Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today, we've got part two of two consecutive weeks of tales of aggressively dumb customers. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I work as a bartender in a semiprivate golf clubhouse. The restaurant is open to the public, so we get all kinds ranging from blue collar workers, college kids, to golfers who get sauced during a round. My favorite story, however, is what we now affectionately refer to as ham chop.
It's a busy Thursday night dinner and I am waiting on an older couple sitting at a six top (of course). Our special for the night was a smoked pork chop. I give the spiel, get drinks and return, assuming that the couple is ready to order.
"Your pork chop, does it taste like ham?" the guy asks, with a smile. I think he's joking but I sort of mutter "Excuse me?"
"Ham. Does it taste like ham?"
I know I have a look of total confusion on my face. "Sir, it's a pork chop. Have you had pork before?"
His smile fades, and now he's looking at me like I'm an idiot. "It says smoked. When you smoke meats it changes them. Doesn't it taste like ham?"
At this point I'm reaching for any explanation as to why he thinks a pork chop would taste like ham, "I guess sometimes smoked meats have a similar flavor. But sir, it's a pork chop. It's a completely different part of the animal. It doesn't taste like ham."
"No," he insists. "When you smoke meat it changes. You know what, I'll have the chicken."
His wife orders too and they get another round of drinks, but not before insisting that I ask our chef if the pork chops taste like ham. Our chef laughs, but assures me that no, the chops do not taste like ham.
I return with his drinks, and inform him. "Well I'd like to change my order. I want the pork chops."
I run back to the kitchen and change the order just in time. Despite our little interaction they're very pleasant people. The couple get their food and I return for a check in.
"The food is great", he informs me, and as if I'm the one who tried to convince him that smoking meat changes it completely, he continues, "but Miss, this doesn't taste like ham at all."
Lady: "Do you have Irish coffees or anything non-alcoholic?"
Me: (somewhat baffled) "Sure, we have both. Would you prefer an Irish coffee or a non-alcoholic beverage?"
Lady: "An Irish coffee."
Me: "Sure. Would you care for Bailey's in your Irish coffee?"
Lady: "Bailey's? No. I don't want alcohol. That's why I asked you about non-alcoholic drinks."
Me: "Ma'am, an Irish coffee has alcohol. It's made with whiskey.
Lady: (actually rolls her eyes and laughs) "No it doesn't."
I don't have time for this. I have three martinis and five beers on my tray. The room's at least 80 degrees and there is someone behind me complaining about still waiting for a drink. I can't argue. I don't know how to respond. I tell the lady I'll be back.
After dropping off the drinks, I return to the lady's table, bringing her a regular black coffee with cream and sugar on the side. She makes me stand there while she sips it — to make sure there's no alcohol, I suppose.
Lady: "This is what an Irish coffee should taste like! Thank you."
The things you learn.
Kinja user Stupider Jupiter:
I'm a barista at the ol' 'Bux. I had heard about things like this, but I didn't truly believe that this mythical stupid ass order would actually happen to me.
I have much to learn in life, clearly.
First, a little background for those that don't know the lingo:
A "skinny" drink is specifically both non-fat, and sugar free. If it's one or the other, it isn't a skinny drink, which many customers don't understand.
Which, you know, fine. In my estimation, you only need about a week of working register before you realize that correcting customers is kind of like hand feeding a tank full of entitled little piranhas, so it isn't generally worth the effort. I go as far as to clarify that the peach/white mocha/caramel brûlée/whatever drink they want doesn't have a sugar free option, and let it go from there, rather than try and directly correct anyone.
So, on this glorious occasion I have this conversation:
Me: "Hi, what can I get started for you?"
Customer: "I'd like a venti skinny peppermint mocha."
Me: "Sounds good, may I have your name for the cup?"
C: "And I'd like whole milk..."
Me, feeling that familiar but faint twitch of wrong in my brain: "Gotcha, may I have your name?"
C: "AND I'd like whipped cream."
The whole "get the customer's name" song and dance has gone out the window at this point. None of that matters now; I've come across ~*~The Customer~*~.
I can die happily knowing I'm a real barista now, I've just got to finish the transaction.
Me: "Alright, so I have a venti whole milk with whip skinny peppermint mocha. Just to be sure, you still want the sugar free mocha and peppermint syrups, correct?"
C: "WHAT? No, give me the regular kind. Honestly."
In the 90s, I worked at a high-end prix fixe restaurant in NYC. I always worked on Saturday nights in the smoking section. It was the 90s, after all. As smokers are bigger drinkers and spenders, I was usually the last server on the floor.
Nothing seemed worse, after a four turn Saturday night, than getting that last table seated at 10:55 just as the rest of the section is clearing out, but that is exactly what happened on this night.
Seated in a corner Hollywood booth were a couple out of central casting for a gangster movie set in the 70's. He has shiny bootblack hair, a white suit and gold chains, rings and far too many shirt buttons open. Her with the crazy long nails and giant creepy bangs. Their colognes were at battle with each other. The accent was as thick as you can imagine for outer borough New York City. Really, central casting.
I've rushed them as politely as possible through their first two courses and have just dropped desserts. I'm nearby finishing the evening's side work, when she cocks her finger and calls me over. "How can I help?", I ask. "There's dirt in my creme brulee", she says. "Excuse me?" I respond incredulously. She points that long fingernail toward her dessert and repeats, "There's dirt (pronounced as doy-wt) in my creme brulee." I look to where she is pointing and say, "Oh, I'm sorry, but that's the vanilla bean in your Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee." She looks at me and says, "Don't be ridiculous. Everybody knows vanilla is liquid."
I could not respond.
I was working as a banquet server on a wedding party. I greeted a guest at my table:
Me: Hi, I'll be your server tonight, what would you like for your main course?
Guest: (pointing at the filet mignon) What is this?
Guest (pointing at the roasted chicken) What is this?
Guest: (pointing at the mahi mahi) What is this?
Guest: I don't eat meat.
Me: Oh, well, we have a veggie plate.
Guest: I don't eat vegetables.
I tried to explain to the guess that our veggie plate consists of a meatless lasagna and asparagus and that we could leave the asparagus off if she'd like. She was not having any of it. So I went into the kitchen to consult the Chef and see if there was anything we could offer her. I was told to ask what would she like, and ask I did.
Me: Ma'am, is there anything you would like and we'll see if it's possible to make?
Guest: A hamburger.
While working for an Italian restaurant attached to a casino in Atlantic City, I had a couple sit down in my section. After puzzling over the menu for about 10 minutes, the gentleman calls me over, and with what can only be described as questioning concern, looks at me and asks, "Are your linguinies in season?" To which I replied, "Sir, I am not sure. Please allow me to check whether or not Chef pulled them off the tree this morning."
I had been working at Chipotle for just over two hours when I encountered one of the most clueless women I've ever met in my life. This was in 2011, so Chipotle was already a massive and well-known corporation in the USA. From both sides of the sneezeguard, it is about as idiot-proof as you can get. Every menu item is clearly laid out, to be combined at the direction of the customer. I'd only been working a couple hours, but it was simple, so they left me on the line alone to take care of the zero customers there at the time.
The door opened and a middle-aged couple stepped in. "Hi, welcome to Chipotle!" I called out, aware that I had the chance to look like a great hire in front of my new boss.
They slowly shuffled up to me, scrutinizing the menu boards as the approached. I smiled and asked what I could make for them. In our local flavor of Midwestern accent she responded "Yes, what kind of soup are you serving today?"
Uhh...Soup? I wasn't expecting that. Before getting hired I'd eaten at Chipotle many times, and knew for a fact soup was not a menu item. Yet, I turned and checked the menu anyways, giving the benefit of the doubt, just in case that was a test-market Chipotle or there had been a menu addition. Nothing. "I'm sorry ma'am we don't serve any kinds of soup here. Is there anything else you'd like?"
"No soup? Well, what's a bowl then?" She was really being very polite at this stage.
I was just relieved to know the answer, and explained that some people preferred to have all the contents of a burrito without the tortilla wrap, so we called that a burrito bowl. Even as I was speaking, I could see their eyes starting to glaze over with the use of Spanish words like tortilla and burrito.
"No soup?" She sounds defeated.
"No." I smile sadly. "I'm really sor-"
"All we want is soup. Where is there soup?" She started to get a little snappy.
I pointed to the purple awnings of Panera visible from our windows. "You could try Panera. They usually have pretty good soup." I was ashamed that I'd lost a sale on my first customers, but there was nothing to be done. The customers seemed to calm again from their slightly agitated state (the whole time the husband had been standing behind his wife, completely silent but mirroring her facial expressions almost exactly) and turned to leave.
They reached the door and I was trying to process the interaction I just had, when she turned back and yelled "You really shouldn't call it a bowl if you aren't going to put soup in 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!
Image via Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock.