An article from the county I grew up in just came across my Twitter feed: Customer Protests Restaurant Over Fish Fry. It was pretty short, so I'll just paste the whole thing here:

THIENSVILLE, Wis. (AP) -- A restaurant customer in Ozaukee County is protesting after he was cut off from the establishment's all-you-can-eat fish fry.

At 6 feet 6 inches and 350 pounds, Bill Wisth acknowledges he can pack away more fish than the average guy. But, Wisth wants Chuck's Place in Thiensville to live up to its all-you-can-eat advertising.

After Wisth ate a dozen pieces of fish last Friday, a waitress refused to bring more. The restaurant says it was running out of fish and patience. They sent Wisth on his way with eight more pieces. Wisth called the village police. And he came back two days later with a picket sign.

Waitress Elizabeth Roeming tells WTMJ-TV says they've tried to work with Wisth over the years, even letting him run a tab that he hasn't paid off.

On one hand, I think there should be truth in advertising. On the other hand, there are rules and then there is the spirit of the rules. Obviously the restaurant intended to provide an amount of fish that any reasonable person would eat. However, when you provide a free or 'unlimited' service there is always someone who is going to try to take advantage of you. 1

Fish throttling

It seems that the restaurant only has two options:

  1. Honor their policy and provide free food until the man explodes into a smelly puddle of cod, or
  2. Stop providing "all you can eat fish", which would be as depressing to the people of Wisconsin as seeing a once beloved Packers quarterback going to play for the Vikings.

However, there is a third option. The restaurant could take a page out of the cable company's and cell phone industry's handbook. They too have offered unlimited services like Unlimited Data! Now, to me this means you can use their data in an all-you-can eat fashion: As much as you want, when you want. But, again, people take advantage of this. When AT&T realized people were watching nonstop Netflix movie marathons on the backbone of cell phone network, well, they decided something had to change. That's when they started throttling.

Throttling is officially defined this way:

  1. Attack or kill (someone) by choking or strangling them.
  2. Control (an engine or vehicle) with a throttle.

Although both those definitions seem apt, I'll quote the definition Wikipedia uses for this context:

Bandwidth throttling is a reactive measure employed in communication networks in an apparent attempt to regulate network traffic and minimize bandwidth congestion.

In short, if you spend all your free time watching Planet of the Apes movies over 3G on your iPhone you'll be labeled a bandwidth hog. Just like the guy who pigs out on all the fish, this isn't fair to everyone else. As a consequence AT&T will still provide bandwidth, but they'll slow it down to a trickle - the the point where watching your stinkin' monkey movie will be a miserable experience.

So, to loop around back to the Fish Fry restaurant, I think they should do something similar. Keep the fish coming . . . until you've had 8 pieces. Then, still keep it coming . . . but one one piece every half hour. That way they'll be honoring their commitment but they'll be conserving the fish for their other patrons. In addition, they'll make the dining experience for the person abusing the system so miserable that he'll hopefully just go away. Or, more likely, he'll petulantly occupy a table all night and make everyone else uncomfortable. Still, he can't do that every Friday night, can he?

  1. I have to admit, I've been guilty of this myself. I'm a relatively skinny guy, but I've been known to really pack away the food - especially when I was an active youth. When I was in college the local Hardees made the mistake of offering all-you-can-eat chicken. Four large friends and myself decided to partake. For the first half hour a employee came by with a basket of chicken and refilled our plates. For the following half hour we had to go up to the counter and ask for more. For the hour after that they hid out of sight in the back. Yes, they were chicken throttling. By the next day all the "all-you-can-eat" signs had been taken down.
AuthorTodd Zarwell