Last Saturday I had a lovely meal at Gaucho Piccadilly: the steak was excellent, the wine delicious and the service exemplary. It was very different to how I’d imagined it – more like the bar of a boutique hotel, with lighting so low in the bathrooms it was almost impossible to see, than the typical kind of steak restaurant I’d imagined it would be. All in all it was a lovely night which should be why I’m writing about it, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
No, in fact the night was rather ruined when, at the end of it, my jacket was returned from the cloak-room with my 160GB iPod & accompanying Atomic Floyd headphones missing from the pocket where they’d been at the beginning of the night. I’m sure that many of you will be thinking that as I’d placed my jacket in the cloakroom, which undoubtedly has a notice telling customers that Gaucho Piccadilly doesn’t take responsibility for items placed there, that I have no right to complain now.
However that isn’t what happened.
In fact I’d placed my jacket on the back of my chair until some of the staff came by and suggested that they could take our jackets. I agreed and after they’d taken the jackets they gave us a card so that we could get them back at the end of the night (this is important, we’ll come back to this). I’m quite sure that they did this with the very best of intentions but whatever the case, when they then brought the jacket back it was lighter to the tune of an iPod.
I noticed the loss as soon as I got the jacket back and the staff were very good about looking for it in the cloakroom and by the table where we’d been sitting. No luck.
They took all my details and said that they’d call me back the next day when they’d had a chance to check again. When I didn’t get a call the next day I called them and was told, by Gaucho Piccadilly’s very helpful manager, that they couldn’t take responsibility for the iPod and wouldn’t be replacing it.
I was told “we take no responsibility blah blah blah” and when I explained that I hadn’t taken it to the cloakroom but that they had prompted me to take my jacket, I was told that the restaurant’s disclaimer had been written on the back of the ticket I’d been given.
On. The. Back. Of. A. Ticket.
Not only was this fact not brought to my attention at the time (“Here’s your ticket for the cloakroom – do be sure to read the back because if we mislay your iPod we won’t be replacing it”) but remember that this ticket had been given to me in Gaucho, a place dark enough to encourage bats to move in. I’ve done my fair sure of data protection/consumer rights courses in my time and I’m pretty sure that such disclaimers need to be made pretty clear to the consumer.
Can you imagine if one of the websites I’ve worked for over the years took data off people and then used it without their permission, with the excuse that there are T&Cs written in white text on a white background on an unlinked to page on the site? No, me neither.
Anyway, at this point I explained that if they refused to take responsibility I would have to treat it as theft and report it to the police. Up to this point, and at all stages since, I’ve never insinuated that anyone at Gaucho stole my iPod – I have, and continue to, state the fact that my iPod was in my jacket pocket when they took it into their care and wasn’t when they returned it to me – a pocket which was buttoned up (you can see the buttons here if you don’t believe me).
As far as I’m concerned, this meant that Gaucho had volunteered to take responsibility for it. I also explained that I would be writing to their head office to complain. At this point I was asked by the manager to give him 24 hours.
Well, skip forward a couple of days and, after another couple of phone calls, I was told today that the manager had spoken to Gaucho’s head office and that they wouldn’t be replacing the iPod. At one point I was told that “We’ve been scammed a lot over the years, not that I’m suggesting that you’re scamming us*, by people claiming to have had things stolen, so we can’t replace them**”. An obvious response to this might have been “Maybe you should look into why so many people are claiming to have things go missing in the cloakrooms” but by this point I really couldn’t be bothered.
Instead I thanked him for his help, hung up, then called the Met (who were very helpful and, after saying it might take 72 hours to get back to me, returned my call about an hour later) and reported a theft.
I’m really not sure what I hope to gain by writing this post, as Gaucho seem not to care at all that I have now had a great memory of my night there ruined, have lost all trust in them and will now never recommend them to anyone I know, and will in fact suggest, if I’m asked, that people should avoid Gaucho Piccadilly like the plague due to the fact that whilst the wine and steak are expensive enough, having to replace gadgets a few days later is even more so.
They also obviously don’t care that the fact that gaucho is the Argentinian word for cowboy now seems painfully apt rather than like a cute little joke. But I’m writing it anyway in the, probably vain, hope that doing so might spark them into action. If not, maybe the letters I plan to write to their head-office will.
Of course it probably won’t but seeing as I spend my workdays telling companies that if they want to earn their consumers’ trust they need to trust their consumers first, I can only trust that Gaucho will see the light and realise that replacing a new iPod is much cheaper in the long-run than replacing all the money I would have spent there over the years ahead.
I guess I should just thank my lucky stars that my girlfriend’s father had been kind enough to pick up the bill or it would have been a painfully pricey night.
*My response to this was “I’m glad.”
**I didn’t record the call so these may not have been the exact words but I’d swear on my life that this was pretty much the meaning of what was said.
Gaucho image by Vince Alongi by flickr