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Quan’s Kitchen’s Distasteful Service

Vivek Rao

“Quan’s Kitchen.” To most MIT students, those two words conjure up images of chicken vegetable fried noodles and scallion pancakes. For me, however, it is a restaurant that betrays the good faith of its customers, and will do anything to make a buck.

For those of you unfamiliar with Quan’s Kitchen, it is a restaurant located on Commonwealth Avenue that specializes in Chinese cuisine. While there are tables where people can eat, the majority of the store’s business comes in the form of take-out and delivery orders, a large number of which are placed by local college students. The Quan’s menu is very diverse, with nearly 200 items, and the restaurant cannot be faulted in that regard. Dishes range from standard Chinese appetizers such as spring rolls and boneless spareribs to a number of varied beef, poultry, and pork dishes. Prices, though not cheap by college student standards, are reasonable, with a majority of meals falling in the six to ten dollar range. Clearly, with its vast menu and affordable prices, Quan’s has the potential to be a top ordering option. Unfortunately, shoddy service, which can give a bad taste to even the best cooked meals, will surely be the restaurant’s downfall.

Though I have only lived in the Cambridge area for a little over three months, I ordered food from Quan’s a dozen times or so -- yes, Aramark food is that bad -- before I realized the error of my ways. One disturbing theme I found during that time was a consistent overcharging on the part of the restaurant’s accountants. Like a gas station attendant who pumps those extra three or four times just to round your price up, Quan’s, I have found, will often add thirty cents to one dish, get the tax slightly wrong, and add up the bill to read higher than it should be. The net result is that customers frequently find themselves paying just a bit more than they should be; not enough, mind you, for it to be worth making a complaint to the restaurant, but enough that it can get irritating, and certainly enough for Quan’s to gradually make a little more money.

I am not saying for certain that Quan’s purposely overcharged me on multiple occasions, but I would find it hard to believe that they simply made arithmetic errors, over and over and over again. Even if I were to give them the benefit of the doubt that these glitches were simply the result of human error and not intentional greed -- something which I am not exactly prepared to do -- there is still a trend of overcharging that can be very frustrating to the customer.

Yet this transgression pales in comparison with the restaurant’s greatest offense: the poor attitude of the employees who answer the phone for all delivery orders. Among the most important aspects of any eatery -- or any business, for that matter -- is good customer service, and that is where Quan’s falls far short. It would be unfair of me to generalize my criticism of the Quan’s staff, but I will say that on many occasions, I have found the employees to be rude, uninformative, and sometimes downright mean. To illustrate this, let me give a couple of anecdotes.

On the first occasion, I placed an order, and was told that the food would arrive in about 30 minutes. I waited about an hour before calling again and asking where the food was. Told that the food was already on its way, I waited again, only to call again about 20 minutes later. This time, the employee, who apparently recognized my voice from the previous time, apparently decided that it was I who was in the wrong, telling me that I didn’t need to call and that it would get there soon. Rather than making an effort to resolve the situation, she basically told me to just wait and keep my mouth shut until they felt it was fit and proper to deliver my food. Eventually, after another moderate wait, the food arrived.

Then, about a month ago, I ordered from Quan’s for the last time. Having failed to learn from previous experiences, I opted for scallion pancakes, while my friend chose pork chow mein with crispy noodles. Surprisingly, the food arrived rather promptly. However, my friend noticed that her pork chow mein had not come with the crunchy noodles, which are usually in a small, separate packet.

Logically I called the restaurant, politely told them the situation, and requested that they drop off some crunchy noodles to solve the problem.

At first, the employee assumed that I had barely looked in the bag, and she asked me to check again. I hardly thought that was unreasonable, so I looked some more, until I was absolutely positive there were no noodles. It was then, however, that she took on a more vigilant tone. Repeatedly, for about five minutes, she told me to look again, saying that she was sure that they were there. Whenever I replied they were not there, she would ask me to look again.

After a solid waste of time, she finally eased up and said the driver would deliver the noodles as soon as possible. If only the story ended there. About 30 minutes later, the noodles still had not arrived when the same employee called my room. My roommate answered the phone. While you may assume that she had called to explain the cause of the delay, she instead launched into what may only be deemed a tirade. The exact words sound almost comical.

“God knows who really ate the noodles,” she said. “What goes around comes around.” As my roommate listened in stunned disbelief, I decided that enough is enough. A restaurant that is so stingy that they will assault a customer’s integrity and accuse him of deceit and lying instead of giving up a few cents worth of noodles will never have my business.

It seems that Quan’s Kitchen, or at very least a few of the employees who work there, have yet to understand one of the chief principles of good business: trust between the customer and the store. If Quan’s refuses to trust me when I say that I have not received my noodles, then I refuse to believe them when they claim to serve food promptly, at listed prices, and with good service.

While many of you may have had nothing but good experiences with the restaurant, I would only caution you that you should not be surprised if you get cheated, lied to, or even yelled at or insulted by a Quan’s Kitchen employee.