Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. This week, we’ve got an old favorite: restaurant employees who had their vengeance against terrible customers. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
In college, I worked at chain mexican restaurant and really enjoyed it. For the most part, the customers were nice and tipped OK. The college students, however, were notorious bad tippers. After I had worked there for a year, we were all told that the location was closing permanently in a week. We were all sad to lose the great workplace but suddenly looked forward to working with no fear of being fired. Please keep in mind that the customers didn’t know we were closing...
My last night was especially awesome. I had a table of four college guys who ordered and made me run around forever getting more drinks, extra straws, this that and the other. When the food came out, two of them tried to tell me that it wasn’t exactly how they ordered. I looked them square in the eyes and said “look, this is exactly how you ordered your food (showed them the order pad and instructions) and you are going to eat it, not complain and leave a good tip.” I walked off giggling to myself. They ate it, didn’t complain and left a good tip. If only I had known that was the approach I should have been using all along!
My last customers of the night were a couple, obviously out on a first date. They ordered, ate and then paid the bill. When I got to the table, I saw 50 cent tip. I picked it up and walked out to the parking lot where they were getting into his car. I handed him the change and said, “I’m sure you need this more than I do.” I told the girl “any guy who’s this cheap doesn’t deserve a second date.” She looked at him like he was a piece of gum on her shoe. It was the best night ever of waiting tables!
I was managing a bar in Norfolk, Virginia that was located in the middle of a busy strip of bars and restaurants. I’d only been working there for a few weeks when it came time for the annual Halloween party, which I was told required a doorman/bouncer (something we didn’t normally have). The night of the party, the place was packed; it turns out we needed the bouncer to make sure we didn’t exceed our legal seating capacity. All of the servers and bartenders are running like crazy, working their asses off, when I notice a group of four squids (young Navy sailors) who look like they’re getting pretty wasted. Good for them, I think.
Five minutes later, a bartender named Angie comes up to me crying, saying that they left without paying. I ask her how high their tab was; $200. The bartender is crying because she knows that she will be forced to pay the bill (sidenote: this practice always seemed seriously illegal to me) (Editor’s Note: It’s very illegal, and a lot of places still get away with it because if a server refused to pay, they could be fired. I had one manager who tried to do it to me, once, but I refused to pay and got away with it since he wasn’t the GM. Side note: fuck you for even trying that, Scot), essentially taking all of the tips she’d earned that night. I was young, and the only male working in the FOH, and seriously can’t stand seeing a woman cry; not knowing what else to do, I pulled out my own debit card and paid the tab, joking that she wouldn’t be getting 20% from me. She hugged me and thanked me and dutifully went back to work. I smiled and began pondering how I was going to pay rent next month (back then, that was almost half of a week’s paycheck after taxes).
A few weeks later, I’m working the bar when Angie comes running in yelling for me. I tell her to calm down and ask what’s gotten her so excited, and she just keeps saying something about the Halloween guys. It turns out that she saw them eating at a place about a half a block down the street, and they’re still there. I immediately abandoned the restaurant to go with Angie to find these guys. Sure enough, we walk in the restaurant and it’s the same 4 guys, sitting with what look like their dates. Angie & I approach them at their table, wearing our work uniforms, and mention that they had forgotten to pay for their drinks on Halloween. After initially denying it, I mention that we have them on tape, and I could call the military base police and see if they could sort it out for us. They immediately ask how much the tab was, head over to the ATM, and hand over the $200. Angie then says “that’s great, you’ve paid him back...now how about my tip?” The guys look mortified at this point, and their dates are all staring directly into their food. They pony up another forty bucks for Angie, and truth and justice were finally restored in our bar.
Years ago, I worked at a Mexican restaurant in a small tourist town in Northern CA. We brought out chips and salsa when greeting guests, and hot fresh flour tortillas, right off the machine, with the entrees. One night, I waited on a couple that was very friendly and pleasant. They were so nice that I didn’t really mind that they were running me ragged, constantly wanting refills of drinks and chips. When I brought their entrees, with tortillas, they were ready to ask for more tortillas by the time I stopped to check on them. Okay. Normally we charged for them, but again, they were so nice I decided to lay another basket on them no charge. After they left, I realized I’d gotten no tip. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero. Being considerably younger and less cynical, I thought “Okay, they got really great service and appeared to enjoy their meal. Maybe they came up a little short and couldn’t afford to leave a tip.” When I told one of my co-workers about it she informed that they pulled that crap all the time. Mooched whatever they could for free then stiffed the server. Good to know.
They came back the next week, this time with friends. At the time smoking was still allowed in restaurants in California. This restaurant chose to make the upstairs dining room the smoking area, which makes sense since it kept the downstairs smoke free. It was a drag, though, to carry a heavy large oval tray up and down those stairs. Anyway, The Stiffers laughingly say “We don’t smoke but we want to sit upstairs anyway, for the view!” The night is a virtual repeat of the last one (except I’m hauling ass up and down stairs this time). When they asked for their fourth round of chips and tortillas AND to-go boxes, I told them “No problem.”
When they saw their check, the wife screeched “Hey! Last time we were here you didn’t charge us for the extra chips and tortillas!” I smiled and “Yes ma’am, I remember the last time you were here quite clearly. My manager said I cannot give away free food anymore.” She looked pissed and embarrassed in front of her friends (good!). When her husband came up to the register to pay, he meekly slid a couple of ones my way (on a check that was over $90.00). His wife saw him do it, glared at me and stomped out the door, slamming it. Never saw them again.”
I worked as a bartender/server at the only decent restaurant in a college town in Wyoming. I never was comfortable charging automatic gratuity to large parties and it had worked out for me in the past, so when my table of 15 sorority sisters showed up, I figured I would be ok.
After asking me to split the check, they all paid together—14 with cash, one with a credit card. Their check was $300, and as I counted the cash before running the card, I remarked at how many of them had provided exact change with no tip. I was in line to make less than 10% of the check after they had occupied my entire section for nearly three hours. My host was walking by, listening to me grumble about it as I swiped the credit card for the last woman. He snatched the credit card out of my hand, stuck it down the front of his pants and pulled it out the back, and placed it on the card holder. I’ve never been so pleased to make less than minimum wage for a night.
I was covering a management shift one night when one of the hostesses walks up to me with a disgusted look on her face. She tells me that a couple with a baby had been changing their kid in the LOBBY (yes, we do have restrooms with changing tables), and then just tied up the diaper and left it under a lobby bench when they were called to sit at their table.
I asked her where they were seated, went into the kitchen, grabbed the longest pair of tongs I could find, went to the lobby, picked up the diaper, went to the table of the couple in question, dropped the diaper on their table and said, “you forgot something in the lobby.” They were too mortified to complain.
Many years ago, I worked at a Bennigan’s that was a popular after-work drinks place for a young professional crowd. It was a small town with limited options so we were always very crowded, believe it or not. One busy Friday evening I was waiting on a large group of folks in their late twenties who’d come in for drinks after work. I was getting their second round of drink orders when one guy said that a plant hanging over his head was in his way and asked me to move it. Now, this plant was in no way near this guy’s head, but whatever—I was happy to move it if it that’s what he wanted. So I pulled over a chair and stood up on it to move the chain the plant was on up a few links.
When I had both hands raised up to move the plant, I felt a breeze under my skirt and looked down to see this guy lifting my skirt and trying to put his head up under it. I slapped his hand away and hopped down off the chair as fast as I could. One of this guy’s friends was incredibly embarrassed and said, “What are you doing?! Apologize to her!” The guy said, “I was just kidding around,” but was eventually persuaded to croak out a graceless apology that I was pretty sure he didn’t mean at all.
When I went to the bar to get their drinks I told the bartender what had happened and he said, “Want me to get rid of him?” “Sure,” I said. He asked me how many drinks the guy had had and I said this would be his second. He then asked me if the guy had friends with him to drive him home. I said probably and he said, “Watch. I’ll have him out of here in 30 minutes.”
The bartender pulled out a tall glass, like what a Long Island Iced Tea would be in, even though the guy was drinking something like rum and coke. He put ice in the glass, then filled the glass almost to the top with rum, and added just enough coke to make the drink slightly brownish. Then he stuck a straw in the glass and poured vodka down the straw. “Tell him we’re out of the other glasses,” he said.
I took the drink back to the guy and watched to see how it went. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later the guy’s friend was helping this guy out of the restaurant. Later that night, the busboys told me that they’d seen the guy throwing up all over the parking lot. Good! The next day I saw the guy come back for his car so I guess he lived but I never saw him in the restaurant again.
Kinja user Brian, The Life of:
I worked at an extremely busy “top 40 nightclub” back in the mid-80’s called Baxter’s. One regular occurrence we had to deal with was the assholes who were apparently attracted to that type of club back then, most of whom were 30-something creepers who were trying to hit on anything that made eye contact.
Now, there were two distinct kinds of assholes that I’m referring to here. First are the assholes that tried to be jerks to us. I don’t need to tell the folks here that this is a very, very bad idea. Bartenders hold your ability to have a good time (and stay healthy – more on that later) in palm of their hands. Whenever I had a patron stupid enough to be a dick to me when ordering, I bought him a “shot on me… it’s a special one I’ve been working on… tell me what you think!” I’d walk around to the opposite side’s well (it was a 3-well horseshoe configuration), grab the bartender’s barmat (we all knew what was up when one of us did this), pour its mystery contents into the shaker with ice, and then come back around into view shaking the “shot” and then pour it into a rocks glass with a nice garnish flag. Invariably, the guy would down it, usually make a face because it was awful, and then always thank us and walk away like he owned the joint.
The second class of assholes were the advanced students. These were the ones for whom we reserved our greatest scorn as well as our Big Gun: a tiny, little bottle of Murine eye drops that we kept under the bar. To earn the title of Uber Asshole, they had to been a creeper to any female patron or especially to one of our cocktail waitresses. Once they earned our scorn at this level, they got a few drops of Murine into their next drink. Now, Murine has long since changed its formula as I understand it, so unfortunately this no longer works. What it did back then, however, was give Mr. Creepyhead a good 30 minutes or so of the most explosive diarrhea they’d ever known. Let’s just say this can be “inconvenient” in a busy nightclub with a line at the head.
(Editor’s Note: As many of you have pointed out, this one—and only this one—is actually too far. Not only do visine/murine not actually cause diarrhea, they are legitimately dangerous. So yeah, there are times when the quest for revenge—even intended nobly—can be misused. This is one of them. Instructive.)
In my grocery store bakery, we had a recurring character we dubbed ‘Crazy Donut Lady.’ She just COULD NOT get enough icing on the one thing she wanted, our chocolate iced chocolate donuts from the self-serve case.
In my experience, it seems the problem customers are more often than not only ever interested in one single specific item, and screw you if you don’t have or can’t find it even though they used great descriptors like “it’s round” and “y’know, that dark bread.” Also, go straight to Hell if you even think about offering up a similar thing.
Anyway, not enough icing isn’t a problem, as 99% of the time we have heated icing ready to go and we can add more or dip a plain donut if we sell out of a certain variety. Unfortunately, this just would not do for Crazy Donut Lady, who would either storm off in a huff after handling said donut with her bare hands (because of course she would) or get ripshit pissed and heave the thing at whoever she was griping at like a goddamned toddler who isn’t impressed with the food you’ve presented. Naturally, CDL had been banned from the place, but there isn’t a real way to enforce that, so she’d come back and threaten to call the local news and/or the police.
Well, one day she got to make good on her threat, as she found a cop who happened to be just outside the front of the store. The officer, who I’m sure was delighted to have to deal with this ULTRA IMPORTANT crisis, talked to our manager, who told him about her past shitbirdery. The cop then ran her info and, hey, turns out she had an arrest warrant!
All the icing we had on hand couldn’t have been as sweet as that karma.
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!
Note: I do not want poop stories. Please stop sending me poop stories. Although if you really want to submit them somewhere, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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