A few weeks ago I was given an assignment for uni: write a blog post styled as a rant.
Oh boy oh boy did I have fun with that one. Not surprisingly, being the angry little mile-a-minute chatterbox that I am, I went over the suggested word limit.
Here is my work of anger, finished off with a clip from the only 2 Broke Girls episode I ever watched (the pilot) which had me punching my fist in the air and yelling 'Yeah!' Like I really did care. Also: please excuse the excessive sexual jokes and incessant laugh track in the clip. Those behind it seem to think these are necessary to the show.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when it comes to manners, there is no universal practice in the treatment of waitresses. Now I'm not just talking about female wait staff of course. That would be sexist and blatantly ironic in a piece titled “Fair Treatment Rant”. However, as a waitress, I of course have first-hand knowledge of this side of the argument.
I have to say, most people know how to behave. In our society there is seemingly an understanding of the general politeness due to someone working in hospitality. You wait to be seated when required, you say please when ordering, you politely signal when you are ready to order and you wait to be attended to.
As I say, most people get this. It’s basic. Those who don’t, I split into two categories: those who think they are being reasonably polite and those who don’t give a damn. Those who belong to the former aren’t terribly offensive, they are often simply annoying, more so than is strictly necessary. Sometimes they become a part of this group after things haven’t gone well for them. For example, at the café where I work Mother’s Day is the biggest day of the year. The place is always packed and regular customers have to be turned away because they forgot to book a table.
Now you might think that these dismissed regulars might be the problem: they have coffee at the same time, at the same table, every day. But no, last Mother’s Day it was the people with bookings who were troublesome.
The most prominent of the largely-inoffensive-but-still-fairly-annoying group was the woman whose booking couldn't be found. She claimed to have booked two weeks before but sometime between her phone call being answered, her booking being recorded and then transferred to the first and second versions of the final list, her booking was missed out. Not surprisingly, she was unimpressed when she and her group of nine arrived and there was no table for them. As hostess for the day, I bore the brunt of her anger. She let me know repeatedly that this was “my fault” and I “had better fix it”. As I said, fair enough. If you make a booking you expect a table to be made ready for you and by rights we should have done that. But it wasn't my fault, I was just the messenger. It was wrong of her to verbally attack me when I was quite clearly doing my level best to clear a table for her.
You might think that the trouble ended when her group was finally seated and their orders taken. But that was when she really became the badly behaved customer.
“I don’t mean to be a pain, but…”
You might not think it, but these are eight of the most annoying words a waitress can hear. This phrase is usually followed by “I’d like to change my order” or, “my coffee (which I have drunk all of) was cold”, or my personal favourite, “I know it’s not on the menu, but…”
This is not okay. Why? Because it means that the customer does want to be a pain. If it has been more than 10 minutes since your order was taken, five minutes if it was a coffee order, then it is likely too late to change your order without throwing out what has already been made and starting again. And is the customer made to pay for that? Of course not. It’s simply inconsiderate to ask for something like this to be done.
Then the cold coffee thing: it is not my fault if you were chatting for so long that your coffee went cold. And if it was cold from the beginning? WHY DID YOU NOT SAY SO? Too many times people have a problem with what they have received, but they wait until they come to pay to say something about it. Don’t come up to the counter when you are leaving and refuse to pay for your coffee because it is cold. We'll probably do it, but that’s just because we have to follow that truly awful rule “the customer is always right”.
Thirdly, there is the not-on-the-menu question. So many times I have wanted to make like sassy Max from 2 Broke Girls (who obviously doesn't have any worries about being fired) and say to customers: “Is it on the menu? No? Then you can’t have it. You know why? Because we are not your personal chefs.” Now this may seem a slight overreaction to someone who doesn't work in this business. But once you've heard “but whyyyyyy don’t you have scones?” one too many times, you really start to snap. We have a seven page menu, plus separate ones for drinks and kids foods. It’s not like you’re starved for choice.
I'll finish with the worst customers, the ones who seem to think wait staff are there to be their slaves.
• Clicking your fingers to attract the attention of the waitress is not okay. We are not here to be at your beck and call and we deserve a little respect.
• Demanding to know if your waitress is deaf, blind or stupid because she didn't notice you trying to attract her attention (from behind and many tables away, I might add) while she was serving another customer is not okay. That’s just plain rude.
• Asking a 14-year-old waitress about her personal life? A no-no.
• And placing a hand on the small of a waitress’s back to attract her attention and then joking that you’re a married man? NOT OKAY. (Most of these people don't mean anything sinister by their actions, but the point still stands: the waitress is not there to be touched.)
Like I said, these people are a minority and most of the time are quietly encouraged to leave by a considerate owner of the establishment. I'm not really talking to them. I'm talking to everyone else who has ever said or done the little things which just make my job that little bit harder. Next time you go for a coffee or a meal, remember to be nice to your waitress. She’s probably been on her feet all day and had to deal with the odd horrible customer while being paid a pittance to boot. Just smile, wait your turn and please only order from the menu.