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I wasn't even supposed to be here today
July 27, 2004 10:20 AM   Subscribe

This job would be great if it weren't for the customers... Demon customers might not just annoy employees, but they may actually cost businesses money. Maybe a guide would be useful.
posted by drezdn (63 comments total)

 
For evil customer stories, here's long ones from the store that I actually work at [not writter by me].
posted by drezdn at 10:52 AM on July 27, 2004


writter=written
posted by drezdn at 10:54 AM on July 27, 2004


And while we're on the subject, don't THROW your money at me, or set it in a place where I have to practically climb over my register to reach it either. If you do, don't be surprised when I "accidentally" drop all your change on the floor as I hand it back to you.

Thank you,
Your friendly neighborhood Publix cashier.
PS. I hate you.
THE END

posted by trharlan at 10:54 AM on July 27, 2004


Before I did any customer service elsewhere, I waited tables for almost six years. The lessons I got from that time were: all else being equal, the customer is always right; sometimes the most difficult customers are the most rewarding customers; it doesn't really matter whose fault it is; most people are nice; but a very small handful of people you just write off. Because, yes, they are demon customers. They are out to screw you, the whole point for them is to be abusive, whatever. 95% of customers are people like yourself, going about their business with good intent and just wanting to be treated fairly and with respect. A very small portion of them, however, are just bad people. They are a waste of time. Screw 'em.

However, if you ("you" being someone who works with the public) think that the "demon customer" portion is larger than 5% of your clientele, then you're probably doing something wrong. Certainly, if most of your customers are "demon customers" you should find another line of work.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:07 AM on July 27, 2004


NOTE TO CASHIER
the receipt goes in the bag, and the change gets counted from the total price back to the amount tendered, not slapped into my hand with bills and coins piled on top. everytime you do this i promise to stop, carefully separate receipt from money, painstakingly count out the change correctly, perhaps twice, insert the bills in ascending order into my wallet, and then slowly mosey on out of the way. the more annoyed you look, the slower i mosey. and i NEVER bend over to pick up anything you drop.
posted by quonsar at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2004


...and the change gets counted from the total price back to the amount tendered...

Huh. I actually hate it when they do that. I'm not sure why.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2004


The bad customer guide would be a lot better if she didn't reference the McDonald's Coffee Incident.
posted by mosch at 11:41 AM on July 27, 2004


No! That's absolutely the one and only correct way to give change (unless the amount of change is trivially small).
posted by kenko at 11:45 AM on July 27, 2004


...and the change gets counted from the total price back to the amount tendered...


I was actually written up for doing just that--a waste of time. OTOH, it was fun to watch when she [lead cashier] accidentally keyed the wrong amount tendered and had to come up with the correct change herself. And, yes, it *is* the only and correct way to give change.

btw - thanks for the post. Fun to relive the old retail hell now that I'm not in the trenches.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:00 PM on July 27, 2004


Every single one of our tech support people has the right, on their own judgement, to fire at least one customer a month.

They call me and tell me about a problem they are having, and I say "Well, fire 'em!", and they say "Nah, I'll get it squared away somehow".

I think the 5 or 6 people that have had this right for four years have really only fired 2 or 3 customers.

Which is why I have them doing tech support, because I'd drive out to some customer's houses to deliver their pro-rated refund, in person, tied to a brick and thrown through their window, with a check enclosed to cover the window repair.

I love our wage negotiations every year, too;

"Can we have 10% more for tech support?"

God, yes, please, here take 15%, just keep them away from the network people.

"Oh, OK, thanks!"

No, thank you.
posted by dglynn at 12:12 PM on July 27, 2004


Stained Apron is a good time. (Previous discussion about it.)
posted by Pockets at 12:52 PM on July 27, 2004


And, yes, it *is* the only and correct way to give change.

It's not the "correct" way, it's merely a relic of the a time long past, before we had computers. It prevents errors, to be sure, but it is also not customer-friendly. If I gave you $20, I don't want you counting back up to twenty. I already know it was a twenty! How much I'm getting back is far more important to me than what I gave you.
posted by kindall at 1:38 PM on July 27, 2004


Yeah, EB, I'd say less then 5% of customers are demons, but only 70% or so are angels of any stripe. The remaining are either morons or what I call "non-responders."

Non-responders are the people who don't seem to speak english, or any language at all. They don't exchange greeting, make eye-contact or respond when asked if everything is fine. They order by pointing and grunting. I really don't mind these people, but I worry for the state of their relationships.

Morons are pretty innocent as well. They don't understand any menu more complex then McDonalds and looked constantly flustered. They ask strange, meaningless questions. They ask if there is a dinner salad without looking at the menu. They'll make a "yuk-face" at gruyere and then order swiss. Its usually good to just order them a burger, well-done, and move on.

Anyway, most problem customers are really nice people, they just don't know how to behave in a restaurant. Here's some tips in no particular order:

•Do not, ever, ask the server's name. People are really abusive with this one, thinking it's somehow funny to end every statement and command with the server's name. If the server has a nametag, the nametag is not an agreement that you can use his/her name with wild abandon.

•Just order something. If you don't know what you want, tell the server you need more time. Be aware if the restaurant is busy when asking questions. Ask questions about things you might want to order. If you know you don't want the prawns, don't ask 15 questions about them and then just order a burger, well done.

•Never hand anything to the server. The server is usually fully ambulatory and will pick up plates in an appropriate fashion.

•Do not assume that your money matters. restaurants and servers make money on volume. While you may be ordering the $110 bottle of Chablis to drink with you burger, well done, the server still needs to take care of other customers in an equal manner.

•The server probably hates you. Just sayin'.

•Don't ask for huge favors or rearrange the menu too much. politely ask for substitutions and the server may be able meet your needs. There is, be aware, a limit to what the server or the kitchen may be able to do because of the structure of the menu and the line.

•The "chef" did not cook your burger, well done, it was cooked by a line cook. Chefs rarely cook burgers on the line, they are executives who are in charge of many aspects of a restaurant. When you say "compliments to the chef!" your are a balding cliche.

•A burger cooked, well done, is a ruined burger.

•Any sentence that starts with "I don't mean to be a pain....." doesn't need to be spoken.

In sum, sit down, shut up and order something.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:23 PM on July 27, 2004


So, elwoodwiles, is it appropriate to say "thank you" when water is poured, plates are set down and cleared, etc? Or will the server just think I'm a twerp?
posted by kenko at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2004


elwoodwiles: If the server "just hates me" anyway why shouldn't I strive to be the biggest prick I can possibly be? (Other than the obvious possibility of my food getting the "cop treatment.")
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:40 PM on July 27, 2004


Kenko, I think you shouldn't worry about it too much. But, if I had to answer your question, I'd say that being nice and polite is always welcome. However, a portion of what a server does is intended to be (or should be) very unobtrusive and a customer can facilitate this or, conversely, interfere with it.

Beware generalizations about serving and customer etiquette. For example, I did almost exclusively fine dining in the southwest US—and that context implies a combination of formality and casual friendliness.

One thing, however, holds across all serving situations: a server must accurately "read" the customer. There is a time to be friendly and to interact, and there is a time to be invisible. In a way, a "good" customer understands this dynamic, as well. But it shouldn't be the customer's job to do so.

Turtles: elwoodwiles is speaking for him/herself only. I loved waiting tables (until I got bored with it after six years or so) and part of why I loved it is because I like people. As in the rest of customer service, there's a lot of misanthropes waiting tables—why, I have no idea. Nevertheless, a good portion sincerely enjoy what they're doing and enjoy interacting with their customers. Don't let elwoodwiles's comment make you paranoid.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2004


Thanks Ethereal, and as a sometime frequent restaurant customer in the past (if that makes sense?) I'd have to say that that's been the experience from my end as well. It is a joy to behold those in the serving profession who do it well: friendly without being obsequious, attentive without being intrusive and, when they hit perfection on some magic nights, anticipating your desires perfectly so that you neither feel rushed nor ever feel that you're waiting for anything.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:11 PM on July 27, 2004


Turtles: for a good server, too, on a good night like you describe, it's exhilarating. I've never thought about it this way before, but as a musician I can say that there's something like performing and improvising in waiting tables. Like with good jazz improvisation, you may be making it up as you go along, but you're able to do so because, mysteriously, you're prescient. Part of this is because there is a rythmn to how people eat and enjoy themselves in this regard—being aware of this with only one table is not so hard. Being aware of it and successfully juggling this with four tables in combination is another story. But the trick is to weave the different people's rythmns together. And, also, to be efficient. In my mind, I think, there was essentially a mental model of each of my tables and each customer at each table. I "knew" that you wanted another drink because...well, because it was about that time. But also, I don't think you can really understand what your customer wants if you can't, in some sense, "be" the customer. You have to like them, I think.

Or, at least, I did.

Anyway, working in fine dining, I had the luxury of thinking of myself as something like a "professional". People treat servers at low-end type and chain places like crap (I don't), so in that environment...well, it may be hard to maintain a good attitude.

Even in fine dining, where fewer of the servers are (or were fifteen years ago) women, the majority of the women I worked with were single mothers. Of course this is much more true as you move down the, um, food chain. They're paying a babysitter a hourly rate and they have no benefits and no real future earning potential once they hit, at most, 35. Tip them well, even if they do a bad job.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:31 PM on July 27, 2004


kindall: It's not intended to show you the amount tendered, but to:
1. demonstrate that your cashier has some semblance of intelligence
2. prevent overage/shortage in the till because the cashier is actually paying attention to the change being given
3. discourage change artists because of that same demonstration of awareness
4. makes the cashier a credible witness when discrepancies arise
5. instill customer confidence in the store--it hires professionals instead of asshat acne farms

It is only a relic in that the vast majority of cashiers cannot be arsed to put forth the effort to learn how to count back change. I hated my cashier jobs, but that didn't stop me from performing my duties in a professional manner. For me it basically comes down to whether or not you have pride in your job--or at least yourself.

shakes fist, mutters, sits back down in his rocking chair
posted by Fezboy! at 3:32 PM on July 27, 2004


It is only a relic in that the vast majority of cashiers cannot be arsed to put forth the effort to learn how to count back change.

No, it's a relic in that the computer can do it more quickly and accurately than the cashier can anyway, and it was bass-ackward to begin with. If I buy something that costs $7, and give you a $20 bill, I want you to count to $13 when you give me the money back. Not $20. $20 is what I gave you! I know that already! I want to know that you know how much you're supposed to be giving me, which is $13.
posted by kindall at 3:53 PM on July 27, 2004


Kenko: Sure say 'Thank you', but it really isn't that important until the end of the meal.

Turtles: I meant that in jest, really. Your server doesn't hate you, but may not care about you either. Servers are people, who react to people as people. If you're a jerk, the server has no responsibility to like you. BTW, what is the "cop treatment"? Messing with food is totally unethical and no decent restaurant would allow it to happen, ever.

My point, if I have one, is that people vary from being tedious to being disrespectful to restaurant staff. Servers can be, and often are, treated very badly by many people. I'm just pointing out some common mistakes people make when being served.

I don't hate people or working in fine dining, I'm just venting because of the theme of the thread. If we had a thread about the good aspects of the industry I'd post something more positive.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:54 PM on July 27, 2004


•Any sentence that starts with "I don't mean to be a pain....." doesn't need to be spoken.

elwood, if you were serving me at a restaurant and I said "I don't mean to be a pain, but...", that's me being polite for "You fucked up again, and I'm about to tell you how." As in, "I ordered unsweetened tea... This is a fish, not a chicken... I don't mean to be a pain, but I ordered the brownie, not the cheesecake."

Fezboy, it's not always "right" or consumer-friendly. I'd rather just be handed my change, bills slightly fanned so I can see they're correct, and accept the small probability that the coins are wrong in my disfavor than wait for you to count things out. My time is worth more than that to me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:02 PM on July 27, 2004


It is only a relic in that the vast majority of cashiers cannot be arsed to put forth the effort to learn how to count back change.
No, it is a way to instill confidence in the customer that they have been given the correct change without them having to work out the change themselves. I am always amused to see cashiers struggling to work out change with a calculator when power or other problems kill their tills. Counting back change is the easiest thing in the world to do even if, like me, you have poor mathematical skills.
posted by dg at 4:19 PM on July 27, 2004


from drezdn's barnesandnoble link:

ed rosenthal, recently got busted for, yeah, you guessed it, growin' weed. he got like 85 years or something. he won't be selling books for a while, methinks.

Ed Rosenthal was sentenced to one day in jail (time served), and he is appealing the conviction. he has written four books since (if you count "picture books").

once again showing how fucking clueless most retail service people are ... (i kid, i kid ... elwoodwiles' angry rant about bad restaurant customers pissed me off, even if i don't do any of those things ...)

you're fighting a losing battle, kindall. yes, the machine tells you how much to give, but having it counted back (quickly) is the best approach, e.g. in your case, "one, two, and three is ten, and ten more is $20." what's so hard about figuring out that means $13? on the other hand, it's clear to both of you that you gave the cashier a $20. how many times have you been shortchanged by a cashier who said it was a $10 or a $5, not a $20? it's rare, but i've had it happen at least 4-5 times, none of which counted the change back. i think it's a good business practice that doesn't take any extra time at all.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe: Aye, but it's not just about the customer. It's also about till discrepancies and con-artistry. Keeping the cashier focused on their job prevents a great deal of loss. From this perspective it is always right. This comes from both working a till and having the responsibility to reconcile others at the end of a shift. The difference between those who count back and those who don't was glaringly obvious in my experience.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:29 PM on July 27, 2004


dg: see #5 in my list.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:32 PM on July 27, 2004


Do not, ever, ask the server's name. People are really abusive with this one, thinking it's somehow funny to end every statement and command with the server's name. If the server has a nametag, the nametag is not an agreement that you can use his/her name with wild abandon.

Do not ever ask the customer's name. It's rare, but I hate when restaurants do this. If I'm enough of a regular at some point I'll introduce myself, or if you're good, you'll remember it from my charge card.

Just order something. If you don't know what you want, tell the server you need more time. Be aware if the restaurant is busy when asking questions. Ask questions about things you might want to order. If you know you don't want the prawns, don't ask 15 questions about them and then just order a burger, well done.
Just answer my questions. Seriously, I'm not asking what beers you have on tap, or if you have a certain type of gin as a test of skill, I'm asking it because I'm making a decision. Also, when I say rare, I mean rare. I don't mean medium-well. Don't tell me that brown with a warn tan center is 'rare'.

Never hand anything to the server. The server is usually fully ambulatory and will pick up plates in an appropriate fashion.
Never lean across me to pick something up. If you can't reach it, walk around. If you can't walk around, ask me to hand it to you.


Do not assume that your money matters. restaurants and servers make money on volume. While you may be ordering the $110 bottle of Chablis to drink with you burger, well done, the server still needs to take care of other customers in an equal manner.
My money matters. I don't expect you to realize it the first time I dine with you, but if you're smart, you'll realize it eventually. I spend more per person than most parties, and I tip between 20 and 30 percent depending on the level of service. I will never request preferential treatment, but if you don't give it to me after a few visits, you'll stop seeing my money. There are people who care about my money, and I'll go there instead.

The server probably hates you. Just sayin'.
That's their problem. Just bring me what I ordered, dammit

Don't ask for huge favors or rearrange the menu too much. politely ask for substitutions and the server may be able meet your needs. There is, be aware, a limit to what the server or the kitchen may be able to do because of the structure of the menu and the line.
At TGI Friday's, I know the menu is limited. At a real restaurant, just bring us what we ask for, and charge us something somewhat reasonable. If my daughter wants a cheeseburger, then grind up some filet, make a burger, and charge me $30. I don't care, just make it happen.

The "chef" did not cook your burger, well done, it was cooked by a line cook. Chefs rarely cook burgers on the line, they are executives who are in charge of many aspects of a restaurant. When you say "compliments to the chef!" your are a balding cliche.
Don't nitpick my grammer. If my medium rare Kobe Beef burger was delicious, and I end up using the phrase 'compliments to the chef', don't tell me that it was a line cook. I'm just trying to say 'yeah, it was good. now give me my bill and leave me alone.'

A burger cooked, well done, is a ruined burger.
This holds true for steak and tuna as well. If somebody at my table orders it well done, give it to them medium-rare instead. I'll tip you extra.

Any sentence that starts with "I don't mean to be a pain....." doesn't need to be spoken.
Any sentence that starts with "I don't mean to be a pain..." or "Excuse me, I thought that...." means you screwed up. Take the out to fix your mistake efficiently, and refill my water while you're doing so.
posted by mosch at 5:21 PM on July 27, 2004


And yes, I know my post was exactly offtopic, but sometimes customers are only difficult because the staff is incompetent.
posted by mosch at 5:22 PM on July 27, 2004


drezdn, nice clerks reference ;)
posted by y0bhgu0d at 6:12 PM on July 27, 2004


In my experience, people who ever talk about how much they tip, tend to expect extra service. In much the same way that anyone who tells you that they live by a philosophy of "not being evil" is not someone you ought to trust any farther than you can spit them through a straw. But I digress....

And since it hasn't been said yet: A person who is rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

And yes, expecting a server to read your mind and understand your standards is rude.

And BTW: Count it back if you want, but I've always found it intensely annoying. But then, I can usually feel or eyeball the change to make sure it's right without having it counted at me.
posted by lodurr at 6:25 PM on July 27, 2004


mosch: I agree with the way you approach the first few criticisms of the annoying things people do, but then you drop this:

My money matters. I don't expect you to realize it the first time I dine with you, but if you're smart, you'll realize it eventually. I spend more per person than most parties, and I tip between 20 and 30 percent depending on the level of service. I will never request preferential treatment, but if you don't give it to me after a few visits, you'll stop seeing my money

My point is that money is no substitute for being polite. If you think your table needs something extra, be nice to the staff. It isn't necessary to wave money around and act like that makes you any different then anyone else the server has to deal with. I've seen well-paying, but disruptive, patrons being asked to not return. If you mean you expect good treatment for being a regular of an establishment, I agree with you, but if you think you deserve more of the server because you think you're rich and that makes you special, then no.

At TGI Friday's, I know the menu is limited. At a real restaurant, just bring us what we ask for, and charge us something somewhat reasonable. If my daughter wants a cheeseburger, then grind up some filet, make a burger, and charge me $30. I don't care, just make it happen.

Um, no. There are limits to what can be done with a menu and a kitchen line. This limit is a matrix of what can be done quickly, safely and without disrupting the meals of other patrons. If a restaurant doesn't have hamburgers it is because they don't have hamburgers. No amount of money waving is going to make hamburger magically appear. Call ahead to check on children's options before taking your daughter to restaurants that do not match her tastes.

If somebody at my table orders it well done, give it to them medium-rare instead. I'll tip you extra.

Again, no. It's not really your table - it's a table you share with other guests. I will bring each guest what they have ordered, not what you think is appropriate. I think your heart is in the right place on this issue, certain meats are best undercooked, but are you going to run the food back to the kitchen and renegotiate with the line or is the server? By all means, keep your "extra," after all money is not a substitute for being polite

And yes, I know my post was exactly offtopic, but sometimes customers are only difficult because the staff is incompetent.

Right, righty-right-right-sure. Sometimes. If you feel the staff is incompetent, find another restaurant to eat in.

Really, this is pretty fun for me. I never really get to bitch about people like this. Thank you metafilter. I know I sound bitter, maybe I am, but really I'm very happy working in my restaurant. The owners are like my second family, the staff is excellent and the patrons are just good folk. Most of my issues come from other places. Why do I keep doing these jobs? The money is good and the hours are allowing me to finally finnish my degree. Plus I love the food, wine and the enjoyment people get from such simple pleasures.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:37 PM on July 27, 2004


That would be directly equivalent to somebody going to an ATM and getting money out without putting any in" says Brad Anderson, Best Buy's chief executive.

Who evidently doesn't know the difference between theft and being smarter then your average Best Buy minion. And he's a ..chief executive of what ? Gimme a friggin break.

"Those customers, they are smart, and they are costing us money."

Oh finally back to reality ! God knows for how long. Eventually if they don't offer them opportunity to cost you they will not cost you anything, clueding. Oh, but God Forbid being inventive for once.

Best Buy executive vice-president Philip Schoonover says the idea of firing some customers is one place where Best Buy disagrees with Selden.

Yeah cause one doesn't FIRE customers, one fires employees.

Larry Selden calls them "demon customers".

And I call him "bullshit troll". He's out here to demonize you, the evil consumer, offspring of the terrorist who dares being smarter then a company , that don't buy into the hype and craziness and that is sick of "at your will" layoffs "Today I woke up the coffee didn't smell good, you're fired" kind of escapades and best value crapola.

Anyway it's a nice example of demonization by association, quite common these days and business are copying it like chineses copy rolex.
posted by elpapacito at 7:50 PM on July 27, 2004


Why the hate for those of us who like our meat cooked enough to kill off the parasites?

Let me eat my "ruined" burger in peace, it's just fine for me. I don't try to tell you how to eat your meat, ferchrissakes.
posted by beth at 10:20 PM on July 27, 2004


Yeah, I was wondering about that too, beth. I used to eat my meat rare - these days, when I do eat meat, I make sure it's thoroughly cooked.

Anyway, an observation: I'm not sure how I feel about the whole tip system. it causes a certain amount of anxiety, and gives many people a sense of entitlement. Where I live, all costs are factored in to the price you see on the menu. That includes tax and tip. Easy-peasey. Often people will leave an extra small gratuity on the table, but if so, it's more of a polite gesture than anything else. The service people know what their take-home will be, patrons don't need to spend time working out how much they can or should tip, and you don't have that wink-wink you'll see it in the tip kind of attitude from customers, or that nasty idea of the customer "punishing" (or for that matter "rewarding") the waiter/waitress. If somebody feels like being extra-generous, they can do that, but customers here don't get to indulge in that whole tip-power-rush scenario, which to me is a good thing.
posted by taz at 10:54 PM on July 27, 2004


elwoodwiles: My point is that money is no substitute for being polite. If you think your table needs something extra, be nice to the staff. It isn't necessary to wave money around and act like that makes you any different then anyone else the server has to deal with. I've seen well-paying, but disruptive, patrons being asked to not return.

I'd add that it's telling if an employer isn't willing to consider doing this. I think a good employer considers the well-being of their employees. Employees aren't there to be the customers' punching bags.

posted by halonine at 10:59 PM on July 27, 2004


Demon customers might not just annoy employees, but they may actually cost businesses money

Did anyone else think of Spirited Away?
posted by azazello at 11:55 PM on July 27, 2004


My point is that money is no substitute for being polite. If you think your table needs something extra, be nice to the staff. It isn't necessary to wave money around and act like that makes you any different then anyone else the server has to deal with. I've seen well-paying, but disruptive, patrons being asked to not return. If you mean you expect good treatment for being a regular of an establishment, I agree with you, but if you think you deserve more of the server because you think you're rich and that makes you special, then no.

I fully agree with you. A rich dickhead is still a dickhead. My point is that I attempt to quietly be an excellent customer. If you fail to notice this, or if you fail to provide service on par with the cost of the meal (whether that cost is $5 or $500), I'll quietly stop being your customer. This is what I mean by 'my money matters'.

Um, no. There are limits to what can be done with a menu and a kitchen line. This limit is a matrix of what can be done quickly, safely and without disrupting the meals of other patrons. If a restaurant doesn't have hamburgers it is because they don't have hamburgers. No amount of money waving is going to make hamburger magically appear. Call ahead to check on children's options before taking your daughter to restaurants that do not match her tastes.

This problem isn't unique to food service. You have a premium client who brings up an occasional minor glitch. Your choices are to handle the glitches, or lose the premium client. If half your tables are empty, the decision seems extremely easy to me.

Again, no. It's not really your table - it's a table you share with other guests. I will bring each guest what they have ordered, not what you think is appropriate. I think your heart is in the right place on this issue, certain meats are best undercooked, but are you going to run the food back to the kitchen and renegotiate with the line or is the server? By all means, keep your "extra," after all money is not a substitute for being polite

This was intended as a dry remark about how awful "well-done" is. Obviously everyone's meals should be prepared as they are requested, even if somebody requests that you cremate the steak, then serve the ashes with a mango chutney.

If you feel the staff is incompetent, find another restaurant to eat in.

I absolutely follow that advice.

I know I sound bitter, maybe I am,

Yes, you do.
posted by mosch at 1:48 AM on July 28, 2004


Add me to the "cook it until it is well and truly dead" brigade when it comes to meat and don't tell me about how much better it tastes if it is cooked rare - the slightest sign of blood in meat will have me retching.

Like taz, I find the whole tip culture thing a bit hard to understand. In Australia, wages for service staff are high enough not to need tips to live and, if someone does give a tip, it is because of exceptional service rather than something that is expected. You know, like a reward for doing your job extra well as opposed to a tax that you have to work out yourself, which is more or less what mandatory tipping is.
posted by dg at 1:57 AM on July 28, 2004


As far as I know, everywhere in the US the legal minimum wage for certain tipped positions like waiting tables is significantly lower than the regular minimum wage, and that's usually what's paid. I don't know what the law is now, but in the 80s when I waited tables, the hourly minimum wage was $2.01, and that's what restaurants paid their waitstaff. However, you're still required to pay taxes on your total income of course, and the IRS in the US about that time started getting pretty picky about it and auditing people. So, at that time, anyway, and for someone like myself in fine dining, the paycheck from the employer often didn't even cover the taxes that were supposed to have been withheld. I occasionally got a negative check (believe it or not) at one place I worked.

The point is: if you're traveling in the US, tips to waitpeople (as well as some other tipped positions) are not "extra". They're how the person makes their living.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:10 AM on July 28, 2004


A burger cooked, well done, is a ruined burger.

What the hell would you know? You're a waiter! The customer can have it how they want, as a service industry worker it's your job to provide it.
posted by biffa at 2:43 AM on July 28, 2004


What the hell would you know? You're a waiter!
Erm, at a good resturant you're wrong. It IS a waiter's job to know the ins and outs of the food.

Remember people, anytime you ask for anything well done you will get the worst piece of meat possible, probably one that's been hanging around for a number of days and is on the verge of turning. Cooks know that a person who likes their meat well done won't know the difference.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:49 AM on July 28, 2004


if one more person asks me where the bathroom is im going to scream.

I find that pretty funny.
posted by KathyK at 6:49 AM on July 28, 2004


Taz: used to be that tipping was looked down on in America. It was considered an insult to the waiter to tip him (as well as arrogant on the part of the tipper).
posted by kenko at 7:45 AM on July 28, 2004


It should be required that everyone work in a resturaunt for one week before they are allowed to eat in one. People have no idea.

Just answer my questions. Seriously, I'm not asking what beers you have on tap, or if you have a certain type of gin as a test of skill, I'm asking it because I'm making a decision. Also, when I say rare, I mean rare. I don't mean medium-well. Don't tell me that brown with a warn tan center is 'rare'.

All the answers to your questions are on the menu or in the drinks menu. Most servers have no problem answering questions, but don't go overboard. Don't ask a question about something you have no intention of ordering. You have no idea how many people do this while trying to impress their dates. "Is your tuna sashimi-grade?" "Are you going to order it?"

Never lean across me to pick something up. If you can't reach it, walk around. If you can't walk around, ask me to hand it to you.

Are you kidding? Ask a customer to hand me something? "Why am I even tipping you if I have to clear the table blah blah blah..." Everyone must work in a resturaunt for one week before they should be allowed to make idiot suggestions like this.

My money matters.

Maybe to you, it does. To a server you're just another pig at the trough. There is always another customer. Always. If you stop coming, someone else will start. Get over yourself.

I spend more per person than most parties, and I tip between 20 and 30 percent depending on the level of service.

For all the bitching you do, It wouldn't be worth it if you tipped 50%

I will never request preferential treatment, but if you don't give it to me after a few visits, you'll stop seeing my money.

That is the most pompous crap I've ever heard. I love how customers like to pretend they "know how it works." Like I said earlier, there is always another customer, always another pig at the trough. Like others have said, most people start serving for the money, but keep doing it for the people they meet. Trying to be Mr. Big Shot, Mr. Friendly, or Mr. Regular is a sure way to get yourself crappy service. Also, why are you assuming employees of the resturaunt remember you? We feed hundreds of people a night at my resturuant. Also, why do you believe that after two or three visits you deserve preferential treatment? After flying out of the same airport two or three times do you deserve a private jet? Also, why do you assume that this magical person "you" will be there to remember how cool you are and how much you deserve special treatment? Odds are that every night you've come you've sat in a different section and had a different server. Also, get over yourself. Everyone must work in a resturaunt one week before they can make statements like that one.

That's their problem. Just bring me what I ordered, dammit

a) Fuck you too.
b) Be short and snippy with a waiter like this and expect it in return:
c) Now its your problem, because *I* decide when you get to eat, and if you act like a pomous, self-righteous ass and ask alot of stupid questions, thats gonna be in about 45 minutes.

At TGI Friday's, I know the menu is limited. At a real restaurant, just bring us what we ask for, and charge us something somewhat reasonable. If my daughter wants a cheeseburger, then grind up some filet, make a burger, and charge me $30. I don't care, just make it happen.

I love the "serving isn't a real job" attitude. People think they are such fucking humanists when they ask "so what are you going to do when you're done waiting tables" with feigned interest. Maybe your "real job" doesn't require you to stand, or carry and lift heavy objects, or have general knowledge about several broad topics and extensive knowledge about one or two, or reqiure people skills [fuck you, I can see it coming], or require you to work long, inconsistent hours, or require you to walk and often run several miles in the course of a shift, or require time management, memorization, or organization skills, or require quick mental math, but mine requires all that and more, and therefore qualifies as a REAL job. Everyone must work for a week in a TGI Friday's before they are allowed to say it is not a real resturaunt.

a) You are not getting charged anything remotely like "reasonable" if you order off the menu
b) Using filet for a burger is like using corinthian leather for a baseball
c) Your daughter can tell the difference between filet and chuck?
d) if so, why have you taught her the difference? Do you enjoy tantrums when all you can find is Angus?
e) I am a server, not a babysitter. Hire one and next time leave the fucking kid at home. Nothing bothers servers more. Everyone must work in a resturaunt full of kids for one week before they are allowed to bring them as a customer.

Don't nitpick my grammer. If my medium rare Kobe Beef burger was delicious, and I end up using the phrase 'compliments to the chef', don't tell me that it was a line cook. I'm just trying to say 'yeah, it was good. now give me my bill and leave me alone.'

You are ordering a filet burger off the menu, and then yelling at me because I'm correcting your resturaunt terminology? You want me to just get you your bill and leave you alone, when not 10 minutes ago you were running 20 questions about our liquor selection? Go away.

This holds true for steak and tuna as well. If somebody at my table orders it well done, give it to them medium-rare instead. I'll tip you extra.

This, after kids, is the second biggest server gripe and easily the most common, so I'll just do this once and be done with it:

Your server has ZERO control over what comes out of the kitchen.

Zero.

Tipping more or less based upon the food, rather than the service, is just mean-spirited. Everyone needs to work in a resturaunt for at least one week before they are allowed to decide how they tip.

Any sentence that starts with "I don't mean to be a pain..." or "Excuse me, I thought that...." means you screwed up. Take the out to fix your mistake efficiently, and refill my water while you're doing so.

Maybe that's what you think it means. There are two sides to every story. Nine times out of ten "I don't mean to be a pain, but..." is followed by a complaint about how something is served exactly as described on the menu. And you are going to take petty revenge by asking me to get you more water?

a) Your server has zero control over how your food is served. If you desperately vengance, go make the cook get your water.
b) And anyway, the hostess aka "the water bitch" does that, not me.
c) I instruct my hostesses to just leave the pitcher at the table if someone starts playing the water game.
c) I am a person. If you are nasty to me, you will get nasty back. When I bring it back, your food may look fixed, but its a good bet that there's probably a new problem, and problably the health inspector wouldn't be to pleased to know about it.

In sum:

a) Please never come in to my resturaunt, I have enough shitty customers as it is.
b) You are not special, nor is your money. You are just another pig at the trough and there is a 45 minute wait behind you. If you are feeling unappreciated, fucking leave.
c) If you are a pain in the ass customer, expect to get a pain in the ass server. Nowhere in the universe is there a more beautiful demonstration of short-term karma in action than in a resturaunt.
d) Leave the kids at home
e) You must work for at least one week in a resturaunt before you are allowed to eat in one, and work for at least one month in a resturaunt before you are allowed to talk about one, and work for at least one year in a resturaunt before you are allowed to criticize servers.

P.S. The politically correct gender-neutral form of the word waitor is waitron or better yet just server. It is demeaning enough to wait tables without being called "honey" or "miss" or "excuse me." My name is not "excuse me."

Thank god I don't work in a resturaunt anymore, or I might have really gone on a rant.
posted by ChasFile at 8:19 AM on July 28, 2004


Thank god I don't work in a resturaunt anymore

A sentiment I'm sure we can all agree with.
posted by biffa at 8:26 AM on July 28, 2004


if you're traveling in the US, tips to waitpeople (as well as some other tipped positions) are not "extra". They're how the person makes their living.

And that's exactly what's so broken about the whole system. What other industry can get away with underpaying their employees and guilt-tripping their customers into making up the difference? It's embarassing and silly. Just charge me what the service costs already, and don't make me go through this ridiculous pseudo-aristocratic ritual where I deign to reward the groveling servants for their deference.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:32 AM on July 28, 2004


Before we opened our bakery, we laughed at the Soup Nazi and the stereotype of the angry chef. But after six months we totally understood where they were coming from.

After six months of attempting to placate customers and fulfill every whim, we found that we were working 16 hour days, getting 4 hours sleep (you still have to find time to buy ingredients and do laundry) and were still behind the 8 ball when it came time to put things out for the public after dealing with all the special orders. And I do mean special. Special fillings, special frostings, special sizes ("can you make that smaller?") all made from scratch. We had to start drawing lines.

A key problem is the amount of food porn consumed but not fully understood by the buying public. People watch the Food Network but don't cook. The result is that they get the same impression of food preparation that people who watch This Old House get about home repair. One minute it's "Now we'll lay the first tile on the backer board" and the next minute the floor's done. They don't see the hours inbetween. They don't fully comprehend what they're asking for, yet know exactly what they want. Cheap, and instantaneous.

In an attempt to defend servers and cooks, a lot of us yell because we care. There's nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone's face light up when they get something that totally hits the spot and it's still warm, or making a child's birthday cake that totally exceeded the parent's expectations. I could go on and on about the positivity food generates. It's a rush when you do something right, and we really try hard to do that. We don't use that vomit-inducing frosting made out of shortening and sugar that comes out of drywall buckets, prebaked/frozen cakes, beet sugar or a thousand other disgusting and cheap products. We use cream, butter and good chocolate, and we bust our ass to put out great products. We're proud of what we do. So when someone comes in and bitches about something insignificant in the grand scheme of things it becomes personal. It's no different than someone coming into your place of work and nitpicking the way you created a spread sheet, wrote code or processed an order.
posted by Atom12 at 8:42 AM on July 28, 2004


It should be required that everyone work in a resturaunt for one week before they are allowed to eat in one. People have no idea.

People have no idea. This transcends industry. Should everyone be required to spend a week programming computers before they are allowed to operate one? A week in an auto-repair shop before they are allowed to drive one? A week in a sweatshop before they are allowed to buy clothes?

Your rant is not the first of its kind I've heard from ex-waitstaff - but guess what? Dealing with customers always sucks. Doing it well is a mark of professionalism.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:51 AM on July 28, 2004


"You are just another pig at the trough"

I think that's a sign that you were in the restaurant business a wee bit too long...
posted by Irontom at 8:58 AM on July 28, 2004


ChasFile's comment is sheer poetry.

the anger, the shame, the frustration, the gigantic chip on the shoulder, the sheer hatred for other people, the threat of tampering with food out of revenge -- wonderful ingredients, all of them.

I've worked as a waiter, too, and I can probably understand the anger. a very revealing quote is "It is demeaning enough to wait tables". well, if you really think it's demeaning, then you gotta leave, take any other job, for the sake of your mental and physical health. you'll develop ulcers, or something. serving food sucks ass because it's less creative (and less satisfying) than cooking, and dealing with people is not always easy, especially if instead of being indefferent/blank about it you're angry/have a chip on your shoulder.

it's a crap job, it exists only because nobody has yet figured out a way to deliver food to tables with robots or something. restaurant-level cooking (as opposed to the by-now-automatic McDonalds school of fast food preparation) will always require human beings to do it. serving the prepared food, probably, in a Jetsons future, won't require people anymore. but if you think you're a slave and you take revenge on people because of your self-hatred tampering with food, well,you're so in the wrong business.


Now its your problem, because *I* decide when you get to eat

not completely true. and anyway it's self-defeating because in the USA I, the customer, decide if and how much I am going to tip you. so, tough shit. a certain measure of good manners coming from both sides just makes the whole experience less hellish than you think
posted by matteo at 9:54 AM on July 28, 2004


serving the prepared food, probably, in a Jetsons future, won't require people anymore

Actually, there's a place in London called Yo! Sushi that doesn't have servers. Just robots. The sushi is placed on a conveyor belt and you just grab what you want when it rolls by. You can catch a glimpse of the place in "Johnny English."
posted by Atom12 at 10:11 AM on July 28, 2004


People have no idea. This transcends industry.

Yes it transcends industry. But there is one small difference for US servers (putting aside the corporate use and abuse of sweatshops); there are contracts and prices in place to protect both the client and the programmer/designer/mechanic/etc.

Getting a belt replaced doesn't entitle you to a new transmission your next trip in just because you slip Joe an extra 50. Hiring someone to do your website does not mean you can change your mind 30 times *after* you have already given the go-ahead on your chosen mock-up. A server gets 2 bucks and change an hour, relying on tips to make up the difference. I honestly know of no other job in the US that pays below minimum wage thanks to a loop hole; feel free to enlighten me (hairdressers maybe? Do Canadian servers have a salary?).

As you say above Mars, the US system is broken. Since living in a place where servers get a full salary and 3 hour meals are the norm, Americans in a restaurant will stand out. They are the ones becoming beet red in the face, muttering about "Arrogant French/Italian/Spanish/etc waiters" because their server is respectfully giving them time to eat, to digest, to discuss, to laugh, to drink, etc and not hovering around to play Mr. Stepin Fetchit hoping to make a quarter extra. On preview: matteo i would be interested to know if you have waited tables in the US?

Those of you who have never vented about your job getting cranky with ChasFile and elwoodwiles for venting over their jobs past or present as servers, I invite to throw the first stonewrite your various state representatives to change the law(s?) governing a server's below-minimum wage. The industry needs reforming on this angle and you can bet your fanny it won't becoming from the inside.
posted by romakimmy at 10:34 AM on July 28, 2004


Tip from a former cook: If you like your steak well done, just request that it be butterflied - a T shaped incision that allows it to be folded out to half it's original thickness for cooking. Since the char taste is probably what you're after, you get more of it anyway, and you won't get the nasty-ass piece of meat usually reserved for well-done as the request shows respect and understanding of what happens in the kitchen and the cook will reward that. A good server will suggest it when you order well-done. Honestly, the fact that well-done takes so long is a bigger problem than whether or not it's "ruined". A well-done filet, for example, backs up your table's order and the line and occupies needed space on the grill for nearly 40 minutes.
posted by bradhill at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2004


Okay people, this is the skinny - I'm blowing off steam, but guess what? A number of you sound like horrible customers. Go ahead and get your burger however you want, I'm not going to stop you or even sneer. Burning a burger is easy. But the overall attitude of this thread is that servers should just suck up the abuse and be your little servants. Guess what? Your wrong! Very wrong and it'd do you some good to grow up and realize people are working very hard and you have no idea what life is like beyond your own skin. I realize you're good people, but try to practice a bit of patience and understanding next time you eat out - or if having any empathy is difficult for you, stay home.

PS:mosch, we're actually pretty close on the rules, but I still take exception to making the filet into a burger. Yes, it is true that one should try hard to keep a premium client, but when you have people banging down the door (which is often the case) it is not possible to meet such a request. If half the tables are empty, maybe something can be worked out (send the busser to Jack in the Box) but that is rarely the case in the type of restaurant one would take a premium client.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:20 AM on July 28, 2004


Why would waiting tables be demeaning? A good server has real dignity and/or flair.

A few nights ago my family and I went out to a middling-to-nice seafood place. The food was very good, the ambiance pleasant, but what really made our experience was the server. She was only a faint presence for most of the meal, punctuated by just-in-time help; but what really got me was her combination of overwhelming competence with pleasant humor. She was clearly having a pretty good time, and it rubbed off on everybody in range of her.

She rocked. I tipped accordingly and wrote a thank-you note on the receipt, and if that's gauche, so be it.

If you're seething with hatred for your customers, man, get out of the business. I doubt you're covering it up even half as well as you think you are.
posted by clever sheep at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2004


Well, like I said, most people doing customer contact work shouldn't be. This is true for waitstaff, too.

But the overall attitude of this thread is that servers should just suck up the abuse and be your little servants.

Um...

To return to the subject of the post, I don't deny that there are a small percentage of customers who are bad customers and there's no reason whatsoever to attempt to satsify them. On a pesonal basis: they're just jerks. In a sense, they don't want to be satisfied. On a business basis: they're just jerks. They are going to be unhappy regardless. They are going to say bad thing to other people about your business regardless. Trying to make them happy is effort that could be best spent elsewhere.

I don't know if any of the cranky customers in this thread are some of these people. Maybe. My experience is that there's not that many of these kinds of folks.

But those "demon" customers aside, your job is (particularly in waiting tables) to be a servant to the customer. That's the damn job.

And your job is to be the representative of the restaurant to the customer. You're the customer's "advocate", so to speak. In that sense, you are responsible for the food. That's why a good waiter is picky about the food he takes his customers, and is willing to make trouble to the line to make sure it's good enough.

Customers know their waiter didn't cook the food.

You want to know how I consistently was best able to get customers to be understand my own difficult situation when dealing with unsatisfactory kitchen? It's counterintuitive: I'd take full responsibility and not make any excuses. I'd act like it was completely my fault. Almost without fail, customers would backpedal a little bit, recognize that of course I didn't actually screw up their food, and they'd trust me to make it right. Which I did.

That was my job.

I got paid a lot of money to do it. Much more than anyone else at the restaurant, and often more than the rest of the waitstaff.

I have demon customer stories like anyone else does. And, for example, I don't really like kids in nice restaurants, ever. But if you're mad, in general, at most of your customers and think the problems all stem from the person paying you, then you should get out of the business. (Or, if you already are, good.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:01 PM on July 28, 2004


You can catch a glimpse of the place in "Johnny English."

I know Yo Sushi pretty well, but usually I'd rather go to itsu -- which has the same conveyor belt system, as I am sure you know. but it's Japanese food, 85% of it raw, I'll believe it when, say, Italian or French good restaurants will use the same solution. until then, we're stuck with human servers

kimmy: no, ero in Italia, grazie a Dio
posted by matteo at 12:51 PM on July 28, 2004


EB, we'll just agree to disagree. A server is not a servant. The rest of your post is fairly accurate though. A server is a representative of the restaurant whose job is to give the customer a specialized experience that highlights the restaurant and the food. When customers allow the server to do their job as a server, then they will likely have a good experience. If a customer interferes with the server and mistakes them for a servant, they may not get what they are looking for. That's just how it is.

The "if you don't like it, quit" is a total cop-out too. I do like my job, but some customers, like those from the third link in the post, make my job difficult. I have every right to vent/bitch/complain or point out how they could behave better. As I said earlier, if the thread was about positive experiences working in restaurants I would be posting more positive thoughts. It looked like the thread was a good opportunity to blow off some stink so I took it.

Oh and Atom12 said it all.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:09 PM on July 28, 2004


Thanks EW.

Here was my morning, for those who outside the industry:

Get up at 4:15 without enough sleep. We didn't get buttermilk and a number of other items from our food supplier so I had to go to the grocery store on the way in. An extra from the Star Wars cantina scene was in front of me in the checkout line, which meant it took an extra ten minutes to get out of there. Once at the bakery, I started the usual morning prep. My key task in the morning is muffins. For reasons known only to God, the muffins didn't rise like they should and took an extra twenty minutes to bake. In that time I made ganache for the cakes due at 8, cleaned the display cases and did other tasks.

We open at 7. At 6:50 am I noticed I hadn't made the coffee. Not a big deal but there's a guy who comes in right when we open to buy it. That's all he buys. One cup of coffee. I hastily threw some coffee in a Mr. Coffee maker and it was ready at 7. The guy showed up at 6:55 and waited in his car until we opened. At 7:00 on the nose he came in and bought the coffee. He said "I could have gone to the diner next door and bought coffee since they open earlier, but yours is much better."

Our coffee is $1.06 with tax. He left $2 on the counter. That's why I do this.
posted by Atom12 at 6:18 PM on July 28, 2004


You had one or two good points, ChasFile, but most of your post was just plain scary. You obviously aren’t suited for the job.

And thanks for the heads-up, bradhill. A fantastic piece of advice that I will definitely be putting into effect. I like my steak well done, but am well aware of the "you get a crap piece of meat" theory so I normally settle for medium when dining out.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:20 PM on July 28, 2004


uncanny hengeman - You don't hang out with many servers, do you? That was straight out of typical after hours bar conversation amongst waitstaff, especially the ones who have been doing it for decades are the consumate professionals who give you the service of your dreams.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:23 PM on July 28, 2004


uncanny hengeman - You don't hang out with many servers, do you? That was straight out of typical after hours bar conversation amongst waitstaff, especially the ones who have been doing it for decades

No it wasn’t. It was much more than just an after hours bar conversation. It was a description by Chasfile how he actually behaves on the job. Eg: If you are nasty to me, you will get nasty back.

are the consumate professionals who give you the service of your dreams.

Sounds like you are describing me there. As a person who has worked on and off in all types of “service industries” for 21 years I know what I’m talking about. Too many lazy, short tempered, spiteful, immature, pathetic people get jobs as servers. They should seriously think about getting a different job if they behave like Chasfile and then try to defend said indefensible behaviour.

I treat rude people as a game in a way. If you’re rude to me, then I’ll be extra polite back. Think Obi Wan!

“If you strike me down be rude to me, I will become more powerful polite than you can ever imagine.” :)

I’m like the bubbly girl clever sheep describes, or as how Ethereal Bligh describes himself. I love my job(s) and it shows in so many ways. (Still hate a lot of customers, but. It’s just that I would never let it show while I’m working.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:05 PM on July 28, 2004


The "blowing off steam" thing is reasonable on its face. However, it's been my observation that aside from infrequent outbursts that result from extraordinary situations, the people that often "blow off steam" generally think badly of their customers and this affects their behavior. In other words, it shows. It doesn't make it better, it makes it worse.

In the six years of my waiting tables, I never ever sabotaged anyone's food in any way. The idea is nearly unthinkable to me.

It's been, what?, sixteen years since I waited tables? After all this time, I could probably only come up with a handful—less than five—"demon" customer stories. On the other hand, I could tell thirty angel customer stories. Or many more if you widen the field to stories about interesting or unusual people that were, nevertheless, not jerks. If your experience of working in a customer contact position is the opposite (the bad greatly outnumbers the good) then you need to do something else.

Because, frankly, it's not the people. It's you.

Later, I did computer support work. I understand how difficult and unpleasant many people can be. But the service person's attitude goes a long way in influencing this.

And, again, back to the subject: when I managed a support dept. at an ISP, there was one notable customer who would yell at and curse at the techs. All of them—it clearly wasn't their fault, this guy was abusive. And he assumed it was his right to be. I called him one afternoon after a tech had come into my office in tears. I told him that it was our job to help him, but it wasn't our job to be yelled at or called names and that from now on, I wasn't going to tolerate it. I'd instructed all the techs to hang-up on him immediately if he starts yelling or calls them names. He was outraged, of course. I didn't care. I was polite, but firm. Our job was to help him, not be abused by him. Those folks—and they are by far the minority—should just be written off (professionally, of course). Don't waste time with them.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:01 AM on July 29, 2004


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