Bloggers get better service? A poll.

I was taking photos at a restaurant today, my dining companion patiently waiting as i tried 4 or 5 different angles, when some other patrons and serving staff peered over at our table. No one said anything, but you heard the whispered question “what is he doing”?

My dining companion asked me – “you reviewing this place or something *laugh*”, like it was a good joke. Uhh, no, just taking pictures for my blog. The server’s eyebrows arched a bit, the other table shrugged and went back to their meal, and life returned to normal.

While the service at this establishment is generally excellent, we noticed that the server would patiently explain each course, and would frequently stop by to top up our waters. A beer we didnt like was comped. Now im sure it may have all been coincidence because we were sitting next to their station, but over time, i’ve noticed that many servers seem to be a bit more generous with their time when after i’ve pulled a camera out.

I generally try to be discrete, but in many open concept rooms, i find it extremely difficult and give up. Whenever possible, i prefer to palm my camera, and only take pictures after our server has left the vicinity. However, any observant server would notice pretty quickly. And while I feel a bit guilty, I prefer to get good photos, then have cell phone photos. I have always wondered though, what impact this photo taking has.

My question for all our readers is this: do you think, when you break out a camera, or take notes on a meal, that you generally get a better level of service? Should bloggers, to try and remain as impartial as possible, do everything within their power to hide their photo activities?


5 thoughts on “Bloggers get better service? A poll.

  1. To get the poll started hopefully, allow me to chime in with my thoughts on this issue…

    Perhaps its because I try very hard to be as discrete as possible and garner as little attention from both servers and other customers who may be around me while shooting my images, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this phenomenon. Granted even the few times that I have been “caught”, I’ve noted no change in service, be it a positive or negative swing. As well, I’ve never been approached verbally with any questions either as to what I may have been doing with my camera above the table.

    I think its a personality issue, but myself, I try to be as respectful as possible. And maybe its because I take the photography craft too seriously, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to capture and visualize in the composition and with my settings BEFORE I whip the digital beast out, that enables me to do my guerrilla attack without drawing any eyes to me. That way I get what I want, with minimal distraction to anyone else who may be in the room.

  2. Heck, I got caught sneaking a pic of the (awful) display case at El Cubano at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. Never mind me sleuthing in a top notch joint.

    However I would feel not so good getting different treatment, just because I tell some people. It distorts the whole concept of being objective. I like to get comped for gambling (deservedly so), not for my dribbles.

  3. When I go out to take pictures, I don’t shy away that fact. Actually, I leave my camera on the table, basically telling the everybody on sight “I am here to take pictures”. Of course, unless there is a “no picture” policy, in which case I might be tempted to take a snapshot or two with my cell phone. Please notice I do this when I am on my own (which is over 75% of the time). If I am with somebody, it depends how comfortable would be the situation. I mean, if it is a date, I will certainly not take the camera out; if it is after-hours drinks with colleages, it is fair game. However, I might have a difficult time between explaining why I want to take pictures and trying to snap some pictures before the start to dig in. Unlike shokutsu, my picture taking skills are still work in progress so it takes me a little while to make sure I end up with a good shot.

    Have I gotten better service because I have a camera beside me? So far, not even a single instance, though it has resulted sometimes in odd interaction with the staff (this is specially true when I have been told not to take pictures after the fact). Now, I must expand a little bit here:

    1) Most restaurants I have been to don’t care I take pictures of the food, although some places might not want you to take pictures of the staff and/or operations (this is specially true in open kitchens). The last point is completely understandable.
    2) So far, I have had one place (Save-on-Meats Coffee Shop – blog pending) where, after seeing the camera next to me, they asked if I have already taken a picture!
    3) Those with a “no picture” policy and see my camera there, again, as mentioned above, look at me funny the whole time…

    I must mention I seldom go to fine dining places and I don’t recall a single instance I have been into one with a camera so my experience might be skewed a little bit.

    As for other customers, I simply don’t care about them. They can mumble all they want, I am paying for my meal so they should let me be. Of course, if I am taking a picture of them (which I usually try not to), that’s another thing.

  4. If you suspect you are receiving preferential treatment, bonus. That’s the restaurant’s decision. I don’t think it’s a good thing, but if they want to do it that’s their call. My only pet peeve with cameras is the flash. I don’t eat out much at high end spots, but I have had times where my experience would have been perfect if it weren’t for the tool taking pictures with the flash on.

  5. Peter V – i agree 100%. In fact, i think flash should be banned from restaurants… it’s very disconcerting to have it keep going off during dinner. I never use it. Besides, it washes the colors out.

    KimHo – good point about capturing other people. We have to be careful about how the shot is composed so we don’t inadvertently broadcast images of people who don’t wish for it to happen.

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