Working in the food service industry as a server is a rough gig. Besides greeting customers and running around to make sure all orders are correct, there is also dealing with whiny and angry customers. Sure, everyone has their days, but some people tend to take their frustration out on servers who are just doing their job. When this rude couple walked into the restaurant and began complaining about their "spicy" salsa, Max knew they were trouble and decided to handle the situation in a very pleasant and professional manner. Here is what happened:
Max usually works at the main location of a Mexican Franchise Restaurant, but his boss sent him down to another location to help out for a few months. The building where the new restaurant is located was once a pizza place. It was empty for about 6 months before they opened up the Mexican restaurant. There is no management at this location. His boss won't make anyone a manager because it means he has to pay them more. The boss also doesn't believe in wait-staff having sections. The whole place is a nightmare but manageable.
On a late November evening, an elderly couple walked in. Max greeted them as he usually does:
"Hi, what can I do for you?"
The couple didn't acknowledge Max, nor replied to his greeting. They plonked themselves down at a table with a shiny 'reserved' sign on it.
Max decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. They were old, definitely retired seniors. It was possible they were a bit deaf or a bit blind. The night was quiet and everything was going smoothly, so there was no reason to make a big deal out of it. They could move the reservation to another table. So once Max consoled himself with those thoughts, he brought over the menus and complimentary chips and salsa. That's when the trouble began.
The wife complained that the salsa was too spicy. Max hesitated and thought for a second: how could a mix of tomatoes, onion, bell peppers and cilantro mixed with a bit of lime juice be spicy? No problem. This could be fixed.
He then brought out a jug of cold water. That's when the husband said, "We didn't order that."
Well, he wasn't wrong.
"I thought since you're finding the salsa a little hot, some chilled water might help cool you down!?" Said Max. "We don't want it." The husband growled back.
It was a bit weird, and a bit rude, but alright. 'Some people just dislike tap water,' Max thought to himself.
"Well in that case, can I get you something else to drink?" The husband sighed, dramatic and exasperated, slammed his menu on the table, and slowly turned his head to actually make eye contact for the first time. "WE ARE STILL. LOOKING. AT THE MENU."
Max put on his cheeriest voice and said, "No worries, sir. I'll just let you know, the drinks menu is separate to the food menu you've got there." and gestured to it.
"We don't want any bloody drinks!"
"Okay, well, I'll be back soon to take your food order then! Let me know if you have any questions!"
Max then ran to the other waitresses to warn them. They were too inexperienced to handle this level of rudeness, and he feared for the life of anyone who messed up this grumpy guy's order. It wasn't worth the risk. So Max told them: "Don't speak to Table 2; they'll just get mad. If they want to order, get me."
A few minutes later, the husband put his hand straight up in the air and snapped his fingers. This irked Max. He understands that some people come off as rude because they are having a bad day, and they're somewhat okay to deal with... but snapping to get a server's attention is deliberately dehumanizing them.
Regardless, Max hurried over. "What can I do for you?"
"Where is the pasta?"
Max was taken aback. "I'm sorry?"
"I'm sorry sir, we don't serve pasta, we're a Mexican restaurant."
"You're an Italian restaurant." He pointed to the pizza oven at the back of the restaurant, which served as storage for the restaurant's extra Jarritos. "Oh, I'm sorry, the Italian restaurant closed at the beginning of this year. We opened here in July, and it was just inconvenient to remove the pizza oven." At this point, Max expected them to walk out. And fair enough, Mexican is not what they wanted to eat. However... "But why don't you do pasta?"
"I, uh, um... " Max wasn't sure how to answer without seeming condescending. "Pasta isn't a part of Mexican cuisine."
The husband raised his voice. "Can't you cook me some bloody pasta? You have pots and pans, don't you?"
All the while, the wife was glaring at Max. She didn't even blink once. Her eyes were soulless, pastaless.
Max knew there was no pleasing them in their restaurant, so he tried to direct them to a restaurant down the street. Maybe the poor souls there will fare better. "I think there's an Italian restaurant down the street. You might be happier with their menu." The husband ignored Max's words, opened up his menu again, and shooed Max away with a gesture. Max walked back to the front desk, stunned.
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Meanwhile, the waitresses had been watching from the bar. The kitchen staff was peeking out from behind the kitchen partition to catch a glimpse of the ruckus. A customer made eye contact with Max and mouthed, "What's going on?!" Max was kind of overwhelmed. He had never had so much sympathy directed towards him by so many people at once. The restaurant was silent, save for a Spotify playlist of Mexico's Top 50 in the background.
A solid ten minutes passed. The couple was still perusing their menus. A new waitress started her second ever shift. Max told her to leave Table 2 alone. "Why?" she asked.
"I'll tell you when they leave," Max replied sharply.
Suddenly, the husband stood up quickly, knocking his chair over backward. He threw his menu onto the table with enough force that it bounced onto the floor. He pointed at Max and shouted an obscene word across the restaurant. Max tried his best not to giggle. He heard one of the cooks in the back laugh. The husband's wife followed suit. "Despicable service!"
They stormed out, and at the last moment, the wife turned around. "We're never coming here again!" Max couldn't say anything because he was so focused on not laughing. Another waitress sang after them, "Have a wonderful night!" Max couldn't control himself anymore so he burst out laughing. The couple heard him laughing and shot one last angry look through the window.