Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Visit to Bungalow 9 - a lesson in Hubris.

As a comparatively new blogger (I only started this May) I was thrilled to receive an invitation from the Social Media Div., Percept Profile to visit and dine at Bungalow 9 - a restaurant they represent. They wanted to host me at their restaurant, wanted me to meet the Chef, and then write about my experience on my blog. I was thrilled and replied back in the affirmative. Ms Priyanka called me up and insisted that me and my wife come and experience a 'true fine dining experience' at Bungalow 9 a property which was represented by her company. We fixed Monday the 14th of November at 8.30pm. She was very solicitous of my comfort and recommended the outside seating as the weather was pleasant and confirmed to me that Monday would be perfect as the Chef wanted to meet and speak to me and that his day-off was on Tuesdays. Armed with all this, a careful perusal of the restaurants website, and a bucket of confidence I convinced Rhea (my wife) to drive all the way across town (45km away) with me to have dinner on a week-day (read working day) evening. 

We arrived after a 95 minute drive and gave our car to the valet and sauntered into the premises of Bungalow 9. Upon being greeted by the usher I gave them my name and informed them that I had a table for 8.30pm. They looked blankly at me and informed me that there was no reservation in my name. This is when it all began to unravel. I informed them that I had been invited here and told them that I was expected. The Maitre d' - or someone I suppose was the maitre d' - then came up and asked me who I was ... I gave him my visiting card and once again repeated that I had been invited here on this day at this time by the corporation involved in promoting their restaurant using social media. He looked blankly at me and pointed out that neither was my name on the reservations list nor had their business partners informed him of any such event. He went on to inform me that in such a scenario Percept Profile promptly emailed all details to the restaurant followed by a telephonic confirmation and that the restaurant had received no such missive or communication. He offered me a seat and led me to a small corner sofa instead of a table whilst I desperately tried to bring up the email details on my phone. To my increasing chagrin there was very low coverage and the phone couldn't access my emails. I then reiterated the same (previously mentioned) details to the maitre d' who looked at me in a rather doubtful fashion and informed me that there was no such communication and that if I so desired a table could be made available as they were not full up. By this time I was mortified, deeply embarrassed and had a very highly upset spouse at my side. I decided I had had enough and left.

An hour later after having caught up with an old friend and having accessed my email over her iPad I was in the process of dialing Ms Priyanka when she called. She informed me that she had been in a meeting and had just received a call from the restaurant and that there seemed to have been some mix-up. She continued to assure me that it was obviously just human error and that she had made a booking (for 2) and had confirmed the same with the restaurant, I then informed her that the restaurant had stuck the reservation book under my nose and that there was no booking in my name, surname or in the name of her company. Her reaction was - Oh! 

She then told me that it was a human error and that her colleague/junior had probably bungled it and that the restaurant had confused everything because I asked for a table for 8!! I was completely flummoxed ... there were just two of us at the restaurant and I had specified the same to the usher and the maitre d'. She asked if I could go right back to the restaurant, I declined. She promised that that she/the company/the restaurant would make this up to me and that she hoped that I understood this was just human error and that this could happen anywhere. I was with a friend and a rather irate spouse not to mention deeply embarrassed and insulted - I refrained from further conversation.

It was a rather expensive lesson in humility and in my father's old adage - there is nothing like a free lunch.

I have eaten at Mumbai's and India's best restaurants, both fancy and simple, and at some absolute dives ... in all my years I had never experienced this. I realised it was a fitting reply to my hubris. I was embarrassed, humiliated and insulted that too by someone whom I had never met and who appeared to have been asking a favour of me!! I will probably never visit Bungalow 9 ever again and I doubt very much whether I will ever take up an invite of this kind. 

I have been in the food business for the last 35 years (I was seven when my Mum started the business) and this has definitely been a new and unique experience. I understand mistakes happen. We have made them too ... but when one occurs you try and smooth them over ASAP, you pull out all the stops and bend over backwards ... I waited all day today for a call ... there was none. Neither was there any email. 

I wonder if this is how PR people treat all their targets or was this just for some blogger who didn't deserve any better? 

I received a call from a very distraught Ms Priyanka, 45 mins after I posted the above blog,  who was very hurt that my wife and I held her and her company responsible. She told me that she would forward the email she had sent to Manasi of Bungalow 9. I told her I would append the same in her defense.

I then received a very polite call from Ms Irani the owner of the restaurant who said she had been informed of the incident and that whilst she she hadn't read my blog she'd like to tender an unconditional apology with no excuses whatsoever. She asked me to drop by anytime ... if nothing else for a coffee and a chat. I was very happy and felt somewhat mollified by her call.

Upon going home I opened my mail to find Priyanka's forwarded email. To add insult to injury it mentioned someone else's blog as mine and had that blog's statistics appended to the same. What I had thought was just plain 'human error' was actually gross negligence. I am pasting below her email.

Priyanka's email to me:
 Dear Kurush,
This is further to our conversation as to where Percept was not at fault in this miscommunication. Below is an email sent to the representative at Bungalow 9 about booking a table for 2 with all other preferences.
At no given point was Percept misinformed or has not informed the concerned representatives at Bungalow 9.
I hope this email below clarifies Percept’s point of view.
Priyanka Agrawal
Sr. Consultant- Digital Media
Percept Profile (A Division of Percept Limited), P-2, Level A3, Raghuvanshi Estate, 11/12 SB Marg, Lower Parel (West),

Her email to Manasi at Bungalow 9:
Dear Manasi,
Mr. Kurush Dalal of The Sassy Fork would like to visit Bungalow 9 on Monday, 14th November, 2011 for dinner at 8.30pm. He is visiting the restaurant with his wife and would prefer to sit outdoor.

Blog Details:
Profile Views: 1200+
No. of followers: 75+
Total Page Views: 58,000+

Priyanka Agrawal

I leave the judgement to the readers.


  1. Sush!!! Of course you deserved better! Am embarrassed to be in the advertising business (ok its not PR, but it's pat of the same mix) after reading your post.

  2. Hey Kurush,

    Sorry about what you went through at Bungalow 9, thanks to an irresponsible PR agent. Been listening to the thread on Mumbai Bloggers from Megha. You guys seem to have made up with a good laugh at the misguided soul.

    However, we run a dinner at a similar bungalow a few feet away from Bungalow 9 and make our own invites, no guest lists and no checks. No reviews and I promise, the chef will dine with you and build a relation rather than use PR.

  3. Sad. They could have easily rectified their error (you are right we all make mistakes) by just apologizing & offering you a table instantly. There was such a simple solution to this & they screwed it up so badly.

  4. Blooddy disgusting! In any case I think they r overpriced for their fare!

  5. Kurush, I was really angry to see the way you guys were treated. Must have been a horrid experience.

    Guess the restaurant& the PR agency's ham handed attempts to get publicity through barter ended up in a lot of ill will for them

  6. Kurush, you should be glad that you didnt get to eat at the restaurant, I have visited it about four times and every time the food has only got worse. I can understand if a restaurant has one bad day but four???!! The only thing worth a mention here is some chocolate dessert they serve and that too is a premix almost. Its a semi-freddo from an italian company. The sushi sucks as the rice is not the quality that they should be using, its overcooked and tastes slimy and not seperate grains like a Sushi should be. The indiffetent staff is like an insult to injury. Im never going there again.

    A foodie who knows his food.!

  7. Lol...Kurush Dalal of Sassy Fork! On what basis has this assumption been made? The only way to contact me is through my email mentioned on my blog but how they called you up instead defies any logic I am aware of.Anyways since I am not interested in restaurant invites,I am glad it went to you instead :D
    The loss is theirs as they had actually got a far more deserving and interested person to review their restaurant, having been in the catering business so long,having had such a famous mother associated with food besides being such an accomplished archaeologist and a humorous person yourself.
    Even if you hadn't been all those things Kurush,you should have been treated well.
    People in the PR segment are so lucky....they have a golden chance to interact with so many different people everyday and expand their horizons.Needless to say...unless they work with a love for people in their hearts, they cannot shine at their work nor be happy people.Let's be nice to each other, folks, in this time we are lucky to share! Age no bar!

  8. You should put up this negligence of percept profile into Mouthshut.com and as many such places as possible. This Percept Profile and their Ms Priyanka deserves a resouding kick at where the sun doesn't shine!!

  9. Must add that when I have dined at Bungalow 9 in the past,I have had good service and food.

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