This is the story of a sneaky waiter who used dishonest tactics to increase his check average. Please do not do what this waiter did.
Helmut and Inga were about to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Looking to do something special, Inga researched Yelp and found a nearby French staurant that had great reviews. “Oh, I’ve heard about this place,” she told her husband. “It’s supposed to be really good. Want to go there on Saturday night, dear?”
“What’s Saturday night?” asked Helmut from behind his newspaper. “Isn’t that meatloaf night?”
Inga sighed and reminded him for the fifth time that week that Saturday was their 20th wedding anniversary.
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Helmut. “I knew that. Sure that sounds great, hon, whatever you want. It’s your special day.”
“No, it’s our special day,” Inga corrected him.
“Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.”
“So, would you like to go to dinner there on Saturday?”
Inga took the silence as a yes and made a reservation for 7:00 on Saturday.
Four days later, Inga and Helmut arrived at Place de Vosges Cafe. Inga had hoped for a corsage or maybe a card or at the very least for her husband to open the car door for her, but she settled for the fact that he wore a shirt that had a collar on it and a tie that matched. They were ushered to their table which was set with a clean crisp linen tablecloth and candles and had white roses in a crystal vase on the center of the table.
“Oh, it’s beautiful! Isn’t it beautiful, Helmut? I’m having such a wonderful time already and the night hasn’t even started. I love you so much, dear.”
“Kinda expensive, huh? Jeez, they sure are proud of their soup. It’s $15.”
The tuxedoed waiter stepped away from the table and Inga couldn’t tell if he had somewhere else to go, if he was judging them, or both.
“Helmut, dear. This is our 20th anniversary. I have been saving money for this night for two months and I don’t want us to even think about the prices. I love you and I want us to have a wonderful night. Please, have a good time tonight. For me?”
Helmut set down his menu and reached across the table to hold Inga’s hands. “Sweetheart, the steak is $52.”
Inga pulled her hands away just as the waiter returned.
“Bon soir monsieur et madam. Welcome to Place des Vosges Cafe. Have you had the pleasure of dining with us before?”
“It’s our first time here and it’s lovely, thank you.'” said Inga.
“Very well, madam. And are you here to celebrate a special occasion?”
Inga looked at her husband and waited for him to answer the question. Helmut was again looking at the menu, his eyes bulging out and the veins in his neck throbbing.
“It’s our 20th anniversary tonight,” said Inga beaming with pride.
“Ah, congratulations to you both! I will make sure then that we take extra good care of you this evening. Extra good care, I say.” He snapped his fingers and a man appeared who filled their glasses with Pelligrino. The waiter recited the specials and within minutes Inga had the glass of champagne she wanted while Helmut sipped a cold beer. Inga convinced him to drink it from the frosted glass that had been provided rather than from the bottle like he usually enjoyed his beer. He finally seemed to be enjoying himself and she didn’t even care that he had loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar.
The couple enjoyed their dinner of Gratinée des Vosges (onion soup) and Frisée aux Lardons (frisee salad with bacon and blue cheese) with a poached egg and they shared the Côte de Boeuf for two (prime rib) and they each had another drink.
As the waiter removed the last plate, Helmut said to his wife, “I’m stuffed. I don’t think I have any room for dessert.”
Inga tried not to show her disappointment. “Are you sure? I bet it’s delicious here. Just one to share?”
“Naaa, let’s go home,” he said. “I’m full.”
Inga protested ever so slightly. “If it’s about the money, I don’t want us to think about that tonight. I know it’s expensive but it’ll be worth it. It’s our 20th anniversary.”
“It’s not about the money, I’m just full,” snapped Helmut.
At this time, Inga saw the waiter approaching their table holding a plate with a dessert and a lighted candle. He placed it in front of the couple. “Happy anniversary to you both,” he said. The plate was inscribed with those very words, written in chocolate. In the middle of the plate was a large serving of bread pudding with two two chocolate-covered strawberries.”
“How sweet,” sighed Inga. “Look dear, an anniversary dessert!” She blew out the candle and took the first bite. She then gave a bite to her husband who begrudgingly acknowledged that it was quite delicious. They cleaned their plate and ten minutes later the check was presented to them.
Inga reached over to pick it up, prepared for the total which would be more than they had ever spent on one meal. She scanned the bill and her eyes landed on one item that gave her pause. “Hmmm,” she said. “Oh, well, it’s okay.”
“What’s wrong?” Helmut wanted to know.
“Nothing, it’s fine. No big deal.”
“What is it?” he insisted.
“Well, they charged us for the dessert and I kind of thought they were just being nice for our anniversary. I’m just surprised, that’s all. It was only $14. Of course we’ll pay for it, it was delicious.”
Helmut sat up straight in his chair. ‘That’s not right, they made it sound like it was free. And how do they know we even wanted bread pudding anyway? Where’s that waiter?”
“Please, dear, it’s fine. I’ll just pay for it.”
“No, it’s not fine. It’s sneaky. I wanna talk to our waiter.”
“Helmut, please, just let it go. I’ll pay for it, it’s only $14. Don’t make a scene.”
“I’m not going to make a scene, I’m just going to let him know that I think if we are going to be paying for dessert than we should have gotten to choose what it was and I didn’t even want dessert in the first place.”
Inga reached out across the table and placed her hand on her husband’s. “Please? Can we just go? I don’t want tthe night to end like this.”
“Fine. But I didn’t want dessert anyway.”
Their drive home was quiet, both of them thinking about how shifty the waiter had been. It had put a damper on their evening and Inga couldn’t understand why her husband was so upset. When they got home, Helmut got out of the car quickly and went into the house leaving Inga to walk in alone. As she stepped inside, the only light on was the one in the kitchen. She followed the light and heard Helmut getting something out of the refrigerator. “Helmut? You can’t tell me you’re still hungry.” She stepped into the kitchen to see Helmut standing in front of her holding a box. “What’s that?” she asked.
“This is why I didn’t want dessert. Remember our first anniversary when we still lived in Brooklyn and we were so broke? All we could afford to do that day was spend $5 so we went to that little tiny bakery on Court Street and each picked out one dessert and then we shared them.” He opened the box revealing a lobster tail and a cannoli. “I went to that same bakery today and got those same desserts because I remember thinking that night that as long as I have half a cannoli and half of a lobster tail and I get to share them with you, I will be the happiest man in the world. I love you very much, Inga. Happy anniversary.” He kissed her and then said, “Are you too full for another dessert?”
Inga wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at her husband. She reached over to him and untied his tie and pulled it from his neck. “I love you so very much. You’re the sweetest man in the world.”
“No, I’m just the happiest one. Want a bite?”
They sat at the kitchen table taking turns eating the pastries having completely forgotten about the sneaky waiter who had tricked them into buying a dessert that didn’t even want.