Sunday, November 20, 2011

A very late correction

I have intended for over a year to write the following amended review of Bar Gernika in Boise, Idaho. Now that it looks like I might be passing through Boise during a meal time, the time has come.

I have not been back to Boise since 2009. But after I wrote this post that included a very detailed account of my negative dining experience, Gernika wrote to me. And I wrote back. What transpired changed my opinion.

Last November, I was attempting to satisfy the requirements of NaBloPoMo by writing the long-overdue account of the road trip that brought me to Portland to live. I don't get many comments on this blog, and when I saw in my inbox that Anonymous had commented on my latest post, I was so excited!!! Until I read the following:

Wow, I am so sorry that you had such a negative experience at our restaurant.It really affects me when I hear or read things like this. If you could tell me what night it was, I can check in with the server about his service. I am also dismayed that he didn't point out our many other Basque specialty dishes when you were ordering. We do run out of some of our more popular dishes sometimes. We prepare everything fresh every day, and it is sometimes difficult to determine how much to make for the day. Again, I am truly sorry about your visit with us, and I hope you give us another try. Please email me at Thank you!

I was so embarrassed. I had forgotten that, duh, this is the world wide web, and people read what you write, and people search for things, and people have Google Alerts set up...and people will find your obscure blog about a person from/living in two states that are both not Idaho, and they will read it, and have their feelings hurt. I suddenly looked at my review from the perspective of someone not familiar with my style of writing, and I realized where I might have sounded like one of those crazy people who writes reviews on Yelp accusing bartenders of starting fights with them or criticizing the paint choices of a restaurant or dropping a star from the rating because they have trouble eating with chopsticks or because the weather sucked the day they went or something else that is entirely not the restaurant's fault.

I wrote to them because I felt so contrite. Unless they totally hadn't been paying attention that this was a trip that happened a year in the past; I was also writing to kind of call them out on that, if that was the case. (The truth comes out!)

I wrote the following:

Dear Bar Gernika,

I apologize if anyone's feelings were hurt by my post in which I wrote about a bad time at Bar Gernika. I am impressed that you care about a visit that took place over a year ago by someone who lives pretty far from Boise. [...edited for brevity's sake...] I'd assume that I just had the rare bad experience, and that's what I've always thought about Bar Gernika. Most of my criticism was intended toward my travel guide, which only told us about *one* Basque restaurant in Boise. I provided a link to Bar Gernika in case any of my readers passing through Boise wanted to check it out, because even though we had a bad time, we still liked the food and cider! [...] I certainly don't want to get anyone in trouble; it's possible that July 2, 2009, was just an uncharacteristically bad night! Anyway, I've never made it back to Boise, but I enjoyed the time I spent in the city and have always wanted to return. I'd be happy to give Bar Gernika another chance. [...] Thank you for your interest in my long-ago visit.

Gernika wrote back! They really did care about what someone who is from two states, neither of which are Idaho, had to say about something that happened more than a year in the past!

(Oh, and I told them I was eventually going to post this email in a correction post, so I totally have permission to write this.)

Thanks so much for your response! [...edited for brevity...] Even though our little bar has been around for about 20 years now, there is always room for improvement and fine tuning. We have zero staff turnover at our place, and the schedule is pretty static, so it was easy to figure out who it was that was serving you. It is someone who, last summer, received several complaints on various websites and blogs. After getting to the bottom of his frustrations, we worked with him to try to get him to a point where he was happier with his situation. I am happy to say that he is still employed by us and doing great. He has been able to participate more in the business by designing and marketing our schwag(sp?). This has really improved his personal investment in our bar. Our staff is like family but bad service is intolerable so we were glad everything worked out. I am just sorry you were treated so poorly, that's just not okay. If you ever come back to Boise, I would absolutely love to buy you and your party a round[....]

Isn't that nice? Not only that they expressed genuine concern over my year-old review, but that this is an organization that works with staff to find ways they can best work for the organization, rather than merely terminating them (or allowing them to continue in a position where they are unhappy.) So, again, it was my fault I spilled Astarbe all over my clumsy self, and our non-paella food was great, and I'm impressed with this response.

Bad service is intolerable. In Portland, it is more common than it should be. The result is that good service (or even above-average) causes me to tip wildly high. (Maybe someday I will tell you my ultimate bad service in Portland story, except this time I will not name names.) Anyway, I wonder how many Portland restaurants would have responded this way. Before this turns into a rant about an unrelated topic, I will end this post about my long-ago trip to Idaho. In December, I will be passing through Idaho on my way to Colorado. We will probably go through Boise twice, so our chances of passing through at a mealtime are pretty high. I look forward to trying Gernika again!

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