Bern’s Steak House restaurant Tampa filet mignon
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Compensation — Or Have It Done Right the First Time?

W ould you rather have something done right the first time and happily pay for it; or would you rather have something go wrong — sometimes more than once — and receive compensation for it?

Compensation — Or Have It Done Right the First Time?

I recently dined out in a restaurant where I ordered a steak with a doneness of medium well — which at this particular place meant a slight amount of pink inside.

When the steak was first served to me, the server advised that I cut it open to ensure that it was exactly the way I ordered it.

I did; and the doneness was not even close, as the steak was completely red inside. Some restaurants call the doneness blue or blue rare; and some people would have said that the cow was still mooing. I politely showed the server the inside and asked to please send it back, which she did.

My steak returned several minutes later. When I cut it open again, the inside was almost completely pink; and I again showed this result to the server. She brought it back to be cooked further; and at this time, I was the only person at the table who was not eating, which can be slightly awkward.

This time, a different person — I am not certain if he was a chef or the manager — brought out my steak. I cut it open a third time; and there it was: slightly pink.

“I took this one off,” he said.

“Off the grill?” I asked, confused.

“No,” he responded. “I took this one off of the check. This one is on us.”

After I sat there slightly stunned, I thanked him.

Although the steak was now the perfect temperature, it had lost some of that flavor that you can only get after cooking it once. The steak was still delicious; but the flavor began to slightly resemble that of the taste of leftover steak. I could not complain, though — an excellent job of service recovery was performed at the restaurant.

A discussion then ensued at the table about which is preferable: paying full price for a steak fresh off of the fire the first time; or getting a steak cooked a third time free of charge.

As you might imagine, opinions varied.


Frequent travel is filled with product and service anomalies due to myriad factors. Use the word compensation as a search term for titles only on FlyerTalk and the result will be literally hundreds of discussions pertaining to discounts on services — or getting them free altogether.

One of the most popular forms of compensation is known as the “bump” where a flight is oversold and a passenger receives compensation in the form of a currency of sorts to be used on a future flight. In fact, one of the first articles which I wrote on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 for The Gate was about scoring a “bump”:

Airlines sometimes overbook flights for various reasons and request volunteers to take a later flight in exchange for some compensation. That compensation can be in the form of a cash voucher, meals, lodging, a credit of an amount of miles or points, an upgrade on your next flight, a free flight, or a combination thereof. The best — and weirdest — thing of all is that when you thank the airline official who gave you the compensation, more often than not that person will thank you because you actually did the airline a favor!

For example, I had received a $300.00 voucher on Northwest Airlines due to volunteering to be “bumped” from an oversold flight. I used that voucher to pay for another flight, from which I again volunteered to be “bumped” due to weight restrictions. I received another $300.00 good for a future Northwest Airlines flight!

Being “bumped” can be great if you have the time — some people claimed to know the secret pertaining to how to score a “bump” — but if you have to attend an important meeting, a “bump” would most likely be the last thing on your mind.

As for me, I suppose the answer to the question depends on the situation: as with the case with the steak, I would typically prefer to get the product or service done right the first time and pay for it rather than experience an anomaly or failure and get it for a reduced cost — or even free of charge…

…although I will certainly never forget the time where I thought I had booked too much time in Europe and was happy when a “bump” opportunity arose when I received a voucher for greater than twice the amount of what I paid for the ticket in the first place — and hotel accommodations for one night with dinner and breakfast and an upgrade to a seat in the business class cabin was thrown in as well. That was one time where I would have rather received the compensation…

…but I am curious as to your opinion. I suppose it would depend on the situation with you as well; but which would you rather have — compensation where you save money on an error or failure of product or service; or pay full price to have what you wanted correctly the first time?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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