[Editor's Note: I learned a few years ago this restaurant is under new management, and that the new management has corrected the problem with drink refills. More recently, in 2004, I was informed the pizza place is no longer there. It has been replaced by Coldwell Banker Best Realty.]
This is a story about my visit to the Lamppost Pizza restaurant at
765 Tucker Rd
Tehachapi, CA 93561
It wasn't a pleasant experience. . .
On Sunday, October 18, 1998, after a delightful morning picking pumpkins at Two Brothers Farm in Tehachapi, I walked into the pizza restaurant with my wife Catherine and three kids. We looked at the menu for a minute or two. The menu was half a dozen panels with large, clear lettering on the back wall. We decided we would get a large pepperoni pizza, antipasto salad for two, buffalo wings, and five small drinks.
I stood in front of the cash register, looking at a slack-jawed boy who was pressing its buttons. He stared at the register for a while, then pressed a button. He stared some more, then pressed another button. He never looked up. I must have been there a minute or so before I started shifting my weight from my left foot to my right foot and back. He didn't look up. I cleared my throat. Finally, he looked up. He stared at me. (Now I knew how the cash register felt.)
I started off by ordering the antipasto salad for two. He said, "how many?" I said "one antipasto salad for two". Then he said, "is that one, or two?" I asked him to turn around and look at the menu. He continued to stare at me while I pointed at the menu and counted, "one, two, three, four, the fifth panel from the left, second item from the bottom. It says 'antipasto salad for two, $4.99' That's what I want." After staring at me for a few more seconds, he went into the back room, where a man was making pizza. The slack-jawed boy had a few words with the man, then he came back to the register, pressed a button, then looked up at me again.
My inner advice columnist was telling me, "Run away! Don't look back!" but instead I continued ordering our family lunch. The process was slow. The drink order confused the boy, and that was partly my fault. I mixed up the drink order, and ended up with an extra Sprite and too few Cokes. I had changed the drink order in mid-stream once, and was afraid to do it again. I asked the boy about refills thinking I would just down the Sprite and then refill it with Coke, and all would be well. He said refills cost a quarter. OK, I thought, not free, as in most restaurants but still not a bad deal.
The antipasto salad came right away, and I enjoyed it. Now I'm thinking maybe I overreacted. Yes, it took five minutes to complete my order, but the order had been taken, that's the important thing. I finished my Sprite, and was ready to refill it with Coke. By this time two or three groups of customers had accumulated by the cash register. I went up to the counter, and saw Slackjaw by the soda machine. I asked him if I could get refills without waiting in that line. He said no, I would have to wait in the line. That stinks, I thought. I didn't want to wait in that line. I shouldn't have to wait in the line.
In less time than it took to place the order, the rest of our food arrived at the table. Now Caitlin and my son Matthew needed refills. The whole refill thing was getting to me. I was too annoyed to eat the pizza, so I took my kids' cups and went up to the end of the line by the cash register. Now there were four groups ahead of me, including all of the people who had been there the last time I looked. Matthew felt bad that I wasn't eating the pizza, and offered to get his own refill. I told Matthew the pizza didn't matter to me any more; I was going to stand here until I got my refill. I overheard some people in the line complaining that it was taking too long. One lady asked her friend whether drink refills were free, so I butted into her conversation to say they weren't free, and furthermore, they make you stand on this line. I had plenty of time to get angrier and angrier.
I waited in that line for ten minutes before Catherine came up to me and said "let's go". Matthew was still thirsty, so we decided to go to Albertson's supermarket. I was angry. I still needed to vent. As Catherine and the kids were leaving, I asked Slackjaw to get his boss. While Slackjaw as talking to the man and pointing in my direction I was thinking why should I do this? Why should I help this guy by giving him the benefit of my opinion? Before I could change my mind and bolt, the man came over to me. I told him the service was too slow and too stupid. (Maybe I said "stupid" because I wanted to put him on the defensive -- I didn't want him to benefit from my advice.) I told him I had waited TEN MINUTES in line to get my KIDS' REFILLS, and didn't have a chance to eat ANY PIZZA, and NOW I'M LEAVING!!
He held up his hand, twinkled his fingers, smiled (for the first time that day, probably) and said, "Bye."
At Albertson's, we each enjoyed a cool, refreshing drink. The staff at Albertson's helped us find what we wanted, and processed our order quickly, and with a smile. On our way out of the store, I contributed heavily to the Knights of Columbus who were collecting donations. Then I asked what the donations are for. The Knight replied, "to help the mentally retarded". How ironic.
P.S. In the interest of providing a balanced presentation, I should let you know that Tehachapi resident Bruce Trausch sent me an email on Wednesday, August 16, 2000 to set me straight. He wrote,
"That story is a lie because i [sic] live in Tehachapi and I always go to Lampost [sic] Pizza and know that you fill up your own drinks and it doesnt [sic] cost a cent. Since I knwo [sic] this story is not true because I know about the refills and such I think it was very rude to post this site for the world to see . I am soo mad, how dare you insult that place.
I sent Bruce an email that said,
I thank you sincerely for your email. Unless you object, I will include your viewpoint at the end of this web page, and I updated the editor's note at the top to point out that the new management has put the drink machine in the public area. This will make a more balanced presentation. I'm glad you have never had bad service there. You should know, though, that the drink machine was behind the counter in October of 1998. I didn't lie about anything in my story (what would be my motivation for lying?), and as you read, I admitted some of the responsibility for the mix-ups that happened that day.
Do you have an opinion about this? I would love to hear it -- the more illiterate and illogical the better!