January 2, 2010: IHOP Day

It is our final weekend here in the Houston / Galveston area.  Today, Dominica and I got to watch Joe play Assassin’s Creed II which is awesome!  We did pretty much nothing else all day.  I did some work on my laptop, played with Liesl, etc.  But watching Assassin’s Creed II is actually better than watching television.  The story is really engaging and well done.  Much better, I think, that the original game which I have and have played a bit but am far from completing.  I need to go back and play that again now that I see how awesome the sequel is.

Assassin’s Creed II is set in renaissance Florence which is really cool.  The recreation of the center of the city is amazing.  It really gives you the feeling of being there.

For breakfast today, Dominica, Liesl and I went out to the IHOP in Le Marque which is just a little closer to Houston than we are in Bayou Vista.  We were excited because they had some Christmas pancake specials like gingerbread and eggnog pancakes.  We tried to order the specials and to substitute toast instead of the meat that comes with them.  We did this regularly in Newark and never experienced a problem doing so.  Being vegetarian is always a challenge and we expect to pay meat prices for toast but it is not so bad.

Our waitress informed us that because it was a special that no substitutions were allowed.  We were rather surprised as we know that this was not an IHOP corporate policy since we did it all of the time but we did know that the IHOP on Jefferson Road in Rochester would not allow vegetarians to substitute lower cost toast for high cost meat even though they would have made more money per serving (vegetarians are often surprised when they offer to pay the same and get less and are told that the restaurants would rather not have their business than to make extra money on them!)

So we ended up eating something else.  When we got the bill there was a customer service website on it with a “how did we do?”  So I decided that I should at least voice my opinion to the franchisee to inform them that their restaurant had turned down higher profits and made us unwilling to eat there again if we felt that we would be unable to order anything except for the very, very few non-meat items on the menu.  I understand that it is their right to not supply vegetarian options.  Of course it is.  But I couldn’t believe that they would choose to turn away their highest (or higher, at least) profit margin customers just because they were determined to serve meat with their meals!

It only took about an hour, on a Saturday morning, before the senior vice president of operations for the IHOP franchisee (who handles pretty much all of Texas) called me, personally, at home!  He assured me that substituting toast for meat was always allowed and that accommodating vegetarians was very important for them.  He was not sure exactly how we could possibly have been told that any substitution was not allowed, especially one like this.  He dispatched the regional manager to go see what was going on at the restaurant right then and there, as I understood it.

He said that as soon as we are settled in Irving to send him our address and he is going to ship some free dining certificates to us to encourage us to come back out and try their IHOP franchise again.  There is an IHOP just down the street from our new apartment in Las Colinas so it will be very easy for us to visit them.

I am very impressed with how quickly and decisively ACG Texas, the IHOP franchise, reacted to the issue and resolved it.  Even on a Saturday morning!  We had not even thought to ask for the manager at the store because it is so common for vegetarians to not be allowed substitutions (Burger King made this corporate policy at one point and individual stores could get in trouble for selling you sandwiches without meat! This was later rescinded but the damage was done.  It also cost them the legal right to say “you’re way” in their ads!) that you don’t automatically ask for a manager to complain or clarify.  You just get something else and never eat there again.  It’s not about rocking the boat.  It’s about giving business to companies who aren’t ridiculous.  Vote with your wallet.

So we will definitely try IHOP in Texas again once we are in Irving.  Customer service kudos to ACG.  Every company makes mistakes.  It is how they resolve them that determines good customer service.

After breakfast we came back and watched more of Joe playing Assassin’s Creed II.  We got to see one of the funniest video game moments ever when one of the characters in renaissance Italy suddenly says “Don’t you recognize me, its a me, Mario!” in his best Nintendo Super Mario Bros. imitation.  Hilarious!

I got a chance to watch Run, Fatboy Run with Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria on BD today.  Pretty good movie.  Can’t go wrong with Peff and Azaria.

Dominica watched a LOT of HGTV today.  She is addicted to television shows about people buying houses in foreign countries.  At least this show gets her excited about house hunted overseas which is what I want to do.  So she is picking up buying tips for foreign markets.

One more day down here before we drive up to Irving.  We were supposed to have started packing the car today but we were lazy and did not even start looking into putting things into the car top carrier at all yet.  That is all being saved for tomorrow.  We leave really early on Monday so nothing can be packed on Monday itself.  It all has to be done today.  Luckily this is a very slow weekend for work so there is some time to relax before we drive up there and deal with the apartment.

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