerous situation. The waiter will be able to make the best decision about what do it. I'd say it'd be reasonable in your case to get at least a half-comped meal. I think certainly expecting a replacement burrito is more than reasonable. Depending on the restaurant, either the waiter or manager will have a certain amount of leeway in terms of what they can offer you.

One time at a highway rest stop I ordered a cup of coffee and I drank it down only to find a lemon (which appears to have been already, er, used?) at the bottom. Kind of weird and mildly upsetting -- how did it get there, exactly?

The waitress comped my coffee and entree; we only paid for my wife's meal.

That experience stuck with me and made me really appreciate the place, so we generally stop in if it's on the way (it's about 1.5 hrs from Philadelphia on our drive back home from Virginia).

I've been to other places where kind-of serious (for me, at least) mistakes have been made (usually, adding meat, especially bacon, to a dish that was not supposed to have it) and when I've pointed it out, the staff has basically shrugged and not seemed very worked up about it. I generally don't go to those places again.

I understand that waiters and kitchen staff work their butts off; I really do. But I work my butt off too in order to be able to afford going out from time to time. When I do, I make sure to give a reasonable tip and to treat the staff politely. But to just suck it up to avoid seeming like a nuisance seems overkill.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2011


"Hi. There's plastic in my burrito. I'd like a refund. Please tell the manager I won't be coming back."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:44 AM on May 23, 2011


Seriously? Your evening is only wrecked if you let it be wrecked.

Nothing is appropriate to demand. You let them know and let them figure out what to do about it.

It's happened to me a few times (maybe two or three foreign objects, five or six wrong orders in the past seventeen years). Big fucking deal. The people who run the restaurants are human too (read: fallible, imperfect, and sometimes make mistakes). I don't overreact, don't make demands, and don't let my evening get ruined over it. I'm always nice about it, they fix the problem, and pretty much every time I get something comped without asking. If I don't it's not a big deal; no harm no foul.

Ask yourself: are you more interested in having a nice time and a nice meal, or are you more interested in making demands and being a dick in public?

And yes, when there's something wrong with the food that is obviously not the waitperson's fault, I tip them more for it. They're the one in the middle of a snotty-ass cook and a potentially explosive customer.
posted by no relation at 10:06 AM on May 23, 2011


Back to the op: "...what I can get out of the experience..." is an edible burrito with no plastic in it. Anything else is at their discretion, which you're more likely to receive the benefit of by being nice than not.
posted by no relation at 10:16 AM on May 23, 2011


I stand by this: Then, no matter what happens next, tip extra, because the waiter will be right freaked out.
And responses like this:

This gets things rather hilariously backwards. The worse the food, the higher the tip!

Let the waiter know, and see what he offers. If he doesn't offer a discount, don't go there again. You are owed something, but it's not worth making a huge stink about it.
posted by Dasein at 9:22 PM on May 22 [+] [!]


What the fuck? Tipping extra for inedible food and wasted time?
posted by rodgerd at 8:46 PM on May 22 [14 favorites +] [!]

Make me wonder if these posters ever worked in food service. An incident like this, with asshole customers, would sometimes result in no tip, (and I've overheard people say that they just don't tip on comped meals.) like the waiter didn't schlep your waters, foods, etc, just the same as if there was nothing in it. Like the Cooks aren't getting "tipped out" at the end of the shift whether they let plastic get hacked up with the lettuce. Like the management is going to commend the waiter for how well he/she handled those demanding dick heads customers on table 7.)

As a general rule, when something goes wrong with the meal that is clearly not the waiter's fault, I'm nice about it.

Partly this is because I was a terrible (terrible!) waitress. Also, because assholes who told me that I'd wasted their lunch hour sometimes got to see me cry. I wasn't hustling around a restaurant to waste anybody's time. I was busting my ass to make a couple bucks to pay my rent, in environments that were best described as "not worker friendly."

So sue me if I'm a little over generous to waiters whose days have gone from not great to potentially angry customer land in ten seconds.
posted by bilabial at 11:49 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Under those circumstances, I would expect both a new burrito AND a refund for the price of the burrito. Possibly for the whole combo if that's what I'd ordered. But not for anything anyone else in my party had ordered (possibly not an issue at a burrito place) nor anything beyond that.

If all I got was either a new burrito or a refund, I'd be mildly miffed but not angry.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2011


Make me wonder if these posters ever worked in food service. An incident like this, with asshole customers, would sometimes result in no tip, (and I've overheard people say that they just don't tip on comped meals.) like the waiter didn't schlep your waters, foods, etc, just the same as if there was nothing in it.

Hi, no one was saying that you shouldn't tip the waiter. Most of them were saying you shouldn't tip them more, and I agree.

To put this delicately: I am not responsible for the mental health and well-being of my server. I think if anyone is allowed to "freak out", it is me for finding a potential harmful item in my food. I entirely agree, however, that you should be kind (because you should always be kind) and not demand anything. I think you should certainly ask for a new burrito if one is not offered.

One note to servers: if part of the meal is comped, please write the comped amount on the check, so I can use that information to figure out what the total should be and thus an appropriate tip. I don't get comped often but when I do I usually just add a couple of bucks to the tip since it's hard to figure out just how much the difference would be.

OP: you haven't mentioned what kind of restaurant this is, but if it is a chain you should consider sending them a note (probably via their website). Most national chains value customer retention; if you phrase the request politely they may offer you a coupon for a free meal or something.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:34 PM on May 24, 2011


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