Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. This week, we’ve got more stories of restaurant employees pushed just too far. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I was 15 and working at a vineyard restaurant. I had been working in food service for three years (yes, I started young), and while I was a fairly shy kid, I’d gotten reasonably comfortable waiting on tables at that point. It was 3:45pm (15 minutes to close, but hey, we were still open!) and a 6-top sat themselves on our patio. The leader of the group was a broad-shouldered woman in beige capris. I placed the menus on the table and launched into the usual jibber-jabber, including the fact that between 2pm and 4pm we offered a delightful tapas menu.
Now, the reason for offering a more limited menu between 2 PM and 4 PM was to give the cook (also my Mother) an opportunity to prep the following day’s menu, and in addition, to make it possible for the both of us to make it to our evening jobs on time. So the tapas menu was a lot of pre-made (but still housemade and delicious) items that could be plated quickly. The leader of the pack did not take kindly to the fact that they missed the full lunch menu. Our conversation went something like this:
Her: “We want the full menu.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but between 2 and 4 PM we offer the tapas menu. It has lots of wonderful items—”
Her: “That’s fucking bullshit. Bring me the full menu.”
Me (stunned, but remaining resolute): “I’m sorry Ma’am, but this is the menu we’re offering at present.”
Her: “That is fucking unacceptable. I boated all the way from [redacted] for dinner (NOTE: we were a lunch-only establishment) and I expect the full menu.”
Anyway, this exchange went on for a while, and I wish I had time to share all of the creative expletives and insults she levied at me. By this point her dining-mates were cringing so hard they had melted into their seats.
Me: “I think if you’d take a look at the menu, you’d see that there are lots and lots of options. Very filling.”
Her: “Fuck you and your tapas. I want to speak to your manager.”
Me: (voice quivering) “I can arrange that, but I’m pretty sure she’s going to tell you the same thing I just did.”
Her: “BRING. ME. YOUR. MANAGER. YOU. FUCKING. LITTLE. IDIOT.”
And then she threw her head back. Horked. And spat on my foot. A BIG, MUCOUSY glob of spit.
Given that a customer had just intentionally spat on me, I started to crumble. The other waitress (who I’ll call Sara) took me by the arm and walked me back to the kitchen, where I started to cry. I sobbed out to the cook/Mom “there is a customer out there who wants the full menu!” Of course, I was about to add: “and she just spat on my foot!” when the customer in question walked RIGHT INTO THE KITCHEN.
Her: “I want the full menu. And you’re going to give it to me.”
Mom: “As your waitress surely explained to you, we offer the tapas menu between 2 and 4pm.”
Her: “You are going offer me the full menu, or I will tell each and every person I meet what a shithole establishment this is. I will write letters to the owners and get you fired. I will make your life a fucking hell.”
Mom (pulling her largest butcher knife from the block): “Fine, I will serve you the full menu, but *stabbing her knife into the wooden chopping block* I AM NOT FUCKING HAPPY ABOUT IT.”
So the worst customer I’ve ever had smiled triumphantly, took the menu my mother offered her, and practically skipped back out to her table.
At that point it was decided that I would not be waiting on the table for the remainder of the transaction. Sara, who was two years older than myself and decidedly one of the most prim and proper teenagers in existence, took over. The table ordered their meals (of course the ONLY PERSON who ordered from the lunch menu is the she-witch—everyone else offered platitudes about “how wonderful the tapas sound”) and a pitcher of sangria to share.
I watched from the corner as Sara took them their wine glasses. And I watch as she tottered over with a large, fruit-filled pitcher of sangria. And I watched as she lifted the pitcher high over the wretched woman’s head...and dumped it all over her.
Finally, that woman had nothing to say.
I worked at a pizza joint for a summer in 94. On a typical Friday night with the 4 phone lines ringing off the hook, I mostly said, “thank you for calling ______, can you please hold?” The manager’s policy was not to wait for a response if more than one line is ringing because customers will abuse that time and weasel ahead of the phone line. As I am going down the lines saying the phrase, I hear a guy say NO as I hit the hold button. He gets pissed and hangs up and calls back 3 times. Each time I hear him yell NO! before putting him back on hold.
He decides to show up, and throws the most epic fit I have ever seen. The typical don’t you know who I am etc etc. Without making this longer, we finally get his order and he says he WILL be waiting in the car. It takes about 20 minutes to make his pizza, and he keeps coming back in, yelling about if his pizza was done. Every 5 min up until the 15 min mark we say “no, sir, it will be ready in a few minutes.” The last time he asked, it was actually done and being carried over to the holder. So he walks in, asks, the girl checks the rack and doesn’t see it, and says no. As soon as she says no I say sir (I had the pizza) but he’s in such a huff, he slams the door before I could get his attention. I have no time to go chase him and I know he will be back in 5 minutes. Meanwhile the guy who placed his order right after him walks in and walks out with the pizza he ordered.
Well, him seeing that must have unleashed the power of 3,000 strokes because he came flying in in a rage talking about how he ordered before the last guy. I told him that we tried to catch him but he left in a hurry. We gave him his pizza on the house. The guy is yelling and cussing and making a huge scene as he walks out and to his car and places the pizza on top of his car all the while yelling and pointing at us all as we stand watching through the huge window to the parking lot. He gets in his car, starts to tear out of the parking lot...and the pizza he left on the top of his car slides off the roof, slides down the back of the trunk, and splats face down on the pavement. As this was happening, my manager is like WAIT FOR ITTTT and then we all jump for joy and yell and laugh. At that point, the guy sits there for 5 seconds, and then just speeds off.
At that moment, I knew there was a God, and he was vengeful.
Straight out of high school I scored my first job; a pseudo “Crew Leader” Carl’s Jr.
One day had been busy as always, and we were in that magical, near-ghost-town quiet time between the lunch and dinner rushes. I was in the kitchen prepping and cleaning, as was my then BFF. We had one Shift Leader in the office, and one poor girl running the cash registers and drive-thru. After noticing that our small freezer was low on fries, I headed into the walk-in for replenishments. I was jolted out of my snowy paradise by the sound of a raspy-voiced woman yelling over the loudspeaker. “I SAID TACOS, YOU DUMB BITCH!” was the first thing I heard upon re-entering the kitchen. “I KNOW YOU FUCKING HAVE THEM! DUMB BITCH!”
The Shift Leader, meanwhile, was doing the job of all three of our Managers combined, and because of her workload, she was totally oblivious to what was going on. For five minutes or so the poor girl on drive-thru was being hit with a barrage of insults and accusations while she attempted to explain as politely as possible that she was sorry, we were Carl’s Jr. and did not serve tacos, but Jack In The Box was a very short drive away (at the time we did not yet have the Green Burrito menu added). Finally, I had enough of it, and walked up to the front to take the helm. I sent the visibly shaken but still determined to fix the situation drive-thru girl on a well deserved break (of course she just stepped out of view continued to watch the circus unfolding), donned the headset, and told the taco lady to pull up to the window. With a “FUCK YOU, BITCH,” she obliged.
When the woman rolled up in her beat-up SUV, she was clearly three sheets to the wind, and I remember being amazed that she was able to form semi-coherent sentences. I did my best to calmly explain to her that we did not sell tacos, but we did have plenty of burgers to choose from. I was then hit with another round of fuck you’s, dumb bitch’s, and I-know-you-have-tacos’s. It was at this point that my former BFF had the right sense of mind to get our Shift Leader’s attention, and call the police. It was also the point that the drive-thru champion put her hand on my shoulder, and whispered into my free ear that we should probably try to keep the drunken taco lady on the premises until the cops arrived.
To this day, I consider it a miracle that this vile woman was the only customer we had during this whole ordeal, because what happened next was not one of my finest moments; I went from zero to Xenomorph in two seconds flat. After one last attempt to apologize and offer her anything but a taco, shit got real. “SHUT THE FUCKING WINDOW, YOU FUCKING CUNT,” she screamed at me while taking off her seat-belt. “SHUT THE FUCKING WINDOW SO I CAN BREAK IT, PULL YOUR FUCKING HEAD THROUGH AND DECAPITATE YOU! I WANT MY DAMN TACOS!” I took that as a threat, and my head went through the window, sure, but so did nearly my entire body. I just remember lunging and grabbing a hold of the outside wall. I know I was yelling terrible things at her, and she was yelling back. That drunk bitch threatened to take my life over tacos, and I was mad as all hell. I’m pretty sure I broke the headset. I don’t know for how long I was attempting to claw my way out of the drive-thru window; I’m sure it seemed a lot longer than it really was. All I remember apart from the yelling was my Shift Leader grabbing my ankles and my former BFF grabbing my hips. They pulled me back through the window, and I was ushered to the back-room break area by the drive-thru girl, sat down on one of the crappy old chairs, and told to take a breather. I could still hear the drunken taco lady screaming.
After about a half hour I walked back up front. I was expecting to be fired (and honestly, I probably should have been). Instead I found my Shift Leader laughing her ass off with a fellow employee just coming on shift, and one of the Managers of the bank across the way. Apparently, while I was in time-out, the drunken taco lady had pulled her SUV into the bank’s parking lot, and was practicing her drunken “karate” kicks and punches beside it. She was waiting for me to come out to my car so that she could “kick my fucking ass.” The bank Manager saw her, and also called the Police. When they arrived shortly after, they found that drunken taco lady was three times over the legal blood alcohol limit and arrested her on the spot. They didn’t even bother to take a report from us, they just hauled her drunk-driving, taco-wanting ass off to jail.
I used to work in this trendy east-end Toronto neighborhood in the early eighties, when new wave was all the vogue. Small and narrow, with wooden floors and a hip vibe. A young couple comes in and I give them my normal greetings, “Welcome to X, our specials are blah blah blah, would you care to start with a drink while you look the menu over” (this was before the server told you his/her name and chirped what a pleasure it will be to serve you crap like today).
The guy is okay, but the woman is awful from the second she sits down. Nothing is good enough for her, she’s not ready to order when she says she’s ready, she won’t make eye contact—the sort of completely entitled person who thinks servers are lower than dog shit. It takes her a lifetime to make up her mind on everything.
After hemming and hawing for almost 15 minutes, she gives me her drink order. I drop the drinks off and try to attend to another table, but now she’s ready to ask me questions about everything on the menu. She’s obviously used to having ALL the attention in the room focused on her. Another 20 minutes to explain each and every menu item–now I’m really in the weeds with the rest of my section and she finally, fiiiiiiiinally decides on the pasta. Before she allows me to leave her majesty’s table, she informs me the food better be hot or she’ll be sending it back pronto.
I go into the kitchen and I have a quick chat with the chef. Our kitchen had this top down grill called a Salamander, an upside down gas grill where the flames come out on the top rather than the bottom. It was highly efficient and quick at cooking just about anything. I tell the chef about how this woman has killed my night (I’m running around now like crazy to catch up) and ask him to “bake” her bowl in the Salamander…please make sure it’s piping hot before he drops the pasta in it. Now I’m in total catch up mode and unable to spend any quality time with any other table because her royal highness needs constant attention—no amount of kowtowing to her needs is good enough. My other customers are watching how she’s running me around in amazement.
Ding goes the kitchen bell and I walk in to see the pasta hitting her cooked bowl only to start boiling again because the bowl is about 200 degrees. I can barely pick it up with a napkin. I bring the boiling pasta back to the table (it’s boiling in her bowl when I set it down) and say to her, “Please be careful because the bowl is extremely hot.” I walk away from the table to attend the rest of my customers.
Upon my return to her table, she meekly asks me, “Can I have a glass of ice, please?” Wow, my first please from her. Certainly, I respond. Bring her the ice, figuring she’ll dump it into her drink, but lo and behold, she sticks her hand into the glass. I come back to the table and ask, Is everything to your satisfaction? Oh yes, thank you, she responds. Wow, a thank you, too.
I guess she didn’t believe me when I warned her about the hot bowl and she finally figured out not to screw with restaurant servers. The best part, they left a huge tip too, well in excess of 25%.
At one coffee shop I worked at, one of our regulars was a youngish, obnoxious lady who would order a caramel latte with five shots of espresso in the morning. One day, fed up with her attitude, my coworker on my sly made all her espresso shots decaf.
Another co-worker would routinely steam lattes with 2% instead of skim if the customers were rude about their orders, satisfied that they would leave ever-so-slightly fatter.
While in college, I worked at a major chain restaurant that had the tagline “Like No Place Else.” After a few months on the job I got fairly adept at spotting customers who looked like they would be inclined to skip out on the check. Sometimes I was wrong, but more often than not I was dead right.
One night, I was bartending when the manager decided to send the server in the smoking section (those still existed) home. We were about an hour from close and business was slow, so not a problem.
A few minutes later, I was seated with a three top: two high school boys and a girl that looked to be about the same age. They ordered sodas and the bros began to smoke (this was still allowed at the time), but not the girl, who just sat there and enjoyed flavor country. I’m not sure what they ordered, but it wasn’t much; the girl did get a chocolate shake at the end of the meal. The total tab was no more than $25. I dropped the check and returned to the bar to make a few drink orders, keeping an eye on the group.
After several minutes and no action on the check, I went back and asked if I could get them some change only to be told they were doing “ok”, but none had opened the check, much less attempted to pay. Minutes later, still no action on the check. I eventually left the bar and went into the walk-in to change a keg. When I returned to the bar, I noticed they were gone and the check was still there, unpaid.
But luck was on my side: one of the bros was apparently on a date with the girl and had gone to bring the car around so she wouldn’t have to walk. Big mistake.
I walked up to her and informed her that her boyfriend hadn’t paid and that she needed to pay the check. She looked dumbfounded and was halfway through giving me some explanation when her boyfriend pulled up in a Mustang. He sees her and he sees me, but doesn’t get out. After a few seconds of waiting, he rolls down the window and barks at her, “get in the car!”
I told him that he hadn’t paid and that the cops had been called and he could either pay or his girlfriend would go to jail (lies; police don’t care about people who walk checks, especially if the bill is less than $25). The dude then tries to say his friend was supposed to pay. When that doesn’t work, he yells at her again to “get in the car!”
She, apparently tired of this standoff, and perhaps actually believing that she could go to jail, yells back at him, “I can’t believe you did this, just pay, I want to go home.”
The bro gets out of the Mustang, hands me cash, and then leaves with his now-pissed girlfriend in the passenger seat. There was no tip. Instead, my tip was the look on the dude’s face when he realized his plan for a free meal and high school sex had been obliterated.
When I was fifteen, I worked at Subway.
One of our regulars was a guy who would come in, demand free food, and if I didn’t give him free food, he’d flash me. After he did it, I’d call the cops, and they’d say “Well he’s gone now, there’s no point in us coming down.” If I called when I saw him walk in, they’d say, “Well he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Call us if he flashes you again.” And of course, the owner of the store said to just get over it, ‘cause there’s nothing wrong with a 70-year-old dude fondling himself in front of a teenager, apparently.
At one point, he came in while I was alone in the store, and he immediately started making grunting noises. I was pulling cookie sheets out of the oven. He demanded that I give him some of the cookies. I turned around and saw he had already unbuttoned his pants, and told him I’ll give him the whole sheet. “Really?” he says. “Yup,” I say, and I proceed to exit the cooking area and whacked him with the hot cookie sheet, chocolate chip and white chocolate macadamia flying everywhere.
Never saw him again.
I was working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour diner. One busy Saturday during the bar rush I was waiting on a group of 6 drunk guys who were trying to set me up with one of them. I tried to put them off in a playful manner, then finally said I had a boyfriend (which was true). The one they were trying to set me up with said “Well you don’t have to tell him!” Real winner, right?
They continued to harass me, getting meaner all the time. I finally said to them “Fine, I’ll go out with him if you can guess my phone number. And I’ll even give you a hint! But if you don’t guess right, you stop harassing me. Deal?” They were falling all over themselves to agree so I said, “Okay, here’s the clue. It starts with a 2.” I then started walking away, with them calling a variety of phone number combinations. It took them a few tries before one of them yelled “Hey, all the numbers around here start with a 2!”
I just smiled, shrugged, and had my manager take over the table until they left.
I work at a Taco John’s. The place is pretty nice, but corporate has one of those horrible “the customer is always right” policies by which basically tell us to throw free shit at someone whenever they ask for it, even if it’s blatantly their own fault.
One night, it’s 10:55, 5 minutes before close, and a car comes through drive through. They ended up ordering $46 of food for the 3 people in the car, which were two grandparents and their spoiled, baby-faced little teenage grandchild. They don’t say a word and pay. We make the food (we weren’t done until well after close), and they leave. We start the closing process and I hear a noise from the front. There’s this fucking kid, banging on the glass on the front of the restaurant. I let him in and he pushes past me up to the counter, bags of food in hand. He asks to see a manager, but my manager has literally hidden from him, so I deal with it and say that I am. He slams the food down and says “this is all wrong. You guys are dumbasses for messing it up this bad.” I ask what specifically is wrong, and he just says “it’s just all fucked up.”
Now, I took this order, helped make this food, and bagged it to be handed out. I knew for a fact that everything was in there. So I opened up the bag that the receipt had been in. They had taken it out. I asked him where it was and he said he hadn’t received one. So I walked back to the drive through register and hit the receipt button. The look of horror that appeared on his face as that receipt entered my grasp was one that will not soon leave me.
I walked back over and began to unpack his food and organize it into piles. When I was finished, I turned the receipt around and pointed out what was what. Unsurprisingly, everything was there. I put it all back in the bag and asked if there was anything else I could do for him. He began to stutter out a “I think we ordered some—” and I interrupted him and told him to get the fuck out of my store. He just turned and started to leave without saying a word. As he walked out, I yelled that if he was going to bullshit some free food, he should have at least left some in the car.
I work at a pizza restaurant in the New Haven area. Usually I make the pies or do counter/phones, but I wait tables one day a week. One table comes to mind as being truly, truly awful.
There were three of them: a mother and her adult son and daughter. They came in with stained shirts, reeking of cigarettes, looking like they’d be in for a drop if they all tried to get in an elevator together. I honestly don’t remember everything they ordered, but only two things matter for this story: pink lemonade and a steak & cheese sub.
I bring them silverware, and the mother instantly snatches it all up to check its cleanliness. She notices a small dried water droplet the dishwasher missed on a knife and insists on a new one. By the time I bring it to her, they’re ready to order. The daughter gets a pink lemonade, which I bring to her. Then the mom orders a steak & cheese sub with grilled onions, one of our most popular and well-liked items.
When their food is ready, I bring it out the them. As I’m about to turn away, the mom says, “My daughter’s pink lemonade tastes like cough syrup.” Her daughter adds that it “tastes like bleach.” I’d say it tastes more like uncarbonated sugar-water that comes out of a soda fountain, but whatever. I offer to get her another drink, but instead she insists that I go back to the fountain and get myself a cup of it, bring it back to the table, and drink it in front of her so I can confirm its awfulness. I do so, because I’m way too nice, and reply “Sure, I guess it tastes a little funny.” (It didn’t.) Feeling vindicated, the mother lets me go. Apparently, she is now able to finally dig into her food. Before I’ve even made it back to the waiter ‘s station, I hear the mother screech, “Hey, kid!” I turn around and she hisses, “I didn’t know this was Philly cheese steak shit.” I apologized, somewhat confused as no one has ever complained about it before. It’s an eight-dollar footlong sub. Of course it’s Philly-style steak. I’m not sure how she could expect us to grill up a sirloin and put it in a sub for that price, but she insisted that the “menu tricked her” and that we’re liars. I apologize again and ask if I can get her anything else instead. She refuses.
I mostly leave them alone to finish their food, only going back to check in a couple more times. Luckily, just as they’re finishing up, the waitress for the next shift comes in to take over for me. Normally I would finish up my last table to get the tip, but I just don’t want to deal with them anymore so I tell her to do it for me. I’m at the waiter’s station, where the table can’t see me, and I hear the waitress go over to them. The mom goes through the entire situation with her, telling her that I was rude (I wasn’t), that I never offered to fix her food or drink (I did), and that I ran away like a “little bitch” and that she hadn’t seen me since complaining (I checked in like I always do). I had already put together their check, and had kindly removed the sub and ALL of their drinks from the tab. I usually do everything I can to make sure customers aren’t paying for something they don’t want. However, after hearing this woman’s spiel, I go back and add everything back on.
Liars pay full price.
A few years ago, I worked a solid eight month stint at an Awful House in a rural area, doing the overnight shift 99% of the time. I grew up in a big city, and I fit in about as well as a truck going under a low-hanging overpass. I eventually adapted to the townies, the state cops, the drunken bros—but the one customer type I could not grok were the new money hicks. This particular group was made up of teenagers, which only added insult to injury. It’s not even that they were smug, or that they spoke down to me. It was the song.
Awful House jukeboxes, along with a variety of golden oldies and top 40 hits, have multiple albums full of songs explicitly about the chain itself. It was possibly the most masturbatory part of the whole brand. And these kids chose one of these songs—about raisin toast—to put on the jukebox over. And over. And over again. A five dollar bill buys 25 songs, so to the ringleader of these hellions, that was 25 plays of the raisin toast song, played specifically to irritate the staff. (He even admitted it!) Often my most clenched-teeth of coworkers would pull the plug on the jukebox after about five or so plays, but that only made them laugh.
On one particular Saturday night, I was having a hard time. The cook, my least favorite one, was being a total asshole and destroying my customers’ food as well as screaming at me for doing the calls wrong, and I’d somehow lost a ten dollar bill that had been a rather nice tip. A family from Lawn Guyland came in off the highway and took my mind off things for a while as we bonded over at least being from the same state, and as they were finishing up, the new money teens suddenly appeared. Only the boys this time, too, meaning extra trouble on the horizon.
I saw the ringleader walk over to the jukebox as the family left. I saw him put in that five dollar bill. I saw him pick the song and walk back to his table. As I washed my still-gnarly pile of dishes, I heard those goddamn first notes.
I didn’t even give it a chance. Rather than pull the plug, I stormed over to where the six of them were squashed into a booth meant for four and slammed my hands on the table top. “Why? WHY are you doing this?” I wanted to know, looking all of them in their widened eyes. “Do you even care what kind of night I’ve had?”
The ringleader tried to give me some kind of suave apology. I don’t even fully remember what he said, but I do remember that I swaggered over to the jukebox, still on its first play of the raisin toast song, and remarked on the very high number of songs still left unused. “Do you mind if I put in my own choices?” I asked. That’s when the realization of the shift in power visibly dawned in his eyes, and he stammered his confirmation that I should go ahead.
I used up all the rest of the songs, starting with Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” I gave them no cutlery, nor any other form of service, and instead returned to doing my dishes. After my first song played, one of the boys lost his nerve, climbed out into the adjacent booth, placed a couple dollars on the high counter in front of me and said, “That’s all I have. I’m really sorry,” before going outside. Within five minutes of still being refused service, the other boys finally murmured their apologies as they shuffled out the door.
A month later, the whole group came back from prom in formal wear, with equally spiffed-up manners, sans their ringleader, about whom they specifically told me they’d told to stay home. And they all left lovely tips.
One time when I was working at Subway, a guy comes in when there’s a looong lunch line of over 15 people, and it’s just me and an assistant. He parked in front—he’s driving a nice yellow convertible. He strides to the cash register where I’m ringing someone up, orders a chicken teriyaki sub with “tons of onion sauce,” and tells me to bring it out to his car. He slaps a five-dollar-bill down on the counter (which isn’t enough to cover the cost of the sandwich because of tax). And of course, the guy has a cell phone plastered to his ear the entire time.
I’m trying to tell him that I have to wait on these other customers first and that for safety reasons, I can’t deliver food to him outside of the restaurant, but he turns around and snaps, “Look, it’s not my fault that you made the choice to work in fast food. I made choices to get where I am, and you obviously made choices to get where you are. Now I’m in a rush, so just hand it to me in a little baggie when you’re done making it, and don’t forget, extra sweet onion teriyaki sauce.”
I was stunned, but I went back to the line. Everybody’s looking at me with sympathy (most people were very, very nice). I told them that I needed to make this guy’s sub because he was obviously in some sort of life-or-death situation and needed his sub ASAP, and they watched as I took a sub roll, cut it open, put it in a salad bowl, carefully placed some chicken on it, and then picked up our three containers of Sweet Onion Teriyaki sauce. I proceeded to remove the caps and then gently pour the sauce all over the sub, completely soaking the bread until it flattened and shriveled. I picked up the bowl—it must have weighed five pounds and was 95% sauce—carried it out, went over to his car, and dropped it in.
Five god damn pounds of sweet onion teriyaki sauce all over this man’s leather seats. “Sorry, but we were out of baggies,” I tell him.
Once upon a time, I had a job washing dishes at a golf course/restaurant. We had a very popular Sunday buffet at the time.
It will not surprise restaurant workers (but probably most customers) that we prep stuff like that a couple-two-three days ahead of time, but not (wait for it) five days ahead of time.
So we received a phone call the Wednesday prior to said buffet from someone asking if we had meatloaf on the Sunday buffet. The bartender who took the call dutifully checked with us in the kitchen. There had been some talk of meatloaf, but nothing definite. The bartender relayed the message, only to be told that this couple would be showing up.
Sunday rolled around and we served a dish on the buffet that I like to call Everything In The Freaking Kitchen But The God-Awful, Thrice-Damned Meatloaf.
Much to our chagrin, this couple showed up. It turns out that they drove approximately an hour to get to our little buffet. They were seated and showed the buffet line. It was not long before they discovered our humble dearth of meatloaf.
“But. We. Are. Meatloaf. People!” the Mrs. declared to the waitress. “WE DROVE ALL THIS WAY TO TRY YOUR MEATLOAF.”
Cooks, waitresses, busboys, managers, chefs, owners, etc, all tried to explain to these two meatloafarians that 1) we never promised meatloaf, we were just considering it five freaking days ago 2) if you really wanted to be sure that meatloaf would be on the buffet, you should have called Saturday, and 3) no, stop taking non-meatloaf things off the buffet, wrapping them in aluminum foil, and sticking them in your purse. Number three on that list was the thing that got them kicked out faster than a bat out of Hell.
The following Friday, the owner came back to the kitchen and gave us a great big ole smile when he found me and the chef prepping next Sunday’s main course for the buffet: a glorious meatloaf.
Years ago, I worked at an Irish Pub in the East Village in NYC. We worked in a tip pool. So, it wasn’t my table, but I cared. We would see it all the time; someone from the midwest would announce, “I’ve got this!” and then get blindsided when the bill showed up. They thought they knew the prices, because that’s what the price was in Iowa.
So one day, this happens. After spending FIVE hours in our bar (there were nine of them), the guy who announced he is picking up this tab starts to argue with the waitress a about the total. At one point, he announced that there are nine shots on this bill and we didn’t have any shots. When she pointed out to him that the empty shot glasses were still sitting in front of them, he went back to insisting that they couldn’t have possibly drank that much. She stood her ground. Eventually, he paid the $400 tab. He tipped $10.
Clearing the table, we learn that he left his wallet. The waitress asked me what to do (she was in tears at this point) and I told her to leave it to me. I took the man’s Ohio driver’s license out of his wallet, put it on the front, and rubber banded it. Then I dropped it in a mailbox. Government issued ID = free postage.
When he came back, I told him what I had done. He was so mad. He kept saying he would call the cops. To say what? That I had gone out of my way to get his belongings back to him? Then he started screaming a lot about how was he supposed to get into his hotel room? What was he supposed to do for money for the rest of the weekend?
By the time he left, I don’t think it had yet occurred to him, “How was he getting on that plane?” He had no ID, no cash, and no cards. Welcome to NYC, ya cheap bastard!
(Editor’s Note: This is probably my single favorite Revenge submission ever. Nobody can complain the food was messed with, nobody can complain the server did anything illegal or abusive. Perfect.)
Do you have a crazy restaurant or other food-industry story you’d like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens (on ANY subject, not just this one)? 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!
Note: I do not want poop/vomit stories. Please stop sending me poop/vomit stories. Also, if your stories are not food-related in some way, I am unable to do anything with them. Sorry.
Image via martiapunts/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.