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Tired of trying to flag down a waitron?
May 29, 2002 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Tired of trying to flag down a waitron? Here's one solution. But if you want a different drink, you're probably back to yer old aerobics routine.
posted by datawrangler (43 comments total)

 
Why has no restaurant put a little buzzer jammie on the tables, like the stewardess button on an airplane? I can understand the potential for abuse, but I still think that would be nice.
posted by adampsyche at 8:13 AM on May 29, 2002


adampsyche, having worked in the industry for too many years, I can safely say that your suggestion is one of the worst I have ever heard. The reason why airplanes have a buzzer is because people really shouldn't be standing up. In a restaurant you can get up, so there is no reason for this. Frankly, your suggestion sounds more like a servant's bell than a ring for service. I suggest that you work in a restaurant before you mention any other ideas. :)

The chip-embedded glass. It's an interesting idea, but there's a strong similarity to adam's idea in this. It kind of takes the personal touch out of the business. Pretty cool, though.
posted by ashbury at 8:22 AM on May 29, 2002


ashbury, its my opinion that waitpersons are temporary servants (by choice). Isn't serving the entire idea of the job?
posted by howa2396 at 8:42 AM on May 29, 2002


Sorry
posted by Frasermoo at 8:48 AM on May 29, 2002


Wow I'd hate to wait on you.

Server's are not servant's, They're job is not to satisfy your every whim so much as to make your dining experience a more enjoyable one.

It's a subtle but distinct difference. Since most server's (at least in the US) make most of their money via tips most are willing to go beyond the call of duty but they are not necessarily there to babysit your children.

The problem with adampsyche's idea is that if your waiter is not availible it's usually for a good reason (namely they're dealing with one of their other tables) Getting buzzed 24/7 would just piss off both the table and the server. The server because they are busy and the table because they are not getting a response. Granted there's some bad apples in the biz but most good server's hustle their ass off and don't ignore tables on purpose. Since in this industry, more than most, the harder and better you do your job the more money you make.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2002


I knew I was going to be met with criticism, as my wife did work as a waitress for a few years in college, and I worked in restaurants all thorugh my high school years. Yes, she thought my idea sucked too. Fooey.

Can I at least have a trough of water at my table? A pitcher, even? I am well aware that the wait staff is not there to file my taxes and do my laundry, but is filling a beverage within 10 minutes of it being finished too much to ask? I don't think that I have unrealistic expectations here, sorry if it seems that way. Maybe it is just that I have had a lot of bad service lately.
posted by adampsyche at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2002


adam, perhaps you should rearrange your expectations so that not only are you happier, but your server has an easier go of it. By all means, order a pitcher of water. If you are met with resistance to that idea, then you know that somebody has issues and can act accordingly. Of course, if you're doing the fine dining thing, that's another story and ordering a pitcher isn't such a good idea.

howa, I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong on this one. Everybody should be treated with respect, even so-called servants. How would you like to be treated if you were a server? Let me give you a quick example.

A man I was serving asked me for a cigarette. I explained to him that though I am happy to deliver food to him and to chat with him, I draw the line at giving my personal belongings to my customers. He didn't understand, so I suggested that it was like asking to use my shoes, which would be silly. He responded that it's my job to make sure that he be happy, to which I replied that if that was the case, if he needed it, I should give him the shirt off my back, which is preposterous. He agreed that I should offer him my shirt. I said that for the money I was making, I had to do a lot for him, with very little in return, and zip on personal satisfaction. When he looked at things that way, he had a change of heart.

Unfortunately, it seems that more than a few people feel the same as the man I was serving. What do you think of this situation, howa? Does this fit into your idea of a "temporary" servant?
posted by ashbury at 9:35 AM on May 29, 2002


It kind of takes the personal touch out of the business.

I would be very happy to see the "personal touch" taken out of the business if it resulted in an improvement in efficiency. I don't go out to eat to make friends with the waitstaff.
posted by rushmc at 9:37 AM on May 29, 2002


The restaurant business is not a science. Efficiency in a restaurant is not easily come by. Think about the last time you made dinner for your friends. It probably took a lot more time and effort than you thought, didn't it?

I don't go out to eat to make friends with the waitstaff.

No, but common courtesy and a modicum of respect for a job that is nowhere near as easy as it looks. If you don't want the personal touch, go to a cafeteria.
posted by ashbury at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2002


I would be very happy to see the "personal touch" taken out of the business if it resulted in an improvement in efficiency.

Kinda sums up the whole American business ethic, don't it?
posted by furiousthought at 10:00 AM on May 29, 2002


Think about the last time you made dinner for your friends. It probably took a lot more time and effort than you thought, didn't it?

Unfair comparison, as I don't make the same dishes and repeat the same routine of serving them to the same tables (with slight variation depending upon orders) every night. So it is no more reasonable to compare my efforts to those of a professional waiter than to compare my efforts to change the oil in my car to those of the employees of Jiffy Lube.

Understand, I'm not arguing against being polite to those who serve you your meal in a restaurant. The example above of the guy demanding a cigarette is laughable--has this person never participated in society? But there is a difference between being polite and being "friendly." If I wish to dine with friends, I bring them with me. I don't want to be "buddies" with every person I come into contact with in the service industries--I simply want to get good service. And this works both ways: when I am working in a service industry, I don't want to be buddies with those I serve; I simply want to give them good service under the terms that I have agreed to.

And I feel no need whatsoever to sit at my meal worrying about how awful the poor waiter's job can be. I am aware of its downsides, but there are many worse jobs in the world, and they did, after all, choose to work there. Once that choice is made, it is incumbent upon them to do a GOOD job, without attempting to extort either money or pity from those who come to the restaurant to eat.
posted by rushmc at 10:26 AM on May 29, 2002


Tired of trying to flag down a waitron?

We have a similar word in English: "waiter".
posted by RavinDave at 10:32 AM on May 29, 2002


Unfair comparison, as I don't make the same dishes and repeat the same routine of serving them to the same tables rushmc

I don't think the comparison is unfair at all. Just because a server is familiar with the menu does not mean that the circumstances surrounding the delivery of food is the same. Each guest is a different person than the last and is treated as such. There isn't just one routine, there are many, and the server has to decide which one will suit the customer better. Each and every customer they have.

As a matter of fact, though you may be a low maintenance kind of person, many others are not. Keep in mind that often efficiency is thrown out the door the moment a difficult guest comes along. One difficult guest who may be seated miles away from you can affect everything from the food wait, to the mood of the server to the mood of the bartender and the attitude of the manager. Also keep in mind that servers don't make the food and are as much at the mercy of the chefs as you are. Trust me, waiting around for the order to come up is often a painful exercise.

If you want efficiency from a system that at its root is unefficient, you can wait until the replicator is invented.
posted by ashbury at 11:18 AM on May 29, 2002


If a customer becomes too "difficult" by making demands that exceed what is customary in the relationship between restaurant and diner, how is it sensible to reward him for his poor behavior by catering to it and, in so doing, punishing the "good" customers who will suffer as a result?

There isn't just one routine

Sure there is: Seat customer(s); take their order; bring their order to their table; handle any additional requests/needs (water, condiments, etc.); remove their empty dishes; bring their bill; accept their payment. Any variations within this overall framework are relatively minor.
posted by rushmc at 12:52 PM on May 29, 2002


Getting back to the link, these glasses are a horrible idea. Just because someone has finished a drink, it does not follow that they should have another. In fact, if such a scheme were used, I would imagine liability would eventually require automated braking, so that a customer would be denied another drink by the system if they have already had enough under the law.
The bottom line is that if I've been passing you over at my bar, you probably are not ready for more, or you neglected to tip me earlier. This will not change in the US as bartenders are personally liable for the effects of the drinks they serve you and are taxed on a percentage of sales (if a person doesn't tip, I still have to pay tax on the tip I didn't receive).
posted by roboto at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2002


I think I should find out one thing before I go on: rushmc, have you ever worked in a restaurant?
posted by ashbury at 1:12 PM on May 29, 2002


Getting back to the link, these glasses are a horrible idea. Just because someone has finished a drink, it does not follow that they should have another.

Relax, we're talking about glasses that let the waitstaff know they're empty, not glasses that automatically refill themselves.
posted by kindall at 1:38 PM on May 29, 2002


Rushmc, you sound like Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs.
posted by Optamystic at 3:22 PM on May 29, 2002


Rushmc, you sound like Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs.

In what way? I don't recall the subject of tipping coming up in this thread.

As it happens, I think he makes some good points (nevertheless, I always tip 20 percent, unless the service is atrocious).
posted by rushmc at 5:49 PM on May 29, 2002


I think he was talking more about your attitude, 20% or not.
posted by ashbury at 6:29 PM on May 29, 2002


RavinDave, just so you know, the word "waitron" used to be used at a Washington, DC-based restaurant called Food For Thought. It was the staff's way of getting around a gender-specific term for a person waiting tables.
posted by datawrangler at 7:57 PM on May 29, 2002


We always used "server".
We are not robots and even in the most "efficient" restaurants we were always considered human.
posted by a_green_man at 9:10 PM on May 29, 2002


Forgive the minor rant ...

datawrangler ... I know. It was a short-lived silly and misguided PC attempt to dictate thought by dictating language -- something that makes me cringe whenever I encounter it (even in jest). Look at several messages above to see how it ties people in knots; "waitron", "waitpersons", "waitstaff" ... people sputtering and tripping over themselves out of fear of being branded sexist. All for an imagined offense, since the suffixes -er/-or are "agentive" morphemes -- not gender markers. Thus: "waiter" is only a gender-specific term in the minds of agenda-driven pedants.

I have a linguistic background and hate it when special interest groups try to politicize the language for their own end, whether that means hawkish rightwingers calling "missles" "peace-keepers", or pseudo-intellectual feminists insisting that a "mailman" is a "male man".

--Ravin' Dave (whose mailman is a woman).

Ooops ... so as not to derail the thread itself, let me comment on the article. I'm one of those people who usually bases the tip they leave on how well the waiter stays away from me. Take my order, bring me my food, get lost. You are allowed one follow-up mid-meal to see if I need something. Anything else is hovering and annoys the bejabbers outta me. It comes out of your tip.

I don't see how these glasses are any better than seasoned waiter; reading a crowd is part of the gig.
posted by RavinDave at 9:17 PM on May 29, 2002


We always used "server". We are not robots and even in the most "efficient" restaurants we were always considered human.

Yeah, that's why you called yourselves by a name that also refers to a type of computer. ;)
posted by kindall at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2002


I don't see how these glasses are any better than seasoned waiter; reading a crowd is part of the gig.

Well, I'm sure they're no better than a seasoned waiter, but then, some waiters never really get seasoned. I'm all for raising the level of service a mediocre waiter can provide. Of course, maybe the mediocre waiters could pay for the glasses, if they need them to do the job.
posted by kindall at 9:44 PM on May 29, 2002


Shouldn't that be "computron"? ;) ;)
posted by RavinDave at 9:45 PM on May 29, 2002


Yeah, that's why you called yourselves by a name that also refers to a type of computer. ;)

*Smiles back*

Hmmnm, I might argue that people are trying to attribute human qualities to computers.

Though we're obviously failing so far, I'll decline to delve further into semantics.

Onward -> These technologies may just turn an otherwise skilled position into something that can be staffed by very unskilled labor.
posted by a_green_man at 1:09 AM on May 30, 2002


I think he was talking more about your attitude, 20% or not.

Methinks you are too sensitive by half. Expecting efficient and non-intrusive service--in other words, to get what you pay for--hardly represents an "attitude." And if you feel that it does, I hope I *never* cross the threshhold of any establishment where you happen to be working.
posted by rushmc at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2002


Rushmc, I am too sensitive about this subject. I've come across too many people who think that it's an easy job, who don't think twice about abusing their server, who don't think about respect and courtesy. I'm not saying that you are any of these things, but there are some signs...

Don't worry, I have read my own signs and am not in the business any more. FWIW, I was a good waiter and wouldn't have bothered you at all. I was also good at reading what type of customers I had.
posted by ashbury at 10:46 AM on May 30, 2002


I'm not saying that you are any of these things, but there are some signs...

...and it is that presumption in your comments to which I take offense (although, granted, you were not the one to make the widest of leaps, to the Mr. Pink reference). You are quick to perceive "signs" and react to them, while I maintain that they do not exist, and that you are looking for a way to rail against the inconsiderate boobs you have had the misfortune to come across in the past. But I am not they. It is perfectly acceptable for you and me to disagree about the roles and responsibilities of a waiter, but damning me for the sins of others is not cool.

Tell you what, if you promise to respond only to what I have actually said, I shall restore your tip! ;)
posted by rushmc at 6:47 PM on May 30, 2002


Here's all I ask:

1) Don't tell me your name, I don't care.

2) Don't ask me about anything other than the dining experience. You don't care. If I'm in the mood for small talk, I'll initiate it.

3) Don't make me wait to long for more water. That is usually the one thing served that is completely within the control of the waiter. I won't blame you for slow food, but I will blame you for slow water.

4) Don't touch me. Ever.

5) Never take my plate without asking first.

6) Never assume that the change is yours.

7) I won't blame you for an improperly prepared order (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the kitchen messed it up, not that you put in the wrong order) but don't blame me for wanting it fixed.

8) Know what is on the menu, and what is in the foods listed. Except in the nicest restaurants I don't care if you have an opinion on the quality of various dishes, but I do want you to know if there is diary or tomatoes in it.

In return for all of this I'll be polite, and leave a nice healthy tip, and then forget you ever existed once I leave the restaurant. I'm not looking for friends, enjoy spending my money.

As for the glasses, they are a horrible idea. Not necessarily because they are dehumanizing to the staff, but because they will be an expense with almost no return, especially if the waitstaff is doing its job.

And yes, I've waited tables and never once touched a customer or told them my name (or wrote it upside down with two crayons for that matter).

PS: If you have any pull with your management, could you ask that they stop putting white construction paper on the tables to protect their tablecloths? It is tacky. I'll pay an extra $.50 for dinner so that you can launder it.
posted by obfusciatrist at 7:17 PM on May 30, 2002


rushmc, I am not damning you in the place of others, and I apologize for coming across that way.

You just seem to approach one of the most social human acitivities with a certain logical coldness that I don't understand. I was hoping to get to the root of it because it's a fairly common attitude. Anyway, it seems that we are polar opposites on the subject, to the point that we can't understand each other, so it's time to let it go.

obfusciatrist, your rules seem fine to me. As a matter of fact, I used many of those rules for my own conduct as a waiter.
posted by ashbury at 12:11 AM on May 31, 2002


1) Don't tell me your name, I don't care.

Oh, I care. Why? Because it's much easier to say to the manager "Jane gave us really great service." or, conversely, "Jane is a total screw up as a waitress, please do something about her lazy, incompetent ass." than it is to try to point to which server I had or do the description thing "Um, she's about my height, sorta dirty blonde, kinda curly hair, well, no, not really curly, just kinda wavy, really, up in a ponytail, uh, she had lots of mascara on, she's very slim, wearing an apron..." And when I have a really pleasant experience or a really lousy one, I do indeed tell a manager about it.
posted by Dreama at 2:47 AM on May 31, 2002


I always ask for the person's name. OK, not always, but I know it is a good thing to do. I nominate ashbury to the post of Metafilter Patron Saint of Waitstaff ;-)
posted by adampsyche at 5:35 AM on May 31, 2002


You just seem to approach one of the most social human acitivities with a certain logical coldness that I don't understand.

and yet...

obfusciatrist, your rules seem fine to me.

when his/her rules cover virtually all of what I was trying to say.

?
posted by rushmc at 6:47 AM on May 31, 2002


And when I have a really pleasant experience or a really lousy one, I do indeed tell a manager about it.

That is a useful thing to do, Dreama, if you are so inclined and willing to interact to that degree with the restaurant staff. But more often than not, I simply will not return to that restaurant if the sevice was truly abominable. I don't feel that it is or should be part of MY responsibility as a diner (who is paying for both food and service) to help train, monitor, or castigate the help. Any manager worth his or her salt will already be on top of that, and in a well-run establishment, habitually poor servers will not last long. Therefore, if the service IS very bad, and especially if it is bad on more than one occasion, it is valid to conclude that the place is poorly run and unlikely to get better any time soon (and bad management affects more than just the service...if they can't effectively control their staff, do I want to trust them with regard to health and quality considerations?). Since there are a lot of restaurants out there to choose from, the most effective impact I can have is to vote with my dollar and go elsewhere.
posted by rushmc at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2002


I'm trying to let this thread go, but I can't.

when his/her rules cover virtually all of what I was trying to say. rushmc

But you didn't say that at all. If this is what you wanted to say, you should have. Instead your tone of voice came across as cold and uncaring, despite your claims to the contrary. I realize that this is an imperfect medium to discuss certain issues, but what obfusciatrist said was clear and to the point, with very reasonable rules concerning waitering.

. . .or castigate the help.

This is an example of how I feel you think. These people are not "help", they are people who get paid to make sure that you get your order and are happy with your dining experience. Some of them bend over backwards to make sure this happens, but you don't want to get involved enough to show that you care. It's this particular attitude that I'm talking about, not whether you are a good customer or not.

Thanks for the nomination, adampsyche. I humbly accept. :)
posted by ashbury at 9:56 AM on May 31, 2002


This is an example of how I feel you think. These people are not "help"

Aha! I knew you'd bite at the bait. Rather than address the content of what I say, you prefer to look for trigger words that you can interpret in such a way as to support the negative conclusions that you have already--and I believe I have pretty well demonstrated, inaccurately--arrived at.

"Help" can be defined as "those who help," which all employees do, particularly those in the service industry. Any negative connotations beyond that attached to the word exist in your mind alone. I used it as a completely neutral term (though, as I said, knowing you couldn't resist the urge to make more of it than that).

they are people who get paid to make sure that you get your order and are happy with your dining experience.

Then, on your own terms, that is their job, and so long as they are doing their job, we are both happy and I shall continue to pay them. Where's the problem?
posted by rushmc at 12:58 PM on May 31, 2002


Look rush, I don't really have a problem with how you behave in a restaurant. You do whatever it is that you do and that's great. What I am talking about is more elusive than the routine of waiter/customer, or for that matter, employee of whatever place/customer. I am talking about the thing you never seem to address: your tone of voice, your seeming high-hat attitude toward those who are helping you, your apparent wish that these people be mostly invisible and characterless. Dammit, I am talking about your inability to see things from the other side. I can see where you're coming from, why can't you see where I'm coming from?

Traditionally, "help" has a negative connotation. How else was I supposed to take it? How do I know that you're using it in a neutral way? Why are you baiting me? It seems that I'm not the only one who has reached some conclusions, perhaps inaccurately.

As to addressing the content of what you say, I choose not to because the "content" isn't really what I have a problem with. I said it before and it bears repeating: I am talking about respect and courtesy towards others who are in a servile capacity.
posted by ashbury at 2:52 PM on May 31, 2002


I am talking about the thing you never seem to address: your tone of voice, your seeming high-hat attitude toward those who are helping you

"Seeming" being the key word here. You are aware of the difficulty of accurately assessing "tone" in a medium like this, and yet you persist in damning me for what you believe you perceive, no matter how I deny it?

your apparent wish that these people be mostly invisible and characterless.

Guilty of this one. I don't go out to eat to participate in a mixer, to hit on the waitresses, or to sit in judgement of their worth as human beings. All I want is good service, which is the job they were hired to perform. Why do you insist on taking it further than that? If you wish to distract them from the efficient performance of their duties with chitchat and pointless banter, that's your business, but I would not presume so. The problem is, you are attempting to draw a link between my not wishing to interact with them as individuals to my being contemptuous of them and denying their humanity in some way, which is simply not justified (and not the case).

Dammit, I am talking about your inability to see things from the other side.

Which inability you are making up out of whole cloth. You have no evidence to support such an accusation.

I can see where you're coming from, why can't you see where I'm coming from?

I DO see where you are coming from. The problem is that the conversation you wish to have about the way some people view and treat restaurant employees, including any valid points you might have made, is tripped up by your persistent efforts to tag ME as a scapegoat for this class of person, with unfounded accusations toward someone you don't even know.


posted by rushmc at 6:15 PM on May 31, 2002


rushmc, ashbury, I want to take the two of you out to eat to settle this. I'll get the tab, you guys cover the tip.
posted by adampsyche at 7:16 PM on May 31, 2002


I realized that this was a difficult topic to discuss with anyone a long time ago and tried to leave the thread alone. I am aware that I don't know you and that I am basing much of what I am saying on intuition and instinct. I also know that I'm not necessarily being fair to you, but I am not trying to make you into a scapegoat. The thing is, you are saying that I am making things up about you, and perhaps I am, but is it not possible that I am just a little bit right in my assumptions of you? Just a titch?

Either way, it doesn't matter. Whether I'm right or wrong I don't have the right to accuse you of something when I've never met you or talked to you, and for that I am sorry. Believe me, it isn't my wish for you to be the person I seem to be making you out to be.

Shall we let bygones be bygones?

On preview, adampsyche, you're on. Pasta okay with you, rushmc?
posted by ashbury at 7:23 PM on May 31, 2002


Dinner sounds good. But I never tip.

;)
posted by rushmc at 8:45 PM on May 31, 2002


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