Friday, July 17, 2009

That's One Hot Potato!

Hey, I've brought back the poll to the A & A blog. Please vote so I get some sense of how many are paying attention out there.

Today's post may not be the consensus feeling of my readers. It's about the expectations people have of their servers (waiter or waitress in pre-politically correct speak). I don't understand why so many people feel their server has to live up to high expectations, and that when they don't, that they are open to rude behaviour. This doesn't seem to be the case with other jobs. Servers take it on the chin if they are perceived to be doing a poor job.

I say treat them and those working in other service jobs like fast food or even those troublesome cashiers, that are always asking me about my weekend, with a little respect, and when possible, tip well. These are generally speaking not high paying jobs and they are under the pressure of performing for each customer. We should all be so unlucky.

A friend who I was out for dinner with recently told me the story of his career as a waiter. He was working for a steakhouse in the upper mid-range of restaurants. He had worked his way up to waiter after a few months at the establishment and thought he was getting his big break. One night things weren't going so well and one gentleman was being particularly annoying.

The annoying gentleman was being condescending in my friends opinion and generally being rude and treating him like dirt. He and his female companion both ordered the same meal, but the man asked for a baked potato, while the woman wanted rice. When my friend brought the meals to the table he placed them backwards with the potato in front of the woman. He started to walk away and the man called him back. "Boy, I ordered the baked potato," said he.

My friend the waiter came back and apologized. He then picked up the baked potato from the woman's plate and put it on the man's and then grabbed the pile of rice on his plate and put it on hers. "There you go," he said. He turned and walked to the back of the restaurant, through the kitchen, out the back door and drove home.


  1. When we moved to a new area of town, we noticed how rude people were to waiters/waitresses. It seemed no matter what restaurant we went to, we'd always hear someone complaining loudly and ending up with the manager granting them a free meal. Then one night we overheard the most disturbing conversation between a father and his daughter at the the next table. The daughter ordered an item. When it came the father said the item was incorrect (but it wasn't) and that his steak had been cooked incorrectly (I don't know if it was or not). The waiter kindly apologized and changed the order accordingly. When the daughter complained to her father that the order was correct and she wanted it, the father told her to be quiet and watch how "this is done." When it came time to pay, the father asked the waiter to get the manager and then loudly complained that the boy had messed up their order and was terribly rude. Neither statement was true. The manager, to quiet the man, gave him the meals free. The father then told the daughter, "See, this is how it's done." I wanted so badly to go talk with the manager.

  2. That's a great anecdote or a terrible one depending on what you're judging it. A great story about a terrible thing. What about saying something to the father? Or was that an invitation to a punch in the nose.

    Unfortunately this is almost certainly not as rare as you would hope.

  3. Yeah, I want to know why you didn't speak to the manager, too. I would have.

    I've got to say that all this is foreign to me. When I first read Jack's blog, I thought he was stretching. He's a sensitive lad and will often construe things as rude when they're really not. But the story by the neighbo(u)rhood cashier seems to confirm that people are jerks. I either don't eat out enough, don't pay attention to what's around me, Vancouverites are just more polite, or I'm the one being rude.

  4. Woops! Commented on the wrong post the first time. Here it is again:

    I'm a coward, that's why I didn't speak to the manager. I even passed by him on the way to the restroom and had the chance, but I was afraid the father would see me.

    I didn't speak to the father, not so much because I was afraid of a punch in the nose, but a gunshot in the parking lot. I live in one of the larger cities in our state. "Things" happen.

    Yes, it bothers me that I didn't speak to the manager. More for the waiter's sake than anything else. He really was very kind to those people. Maybe my stepping up would have restored his faith in humanity, which surely he loses on a daily basis.

  5. Anonymous CashierJuly 21, 2009 at 10:29 PM

    First of all.... How dare you say cashiers are troublesome! That is quite hurtful. (Your son is also a cashier now.. is he troublesome?) Anywho... I think that people are way too rude to waiter/waitresses, as they get blamed for everything else that goes wrong where they work. They get complained to when the meal isn't good.. which could either be the chef's fault, or the eater's pompus attitude. They also get complained to for many various things, such as the cleanliness of the table, cutlery or of the restaurant itself. It is sort of like how a cashier is always complained to in a grocery store, if the store is out of their certain favourite brand of cookies, or heavens forbid.. the organic watermelons weren't marked clearly enough.. or got mixed in with the regular ones. A helpful hint to everyone, if you want to complain to someone about a problem, at least complain to the right person.

  6. Just because someone complains to you, doesn't mean they're complaining *about* you. Know the difference. Don't take it personally. Feel their frustration.

    I was a waiter for a few weeks once and no one was ever rude to me. Or maybe I just didn't take things personally if someone wasn't happy with something that had nothing to do with me.

  7. Anonymous CashierJuly 22, 2009 at 10:41 PM

    Oh I know they aren't complaining "*about*" me, as you would say it. But when they are really freaking out and creating a rather large hoo-ha, it is just plain annoying for you to have to deal with it, when it isn't really your problem at all.

  8. Sounds like *someone* is suffering from service industry burnout. It's not fair and it's crappy, but being the front-line sounding board for other people's crap has always been, and always will be, a part of working in the service industry.

  9. While your comments on the service industry may be true, as a non-member of the service industry who is standing in line behind the obnoxious and rude complainers, frankly I am annoyed.

  10. Hey, let's not let obnoxious and rude service industry types get away scott-free. At the top of that list would be bus drivers. But you never take the bus, so you wouldn't know.

  11. Hey, quit trying to sidetrack the debate. The point in question was how annoying some people can be in terms of how they deal with who is serving them.

    Now, the fact that some bus drivers are annoyingly rude does not justify being rude to your waiter.

  12. They're just at the top of the list. There are plenty of other obnoxious and rude people in other aspects of the service industry, even, I daresay, a few rude waiters. Of course, that doesn't mean it's okay to be rude to them. I'm just pointing out that all kinds of people are rude, customers and servers (although I've still never witnessed a rude customer at a restaurant and I just got back from dinner out).

  13. Perhaps rude by itself is not the descriptor. Rereading my post, rudeness would be a symptom, but what I was getting at was the high expectations we seem to have for people in these positions. Don't get me wrong, I don't like it if I'm being served by someone who clearly doesn't like their job and isn't very good at it, but it seems people are quick to jump on people providing less than excellent service. Sometimes in doing so the customer is rude, sometimes they just tell their friends about how lousy the service is.