Waiter Rant

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

According to The Waiter, 20 percent of restaurant customers are psychopaths. In his new book, Waiter Rant, the waiter-turned-blogger tells shocking and true tales of arrogance and misbehavior by diners. You won't want to recognize yourself in his stories!

Event: The Waiter will be speaking and signing books
Tuesday, July 29 at 7 pm
Borders Books at Columbus Circle

Waiters: What are your disaster stories of restaurant customers? And we want to hear from the diners too: What's the worst service you've ever gotten from a waiter?


The Waiter

Comments [36]

Tricia from Stamford, CT

Was wondering if you ever heard of a reataurant charging a "seating charge".......Three friends & myself went to a local tavern in North Stamford, one Wednesday evening to escape husbands & children for a few hours....Our plan was to occupy a corner, order a few drinks and chat....The restaurant was not so busy they couldn't spare a table and many were empty.....We were informed that if we were not going to order food and just drink a surcharge of $15 would be added onto our bill for sitting there.......The bar area was directly attached to the eating area yet difficult to chat quietly among ourselves....
Have you ever heard of such a charge?......It was not posted anywhere in the restaurant ....
I was so disgusted I have never gone back !

Jul. 29 2008 06:47 PM
Melissa from ridgewood, nj

This is more instructive than nightmarish: I was in a diner in Paramus one day when a group of developmentally disabled adults came in, accompanied by a very quiet young woman who was their chaperone. A waiter came up to take their orders, and one by one they very loudly ordered with detailed, specific instructions for sides and what they didn't want and how they wanted everything fixed. The point is not that they couldn't have what they wanted, but that they had all seen enough demanding "regular" customers to believe that that was the proper way to order in a restaurant.

Jul. 29 2008 02:48 PM
Stu Speckman from Fairfield CT


I agree 100% with the guest.

I was a waiter for 10 or 11 years in family restaurants, a day camp, and several country clubs.

I would add, with emphasis, that saying "please" and "thank you" go a huge way in ensuring that you get good service. Waiters want to be treated like anyone else. You wouldn't say "gimmee this" or "gimmee that" to a doctor, banker or teacher.

I also 100% agree with comment 16 above, from Kimberly. I reprint it here.

Faifield, CT


Hi Leonard, I worked in over 8 restaurants during the past 12 years. Having rude people at my tables is the worst. It ruined my night! However, I would NEVER do anything bad to the food. So, the way I would get back at them is when they ordered decaf coffee at the end of the meal. I would give them REGULAR! As I served them their coffee, they would look at me and say, “This is decaf, right? I don’t want to be up all night.” “Of course!” I would say with a smile. Only later in the night, when I was sleeping soundly, would they feel my revenge! :0)

Jul. 29 2008 02:07 PM
jenny from brooklyn

I also worked at a very "hip" restaurant in Soho as a hostess, and I was constantly told to seat celebrities and hot young people in the front, and old overweight and/or unattractive people in the back.

Jul. 29 2008 01:58 PM
Alyssa from Queens

A slight peeve I have at restaurants is the "food auction" that occurs when the food is delivered. I worked at diners and at mid-range restaurants in the 1980s and regardless of the food prices, were expected to place the food on the table with the person who ordered it, not stand there with a plate calling out what it is and expecting each person to claim his or her food. I cannot remember the last time I went to a restaurant in this city where the my order was placed in front of me correctly. It drives me nuts, particularly at the higher end restaurants.

It is very easy to get it right--you write down the orders following a clockwise pattern. Even if you have to skip over someone who is still deciding, you leave a space and come back to it.

Jul. 29 2008 01:56 PM
Maria from New York

Customers ALWAYS pay for the salaries! The difference is whether they are included in the price of food, or they aren't.

Jul. 29 2008 01:56 PM
Katharine from New Jersey

Once when I got a promotion I took my staff out for drinks. There was no one else at the bar and for some reason the waitress decided to ignore us completely. I had to go to the bar to order. I paid with a $100 bill and I left a nickel tip on the table.

Jul. 29 2008 01:55 PM
Ro from SoHo

As a long time caterer in Manhattan, I stress to my staff that they are providing a SERVICE. They are not servants or slaves and should not be abused in any way. If they are. I deal with it - politely but firmly.

Jul. 29 2008 01:51 PM
YM from Brooklyn

I am in support of tipping although I do prefer that it be included in the cost of the meal, as Chris #24 suggested. I am concerned about the unequal distribution of income among the staff -- do you think that the waiters and kitchen staff would be more equally compensated if it the service charge was included in the cost of the food? If not, what would be a fair solution?

Jul. 29 2008 01:50 PM
w from Manhattan

The Chinese waitstaff at Grand Sichuan on 24th St and 9th Ave is rude to Chinese customers but fawning over non-Chinese. Really off-putting, and too bad for Chinese families since this restaurant's food is wonderful.

Jul. 29 2008 01:50 PM
Nancy Duggan from Morristown, NJ

Thirty years ago I waited on Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin at the (also) long gone Lone Star Cafe on 13th St. in the Village. They and their "female companions" drank many rounds of scotch, and Mr. Mantle grabbed me several times by my skirt to get my attention. Mr. Martin vomited in his bowl of chili. When Mantle paid the check, he was about to hand me a hundred dollar bill for a tip when one of the women grabbed it out of his hand, shoved it in her cleavage, saying, "Oh, no, baby, that's MINE!"

Jul. 29 2008 01:49 PM
Walter from nyc

Do NY restaurants tend not to hire blacks or other minorities as waiters? I the bus staff mostly minority and the wait staff mostly white. Is this really the case?

Jul. 29 2008 01:48 PM
chris from nyc

I'm tired of tipping. I'm tired of trying to figure it out and I'm tired of the restraunteurs counting on the diners to subsidize the wait staff. Just pay the staff, build the cost into the price of the meal, and let tipping go back to what it should be -- a token of appreciationn

Jul. 29 2008 01:42 PM
Adriana from ny

favorite revenge: regular instead of decaf

Jul. 29 2008 01:37 PM
rosi from nyc

many waiters are not properly trained and don't practice proper hygiene.
when i made the headwaiter aware of the waiter that just came out of the bathroom without washing his hands (i know for sure), his answer was - don't worry, he only serves water...

Jul. 29 2008 01:36 PM
Jen from Brooklyn

I waitressed 30 hours a week during college.

One woman always tipped in in postage stamps - yes, postage stamps.

Jul. 29 2008 01:33 PM
JJ from WaHI

Send the food back? Yeah, right. The cook will just spit in it, or maybe the waiter will drop it on the floor.

Jul. 29 2008 01:33 PM
hjs from 11211

when u send food back the staff does bad things to it.

Jul. 29 2008 01:31 PM
Michael Kniat (NY-at) from Manhattan

Several years ago, I had dinner for the first time at a small restaurant in the West Village. It was a Saturday evening, and the place was packed. I was there on a first date with a woman whom I didn't know very well. So I was in the mood to linger...

Within a mere 15 minutes of serving our meals, the wait staff became extremely aggressive, trying several times to take away our partially-finished plates - right from under our noses, without asking. On one attempt, I had to physically pull my plate back out of the waiter's hand!

Still the rudeness did not stop. Finally, I grasped my fork, dagger-style, and dared the waiter to try taking my plate away - upon risk of being stabbed. That apparently did the trick, as the waiters didn't try again to take my food away - although they did line up against the bar and stare at me bitterly through the remainder of our meal.

Needless to say, no one got a tip from me that night. Welcome to dining out as contact sport - New York style!

Jul. 29 2008 01:16 PM
jenny from brooklyn

When I was in my early twenties I had a waitress job at a small restaurant which was already bad enough on the best days... One busy lunch shift, a boy about 10 years old at a table with his family stopped me to ask if I could try to make his pen write. Somewhat confused, but trying to just be nice and play along, I reached for it saying "okay... but I don't see why I could make it work if you can't." Turned out to be a "joke" pen- it shocked me when I clicked the top - really hard! The boy, his younger brother AND HIS FATHER thought this was hilarious. What a great way to teach your kids how to handle those in the service industry, not to mention women. My arm had a dull ache for about half an hour after that. Their food was already served, but if it wasn't... I never did anything in all my years waiting tables to anyone's food, but that would have absolutely been the exception!

Jul. 29 2008 01:12 PM
Kimberly from City Island, NY

Hi Leonard, I worked in over 8 restaurants during the past 12 years. Having rude people at my tables is the worst. It ruined my night! However, I would NEVER do anything bad to the food. So, the way I would get back at them is when they ordered decaf coffee at the end of the meal. I would give them REGULAR! As I served them their coffee, they would look at me and say, “This is decaf, right? I don’t want to be up all night.” “Of course!” I would say with a smile. Only later in the night, when I was sleeping soundly, would they feel my revenge! :0)

Jul. 29 2008 01:09 PM

I've been serving for about a year now, and there a certain few "regulars" who are great most of the time, but at times can be very difficult. At the restaurant I currently serve at (in addition to a full-time advertising job), one regular is particularly difficult from time to time. I was in the process of closing the bar area there one night, as it was very slow, and in comes "Joe" demanding "just one drink", even though the bar stools were already blocking the bar enterance. My boss was doing me the favor of letting me go early so that I could start the drive to Maine, where my boyfriend was taking me for my birthday. Instead of leaving early, I was forced to re-open the bar, and ended up staying after 2 hours to listen to him talk about how the government is out to screw me, yet again. Talk about inconsideration...

Jul. 29 2008 12:31 PM
Leshka from UES

Hello Waiter!

Sorry I can't see you tonight, but I hope you have a good time. Thanks for the blog, it's been giving me little tidbits for what my (hopefully) future career as a chef will be.

Jul. 29 2008 12:16 PM
Sue from North Salem, NY

Bartender 13, I don't get misty easily but holy #$*&#$&#, I needed a tissue....

Jul. 29 2008 12:10 PM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

But then there are customers like this:

On 9-11 understandably most of the staff couldn't come in to work. I was the only one that made it in to the city for the dinner shift.

When I got there, one of our regular customers, a very successful investment banker, was bussing tables. He had been bussing tables all day, and it was crazy busy.

Jul. 29 2008 10:58 AM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

Tourist nightmares:

The Southerners, that don't understand that up North we don't make Ice Tea with sugar. You have to add it yourself. (Their faces crinkle up that that's an abomination.)

That tourists overall don't understand why prices are so high in NYC. To them a burger should cost the same anywhere. But they forget that their butts are seated on real estate that costs 5 to 10 times what it does back home.

Foreign tourists with guide books, that stiff on the tip. Once a guide book was left behind and it was opened to the page on tipping.

Jul. 29 2008 10:37 AM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

Ordering off the menu to the extreme:

In a French Restaurant I worked at, a customer wanted Salmon Teriyaki. I informed them that wasn't possible. He insisted, saying it wasn't that difficult a request.

Another wanted 1000 Island dressing for their salad (which was not an option) and thought I was be rude when I refused to go to the corner deli and buy a bottle.

Those who don't understand why if you substitute shrimp for chicken that there will be an extra charge.

Jul. 29 2008 10:28 AM
anonyme from midtown manhattan

oh i could tell you some! I must admit I was a terrible waitress, maybe the worst ever. One experience was not as a waitress but as a hostess. It was Bryant Gumbel's daughter's first communion party. They were an hour late and nobody called so we broke up the table for 14 and seated many waiting people, some with reservations. Then the Gumbel party showed up and he pitched the loudest fit ever witnessed in a restaurant. He could have called. A secy had done the booking in advance. We didn't know... Another NBC anchor was really awful at a different time - maybe something in the water? One funny story was in Nantucket, a struggling med student waiting on some effete snobs at the Chanticleer in Sconset - they suggested to him, "maybe you have a dog at home who would like this steak" the waiter/med student said, "why yes - i do - RRRUFF!!

Jul. 29 2008 10:19 AM
ella from NYC

An aside to Bartender 13:
That ice cream craving story is hysterically funny!
Personally, I loved Baskin Robbins' chocolate - the really dark one - I cannot recall the name - but I can still picture the 3-scoop cone and it was years ago...
Thanks for the memory.

Jul. 29 2008 09:47 AM
mirage from New Jersey

Lost in translation:

Many years ago on my first day on the job in a diner I was put on the counter station. During a very busy lunch hour, the owner's heavily accented friends took all of the seats eating for free and drinking coffee after coffee and talking in their language for the rest of the day. One "gentleman" said to me, "Gimme a sliced egg on toast." I put the order in and a little while later came out and put the sandwich in front of him. He looked at it and looked at me and started yelling "What is THIS? I ordered a sliced egg on toast!" I said, "Yes, that's a sliced egg on toast." He turned to his friend the owner and asked why he couldn't hire any help with brains. The owner came and calmly translated: "He wants a slice steak on toast." I didn't get many tips that first day.

Jul. 29 2008 09:17 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

My worst experience from working in food service came not from a diner, but from the establishment owner. I was working at a falafel shop in London and the owner was insane, abusive, and humiliating to staff and customers alike. For example, he screamed at one customer, "F*#$ you! I hope you die!" I quit on my second day, because I couldn't stand the abuse, and he only paid me half the money he owed me.

Jul. 28 2008 04:22 PM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

Most people are a joy to wait on.

But it's the few bad apples that make the good servers want to get out of the business.

Jul. 28 2008 03:59 PM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

Okay here's another one:

There seems to be a general idea that waitstaff and bartenders don't have real jobs. I have heard angry customers yell, "If you don't like it, get a real job!" at decent waiters. Luckily, no one has ever said that to me. I would not be responsible for my actions.

This idea even translates in the unsaid way that customers hang out long after closing. As if the restaurant staff are at their leisure and have to be having as good a time as the customers that are outstaying their welcome. We want to go home, and we are not getting paid overtime or anytime after closing in most cases. All we get is the tip which has to be split how many ways, and probably won't cover a minimum wage for the time you overstay.

I guess in that case it's not a real job.

Jul. 28 2008 03:55 PM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

As for more nightmarish stories, I have many.

But I'll just give you my first:
When I was 14 and working for Baskin & Robbins, we were closing for the night and a few minutes after locking the door a man banged on it and demanded a cone of Jamoca Almond Fudge. We told him nicely we were closed. He wouldn't leave. He kept banging for 15 minutes, but then disappeared. When we went to take the garbage out the back, there he was, forcing himself in. Somehow I and my coworker got him to leave. We didn't feel we were in danger from this man. He was just desperate for Ice cream.
And who hasn't been there?

Jul. 28 2008 03:25 PM
Bartender 13 from Brooklyn

You know you're being lied to when you hear:

"I'll take care of you." (95% of the time they'll tip below average.)

Also people that are very complimentary about the service are usually bad tippers. I like irony, but not when it impedes my making a living.

Jul. 28 2008 03:08 PM
Mirna Valerio from Pottersville, NJ

One father's day a few years ago, I was sitting with my family at Carmines on the Upper West Side. The family seated next to us (or I should say the patriarchal figure of the family) refused to believe that there was no more steak. He began to bully the poor waiter around to the point of pushing DEMANDING steak. Several women and children in the family started to scream, which caused other diners in the restaurant to be frightened, including my family. I got under the table with my NEWBORN, until a manager came out and informed the family calmly that there really was no steak. 'Twas a scary father's day.

Jul. 28 2008 12:32 PM

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