I complain from time to time, at restaurants, that is, but I also offer compliments when they’re due. Good restaurants appreciate this because it gives them an opportunity to fix a problem.

I know many people who’ve had a bad experience at a restaurant but don’t say a word. They walk away grumbling, feeling they’ve wasted their money. But the right word in the right ear can make everything so much better.

There’s an art to complaining. Always try to be nice about it, and if there was something good about the meal, either the food or the service, mention that at the same time.

If you do it right, everyone leaves happy. Best of all, a well-handled complaint can be a teaching moment for your kids.

About 10 years ago I had dinner with my daughter, then around 16 years old, at an upscale family restaurant in California. The food was excellent and the young waitress worked hard to please us.

But, there was one small problem. My daughter hates onions on her hamburger, as we told the waitress, but when it arrived there they were. It wasn’t a big deal, they were easily picked off.

I thought about letting it pass but elected to say something when the waitress asked us how we were enjoying the food. “The food was great,” I told her. “I know this isn’t your fault but there were onions on the hamburger. She ate it anyway, but I thought you should know.”

The waitress thanked me and the next thing I knew the manager was telling me we wouldn’t have pay for the hamburger. I declined the offer because there was no harm done.

Of course, my daughter, being a teen, was mortified.

The waitress must have noticed because she took the time to thank me again for bringing it to her notice. “It’s important that the kitchen staff pay attention to the food orders,” she said. “What if it’s an allergy issue and the person gets sick because the staff didn’t look at the order?”

My daughter was a lot less mortified when the manager gave us two free pieces of chocolate cake. And the waitress received a good tip.

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