These are the ethics conundrums that drive me nuts.
After a very hard week, a large, late-arriving check from a client relieved our intermittent cash flow anxiety (“This is the life we have chosen!”—Hyman Roth), so we decided to indulge ourselves with a carry-out feast from the best Chinese restaurant in the area, the Peking Gourmet Inn, famous for its Peking Duck and President George H.W. Bush’s frequent visits during his White House residency. I’d say it’s one of the three best Chinese restaurants I’ve ever had the pleasure to dine at, though it would be hard to top a little place we discovered in London, with this caveat: the Peking Gourmet egg rolls with garlic sauce are the best egg rolls I can imagine, and no, even that miraculous place in Kensington couldn’t match them.
But I digress. It’s a longish drive to the restaurant, and the food isn’t cheap: our order of a whole duck, Salt and Pepper Shrimp ( another specialty), and two orders each of egg rolls and (for my son, who loves them) steamed pork dumplings came to $115. The pungent smell of the shrimp nearly drove me mad on the way home; no wonder those DoorDash drivers eat the food so often. When I arrived home, drooling, everything was perfect, as usual, except for some pangs because we missed the ritual of tossing fortune cookies to Rugby, our recently departed and still deeply mourned Jack Russell Terrier. Rugby would circle excitedly awaiting his treat, which I would toss high in the air. He would pounce on the cookies, rip open the wrappers, and eat delicate things with gusto, pausing only to spit out the fortunes.
Well, everything was almost perfect: the restaurant had inexplicably left the Peking Duck pancakes out of the bag. Without pancakes, Peking Duck isn’t Peking Duck, it’s just incredibly delicious duck meat, crunchy, yummy skin, with green onions and sauce.
So the question loomed: what was the correct response? I sure wasn’t going to drive back and pick up the pancakes. Should I call and complain, just to complain? I didn’t feel like ruining dinner by including an adversarial phone conversation. (This would also be complicated by the fact that the staff is very Chinese—I can seldom understand them, and typically have to repeat orders many times.) Should I call the next day? And demand what? Even without the pancakes, the duck was fantastic, perfect, and gave both my wife and I two great meals each.
On the other hand, there is the principle of the thing: if one pays 48 bucks for Peking Duck, one should get the whole dish, including pancakes.
On the OTHER hand (that’s three hands, if you lost count), we’ve been patrons of that restaurant for over 30 years. We’ve had birthday parties, celebrations, holiday gatherings there. The experience, service and food have always been perfect in every respect—until the missing pancakes. Is the ethical response just to let it go? Or is there an obligation to alert the perfectionist eatery that there’s a sub-par pancake loader lurking among the staff?
I would apply the Golden Rule, but I’m not sure how I would think if I were a Chinese restaurant.
Tell me what is right, here. And great, just writing that has made me lust for more Peking Duck: