It’s a slow lunch shift. I’m busy at the front window comparing the hemlines of various female pedestrians when the phone interrupts my studies.
“Good afternoon The Bistro,” I say, filtering the annoyance out of my voice, “how may I help you?”
“I want to speak to a manager,” a gruff voice demands.
Uh oh. This can’t be good. I take a deep preparatory breath.
“I’m the manager,” I reply, “How can I be of service?”
“I was in last week and I was highly dissatisfied with my experience,” the man says.
“In what way sir?” I ask.
“I was grossly overcharged for my salad and you had the audacity to charge me a dollar to split it in the kitchen.”
“It’s our policy to charge for splits…..” I start to explain.
“Well its bad business and the waiter I complained to demonstrated poor customer service skills and a low mentality,” the man continues.
Ah now I remember. It’s Red, the guy from last week. I’m surprised it took him this long to call.
“Well, I was the waiter you talked to,” I say evenly.
“Yep, I’m the guy with the low mentality.”
I let Red chew on that for a few seconds. After a long pause he says, “Lemme speak to the owner.”
“Please hold,” I chirp – banishing Red to Muzak hell.
Fluvio’s in the back reading his Italian newspaper. I wave him over.
“It’s that asshole from last week still bitching about his salad,” I say. Fluvio already knows the whole story.
“Let me speak to the son of a bitch. I’ll tell him what he can do with his salad,” Fluvio grunts grasping for the phone.
Now Fluvio’s a big boy. You can criticize his food, bitch about your table, complain about the AC – he’ll be polite and professional. But tell him he has bad business sense and he’ll flip the fuck out.
“No,” I say pulling the phone away from him,” you’ll just curse at him. Let me talk to him.”
“It’s my restaurant!” Fluvio fumes.
“And you have to be the nice friendly owner. I’m just the waiter. I can afford to be a prick. You can’t,” I explain.
Fluvio decides that makes sense. “Ok, you take care of it.”
I take Red off hold. “Hello sir? Are you still there?”
“Is this the owner?” Red asks.
“I’m sooo sorry but the owner is indisposed at the moment,” I say, trying not to laugh as Fluvio wags his middle finger at the receiver.
“Well I’ll call back.”
“Actually I speak for the owner in this matter so we can resolve it now.”
“The resolution I want is to get my money back,” Red says.
“The owner won’t do that,” I reply.
“Because you ate the salad knowing the price. Your buyer’s remorse is not the owner’s problem.”
“But…..” Red sputters.
The reason the salad’s so expensive,” I say talking over Red, “is because we use premium ingredients in our food. That’s why it’s so good. And because the food’s good that’s why we’re so popular.”
“Yeah but $11.95….? Red whines.
“I mean we could use cheaper stuff but then the quality would suffer and we would lose customers. And that sir is bad business.”
“But in my case…….” Red puffs.
“This is a business,” I declare, “And we are entitled to make a profit.”
“But not an excessive one,” Red corrects.
“Our profit’s not as high as you think.” I drone on, “It’s an age old struggle. How do you attract and keep customers with excellent food at a price they will pay and still make a living?”
“Sir, if you’re uncomfortable with our pricing structure I can recommend some excellent low cost alternatives,” I say rattling off the names of a Chinese buffet, two coffee shops, and a diner. Mentioning the Wendy’s drive through window is probably overkill.
“That’s not what I want to hear,” Red sputters. Feel the rage pal.
“I’m sorry but I have a call on the other line,” I lie, “I have to go.”
“Wait!” Red yelps, “And your computer overcharged me a nickel!
“I added up your bill. The computer was correct,” I reply dryly.
“I can’t understand how….”
“Thank you for calling the Bistro. Have a nice day.”
“Now wait…..” Red sputters in disbelief.
“I said GOOD DAY SIR.”
Man, I sounded like Phil Hartman just then.
I look at Fluvio. He looks at me.
“I hope you’re never my waiter,” he says smiling.
“And vice versa,” I reply.
Red never called back. Good. Customers like him are the bane of restaurant owners everywhere. Most people have no idea how thin the profit margins are for an independently owned restaurant. We don’t need this kind of shit.
Goodbye Red you nickel and diming bastard.
And good riddance.
Thats unreal…A nickel…LOL!
I just recently discovered your site…so this comment is probably very behind in the scheme of things…
In any case…I came in for a Sunday lunch shift one day (everyone’s favorite) and my first table was two women and a man…everything seemed to go ok at first…one of the women joined later…so I bring out bread…drinks…everyone is happy…
when the woman arrives i take her drink order….in the space of 10 minutes i am sent back to the kitchen 6 times…she gets a coke it’s too sweet…she gets sweet tea…she wants lemon…she wants more sugar…she wants hot water to clean her silverware and new silverware…and she wants hot bread because i brought them cold bread (yeah or it could be the fact that it took you 15 minutes to get here)….
approaching the table to take an order…I stand there for 10 minutes listening to them debate about all the things they have eaten here and did not like…great…the woman actually comments that she thinks she will have trouble eating here….
the meal continues and they get annoyed by everything…they don’t like the plate presentation…they are annoyed I spoke to them when they had food in their mouth (are you serious!)…I shouldn’t address them with another table’s plate in my hand…and so on and so forth…
I get to the end of the meal and go to drop checks…2 out of 3 of them stiff me on credit cards…after waiting 20 minutes the woman had left me a 50…I get change from another server…count it back quickly…everything is good…
I’m called to the table and informed that I didn’t count change correctly…I shorted her 37 cents…I apologize profusely and give her another dollar…stating I’m sorry but I don’t have any coin change on me…I get a lovely response of go get some from the bartender…I’m sorry ma’am he’s busy at the moment…well get me the manager you shouldn’t be playing with people’s money like that…
I get our manager…who goes over and offers to buy their meal for the inconvenience…the woman starts exclaiming that she doesn’t want CHARITY…she just wants her change…our manager goes behind the bar and gets her 40 cents (our restaurant does not even carry pennies)…and the woman starts screaming about not wanting our CHARITY again…she pulls out three pennies and slams them on the table and leaves…
they are still there when I greet my next table which makes me smile…
I really wonder what is wrong with people sometimes…maybe they didn’t give me a tip because they didn’t want to give me any charity….
HaHa. Red deserved that!!
I swear, I don’t know how you’ve done it; I worked in a little local restaraunt for 5 WEEKS–that’s all I could take of the stupid.
I just found your site thanks to PowellsBooks.com. After reading 1 entry I bookmarked it. You’re hilarious!
The really stupid thing is that the time this genius spent on the whole affair was probably worth at least twice as much as the salad itself. Nickel wise, pound foolish.
If Red had tipped, it’d be even more absurd. (Now why wouldn’t it surprise me if he did?)
In response to Sagery: I really feel for you having a tough customer but I think you could have handled it better. First of all if the coke was too sweet it may be a problem with your lines, not her fault. Second, always garnish iced tea with lemon, its proper service. Third, you should make sure your tables have clean, polished silverware before the doors open everyday anyway and if you don’t reset the table yourself you should inspect it before it is re-sat (Your table, your responsibility).
Your customer was a snotty bitch. No argument. But you are also unprofessional. Don’t go to a table with another tables food in your hand. Especially dirty plates. If people are chewing don’t ask them how their meal is. Didn’t your mother teach you not to speak with your mouthful. And don’t short change a customer because you don’t feel like making change. Give the extra dollar if you have from the start. Don’t throw a buck back at them after you short changed them. No ones going to complain if you gave them 63 cents too much. But its rude to presume the customer will just figure the change into your tip.
This woman’s behavior was over-dramatic and rude but that does not excuse you for giving her bad service. I wasn’t surprised that your manager offered to pay for her meal. I also understand why she wouldn’t allow that. Her attitude is simple- I pay for the food I eat and the service I receive. If I get bad food I don’t expect to pay for it but I will make sure the waiter is taken care. If the food is great and the service isn’t I will let the waiter know. I never stiff but I will leave 15% and an explaination for the short tip.
In response to Benny: Benny, not to attack you, but you’ve obviously never worked in a restaurant. For one, many restaurants (several that I’ve worked for) require that you garnish drinks (waters, iced tea and so forth) only if requested. Management will even speak to you specifically in a punishing manner when you disregard this policy. As far as addressing a table with other people’s food in your hands, I’ve been called over, or spoken to many times by a table whose food is not in my hands. If you ignore them, you’re an asshole. If you don’t, you’re unprofessional. You can’t win. And as far as the woman wanting hot water to clean her silverware. This I’ve seen a million times and can never understand. They feel that their flatware is sub standard in terms of cleanliness, yet they are washed in the very same machine as the plateware that the food they gobble up is plated on. It’s not the server’s fault if the customer has an incongruous ability to see microbes on a fork that only a 1000xmicroscope could detect.
Hell, I can’t count the number of times when I’ve rounded up to the nearest dollar to give back to the customer just because I didn’t have the change. That’s what this girl did and she got a ration of excrement for it. Fuck these people. Sagery, I’m with you.
“I SAID GOOD DAY SIR” is probably one of my favourite lines to yell out when I’m feeling silly.
Amen Mike. Benny: You are mistaken. She was not unprofessional in any way, shape, or form. I get the feeling that YOU are one of the douchebags that make waiters’ lives Hell.
After working in 5-star dining and learning from scratch the minute (and IMHO absolutely ridiculous) details of the entire silver-service dining “production”, I’m going to agree with Benny on this. Regardless of what us philistines 😉 think of the pomp and ceremony involved, it’s just the way it’s done in high-end establishments (I assume this was 5-star restaurant due to the demanding and snooty attitude of the customer? Correct me if I’m wrong). When I read Sagery’s post I found myself cringing at his/her mistakes. These mistakes wouldn’t be an issue at alot of mid-range eateries however as silly as it seems, there is a level of expectation with these people. As much as I loved bitching, gossiping and ranting with other staff about the wankers(well out of customer earshot, mind you!), I played the part and made sure that my performance on the floor was always done with the utmost attention to detail. Play the game – get the tips!
Benny-get a job at a restaurant for one week and you will change your tune. “Something wrong with the soda line”? Gimme a break.
Mike- you are 100% right. Lemons cost about $1 each and some restaurants provide them only upon request. And I’d venture to guess this woman was probably snapping her fingers to have the waitress come over and the waitress happend to have plates in her hand. You can’t win when someone just wants to go out and have a bad time.