Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. We’re on Week 2 of stupid customer stories, and if you don’t think I could easily fill a month with stories like these, you’ve never worked with the general public before. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I was at a local restaurant for its famous Saturday brunch, and like every Saturday, there was a sizable wait. After about 30 minutes, I was seated at the bar and a few minutes later, a middle-aged gentleman was seated next to me.
The bartender/waitress asks the gentleman if she can get his drink order and he orders a mimosa, then quickly changes his mind and requests a gin and tonic. The waitress asks if he had a gin preference and the gentleman said, “Tito’s, please.” Now, its important to establish for this story, the man pronounced this in the absolute oddest way possible. He would say TEEEEE-tohs, easily 25% louder than any other word in his sentences and with a look of pure, unadulterated joy on his face as though “Tito’s” was the literal elixir of the Gods.
The waitress corrects the man, “Uh, Tito’s is a vodka, actually,” and the guy is absolutely incredulous. “Seriously? I’ve been ordering gin and tonics for years and always get Tito’s, are you sure?” The waitress ensures him Tito’s is definitely a vodka and asks if that’s what he wants. He nods in approval.
The waitress starts pouring the vodka in a tumbler and the guy literally stands up and goes, “What are you doing!? I asked for Tito’s! I knew you didn’t know what you’re talking about. Tito’s gin!” The waitress looks confused (as do I) and shows him the bottle, pointing with one finger to where it clearly says “Tito’s Handmade Vodka.” Again, the guy looks completely stunned but instead of relenting he continues to increase his volume.
“I don’t want Tito’s vodka, I want the Tito’s gin! How long have you been working in a bar, is this a joke?!” The waitress apologizes and tells him again, they do not have Tito’s gin (she politely leaves out that such a thing does not exist) and asks if she could use a different gin. “What are you talking about! Do you have rocks in your head? Every bar in the world has Tito’s gin, it’s probably the most famous gin on Earth!” At this point he is openly gesticulating trying to include other customers in his mockery of this waitress’ lack of knowledge of his imaginary gin.
The waitress’ jaw just drops and he finally bellows, “It’s right there! Just get the Tito’s,” and starts pointing at the liquor selection. She turns and tries to figure out which bottle he is indicating and he starts doing the whole “a little more to your left, up two” type thing.
When he said “with the red logo” I realized what he wanted about a second before the waitress did and held my breathe. I wanted so badly to have my belief confirmed and when her hand fell on the bottle and he went “YES! THE TITO’S!” I was in a state of absolute comedic ecstasy. As she turned around revealing the bottle to the entire bar section, I couldn’t hold back the laughter anymore and keeled over right in my seat.
“Sir, this is Tanqueray actually, is this what you want?”
He immediately sat back down on his bar stool and, without any sense of embarrassment, said at a normal volume, “We call that Tito’s where I’m from.”
Kinja user Tutti:
I work as a bartender in a very nice restaurant in a very nice suburb in Australia. There are two types of customers who have caught me off-guard: the very nice, very ladies-who-lunch type woman who ordered a glass of pinot gris as “peanut-grease,” and the seemingly unending supply of older gentlemen who will order a “mug-of-chino,” like the options are either a cup, or mug, of “chino.”
I work part-time during the summer at an open-air restaurant on the beach. It is a very wide beach, but you can see the ocean from the restaurant, and I would never have doubted that it’s fairly obvious that it is in fact a beach.
This past summer an older guy—probably in his 50’s—flagged me down as I was walking past his table, pointed to the expanse of sand just beyond the railing of the restaurant’s deck, and said, “What is that?”
I paused, trying to see if there was some object on the beach that he could be asking me to identify, and them before I could respond, he followed up with, “Is it a parking lot?”
I said as neutrally as possible, “Um, it’s the beach?”
“Really?! Huh. How about that.”
I come from a big family. Whenever we all got together for a holiday or birthday weekend or whatever, we would always end the visit the same way—church on Sunday, then a last breakfast together at the local Coney Island (miss you, metro Detroit). We’re a big group with a lot of kids of various ages, but the staff knew us and as far as I know we were never trouble.
On that most infamous of visits, everything is going well until our food starts arriving. My cousin, who was twelve or thirteen at the time (or as everyone who tells this story simply says, “old enough to know better”), gets his steak and eggs and asks, “wait, what’s this?”
Waitress: “Uh, steak? And eggs?”
Cousin: “I didn’t know it came with steak! I thought it was just a name!”
To this day, whenever someone orders steak and eggs, everyone at the table makes sure to ask if they know it comes with steak.
This one time, my catering company is running a banquet hall which is themed to the fur trade in Canada and everything is supposed to be set in 1815. While placing bottles of wine on a table during a wedding a woman in her 50’s motions me over and asks me if there are any peppercorns in the meal as she has a life-threatening peppercorn allergy.
This was a typical 4-course wedding with soup, salad, main w/starch and two veggie sides followed by dessert. I explained to her that likely the soup, salad dressing, main, starch and veggie sides all contained pepper. We always receive confirmations from the brides (no offense grooms) as to what allergies, vegans, kids meals, gluten-free, etc., etc. we’ll be having to deal with that night. No mention on the bride’s confirmation form of a pepper allergy. Being a banquet hall without a restaurant and with soup service starting in the next 90 seconds we don’t really have the ability to pull new food out of our asses at the last minute.
I begin asking her if she is allergic to pepper as she said she’s allergic to peppercorns. She then puts her hand gently on mind and says “no dear, I’m not allergic to pepper, just peppercorns.” I then proceed to spend the next 10 minutes explaining to her that pepper is in fact just ground peppercorns. I even go to the bussing station and grab a pepper mill and take it apart to show her that it’s just shaving peppercorns to make pepper. I have to explain to her that it’s not alchemy or magic that transmutes peppercorns into pepper, and if she has a severe peppercorn allergy, it’s impossible for her not to be allergic to pepper. Not wanting to kill a relative of the couple who’s getting married I explain to her that I’m not comfortable at all with her eating her meal. She then tells me she eats pepper all the time. Just not peppercorns.
She survived until the end of the reception. I’m not sure what happened to her after that, though.
I used to work at a cafe and bakery. It was a Sunday morning and church-goers were starting to file in quickly. At our cafe, the customer orders at the counter and we bring the food to the table (unless they are getting a pastry to go). So we had two lines for our two registers and the lines were getting really long. Like, REALLY long, the longest I’ve ever seen.
An elderly woman was next and she ordered some coffee and a pastry. I rang her up, she gave me cash, and I gave her change back. She stops and tells me I shorted her in change. I counted everything to be sure and I correctly gave her change back.
“You owe me a quarter!” She exclaimed, despite me counting everything in front of her.
I counted again, slowly and outloud so she could see. “You owe me a quarter! I know how to do math and you still owe me a quarter!”
I replied, “Ma’am, I’m sorry but I gave you the correct change.” Trying to be calm and I see the lines getting longer behind her. But she wouldn’t stop. “You’re scamming me! You owe me a quarter!”
Finally I took our tip jar, took a quarter from it, and tossed it across the counter and said, “There. There’s your quarter.”
She turned around with a pleased look on her face and said to the person behind her, “Kids and their computers.”
Yes, our crazy computers (cash registers) that calculate the correct change. Damn us kids.
When I was in college I bartended at a burger restaurant. One evening while serving a table of five, I had a woman request a new glass of ice water, because, and I can’t make this up, “her ice water was watered down.” She was not joking.
I worked at a restaurant on a lake for a few summers. We would often get people asking questions about where they could camp or how to fix their boat, because the restaurant was part of a Resort/Marina. Although since I was normally standing behind a bar inside of a restaurant and was obviously a 20-year-old girl in a sundress and not a boat mechanic, I didn’t understand why people would argue with me about why I could not personally jump start their boat battery.
My personal favorite was a lady who drove into the parking lot way too fast, drove past the windows of the restaurant (not slowing down at all), and drove down the boat ramp into the lake. INTO THE LAKE. Then she ran into the restaurant screaming at me that it was my fault she had just driven her car into a lake. “Why is there a lake there? Why are there no signs? How are people supposed to know?” Well, maybe there aren’t any signs because it’s a lake? People don’t normally need signs to see a lake they are driving their car into. She kept screaming at me until I called the owner. And then she tried to tell the owner that I should be fired because I was laughing at her.
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you’d like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with “Behind Closed Ovens” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
Image via Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.