For an obscene number of years, I worked as a waitress at places ranging from a greasy spoon, to a pizza place, to an upscale dining establishment. It was hard work, genuinely it is, but I loved it. It’s been a great fall back for me, as well, (blessing AND a curse, really) in case we needed a couple of extra Benjamins (not my child), because my experience is lengthy and varied.
But like Carney’s to street festivals, the holidays often bring out the worst people in the world flocking to every restaurant.
I take that back: HALF of the people who come out to eat for the holidays are the dredges of society. The other half are jolly, happy, and full of good manners. These people tend to overtip, use polite phrases such as “please’s” and “thank you’s”, do not let their children dump out condiments onto the table (just to entertain them). They genuinely recognize that although their server maybe SERVING them, it doesn’t mean that they are any less on the hook to buy Christmas gifts or any less of a person for choosing this job.
Aunt Becky doesn’t want to talk about THESE people, though, although she would like to give a shout out to them thanking them for being awesome.
No, Aunt Becky would like to tell you a little story.
Years ago, when Ben was a wee ickle baby, I began to work at an upscale pizza place as a server. I began this job when the joint had only been open for a couple of months, so all of the kinks hadn’t yet been worked out AND the holiday season was beginning. The hostess stupidly put together a couple of tables in such a position that getting near the table was damn near impossible, but since she didn’t know better, a party of eight soon decended upon it.
I was standing in the server station in complete view of these people, waiting until they sat down to get their drink order, while the (extremely inexperienced) busboy began to set down their water glasses. The space was so tight between this table and the surrounding tables that Kate Moss would have had a tough time making her skinny way through, and the busboy made a grave error: he accidentally spilled PART of a glass of water on a kid of about 10.
Now, I saw the glass beforehand, so I can absolutely attest that it was indeed filled with water (two hydrogens plus an oxygen) and not battery acid (lead metal electrodes, lead oxide, and sulferic acid), but you would NEVER know this based on the little brat’s reaction. Much screaming ensued, many crocodile tears were shed, and eyes were rolled heavily (mine, of course). Let me put it this way: if this were to happen to my own son and he were to react this way, I would smack him for being a damn baby.
The Sea Hag (likely his grandmother), sitting to his right, IMMEDIATELY began to scream (no small feat, as the dining room was extremely loud that night) “I EXPECT MY MEAL TO BE FREE!” I had made my way over to the table by that point, bearing a pile of napkins to wipe up the spilled water. When I reached her (a teeny part of her sweater had also gotten splashed), she held up her arm for me to blot it off.
Tips be damned, I was NOT about to wipe water off some Old Bag’s sweater. I shoved the napkins into her hand and apologized to the rest of the table (who were actually suprisingly nice). Drinks were ordered and delivered without incident.
When it came time to order their entrees, the Sea Hag asked about doing a combination ravioli, as we had several types. I explained to her that since there were five ravioli’s per order, she would get two of one variety and one of another (you can see my error here. Even Dumb Old Aunt Becky knows that 3 +1 does NOT = 5). She scoffed at me, rolled her eyes and haughtily informed me (how someone wearing a sequined Christmas tree sweater can take herself seriously enough to be haughty eludes me to this day) “That’s TWO of one and THREE of another, har-har-har,” as she turned to her neighbor and began laughing snottily at me.
(I should note one thing here. Although she was snotty to me, she was NOT a rich bitch, which our town is known for. She happened to be white trash who believed that somewhere in her pea-sized brain that she was better than the staff. It was odd. I’ve rarely seen that from homes where the average income is less than $400,000 a year).
Equally snottily, I informed her that I was completely aware of what the products of two and three are, but she wasn’t listening to me.
The rest of the meal was completely without incident. I had someone else bring out the food for her, as I had no desire to interact with her any further. They tipped decently, I had the manager comp exactly NOTHING for them, and they left.
I admit that I’m STILL confused by how to tip other professions, how much do I need to tip a hairdresser WHEN I KNOW that she gets about half of the cost of the cut? Cabbies get a buck or two, more if it’s a long ride, sometimes I’ll throw my change at the barista (well, not LITERALLY), but servers get at least 20%, but far, far less if they’re assholes.
(Word to the wise: you want to REALLY piss off a server? Tip them a quarter. A deliberate quarter. I promise it’ll make them madder than if you tipped them nothing at all.)
But this is for unforgivable offenses. Kristin, remember the server we tipped 30 cents AND left a note so there would be no doubt as to WHY we’d done that? If you write that up and leave it in the comments, I’ll repost it here. It was hilarious.
I guess the moral of the story is that no matter how it appears to you, your server does have to buy Christmas presents for her family, too. Just because you have spent too much on buying your family gifts doesn’t mean that you get to take your anger out on the staff. It’s not their fault, I promise. You don’t have to OVERTIP if you don’t want to (although I swear it will be appreciated), but don’t take out your Grinchness on your poor server.
Now it’s your turn. I want to hear ALL of your WORST customer service stories, serving or not. I’ll add them up here if you leave them in the comments.