Dining car: was this experience abnormal?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by OkayTravel, May 18, 2014.

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  1. May 18, 2014 #1
    Hello all,

    I had an unpleasant experience in the dining car.

    I rode coach (first and only ride) from Cleveland to Denver three years ago. The first day I ate at the snack bar. The second day I thought I would try lunch in the dining car. I was assigned a number, and waited around to be called. I was placed at a table with three others from various sleeper cars. They filled out/handed in some forms that specified what meals they had pre-ordered.

    Then, the waiter handed me a menu. I turned to look at the drinks, and he forcibly turned the menu back around to the entrees. He told me that I could only buy things from the entrees section, and that those entrees didn't come with any of the sides that the menu claimed they did. However the $16 price on each entree was the same, he said. I tried to look at the drinks anyway, because I was thirsty. He turned the menu back again, and again.

    I said, "okay, so I want something to drink". He told me that I couldn't order any of the drinks, I could only order the entrees. I said, "you won't let me have a drink if I pay for it?". Apparently not.

    After this extremely unpleasant experience -- in which I was not able to get something to drink in the dining car, in which I could not order more than a $16 dollar plate of a few noodles with some sauce with no sides, I asked the waiter who the menu was for -- as the people from the sleeping car had not used the menus, and they didn't pay the prices listed -- the meals are included in their fare, and they had already selected their meals. The waiter walked away while I was talking.

    He did this a couple times, I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but everytime I tried to ask a question (because I was in disbelief, what kind of crap was this guy trying to pull? Did he just hate me?) he looked away and went over to talk to someone else.

    Needless to say, I left, and didn't come back. He turned away so quickly I didn't even get a chance to tell him he was acting kind of rude.

    After that, I remembered that a friend had warned me to stay away from the dining car and pack my own meals.

    I'm thinking about taking another trip because it happens to be cheaper, and will probably bring my own food. I wonder if I should try the dining car again, or not. Please give me reactions to this. It really upset me, and nearly ruined what would've otherwise been a pretty good experience. My body quivers just recalling this.
     
  2. May 18, 2014 #2

    Steve4031

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    This was exceptionally rude. The employee should have been reported.

    I usually travel in sleepers where all is included except wine, veer, etc. soft drinks are included in when you travel in a sleeper.

    If you are in coach you pay for the meal and iirc ice tea, milk,coffee and water are includes. Soft drinks are extra. As is alcohol.

    Some employees are lazy. Since dining car meals are included for sleeping car passengers they are obligated to serve these passengers. The lazy employees view coach passengers as extra work and employ ways to be oft-putting to discourage coach passengers from eating in the diner. It's best to be quietly assertive and stay. Focus on the other passengers and enjoy the conversation. Get your Meal and drink and leave no tip. If you don't back down you'll get what you want.

    There is a protocol that when you enter the diner you wait to be seated and will usually be seated with others even if some tables are empty. Some passengers resist community seating and over time employees develop ways to enforce community seating. These efforts are sometimes brusque. Follow seating directions and if you are dissatisfied, stiff and write a letter.

    Most dining car crews do a good job and you should have no problem. I wish you the best. If you go right at 6:30 am breakfast is a good meal in the diner. And you avoid the wait list.

    Good luck.
     
  3. May 18, 2014 #3

    Ryan

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    Steve's response was dead-on. Please call Amtrak and report that jackass. If you tell them what train and what day, they can figure out who it was.

    That kind of attitude has no place at Amtrak (or anywhere else).

    Sent from my iPhone
     
  4. May 18, 2014 #4

    MrFSS

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    If I read the OP correctly, this happened THREE years ago. Might be tough to get any action at this point.
     
  5. May 18, 2014 #5

    Green Maned Lion

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    Dude, if that happened to me I'd have reported the man then and there, with my cell phone, in front of him, to customer relations. I would have mentioned the train and employee, and been in disbelief that anyone who acted that way towards customers worked for Amtrak for more than a few days.
     
  6. May 18, 2014 #6

    Ryan

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    Dang, you're right. I missed that part.
     
  7. May 18, 2014 #7

    Guest

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    I am not as sure as the rest of you, that this is really a true account.

    I read specifics like "$16 dollar plate of a few noodles with some sauce". If any of you have actually ever eaten in a dining car, you would know that there is no entrée which consists of simply "a few noodles". If I am wrong, I would welcome one of you to post a copy of an Amtrak menu with "a few noodles with sauce" listed.

    As to wanting a drink, I know you can order soda, coffee, and wine, but I don't think you can order bar drinks. At least I never tried.

    Plus, there is always some chance that this particular run was running low on supplies. I have certainly have had trips were one or more entrées were out. I am surprised that the possibility that they were running low, and had just enough dinners left to serve the sleeper class passengers, plus just a very few extras, isn't occurring to you all. Given that might be what's happening, I could envision that the server could have simply been steering this person to what's left/available.

    Yea, I could envision that a coach passenger could feel "second class" in comparison to sleeper class passengers. That it might appear that the sleeper class passengers had "dibs" to the remaining meals.
     
  8. May 18, 2014 #8

    Railroad Bill

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    Most of our dining car experiences have been excellent, but there have been a few losers who should look for another job. Hard to believe anyone working as a server could be that rude. We have eaten with many coach passengers at our table and they have been treated with respect. Try it again and I am sure you will have a totally different experience. And if not, please contact Customer Relations and report that person.
     
  9. May 18, 2014 #9

    caravanman

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    Hi,

    As mentioned, sleeper passengers get their meals included in the ticket price, but they still order from the same menu as the coach passengers. Coach passengers just have to pay the prices stated.

    I can sympathise if you felt humiliated by being treated badly when in an unfamiliar situation.

    Do please try the dinning car again, if you get an available table time slot, you can choose and pay for anything from the correct menu... breakfast, lunch or dinner, and buy soft drinks too.

    Sometimes I have had a tired server, but most times it has been a fun experience in the dinner.

    Ed :cool:
     
  10. May 18, 2014 #10

    amamba

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    [​IMG]

    on the lake shore limited

    I also had macaroni and cheese one day at lunch on the EB - some noodles and sauce - although I can't find a picture.
     
  11. May 18, 2014 #11

    Bob Dylan

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    As others have said it sounds like you got one of those "bad apples" that are in all jobs but especially bad in customer service positions!

    Please give the Diner another chance,as was said Breakfast is an especially good meal and the best value!(Breakfast Meats are NOT included!) Lunch tends to be a Limited Menu (Sandwich, Burger or Veggie Burger, Healthy Pasta, Special Salad and Soup and includes Tea or Coffee or Milk and Water but NOT Desert!) Dinner is Pricey (and not really worth what it costs!) The Cafe Car has all the Usual Fast Food Stuff and Snacks but has Airport Prices!

    Taking your own Snacks, Drinks (Non-Alcohol) and Non-Perishable Food is a Great Idea! Please read the First Time Rider Forum on this Site and the Trip Report Section! Lots of great info and the Members here are happy to help with any questions you may have! Try it, you'll like it! :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2014
  12. May 18, 2014 #12

    FrensicPic

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    This doesn't fix anything with the OP but, as a sleeping car passenger, I've never "pre-ordered" my meals. The only thing we did with the ticket in the diner was sign and indicate our room number, the waiter actually checked off our meal choices. Everyone at the table had a menu unless, there were only two menus (to be shared), instead of four. Haven't observed anyone (coach or sleeper) having a problem ordering drinks including beer or wine with their meal.
     
  13. May 18, 2014 #13

    FormerOBS

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    I wonder why it has taken three years for this person to mention this. Most of us would have complained immediately. I doubt the diner was very low on supplies. This occurred during the first lunch service after departure from Chicago, and I can't believe this train left Chicago with anything less than a full supply. Could the waiter have thought (rightly or wrongly) that the passenger was ONLY there to drink, and not to have a meal? I think we all know the lounge car is a more appropriate place. Is it possible that this person had been drinking prior to this event? I know that is speculative and could be entirely wrong, but it is a factor that could explain the waiter's actions and the passenger's reaction to them. What was the reaction of the three sleeping car passengers at his table? He does not say whether they agreed with him. I have a hard time believing that this happened at all, but if it did happen as described, then it was unforgivable.
     
  14. May 18, 2014 #14

    the_traveler

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    I have to agree with FormerOBS. I have had many passengers at my tables at breakfast or lunch sit at the table and just want to get coffee. After being told that the Dining Car only serves complete meals but you can get just coffee from the café, they left.

    To the OP, the sleeper passengers just signed their checks to indicate they get the meal included in their fare. However, they do not pre-order and chose their meals from the same menu as all passengers.
     
  15. May 18, 2014 #15

    me_little_me

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    Not too many years ago, you were handed a pencil and you had to check off the items you wanted yourself. The server was not allowed to fill out the form for you. Like so many archaic Amtrak procedures, it made no sense except possibly internally between management and the union but definitely not to th least important person - the customer.
     
  16. May 18, 2014 #16

    FormerOBS

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    If I'm not mistaken, the practice of having the passenger fill out his own meal order form ended a very long time before this incident. I suppose it could have continued on some trains, but it was certainly an oddity three years ago.
     
  17. May 18, 2014 #17

    railiner

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    Amtrak 'inherited' that practice from the railroads. If fact, you used to have to actually write down the items you wanted...not just 'check them off'. This was done to help prevent mistakes and waste....

    As for the OP waiting three years...perhaps he wasn't aware of this forum until recently.....
     
  18. May 18, 2014 #18

    D.P. Roberts

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    I agree with this.

    Since the three other passengers were already seated at the table, I would bet that they had already looked at the menu and figured out what they wanted to order. Once you've been on the train for a meal or two, you already know the whole menu anyway, so it surely doesn't take long.

    And if passengers are required to order complete meals and not just get drinks, I could see why the dining car attendants would try to make sure that the passengers understand this. However, ripping the menu out of their hands and flipping it over is completely unacceptable.

    OP, what you experienced is completely atypical. Unfortunately, it's about 25% a misunderstanding on your part (pre-ordering, drinks only, etc.), and 75% bad employee behavior, which you will hopefully not encounter on your next train.
     
  19. May 18, 2014 #19

    Devil's Advocate

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    While I would agree it’s atypical as written it's not exactly impossible to believe. Over the years I've seen several needlessly abrasive situations that felt a lot like the one described by the OP. The dining crews can come across surprisingly rude at times with coach passengers sometimes receiving service akin to second class citizenship.

    Sometimes it’s noodles. Sometimes it’s rice. But it’s by no means a rare or exceptional meal option. It's hard to imagine anyone who has ridden Amtrak routinely would have never come across such a meal.

    Yes you can order bar drinks. They’re right on the menu in fact.

    While lack of supplies may have been the catalyst it does nothing to explain the attitude.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2014
  20. May 19, 2014 #20

    Michigan Mom

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    I'm not going to make any judgments in either direction as to what the facts are. Good luck to anyone else trying to determine that after 3 years. To OP, try the dining car again and see if you feel any differently about the experience.
     
  21. May 19, 2014 #21

    caravanman

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    Given that the OP is only now taking another train ride, it seems fair that the thing that upset them in their dining car experience is being considered currently. Please keep in mind that not all casual passengers will remember every last detail of a train event, unlike us more "balanced" AU folk!

    Ed :cool:
     
  22. May 19, 2014 #22

    dlagrua

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    If this experience did in fact happen, it is certain that by this time, this rude employee had treated others the same way and someone would have reported him/her. I agree with the GML that this vile, loathsome, discourteous employee should be reported on the spot. We have seen coach passengers having breakfast in the dining car and they were seated given a menu and served like everyone else. More dining car traffic is more work for the waiters but the positive aspect is that it allows them to earn more tips. This experience sounds like the poster just came upon a bad seed. Most of the onboard crew that we have dealt with on many trips have acted professionally. Some have been friendly, hospitable and have gone out of their way to accommodate.
     
  23. May 19, 2014 #23

    Linda T

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    I've done sleepers a lot, and I've never pre-ordered a meal. As a sleeper at lunch and dinnertime the dining[?] attendant will come through and take reservations for the upcoming meal, and then they go to coach and fill up the rest of the spots. When you're time comes you go to the dining car and they hand everyone at the table a menu, and then go to the next table while you look over the options. No one's allowed to fill out the dining card except the attendant, though sleepers do need to put down their room and car number and sign it. Then the attendant asks what everyone wants in order of whatever card is on top. This is how it's always been done on all the trains I've been on. I wouldn't even know how to pre-order a meal. :unsure:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2014
  24. May 19, 2014 #24

    amamba

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    The only time I have pre ordered a meal is in the PPC on the CS.
     
  25. May 19, 2014 #25

    Linda T

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    Just wanted to amend this to say that I have seen a Jewish family come into the dining car and sit down to a pre-ordered Kosher meal, I'm assuming that's not what the op is talking about though.

    I've only eaten in the dining car on the CS, so I'm not familiar with the ordering format there. :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2014

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