Give America a little credit

1 year, 7 months and 26 days.

That’s all it took.

Just 604 measly days until some fucking fucker attempted to use my credit card.

Back in the UK I had held a credit card for over 22 years without any fraudulent activity at all and yet it seems that every American I have met has been the victim of credit card fraud.  I wonder why it happens here so often?

Very strange.

Oh, wait, my mistake, I’m talking total bollocks…it’s not strange at all.

As much as I love this country, they’re unbelievably lackadaisical about credit card security. They’re more careless than a micro-surgeon with Parkinsons; it’s ridiculous.

When I moved to America back in 2015, they were in the process of transitioning credit cards from the strip to the chip. This was for ‘added security’, and I so expected to be asked to enter my 4 digit PIN number[1] on every transaction.

Nope.

Apparently all that changed was that you now insert your card into the card reader at the front, instead of swiping it at the side.

Ooooh!

Basically, all it did was introduce Americans to another type of motion…..or ‘exercise’ as some of them call it.

And a lot of shops and stores don’t even use the chip reader because they don’t work or aren’t set up yet!

Not only are you not expected to enter your secret and secure 4 digit PIN, but more often than not you’re not even ask for a signature or proof of identity!

Petrol stations (Gas stations) vary in the way they take credit.  Some ask for a signature, some don’t; some ask for identification, most don’t. It’s a fucking minefield and thoroughly pisses me off when i’m not asked for ID.  I could be anyone!

It gets even worse at restaurants where the server takes your card away and you don’t see it for 5 minutes until they bring it back with a wad of receipts for you to sign. This, I discovered, is plenty of time for them to make a copy and charge it to some fucking clothing company in Beverly Hills to the tune of $650!

Wankers.

Back home in Blighty, the waiter or waitress (I really don’t like the term ‘server’) brings the credit card machine to your table and you enter your PIN number directly into it. The card never leaves your sight.

Not once.

Ever.

It’s such a simple thing and saves a shit-ton of paper.  Seriously, why am I given so many pieces of paper?  I always pause when trying to figure out which one i’m supposed to sign and which one i’m supposed to take home and wallpaper the house with.

And the scariest thing of all is that no-one in America seems surprised about credit card fraud; a compromised card over here is as common as rain in England…or drunken violence.

So now I had no choice but to cut up my existing card and wait for another to be delivered. Thankfully I have another credit card I can use until some bastard decides to help fund some Nigerian prince with it.

Debit cards, on the other hand, need a PIN number to be entered.

I give up.

[1] Yes, I know that PIN stands for ‘Personal Identification Number’, so saying “PIN number” is effectively saying “Personal Identification Number number”.

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Sarcasm is a dish not found on the menu.

On Saturday night my wife and I attended the Purple Reign tribute act at The Westgate in Las Vegas.  It was awesome and definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a Prince fan like me.

Anyway, beforehand we had booked a reservation at an Italian restaurant to make it a proper date night.

Upon arrival we were shown to our seats and handed the largest menus I think I’ve ever seen. These things were like windsurfing sails.  Looking around the restaurant I could see people struggling to keep their chairs in place as they fought against the air conditioning.

At one point I saw a crying child fly overhead.

After a few minutes the waitress came over to our table.

“Hi, my name is (I genuinely can’t remember); are you ready to order, or do you have any questions?”

I looked up at her with a wry grin and replied, “Yes actually, I do have a question; is it possible to get a larger menu?  This one isn’t quite big enough.”

She smiled back and said, “Yes, I know.  The print is just so small and difficult to read.  We really need to make the whole thing bigger, sorry about that.”

At last, someone that gets it!  She knew I was joking and ran with it, commenting on the size of the text on these huge, wobbling cardboard monstrosities.  At last I had found someone that picked up on the subtleties of my English humour and gave as good as she got.

I was so happy.

After she had left, my wife (seeing my smile of satisfaction) leaned in, and said “You realise she thought you were serious, right?”

Fuck.

HugeMenu

United Steaks of Hamerica

I’ve been in the U S of A almost 5 days, and already I have SO many notes compiled on things that I’d love to blog about.

That said, I don’t want to blow my load on one post, so I’ve decided to drip feed them in an attempt to look like I’ve thought long and hard about each and every post.

I probably haven’t, just so you know.

Today’s entry is food related.

Last night my wife and I went to a restaurant called Brio in Tivoli Village. Great restaurant with the usual oversize portions and suspiciously joyful staff.

When the waitress (I don’t like the word ‘server’ [1]) took my order, she said “super salad?”

“What?”
“Super salad?”
“Is it?”
“Is it what?”
“Super?”
“Is what ‘super’?”

“The salad?”

There was a pause….

My wife tapped me on the arm and said “Soup or salad”

Yeah, that made more sense.

It seems that choice with your meal is a big thing in the United States.  If you want eggs, you can have them sunny side up [2], over easy, scrambled, boiled, poached or the waiter can bring the chicken out and you can suck the egg directly from its arse.

If you want chips (fries) you can have them regular, curly or seasoned.  Alternatively you can have them boiled, baked or mashed; not to mention the option of hash browns, wedges or having them peeled and inserted rectally to save yourself the calories.

And if you’re having breakfast you can have pancakes, waffles, French toast, English muffins and all sorts of artery clogging carbohydrates….with or without cinnamon frosting or powdered sugar.

Oh, and by the way America,  French Toast isn’t French; nor are English muffins English.  Both are American.

Crepes are French, but oddly you don’t call those French pancakes.

Also, smothering anything with Marinara sauce does not make it Italian.

But I digress.

Going back to the subject of choice when dining, you also get free refills on a lot of things.  Having visited America a lot in the past I am fully aware that you get free refills on coffee and soda (yes, I use the word ‘soda’ now)…but imagine my disappointment when I once declined another bowl of delicious soup at Olive garden only to find out afterwards that it was, in fact, a free refill.

On soup!

This morning I saw an advert on TV (amongst the many, many, many, MANY adverts) for a restaurant called Applebee’s in which they offer free refills on fries.

FRIES!

But, to be fair, you only got these free refills on fries when you order one of their massive, supersized, over the top burgers that includes meat from every species known to man, topped with 8 cheeses and sugar, or something.

It’s like the Heart Attack Grill found on Fremont Street who give free meals to anyone weighing over 350 pounds.  This is a place where they have a burger called the Quadruple Bypass which totals 10,000 calories.

My wife told me that a guy once had a heart attack in the Heart Attack Grill on Fremont Street and, considering the ‘servers’ are dressed like doctors and nurses, all the other diners though it was some kind of show.

Well, it’s Vegas after all.

But going back to Olive Garden for a second, they offer a “Buy one, Take one” deal on entrees [3].  You order your main meal and they give you another one free.

Seems normal, right?

Well, this second dish isn’t for your dining partner; it’s for you to take home to presumably eat naked and alone in the dark, sobbing with shame.

Lunacy.

But it’s not all bad, they have twist off bottle caps on their beers.  That’s something they’re getting right.

Oh, and they have Spinach and Artichoke dip.

That’s a thing here.

It needs to be a thing everywhere.

Now.

fat uncle sam

[1] Although people in I.T. swear by them 😉
[2] Also known as ‘half cooked, slightly raw and snotty’

[3] Main course

A toilet observation, on the fly

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this is mainly due to nothing happening in the jobless lead up to emigrating to America.

Have I  mentioned that I’m moving to Las Vegas?

No, I probably haven’t….over and over and over again.

Anyway, last night my wife and I were at a restaurant rubbing our joy in people’s faces when I decided to visit the restroom (yes, I said ‘restroom’; I’m getting into practice because I know Americans will have difficulty with ‘bog’, ‘carsey’, ‘gents’ and probably even ‘lavatory’ and ‘toilet’).

I walked into the bathroom (still practicing) and walked to the urinals.

Ladies, there is an unwritten rule that you never stand next to another man having a piss unless you have no choice; you should always leave a space of at least one urinal between you.

Well, I had no choice on this visit as there were three urinals and the middle one was occupied. There’s nothing more comfortable and lacking in awkwardness than standing shoulder to shoulder with another man holding his penis.

Thankfully as I started taking care of business, he concluded his and began to zip up his fly.

I wasn’t watching him by the way, but I was so close to him I would’ve been able to tell you how much change he had in his pocket.

£2.37.

However, this guy was taking forever to do such a simple task. This was mostly because he’d undone every fucking button on his jeans, including his belt, so he was now painstakingly taking forever to sort himself out.

Come on man, learn how to use your fly. You only need to undo a few buttons to unleash the beast.

To drink juice from a carton, you open up a flap at the top to get at the contents; you don’t open the entire thing at the seams!

What next?

image

Waiter minute!

I’m a fast eater.

eat-fast

I always have been.

I’m not sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve never remembered a time when I ate slowly. My brother is the same.  Maybe it was due to having Italian relatives (on my Father’s side) who loved to feed us whenever we visited, or maybe it was from our time spent in prison.

I’m joking of course. There’s no way my relatives are responsible.

I suppose I began noticing my accelerated eating pace when I became an adult and started dining with other adults. Whenever I go out to a restaurant with anyone I’m usually the first to empty my plate.

This isn’t an issue for me as I’m happy to sit there having a conversation as they painstakingly take an age to eat their meal that probably went cold an hour ago.

Really, it’s fine. I can always lick my plate if I get bored.

Or can I?

You see, my big issue with finishing first is the fact that the waiter/waitress inevitably comes to the table and does the unspeakable; they take away my plate.

Why?

Are they so bereft of crockery in their restaurant that they need to relieve me of mine as soon as possible?

They’re like sharks, circling the table and watching.

fight club waiter

What makes it worse is when they quietly ask “are you finished?” whilst reaching for my plate before I can answer “yes”.  And let’s be honest, the only answer I can possibly give is ‘yes’ because my plate is empty.  I can’t say no because, well, my plate is empty.

“Actually, I’m not finished yet.  There’s still a pattern on this plate” is not a well received answer.

And once I’ve been parted from my plate I’m left sitting there watching the others eat. I realise I was doing this beforehand, but somehow I now feel less involved.  I’ve now become an outside observer like a scientist with a room full of chimps.

I really hate this behaviour in restaurants (from the waiter/waitress, not my chimpy friends). I’m sure the waiting staff think they’re doing the right thing, but I find it intrusive, unwelcoming and a bit rude; and they don’t even have the decency to leave a copy of Watchtower magazine to keep me occupied.

To me it’s the same as saying:

“Wow, someone was hungry weren’t they Mr Piggy McOink? Look everyone! This guy has finished before anyone else at his table!  How Fatty-Boombatty is this jelly-belly?”

This is all made worse when it’s only two of us having a meal. Now they’re not only mocking me non-verbally with their smile, they’re piling the pressure on my fellow diner (usually my wife):

“One down, one to go. Come on slowcoach, you’re wasting everyone’s time.  Pay up and get lost; I need this table for another couple.”

A while back I went for a meal with a friend who is the slowest eater in the world. And when I say slow, I mean s-l-o-w.  Usually, by the time she approaches the end of her meal, the restaurant has become a bank and cobwebs have formed on her plate.

As frustrating as it could’ve been, I didn’t mind. We were so busy catching up on old times that it didn’t matter she took an additional 20 minutes to finish her food.

Seriously, 20 minutes.  Time it.  That’s a long time on a single plate of food.

eating-tortoise

The worst part was when the waiter unashamedly cleared my plate and cutlery after I was finished (5 minutes, tops).  My friend, who was now feeling the pressure, apologised to me.

It can’t be a good thing when the person you’re eating with feels the need to say sorry for being ‘too slow’.

I didn’t care. I was there for the company and the conversation…and dessert, but there was no way I was seeing that for at least 2 hours.

My point is, don’t take plates away until everyone has finished.

In America they get it right. And here’s why

  • They don’t usually take away your plate until everyone has finished.
  • If they DO take your plate away, they replace it with something else (free refills on soup in Olive Garden anyone?).
  • Usually the meal is so massive it’s almost impossible to finish it anyway.
  • Sometimes the meal comes with more than one plate of food (breakfast at Denny’s for example has one plate for your massive breakfast platter and one plate for your massive stack of buttermilk pancakes).

Sometimes a waiter/waitress will also attempt to take your plate after a period of inactivity, despite how much food is still on your plate. It’s like some kind of evil computer screensaver with a plan for world domination through malnutrition.

If you stop eating for a period of time (I estimate this to be about 2 minutes), it is assumed you’ve finished and they will attempt to wrestle your food away from you.

I will stab you.  Be warned.

This behaviour wouldn’t translate anywhere else would it?

For example, whilst writing this post I’ve stopped a few times to re-read paragraphs, check my splellnig and make coffee.  This means I’ve left the keyboard for small periods of time.  By their reckoning I’m finished with this post and they’ll simply attempt to take it away from me, even if I’m in the middle of a

Some gross ‘under the table’ action.

In a restaurant there’s nothing worse than the realisation you’re touching someone’s discarded chewing gum under the table.

Then again, is it gum?  It could be part of the table.

You push your finger into it and it’s not part of the table.

Too soft.

Too warm.

Yuck.

grossed out animated gif

Can I do any better? Surely there’s something I can do?

Here’s a little story…

man with menu

A man walks into a busy restaurant on a Friday night and requests a table for himself and his wife who isn’t with him.  He is shown to a table and handed a couple of menus.  Before the waitress can ask what he’d like to drink, he asks “Is there anything you can do with these prices?”

The waitress looks at him a little confused; “I’m sorry sir?”

He points to the menu in his hand, “These prices, they’re a bit more than I wanted to pay. Can you do anything with them?”

“But these are the prices of our food sir”, the waitress replies, a little taken aback.

“It’s just that I didn’t want to pay more than £20 per person and I’ve seen cheaper prices at other restaurants.  Can you do anything?”

“What do you mean sir?”

“I just want to know what your best possible price is”, persists the man.

rude diner

“I’m sorry sir, but we can’t reduce the prices; these are our prices.”

The man pauses for a moment before continuing, “Ok, it’s just that I’ve had the price of £20 per person at another restaurant and if you can beat their price then my wife and I will eat here.”

The waitress, who relies heavily on tips, starts to get anxious because she has a lot of other tables to wait on and a very long queue of customers outside waiting to get in. 

Restaurant queue

“What other restaurants have you had these prices with sir?” she asks, not that it matters.

“I’d rather not say” says the man, defensively.

“We would need to see a copy of their menus to make sure the dishes they’re offering are like for like.”

“They are” the man insists, “but I’d rather eat with you, so if there’s anything you can do on the price we’d seriously look at eating here”.

The waitress thinks about it for a second. “If you don’t have dessert after your meal it will reduce the price to £19 per person, how about that?” she asks.

The man thinks about it for a minute before he replies “No, we want to have dessert at the end of our meal.  What if my wife and I choose not to have one of the sides, like chips or coleslaw; will that bring the price down any further?”

“I’m afraid not sir, they come as part of the meal”, replies the waitress, “but let me speak to my manager and see what we can do. Are you ok to wait for a couple of minutes?”

waitress despair

The man nods and she promptly disappears into the kitchen.

After a few minutes she returns, “I can offer to discount your meal by 10% if you eat with us right now”, she says triumphantly.

The man pauses again, “Ok, let me think about it.  If I take your name I’ll go and speak to my wife and we’ll come back to you later on.”

The waitress, not wanting to lose a tipping customer, says “We are very busy tonight and this is the last table we have free.  I can’t guarantee this table will be available later when you come back. Why don’t you give her a call now?”

“I can’t”, says the man, “she’s driving”. 

“Ok”, replies the waitress “Tell you what; I’ll hold the table for you”

The waitress suddenly seems oblivious to the ever growing queue of hungry tipping diners eager to get a table.

The man smiles, “Thanks, I really appreciate that.  If we decide to eat here we’ll come back later”

“Great” replies the waitress, “My name is Darcy.  I look forward to seeing you later”

The man leaves the restaurant unfed.

kick out door

This seems a bit unlikely, right?

Yet somehow it seems to be completely acceptable to do this when buying other things like cars, houses and heroin…HOLIDAYS, I meant holidays.

I work in travel and believe me; customers try this on all the time.

What they’re essentially saying to the sales agent is “I don’t believe you.  I think you’re trying to rob me with overly inflated prices. You sound nice but we all know, deep down, you’re a thieving bastard; give me more free shit now!”

We wouldn’t do this when buying clothing, or getting a haircut, or at the supermarket checkout, or with a pimp.

I would love the waitress to say something like: “If you’ve had such a great price elsewhere, then please feel free to fuck completely off to some shitpit and do that. Clearly there’s something about the other restaurant that’s stopping you because you’re sat here, in front of me, giving me shit about our prices.

“So no, you can’t have a discount. This is the price of our food; deal with it.

“Look at the queue at the door.

“Check out the lack of empty tables.

“If you want to eat here and find out what good food is really all about, pay the price we’ve printed on the menu and shut the fuck up.

“Now, what would you like to drink, sir?”

water splash waitress

It doesn’t work in the travel industry.

Unfortunately.