Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. As a palate cleanser for the last two weeks, please enjoy some stories of terrible customers receiving their just rewards. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I worked at a great restaurant in Denver that has since closed. It was owned by a guy that had a great love for the place, the food, and the staff, and working there was probably one of the best jobs I ever had. But despite the wonderful environment, I did run into the occasional asshole customer(s).
Friday and Saturday nights we had live entertainment, and the place was always packed. I had just recently decided to try my hand at waitressing (I usually bussed tables and bar-backed), and it was my first Friday and I was really nervous. I got seated a table of six big and burly douche-bros who proceeded to complain about everything. First I was too slow getting their drink order. Then they claimed the drinks weren't right. Then I took too long to take their food order, etc.
About the time they were ready for their second round of drinks, the ringleader thought it would be funny to refer to me as "Bitch", as in "Yo bitch! I need another beer." Soon all the others start to chime in as well with a chorus of "Hey bitch! Where the hell is our food?" or "My burger is cold, bitch, go get me another one." And so on, and so on. By this point I was nearly in tears, and the table behind them had called the owner over to complain on my behalf. He came back to the kitchen to find me, and I confirmed what my good samaritans had told him.
In an absolute rage, he went over to their table, slammed their check down, and demanded they pay it immediately and leave, or he was going to call the cops. He thundered at them that NO ONE abuses his staff like the way they've treated me, that they better leave a good tip, and that they were hereby banned from ever coming back to his establishment. Meekly, they paid the check and left.
End of story? Not hardly.
That night after my shift was over, I was sitting at the bar having a much needed drink. It was about 1:00 am, and I was in no mood to be messed with. In swaggered the ringleader from earlier with a couple of his boys, only now they were even drunker and more belligerent than before. He spotted me at the bar and came over, resting one foot on the rung of my barstool. He leaned in and casually remarked, "So, how's it going....bitch."
I looked down at where his foot was, gauged just how drunk he was, and glanced at the bartender who was keeping a close eye on things, having heard about these guys earlier. He winked at me to let me know he had my back if I needed him.
I carefully hooked my foot behind the one he was resting on my barstool and jerked it forward suddenly, knocking his foot off my stool, which caused him to lose his balance and topple over backwards. He landed hard on his ass, and his friends started to laugh. Furious, he sat up and grabbed for me, and I kicked him in the chest. By then the bartender and kitchen staff had made their way around to our side of the bar, picked the guy up, and literally threw him out of the restaurant. As he stood and brushed off the snow, the bartender remarked, "Looks like the only bitch around here is you. You've been told twice now that you're not welcome here. Don't make us tell you a third time."
The asshole threatened to call the cops, but in the end his friends talked him out it, as it would mean having to admit a woman half his size had gotten the best of him. And God forbid he have to do that.
I have been a part-time waiter for over 20 years. My first waiter's job was at a Houlihan's in Manhattan. It was a Saturday Lunch/early Dinner shift. Now normally we would get a lot of tourists who didn't tip or barely tipped.
Well this gay European couple comes in, and they spoke English very, very, well and had told me that they had been to NYC numerous times. They were nice enough and things went smoothly until I dropped the check. On a $65 check they left me $2. I asked them if anything was wrong with the service, and they gave me a lot of attitude and said they are European and that they don't have to tip. I said to them that since they told me they had been to NYC numerous times, being ignorant about tipping was not an excuse. They smirked and walked out. Needless to say I was pissed.
Shift ends and at this point I should let you know that I am also a drag queen here in NYC. I had a gig later that evening at one of the bars. After my show I go to the bar and lo and behold look who's there: that's right my two customers that I waited on, of course they didn't recognize me, and they thought they hit the mother lode, drag queen chatting them up. I excused myself for a second and spoke to the bartender who was my good friend and told him the story of what happened earlier.
I came back to the Europeans and I said "So how was your lunch at Houlihan's today?" They looked at each other and asked me how I knew that. I replied, "because I was the waiter who you gave $2 fucking bucks to, and I've just been informed by your bartender that you haven't tipped him shit either, so I will give you the option: you can leave $10 bucks on the bar and get the hell out, or I will get on this microphone and publicly shame you in front of the entire bar." They had never moved so quickly; $10 and ten seconds later they were out the door.
Incidentally, I currently wait tables in drag! Ironic!
(Editor's Note: This is one of my favorite stories)
When I was in college, I worked at a fast food chain to make some extra money. For the most part, our customers were really nice and respectful towards us, but there were always a few jerks. Several of us had customers make inappropriate remarks to us at one time or another, but the general attitude was that since "the customer is always right," we just pretended not to hear it.
One day, however, a customer came up the front counter and referred to the girl working the register by a racial slur. Something must have snapped in her because she picked up one of our huge industrial sized metal buckets that we used to lug ice from the ice maker to the soda machine and launched it right at the guy's head.
She got fired for assaulting the customer (even though we all agreed that asshole totally deserved it), but she also became a legend at our store. We watched the security camera videos of her throw over and over again for weeks.
I worked in a sports bar/family restaurant type place. By day it was kiddie meals and kitschy jersey shore food, by night the middle-aged tourists came in to get wasted. Three couples come in and order a pitcher of margaritas, which we keep on tap. I deliver the drinks and they inform me there is no tequila in the margaritas. I had watched the bartender make them that morning, there was more than enough tequila in them. I inform table that there is, in fact, tequila in the drinks, but if they'd like they're welcome to order more tequila.
They order a round of shots. When the shots get to the table, the rudest most entitled motherfucker at the table (seriously try being a townie in a rich person's resort town- eye opening as anything) stares me in the eye and pours all six shots into the pitcher. They say "oh now there is tequila in there," keep drinking, and all seems well.
A few hours later after serving these awful humans I drop the check. $197. The guy acts scandalized and surprised to see that they have been charge for the many tequila shots they've ordered that night and wonderingly asks why they're being charged for the tequila in their margaritas. This is an obviously absurd question as of course they were charged for the extra shots they ordered (people did this all the time on their frozen drinks, we called them floaters and advertised them on the menu).
The ultra entitled asshole says, "Don't worry I have this," and throws down his card. I run the card drop the check and wait. As soon as they leave I pick up the check and look and he's left a $3 tip bringing the bill to $200. My manager asks if I'd like her to talk to them. I say no and follow them out.
"Excuse me, excuse me?" I address all of them knowing none of them know what's happened (this is me fairly young, braids in my hair, playing very dumb). "Was there something wrong with the service?"
One of the women, "No of course not, why?'" Me, "Oh its just that you tipped about 2% and its customary to leave at least 15% I just wanted to make sure I hadn't done a bad job."
The color drains from this guys face, each couple hands me between $20-$40 and all is right in the world.
(Editor's Note: Risky move there, depending on how much of an asshole the customer wants to decide to be in response. I did this exactly once; a couple on a date had a bill of $50, got very good service, and the guy tried to leave me $2. As they were leaving I asked, as innocently as possible, if there had been any issues with the service. The guy hastily and embarrassedly threw another $5 on the table — possibly to avoid being shamed in front of his date. I'm still surprised I got away with that. Fuck that guy, though)
I was in my 20s, playing in a jazz trio at a local Club Corp. club, which took up the penthouse floor of a high-rise building in a Southern US city. It was a nice, if kind of sterile place, the kind of place that attracted 'New money' rather than old. I don't know what the memberships cost, but the food was all out of the price range of a poor college kid like I was. It was a fairly easy gig, as gigs go – three hours, for three nights a week. But the money was good, the staff was friendly, and as long as I could stand playing the same 'standards' night after night, it was okay. The manager had made a stab at a music career before he moved into restaurant management, so he was always sympathetic to the band.
Now keep in mind, this was the kind of place where the music was background noise to conversations. Our dynamics went from "pop" to "p" (for you non-musicians, that means "ridiculously soft" to "still able to talk over it without straining"). I was the drummer, and ended up playing with brushes, my hands, or drumsticks not much bigger in diameter than No. 2 pencils. We were always keeping an eye on the volume, and rarely got complaints. Rarely. But then there were times that nothing I did could keep a diner from whining.
Case in point, one evening the waiters put together a banquet table. 20 chairs. These were always dicey, because it usually meant a birthday celebration of some kind, which meant a wide age range of diners. This usually translated into weird requests ("No, I'm afraid we can't do a credible version of Purple Haze - no vocalist, and no electric guitar…is there something else we could play for you?") or cranky old farts who wanted to hear moldy oldies, but dialed down to a volume impossible to play.
Now the wait staff was pretty good at putting the potential whiners as far away from the bandstand as possible. But on this night, the birthday boy/old fart/paterfamilias of the table insisted on being seated at the head of the table, which was, coincidentally, right by my drums. My crash-ride cymbal, in fact, blocked my view of his ancient head.
Keep in mind, I was playing with wire brushes, and generally keeping off that cymbal, anticipating trouble. And trouble was on it's way, almost immediately.
The old fart called over the waiter to complain about the volume of the drums. The waiter told the bandleader, who dutifully asked me to turn it down. "I HAVE 'turned it down'…how much softer do you think I can play?"
One song later, the fossil called over the manager, Walt. Walt smiled and said he'd handle it, winked at me, and suggested I lay off the cymbal nearest the guys head. I'd already done that, but I smiled my "I wanna get paid and not lectured" smile, and gamely played on.
We were playing softly enough that I could overhear the dinner conversation at the banquet table. Words like "too damn loud," "damn drummers" and "this is a terrible restaurant" wafted over my drum kit. I looked grimly at the bandleader, and then came up with an inspired idea. As the old fart summoned Walt once again, I was ready. The patron raised his voice, and complained about "that damn cymbal in my ear."
Walt grinned, and gestured to the bandstand. "What cymbal is that?" he asked.
The old guy looked over at me. Only then did he realize I'd removed the cymbal from the stand and put it behind my drum throne. I was playing "air cymbal," keeping the beat with my bass drum and hi-hat. I smiled at the asshat. Big grin. He muttered something about "smart-ass kids" and went back to chewing his cud. The manager smiled at me and mouthed the words "Well played!" and withdrew.
As I recall, one of the guy's kids left a big tip for the wait staff, since Mr. Big Shot refused to leave a dime.
While I was in college, I worked at a fake Irish pub within walking distance from campus. It was a fake Irish pub in that it had an Irish name and hosted the biggest St. Patrick's Day celebration in town, but only served burgers and pizzas.
Like most pubs, ours had a lot of regulars. One of those regulars developed a pretty bad reputation among the servers due to his frequent condescending remarks and refusal to tip more than a few dollars regardless of his total. To make matters worse, he was one of those people who usually felt the need to explain his crappy tips. Like his tips were teachable moments. For example, he might tip $2 and then say something to the server like like "You were very prompt but not extra friendly tonight. If you smiled more, I might have given you a bigger tip." And then he would always wink this creepy, disgusting wink that was meant to convey some sort of agreement between him and the server. It always triggered my gag reflex.
As gross and rude as he was to the female servers, he was downright malicious to the only male server who consistently worked the 5-close shift. He would make rude remarks about his ethnicity and tell him how nobody came to the pub to be waited on by a boy. One time, he shorted the male server 50 cents on his tab. After being confronted about this incident later by a few bold servers and some of the other regulars, he replied that he shouldn't have had to pay ANYTHING on that tab as he came to our fine establishment to enjoy (torment) the pretty servers and got stuck with a BOY.
So, about a week after my male coworker was shorted 50 cents by this guy, the regular comes in, sits down in his usual chair which happens to be in my section that night, and places his usual order of Finger Chicken (chicken fingers...har har). As soon as they were up, I rushed to the back to grab them, but before I could deliver them to the regular, my male coworkers had dumped the entire basket down the front of his pants and started dancing some sort of crazed jig while shouting "Short me fifty cents, huh? Short me fifty cents?! I'll show him fifty cents with my chicken BALLS!" After about 30 seconds, he pulled each of the chicken fingers out of his pants and put them back in the basket. "Now they're ready," he said.
A few minutes after I delivered the chicken, I checked back with the regular to ask him how his chicken fingers tasted. "Delicious," he replied. "You're extra cheerful tonight. You must want a big tip."
And then he winked.
I looked him straight in the eye.
And winked back.
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you'd like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Behind Closed Ovens" in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
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