Applebee's was offering free meals to veterans on Veterans' Day, something I wanted to take advantage of. Sweetie and I made plans to go, including BabyGirl when I got a last-minute call to babysit. Lunch fit better in our schedule that day, so mid-day, off we went.
The local restaurant was packed, but we only waited a moment before being greeted. The cheerful young woman asked Sweetie, "are you a veteran?" He grinned and gestured to me, so I got the special menu. Then off to our table.
Our server was wonderful, bringing crayons for BabyGirl and otherwise making sure we had all we needed for her comfort, and a bit later bringing us our food.
A man identifying himself as a manager was making the rounds, chatting with the veterans. He stopped at the table to one side of ours, asking the male half of the couple there if he were a veteran. He was, so the manager stayed for a moment, making friendly veteran-related chitchat. Next, he stopped at our table, where he admired BabyGirl before moving to the table to the other side of us and asking the three men sitting there if any of them were veterans. They all were, so he stayed for a moment, making friendly veteran-related chitchat before moving on.
That annoyed me just a bit. Both not being addressed at the door and then not being asked about veteran status by the manager. So, me being me, I sent an email to the "contact us" spot on the website. In the email, I wrote that the staff needed to ask all diners about veteran status, as not all of us were male, grizzled, tattooed, or otherwise fitting the stereotype of a veteran. I also made it clear that otherwise our experience was just fine, mentioning our wonderfully helpful server by name.
The response to that was more annoying than being overlooked. It was so obviously canned, stating as it did that whoever was responding was sorry our experience had been so disappointing and asking which restaurant we'd been at.
I answered that one, saying again that our experience had been fine (otherwise) and our server was wonderful (again mentioning her by name, and telling which restaurant we'd visited), but reiterated that the reason for my email was to ask Applebee's to remind ALL the staff at ALL their restaurants to ask all arriving diners "are there any veterans in your party," because dollars to doughnuts, atypical veterans were overlooked at other restaurants. That was all I wanted, an acknowledgement of my reminder that not all veterans had service-related ballcaps or tattoos, that some of us look like friendly grandmas out for lunch.
Then I got an email from someone identifying himself as the manager of the restaurant where we'd eaten, asking me to call him. I sent him an email, saying our experience at his restaurant had been fine other than the veteran issue (and complimenting that lovely server again), and making clear that my initial email was to remind Applebee's corporate that veterans came in all sorts, so when readying next year's free meal event, they remind all their employees/staff/franchisees of that. I also said I hoped I hadn't gotten him into trouble.
In response to that, I got another email from the corporate folks (I think) saying they had contacted the franchise that owned the restaurant that we'd dined at, and asking to be notified if they hadn't contacted me and made it all better.
Never mind what I wrote back to that one, as I was pretty annoyed with Applebee's customer service by that time. At no point did anyone in customer service (or the one person, if it was the same person each time) make any response that indicated they'd understood what I'd written about or that they were taking it under advisement.
Applebee's, if you're listening, veterans come in all sorts. All ages, all sizes and shapes and colors, male and female. Next Veterans' Day, if you're giving free meals to veterans again, I'll be at our local restaurant and I expect to be asked, "are there any veterans in your party?" Don't look at Sweetie and ask him only him, don't ask only those with external signs of their service, just ask EVERYONE who might possibly be old enough to have signed up.
But I'm not holding my breath.