At some point in your life, I would hope you’ve been Industry. As in a server or bartender. If you haven’t, I strongly encourage you to try it sometime. Why?
It’ll teach you how to be a better human.
Many of you have, and whether it was your first job at 16 or you’re a 20-year veteran, I tip my hat to you. That being said, what follows may be preaching to the choir or might ruffle a few feathers. If you don’t already follow Shiftgig, TipOrGoHome, or the like, some of this may be useful information for your friends who you’re embarrassed to be at a bar with or some bratty teenagers in your life. Or you’re going to spew your personal beliefs regarding the $15 minimum wage increase affecting the Industry. (Don’t even get me started…) Hell, maybe you’ll laugh at yourself for being one of these people occasionally. Whatever the case, you should know why it is that Seattle has the “disinterested server” syndrome. We’re sick of dealing with shitty, entitled customers. (Sidenote: Before you get up in arms, believe me, there are shitty servers and bartenders, too. Might be an upcoming article.)
The following is an abridged list of pet peeves regarding customers, as compiled by my fellow veterans, in no particular ranking order:
- Flagging down the bartender, especially while s/he is busy. Bartenders have their own methods of who they’re serving, when. They WILL get to you. Even better, go ahead and see what kind of service you get when you snap your fingers, the bartender gets to you, then you spend ten years figuring out what you want. MAKE A FUCKING DECISION.
- Grabbing drinks for yourself from the service well (yuh know.. where the servers get drinks?) or food from the kitchen window. In NO CASE EVER is this ok. Neither is talking to the kitchen. That’s our job. The kitchen doesn’t know shit about you, or your table, or what the fuck you ordered, so SIT DOWN. And that drink you thought was yours? Turns out it belongs to a table clear across the floor. Congrats, you just took someone else’s drink because you were an impatient fuckwad. THANKS.
- Did you know that when you go out to eat and drink, your one job is to sit down and be served? We love it when you walk up to us five times to ask for twenty sides of ranch. We WILL FUCKING GET TO YOU. Sit down; you are not in your own house.
- Asking for split checks, then paying all in cash. Folks, if you’ve ever pooled money at a party for a beer run, you should have no problem doing the same at a restaurant. Fucking figure it out. Or go back to first grade. Same sentiment for complicated fraction splits, splitting a check for less than $15, or splitting a check based on who got what even though you both ordered the same exact items. Also wonderful: Bill=$20.25. Customer: “Cash first, the rest on the card.” Me: “You gave me $20 cash…you want 25 cents on the card?” GTFOH!
- Top Best Phrases: “Surprise me!” “Make it strong!” “It’s my birthday!” “What do YOU like??” “Make me something good!” and “Hey, bro/bra!” Guaranteed mental bitch slap. Or a real one, if the bartender is feeling feisty and just put in his two weeks’ notice.
- Server: “Hi, how are you?” Customer: “Diet Coke.”
- Seating: WTF is the attraction to dirty tables? Seriously, if you have a plethora of seating options, by all means, take the ONLY filthy one in the house just because it’s by a window. And feel free to stare condescendingly at the staff while you wait for it to get cleaned off. We may just leave it that way for your dining pleasure! Also, once you are seated, STAY THE FUCK THERE. Don’t go chasing the sun, or start at the bar and go to a table, or play musical chairs. We are not there to chase your ass when it’s time to bring your food and drinks. Now, we do want you to have a pleasurable experience while in the establishment, so we will serve you AS LONG AS YOU’RE BUYING STUFF. There is absolutely no need for you to camp at a table (especially at a coveted booth), for more than 30 minutes after you’re done dining/drinking. Ever wonder why a server clears everything off your table long after you’ve paid? Or kept asking you if you need anything else? Notice the lights getting brighter and the music getting louder and the chairs going up on tables? Yeah. Get the fuck out! Take your date somewhere else! Our time is—literally—money! Trust me, your deep conversation can wait till you get to your car.
- Customer: “Why don’t you get a *real* job?” Me: “I get paid more in four hours than what you make in a week sitting in front of a computer.” *smiles sweetly and prances away*
- Why, yes, I would love to read you the entire menu! I mean, feel free to ask about specials or what the little “GF” symbol means, but ain’t nobody got time to stand around. That’s why you have the menu. In your hands. Fucking read! While we’re at it, don’t walk into a burger joint and ask for something vegan. Don’t walk into a sushi joint and try to get Mexican food. Does the menu say anything about fries? Then guess what! And while the cooks will do their best to accommodate your pesca/vegan/gluten free/lactose intolerant/low-fat/can’t eat anything except iceberg lettuce and lima bean diet, don’t get pissed when we get your order wrong because you actually didn’t order something on the menu. By the way…No, you cannot substitute a steak for a side salad.
- “Is the guacamole free? How much is yadda yadda?” Dude. If you’re going to be cheap, stay home or go to McDonald’s. Yeah, we see you over there, asking for a water, some lemons, and twenty sugar packets rather than a damned lemonade. And by the way? Your tightwad questions are totally impressing your date.
- “I’m in a hurry.” It takes skill to be That Dick who makes us rush all your shit just so you can sit there for two hours. GTFOH!
- Please, keep it classy by eating your to-go order at a table that could have been served. And thanks for not tipping!
- Oh, you’re super-duper high maintenance? Take your needy-ass home, because we’re obviously going to fuck up something from one of your foolish requests, and then you’ll get mad and not tip. Tone it down, #BellevueWivesMatter.
- Speaking of which, we can tell that yappy dog in your purse is NOT a service animal. Just because one dog-themed cafe let you in does *not* mean you can fool everyone else. Keep your “anxiety companion” at home. And no, we don’t want to “see your papers” because we know you’re fucking lying.
- Control freaks. I had no idea your party of eight had a spokesperson! Thanks for steamrolling the conversation! By the way, if your children are old enough to speak for themselves, LET THEM. It’s called a learning experience, being able to order for yourself while being polite. Yuh know, something not necessarily taught in schools. One of the little joys at my job is meeting an amazing kid who not only is capable of deciding what she wants, but is able to voice her order to me with manners. Many adults could learn from those kids, and their parents are some of my favorite customers. See #6.
- The newbs. We know you’re 21, we just checked your ID. We will also check the IDs of everyone in your party. Think you’re the first one who’s ever tried to pass a drink to a minor or use a fake ID? Think we can’t see your to-go cup from Starbucks? GTFOH. We’ve BEEN YOU.
- “What’s good?” Nothing. Nothing is good. The menu is fake, everything sucks, the drinks are just variations of water, and we’ve been in business for fifteen years based solely on the fact that the owner is a billionnaire. We’ve secretly been serving rat poison and dog shit, and for some reason people eat it and pay for it.
- Stay passive-aggressive. We just adore getting dirty looks from people who refuse to tip just because we fucked up something. Psych! TELL US WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG. We will fix it if we can, but we are not mind readers! If a server or bartender is any good, s/he will check up on you to make sure everything is ok. That’s your golden opportunity to let us know that you didn’t get the right order, something tastes shitty, or there’s a hair in your soup. FUCKING SAY SOMETHING. Give us a chance to fix the problem, and we will. We are human, and we will make mistakes. Don’t treat us like shit just because you can’t stand up for yourself and try to get what you’re paying for.
- Lack of human decency. Sense a running theme in this list? We know not all people are like this all of the time, but at the very least you can treat us like we’re human. We’re in this job for our own reasons, and it’s not for you to judge what we do. We honestly will do our best to please you in our establishments, and we’re not out to deliberately ruin your experience (despite what Waiting would have you believe). We’ll chat with you as much as the limited time warrants, depending on the circumstances, but please don’t take out your shitty life or day on us. Chances are good you’re in a favorite bar or restaurant because you had a shitty day, so give us a chance to make you leave with a smile, ‘k? Everyone’s job is difficult, Industry or no, and everyone deserves a modicum of respect. That’s all we ask.
Are you in the Industry? Or an awkward customer? Questions, comments, need advice, etc.? Write firstname.lastname@example.org, and YOUR pet peeve/rant may be featured!
Stay tuned for another piece regarding tip etiquette. Because fuck pocket change. In the meantime, here’s a little something Industry and customers alike can enjoy (stay till the end):
Well aren’t you just a pleasant human being?
Musical chairs is the worst, especially when people get a few drinks in them and ask they sound like is a bunch of hungry baby birds while you’re trying to figure out who ordered what. Also, asking Betty the barback who is not your server about something only your server would know so now Betty has to hunt down your server who is with other patrons or getting the thing you were asking about but you were so impatient.
After 30 years in the industry that all seems pretty accurate.Well put.