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Style & Living Food and Drinks

Don't Be That Guy: 5 Restaurant Servers Share Their Worst Customer Experiences

Irate customers, tips in pennies, crying during your shift...all in a day's work.

By Jennifer Merritt

If you’ve ever been a waiter, you know it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world—and you'll probably identify with one of the stories below. And if you’ve never been a waiter, let's hope you don't identify with any of the following horrifying customers.

1. Small Change

When Amber of Tampa, FL, got seated with a table of eight, she was already swamped, but hey, at least a big table meant a big tip—right?

Amber says not only were they awful to her—proclaiming too much ice in the water, or the salad not crisp enough—but the patriarch of the table growled at her when she approached the table toward the end of their three-course meal. “Literally growled,” she says. Two tries (and an hour-and-a-half) later, growling man finally took the check.

As for her tip? “They left me 81 cents,” Amber says. “Mostly in pennies.”

2. Make It Pretty

In high school, Matthew of Redondo Beach, CA, worked at an Asian fusion restaurant. “Our lunch menu had two options—a full plate, which included the entree, rice, and spring roll, or a bowl, which was rice and an entree,” he says.

One lunch, four adults came in and ordered bowls. When the meals came, one customer became incensed. “He demanded they all be served on plates,” Matthew says. He obliged, but then… “When I brought back the plates, the guy screamed at me that it did not look ‘pretty,’” Matthew says. “He wanted us to throw out four meals and recook them for purely aesthetic reasons.” When Matthew’s manager came over, the customer told her Matthew was not only stupid, but also rude, and should be fired.

“In the end we remade all of the food and gave them a free dessert,” Matthew says. “I was left zero tip and the guy glared at me as I worked my other tables. When they left, he told me to find another profession because I was a failure at this one.” Again, Matthew obliged—he now works for a group of personal injury attorneys. Fitting, no?

3. There's No Crying in Restaurants

Tensions were high in New York in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11. Darron Cardosa, the blogger behind The Bitchy Waiter and author of The Bitchy Waiter: Tales, Tips & Trials from a Life in Food Service, had one particularly tense moment while working as a breakfast server at a hotel in the months following the attack. “The restaurant already was slammed when I came in, and I was asked to take a table immediately, so I chose the one closest to me,” he says. A man at another table called him over and wanted to know why he hadn’t gone to his table first, claiming they had been waiting longer. Cardosa tried explaining he had been at work for, like, two minutes, but the man didn’t buy it.

“It’s because of what we look like and you’re a racist!” Cardosa recalls him screaming. “They were Middle Eastern and assumed that I avoided them because of it,” he says. “No matter how I tried to explain what had happened, he refused to believe me and insisted I was prejudiced. I knew it wasn’t true but I also knew I’d never convince him otherwise.” The man continued berating Cardosa until he left the table in tears.

“That was the last time I ever let a customer make me cry,” he says.

4. We’d Call the Police, But…

What do you do when a group of rowdy customers moonlight as policemen? (No, really. That’s a serious question.) “Local police were at the restaurant for a convention, and they all got really wasted,” says Alex of Andover, NJ. “They broke things; one hit a police cruiser with another police cruiser in the parking lot; they hit on our bartender…”

But the evening really went down the toilet when “one went number 2 on the floor in the kitchen, and then did a line of coke off the table,” Alex says.

5. Sometimes It's the Little Things

“One lady made me cry because we didn’t have mint jelly to go with the lamb at the buffet,” recalls Jennifer of Pittsburgh.

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