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March 14, 2009

The worst mistakes diners make

When I checked my work e-mail this morning Hungry Hungry Hippo had e-mailed me this request:

A few weeks ago you ran “the ten worst service mistakes.” There were a lot of valid points made but in all honesty, most people don’t know how to eat properly at a restaurant. I would and most of the others in my profession (serving and bartending) would really love it if you ran a top ten list of mistakes commonly made by the diner, not the server. ...

I would be more than happy to provide as many as needed but if you could educate people on some things that they do that aren’t necessary. Like not removing a napkin so I could put a burning plate down in front of you. Or not holding off on the conversation so the order can be placed, and later blaming me for service being slow. I truly love it when I drop a check and go to pick it up, and the guest tells me that “there is a gift certificate in there and just put the rest on the credit card.” Do people really think they are the first ones to do this, and it’s not complicated, just because we’re servers (not real people) doesn’t mean we have zero common sense. I truly love it when I have refilled a coffee cup like 5 or 6 times, and each time the guest feels  it’s necessary to remind me decaf. Another popular one is “it’s his/her birthday, or anniversary, or celebrating getting a goldfish. I have a hard enough time remembering my wife’s birthday, what makes you think I want to know about his/her birthday? Also on that note, how shallow have we gotten as a society that you get upset if a complete stranger (server) doesn’t bring you a scoop of ice cream with a candle on it and wishes you an insincere “happy birthday”? I could go all day but I realize you have other things to do and this may not even interest you, but thanks for your time

Hungry Hungry Hippo writes with graciousness, but I know there are a lot of servers and bartenders out there that must feel real rage at their customers. Is this a relatively new thing caused by a change in how we treat each other these days, or has it always been there simmering under the surface? I honestly never realized what a battlefield the restaurant dining room was until I started writing this blog.

Is there any interest in doing an actual Top 10? Or would it make more sense just to discuss it further because this isn't a list I could make up from personal experience (never having waited tables)?

I have to admit that I like the idea of a Top 10 that someone else is writing.


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:29 AM | | Comments (111)


"the customer is not always right"

Wait a minute, are you saying that when a waiter wishes me a "happy birthday" he or she is just going through the motions?

I can only imagine some of the frustrating people that servers have to deal with on a daily basis, but a couple of HHH's points are a little petty.

For most diners, using a gift card is a rarity. Maybe HHH receives them all the time but the diner doesn't use them frequently. Is it that horrible to have the diner explain to HHH the method of payment?

I'm sure the constant reminders regarding decaf are due to the one time when that diner was up all night because they thought they were drinking decaf but weren't.

If you want to be employed in a service industry, and expect tips, sometimes you are going to deal with annoying people. You should not have to deal with rude or obnoxious people, however.

... most people don’t know how to eat properly at a restaurant. Really? It's not exactly rocket science. But in all fairness, I would like to hear from more servers for their point of view on this.

The son of a friend works at a chain and he had a story about a large group of women (I think there were 19) who came in just before the kitchen shut down for the night--and then they asked for 19 separate checks. Not good.

I think there obviously should be mutual respect shown between the server and the customer. Common sense should prevail. The server is not your indentured servant or employee. Conversely, the customer should not be treated as just another nameless face seated at a table. The customer's conversation should be respected and not rudely intruded upon. There are civil ways of getting someone's attention without abruptly interjecting yourself. Hovering usually works. Just a few thoughts.

*The server is not your indentured servant or employee*

the server is my employee at least my temporary employeee. if they do good work they get paid more (bigger tip) than if they do poor work. if they do real good work the next time i come in i ask to sit in their section and i tell the management how good an employee they are.

I remind the server every time I get a refill that I drink diet soda or unsweetened tea. I have diabetes and too many times I have received the wrong drink and my sugar shot up. I generally can't tell the difference between diet and regular soda.

So, before you talk about the "mistakes" diners make, maybe you should consider that your job is to serve me. Hence the term server. If you don't like doing your job, go into a different field. I wouldn't like be a server, so I don't work as a server.

If you run a business, there are 2 rules: 1. The customer IS always right. 2. If the customer is wrong, refer back to rule #1.
In a past life, I worked as a wiater.server in an upscale restaurant in Pittsburgh. I found that on the whole, people are polite and courteous. Some are rude due to ignorance. A very small number are rude and demanding because they think waitersbartenders/servers are servants. If you are unable to serve serve this last group graciously and with a smile, then it is time for a career change. Would that we all had jobs where our customers and/or coworkers were nothing but polite and patient. Of course, our society is becoming increaingly less polite, especially our children. This is not a good omen for the future.
Also, no one should be considered an adult until he/she has spent at least 6 months in a job that requires serving the public. Might help to make for a more polite society.

Most of these "mistakes" that diners make are pretty petty and mean if you ask me. If you are truly good at your job you are going to overlook "violations" such as pointing out that it's a gift card and a credit card or reminding you that it's decaf.
How about us who have to put up with total server incompetence on a regular basis? Restaurants are a vast wasteland when it comes to professional servers these days, you know. Maybe it's impolite to not realize the server is trying to put down a hot plate but how do you think we feel when we're trying to flag down a server who rushes by without eye contact or goes in the back and never reappears? Many is the time that our steaks have gotten cold because we've waited for eternity to ask for steak sauce (no comments from steak sauce haters!). But all in all, I've overlooked all but the most cavalier blatant bad service because we're all only human.

Here a killer, a group of 4 order, 2 people order 3 courses, 1 orders 2 courses and the last just orders a salad. How is someone supposed to make sure everyone has food at the same time in a logical order if theres no cohesiveness

So what is your solution for the group of 4? In other words, what should they do to please you? Clearly ordering what they want is unsuitable to you. How about asking them how they want the courses delivered? Now I have to worry about group "cohesion" and how it's going to affect your delicate sense of order in your world? I just wanted a guacatini and some nachos.

most people don’t know how to eat properly at a restaurant
Dear HH Hippo: Eat properly? “Most people” don’t know how to behave properly in public. In fact, there is no properly. Propriety is passe. Transgressive is the new decorum. In case you haven’t noticed, the barbarians are no longer at the gate, old chum, but inside them. They are dining at your restaurant and serving at mine.
When manners and mores, long dismissed as mere hypocrisies, are no longer required, we must be reminded that shirts and shoes are.

That was a rough idea to see if she would be interested in running the list, it wasn't quite as polished as I would like it to be but I guess we can build on it and make it a work in progress. Here's another popular mistake, Going against reccomendations and then complaining about it, "Chef suggests Med Rare, the diner proceeds with a Med Well and then complains that it's either tough or dry. Please don't label these things as petty. How would you feel if your clientele told you how to do your job over and over. Servers are the frontline for everything. If the kitchen is backed up, it's our fault, if tables are over booked, it's our fault. Most people couldn't deal with the public day in and day out. I view it as a challenge. I have approx 10 seconds to read a group of strangers that I never met before and to do what I can to enure they enjoyed theirselves. I'm not saying these are intentional, but most aren't aware of things. I love it when guests get upset that we're out of something. It's obvious that it was a popular request, hence why they're asking for it, but are upset when the supply is gone, like it's the server who is in charge of ordering supplies, produce, and booze. Asking for a nice table. I love it when I'm asked that. I just want to say "because I was going to sit you at that bad table over there that nobody wants to sit at. I mean there are alot of things working against us. If you and the misses just had a little argument in the car and there's still tension between the two of you. There's more but I would love to see how people respond to this. Also the customer isn't always right, it's just the slogan of the industry. I love it how it was an issue of the server forgetting to wrap food to-go. Ask yourself this, have you ever forgotten your doggie bag because we could feed a small community with the left behind doggie bags. Also I have no problem boxing up a steak and stuff, but do you really need to have 3 stalks of aspargus, or a single shrimp wrapped up? I know you paid for it and all but in all honesty, is it worth the box and bag on the environment for 3 little pieces of aspargus?

I think this is a good idea. There are certain basic things that folks don't seem to often know any more. The napkin comes off the table onto your lap when you sit down. put your fork and knife at 4 o'clock when you are done. Any special requests with the bill need to be cleared before you start to order.

The problem is on both sides. Service professions are looked down upon in this country. Few realize what a difficult, physically exhausting job waiting tables is. So, there are all too many waitstaff who are doing it temporarily and not doing it well. Those are the waitstaff who are giving diabetics regular coke and refilling cups with caffeinated coffee irregardless of what was in them before (I've had waitstaff refill my tea cup, with the bag still in it, with coffee).

In the interests of communication, I'd say go for it.

Transgressive is the new decorum.


HHH why don't you create a concise list for us without anecdotal asides. Take some time to organize and edit your thoughts for us. It will make the discussion more meaningful. It's impossible to extrapolate from isolated events, or perhaps too easy.

While triple H "may" be very good at serving, enough are pretty bad or fair at best and sadly today we all must suffer from the LCD syndrome (Least Common Denominator). Servers and customers alike.
Bottom line is that HHH - representing the establishment - is SELLING, the customer is BUYING and he/she needs to just deal with those very petty (albeit, perhaps annoying) things.
However, rude and/or obnoxious behavior on the part of the customer IS unacceptable and need not be tolerated..

Seriously HHH, you need to get into a new profession, preferably one that involves no human contact at all.

Of course people are unhappy when they are paying good money for something and don't get what they want. As long as they are not rude. I don't agree that the server is my employee, but I do expect to be treated nicely.

Yes, if I walk into a restaurant and see open tables near the window with the view, I'd like to sit there if possible. Sorry for asking.

And yes, the customer is always right. However, the customer has no right to be rude.

And yes, I've forgotten my doggie bag a couple of times. Please forgive this transgression.

I would add going to HHH's restaurant as one of the top 10 mistakes a diner could make. Expect subpar service.

HHH, please do us a favor and tell us where you work and when you're on because you are a real downer.

The worst is comming out of a busy kitchen into busy dinning room and a family with small children let them run around the place and you don't see them...parents a busy dinning room is not a playground.

Anonymous is right. If these things irritate you so badly, HHH, you're in the wrong line of work. It's called "food service" for a reason. Believe me, I know dealing with the public is not for everyone. That's why I am so appreciative for those who do and do it well.

don't make me slap you - I've eaten in a very expensive restaurant where the owners kids were the ones running around the dining room. The wheel turns both ways. I'm only sayin...

A decaf heads up to HHH and others: caffeine can cause a racing heartbeat in some people (myself included), which means I MUST avoid caffeine!
That is why I always ask if my refill is decaf, because I. Can't. Have. Caffeine.
I do like the idea of a 10 ten list of diner mistakes. I would hope that I don't make any of them, but in the interest of self-improvement I would be interested in seeing them.
Just my .02 cents...

And yes, the customer is always right. However, the customer has no right to be rude.

Um...Anonymous? Hard to have it both ways, isn't it?

When I was a young girl, I was told that being an adult meant knowing when to break the rules and being willing to pay the consequences. This is one of the very few things that made sense to me at 16 and still does today.

The corollary of that is that absolutes aren't. The customer is sometimes wrong. Sometimes, everyone involved is wrong. In fact, that is usually the case.

Hiring someone's services is not the same as indentured servitude.

Several of us had dinner recently, using a giftcard and a credit card. We tucked both into the folder. After forever, our waiter trotted back over to ask how we wished to pay for the (announce the $ amount) remainder of the bill? When I said (in my Mildred Natwick voice), Oh, Dear, did I forget to put my credit card in the folder? I just get sooooo confused!" he said that he wasn't sure that we meant for him to use it. Why the hell did he think I gave it to him? Because I wanted him to be impressed with my LL Bean MasterCard???

For me, personally, a server's list of "Things Diners Do Wrong" is of absolutely NO interst.

Sorry to be off topic but couldn't figure out how to do a new post. We are looking for a (seafood) restaurant to visit with out of town friends in Annapolis this Monday night. Will have kids ages 9-15. We would appreciate suggestions from you and your readers.

What would be of actual value would mistakes that diners make that effect them.

For example:

  1. Don't eat out on holidays or weekends (too busy)
  2. Don't eat out on Mondays (leftover fish)
  3. Don't eat out on Tuesdays (gremlins)
  4. etc

For five years I worked in a movie theatre and this experience convinced me I did not want to work in any service industry. Later in life working as a volunteer at church dinners I remembered why I was not in the service industry. When I read entries like HHH's I think the best thing I can do for the restaurant industry is stay at home. My wife and I never order the same number of courses. She has the audacity to ask for salad dressing on the side. It seems whenever I ask for a beer or wine refill if I don't restate the type I am drinking the server always gets it wrong. Restating the type cuts down the mistakes to about half of the time. HHH says trust your server to get it right. I say trust has nothing to do with it.

My first few jobs (as a teenager and in college) were in the service industry, and I was disgusted by the condescending and bullying behavior of some customers, most of whom were wealthy (in fact that was a reliable predictor of bad behavior). Now that I am in a professional career, my job/mission is to stick it to wealthy people who treat others "beneath" them like dirt.

This is wasted on the sandbox, since I don't believe any regulars are the problem people out there treating servers like dirt, but those mean people are out there in forces daily, no matter how good of a job the servers are doing. And those people should remember that karma is a b*tch. I can spot those people from a mile away now given all of my past experience with them, and they get no quarter from me when they are begging for mercy.

i am in the service industry, same as HHH. have been in it for 16 years now. i have been a dishwasher, line cook, kitchen mgr, busboy, waiter, and a front of the house mgr, for several different places in many different cities and states, so what i am trying to say is... i am knowledgeable on this situation. here is my top ten list:

1. being rude, i am no less of a person than YOU!
2. dont go out to eat on holidays. (the holidays are for family, we have them too, if enough people dont go out to eat on holidays, maybe owners would think about their employees and close for that day)
3. "i want my steak rare, but with no pink". (are you kidding me? thats well done)
4. like HHH said, their is no need to remind me for the umteenth time you are drinking decafe. (did you notice that YOUR coffee cup has a BLUE rim and the people that have regular dont have a BLUE rim? its a secrete code us waiters have)
5. again, i agree with HHH. STOP your conversation when i approach YOUR table. (it is impolite to hover over you while you talk. YOU are not the only one we are taking care of! you are now going to blame slow service on me, i approached YOUR table 5 times already to see about an order, now i have no choice but to wait until you start looking for me)
6. if you say you are ready to order, be ready to order! (i dont have time for granny to change her mind six times, i also dont have that much room on my order pad to scratch out six different attempts to order. have your WHOLE order ready. none of this "we are ready to order apps, we will tell you the rest after that". no, this creates a gigantic mess of the evening, your tables timing will be completely off)
7. YOUR WATER GLASS IS ON YOUR RIGHT, AND YOUR BREAD PLATE IS ON YOUR LEFT! (OMG! if i had a nickle for each time a guest said that i didnt give them bread or water, i could retire. here is a little trick... make two OK symbols with each of your hands, the right one makes a "D" for a drinking glass, the left one makes a "B" for bread plate. and the napkin goes in your lap when you sit down)
8. go out to eat in places you can afford to tip. (i am VERY good at what i do, VERY good. i work in an establishment that is "fine dining". 20% or better is expected. if you go to a chain, that is where you can drop off to 15%, NEVER LOWER THAN THAT! i bet most of you dont know that a waiter/waitress has to tip out the bar, and the bus staff. the amount they get tipped is based off of sales. so if you stiff me bad enough, it could cost ME for your dinner. and while we are on the subject of tipping, dont "verbal" tip me. dont shake my hand and make a scene by announcing "good job, thank you so much". meanwhile you tipped a sub par 9%. i cant deposit "good job" in my bank, believe me, i tried)
9. the waitstaff has nothing to do with a long wait, a bad table, cold food, improperly cooked meat, or not having antibacterial soap in the bathroom. (the mgr or hostess is in charge of when you sit and where you sit, you beef is with them. your food took to long to come out because the kitchen it is bogged down because everyone of you wants to eat at 7:00. the kitchen cooked you steak to the wrong temperature because you said you wanted it rare but no pink. the owner decides what soap is in the bathroom, not me. and lastly, your food is cold because you sat there and talked for 10 mins after i brought it)
10. asking for free stuff. (HHH is right again! 1st you MUST inform the person who is seating you that you have a birthday, annv, or got a new goldfish. then this is how it works..... they tell me. their is no reason to remind me 15 times that you guest of honor gets a free dessert. actually, i will bring the dessert menus to everyone, and if that person orders a dessert, the candle goes in that. if they dont order a dessert, i will then bring your FREE dessert, with a candle, AND wish you a fake as they get "happy birthday". thats it, i dont sing, i dont dance. i am grateful that you came out to eat, and decided to come to my establishment, TIP ACCORDINGLY. it is the job of your family and friends to do the birthday wishes, not mine, i dont know you)
11. (sorry, i have an extra) know what you want! ("i will have a glass of red wine". ???????? Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, shyrah, Zinfandel, Chianti, a blended wine..... really folks, we have a list of them, ask to see it, or know that that you want a Merlot, or Cabernet. and while we are here, THEIR ARE NO SWEET MERLOTS!

sometimes, mistakes happen. we are human, i bet YOU make mistakes. if the food is improperly cooked, i am sure if it is a good establishment, you will get compensated, DONT suggest what should be a compensation! no, we are not going to buy the 200$ bottle of wine you ordered, but we will offer free dessert to the whole party, or comp the entree that got messed up, maybe even a gift certificate to come back at a later date, when you angry and pissed off and make a scene, the amount of compensation goes DOWN, not up! the people that keep their cool get the best compensation.

really, i love what i do, its an art. let me do my job. when you sit, you will be asked about drinks, and i will then bring them. i will then bring you a menu. you then make an order, and i bring the food when the kitchen gives it to me. asking me where your food is doesnt get anything accomplished. if it was ready, you would be eating it, i cant make it cook faster (its taking a long time because that person sitting in seat #4 asked for their steak rare, but with no pink, AKA well done. dont know if you know this or not, but well done takes a long time) your waiter/waitress is not an entertainer, go see a show if you want to be entertained, our job is to serve you your meal with a smile and not mess up. and when we go above and beyond, TIP ACCORDINGLY.

i know i am going to get bashed now, so bring it on!

HHH, where do you work? sounds like i want to sit in your section :) i would put the fate of my party in your hands, sounds like you have a grasp on what is going on int the industry, too bad people dont know how to conduct themselves in public anymore, having no respect for the people who are trying to make their night an enjoyable one. really people, we know what we are doing, their is a training process that we go through.

I can't help but feel like Springs1 has become a server... and that thought frightens me.

Laughing out loud here. EL

I don't think a list of mistakes diners make will do much good. After all, Miss Manners keeps telling engaged couples not to show any expectation of gifts, and to write thank you notes as soon as a gift is received, and we all know how successful she's been with that message.

Also, diners don't need restaurants to sate their hunger. Restaurants need diners to stay in business. Correcting mistakes that offend diners is necessary for restaurant owners. Correcting behaviors that may offend over-sensitive waitstaff isn't necessary for diners. Let me know you're offended when I confirm that you're pouring decaf. I'll stay home and drink my own coffee next time.

Are customers always right? Literally, no. Some customers are mentally ill. Some have developmental disabilities. Some are immigrants with different ideas of manners. Some are drunk. Some are obnoxious and have excessive self-esteem. Some are thieves. But if you run a restaurant that will serve only the gracious, you won't be in business long.

Someone who runs a B&B told me that people are still spending money on travel and restaurants, but they are more demanding and have higher expectations. My hours and pay have been cut this year, and I know I want more for a dollar than I would have settled for 2 years ago. This is unfair to restaurants, but it's how it is. We spent $110 (for 2) last night at a restaurant where the service just wasn't good enough for that tab for us right now. I don't want obsequiousness, but I want attentiveness and for all the staff to know what they're serving. I'd rather go someplace cheaper for the same service, or someplace better for more money, if it's worth it to me.

hungryhippofan vs. Springs1: who wins?

(Actually, hhhf fan says reasonable things, just in a Springs1 kind of way...)

(Oh and I'm going to remember the little "OK sign" trick because I'm always getting confused and putting butter in my water.)

I would have been a lot more willing to credit hhhf if he or she hadn't been so damned condescending. Many of us here do actually know about tip outs, because we've talked about them before. Some of us have even been waitstaff.

LJ, in my experience, the nouveau riche are complete jerks, who'll treat you like dirt and stiff you on the bill (tip? they don't tip), but old money is a dream to work with. They know how to be polite and friendly, but not overly-friendly, tip very well and don't make unreasonable demands.

When I drove a cab, I'd avoid being anywhere near several nouveau riche neighbourhoods, lest I have to take a call to pick one of them up. I'd hover near the old money neighbourhoods, though.

Okay, I've read enough. I've been in the restaurant business for well over 20 years in all positions. That means Front of House, Back of House and the Dreaded General Manager. I'm back to waiting tables because I enjoy it and I'm REALLY, REALLY good at it. Here's my list of mistakes that diners make.

1. Treating me disrepectfully.

That's it. Anything else I can deal with. I don't care if you oreder multiple, staggered courses. I can handle it. I don't care if you want your empty plates cleared individually or you want me to wait until everyone is done. I can make both of those scenarios work. I can wait until you're finished with your conversation and come over then. You'll never even know I've been waiting. I'll smile the whole time your kids are tossing their Cheerios on the floor ond I'll happily bring you some hot water to heat Juniors bottle. If the kitchen runs behind I'll keep you informed and keep the bread coming to tide you over. Heck, if needed I'll bring you a little cold snack (just something I can grab myself without putting the kitchen further in the weeds.) I'll split your check 30 ways if I have to. (Okay, on this I do ask that you tell me ahead of time that you need separate checks & to not switch places throughout the meal. I'm blonde and Polish & easily confused, sue me!) Sure, I'd like to get 20% on every table but That ain't gonna happen. Sometimes I make more sometimes I get stiffed. Guess what? It happens. And the next time you come in after stiffing me I'll still treat you well. In this job you learn to take the good with the bad or you get another job!

Do you know why I'm willing (even happy) to do this? Its my career. Its how I make my living and pay my bills. I'm not doing this while I'm waiting for something better to come along or while I'm finishing school. I graduated years ago with a masters degreee and I do this because it suits me.

Oh yeah. I do have one small gripe and it kind of fits in with the whole respect thing. Please don't ask me what my real job is. That's just condescending. If you don't think this is a real job you've obviously never worked in a restaurant!

To all the servers who like to make lists...Take some advice from a gal whose just crazy enough to love this business:

The people who read your list and gripes are your bread and butter. When they read stuff like that their estimation of servers drops just a little. Or to put it in perspective:

Why do you want to shoot you cash cow?

(Sorry for that last line. I don't think of my guests that way but some folks need to hear it that way.)

Thanks for letting me ramble.

kimmer1850 - I want to eat wherever it is that you work for the rest of my life! Thank you. And, I promise I'll treat you respectfully!

I think kimmer1850 probably gets tipped pretty well by her customers.

Re: Kimmer1850's post: Its my career. Its how I make my living and pay my bills. I'm not doing this while I'm waiting for something better to come along or while I'm finishing school. I graduated years ago with a masters degreee and I do this because it suits me.

I was hoping we would hear from those who treat the front of the house as a career. I'd love to get a list of useful, thoughtful, and even funny tips from professional servers, instead of the usual list of grievances. Is Kimmer1850 the only one? How depressing...

YumPo, I'm sure all the others like Kimmer1850 are just sleeping in after working late Saturday night. A blessing on them all!

the kimmers1850's of the server world are better to work with too.

i too internally rolled my eyes every time someone would remind me about the need for DECAF - you are not the only person in the world with whatever condition that caffeine would harm or kill. until one of the decaffers asked for my phone number so that in case i served them regular they could call me at 2 am to complain. i said sure, and i need you number too so that when you are fast asleep at 2am, i can call you to tell you to relax, it really was decaf. and now i use that all the time - it lets people know i heard them (3x!) and they are drinking decaf.

I nominate kimmer1850 for The Sandbox Seal of Approval.

Well HHHfan I tip based on the service I receive. If you want 20% then make sure my water is refilled and my wife's ice tea is always full. When my wine glass is empty ask if I want another and if I state the type every time it is because I have been burned, frequently, in the past. Remember that the dressing was ordered on the side and do not deliver a dressed salad. It may be the kitchen's fault that it is wrong but it is your mistake for serving it. Does your restaurant present the diner a list of all wines available by the glass when they are seated? Many times I have to ask "I would like a glass of red wine. What are my options." because the selections are not on the menu or the regular wine list. Also many times a restaurant will have additional wines not listed. Here's a tip. Use this as an opportunity to make suggestions based on the evenings food specials or the item already selected by the diner. Turn lemons into lemonade. If you have done your homework and the match turns out to be a good one I am sure the diner will reflect this little extra service in their tip. And you may sell an extra glass or two. As I mentioned earlier after reading posts like HHH's and HHHfan I want to swear off restaurants for life. It makes me sick to think that I may be contributing to the earnings of these two. Though with attitudes like theirs I am certain my tip would not even approach 15%.

Part of the problem is that there is no "standard" diner. We are all different. And worse than that, we are often different every time we come in for a meal. And, of course, our moods change as we interact with you, our server.

Some of the comments on how to behave toward your server remind me of when my brother was processing in for Air Force Reserve training: He told me that when they got to the barber shop they were told "You will go inside when it is your turn; you will sit down and sit straight up; you will NOT tell the barber how to cut your hair." If I wanted a dining experience like that I would visit my local prison, I mean correctional facility.

The best advice is what we have been taught since we were very young: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Still works.

Laura Lee - you asked for it, you got it. Go here to cast your vote.

Turns out we can have only one poll running at a time, so the foie gras question failed with only 52% of the vote in favor of granting it the SSoA. Which is probably good, because we don't want poeple coming into the Sandbox with bull horns, trying to pick fights.

For once I am in agreement with EEL. One time we were celebrating a special occasion with a large family group at the Oregon Grille, and when the time came to select a second bottle of wine, the server suggested some bottles that were not on the wine list. We did not get ripped off, and we enjoyed the wine immensely. They have also been known to figure out who the "birthday girl" is without any prompting or hinting on our part. Now that's graceful service.

I can personally vouch for kimmer's capacity for dealing with difficult characters.

I have a suggestion for people who are caffeine sensitive – DON'T DRINK COFFEE. Really. If you drink decaf coffee sometimes you are going to get regular coffee. It's going to happen. News flash – decaf coffee has some caffeine in it. ESCHEW THE BREW!!!

elite elephant lover, did you miss the part where i said "i am VERY good at what i do"? yes, the basics are always done, i.e. your water glass is full, and your beloved wifes iced t is always full. yes i brought you the wine list, sorry the wines by the glass are in the back, YOU didnt turn enough pages looking for kendal jackson. i bet i have waited on you, and i bet you tipped me 20%, thank you :)

Look every one of us probably works in some situation whereby we have more knowledge or expertise than the people who are our customers; nevertheless, those customers are going to make demands on us. Sometimes they will be warranted and sometimes they will not. If you are doctor, a patient may try and make his own diagnosis. If you are an accountant, a client may remind you not to forget this and that deduction. If you are a teacher a student will argue why she should get credit for her answer. Waiters are not alone in this situation.

The important thing in any customer service is the matter or respect and civility. If you are a doctor, you need to understand that people are going to have questions and concerns about your diagnosis. It is their health. If you are a waiter, you have to understand that people are going to make requests of you and your time. They are paying higher prices for food in order to have someone else make and serve it. Now, that being said, no customer, be he patient or diner, should humiliate or belittle a service provider. So, if someone reminds a waiter five times that he drinks decaf, big deal. But if some guy insults a waiter because he believes the waiter is beneath him, well that person has no place in normal society.

elite elephant lover, also, i tried to tell you about the specials, you rolled your eyes and buried your face in your menu and didnt pay attention. now i have to explain them AGAIN!

dont make me slap you, having the owners kids running around happens 1 out of 100 times, the rest of the time its YOUR kids who have sat down, knocked over a water glass, spread all the silverware all over he table, pulled the table cloth half off the table, and are now banging their spoons on everything they can find, as well as running around playing with toy cars. meanwhile YOU are oblivious to all of this, but the rest of the dining room is not! leave your kids at home in the care of the babysitter, until they are old enough to conduct them selves in a GOOD manner. if you can afford to go out to eat, you can afford a babysitter. when YOUR kid orders his 15th Shirley Temple, i make it with 90% cherry juice, and 10% coke or sprite, that way they are up ALL night bugging the crap out of YOU!

dont make me slap you, SORRY, that comment was for joyce!

er, springs1 is back?

Some American parents are idiots, pumping their demon spawn full of red dye cancer sugar cocktails. The French are way smarter, give your kid a little watered down wine and they will be knocked out by the end of the meal. Zut alors!

Spring1 has a son, who is as boring as she. All done, not going to visit this comment again. Let's hope it dies an unhappy death, soon.

Wow, I always remind my server that I am drinking diet or I asked for dressing on the side. I had no idea it was annoying. I do it because those things are really important to my happiness when eating out, and I don't want to assume that, with the billion things servers have to keep track of, they are always going to remember my idiosyncracies. I mean, I was a server for a very hellish 4 months and I remember that on those crazy nights when I had 8 or 10 tables at a time, I definitely wasn't always on top of who was drinking what kind of soda. I appreciated the reminder. (I was a very bad server though, which is why I don't do it anymore.) I guess I figure I'd rather remind the server before they get it, than have to be the picky customer who sends them back again because it's wrong.

Hey Owlie!!

Miss ya Darlin' ! And you're not difficult at all. Though you do qualify as a character.

Just to clarify a few things.

I've been known to make a few mistakes or miss a modifier or two.

I've also dealt with my share of PIA guests. Trust me I can be as b****y as HHH. The difference is the only ones who ever get to hear it are my fellow servers, fiancee and close friends (Hello again, OMG.) It really serves no purpose to comnplain on Ms. Large's blog.

I do however have some stories that will have you chuckling for days...

Buy me a beer (or 3) and I just might tell you.

Thanks for the recommendation for the SS of A. I really appreciate it.

I wish we could get Cynthia Bennington to read the above posts from HHH and HHHFan, and then tell us whether she would hire either or both of them to be on the server staff at her restaurant, and, if so, why (or, if not, why not).

I love this, once again only one person admitted to going against the grain. People are programed that "the customer is always right" that they actually think they're flawless. Please don't be concerned with where I work, believe me, I've probably had you eating out of my hand. Ms. Joyce, one question, when you order your steak, do you order sides with it i.e. mashed potatoes or broccoli or do you wait for your steak and then decide that you would like them. Because it sounds like to me, you already have your mind made up that you must have steak sauce with a steak (why? well that's whole different topic) why not order or ask for steak sauce with your steak in the first place?

have I been posting things here that I'm not aware of?

Hhh said: I love this, once again only one person admitted to going against the grain.

And what grain would you be referring to? The grain of your own opinion? Heaven forbid that anyone should not agree with everything that you utter.

And all I asked for was a glass of water.

I love this, once again only one person admitted to going against the grain. People are programed that "the customer is always right" that they actually think they're flawless.

Wow, several people agreed with you at least in part, and you are blowing them away.

I hope your listening skills are better than your reading skills, HHH.

HHH ... I hear something...
wa wa wa ....
did somebody call the wambulance?

This whole discussion makes me never want to eat out again. How very unpleasant.

Dining out is a kind of theater involving the momentary suspension of disbelief, a vacation from our Malthusian world and Hobbesian lives. HHH has served to lift the curtain and let us see the ugliness and pettiness of lesser human behavior that apparently exists in this theater. It reminds me of Peter Handle's play Offending the Audience.

See, hhh, it's the underlying hostility that you think you hide so well that makes some of us think you are facing burnout. Time for some career counseling?

Kimmer has a great point. You complain, but only to others in your profession. I might complain about library patrons (ok, I did when I worked front line), but I only complained to co-workers, not in public. That would be tacky and rude, not to mention I'm not going to get sympathy from people who don't deal with the same kind of stuff.

I was all for the top 10 most annoying things diners do until it turned into accusatory whining. It would have been a great topic, done in a non-combative fashion.

To Kimmers, you do have a point, I said it before, I didn’t send in a completed posting, it was a rough idea and then it was up for critique. Maybe I shouldn’t have said mistakes, how bout pet peeves. I think the greatest thing about my occupation is the amount of people I get to interact with. It’s the law of numbers, sometimes the numbers are in my favor, others not so much, you know who you are. I guess some of guests should have just stayed home and saved their money and my time. The people that take their job seriously don’t view their selves as servers or waiters, more like an ambassador for the night. One thing I learned from the chief restaurateur in the city is; 99% of people don’t know anything about food or wine, but 100% of people know how they want to be treated. I know I’m all over the place but that’s just how the business is. One minute the house is empty, next I need to get tables turned without you noticing me hurrying you along. People get so angry when something goes wrong, granted you’re paying for it, it should be right. If everyone applied that same approach to everything else in life, it would be such a better place. Apply those same expectations to politicians and see the “compensation” you get if your expectations aren’t reached. Also use some common sense, if you ask for the restroom and I take you to two doors each with a respective M and W on the doors, M stands for Men’s, or in your case moron, either hope you enjoy the room.

Here is another costly “pet peeve.” Taking both of the credit card slips. Best case scenario I lose the gratuity, worst case; not only did I just serve your dinner; I paid for it as well. Speaking of taking, don’t take my pen, if you take my pen I should be able to add 5% to the tip to cover me for damages. The next table is going to think I came to work unprepared without a pen and it makes me look unprofessional. Dahlink, if I remember correctly you ran an article about some fool ordering something off of a menu at the wrong price. The fool was “educated” on the correct price and still had a childish breakdown. I think it was a The Oregon Grille if my memory serves me correct. I just needed to vent about my career, believe me; I’m not burned out.

Okay, all whining and criticizing aside, we must admit that each and everyone of us has some sort of character flaws...I mean this is what makes us humans after all... But to assume that we all have perfect manners and never blow our tops once in a while is just silly. I agree that with the current state of the economy we all expect the buck to go a bit further, but that by no means gives permission to act like buffoons in a public setting...
I have been in the service industry for a very long time. Fine dining to be exact, and I find that the clientele in a white linen establishment are much more uncouth than one would normally think. (My personal favorite, just as an example... "Little girl!" and a quick snap of the fingers... I am a grown woman. Please do not think that because I am of small stature that I am "A little girl".)
I would like to "stick up" for all those servers out there. I know many people feel that we treat our guests like cattle...nameless, faceless table numbers...But I would like to be very clear. We work very hard for our tips and those tables that reward us for our hard work are the ones that when they return are treated like royalty...And not whether or not they tip well, but because in a small way, I've come to feel like they are friends as well. I have met some of the most amazing people through my line of work...I can go nearly anywhere in the country and find someone that I have met in the industry. Heck! I had wedding gifts sent to me from California from guests that I had somehow managed to stay in contact with. I have networked my way through very many a situation and with much appreciation for those people that I had once waited on and returned the favor. I genuinely enjoy working in the service industry for the sole reason of meeting new people and making new friends every single day! How many other professions can honestly say that?
With that said...I have worked for the same company in many locations all over the country. This particular company thrives on word of mouth (With nearly 100 locations throughout the world, we are still unknown to quite a few people). We were taught very early on in our training that each guest is to be treated like they are the only person in the restaurant. Always make eye contact. Obey the five and fifteen foot rule. Never say "No", always find an alternative suggestion. Smile like your life depended on it. It seems that these simple and common sense rules may have gone by the way side in every aspect of our lives...Not just in a public setting. We can all use these in our daily lives everywhere we go.
My point being, however cliche it may sound, is that we all must treat each other with some form of respect in order to expect it in return. This applies everywhere! I don't care if you regularly dine at Subway or The 21 Club. A "Please" and "Thank you" go a very long way.
So put down your cell phone, wrangle in your children, put your napkin in your lap, and show me the respect that I plan on giving to you for the next two hours of your precious birthday meal.
Ha! Take that Miss Manners!

Hey, Yet Another Classless Waitress--what is the "five and fifteen foot rule"? And seriously--people call you "little girl"?

hhh, I have sometimes mentioned the Oregon Grille, but I don't recognize the episode you describe. Are you sure it came from me? My dining companions tend not to be fools.

HHH, you bore me. Perhaps you should try rants and raves on craigslist, that forum may fit you better. Stream of consciousness doesn't work so well in a blog entry... unless you are a feathered friend.

Congratulations to Yet Another Classless Waitress for not insisting vehemently that she is "very very good" at what she does.

And honestly, everyone just act like an adult and it'll all be fine.

Dahlink, are you not a columist for the Sun, there was a female that did some kind of consumer reporting for the Sun that ran an article a couple months ago about a guy ordering a drink, it was listed at the wrong price, before the drink was made, mush less delivered. The server and management informed the guy of the price difference and the guy proceeded to have a meltdown and the Sun ran the article. If this isn't you, I must apoligize

HHH -- having met Dahlink, I can assure you that she is not the same person as Dan Thanh Dang, the former Sun reporter who had reported on the Oregon Grille Grand Marnier incident in a Sun consumer column last June, according to this D@L post. (Unfortunately, the actual text of that consumer column is no longer available online.)

Kindly do the research before making baseless accusations next time.

My dining companions tend not to be fools.

Gets my vote for Comment of the Week!

Mr Larsen I believe and his order of a Grand Marnier, he was a tool who freaked out over nothing.. it must of been hard for him to "save" his money (gift certificates) to come out on his special occasion once a year

The goal of this was to try to illuminate that it's not everyone else's fault that things are screwed up in your life. People buy houses they can't afford, but the want to blame the "shark" mortgage broker. They buy or lease cars they can't afford. They go to restuarants that they truly can't afford and look for the slightest issue to try to justisfy why they deserve compensation. Maybe instead of passing the buck like everyone is accusing me of for my short comings, look in the mirror, we all have to take some responsibilty. If you get too lubricated and get in a car and happen to kill someone, I'm legally responsible. What does that say for society. Everyone knows that drinking and driving don't mix, but when it happens to them; They can't bare the blame on their shoulders so they blame the bartender for twisting their arm. Society wake up. If you ask for a drink, I'll get it, if it's the 7th or so, you won't. But you honestly expect me to know you're taking some rx's that lower your tolerance and want to blame me for your dui/dwi. Grow Up

The goal of this was to try to illuminate that it's not everyone else's fault that things are screwed up in your life.

Communication Fail.

Thanks for the back-up, hmpstd and Eve. It finally came to me what hhh was going on about after I left for work this morning. No, hippo, I am most definitely not a columnist for the Sun, although I do miss Dan Thanh Dang's columns.

I agree with OMG--time for everyone to move along now.

Now why am I suddenly craving Vietnamese food?

Hey Dahlink, how does it feel to be mistaken for someone...famous?

The five and fifteen foot rule is...
If a guest is passing within five feet of you, you verbally acknowledge them. Within fifteen feet and you are to at least make eye contact.

Point well taken, Laura Lee. (Although I still think you and Laura Lippman share a well developed sense of the macabre, and there was nothing but admiration in my query--not a statement--as to your "real" identity ...)

YACW--thanks for illuminating the five and fifteen foot rule for us.

Some things I've learned:
It takes all kinds of people to make a world.
Absolutes rarely apply.
Be nice.
And most importantly - - -
Dig the hole first.

So good to have you around RayRay. Lissa will probably take issue with your advice to "Be nice" but I'm pretty sure she'll agree that it's a good idea to "Dig the hole first".

Thanks Dahlink, I never read anything sinister into your probing comments.

As a result of Laura Lee's nomination and owing to the fact that the voting seems to have ended, kimmer1850 is hereby awarded the very first Sandbox Seal of Approval for her comment on 3/15/09 at 9:07 am.

Congratulations, kimmer1850.

(Maybe we'll keep a list of all the awardees during the year, then at the end of the year we can make up a list and take ANOTHER vote and...hahaha. Not really. I'm just pulling Owlie's chain now.

RayRay is always nice.

Bucky, maybe we can make a top ten list.

Laura Lee, I think THAT might be a Seal of Approval kind of idea. We should take a vote on whether to make a list.

Are you making an official nomination?

Bucky and LL,
You could have an awards show thing and call the awards the Sandies.

In alphabetical order.

No way, cowboy, not ropin' me into another one. Did you even read what I said on your Big Idea Post?

BTW, I just put my store-bought corned beef brisket on the range. Brand name: Colorado Premium (USDA Choice). I rinsed off as much as possible of the vile red effluent before submerging it in water and spices, but I'm sure it would still not meet the SS of A. Cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes will be added later. This will all be served with a fresh loaf of Atwater's soda bread, Kerrygold butter, and some hard irish table cheese. Beverages, I mean drinks: Guinness Stout and tap water chilled in the soon- to- be- rare green San Pelligrino bottles. We'll end the meal with black tea next to the peat fire and read some James Joyce.

Joyce himself was partial to white wine, as I recall.

Laura Lee - I read it and I thought it was cute.

Shouldn't that be green tea, Laura Lee?

Cooked a Colorado Premium corned beef on Sunday. While doesn't compare to the store made corned beef I could get back in the midwest it was better than most factory made brands. Dijon, horeseradish, and really good rye bread from Wegman's helped. Drank a beer from Avery Brewing in Colorado called New World Porter. I liked alot more than Guiness. More flavorful and it is dry hopped. Bucky, you are so lucky to life in the land of microbrews.

Did anyone see the SNL skit on the underlying hatred of dining room staff? The Hawaiian governor is even worried that it will reduce tourism.

I saw it on Hulu but it's probably on Utube.

I didn't even know there was a Colorado Premium corned beef. I'm glad there is. It must be helping our state's trade deficit.

EEL, we are overun with micro breweries. I believe MD Canon's brother (if I'm remembering this right) is the head of the microbrewers trade association, located in Boulder, but since he's MD Canon's brother I won't hold that against him. (Being from Boulder, not being the head of the microbrewers, I mean. That sounds like a pretty cool job. I bet they have great meetings.)

Is being overrun with microbreweries a bad thing? I wish we had a microbrewery down here. Thankfully, a local liquor store has taken it upon themselves to stock a huge variety of tasty brews, both foreign and domestic. They even sell Polish beer there. Haven't had it yet, but its on my list.
This store is the only one like it, all the others just have the usual suspects from A-B, Coors, and Miller.

PCB Rob - overun may have been a bad choice of words. I'm not complaining.

Hey Bucky,
Your comment made this post go to 100 comments. Another addition to the Hall of Fame. Or whatever it's called.

I see that I am late to the conversation, but this is my take on the situation. The waiter is my sole point of contact. He/she set the tone for the whole dinning experience. If I order a steak rare with no pink, then it is your job to tell me politely that it can not be done that way. I am willing to follow your lead in you place of work because I expect you to be very good at what you do. Any problems in the kitchen is your fault because you do spend time running back and forth to the kitchen. If you don't keep me updated then again that is on you. Yes, you tip does depend on you skill. I treat every waiter like it is an olympic diving event. you start off with a 10 and every off step gets a deduction and I have no problem giving a no tip. Dinning out is a partnership between the waiter and the customer. Do yours and I will do mine.

I don't hate people, I just feel better when there are none of them around.
Henry Chinaski

I always get the strangest looks from waiters when I order a unicorn burger with no meat ( 'cause I'm a vegetarian y'know) with a side of beer battered pixie wings.

RayRay, it's the beer batter, probably that gets the looks.

why cant you kiss hookers?

Hey Dahlink, just out of curiosity, what did they reccomend off the wine list at The Oregon Grille, that's typically an older clientel and their wine list is nice, wondering what they could reccomend off the list that they would haven't on it

hungry hungry, I have a pretty good memory, except when it comes to wines. I leave that to my husband. I'll ask if he remembers.

Are you assuming I'm a sweet young thing? ;->

Dahlink, you're not a sweet young thing? No.

no, not exactly, saying that I've been in there and at times I thought I step into a retirement home instead of a restuarant. I know some of the guys that work there have been there since it opened, I'm just curious if they're changing things up or what. I try not to judge anyone, well actually thats a lie, but who doesn't these days

I try not to judge anyone


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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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