Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Where NOT to eat in London: Reubens

Last night, I had perhaps one of the most disturbing customer-relations experiences in recent memory, of dining at a restaurant.

Having been whisked away to England (with less than 16 hours advance notice) for an urgent, work-related task -- a good friend and work colleague of mine and I decided to go to the center of London for dinner.

We went to Reubens restaurant to eat -- and I ordered a chopped liver sandwich for 4.95 pounds, a pickle and a coke zero. I gave the cashier guy a 20 pound note.

He was busy talking when he took my money and took a 10 pound bill out of the cash register, put it on the cash register, and then started giving me the small change.

He gave me the small change, and then put the 10 pound bill back in the register.

"Excuse me," I said, "I gave you a 20 pound note -- my change includes the 10 pound bill you just put back in the cash register."

He replied rather abruptly, "No, you gave me a 10, you got your change."

I was rather taken aback. I knew exactly how much British money I had brought with me from Israel, and it didn't include any 10 pound notes. Additionally, I knew what was in my wallet -- I was 100% sure I had given him a 20 pound note.

"I'm sorry, I believe you've made a mistake," I continued, I'm sure I gave you a 20 pound bill -- I don't have any 10 pound bills."

And that's when things got nasty.

"Are you calling me a liar," he raised his voice at my friend and I. "I got a 10 pound note from you, and that's it. "

My friend then commented as well, "He [pointing to me] gave you a 20 pound bill, I saw it as well."

The cashier then started yelling at me loudly -- that he was not a liar, and why am I calling him a thief, when its obviously my fault.

I replied that I'm not insinuating anything, and he simply made an honest mistake.

He continued his rantings at me to everyone behind the counter, how he was right, and I'm wrong.

With nothing left to do and no manager around to complain to, my friend and I ate dinner.

Needless to say, this entire experience provided a very bad taste as an "appetizer" and the cashier/waiter's behavior was rather disgusting to say the least.

You don't yell at customers, let alone over something as trivial as this. He didn't even bother opening the cash register to verify that maybe HE (and not I) had made a mistake.

I made a very clear decision then -- when I would return to my hotel, I would re-check the envelope that I received with cash in it, and see the exact remaining amount. If it would be 10 pounds more than I expected, I would call the restaurant and personally apologize.

If it was 10 pounds less than it should have been, meaning that I had given him a 20 pound bill as I was sure I had (and been short-changed), then I would write this post -- letting people beware eating at Reubens restaurant in Central London.

Hence this post.

The Muqata hereby gives the Reueben's restaurant in London a review of 4 stars out of 5 for its food, and zero stars for customer service.

The quality of the food and location don't make up for their abhorrent customer service.


Note: Above pictures taken last night with my cell-phone.
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realRightWinger said...

I posted your link on the customer comments side of their website - http://www.reubensrestaurant.co.uk/ I doubt it will be published though.

Sol said...

What disturbs me the most about this post is that you went for a chopped liver sandwich. Was there no good corned beef or pastrami on the menu?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Sol: I was a bit tired...and not that hungry. Was there mostly to hang out with my friend (and only a bit hungry)

Anonymous said...

The vengeance of a blogger is swift and harsh.
You're already on page 2 of Google for "reubens london"

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: Harsh? If I wasnt so mild mannered, I would have really made a scene there.

And asked for them to review the security tapes of the cameras.

Page 2 on google -- give it a few hours and it will be one of the top listings.

tafka pp said...

There was a time that England was known for it's manners and customer service.

I guess that time is well past. Disgraceful behaviour on the part of the restaurant. What happened to the "Customer Is Always Right" ethic?

I hope you find places more worthy of your custom next time you're in the UK.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Tafka PP: Its ironic. 24 years ago I was admonished in a London pizzeria for eating pizza without a knife and fork (bad manners).

And last night, I witness simply revolting manners from a London food establishment.

I wonder if my manners have improved (or standards), or if theirs have simply hit rock bottom...

jonathan becker said...

oh. and after joesettlers description of the tense reality, and how you hadn't been arrested (yet) and how you were going to enlighten us soon, i'm glad to see you were only hanging out in a deli in london. shame!

jk, jameel, rock on, keep us posted.

Erachet said...

The same thing happened to me in a store in Ben Gurion airport. I pointed out the mistake, the person denied it, and I didn't argue because I'm too non-confrontational.

Erachet said...

No, sorry, it wasn't Ben Gurion. It was when I was getting pizza in the Tachana Merkazit.

Ben said...

Thanks for the post and being someone who does go to London on occasion, I know now one place to avoid (or go for sheer enjoyment of a confrontation :D )

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

J Becker: good thing they didnt arrest me HERE for "war crimes" -- being a settler, reserve IDF soldier, etc. Dont worry - more posts coming up soon.

Ben: The cashier/waiter guy looks like a bit like a movie actor -- I'll remember his name and post it here :-)

Erachet: I denied it to a point, then decided to get even by posting this.

Which leads me to a question:

I received an email from a long time reader, saying it wasnt right to post this, but I should have contacted the owner privately.

I disagree -- I think the onus on the establishment now, not on a customer who was wronged and publically humiliated.

What do you all think? Did I go overboard?

jonathan becker said...

>"I think the onus on the establishment now, not on a customer who was wronged and publically humiliated."

fuck the establishment. you were, and we are being treated shabbily. it ain't right.

"waiter, bring me 12 caravans and a plugah of heavily armed and trained 20 year olds".

what? all you have are these tasteless "inspectors"? send them back. i want to talk to the manager.

hee hee. my, i'm amusing.

Seth said...

In the 'old days' it may have been appropriate to go straight to the top, but businesses know (or at least should know) that the power has shifted to the average person with an internet connection. The fact that they have not replied to this post or contacted the site privately says a lot about how much they care about their customer service. Check out this blog post I read recently regarding customer service (both good and bad) in the world of blogs.

Ben said...

I think you did the right thing. The guy was screaming at you and about you to the staff so the owner or manager should have been contacted by the staff and the cashier taken care of. You were publicly humiliated by him and I know if I was in your shoes I would have thrown the food right in his face or contacted the authorities for being robbed (you had a witness).

The management owes you a public apology and some big compensation with the cashier being canned immediately.

Olah Chadasha said...

What happened to the customer is always right? Why wasn't there a manager that you could talk to? This is going to cost the restaurant a lot more than 10 pounds, I can tell.

josh said...

I think this is so so wrong, especially coming from God-fearing people and a site whose credibility is important.

Before publishing such a thing, there should have been an strong effort to reach a manager or owner of the establishment. There is the parnasa of many people depending on this establishment, but you took justice into your own hands because of one alleged black sheep.

The power of loshon hara was always in the hands of the individual and the change these days is that the responsibility of the individual has grown exponentially.

And the crowd demanding blood? A post not up for half a day and readers are saying the restaurant is ignoring the claim.

JJ said...

Wow, that is customer service at its worst. We ate at Reuben's when we were in London about 10 years ago- both the food and the service were fantastic. Sorry you had such a lousy experience.

You were treated abominably and you absolutely have the right to complain in a public forum- anyone whose job involves dealing with the public knows full well (unless he's been living in a cave for the past 10 years) that he is likely to be discussed, reviewed, complained about, etc. over the Internet.

I hope the owner of the place contacts you and offers to send you your money.

Seth said...

Josh, it was posted all day and they received a copy of it via email almost immediately by myself (if not by Jameel before). If someone has a contradictory statement about the venue, they are welcome to their thoughts just as much as the author of this page. By the restaurant owner hiring this 'bad sheep' he is telling the world and G-d that he trusts him to represent the company to the public. He must really trust his employees to leave them unattended. By not being there (or easily reached) to control whatever situation may occur in his own business, the owner is just as culpable as the alleged thief.

Ilana said...

I agree with Josh. The management would probably want to know about your experience. If *they* didn't, then it would be appropriate to blog about it. But to damage the livelihood of everyone connected to the restaurant because of this cashier's appalling behavior seems unfair.

Ben said...

I disagree with you Josh. If it was a private matter then you may be right but the instant the cashier screamed at the customer in public and made it a spectacle for the other employees it became a public embarrassment for the company and being that the other employees did not act in the customers defense nor get the owner involved immediately is deserving of public rebuke and a loss to their business. I have already publicized this to my English friends so they can avoid being treated similarly.

Anonymous said...

i had this happen once, in l.a. gave the guy a 20, he gave me change for a 10, same thing.

from then on, i always do one simple thing with all cashiers...i hand them a bill, and say out the name of the denomination. for example, as i am handing the bill, i say, "here's a TWENTY" very loud a clear for everybody to hear, and for the cashier to dispute, right then and there, while the bill is still in the hand.

on the other hand, i once gave a bill, got a 20 back, but it was a ten more than i deserved, and the kid at a shul hotdog sale was embarrassed to tell me, finally did, i checked my wallet, felt horrible, of course gave him the 20 back, took the lower change instead.

Anonymous said...

Another reason why it's a good idea to always pay with a credit or debit card and avoid cash whenever possible. If the a-hole is doing this 6-8 times a day, he's probably bringing in twice as much as he earns. Most people will avoid confrontation altogether and quietly walk away from this kind of situation, questioning themselves all night if it was really a 10 or a 20. He probably sized you up rather quickly and mistakenly assumed you were an easy target. Kippa (knitted, not the black Shas type), glasses, Ashkenazi (who else would order a chopped liver sandwich ?) under 6 feet tall, no tattoos, no visible scars and politely asked for your order with a "May I please have a...".
Am I close ?

Neshama said...

Maybe it was that funny kibbutz hat you were wearing. You must be careful not wear that thing OUTSIDE of Israel.

I think that guy was a little on the _airy side of life, a tad anti-_____ic, and just plain 'a leftist' who despises Israelis. London is full of heretics.

halashon@torah.org said...

Anon you're overdoing it with the accusation that the worker is a thief. The original story had him clearly distracted.

Hilchot Lashon Hara.... hmmmm

* l'toeles - maybe, maybe not. venting is sometimes considered a toeles, but....
* minimum impact necessary - say as little to as few people as you need to achieve your goal. this means vent in private.
* first try alternatives to avoid L"H - if the toeles is for a refund, first attempt the lame email to the website if it encourages queries. but if it clearly won't help, there's nothing to try.
* don't cause more damage than a judgment in Beit Din - if the court would only award you the 10 pounds, do you want to believe that a blog post aimed at harming their customer traffic would have such a small effect? (p.s. I think all the violin playing about really knocking people's parnassa out in the store is overblown).

BUT on that last point, while I'm not a posek, I do think that a blog environment, with its "regulars," has the advantage that if their mgmt does resolve the matter to your satisfaction, you can post it and effectively remove the potential damage you have done. Of course that would get us into the debate of how much impact this blog really has on people's behavior, whether people go and talk about such a post with their friends, etc.

And BTW I also once lost some money on a cashier error - it's really frustrating. In supermarkets they do a register audit at the customer's request when those things happen - in America anyway. (Isn't that the source of "the customer is always right"?)

Unknown said...

It's true that the internet post causes more damage than the 10 pounds that was lost. However, think of how much positive PR the restaurant would get if they responded immediately to resolve the issue.
If a follow up post of "The owner contacted me to apologize and told me that he fired the low life 5 minutes after the incident" made it to the first page of google, I am sure it would far outweigh the damage caused.
The owner has the power to turn this into support for good business practices.

josh said...

Seth, whatever happened to 'ten kaf zchut'? A bad day for one guy, and a whole day of not checking email (many people don't) and it is possible that you drove him out of business for this. Your blog is respected and influential, and it is picked up by people around the world. You don't live there, you have no idea if this is representative of common behaviour there, and we can assume it is not.

Ben and Seth, there is an issue of proportionality here. You got humiliated in front of your friend, 5, 20, maybe 100 people, so you are going to tell 10 000 people about this? Is this 'revenge'? Is this a 'don't mess with Jameel, Joe Settler (and all other contributors on the blog)? Bar Kamtza and Kamtza, my friends, is a Tisha B'av story, but Hanukah is also a good time to remember it.

Shifra said...

uh... 10,000 people? put them out of business? what virtual reality do you live in?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Josh: I've visited restaurants around the world over years, and have never been involved in such a crazy situation like this as with Reubens.

Ive seen all sorts of things happen -- and I was even a busboy at a hotel in the Catskills as a teenager, where I saw all sorts of crazy things. "The Customer is #1" is always the smart business policy, or at least what it should be.

There were 4 other waiters/staff at the restaurant who witnessed what happened, along with the mashgiach. No one bothered to apologize to me.

There's a limit to how far one needs to be dan lekaf zechut as a consumer -- I looked for the manager and didn't find him/her.

Please dont over estimate the "power" of this blog. I honestly try to accurately portray reality as I experience it -- be it in Israel or around the globe. Yet I dont believe my posting will put Reueben's out of business.

By the way -- a reader sent me these comment reviews about Reuebens as well.

From here.

Extremely poor restaurant, rude female staff member who stated she was '1 of the owners', aggressive and abusive, she should not be allowed to interact with customers, overcharged by the til, greasy food, i would not recommend this restaurant to anyone.


We had a terrible experience at Reuben's. The food was mediocre, but more importantly, my family and I were treated extremely rudely. As kosher tourists from the US, a positive experience would have meant that we would have returned two or three more times during our week-long visit. As it was, we were so appalled by our treatment that we simply found good vegetarian restaurants downtown at which to eat instead. I will not return there.

Look, Ive been at Reubens before -- yet I was so horrified by their behaviour, I doubt I'll return.

I'm not out to kill anyone's parnasa, and if they reply to me, I'll HAPPILY post a followup, and remove this post.

However, I'm not going to run after them. They had ample opportunity when I was still in the restaurant.

Ruthie Levi said...

& if they don't reply to u, the almighty, dare i say anonymous blogger(!!), u ARE "out to kill their parnasa"? wow, there is only 1 chance in your "anonymous" world to do right/wrong, otherwise, u will grind them into dirt? thanks, i'll stay here in the land of accountability, for what i write, what i do & how i act. glad u posted those other negative reubens comments, cause we all know every business ONLY has positive comments & reubens must be crap, cause u found other negative comments to support your case, so poof, u proved your argument, i suppose...not! put yourself in a business owner's shoes...everyday is not paradise, every customer is not a prince & every employee is not going to be nominated for "employee of the year". perhaps u r confusing your imaginary online world w/the real one. this continues to be such a disappointing moment in what has been such an interesting blog.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ruthy: The internet is FULL of restaurant guides and readers are asked to give their opinion of restaurants. Whats the difference between a blog and a restaurant review, in which the customer felt cheated and embarrassed?

Amazon and Ebay all ask for customer feedback and reviews -- what is the difference between putting it there or writing it on a blog? Absolutely nothing.

What does accountability have to do with anonymity?

Yes, there were many comments on the review website that were positive -- I posted the 2 that described the same sort of customer experience as mine.

As a responsible blogger, I put the link there for people to read it for themselves as well.

If Reuben's couldnt care less about customer service, none of their employees cared about a customer being yelled at in public, then why shouldnt anyone be allowed to post a poor review of the restaurant?

Actually, according to your logic, why should anyone ever be allowed to post a poor review of anything?

Are you not a fan of "expose" type tv shows, because they portray organizations in a bad light when they rip off customers?

I guess I can be "lifnim meshurat hadin" and email them my review, and see what they say -- but the onus is on them.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ruthie: They have a website...no email address to contact them at all!!!

Ruthie Levi said...

cmon, give me some tuf questions...in answer to yr first long one, it's really simple...your yeshiva education is supposed to have taught u to behave better towards your fellow jew. silly me, i went to public school & was always envious of what u guys were being taught. maybe i was wrong all these years :)

secondly...maybe old aunt gertrude runs the place & she doesn't even know how to turn on the computer. yes, let's destroy her retirement income 'cause she is a luddite.

Ruthie Levi said...

PS; so what u r saying, btw, is that u have made no attempt on your own to contact them? a reader attempted to post this blog entry, but it is not on their site at the moment...but since they do not have an email address, you did nothing?!....wow, that's impressive (IN)action on your part!!

Mrs. Belogski said...

Are you still in London - would you like to have supper with us tonight? Our kids are not always 100% polite, but they certainly won't shout at you!

Warren Burstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DTC said...


It's so much more worth the time and efort to shlep up to Brent Cross to go to La Fiesta instead.

tafka pp said...

Ruthie Levi- from what I understood from his post and the comments, he tried to find a manager, but there was nobody to speak to, nor via the website.

To you and the other commenters who seem to be under the (hilarious) impression that this post somehow is going to kill Reubens' Parnassa with its "Lashon Hara" - stop for a second and let me fill you in.

Reubens is a big, very expensive London Restaurant, it has been there for donkey's years, it is an established joint and believe me it won't be going anywhere as a result of this blog posting, or anything else. All sorts of scandals rock restaurants all the time, this won't even scratch the surface. Proportion, please? You all seem very quick to judge this situation and make false assumptions, neither of which are Torah behaviors either, last time I checked.

Finally- this is a public blog. Jameel has every right to vent about being publically and unpleasantly embarrassed for something he didn't do. He also had a witness with him to that effect. An honest person didn't deserve to be treated that way. In the same way that any blogger can give a good or bad review to any other cultural establishment or phenomenon he chooses (like a TV Series, for example!) Jameel should feel free talk about his experience in a restuarant, without having to worry that a few commenters are going to gallop off on their high horses.

My two PENCE

Commenter Abbi said...

Ruthie, I can recommend an excellent plastic surgeon for that huge chip on your shoulder. And a Yid too, so you can support your fellow Jew!

Also, can you learn to type normal English when you comment here? We've all graduated from high school here.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ruthie: When I was there, I didnt yell back at the guy, didn't scream at him, and tried politely to get money 10 pounds back, which he blatantly stole from me in front of my face (I had a witness). I looked around for the manager -- didnt find one.

No one from the establishment's staff said anything to me, including the mashgiach, as the cashier continued to bad mouth me to all the staff there.

Again, the burden of action is on the restaurant, not the customer who was robbed. My blog post has been submitted to their website for THEM to reply to me.

Simply put, I was robbed and humiliated, and their staff watched and heard the entire episode, while saying nothing to me.

All I did was report what happened. I didnt write their food was lousy, I didn't say the restaurant is terrible -- I clearly stated that from a customer service point of view, I was robbed, and they didnt have the decency to say anything.

It seems to me like this is turning into a blame the victim sort of issue.

Holy Hyrax said...

What a coincidence. Just last night, they aired the episode of Seinfeld where George gives the pharmacist a 20 (and waiting for $10 in change) and the pharmacist insisted she only gave him a 10

Holy Hyrax said...

Sorry, meant, HE only gave HER a 10

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

We generally assume that a comment made for protection of the public, or to help right a wrong, is not לשון הרע; see, for example, the Chafetz Chaim's comments cited at דעת here.

Herewith part of them:

אם אחד ראה אדם שעשה עוול לחברו: כגון שגזלו, או עשקו, או הזיקו (בין אם הנגזל והניזק יודעים מזה או לא), או שביישו או שציערו והונה אותו בדברים. ונודע לו בבירור שלא השיב את הגזלה, ולא שילם לו את נזקו, ולא ביקש פניו למחול לו על עוונו, אפילו ראה דבר זה לבדו, יכול לספר הדברים לבני אדם כדי לעזור לאשר אשם לו, ולגנות המעשים הרעים בפני הבריות. אך ייזהר שלא יחסרו שבעה הפרטים הבאים:
א. שיראה הדבר בעצמו, ולא שידע על ידי שמיעה מאחרים. ואם שמע מאחרים - אם נתברר לו אח"כ שהדבר אמת.
ב. שייזהר מאוד שלא יחליט תיכף שהאיש גזל ועשק או הזיק, רק יתבונן היטב בעניין, אם על פי דין הוא בכלל גזל או היזק.
ג. שיוכיח את החוטא מתחילה בלשון רכה, אולי יכול להועיל לו וייטיב על ידי זה את דרכיו. אם לא ישמע לו, רק אז יודיע לרבים את אשמת האיש.
ד. שלא יגדיל העוולה יותר ממה שהיא.
ה. שיכוון לתועלת, ולא ליהנות חלילה מהפגם שהוא נותן בחברו. ולא יפרסם הדבר בגלל שנאה שיש לו עליו מכבר.
ו. אם יכול לסבב את התועלת הזאת בדרך אחרת, ולא יצטרך לספר את עניין הלשון הרע, אזי בכל מקרה אסור לספר.
ז. שלא יגרום על ידי הסיפור נזק גדול יותר מהדין שהיה יוצא, אילו הועמד האיש על דבר זה בבית דין.

Of course, it should be done for the sake of righting a wrong or protecting the public, and not as נקמה.

Eephus said...

You are assuming that the owners of the restaurant are Jewish.

They're not.

Anonymous said...


You are not alone! I too ate at Reubens while visiting London, and was treated incredibly rude by the staff both at the upstairs and downstairs restaurant. The food was superb, although a little high priced (isn't all of England). Also tipping down stairs was mandatory (I believe %12.5) which was really Chaval, because I wouldn't have left a tip at all.

And somebody mentioned paying with credit card. Upstairs, they only accept cash.

Ron said...

Other people have expressed similar experiences on this restaurant review site


Anonymous said...

I was there in the summer of 2008 and thought the food was mediocre, the portions small and the cost exorbitant (8 pounds for a sandwich = $16!!!). Plus, they cut their meat the wrong way - against the grain - so that it falls apart. I'd never go back there, the poor service was just the tip of it.

BenM said...

A few points to make:

1. Always get a Tongue Sandwich at Reuben's
2. They're the only restaurant in the West End of London, so they'll survive this episode
3. Do you have somewhere for Shabbos meals?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

BenM: Thanks VERY much for the offer, but I'll be flying home this evening.

Thankfully, there are other food options available, such as an endless supply of Hermoulis sandwiches. Not the most amazing food out there, but I'm not starving on a daily basis :-)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Eephus: Do you know who the owners are?

Eephus said...

It's most likely that you were speaking to the owners, as it is a family business with almost all the staff behind the counter being family.

The back of the hill said...

And lets not forget that, Jewish or not, by being a "Jewish" restaurant with rude staff they could well be regarded as committing a chillul Hashem.

Imagine a Gentile who wanted some gehakte leber, having read about it in a book.... "Wow, THAT's how Jews behave?!? That fricken' rudely?!? I cannot believe this, I've gotten BETTER treatment in Holland, and that was unpleasant too! Why, I'm never coming back! Never! They can take their gehakte leber and stuff it up their noses! How rude!"

Or, imagine, a nice ehrliche Yid taking a Goyishe friend to Reubens, and subsequently cringing with embarrassment, mortified at the behaviour of. SOMEONE. REPRESENTING. JEWS. AS. A. WHOLE!

Oh, and I should mention that I worked in the restaurant business for nearly twenty years. Any employee who acted like this would get fired. A good experience increases business far less than a bad experience damages it.

Travel-Mike said...

Coincidentally I was flying back to Eretz on the day Jameel was being ripped off. During my two week stay in London I ate at Reubens twice. It has the monopoly on the kosher restaurants in the West End of London. I doubt if anyone frum would eat there if there was a kosher alternative. High prices and poor service is the norm for Reubins. This is not Lashon Hara - it's pure customer feedback. By the way, if you sit upstairs outside the main rush times you will hear that the majority of staff behind the counter are from Eastern Europe and have no knowledge of Judaism. This is a pure issue of bad service and should be reported as such.

London Hotels said...

Incredible! I'm planning to have a vacation next month in London. After reading your post I will add the Reueben's restaurant in my black list. It's unbelievable how disgustingly they act with you! Thank you for posting the true, people must know such places.

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