“I ate it, but it was terrible.”

“I ate it, but it was terrible.”

I’ve spent a very long time championing the rights of consumers and intervening to get them justice when done down by companies big and small, but there are those consumers - a minority, of course - who connive to get things they aren’t entitled to.

fast food.jpg

I recently gave a presentation on the Consumer Protection Act to the tenants of the Pavilion and during question time, a restaurant owner asked me if she was obliged to refund or replace a meal if the customer had eaten all or almost all of it before complaining and demanding that it be removed from the bill, or that it be replaced with another dish.

Funnily enough, it’s a scenario I raised with KFC just last month when it launched its novel Taste Guarantee.

If your KFC meal is not up to scratch, they’ll replace it. But they are ready for the chancers, I was told.

“Our staff have been trained to be on the lookout for abuse of our Taste Guarantee,” the company’s marketing officer told me.

“There’s no doubt that a small minority will try to abuse the system.” 

 A significant amount of the  “unsatisfactory” product must be returned, in order to get a replacement,  he said.

“We aren’t going to replace a mostly eaten meal.”

But the Pavilion tenant who raised the issue with me, said she’d felt pressurised into replacing meals of people who’d eaten most of them before complaining, especially if they threatened to badmouth the restaurant on social media.

She’s Sumaya Suliman of Jimmy’s Killer Prawns in Gateway, Pavilion and Westwood Mall.

“We try and give them the benefit of the doubt; that’s the kind of business we are in,” she said. "It is a trend that’s worrying us… many threaten to badmouth us on Facebook or some other form of social media…"

So what sort of things do they complain about?

“They’ll say the prawns were bruised, or the rice was hard, or the garlic bread didn’t have enough cheese, the Kashmiri sauce wasn’t as strong as it was last time - but that’s only after they’ve eaten the entire platter or three quarters of it, and then they refuse to pay the bill,” Sumaya said.

She said some leave money for their drinks and then just walk away.  That’s just a form of bilking. Which is a form of theft. You don’t get to flounce off without paying and without giving the restaurant manager or owner the opportunity to engage with you about the problem.

And if you do have a problem with the quality of the meal, the appropriate time to raise it after the second or third mouthful. Don’t eat all or most of it uncomplainingly and then refuse to pay for it or demand a replacement. That’s just not fair. Or right.

Sumaya told me about one customer who ate a meal in the restaurant, without complaint, then ordered the identical one as a takeaway. The next day he phoned to say that the takeaway meal was awful and had made him and his mother ill, and they wanted a replacement meal as compensation…

He apparently couldn’t return the “awful” food because he’d since travelled to Jo’burg.

But what if you are genuinely sick after eating in a restaurant or from a take-away?

Food poisoning does happen. And theoretically the Consumer Protection Act holds the supplier - the entire chain, actually - responsible.


But having investigated a few alleged food poisoning cases, I can tell you that proving it is not easy.

You literally have to have a sample of the meal which allegedly made you ill - doggie bag contents, or left over take-away, plus a sample of the vomit or what emerged from the other end when you were ill - and take both to a path lab, and only if the same pathogens are found in both samples do have proof that it was that particular meal which ‘poisoned” you.

It’s a big ask, but worth remembering if it happens to you - maybe a loved one would oblige on your behalf.

Show's Stories