October 2, 2010

8 Cringe-worthy Customer Antics

By Rebecca

Reading this week’s City Pages list “The 7 habits of highly annoying food servers” got me thinking. First, kudos to City Pages for giving props to the good servers out there, and secondly for nailing the nuances of “annoying” servers on the head. (These servers annoy the good servers, too, as they are the ones skipping out on side work, leaving dirty dishes strewn or just generally getting in the way.)

While some servers just suck, are bitchy, or dish their anger/disappointment with their job to customers unfairly, customers can have some pretty unflattering habits themselves. Here, a reflective look at the eight customer behaviors that incense and degrade, turning dinner out into a hellish day at the office for food servers. While most customers are generally amiable, tip properly according to service and treat their servers like actual people, here’s a rundown of those who don’t:

1. The Obnoxious Interacter
 Waving someone down, especially when they are walking toward you anyway, is obnoxious. So is shaking you glass at your server (which is supposed to mean you need a refill right? I’m not fluent in Caveman) and commenting on how you were “wondering where I’d been!” or “thought I’d never come back!” after you had shooed me away/ignored me ten times in the last 20 minutes as I tried to take your order. Suddenly, you’re starving, and need to order. Right. Now. Meaning that although I have been attentive and have been given strong vibes to leave you alone/not intrude on your highly important conversation (see #3), I shall suddenly drop the tray of food I’m carrying to a neighboring table because you’re waving me down to place an emergency order.

2. Sticker Shock Abusers
 As a server, it is my sole decision to charge $34 for the ribeye, to have a side salads be an upcharge, and to skyrocket the market price on the lobster, and I should be admonished for the appalling price points.  Better yet, don’t ask the price of that glass of wine you ordered, and then balk when it’s $9. I don’t want to assume you’re cheap or insult you by an “Excuse me, sir, you do realize that’s a nine-dollar glass of wine right?” Okay, just checking, since now you think I think you look like a person who can’t swing a nine-dollar glass of wine.

3. The VID/C (Very Important Diners/Conversations)
 How dare I, the lowly bringer of food and drink, approach your table and expect interaction concerning the bringing of said food and drink. I didn’t realize you were out to eat and wanting to be brought cocktails and food without discussion between your server and your table. Yes, your business lunch is important, and that HI-larious story regaling your girlfriend’s dating gaffe is enthralling, but if you want to eat or drink, you’re going to need to take a polite pause from conversation and acknowledge me standing beside your table waiting for a break in conversation to wait on you, or it is sure to turn into an Obnoxious Interaction (see #1).  

4. The Campers
 It’s a free country, and diners can sit as long as they damn well please. Sure, it may bend the unspoken rule of “taking up a table” or whatnot, but generally we servers don’t care. What is rude is when you and your gal pal want to sip water for four hours after your meal, the last sixty minutes of which you refuse water refills and insist there’s nothing else you need in an annoyed manner. You are completely done, and want us to leave you alone already. Yet, you asked for the check, it has been sitting untouched, and we know you will suddenly need it taken care of immediately after sitting there unnoticed forever. (Again, see #1).  If you ask for it, please, pay it in a somewhat timely fashion! If you don’t ask for it, fair enough.  You know you’re going to have to pay eventually anyway, and maybe if you don’t request the check, we won’t feel like we have to stop by every fifteen minutes drowning you in damn water refills.

5. The Common Senseless
 Yes, I know you asked me for some extra dressing. I acknowledged and confirmed I would supply it. I also know that you saw I had a huge tray of plates on my shoulder as I walked by. I could see you stare me down out of the corner of my eye as I handed out your fellow diners at their fare at the neighboring booth. As I grab the now-vacant tray to head back to the kitchen, you repeat coldly “Miss? My dressing? Hello?” Really? You remember that huge tray of hot food I had on my shoulder? Remember seeing me pass it out? That’s right, I haven’t made it back to the kitchen in the last thirty seconds after your request, and I know you realized this, as your gaze was fixed on me the entire time. Unless you have some kind of medical condition that requires more blue cheese stat, I figure you’ll understand that I’m working on it. If you do have this blue-cheese deficiency, maybe grab us by the arm as we walk by with a heavy tray of food. We love that. 

6. The Insult Comics
 A word about the insult comics— they aren’t funny. You want a Rob Roy, dry, up, with blue cheese olives? Got it. No, I got it. Your drink order is not the most sophisticated or complicated part of my day, and there’s no need to do the slow speech/loud voice thing. Also, it’s so hilarious that you joke about me groveling for gratuity, or when the prime rib is out, you comment, “There goes your tip.” Since I do make the all the rules (see #2). Har har har. It amazes you when I can actually split up you and your cronies’ tabs, divide the app in thirds to be shared on the bills, and run your credit card. Wow, pretty good “for a server,” you say. Your server may be studying for her doctorate in psychology for all you know, and may have some insight on why your date looks less than impressed with your flashy ordering (see #7) and uncouth regaling of your server.

7. The All-Flash, No-Cash Big Shots
 This customer announces (loudly and more than once) that the evening’s “on them,” they’ll be one check, and that everyone should order whatever they want. Their dinner party goes off without so such as a crumb disgracing his or her table, everyone was catered to, and is happy and full. Mr. or Mrs. Bigshot repeats to you that they’ve got it, “bring the bill to me.” They have set up quite the stage of generosity, yet you have an eight-percent tip staring you in the face.  As a polite server who would never want to insult your customers, you take it quietly. You smile and say no, thank you, and are repaid with the famous verbal tip: “You did an excellent job. Everything was perfect.” This isn’t for your benefit, it’s for the audience of diners at Bigshot’s table, and you won’t be applying that verbal tip to your hefty student loans, it seems. Wonderful.

8. The Preemptive Askers
“Hi folks, how are we this evening? My name is Rebec-…“  “Captain coke. Lime” Wow, ‘cause I wasn’t getting to that part, dude. This customer can’t wait long enough to hear your name, and will then ask you snidely “were you going to tell us your name?” Yes, I was getting to it, but your need for a Captain/coke took over, and you cut me off.  They will bombard you with “Well? Do you have any specials, or what? “ just as you’re saying “Tonight we have a few spec-“ You’re going to wish you hadn’t cut me off when I was trying to ask what brings you out for dinner that night, Rude Dude, cause it’s your birthday, and now you’re going to miss out on our stellar cheesecake and champagne that comes complimentary on celebrations.  Next time, let me get a word in.

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