Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. This week's theme is the most delusional customers in restaurant history, people who refused to acknowledge reality no matter how hard it was staring them in the face. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
"At the diner where I worked, every burger came with grilled onions, but they were served on the side instead of the patty proper. I had a table of two women who complained from the get-go about everything: the price of shakes, the temperature of the restaurant, even my use of cheesy, soul-crushing fifties slang ("hey cool cats, is that food razzin' your berries?"). When I delivered their patty melts, they flipped a shit that their grilled onions were not on the burger itself. I cheerfully and calmly explained that it was simply our way.
They were having none of it and demanded to speak to a manager. While they were doing so, I began talking to another server about the frustrations surrounding my upcoming wedding, when I was suddenly interrupted by one of the woman screaming across the diner, "She's talking about us! She's making fun of us! I want her fired!"
The final bit of loveliness came when I was wiping down a nearby table and overheard one of them say, "That little bitch is lying. She intentionally put our onions on the goddamn plate."
Needless to say, I didn't get a tip."
"This story is from my last shift as a bartender/server at a Mexican-American restaurant in central Illinois. At the time, I had been working in food service for about six years, but graduate school beckoned, and so I put in my notice and dutifully showed up for my remaining shifts with no problems, no shenanigans, no explosive exits after telling off a boss or two. The last table I had during this last shift of mine was a 60-ish year old grandmother and her junior high-ish granddaughter. When the granddaughter ordered, I thought she said "chicken picatta" — a dish we did, indeed, have, but her volume was turned down and so I repeated it back to her for clarification. I mis-heard; she actually ordered "chicken fingers." No problem. I got the grandmother's order and then headed off to retrieve their beverages. Moments later, the hostess came back and asked me if everything was okay because the grandmother asked to speak with a manager. Seeing as everything was fine, I didn't think anything of it.
However, with each subsequent visit to the table, her attitude toward me was increasingly curt, and so finally I asked if everything was okay. Her response was dripping with sarcasm: "Oh yeah...everything is just super." The manager overheard and came over. The customer then proceeded to insist that I was "clearly drunk and on drugs" because I had to ask her granddaughter to repeat herself. And there was no getting through to her. She insisted on getting the number to corporate, etc., and made an enormous scene before finally leaving. But here's the twist: her bill was not comped, and her method of payment was a personal check with her home address on it that she handed to me after treating me like garbage. I copied the address down, but never did anything for revenge. I kind of wish I had."
"I once served an older lady who came in and ordered a steak with a baked potato. We always put parsley on the potatoes for a garnish. As she was finishing her steak, she called me over to tell me there was a bug on her plate. I was mortified and immediately came over to see the issue and comp her dinner.
Upon closer examination, the "bug" was in fact a dried piece of parsley. I pointed this out to her. She said "But it moved" and I responded, "Ma'am...it doesn't have legs. Or a body. It's parsley."
We went back-and-forth for a short while before I relented and said I would get a manager. The manager took one look at it, realized it was parsley, and told the lady she would not be getting her mostly-eaten meal comped because a garnish and spontaneously developed properties of locomotion.
She paid her bill, and I never saw her in there again. I call it a win."
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you'd like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Behind Closed Ovens" in the subject line. Submissions are always welcome!
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