Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Ask and ye shall receive: this week, we have stories of revenge taken on terrible customers and bosses, either by employees or by the universe itself. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
The summer after I finished High School I got a job at our local Taco Bell. While I was working there I was the only white employee, the rest were Hispanic, though most spoke English (this is an important detail). Despite my horrible attempts at learning Spanish (I wanted to be able to talk to the employees we had who didn’t speak English, but I had taken Latin in high school and had a bad habit of switching between the two when I was trying to say something in Spanish, something we eventually dubbed ‘Spatin’), I managed to get very friendly with pretty much everyone who worked at the store. I normally worked the drive-thru during the lunch rush, but if someone on one of the other shifts asked me to switch I’d do it, especially if it was the night shift, because I liked messing with the stoners that came through late at night.
One day I was working the night shift. I was running the drive-thru, there were two people on the food line, and a manager who was doing some prep for the next day. I got the beep in my ear, indicating a car was in the drive thru, and started with the familiar spiel, “Welcome to Taco Bell, my name is Katy, how are you today?”
What I got back: “Thank GOD you speak American! I’m sick of having those fucking Mexicans take my order. I can’t understand a goddamn word out of their mouths, and those retards always fuck up my order!”
I sighed but said nothing as he ordered two “tay-cos,” a “que-sah-diller,” and a drink. I’ll mention now that this was my second to last shift. I had put up with this kind of customer before, mostly the ones who came into the store and demanded to have their order taken by “the white girl” even though I was working the drive thru, not the front registers. I would grit my teeth and do it, it just wasn’t worth the trouble to fight, but this guy had pressed all my buttons.
So when he pulled up and handed me his card to pay I started speaking ‘Spatin.’ It was enough that my co-workers knew I was calling him an idiot, but I also managed to throw in some of the more creative insults I remembered from my Latin class. The customer got red in the face and shouted, “Goddamn it, speak English! I know you know how!”
At which point, my manager leaned into view and said, “Oh, no, she only knows how to say hello and repeat the food orders.” (Editor’s Note: This is the best manager.) The customer shouted something about our company hiring “fucking Polacks” (WTF?). I dropped the food in his lap and sent him off with the Latin equivalent of “screw you.”
The next day, I got called into the manager’s office. Apparently, the guy had called and complained, so I got my only write-up of the summer...and a $30 gift card from the night crew, with a thanks for the laughs.
About 10 years ago, I was in New Orleans at a famous steak house, owned by a famous chef. It was the French Quarter on a Saturday, so wait time without a reservation was about an hour. Pretty average and expected for the restaurant and location.
As my party was waiting, we witnessed this couple come in. They were dressed nice, probably too nice for New Orleans, and he told the hostess he needed a table for two. When she explained it would be about an hour for a table without a reservation, he started to yell at her, “DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM?” Over and over again. This poor hostess was clearly mortified and left speechless, but what the man didn’t notice was that he had not only gotten the attention of everyone in the waiting area, but also the 300+ pound security guard and what appeared to be a manager. When he was on his probably 12th, “DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM?” the manager tapped him on the shoulder and said, “You are out of here. Leave immediately.”
Clearly the man didn’t see the security guard, because again he unleashed another “DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM?” at the manager. Then the security guard grabbed him and as he was throwing him out the door, the manager yelled, “Sorry, we can’t seat you, since YOU don’t know who the fuck YOU are.” Everyone was dying laughing.
To this day, I wonder just who the fuck that man was.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1994, I had problems finding a full-time job. Turns out the counselor at the College of Education who told me about all the jobs in the secondary education field was not telling the truth. So I was making ends meet by working as a substitute teacher during the day and working as a delivery driver for Papa John’s at night.
Early one Saturday morning, about seventeen hours into what would be a twenty-hour day (wake up at 7 AM, drive to teach horrible little brats, home at 4:00, change clothes, drive to pizza place, deliver for ten hours until the store closed at 3 AM) I had a delivery to one of the frat houses on campus. I left my beloved 1989 Pontiac Sunbird running as I walked up the sidewalk, because turning the car off and on a hundred times a night will fry your starter in no time flat. Ask my previous car, a 1979 Buick Regal (sniff).
Pro-tip for delivery drivers. NEVER DO THIS. ALWAYS TAKE YOUR KEYS.
As I was walking up the sidewalk, a group of douche-bros yelled at me, asking for directions to a street only a block or two away. I pointed where they should go, turned back to the frat house, then guided by my spider-sense, turned to watch my car pull away from the curb as THEY FUCKING STRAIGHT-UP JACKED MY CAR.
Suffice to say, I completely lost my shit. I chased after them, cursing and swearing, holding the warming bag in one arm as they turned off of Second Street onto Armory. I ran out into the middle of the street on that freezing cold February night, convinced that if I caught up to them I could take them all on.
Amazingly, they didn’t go far. I saw my car pull into this crappy little run-down house that was meant for four tenants but probably held about twenty. I practically tore the door off the hinges, screaming like some sort of deranged lunatic, demanding to know where the fuckwads were that stole my car.
They looked at me, completely blank, through their haze of Natural Light and weed.
“Dude, I don’t know what you’re so mad about, but your car is right outside.”
So it was. With the keys still in it.
Shaking, I climbed back in and backed out of the driveway. As I pulled back onto Armory, a campus cop car appeared like a gift from the heavens. I beeped my horn and rolled down the window.
“Excuse me officers. I was just in that house there, and I’m pretty sure there is some underage drinking and illegal drug use going on.” I waited until they pulled into the drive, and drove off, cackling merrily.
Moral of the story? NEVER fuck with the pizza man.
I was 17, had just graduated from high school, and was trying to earn money for college. After two hellish weeks working the salad bar at Burger King, where I sliced my fingers more than the tomatoes, I switched to working in a Furr’s Cafeteria, a popular local chain in New Mexico. The vast majority of the line servers were pretty young teenage girls because customers liked them and would buy more food. Also, I think, because the manager preferred pretty young teenage girls. He had perfected the art of getting behind us and casually copping a feel whenever possible.
About the second or third time he groped me, I simply backed into him and stepped as hard as I could on his foot. Then I apologized profusely, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m so clumsy.” And after that, every time he came up behind me, I’d mash his toes or his instep as hard as I could, always sweetly apologizing. I’ll give him this—he was persistent. It took him about two weeks to finally give up, and then he left me alone for the rest of the summer.
When I was a broke undergrad around 2004, I worked at a popcorn and candy shop near campus. At the time, my state’s idiot lawmakers were threatening to invalidate the health care plans of companies who offered insurance to employees’ same-sex partners. As a form of silent protest, LGBT folks took to carrying $2 bills and using them to pay for goods as a way to visibly demonstrate their contribution to the state economy—the message being, “If you want us gone, this is the money you’re taking away from the state.” I went to college in a pretty liberal town, so I saw quite a few $2 bills. I started hoarding them in my register because little kids are utterly delighted when you give them a $2 bill as part of their change.
One day, business at the store was slow, and I was waiting on a man who was in a conversational mood. As we chatted, he mentioned that he was seeing a lot of $2 bills in circulation and was wondering why. I explained the reason people were using $2 to make a political statement. He started to rant about the “sinful gays” and their “evil ways” and “something something AIDS” and other bigoted nonsense. Then he bought a $2 bag of popcorn and paid with a $20 bill.
With the world’s sweetest smile, I handed him his change: nine $2 bills.
I was a college student recently out of the Army and working at Ruby Tuesday. Valentine’s Day came around on a Saturday and it was predictably busy. We were all working 3-table sections and running to keep up, but things were going pretty smoothly until ToughGuy and his date come in.
Every server has seen ToughGuy—he is the bro-iest bro who ever bro-ed and is going to spare no expense or effort in trying to impress his Valentine’s Day date. By taking her to Ruby Tuesday. And by trying to impress the server. At Ruby Tuesday.
He starts by asking to see the wine list. Our wine list was pretty short: box ‘o white/red/blush as the house wine and a few options along the lines of Kendall Jackson and Turning Leaf for Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet. That’s it, and it was printed on the regular menu. He makes a big show of finally deciding on the KJ Merlot. I play it up a bit for the wine service, but not too much—I’m not a wine expert by any stretch of the imagination and don’t really even know how one goes about serving expensive/very good wines. Even so, he again makes a big show of sniffing the cork, swirling the wine, sniffing the wine, swirling the wine, looking at the ceiling lights through the wine, swirling the wine, tasting the wine, and swirling the wine. He determines that the wine is not acceptable and he will need the Cabernet instead. Upon presentation of the new bottle, he goes through the whole charade again and deems it adequate.
Then he tells me he will need to interview the chef to discuss how best to prepare the steaks. You see, he will need to examine the steak before it is cooked and meet with the chef to discuss marinades and cooking temperatures and the like. Remember, this is all at Ruby Tuesday. We have sirloin and New York strip—they’re decent steaks, but not spectacular. We also don’t have an actual chef in the house. We do have a head cook, though: Dontavious, who tells me “It’s goddamned Valentine’s Day! I ain’t got time for that shit!” I diplomatically rephrase this and pass it on to ToughGuy, who finds this to be simply unacceptable. After a discussion with the floor manager, she has Dontavious come out to the dining room. I didn’t listen to the conversation, but Dontavious has a predatory grin as he returns to the kitchen. I decide that it is best that I don’t watch him cook the steaks.
Naturally, the steaks get sent back twice. Both times, the kitchen staff simply re-plates them and sends them back with no actual change. The entire meal is like this and it takes them more than two hours before ToughGuy is ready for the check.
I bring the check, which is fairly large for a 2-top at Ruby Tuesday, and ToughGuy ostentatiously pulls out his wallet, finds a credit card and says, in a strong, projecting voice of the sort you use when you want to make sure complete strangers know you are a douche, “Put it on the platinum card!”
I run his card and it is declined. I try again, just to be safe. Declined again. This sort of thing happens and it is usually no big deal. you politely say that the card didn’t run and ask if the diner has a different one you can try. But not this time. Now I get to bring ToughGuy down a peg. I return to the table, stand a couple of steps away, flip the card onto the table and say, in a strong, projecting voice: “The platinum card is declined!” His date bursts out in loud laughter as he turns bright red. She ends up paying for dinner because he doesn’t have another credit card.
After working my ass off & getting my first publishing job in NYC, I discovered working in publishing pays a really shitty salary and got a part time job after work to help supplement my income.
I lived in NJ at the time, so I commuted by train into NY, got on the subway, and worked all day, and then did the reverse coming home and had the distinct joy of still facing four hours of work before being done with my day. I worked at a small café that served five things: soups, salads, smoothies, soft frozen yogurt, and gelato. By the time I got there in the evening, it was usually about 6:30pm and generally would be pretty slow until close (unless it was the summer or a holiday, or an unusually warm day). This particular day was in the middle of winter, and I closed the café by myself.
So I get there and do my usual thing, and set about cleaning up and restocking and so on. At about ten minutes to close, a woman comes in. She was familiar to me; she usually came in with her snotty 3-4 year old, who wiped his gross hands all over the (glass) gelato case. She was also really insistent that her precious angel be able to choose his own gelato flavor, which took about 5-10 minutes each time, even as the line continued to build up behind her. She always left a mess behind, never tipped, treated employees like they were beneath her, and generally was not a favorite customer.
So she asked for the soup of the day, and I told her that we stopped serving soup a half hour before close (which was the truth). She insisted we didn’t, and demanded to know what the soup of the day was. I must have looked confused for a beat, because she started to tell me how she’d been at the café just the night before and they served her soup 5 minutes before close. I told her that I was sorry, that was impossible as I’d been working the night before, and that I was (again) sorry, but we stopped serving soup a half hour before close, maybe she was mixing up our café with another store? She insisted no, that she’d been there, and that we’d served her soup.
I see this is going nowhere, so I apologize for the millionth time and tell her that I don’t have any soup to serve her. She gets all huffy and asks what else she can eat. I tell her I’m happy to get her a salad, a smoothie, yogurt, or gelato. She says she doesn’t want any of those things, just a cup of soup.
By now it’s just about closing time, and I am getting pretty impatient with her. It’s as though if she thinks that if she points out she wants soup often enough, I’ll break down and get it for her. While she doesn’t know that I’m an incredibly stubborn person and would never do this, and I also DON’T HAVE ANY SOUP I CAN GIVE HER.
So I sigh, and I say again: “Look, ma’am, I’m really sorry, but it’s a store policy that we stop serving soup a half an hour before the store closes. We get these soups delivered daily, so once the soup is done for the day, it’s done. I have no soup to serve you.”
She huffs and puffs and starts muttering about being there just the night before (liar) and I decide not to take the bait, so I’m just standing there, waiting on her. She FINALLY ordered a frozen yogurt in a cup with rainbow sprinkles. THANK GAWD. She pays, and starts to sit down, and I point out that it’s now five minutes after we close, so she’ll have to take her frozen yogurt elsewhere.
She says: “You mean you can’t wait ten minutes for me to eat this yogurt?”
I smile sweetly and say “Ma’am, we are closed. We can’t determine our store hours by customer request. You cannot eat your yogurt here.”
She dramatically gathers up her stuff and starts muttering about how she’s going to tell the owners (two guys in their early 30’s) how I was so unbelievably rude to her. Go ahead, lady, just get out of here so I can go home.
She finally leaves. I turn off all of the machines & lights and and locking the door when she comes up behind me out of nowhere, scaring the daylights out of me.
Without any preamble, she tells me: “I don’t like these sprinkles. They’ve gone bad. I want a new yogurt without sprinkles.”
I say: “…what?”
“Your sprinkles. They. Are. Not. Good.”
I am just staring at her, because I don’t believe she waited the 15 minutes it took me to close up just to tell me that her sprinkles were bad? (Also: they were not bad). I finish locking the door, look her in the eye, and say: “I don’t care,” and I walk away. I leave her stuttering in front of the store.
The next day, the owners arrived at the store about two hours before it opened to the public to do ownerly things. They said as soon as they got there, the phone started ringing. They ignored it, as the store wasn’t open, and continued about their work. They soon noticed the phone was just continually ringing. Like, whoever was calling let it ring and ring and called back after the call was disconnected and let it ring and ring again. They checked the caller ID and noticed it was the same number, and figured something might be wrong, so they picked it up the next time around.
It was the woman. The best part was that the owners already knew the story (we were friends, and I’d texted them about it the night before). She told them that she’d come in an HOUR before closing and that I was rude and refused to serve her soup, even though it was out and clearly there was more left. The owner laughed, told her he’d talked to me, and that he’d appreciate it if she took her business elsewhere. She was still cursing and yelling as he disconnected the call.
I used to wait tables at a restaurant in Denver that hosted trivia night on Tuesdays while simultaneously offering $4 margaritas and $2 tacos. Those were dark times. Obviously, turning over tables was tough when people were trying to get in the five rounds of trivia and your tabs were never that high given the amazing specials. On one particular night, I served a couple who racked up an over $60 bill on just margaritas. If you’re doing the math at home that’s about 7 margs a piece plus tax. I kept their glasses full and they seemed to enjoy themselves just fine. However, at the end of the night when I got them their receipt, I saw that they oh so graciously tipped me $4. On fourteen drinks. They took up one sixth of my section, for the entire fucking night.
My jaw dropped and my blood boiled. I followed them outside and was about to demand an explanation...and that’s when I saw them getting into their car and getting ready to drive home. After 7 margaritas apiece.
So I called the cops.
“Yes, I’m driving down 8th and Santa Fe and a there’s a silver Camry swerving wildly in front of me. Yes, the license plate number is...” When one of my coworkers left at the end of his shift 15 minutes later, he called me to tell me that the car was stopped on Santa Fe with four police cars parked alongside it. Sweet, sweet justice.
I used to work at a coffee shop in college.
I was working solo on a slow afternoon and in the middle of helping a customer, a delightful old lady who was very polite and sweet. As DOL (delightful old lady) was ordering, another woman came in and immediately tried to actually, physically shoulder DOL away from the register. DOL looked somewhat baffled and continued her order, which caused ANC (angry new customer) to huff out of her nose and interrupt her, already irritated for some inscrutable reason. “EXCUSE ME!” Keep in mind, the time elapsed between her entrance and that moment was about 5 seconds, so it’s not like she was waiting for a while, or even at all. ANC snapped, “HOW MUCH ARE THE SALADS?” As I was in the middle of getting the rest of DOL’s order, I didn’t answer...because I was literally in the middle of saying a sentence addressed to another person. Two more seconds passed, and ANC bellowed again, “HOW. MUCH. ARE THE SALADS?!” I paused (still not done with that sentence, sorry boo!), looked at DOL apologetically, and said the price.
This apparently was not to ANC’s liking, so she turned on her heel, stormed to the exit, and as she opened the door she looked over her shoulder and yelled, “it is NOT that hard to multitask!!” Then she stomped out and went to slam the door—except the door had a cushioning spring to prevent exactly that. You know those doors, the ones that take about 5-10 seconds to gently and quietly close. It took her a moment to realize that her dramatic exit wasn’t going as planned, so she turned and tried to push it closed as angrily as possible. Slowly, fighting the spring the whole way, pushing while crouched deep in a lunge and with both hands, watching DOL and I laugh. Her dramatic exit had backfired once already and now she was just digging herself deeper. She turned and stomped off. The click of the door when it finally closed without her input was immensely satisfying.
I gave DOL a free pastry for being delightful, and we both had a good laugh.
Some necessary background first. My disgruntled high school biology teacher was a troll of a man who had always lamented how he couldn’t get into medical school and got stuck teaching instead. Bored to tears in his class, I had taken to examining my newly-pierced belly button ring. He noticed, and then exclaimed, “Ugh, you got your belly button pierced, there goes everything I ever thought of you.” Um, ok. I aced his class and never saw him again after sophomore year.
Fast forward 6 years later (2002), I am waiting tables at the 99 Restaurant summers between semesters. I am working a slow weekday lunch, when he and a friend I didn’t know get seated in my section. He recognizes me and at first it’s cordial.
Teacher: What have you been up to?
Me: I just graduated from Brandeis.
Teacher: What did you major in?
Me: Biology, actually.
Teacher’s friend: Ha, you did Biology even after this guy?
Teacher’s friend: Wow Brandeis is a really great school, you must be doing well.
...before I can respond:
Teacher: Well, I don’t know, she’s just waitressing in a restaurant.
Me: Actually, I’m not done with school yet.
Teacher: You just said you graduated.
Me: I did, but I start medical school in August.
A few nights a week, after my legal services job, I head over to the small French bistro I work at in DC, where I serve, bartend and manage. The place is super laid back and far better known for its parties than its food.
One Tuesday at the office, my boss asked me if I wouldn’t mind volunteering to help with registration for an event being put on by one of our pro bono clients, a high-profile ethics-focused non-profit (whatever that means). I happily agreed, logged off my computer and headed to the restaurant to manage a dinner shift.
About halfway through the shift one of our new servers, a sweet kid in his first serving job (it’s so fun to watch newbies figure out how much people suck), heads over to me with a “fucking kill me” look on his face and tells me that the two men at his table are complaining about the salad. I tell him not to worry about it, just tell them we’ll take it off the bill.
Everything seems fine until about 30 minutes later. The same server comes up to me again and says that now, after consuming the entire steak, one of the guests is complaining about the steak, that it was too tough to cut and cold. Upon noting that the man had consumed the entire steak, I told the server to apologize, but we had already comp’ed the appetizer and the guy had eaten the whole steak, so weren’t going to comp it. In retrospect, I should have gone over myself but, I was distracted with something and this honestly happens so often where people are just hoping to get something for free, I really didn’t think anything of it.
After they finish, my server comes over with the bill and hands it to me. At this point he just looks amused. I pull out the receipt and see that the customer has written a lengthy note on the back. It reads, verbatim: “It is extremely disconcerting when a bill arrives with the overcooked, reheated, can’t even cut with a knife, half spit out (because you can’t chew it), cold “steak” is still left on the bill. Get it the fuck together, Carol! So disappointing.” Then I flip the check over to see that he has left a $3.35 tip on a $45 bill (after the salad discount). I’d like to point out that I know this server, and he would NEVER be rude or snarky with a customer. He’s still in that new, un-jaded, eager-to-please phase.
In awe, I snap a picture of both sides of the receipt. I should note here that this guy had a very distinctive name, which I now have photographed next to his insulting tip and ridiculous note. The server is pissed, but mostly just glad the guys are gone.
The next day, I get into my office to find an email from the pro bono client I am volunteering with that evening, introducing me to my supervisor for the event. I look at the name and am wondering why it looks so familiar…oh, shit. I pull out my phone and my supervisor is THE SAME GUY who left the whiny little manboy note on the receipt from last night. This guy’s name isn’t John Smith; it’s a very unique name and there’s no way it’s not the same person. I go to my boss with the photograph, tell him I’m sorry but there’s no way in hell I’m taking orders from this prick all night and he’ll have to find someone else to cover the event. He couldn’t believe the note and was completely understanding.
About twenty minutes later, I get a call from my boss’ higher-up, who is directly involved with the non-profit. He asks me to please recount everything from the evening and read him what this guy wrote. I tell him about how the guy was nasty to my young server, how we had already taken things off the bill, how the man had eaten all the steak, and that I thought it was absurd that someone from an ethics-focused non-profit would curse out a server and still him on the tip, especially when his full name was attached to it. The pro bono coordinator is horrified, completely agrees, tells me that it was incredibly unacceptable for this guy to behave so inappropriately when he’s in town on business associated with their organization. He also tells me that if I want to go to the event and tell the guy off he completely supports anything I have to say (I declined). He tells me that he has already alerted the guy’s supervisor, he’ll have a sit down with this guy and his boss to discuss his behavior, the guy will offer an apology to the server, and they will give me money to tip the server appropriately.
We never heard from the guy himself, but I did get $25 from the organization about a week later to give to the server. When I gave it to him, he said he didn’t even care about the money. He was just happy the guy got his.
So a few years back, I worked as a delivery driver for Donatos, which is an Ohio-based pizza chain. Every Saturday, we would get the same order: a large pepperoni pizza and three two liters of Pepsi from this teenager who lived at the very edge of our delivery area (about a 20 mile round trip, which is tantamount to being murdered for a driver). So we would drive out there and every time, this kid wouldn’t tip, even though it was obvious his parents left him the money to tip while they went out bowling or swinging or whatever the fuck and the little shit was just pocketing it.
Anyway, I get stuck with his delivery one Saturday night and resign myself to losing nearly an hour’s worth of earning potential, schlepping it out to the suburbs. I get allllll the way back to the shop and am told by my spineless manager that they’d just got off the phone with the kid because, and I quote, the “retard delivery driver had shook up his soda” and he wanted new ones. My manager, being terrible, comped his drinks and sent me back out to lose another 45 minutes of my night to deliver three two liters.
So that’s when I figure I’ve accomplished everything I want to accomplish at this job, and that I’m fresh out of fucks. Kid lived in a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a fairly steep hill. Upon pulling onto his street, I stop at the top of the hill, open my car door, aim for the bushes at the bottom and bowl his 2-liters down the hill, driving slowly after them. Upon reaching the bottom, I retrieve the payload and bounce them off the curb a couple times, stuff them in the bag and violently shake while I walk to the door. Drop them off to the little asshole with a smile on my face and wait near the door after he goes back inside.
Seconds later, I hear the unmistakable sound of two liters of highly pressurized foam ejecting itself violently all over this kid and his kitchen. He bolts outside to see me laughing hysterically on his walkway to the point that I’d fallen on one knee.
I no longer work there.
Do you have a crazy restaurant or other food-industry 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/vomit stories. Please stop sending me poop/vomit stories. Also, if your stories are not food-related in some way, I am unable to do anything with them. Sorry.
Image via bitt24/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.