Customers often complain about bad service when going out for food, but it turns out servers may actually have it worse dealing with customers.
Here, servers share the worst customer they’ve ever had.
Big Tables Don’t Equal Big Tips.
Getting stiffed on a big bill is really terrible… Especially on a night when it’s your only table in the restaurant because it takes up an entire section. This is something that has happened to every server, and it ruins your week.
When it’s Valentine’s Day and the girlfriend says ‘no’ to the proposal… which you wrote in chocolate on the dessert plate. About 5 hands went up, ‘Check Please!!!!!’
A typical greeting of new customers includes asking if they’d like refreshments while they look over the menu. I knew what was coming when someone at the table sanctimoniously replied that “we don’t drink.” I wanted to tell them that that’s amazing and ask how they stay hydrated. These people usually left religious pamphlets, instead of money for a tip. My landlord was always delighted when I paid rent with these pamphlets.
An Eventful Wedding.
I waitressed a wedding one night in a beautiful swanky restaurant in Sydney. We were instructed to make sure there was a giant bottle of Jim Beam on all tables all through the night and each bottle had to be at least half full at all times. In the course of the night:
1) A 16 year old boy passed out face down in the urinal and nearly drowned. When he returned to the dining room a strong stench of urine permeated the air within a 3.5 meter radius of him.
2) The best man was caught in the courtyard shooting up.
3) A fight broke out between the father of the bride and some disgraced cousin.
4) I fell down a bunch of stairs carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres because some disgusting horny dude tried to grab me as I was walking up the stairs.
5) A table merrily screaming ‘cheers!’ and throwing their glasses together in the centre of the table, harder and harder, eventually all smashed their glasses in one final thrust and red wine and glass flew everywhere.
6) Two idiots from said table needed first aid for glass cuts.
A guy heading to the restroom fainted during the middle of service on a Friday night. His momentum ensured that he fell forward. In a dining room of about 150 people, I can still hear the sound of his teeth hitting the tile…
Bosses Friends & Family
These people are almost always think that the whole restaurant exists only for them, and that all other service must halt when they walk inn the door. They will demand service constantly, from the nearest staff member, the boss will be on your case to make sure his friends are super happy, even if your other tables suffer. Chances are the meal will be comped by the owner, and then the people you served all night don’t see the need to tip. No real defence against it.
Recently, I had a woman with a gluten allergy. I wrote everything correctly on the ticket, and let them know the issue. About 2 minutes after she gets her food, she’s shaking violently and choking. I’m PANICKING, thinking I’ve poisoned her. A nearby customer runs over and performs the Heimlich, and a piece of her meal, along with bile, flies out. So, she simply choked on her meal, and happened to have an allergy as well.
First And Only Night.
On my first night working at a restaurant I dropped a knife covered in cream down the back of a lady’s dress. We couldn’t get it out from above so she had to stand up, shake around a bit and it fell out the bottom as if she laid it.
I quit before they could fire me. Bizarrely they still paid me.
“I own a restaurant myself, so I know how it should be done.” No. You know how you do it in your restaurant. You don’t know how we do it at ours. Our style is not your style. I don’t come and tell you how to make your food, don’t come tell me mine is wrong. If your restaurant is so much better than everyone else’s, go eat there.
People Are The Worst.
I had an old guy keel over and crack his head open on the slate tile floor. The blood started pooling around his head pretty quickly. I was a manager at the time and actually had people requesting that we comp their meals because this had ruined their appetite… You’ve got to be kidding me.
You Gonna Eat All That?
When I was about 5 or 6, my dad owned a restaurant. He sold mostly catfish and shrimp. Anyway, this kind of over-weight couple walked in. I went to take their order. They ordered a lot of food to which I responded, “Dang you gone eat all that?!” My mom had to come take over.
Money Can’t Buy You Class.
There was a dentist convention in San Fransisco, and we got a lot of these guys in our door. I’m working in a Michelin Star restaurant, so bills over $1,000 weren’t uncommon.
This guy and his mistress ended up drinking three bottles of wine during the course of their 11-course meal, and tried to order a fourth. When we declined, that’s when things started to get ‘fun’. They went outside for 30-minute smoke breaks, did drugs in the bathroom and threatened not to pay. We threatened to call the police and had a team of people blocking the door. They finally paid and left no tip. Worst.
You Never Know.
I was head server at a restaurant that used big sheets of paper that customers could draw on with crayons. The table covers were tossed at the end of every meal since they were just paper. One night my other head server (who was also a good friend of mine) had a table of four that wrote, “Go kill yourself,” and “You suck at life, you should just die.”
These captions were accompanied with images of her hanging herself, shooting herself and lying in a puddle of blood, etc.
Since I was the other head server and Bridget was upset about the incident she asked me to take over and deal with the situation. It was a pain to deal with those customers. What they did not know was that this girl had struggled with thoughts of suicide in the past and had made an attempt previously. They weren’t welcomed back. Ever.
One time a homeless man was angrily banging on the glass side door to the restaurant after closing time. Me (a small female) and the dishwasher who speaks zero English are inside, fearing for our lives. We had to wait until the cops came to escort the man off the premises. The next day, the side door was open while servers set up, and he barged in causing a huge scene, and the owner had to strong arm him out of the restaurant and call the cops.
Fun Christmas Eve…
So one night when I was off, a guy took my seat next to my girlfriend at a bar when I went to use the restroom. I came back, told him to leave and he tried to fight me. He came back 20 minutes later, sucker-punched me and fractured several bones in my face. One week later, it’s Christmas Eve. I’m working a busy dinner shift in a white table cloth, fancy restaurant. Then, my nose starts to bleed. A lot. 30 minutes later, it just won’t stop, and I have to get back into my section. I’m managing okay, and then my manager comes up and asks, ‘Is table 21 yours?’ I tell them it is, and ask if they need something. His words haunt me to this day… “They said there’s blood on the side of their wine bottle.” Spent Christmas Eve in the ER after that super awesome night…
The 20 Top of 20-Year-Olds.
One of the worst and most degrading experiences I had as a waiter was when I served a 20 top table of 20-year olds, who were having a work party.
They had their own separate room, which became incredibly hot and damp to serve in. In addition, I had another 6 tables to serve. These guys were old enough to drink spirits, and their bill was paid by their company, so the orders would never stop. I would run around like a madman ensuring my guests were happy.
Since they were so many, it was difficult to keep track of their level of intoxication.
As a result, one of the 20-year olds vomited. The sweaty room they were occupying was now stinking of puke. In addition, the room had a carpet floor, which meant that the stank was ingrained in the floor. Not only that, I had to get on my knees and clean the vomit myself.
I’m on my knees, sweating my butt off, rubbing puke off the carpet floor, while 20 tipsy 20-year olds are watching me.
After hours of eating and drinking, they are the last table to leave. I vividly remember their bill. It came to $1,750! That’s an insane amount. Considering that their orders and experience was smooth, and that I had to clean up their vomit, I hoped for a decent tip.
When the leader of the group was calculating how much tip to give me, he asked me how much I think I deserve. I was astonished. I wanted to say ‘tip me 20%,’ but I had to remain professional and follow company policy. So I awkwardly told him ‘I can’t say that, you tip however much you want.’
The guy gave me $60 and a pat on the back. As they scramble out of the restaurant, I’m standing defeated and motionless with the tip in my hand, facing a room that looks like a battlefield.
A Terrible Situation.
Around 9pm, just as we were starting to finish up for the evening, I answer the phone. It’s the owner, who asks, ‘Yes or no question: Is Candice around you right now?’ Candice was the manager.
“No,” I say.
“Have you accounted for all your tickets tonight?”
“Make sure she stays there until I get in.”
Turned out Candice had been snagging tickets, and the cash, from a few tables, a few times a week. I knew why she did it. Single mom, three kids, she was broke. She got fired that night. Was a lovely person, an unfortunate situation. I felt terrible about it, still do. Not that I could’ve done anything to prevent it, or that it was my fault, just terrible for the situation. Candice was a great person, she was just really stuck.
The Missing Coffee.
Back in college I was waiting tables at a large Italian restaurant. Our prices were also the lowest in the area, so a group of four adults could easily get out for $40-$50.
I had a table of four businessmen, dressed casually. They obviously were hoping for a cute waitress, showing disappointed looks when I introduced myself.
They got my usual quick service, something that would get an 18–20% tip nowadays. They went through two pitchers of beer, along with their meals. The kitchen got their meals out right on time, and when they finished, I asked if they wanted the standard ice cream dessert that was included with the meal. They did, and three of the four men requested coffee. The fourth said nothing.
I brought out their desserts and coffee and left the check, as was our normal policy. A few minutes later, the 4th man flagged me down and rudely asked where his coffee was! I was stunned by this, as he definitely didn’t say he wanted any. I quickly got him a cup, along with refills for his friends. He asked me why I didn’t bring his out with the others, and I told him I asked him if he wanted coffee and he never said yes. He argued that he did, and I simply apologized.
They sat there finishing up, and a few minutes later I returned to the kitchen to get meals for a different table. When I returned, they were gone – without paying for their bill! Four middle aged businessmen who probably made at least $250k between them walked out on a $45 tab and left the poor waiter (me) to pick it up! (Company policy was that you were responsible for getting payment. I could be either written up as my first strike, with a second strike meaning termination, or I could pay the tab myself out of my tips that night. I chose the latter.)
I left work that night a few hours later with only $23 in tips instead of a more typical night of $75-$80. Rattling.
In The Weeds.
This was my craziest day. There were 2 bartenders for what was expected to be the busiest 1.5 hours in the history of the restaurant, from 6-7:30. Around 5:45, the CO2 goes out in the bar, so the other bartender says he’ll run downstairs to change it. About 15 minutes later, he’s still not back, and people are pouring into the bar. I’m working through it like a champ, and things are getting pretty heated. After 30 minutes, he’s still not back.
I’m really losing it.
I’m not making eye contact, people in super fancy outfits are just staring at me impatiently, and I just don’t know what to do. I’m shaking and jittery and having my first epic fail behind the bar. This was a fancy bar with lots of steps to each drink, measuring cups, and lots of shaking. We would squeeze orange rinds over some drinks, and light that essential oil on fire, giving a fruity-smoky flavor to the drink. Well, I’m in the weeds, the owner is behind the bar taking up space and trying to talk to customers, I’m trying to make 7 drinks at once, and upon making a cosmo with the flamed orange, I toss the match in the trash can, like I’d done a hundred times before. Well, this time I didn’t blow it out all the way, and the trash can caught on fire! And that’s how you clear a bar. The other bartender finally comes back around 7:15, so after an hour and 15 minutes, with the CO2 working. Apparently we were out, and he had to GO BUY ANOTHER CANISTER. I don’t know why he couldn’t send someone else, or why nobody told me what was going on, but that was terrible for me.
Gross X’s Two.
I was dying to the use the washroom during a Thursday afternoon shift. I walked over, and I saw two of the line cooks waiting, including another person.
After I hear the toilet flush, the guy in the washroom comes right out. He obviously was pooping. It took maybe a second or two to process, but he came out and didn’t wash his hands. I didn’t say anything to the manager, and just left it.
The more disturbing part is that cooks rarely use gloves at this particular restaurant. We’ve gotten numerous complaints from customers about our cooks not using gloves. Rightfully so.
Can’t Hold His Liquor.
I served someone one drink, and he was apparently already hammered from somewhere else. I had no idea, he drank, paid, and left, without saying much of anything. A few minutes later, he was PEEING into the fountain in front of the restaurant, in full view of the outside diners. He kept trying to drive home. Another employee and I had to run outside in the middle of a snowstorm and chase him around the neighborhoods trying to get him to relinquish his keys and get a cab, which we would pay for. It was freezing and miserable, and took 45 minutes to coerce him into a taxi.
No Tips for Us
Once, we had a restaurant full of people heading to the theater, meaning they needed prompt service, but the food was taking forever. Apparently, the oven broke, as the higher-ups were informing my tables. In reality, it turns out, our brand-new chef was failing miserably in the kitchen, and couldn’t get the food out in time. We didn’t get tipped very well that night.
Once a woman at the bar had apparently started new medication, and got completely sloshed off of 1/2 a martini. She couldn’t keep her head up at the bar any longer, and certainly couldn’t walk to her car. Two people had to support her as she walked to the owner’s car, who had to drive her home. All of the other customers were so ‘disgusted that the restaurant would let someone like that drive home,’ so we had to personally go to each table in the bar and explain that she was being driven home by the owner.
Free Drink Please
Once, a regular, who was really rude and would only tip 5%, loudly said to the owner, ‘How come your bartenders never buy me a drink? They bought that guy a drink, and I come here once a week. I want a free drink.’ Maybe if he tipped for than 5% we would have given him ‘one on the house.’
She’ll Be a Good Mother.
Once had a pregnant lady asks to use the restroom to pee while we were locking up. I felt bad and let her in, but it turns out she’s pregnant AND drunk, she could hardly walk on her own, and she proceeded to vomit in the toilet for 20 minutes. Not cool.
I serve at a corporate family restaurant while in college.
There was a man in a Santa suit at my table around Christmas time. When I dropped off his food I asked:
“Is there anything else I can do for you at the moment?
He pointed below the table and said, You can crawl under this table and be my ho-ho-ho.
I promptly informed the manager who thought it was funny and tried to make me continue with the table. I refused to go back to that table and the manager was forced to take care of them himself.