Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today, we return to that old favorite, stories of the dumbest customers imaginable. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I used to work at an "Italian" restaurant which I won't name—rhymes with "Shmolive Garden"—and one day a woman sitting in my section flags me down. "I'm sorry to bother you, sir," she says, "But I am just not good with fancy I-talian words. This sounds good and I know it's what I want, but would you help teach me how to say it?"
I obliged and had her point to her item on the menu...
"Ah. Spaghetti and Meatballs. Don't worry, ma'am. Plenty of people have trouble with that one."
When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I worked in an on-campus coffee house. This was the mid-90's, when Frappucinos were becoming a thing. Our knock-off version was dubbed the Ice Blended, just about as straightforward a description of the beverage as you could imagine. Then one day a customer asked, earnestly and with the words in the following order, "Could you make me a hot Ice Blended?"
It was a busy Friday night in National Harbor and the bar was filled to the brim. The bartenders were running around and doing their best to serve the guests as quickly as possible. One of the guests felt the need to further signal the bartender when he needed assistance so when this particular bartender put his head down the guest tapped him on the head. You know, because that's obviously how you get a busy bartender to wait on you. The bartender continued to ignore the guest and refused to serve him after his minor assault. The guest asked for a manager. The Regional Manager went to speak to the guest and apologized that he had not been waited on. The manager then spoke to the assaulted bartender and received the real story on what happened and why the guest was not being waited on.
The Regional Manager returned and told the guest it was not appropriate to hit the bartenders when you need a drink. The guest replied, "If I can't touch the bartenders there needs to be a sign up that says I can't touch the bartenders."
I work at a craft beer/hot dog bar in the Pacific Northwest. We get a lot of granola folks who come in regularly (because PNW) even though we aren't even close to a hippy-friendly bar.
One afternoon, we get a large group who is, for the most part, friendly and quick with their orders, until the last gal who is "VERY allergic to gluten", and asks for a full description of every single hot dog topping on the menu, to determine what has gluten. It was tedious and somewhat annoying (it was a crazy busy shift), but better safe than sorry, right?
She then says, "Are your all-beef dogs made with animal carcasses?"
I stared at her for a minute, not sure if she was joking, until I noticed all of her friends looking down in embarrassment. All I could say was, "I mean, yeah, they're technically carcasses. They're not rotting or gross or anything, but they're definitely dead animals."
She replies, "In that case, I'll have a veggie dog."
"...The main ingredient in our veggie dogs is gluten."
"Oh, that's okay. As long as it's not a carcass."
I'm the manager at Fancy Kitchen Store in Upscale Suburban Mall, Calif. We close at 9 and at 8:55 a woman comes storming in with a rectangular cake pan. She sets it down on the counter and I see brownies in the pan. A couple are missing though.
"I made these with YOUR brownie mix last night and they are TERRIBLE!" She slams down the package of Trader Joe's brownie mix in front of me. I do not work at Trader Joe's.
A slight smile comes over my face as I figure out how to play this. "OK, well, I'm so sorry to hear that, AND...I think Trader Joe's owes you an apology!"
"You see, this is Trader Joe's mix and we're not Trader Joe's. Let me see what the deal is with these."
I took a bite and spit it out immediately. She, or someone, had used laundry detergent instead of sugar or flour in the mix. It was so gross. So much soap flavor!
She was so embarrassed that I got her to buy some stuff from me. Also, I made my other associate taste the brownies before I tossed them. "Hey Jen, do these taste odd to you??"
Jen still hates me for that.
I worked at restaurant that served pretty standard traditional sushi and Izakaya dishes. Nothing fancy or outright spectacular. Guests often started their meals with the usual suspects: Miso Soup, Edamame, New Style Sashimi, etc.
Four women came in for dinner one night. I greeted them, went over specials, rang up and dropped off their drink order. When I ask if they were ready to order food, one woman angrily demanded an explanation as to why I hadn't brought over the bread rolls yet. I said they we don't have bread rolls, and she went off the rails insisting that when she ate here last week, we brought her bread rolls.
Her friends quickly devolved into her minions, nodding along and making a point to tell me they only reason why they came to the restaurant was for the free bread. I said that I was sorry, but we did not offer bread rolls. She then insists that she saw bread rolls at other tables. I looked around a fully seated restaurant. Not a single piece of bread in sight. I offered to go back to the kitchen and see if there was anything we could do. She put up her hand and waved me off. It was so over the top, I had to bite my lip to stifle laughing as I walked away.
My manager went out to table to explain the same thing. Whatever was said, my manager came back into the kitchen rolling her eyes. She told me just to send out an app of my choice and comp it to shut the table up. Vegetable Tempura, it is! As I brought this oversized plate, stacked high with fried vegetables over to the table. The woman raises her eyebrows and loudly states: "Oh! Well! Looks like you found those bread rolls after all. Wasn't that hard, was it?"
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 (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
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