Let ’em know how you feel

Expressing displeasure with a commercial dining establishment has never been a simple task, and one’s never really sure if one’s complaint is taken seriously by the management.

When you have a problem with the food or service at the restaurant you’re patronizing, it’s not even easy to determine the best possible time to voice your complaint.

If you gripe about service before your meal arrives, don’t be surprised if it’s accidentally served in your lap – with lots of gravy. If you complain after your meal, who cares? You’ve paid the tab and you’re on your own. The restaurant staff will give you a hearty “Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure…” and guide you to the nearest exit before you upset any other patrons or attract unwanted attention from the health department.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

One of my colleagues recently alerted me to what she referred to as “The Cedar Rapids Solution.”

According to published reports, employees of a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fast food restaurant were understandably startled one evening when a car pulled up to the drive-through window of the establishment and a dead cat was promptly pitched through the service portal.

Investigators later determined that this was not an Adopt-A-Pet scheme gone awry, but a case of roadkill terrorism.

Somebody was clearly unhappy with their last order of Bungle Burgers and ‘Tater Chunks.

Normally, I wouldn’t think too much of this blatant display of gustatory grumpiness, but you have to remember that this took place in Cedar Rapids, the gourmet capital of, er, Iowa.

Trends are set in places like Cedar Rapids and this might just mark the beginning of a unpleasant diner rebellion. Hell, it might even lead to a bold new restaurant rating system.

For example, your waiter is surly and shakes bread crumbs onto your vest. This could be viewed as a one-dead-cat offense.

If the server manages to spill ground pepper onto your head and then delivers someone else’s trout-on-a-stick to your table, that merits a two-dead-cat response.

If your minestrone has either a small rodent, severed body part or small picture of Dick Cheney floating in it, the restaurant should expect a fusillade of three dead cats.

And if the eatery has the temerity to charge you for the above dining disaster, four dead cats would be recommended.

Not only would this let the offending restaurateur know that you were more than a little dissatisfied with your meal, but it could actually serve to warn other potential patrons of trouble ahead.

Let’s face it, amigos, if you pull up to a strange restaurant and find a pile of aging roadkill out front, you’re going to think twice about strolling inside and ordering the specialty of the house.

The biggest drawback, of course, is spending two or three hours before dinner scouring nearby highways and byways for these pungent restaurant-rating icons.

(Gourmet dining hint: If you’re unable to find a dead cat, experts agree that a deceased ‘possum will usually get the job done …).

Originally published April 27, 2007