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 week two of that old favorite: horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad restaurant customers. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I used to work at a prolific steakhouse chain in Vancouver, Canada called The Keg (it’s sort of like a non-à la carte Morton’s, for all you Americans). I was seated this group of 8 young-ish men on a mid-week night. I kind of sighed to myself, dreading all the work and no tip that this table was going to bring me, but I sucked it up and was as sweet and helpful to them as I could possibly be in the hopes that they would prove me wrong. All of them—all. Of. Them.—ordered steak and lobster (one of the most expensive dishes on the menu), and multiple drinks each. “Wow, they must be very wealthy,” I thought to myself.
Throughout the night, they would go out on smoke breaks, leaving the usual collateral on the table (i.e. cell phones, wallets, each other) to let me know they’d be back. After they inhaled their food, when I presented with the choice of dessert or cheque, they all opted for their own individual confections and glasses of port. “Holy moly, money is no option for these dudes,” I thought to myself.
After I served them their sugary treats, I left them their bill, all beautifully divided so there wouldn’t be any problems with who owes what. They started digging in, while a couple of them headed out for another drag. I should mention that this happened right at the end of my shift, when I was trying to finish my closing duties so I could get the hell out of there and go home—plus their section was not very visible from anywhere in the restaurant unless you were standing in it.
I went to check on them and they weren’t not back from their smoke yet, but they had left a cellphone and a wallet on the table, so I figured they’d return. Wrong. After 10 more minutes, I popped my head out of the entrance to see where they were at. They weren’t there. I ran to the table, thinking “but what about their phone and wallet?!” Turns out, the phone was a plastic fake and the effing wallet was empty. So basically, they schemed about screwing me over well ahead of time. Yay for humans!
(Editor’s Note: Soon-to-be headline on Seventeen: “You’ll Never Believe the Awesome Way These Guys Found to Eat Expensive Dinners For Free!”)
One night working at an IHOP, I witnessed quite possibly the rudest older gentleman I have ever met. Not only did he demand me to seat him at a dirty table, but when I asked them to wait while I cleaned it, he and his wife sat down instead making it nearly impossible to clean it. Luckily, this wasn’t my table and another server took over.
Where I work, it’s custom to give one napkin per person at the table when a guest asks. The server brought the couple two napkins and he responded saying, “bring some more napkins and next time don’t be so fucking stingy.” Another couple was sitting at the table next to them and they overheard the man ridiculing his wife the entire time. He even yelled at her for using too many napkins. The other couple asked their server to bring the man’s wife a peach crepe because they didn’t think they way he was treating her was right.
The other couple’s server brought the wife her dessert and the first thing the man did was complain because they left him out. She shrugged and walked away. When the wife went to eat her dessert, he ordered her to give it to him. And he ate it.
We had this incredibly sickly looking family come into my restaurant one evening. Dad was grey, sallow, sunken-eyed and looked like he was about to burst into tears. Mom was the walking embodiment of the phrase, “Lady, suck a lemon and unpucker your mouth.” She walked in with a grimace like she could smell fresh shit from a backed-up toilet. Following them were two of the most ill-looking children you could imagine. If you’d seen photos of the childrens’ homes for kids with HIV from late 80s Romania, they looked happier and healthier than these two kids.
This was Monday night, which are always dead, so there was just one barman, one waiter and me, the manager—I was also the host and running a section.
“Good evening, guys,” I say in a nice enthusiastic way, trying to set the tone. “I’m Mike, I’m gonna be your waiter this evening. Have you been here before?”
“Yes.” says the mother, not looking at me.
Oooooooooooookay. It’s going to be one of those evenings. “Cool, that makes it easy then, I don’t have to explain the menu. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Yes. A bottle of water and four glasses.”
“Comin’ right up, ma’am. Still or sparkling?”
“If I wanted still water, I would have ordered tap water.” Yup, it’s going to be one of those evenings. I bounce off up to the bar, turn the lights down a notch, the music up a notch, and take their water over to their table with their glasses. I ask if they’re ready to order or if they need a few minutes. Now the law has recently changed in the UK and you need to point out the 14 most common allergens in food. Our way of doing it is to have two folders—one with a list of ingredients, and a second with a list of modifications that can be made to certain dishes to remove the allergens. Obviously, some dishes can’t be changed.
“My husband and I are vegan. My daughter is vegetarian and both of them are allergic to gluten, lactose, shellfish, soya, onions, peppers and GM foods.” I’m assuming the kids survive on eating air, then. Assuming it’s not red air, cause they’d probably be allergic to that too.
Now I’ve got a degree in genetics and biochemistry and I know that it’s not possible to be allergic to GM foods. So I explain that I’ll go and get the folder and show them each dish in the allergens folder. It’s basically the print out of a spreadsheet with the name of the dish across the top and the allergens listed down the left. I tell them that anything with a cross against it means they can’t have it as there’s an ingredient in it we can’t change. Anything with a tick is fine, and anything with a tick on a blue background means that there’s something in the dish we can remove or substitute. This is where the second folder comes it, and that’s just for staff to use. That tells us what we can change to make the dishes suitable. The soy and onion allergy is about to come in pertinently here as we’re a FUCKING ASIAN RESTAURANT and that pretty much all our sauces have either soy, onions, or both in them.
So mother and father end up ordering the vegetarian ramen, subbing ramen noodles for udon, taking out the asparagus and courgette and subbing in a mix of shiitake, oyster and enoki. To which I was then informed that they weren’t paying for the mushrooms—even though they’re more expensive than the courgettes and asparagus—plus, no spring onions on top. Easy, sorted. I write this down on their placemats, spend five minutes typing it into the computer and then move onto the kids.
For the girl: one vegetable ramen, udon not ramen, no courgettes or asparagus, sub mushrooms—but only shiitake and button mushrooms. By this point, I can’t be arsed typing things, so I hit the “see waiter” button on the pad and move onto the boy.
“Can I have the chicken kare lomen please mum?”
“I’m sorry,” I say, “it’s got shrimp paste in the sauce, and seeing as you’re allergic to shellfish…”
“Oh he’ll be fine. He’s only allergic to whole shellfish.” I want to cry. I don’t mind if you don’t like things, but don’t lie and tell me you’re allergic to things. By this point, I’d already had the kitchen clean down two of the hotplates and the woks because of “allergies”.
So the food is ordered. I write everything down, go through it with the table and then take my notes to the kitchen and explain everything to the senior sous.
The food comes out. The food gets sent back. The vege ramens are “Too greasy, you can see oil floating on the top.”
“Yes, MADAM.” I replied tersely, “That’s sesame oil and there are five drops of it in each bowl.” AS IT SAYS ON THE SHITTY MENU IF YOU’D BOTHER TO READ IT I rage internally.
“Well, we’re allergic to sesame, like I told you.”
“I’m sorry MADAM *growl*, I get some fresh ones made up for you, give me a couple of minutes.”
Foods #2 come out and are passable. At least I they were. I did my checkback as you’re supposed to and asked if anyone wanted another drink. I got a grunt from father and ignored by the rest.
The kicker to this story? They ordered two lots of vanilla ice cream, one passion fruit cheesecake and one banana fritter with ice cream, a latte, a cappuccino and two hot chocolates for the kids.
And they stiffed me 25p, rounding their bill down.
So I am old enough that when I was a senior in high school, I worked at Starbucks. Our store was on the west side of Vancouver (Canada), pretty near the university in a really nice neighborhood, and most of the people that worked there were pretty young kids in high school or early college. We were also mostly women, so our closing shifts were often 100% female and under 25. Starbucks used to have this asshole policy where you would close at 10 or whatever, but you couldn’t lock the front door until 10:10 or something, I have no idea why.
One night we were pretty much done—it was like 10:09 and we had already run Purecaf through the espresso machine (a toxic degreasing chemical) and started to mop the floors. One of us walked over to lock the doors, and as she was doing it, this middle aged douchecanoe shitbag manperson shoved the door towards her and aggressively entered the store. She told him we were closing RIGHT NOW, and he started yapping about how he knows Starbucks policy and it’s 10:09 and technically we have to serve him. My co-worker was like, ok, whatever guy—easier to say yes than no with raged-out older guys, as all women know—so this dude storms up to the counter and demands an Americano (a coffee drink made with hot water added to several shots of espresso). We say “sorry guy, Purecaf is circulating through the machine, it’s poison, you will die, please take a drip coffee instead, no charge even.” Ragedick INSISTS that DRIP COFFEE IS UNACCEPTABLE and he MUST have an Americano.
I’m behind the espresso bar. I’m in high school. It’s Canada (circa 1992) and I have never heard of the word litigious, so I’m like, fine have your cup of poison, I will happily make it for you, SIR. I make the Americano, hand it to him, and he demands a metal spoon to stir it. I hand him the spoon, he stirs the coffee, and then proceeds to try to throw this lava-hot drink at my goddamn face. Fortunately I had a terrible relationship with my sister as a teenager, so I was the queen of dodging projectiles. He burned my hand a bit, but not my face, and then he ran out of the store. I was totally in shock.
Fortunately, we had a pretty good relationship with the local cops (again, this was Canada, not America, so all the young cops had Women’s Studies degrees and wanted to help poor people and shit). These two undercover cops had been sitting at a table inside the store the entire time. They saw this shit go down, immediately booked it out of the store, got in their cruiser, turned their siren on, and pulled this asshole over. He had priors for sexual assault (no surprise there) and a couple of outstanding warrants, so they threw his ass in jail.
This is probably the only story in my entire life where cops look like heroes.
After I graduated university, I worked as a waitress at a dive bar / concert venue in a college town. Hence a large overly-drunk bro population seeking patronage. One night, I was pestered constantly by an extremely trashed man-bunned hipster individual. He demanded that I walk him to the bar to review our on-tap choices, while putting his hand over my shoulder.
He initially attempted to flirt with me, but then progressed to overtly request that I come home with him. I responded politely with denials and obvious references to my (serious, romantic, live-in) girlfriend, and my drag king friends.
At first, for the sake of tips, I jokingly but guardedly indulged his drunk ass. However, as bar close neared, I checked in with his group’s table to see if anyone wanted any last drinks. I see Man-Bun lean over to his friend and whisper in his ear. His friend then says something to the effect of, “Uhhh…so, what are you going to do after your shift? Maybe we all could do something at our apartment?”
After the predatory events of the night on Man-Bun’s part, I get somewhat uncharacteristically angry and look Man-Bun directly in the eyes to say, “No. I am going home to fuck my girlfriend. No dick involved. Have a good night.”
Pretty sure that got the message across...although every male there subsequently requested if they could watch. -_-
At the very least, after I gave a brief rundown to a couple of the other waitresses, that table did not get service for the remainder of the night, or pretty much any night after that.
In my last year of uni, I got a job on the overnight shift at a 24h McDonald’s. I’d had some restaurant experience before and hoped the overnights at a chain would contain only friendly stoners and security guards. Silly me.
My very first weekend of work was during Carnivale. Our location, while nowhere near the parade route (thank god) was beside the university campus and sandwiched between a major shipping corridor and two highways. We were also understaffed, meaning only myself, the overnight manager, the cleaning woman (who went home at midnight) and the grill cook. Normally there’d be two floor staff plus a manager and two cooks.
Between 11 PM and 1 AM, our drive-thru was SLAMMED. I mean SLAMMED. I mean that cars were backed out onto the major street at one point, with their hazard lights on to avoid getting ploughed by tanker trucks. And every. Single. Car had at least five occupants, sometimes more, everyone high, drunk, rude as hell and HOOOOOONGRY. It was all I could do to keep up with the orders, since I had to woman the drive-thru, the cash out, the drinks, the fries and the pies. Which trust me, they all needed. At about 1 AM, just when the deluge slackened to two full lanes, a car with five people pulled into the drive-thru and I took the order. And then I did a spit-take and took it again. And then I wanted to die.
Driver: Hi, we want to order 50 Big Mac combos, 30 Quarter-pounder combos and 20 grilled chicken sandwich combos. Supersize all of them. And half the quarter-pounders need cheese. Oh yeah, and five ice creams.
Me: *shaking* Sir, did you say fifteen? 1-5?
Driver: (I can tell he’s grinning smarmily) Nope. I said FIFTY. 5-0! And supersize everything. Oh yeah, and some pies. Like, as many pies as you have.
Me: *sweating like a ripe cheese* Oooo-k. I’ll have to get my manager for such a large order. Can you come through, please?
While the car is pulling out of the rammed lane, I explain this dilemma to the manager. At first she thinks it must be a prank and we shouldn’t take this order until we’ve cleared both lanes. But then the guy gets to the cash window.
Me: Sir, we need to confirm your order. You said you want 50 Big Mac combos, 30 quarter-pounder combos and 20 chicken sandwich combos? Supersized?
Driver: *shit-eating grin* Yep. Why, can’t you handle how big it is?
My manager leans over and quotes the price of the order as he’s stated it. He blinks because it’s into the low hundreds, converses with his car-mates, and then nods.
Driver: Eyuup! I’ll take ‘em all. I thought it’d cost more. *shrugs like it’s just No Big Deal* Yep. I’ll pay. So, like, how long will that take? Did I break the restaurant?
The manager and I look at each other, then look at the rest of the packed lanes. She’s got better customer service skills than I do, so she smiled cheerily and said, “Nope. We’ve handled bigger.” And then she directed him to wait for an hour in the parking lot while she and the grill chef slammed as many patties as the grills could handle and I scalded myself over the deep fryer. All the while, I had to explain to every single car (40+) in the lanes behind Supersize Me that for the next hour we’d have only pies, water, ice creams and apple slices. You can just imagine how many times I got reamed out. It took two huge bags to bring Supersize Me his bazillion combos. I wish we’d used garbage bags.
I worked at a Marcus Theatre in the upper midwest from 2001-2009 (during high school and college and then for a bit after graduating college to supplement my income). During that time, I worked in every position (other than GM) and got to experience the enchanting delectation that is working with almost every demographic of the public.
The demographic that is movie theatre regulars is a peculiar one. We had delightful regulars like the sweet, slightly sad middle-aged childless couple. We had absolute horrors, like the group of three we referred to only as the Village Idiots, who would scream MOUNTAIN DEW! at you from across the lobby, indicating they would like a large Mountain Dew “Code Red” flavor. How do I know you want the code red flavor even though you only said Mountain Dew? Because I vividly remember you becoming apoplectic when the innocent 15 year old working concessions gave you a “regular” Mountain Dew. Also, please stop screaming at concessions. We know what you want. You get it every weekend. We started making your order when we saw you walk up to the building.
Our most notorious regular, however, was a single white guy who drove an old teal-colored Toyota. This earned him the distinction of becoming Code Teal. When box office (ticketing) saw him walking up or parking his car, they were to call a Code Teal over the walkie-talkies. This basically was a warning to the staff to gird their loins. It was also a heads-up to stop the end-of-night cleaning/closing and make sure you have enough popcorn left in the bin to scrape together a small popcorn. It also let the projectionist and MOD know to let their family members know they would be home late. This is because CT would show up about 10 minutes late to the last show of the night on Sunday night. Every. Time. It didn’t matter if our last show that week was 9:30 or 10. Our doors could even be locked. He expected to be let in, given a senior ticket (we had lost that battle long ago) to whatever the last show was, and get his small popcorn and small diet soda.
The problem was, we had a policy that if no one showed for a movie, we wouldn’t play it. This was in the days of actual movie film, when the movies came in extremely heavy canisters, and had to be threaded through projectors. The last movie on Sunday nights wasn’t exactly a popular option, and many times the movie he wanted wouldn’t have shown. When this happened, he would throw his credit card (a favorite move of his) on the counter or at the box worker and grunt the name of a film that was actually showing (but that he had missed the beginning of).
Once we got CT into a movie, things would calm down. We would finish cleaning the concession stand, do the night’s deposit, etc. But the fun wasn’t over. You see, CT liked to be the last customer in the building. He would theatre-jump after his movie and end up in the last film of the night. Once the credits rolled on the last movie to end, he would waltz into the bathroom, where he proceeded to take a shit. That’s right. Every Sunday night (or early Monday morning), the last two staff members in the building would be baby-sitting this man while he took a shit. Literally waiting on a bench in the hallway for him to finish, so they could lock up.
I live in the middle of wine country in Oregon, so I took a job as a tasting room associate for the summer. Thursdays are open mic nights, and are generally filled with kind, fun people. But not this Thursday.
A woman walks in and orders a glass of Viognier. I grab a white wine glass and begin to pour her drink. Suddenly, she reaches across the bar and lifts the neck of the wine bottle up. Confused, I ask what’s wrong. She says, while glaring at me, “You touched the glass with the bottle.” I apologize and tell her I can grab her a different glass if she’d like. She looks at me again, like I’m the scum of the earth, and says, “No, that’s fine. I just won’t watch you pour it.”
Apparently this isn’t the first time this lady has gotten mad at our staff for touching the glass. My coworker served her once and when he poured the wine “correctly”, she says, “It looks like at least YOU have been trained.”
She’s on our blacklist.
When I was in high school, I waitressed at a small-town New Jersey diner mostly attended by regulars. The food was typical diner food—inoffensively mediocre and attractively priced.
One day, a couple I hadn’t seen before came in with their ten-year-old son. I don’t remember what the parents got, but the son ordered a cheeseburger. I checked on the table once or twice during the meal, and everything was fine. When the meal ended and I came to ask whether they’d be having anything else, though, there was an uncomfortable silence. Then the Dad said, “That burger that my son ordered was the worst burger I’ve ever tasted. It was inedible.” I glanced down at the son’s plate. He had eaten the entire burger. “Umm,” I said. “It was disgusting. It was dry! It was overcooked!”” The Dad was raising his voice, and other patrons at the restaurant were starting to turn around to look at us. “IT WAS FOUL!” He was yelling. At this point he was standing up, hands on the table, leaning into the screaming. “YOUR RESTAURANT HAS SOME NERVE SERVING UP THIS GARBAGE TO CUSTOMERS! IF YOU CAN’T COOK A BURGER YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE IT ON THE MENU!” The wife and son were both pretending this wasn’t happening. He kept yelling for a while, until the manager came over, calmed him down, and offered to comp the (fully-eaten) inedible burger. I hid in the kitchen because I was on the verge of tears. My only comfort was that I’d never seen this family before, so they were probably just passing through the town.
Lo and behold, the following week the parents returned to the diner without their son. They spotted me on the floor and specifically requested to be seated in my section. When I came over (secretly hoping they’d realized how gracefully I’d acted under pressure), they made no sign of recognition. The Mom said, “I would like a Diet Coke and a cobb salad.” The Dad said, “A cobb salad! Get something substantial! How about the burger?”
And then they both ordered burgers. I don’t know what happened next because I put in these sadists’ order and claimed deathly illness to go home in the middle of my shift.
(Editor’s Note: Scam? Scam.)
I worked at a Starbucks in a majorly touristy part of NYC, so we had a very high volume, combined with people who were both excited to be in New York and angry and upset from walking/doing something out of their comfort zone.
One frigid February afternoon, I was clocking in as a guy and his teenage daughter come up to the counter with a Frappuccino, and both look surly. The dad informs me that something was wrong with the daughter’s drink. I offer to have it remade, but also ask a few questions about which Frappuccino it was and what was wrong with it. I mentioned that I had just gotten on shift, and didn’t make the drink myself, and wanted to make sure the same mistake wasn’t made again.
The dad just stares at me, uncomprehending. After a moment, the daughter looks up and says, “It’s too chocolatey! GAWD! I’ve had this drink ONE THOUSAND TIMES, and it’s NEVER tasted like this!” Her drink? A double chocolate chip Frappuccino. (Editor’s Note: Wow.) I give it to the barista, explaining what I was just told. The man and his daughter walk off, hopefully forever. The barista and I talk for a bit as she makes the new frappuccino.
Around this time, the father comes up to me and starts asking me if I’m the store owner. I say no, but I’d be happy to get the shift supervisor, if he would like. He was very upset and said yes. I get the shift supervisor and he starts chewing her out about how I’m the worst employee ever and how I single-handedly ruined the trip he planned with his family for his daughter’s birthday. He claimed that he was from Florida (Editor’s Note: Well, there’s the least surprising statement ever.) and worked with the “corporate” office of Starbucks and could have us all fired (yet, he never used any of the actual Starbucks lingo, and kept referring to everyone by titles that Starbucks never uses). (Editor’s Note: Also, that’s not how franchising works.)
Meanwhile, I was on the register, and his wife was holding the door open, assuming that her husband was joining her, and allowing the 5 degree air to invade the front of the store, where most of the seats were. I called out and asked her to please close the door. She GLARED at me with all the hatred I hold for couples who cuddle on the train, and tried to slam the door. Her husband took the shift supervisor out onto the sidewalk and continued to berate her for allowing me to exist.
The next three days, the guy called the store multiple times a day, telling anyone who would listen that he was pissed as hell and wanted me fired immediately.
I used to work at a large hotel in a popular tourist trap of a city. The hotel aspired to be fancy and upscale and therefore offered a variety of food options on site for their guests’ convenience. They also offered cocktail service at the pools.
Rather than hire servers to cover the orders from the pool, the hotel had each restaurant coordinate on a monthly schedule that lent a different server from their restaurant daily for a designated pool shift. Every server at every restaurant was supposed to work one, single pool shift every month, in a constant rotation.
In theory, this was fair. In practice, it sucked. No one wanted the pool shifts. Pool shifts were guaranteed to be long, hot, sweaty, and miserable. Financially, they were hit or miss. Servers were assigned to a pool, which may or may not have had a bar nearby to fill the drink orders and run payments. If the pool did not have a bar in the vicinity, the server had to run inside the main hotel area and up a couple of stories to a restaurant bar to have their order filled. We’d run payments there and so on, then head back downstairs and out to the pool to deliver the drinks. We didn’t get breaks, since we lived in a ‘right to work’ state, and shifts sometimes ran 12 hours in triple digit, humid heat.
They were so bad that we started using “pool shift” as a euphemism for “bull shit,” e.g.: “Oh my gosh, that guest slammed the pool gate on me as I was walking through with a tray of cocktails and they spilled all over me!” “Damn, ain’t that some pool shift.”
One demonfart of an August afternoon, I was particularly busy patrolling two pools. I had walked a couple laps at the family pool and had some orders, so I headed to the door that led into the hotel located between the two pools I was assigned, so I could make my trip up a couple flights of stairs to retrieve their drinks and run their payments, when my attention was demanded.
“Excuse me! Excuse me! Over here!” I looked over to the adult pool and a man was leaning over the pool gate, waving at me. I walked over to him. “Do you work here?”
”Yes, sir! I actually have a full tray to pick up now, but I will be at this pool within the next 15 minutes and I can take your order then. Would you like a drink menu?”
”Oh, no. I actually needed some sunscreen. Do you know how I could get some sunscreen?”
”Yes sir, there is a sundries shop located in those doors (gesturing toward a massive set of heavy glass doors across the pool to the opposite side of the hotel, away from the direction I need to go), and up one flight of stairs. They have sunscreen, snacks, magazines, anything you could possibly need.”
He bent down and dug a bill out of his water shoe. “Could you run get me a tube of sunscreen, highest SPF they have?”
I stood there for a second, thinking he was kidding. He was not. I accepted the bill and agreed, even though it was totally out of the way and not in my scope of employment services, because why not? Guests paid a lot of money to stay here and I wanted them to have a wonderful experience, after all. “I’m happy to do so, sir. I just have to pick up a tray of drinks in here and deliver them first. May I find you here afterward, then?”
”Yup, this is where I’ll be.”
I went into the hotel to get the drinks first. The bartender wasn’t quite finished with this large order, so I ran some payments, set up checks for the guests to sign, and garnished the drinks he had prepared. Then I loaded up my tray and headed downstairs and to the family pool, where I delivered drinks, picked up discarded beverage cups, had my guests sign their checks, before running into the other part of the hotel, up another flight of stairs, and into the sundries shop. I found a wall of sunscreen and found an SPF 40, grabbed it, then headed to the register. The total was $11, because pretentiousness doesn’t come cheap, and I unfolded the bill he’d given me to pay.
It was a $5. I supplemented his payment with money of my own, accepted the bag and receipt, and headed back to the adult pool to deliver the sunscreen. I found the man on a lounge chair, looking just a shade irritated. Next to him is a woman, who was reading. I headed over and offered him the bag of sunscreen. “I’m sorry about the wait, sir, but I was able to find you an SPF 40.”
”Yeah, well, I’ve been sitting here in the sun for half an hour already so I’ll probably burn no matter what. Next time, you should prioritize your guests’ needs properly. Sunscreen is a greater need than a beer. I guess you would rather help your guests get liver failure than prevent skin cancer.”
”I’m very sorry, sir. I certainly don’t want our guests to suffer liver failure or skin cancer.” (Did I really just have to say this sentence?!)
The woman piped up. “Well, I need a drink.”
Grateful for the interruption, I looked at her. “Absolutely, ma’am, would you like to look at our menu, or do you have something in mind already?”
”Perrier, with a lime and a glass of ice.”
Ugh. Of course. A wobbly, plastic bottled beverage (because no glass at the pool!), the bane of balance on a server’s tray. Oh well.
I did a lap around the adult pool and I received a few more cocktail orders. I then headed in the direction toward the bar I was assigned to retrieve my drinks from again. I got inside, upstairs, and the drinks were fortunately already prepared. I ran payments as quickly as I could. I had not asked for an upfront payment from the irritated man and his lady friend, as I hadn’t wanted to frustrate him further in that moment, and decided to print the check instead and seek payment afterward, when their needs were met. I organized my tray, ran downstairs and out the door, back to the pool, and started passing out drinks as I came upon the guests that ordered. I got to this couple and he stood immediately. He reached out and grab the Perrier unexpectedly, throwing off the already tenuous tray balance. I barely managed to recover, as drinks slid around but didn’t quite fall over.
I took a deep breath, retrieved my dropped heart from my dropped stomach from somewhere around my ankles, and steadied myself enough to set down the cup of ice and lime wedges. The woman sighed. “Plastic cup? I said I wanted a glass.”
”Yes, ma’am, but unfortunately we cannot have glass containers in the pool area for your safety, as well as the safety of other guests.”
”That. Is. Retarded. Are you serious?”
”Yes ma’am. Again, I apologize, would you like a different beverage?”
”No, I guess I just have to put up with the plastic.” Such a courageous martyr.
I handed the man the check folder. “What’s this?” he asked, opening it. “$3.95 for a Perrier and a plastic cup?”
”Would you like to pay cash, credit, or put this on your room, sir?”
”I guess cash. You can just use my change that you stole when you got the sunscreen.”
Now, this was awkward. “Actually, sir, there was no change from the sunscreen.”
He opened his bag and removed the bottle of sunscreen, then the receipt. “This thing cost $11? That’s robbery.”
”I’ll give you a moment, sir, please let me know when you’re ready.”
I finished passing out drinks and picked up some empties that were lying around, taking them to the recycling bins, then returned to the couple. He handed me back the leather folder, and then asked his wife, “How much are you supposed to tip on $3.95, anyway?”
She replied, “You don’t tip on $3.95.”
The man looked at me. “That will be all, then.”
I turned and walked away, trying to gracefully peek into the bill folder. There were four 1’s fanned inside. Dangit.
I turned back around and headed back. “I’m sorry to disturb you, sir, I just need the remaining balance on the sunscreen.”
He looked up at me, confused and annoyed, then outraged.
“You mean you have the nerve to take 30 minutes to bring me sunscreen that costs $11, which is ridiculous, and I’m most likely going to end up sunburned anyway, and then you take another 15 minutes to simply bring my wife a plastic cup when she ASKED for a glass, and then you have the NERVE to ask for more money? This is the worst service I have ever had in my life, I want to speak to a manager immediately.”
Of course, now I had to send a manager to the pool.
My manager returned. “Well... I went ahead and refunded him what he paid for the sunscreen and the Perrier, and he doesn’t want to see you again, so I’ll have *COWORKER* walk that pool.”
”What happens to the $6 I paid for his sunscreen?”
”He declined to pay that. I can leave *GM* a note, just follow up with him. I really have no idea whether you’ll be reimbursed or not, sorry.”
Ain’t that some pool shift?
Kinja user Jon_hamm_wallet:
I spent two years working at an independent upscale burger place. Everything possible was free-range, organic, ethically-sourced, etc. One of our main selling points was that we had a ton of sauces which we made fresh daily in-house. We even made our own ketchup (from organic tomatoes, of course). Organic tomatoes are EXPENSIVE, and ketchup is actually fairly labor intensive to make, so we had to charge $1 for each ramekin of it. Many customers were pretty good natured about it once I explained the reasoning for the charge, but some people acted as though it was BLASPHEMY to not provide unlimited free ketchup with their burgers and fries.
On St. Patrick’s Day a few years ago, I had a family come in—Mom, Dad, two sons in their mid-twenties and their girlfriends. All wearing various forms of SPD paraphernalia, like four leaf clover headbands and green top hats. They all had clearly been drinking, but were in jolly tipsy mode, so I thought nothing of serving them the beers they ordered. When their burgers came, one of the young women asked for ketchup. “I’ll bring that right over,” I told her, “but just so you know, we do charge a dollar for each order—it’s organic and we make it in house.”
It’s easy to imagine me saying this in a snooty voice. Please believe me, that wasn’t the case, I generally tried to sound as apologetic as possible in anticipation of the negative reactions I often got.
The girl looked somewhat shocked, but Dad quickly spoke up: “That’s no problem, sweetie. Let’s get three orders. We’ve got to have our ketchup!” I brought them the ketchup, and the table seemed content except for one of the sons, who was glowering at me. I tried to ignore the face, and they seemed happy for the rest of their meal.
When they got up to leave, the glowering son got up to go to the bathroom, which was right behind the server station. I was putting in an order at the computer when I felt a hard tap on my shoulder.
“Miss? ExCUSE me?”
I turned around to find glowering son standing directly behind me, with his finger pointed in my face.
“I just want you to know, your ketchup policy is BULLSHIT. I am an AMERICAN, I pay TAXES, why the fuck would I have to pay for ketchup? What is this Commie shit?”
I stood there, stunned.
“I just want you to know, I never even wanted to come to your horseshit restaurant. This place fucking sucks.”
At that moment the bartender leaned into the server station, yelling about hot food, runners needed, etc.. I turned to look at him with a pleading face, but he’d already gone back to the bar.
“I see you looking around, I know you don’t want to talk to me. I don’t give a shit. Walk away. Fucking walk away.”
I did so, as quickly as possible. Not a single word in reply. The upside to this story is that for the next few months my coworkers and I would say “I am an AMERICAN, I pay TAXES!” any time things went poorly at work.
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 Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.