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We’ve all been there: the last-minute phone call to a restaurant to see ifwe can possibly, pretty please squeeze in a reservation for that evening. It’s no doubt exasperating for the host/hostess/reservationist but all it requires on their end is simple one-word response: “No.” Done. We’re on to the next phone call.

Last week, on the other hand, the wife dialed up Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown to see if they had anything available on a Friday night. The person on the other end sounded a bit freaked when Carrie called around 7:15 to see how the wait was. “Oh, no, not right now” came the response.

Fine, Carrie said. How ’bout later? In an hour or so? The Ping Pong person told her, sure, 8:15 would be fine. We both had our doubts.

Sure enough, when Carrie arrived first at Ping Pong, she was met with a line. At least two other parties were waiting for a table. When Carrie checked in with the host stand, she was informed that the restaurant was “at capacity for the night” and wouldn’t be taking any more tables. Carrie reminded the employee that she had called, that she had driven from Maryland, that she had specifically asked whether it was cool to just walk in.

They gave her a coupon for a free cocktail and sent her on her way.

This, in short, sounds like a cattle-call practice to encourage walk-ins just to make sure the restaurant is full for the evening, regardless of whether it puts a diner out on the other end. Has anyone had similar experiences at Ping Pong or other restaurants?