Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today, we've got part one of two consecutive weeks of tales of aggressively dumb customers (same as when I did this with terrible customer stories, it's because I realized how many I had saved up). As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
Kinja user fightinginfishnets:
I recently went to this wonderful gourmet chocolate shop to buy a birthday present for my father. I grab a box of whiskey truffles and head over to the counter to pay for them. Besides paying for pre-boxed items, you can also buy truffles and chocolates individually, either to create your own box or just to have a few to enjoy. An older woman is in the process of selecting some chocolates, and just as the cashier is about to pull out the chocolate she selected, the woman sees that it has a big pistachio on top.
"Oh wait, I can't eat that. It's got nuts." She points to another one. "I'll take that one instead."
The cashier explains to her that if she can't eat nuts then she can't have this chocolate either as it is made with hazelnuts. The woman starts loudly informing the cashier that she was wrong, that she has had this chocolate before and there are no nuts in it. All the cashier can do is inform the woman that yes, these chocolates do indeed have nuts, yes, she's sure, etc. The woman then pauses and thinks for a second.
"Are the hazelnuts ground up?"
The cashier explains that yes, the hazelnuts are ground up into a paste and then mixed with the chocolate. The lady is suddenly pleased.
"Oh, well that's okay. I'm not allergic if they're ground up."
She then bought two.
I'm a server at kind of nice/casual cocktail bar that also serves appetizers and small plates. One evening I was taking the order of two women in their mid-twenties when one of them asks me to describe an item that is listed on our menu as Scallop Mini Burgers. I oblige and tell her that it's two sliders of seared scallops on brioche buns with tomatoes, basil, onions and a chipotle mayo. I just want to pause and reiterate here that not only does the menu have the word "scallops" in both the name of the dish and in the written description, I have now verbally described the dish to her. She ends up ordering the dish. A few minutes after the food was dropped, a busboy comes hurrying up to me. He points to the table with the two women and says
"...those two angry ladies at table 23 want to send their food back."
Why? Because they thought the mini burgers were going to be beef. THEY THOUGHT THE SCALLOP MINI BURGERS WOULD BE BEEF.
The saddest part of this story is that this is not even close to the only time this has happened.
(Editor's Note: To every commenter about to say "well why were they labeled burgers then, that's confusing," YOU ARE WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS)
I work in a beer bar that also serves above average bar food, but bar food nonetheless. I am serving a middle-aged man, who has sucked down two pints of an IPA, has ordered a plate of cheese fries, and has questioned some changes on the menu. He tries to order an entree which was recently removed from the menu. I tell him that it is no longer available and that we no longer have the stuff in the building to make it. He tells me to give him a minute, during which time his cheese fries are delivered to the table. I approach again to take his order, during which he questions me again on the availability of the dish he wanted, finally orders something, orders another pint, and asks to speak to the manager.
At this stage in the game, I have lost the bushy-tailed optimism of a young and fresh server. I've been playing this game for far too long, and I am an efficient server but frankly don't care to chitchat, as I know most patrons don't care to chitchat with me. I wonder if this guy is going to complain to my manager because he has mistaken my serving style for rudeness, although I know I am safe from firing because I am efficient as fuck. I alert the manager and go back to tell the customer that she is coming, and he orders his fourth pint of beer, and has inhaled his plate of cheese fries. Mind you, the cheese sauce on the fries is also made with beer. After they talk for a minute, she walks in the kitchen and I ask her what he needed and she said, "He's pretty upset that we got rid of [________ entree]." She then asked me what he's ordered and I replied, "Four pints of Two-Hearted, a plate of cheese fries, and pasta. Why?"
With a quick roll of her eyes, she replied, "He's upset because he's watching his gluten."
A friend was waiting tables at an expensive old chestnut of a restaurant in NYC, one of those destination spots for moneyed tourists who think that just because it's famous and costs an arm and a leg the food is better (it is not). A trio of middle-aged ladies came in for lunch, decked out in their Mob Wives finest, instantly demanding things from the server left and right in Jersey-accented smoker's rasps.
One waved away the wine list when it was presented. "Just bring me a bottle of Piglio Griglio."
Pause. Gorgon Number Two tapped on her friend's arm with her acrylic talons.
"You stupid bitch! It's Pinot Giorgio!"
I used to work at a Chicago-area supermarket in the bakery department. We had many insane customers, but this one was just my favorite because of the sheer ridiculousness of the customer's question.
We had several varieties of layered cakes on display in our whipped cream case. Some of them were sold as "shortcakes" and were filled with strawberries and left uniced except for whipped cream on top. One day, I was asked for help by a customer, so I went around to help her with the case. She points to one of the cakes and says, "What's wrong with that cake?"
"What?" I asked, since I could see nothing wrong with it.
"It's so dark, why is it like that? Is it burnt?" I looked at the cake again and say to her,
"Ma'am, that's a chocolate cake."
My first job was at an A&W at a now-demolished mall in the northwestern Denver suburbs. Not the worst job one could get, I suppose — not great, but I was 16, after all. In general, it was everything you'd expect it to be — including the short length of time working there — but one order still sticks with me. Near the end of the evening one night, a woman with a stroller comes up and asks for a large root beer float, but without ice cream. Oookaaaaay…
Your readers likely know that there's two ingredients to a float, and if there's no ice cream that leaves...well, root beer. I ring her for a large soda (a bit cheaper) and mention to her that I'm ringing her up for the soda.
She. Goes. NUTS. Words flying like 'incompetent', 'retarded', 'fascist', the works. Just stunning. I keep trying to explain to her that I'm saving her a bit of money, but she won't hear a word of it, forget it. Eventually I give up, ring her up for the float, pour her drink — she was angry at first that there was no ice in her float until I added some — and she stormed off still complaining loudly.
There's just no pleasing the blissfully stupid.
I was on the road and had stopped at a chain sit-down type restaurant for breakfast. Shortly after I was seated, a party of four female professional tourists (FPT's) was seated at the table next to mine. You know, the kind who travel for the new experiences but complain that everything is different than back home? Yeah, them.
One of the ladies ordered a soft poached egg and whole wheat toast. When her order came, she promptly sent it back, because she wanted it with whole wheat toast. The waitress looked puzzled but complied. Now, it's been ages since I worked in a restaurant, but wouldn't that mean they'd have to re-do her egg, too? So, five minutes later, the waitress is back with a fresh plate. FPT sends it back again, saying loudly "I ORDERED WHOLE WHEAT TOAST!" Her third plate came back so promptly, I was sure she'd demand a new egg, but no. This time FPT stood up and practically screamed "I ORDERED WHOLE WHEAT TOAST. BRING ME WHOLE WHEAT TOAST!"
When her fourth plate came out of the kitchen, it was carried by the manager, who placed it in front of her with a flourish and an apology. Now FPT loses it. She picked up her plate and thrust it up under the manager's nose, while spit-screaming "I ORDERED WHOLE WHEAT TOAST FOUR TIMES AND YOU GUYS KEEP CUTTING IT IN HALF!"
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!
Image via Zigzag Mountain Art/Shutterstock.