Asking the Right Questions. Or Not.

Sometimes a Happy Hour turns out to be not so happy.

This story happened at a restaurant in Cookeville. I won’t name it because I don’t want to give the establishment negative publicity. Nor positive publicity. “Just the facts,” as Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday (remember him?) used to say.

The food at this place is good. The service is good. The atmosphere is pleasant. There’s even an outdoor dining area. A member of the wait staff told me their customers tend to be Interstate-40 travelers rather than locals. “We’re not sure why,” he said.

Once a month, I meet for dinner with a group of friends on the evening of the full moon. We call ourselves “The Full Mooners.” Used to be, we gathered at a Mexican restaurant that sits atop a hill. The front room has a wall of windows and is a perfect place to watch the big orange moon slide up over the mountains. But three nights a week, every week, that restaurant hosts trivia or bingo. The place is so loud you can’t hear yourself think, let alone carry on a conversation.

The Full Mooners needed an alternative.

Thus the restaurant I mentioned earlier, which also has a wonderful view of the moon. Their Happy Hour is from 4:00 until 6:00. Around 5:30 on the aforementioned evening, I was the first of my party to arrive. I asked my server if we could claim an outside table. “Sure,” she said. “But I need to warn you, we have cicadas. It’s impossible to keep them swept up.”

I replied that cicadas were no problem and that, in fact, I found them fascinating. “What’s included in your Happy Hour?” I asked. She handed me a drink-and-appetizer menu, which I quickly perused. “I don’t see wine,” I said.

“Wine’s not included in Happy Hour,” she told me. “But our house wine is just five dollars a glass, whatever the time.”

“Great,” I said. “Do you have Sauvignon Blanc?”

“We do,” she replied, and within a couple of minutes brought a glass to my table.

My friends soon arrived and we had a wonderful time and a lovely dinner. My first glass of wine was so enjoyable that I ordered another to accompany my food. Fast forward a couple of hours. As the party broke up, our server brought our checks. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I’d been charged eleven dollar per glass for my wine! A single glass of wine cost more than what I’d had for dinner.

“I think there’s a mistake on my bill,” I told the server. “You said wine was five dollars a glass.”

“House wine is five dollars,” she said. “We don’t have a house Sauvignon Blanc.”

“You didn’t mention that when I ordered it,” I told her.

She smiled and shrugged.

What to do? Had I been hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Taken for a fool? Or had my server and I simply had a mutual misunderstanding? I’m not one to make a scene, especially about something as trivial as a couple of glasses of wine. Yeah, but. This was clearly unfair. A miscarriage of justice, so to speak. Should I continue to explain my confusion in the hope she would offer to adjust the bill? Should I ask to speak with the manager? Should I reduce the tip I was planning to leave by the amount I’d been ripped off? (Which would amount to no tip at all.) Or should I just let it go?

Clearly, I hadn’t asked the right questions when I ordered the wine. Likewise, the server had offered no clarification. Both of us—and neither of us—were at fault. So I paid my bill and included a reasonable tip.

But it’s possible–maybe even likely–that I won’t go back to that lovely restaurant. And not because of the cidadas.

(June 1, 2024)