Tonight (1/31/2014) was either Chinese New Year or the start of a week-long Chinese New Year celebration, depending on what source you subscribe to. That being the case, we decided to go to our favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. For the record, it's called Golden Palace, and it's off Riverside Parkway at the corner where it crosses Duluth Highway / S. R. 120 in Lawrenceville. Mmm, tasty.
I've been going in there regularly for going on 14 years. My housemate and I go in there about once per week. When friends come to town, I often take them there if they're in the mood for Chinese food. They know us, I know them. If we don't come, they ask us where we've been when we do come in.
We have a "usual table."
This is all just to set the scene.
The family that runs it works like dogs. The daughter ("Min") takes calls, does the cash register, and takes orders. Her brother ("Dai") delivers and takes orders. Dai's wife waits tables. The mom and dad work in the kitchen. Cousins, nieces, nephews . . . they're all in there from time to time. And they do this 7 days per week, every week, year-round, minus a day or two.
Tonight we went in, and someone had our usual table, so we sat at our second usual table (Did I mention we're regulars?). We ordered from a kid we've seen around a time or two. We figure he's a cousin or nephew in town for Chinese New Year. We could be entirely wrong.
We get our hot tea, soup, and appetizers. Dai brings his 8-month-old daughter over to our table so we can exclaim over how adorable she is (and she totally is).
While we're slurping soup, I hear Min on the phone with a customer. This is a normal occurrence. They do most of their evening business in take-out and delivery. But when Min said, "I'm sorry, we don't take credit cards over the phone," we perked up. Since when? We order all the time and pay with a credit card.
We heard Min arguing with someone for several minutes. She'd put them on hold, take another order, and then switch back and continue to argue. Finally, it got quiet. She came over to our table. Carrying the wireless phone.
She asked very apologetically if one of us could get on the line with this particular customer and please explain that the restaurant doesn't deliver to their area. Yvonne (my housemate) and I looked at each other, and I reached for the phone.
I pressed "Talk." Busy signal. They had hung up. But never fear, it rang again while I was holding it and Min looked at the Caller ID and nodded and then retreated from the table.
"Hello?" I said, then remembered, Oh, right, this is a restaurant.
"Oh, thank goodness
," said a laughing woman. There was a muffled sound of conversation and laughter, and then a man's voice came on. Without preamble, I said, "I'm sorry, but we don't deliver to your area, anymore."
"What? That's crazy. Where are you located?" asked the man.
"We're at —" and my brain shut down. Luckily, Yvonne's did not. "Riverside Parkway," she whispered. "Riverside Parkway and 120," I finished.
"But, I don't understand," said the man. "Lawrenceville isn't that big. I'm from Miami." (I don't know, either.)
"I'm sorry," I said, and tried to mean it. "We just don't deliver to your area." (I had no idea what area that was, but I was reasonably certain that they do
deliver to it.)
He tried to badger me a little and I just kept repeating that we no longer deliver to his area, and he finally hung up. And didn't call back.
After our main courses came, Min came over to the table and explained what was going on.
Seems that this man and his wife are staying at a hotel on the other side of Lawrenceville. They're from Miami (as stated) and don't have a car. So they order in. They called the first time and asked, "Are you guys from China?" When Min said they were, the wife said, "Oh good, because we don't want any American
Chinese food. We want the real thing."1
They then ordered, and Dai delivered it. They paid cash. No problem.
Then they ordered again a couple of days later. Paid with either a check or credit card, I didn't get which. Again, Dai delivered to them. But this time, they called the restaurant a while later. "We ordered the chicken fried rice with no vegetables and the <some other dish> with no vegetables, and these have vegetables. We already ate them, but we think you should fix the order."
She complied, because they were really jerky, and she wanted them off the phone. They continued to do this night after night after night. They would call, Min would take their order, and Dai would deliver, and then they'd say something was wrong or that it never arrived, or that it was cold, and demand free replacement food.
The third or fourth time it happened, Min wrote out their exact order, the phone number and address, their names, and had them sign
it before Dai left. They still tried to get away with free food. The badgering got so bad, Min told us they were keeping her on the phone for thirty minutes at a time, for up to two hours every night. Arguing about free food. Meanwhile, she's trying to run a business and take orders and seat customers, etc.
She told us that they had made some remarks about how the owners of the restaurant probably drove a bigger car and lived in a bigger house than this Miami douchebag and his douchenozzle wife. Very insulting stuff. And would demand to speak to someone who "spoke English."2
Which is where we came in. They know us well enough that they were comfortable asking us to do this. I wish I'd known the full story when I spoke to Mr. Douchebag and Mrs. Douchenozzle. I might been a little firmer.
Min said they seemed to be playing restaurants off each other, as well. Sometimes, they'd call, and it would be for another Chinese restaurant, like they couldn't remember which one they were trying to scam. When Min finally quit answering Douchebag's phone, he got Mrs. Douchenozzle to call from her phone. Or they'd call using the hotel phone.
After Min told us most of this, and where they were staying, I said, "But there are so many restaurants down there that they could walk
to. Mexican, Italian, a burger place, a pub —"
"But if they did that, they'd have to pay. And all of those places speak English." This also explained the 'Are you from China' thing. They wanted to make sure no one there actually spoke English as a native language.
It was at this point that I wanted to punch Mr. Douchebag and Mrs. Douchenozzle in their stuck-up, bigoted, prejudiced, asshole faces. I was so mad, my hands were shaking. I'm not normally a violent person, but I might actually have done so if they'd been there trying to pull this crap in person. The nerve
of people to try to get free food by pulling this kind of scam. And to be so obnoxiously racist while doing it was just icing on the asshole cake.
They never called back while we were in there. A good hour and a half. I hope they don't call back. Min said she couldn't block the number because they just kept on calling from different numbers.
May they soon go back to Miami whence they came, and trouble the good, hard-working Chinese restaurateurs of Lawrenceville no more. (And what I mean by this is "die in a fire, scumbags.")
[My guess is that they do this wherever they travel, picking on Asian restaurants. My bet is that they almost never have to pay for more than one or two meals. And I hope they choke on their chow mein.]
- It should be stated for the record that Golden Palace is very much an "American" Chinese restaurant. It is not authentic in any way, shape, or form, other than that the people who own and operate it are, in fact, native Chinese people. The food is very good, or at least we think so.
- I should also note, here, that Min has a distinct accent, but we get probably 95% of what she says, and we ask her to repeat if we don't. Dai . . . is less fluent, and we get maybe 60% to 70% of what he says, but we try to clarify, and context helps. Communication happens, and that's all that matters.