Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Oh Good. More Technology.

Ok, don't get me wrong.  I LOVE technology.  I'm all about cool new techie things and the latest updates of whatever programs our phones can download, and I even learned how to use the filters on Snapchat, so I am now totally able to reply to my daughter's snaps, in about the same amount of time it takes her to grow up, get married, raise a family, get old, and retire.

why can't we just text each other? 

What I am NOT with you on (or *them*, since I doubt that this was *your* idea...) is this Cool New Technology that Shane and I accidentally collided with recently at a well-known restaurant who will remain "Olive Garden".

First let me preface this with, yeah, I KNOW.  We haven't been eating out very often for....um...(stares at ceiling...counts on fingers...scrolls through calendar years...) Ok, like three or four years.  We haven't eaten out much for 3-4 years, except at our favorite local family-owned restaurant, where everything is still very low-tech, in the sense that actual people come to the table and ask you verbally what you would like to eat, and you tell them, to their face, and they disappear to go on a lunch break and/or leave to go check their laundry, and you sit waiting for what seems like too long to get anyone to come back and refill the water that you both already guzzled and whyhasn'tshenoticedthisyet, but eventually she DOES, and then your food comes out,  and everything's OK again, and we're all still friends.


We hadn't been to a chain restaurant in awhile, so the other night, we were aimlessly driving around after watching a super-slow-ok-that-was-SO-not-a-sports-movie-Denzel film, and we just kind of ended up at Olive Garden.  Which is fine, because I love Olive Garden.  Or I used to...back when I was still allowing myself to eat carbs and stuff.  Anyway, I sucked it up and decided I was game for trying to find something on their menu that wasn't bread, or pasta, or breaded, or breaded pasta.  (good luck)

At first, it all seemed pretty much business as usual.  We were seated after a normal wait time.  We had a normal hostess give us menus and take our drink orders.  We politely nodded in disinterest when she pointed out the new little gadget on the table that looked like a small TV flatscreen thing and told us that we can "sign up for rewards" or something...I never sign up for ANYthing, so...yeah-no.  As soon as she left, I turned the TV gadget thingie around, facing out, because the LAST thing I want is a screen flashing in my face while I'm trying to enjoy a full-service restaurant dinner.
Image result for olive garden tabletop screens
oh. my. gosh.  SERIOUSLY?    no


We had a normal college-age boy come and say he'd be our waiter, and he did take our orders.  I'll call him Josh.  So..."Josh" brought out that big bowl of lettuce with oil and vinegar on it that doubles as "salad" at Olive Garden, and we more or less finished it.  He came back fairly soon and asked if we wanted it refilled, so we were like, "sure" because how filling can lettuce be?  And, could he also please refill the waters when he gets a chance? Sure!

And--Here's where it gets weird.

That was pretty much it.  Josh basically never came back.  Ever.

We sat forEVer, wondering what the heck.  Slid the empty water glasses way out to the edggggggggge of the table.  Looked around obviously like we're waiting for service, or a waiter, or ANYone to notice that we're still there.  Made choking sounds and slurped loudly from the empty glasses, trying to survive on the water we could suck off the ice cubes.  Stirred ice with our straws.

Finally a whole other guy, who seemed like the floor manager, showed up with our entrees.  We told him we'd love some water, and oh, could you also tell Josh not to worry about that salad refill? 'Cause we've moved on to dinner now.  Him:  Sure.

We finished our dinner and sat there, waiting for Josh to reappear.  Forever.  I think I actually gained some more wrinkles while we waited.  We decided, since it's been so long, maybe we should check out desserts.  Oh, wait, there's no menu on the table for desserts except....wait.  What about this?  I turned the stupid little TV thing back around to face us, and lo and behold, there were hi-def pictures of their desserts right there on this little screen.  
Image result for olive garden tabletop screens
Exactly like this
THEN I noticed that not only was it an ad for their desserts, it had a touch screen button that said something like <order now> or <add to cart> or something, and another button that said <more water> and another one that said <call server> or something, and then it hit me.


We're supposed to figure out this stupid gizmo/tablet/ipad thingie on our dinner table, during dinner, in order to make these things happen???  Is that why Josh never came back? He's crouched somewhere in the back, on a headset, waiting to be paged by a computer?

*hard eye roll*

I set the little screen thing back down, facing away, crossed my arms, and refused to buy into their new program. We waited some more.  Looked around, obviously searching for our waiter.  Nothing.

After another eon passed and we both aged even further, and/or possibly cashed in our Roth/IRAs, "Josh"--the actual dude, who must have realized we were not "on board" with the kiosk or ziosk or whatever--finally materialized, and we were able to communicate directly to him, using words and some basic hand gestures, what we wanted for dessert and that we'd like it to-go, and that we were ready to pay.

I handed him my debit card, which he handed back to me and said "Oh, no, you check yourself out."

Me:  --  *eyebrows go up*

Him:  *turns the little TV screen back around to face us*  You swipe your card right here and do your purchase on the screen.

Me:  --  *holding debit card in midair with eyebrows still up*   Are you joking?

Him:  No.  *pointing to screen, which is now configured with our sales receipt*  See?  Right here.

He's looking at me like I'm visiting on a special outing from the Alzheimer's wing of a nursing home.

I notice that the TV thing has suddenly apparently sprouted a card-reader swipe thing on one side, so I swipe my card and the screen takes me to the "tip" portion of the transaction, which is like a slide-rule thing that you can touch to change the tip percentage, but I notice that it is conveniently set to like an automatic 20+ percent tip.  I slide it to the left...20-18-15-13-12-10---- slide, slide, sliiiideee  c'mon where's the 0%?  I'm out of luck.  It stops me at a MINIMUM of 10% for Josh, who has done basically NOT A DAMN THING for us except bring out our salad and to-go boxes.  A whole other guy did the job of bringing our entrees, and no one ever did refill the waters.

So I kind of sneakily clicked on the lowest possible tip, because "Josh" hadn't done anything tip-worthy, while noting that ok, so there's also no way to NOT give a tip? Or any way to leave a comment, like "You guys need to work on your customer service or we won't be back"?  Interesting.

I hit <print receipt> for a printout, right out of the little TV thing, and we were on our way.

On the  way out, we finally noticed that, yep, most of the tables of diners were all totally enjoying their meals with their family and friends, but instead of being focused on each other, they were all totally engrossed in these stupid little screens on the tables.  There were kids playing games on them.  There were groups of girls snapping selfies and posting them to Facebook or wherever.  There were old people trying to figure out how the hell to get more water.  I half expected to see people tuning in to their favorite TV shows or for commercials to start flashing across the screens.

this just screams "relaxing with family", doesn't it?

Just.  Wow.

Let's review, shall we?

Now, when you go out to dinner, where you used to be expected to, I don't know, actually interact face to face with your dinner companions, you can now spend the ENTIRE time fiddling around with learning how to use and/or play with another whole new device, just like the ones you should have left in your car and/or at home before you left to go OUT to dinner, while ALSO very minimally interacting with anyone in the service end of the restaurant.

So, basically, dining out is now almost exactly like dining at home, except you don't have to cook or get your own plate, although I half-expected to see those bins on the way out like at a food court, where you dump your trash and leave your tray.

On the way home, I got out my own tiny link to the whole world phone and googled this new technology, only to find that it's been in place for a couple of years now, at a lot of restaurants.  I also read the many many many complaints, exactly like mine...

Shane and I made a secret pack and pinkie swore to never go out for a "nice" dinner again at ANY restaurant that wants you to order your food through a touch screen at the table.  I can see it being handy to pay at the table, in case you're the type who is afraid the waitress is taking your credit card in the back and snapping photos of it to secretly charge you for her next trip to Mexico or whatever, but...trying to force diners to figure out more screens so we can "call server" or for "more water"??  Seriously?

Like I said, I'm a huge fan of technology, but guys. Huge, double thumbs way way down for this one.

...and yes, I have been living under a rock.

Image result for living under a rock

Photos on this post all courtesy of Google images. 

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