Waiting tables ranks somewhere on the stress scale near air traffic controller and prison guard. Seriously, it’s tough work. And if the constant struggle of rushing around on their feet for who-knows-how-many-hours wasn’t enough for these people to handle, there are the customers who exercise some misguided idea of power dynamics on these poor souls on a daily basis. We reached out to a number of local servers (who will remain anonymous) to gather nightmare tales from their years in the weeds. It’s always fun to hear about a good old-fashioned train wreck, but we also hope to educate. Think of this information as a reminder to be nice to people the next time you dine out, and also that you probably don’t want to mess with the people who handle your food.
Raise the Bar: A local shift manager at a beloved downtown eatery has thoughts from serving your drinks.
"People who eat at bars always demand immediate service, have a million demands and insist on having a conversation with you the entire time. They usually eat a deconstruction of the menu item like, 'I want the steak, but can you have them cut it up and make me tacos?' They all have a specific drink that apparently only one bartender knows how to make, and it's a Jack and Coke or something equally simple. They all want to be hooked up, and they say stuff like, 'Oh, Jeff never charges me for my second drink!' or, 'Jimmy always hooks me up!' And then they tip like shit when you fail to steal from the restaurant for them."
Don’t Lie: You’d better actually be a regular if you claim as much, but dollars to donuts this server will remember you now.
"Lots of people come in claiming to be 'regulars.' I've been there since June of 2015, and most of these [people] have arrived once, maybe twice within my 15-month span. On a Sunday in late June of this year, I had a table of three baby boomers claiming to be just that. Old, ugly people—I would've remembered them. They arrived sometime between 8:05 and 8:10 pm; they had their drinks by 8:20 pm. I'm being specific with time because by 8:32, I saw them making obscene gestures at the kitchen, and when they saw me, they literally started booing and hissing. I asked what was wrong and they said I was the worst waiter they ever had, and it was absurd to be waiting a half hour for their food. I politely told them that they weren't even at their table for a half hour, and that the ticket for their food had been in for seven minutes. I brought their food out within another three minutes and they insisted it was cold. Not the case, as I witnessed the kitchen pull their fish and chips out of the fryer, onto the plate, into my hands. In the end I had to comp one of their fish and chips and all their drinks and they left me a $2 tip on $30. The line cook threatened to quit later and said they were lucky he didn't stab them with a kitchen knife."
Be Patient: The food comes when the food’s cooked.
"Some years ago I was dealing with a 10-top, and one guy in the group made it progressively more difficult to be cool. Whatever he ordered, be it drinks or appetizers, he couldn't understand why it would take more than two minutes to get it out to such a large group. He eventually wound up ordering a steak well-done and then, every three minutes like clockwork, asked about where his steak was and when was it going to be ready. I reminded him as politely as I could that well-done meat can take some extra time, and that the entirety of my job was to tell the cooks what people wanted to eat and then to bring that food once it was cooked. Eventually the table's order came up, and as I was carrying out the plates (six at a time, by the way), he sent me over the edge with a smarmy, 'My steak better be one of those!' comments. 'I am not a goddamn octopus, sir!' I told him. 'I can only carry so many plates at one time!' I wound up working the host stand for a few months after that since the owners thought I needed a break from service."
Know the Terminology: A longtime barista wants you to know what the hell you’re talking about.
"The most annoying thing is people ordering things they don't understand. Like using trendy words like 'flat white' or 'cortado' when they just want lattes. Also not tipping. It's disgusting."
Timing is Everything: Making time demands just pisses everybody off.
"Probably the most annoying in recent memory was the lady who called in an order, which she said had to be ready at 1 pm as she had an appointment (dentist, I think). I put it in the kitchen and at 12:55 on the dot it was ready. This old bat comes in at 1:30 and comes to the host section where I'm standing with her takeout order. She positively goggles at me and shouts, 'I wanted to eat it here!' In my typical I-am-a-nice-guy-who-will-gladly-take-your-shit manner, I apologize and show her to a table. She angrily orders a glass of wine while I take all of the food I had packaged out and plate it for her. It was, in all honesty, five minutes (if that) later when she waves me down in that violent manner people so love to beckon their servers with and informs me she needs her meal to go. 'I'm late for my appointment!' she screams at me. Then she tried to get me to remove or discount her wine because she didn't drink it all."
Tip, Dammit!: Whether or not your server is gay is none of your damn business!
"I picked up a table for a fellow waiter who was in the weeds. The table was two ladies who had been waiting awhile, and I explained I was picking up the table from another server. Everything from that point went very well; they loved their food and were very nice. After they paid, I picked up the check book, and the tip line was crossed off, and in the place of that they left a card that looked like a Monopoly game card that said, 'This is your last chance to get out of hell free. Turn to Jesus or go directly to hell!' Too bad that doesn't pay my bills! I also think, 'ladies,' that your card produces the opposite effect. Deplorables!"
Get Real: Why all the crazy?
"I once had a woman try to convince me she was allergic to ice. I was so confused and I said, 'You know ice is water, right?' She was insulted by my response and stormed out."
This is How We Do it: A nice one to dispel some of the bad taste in our mouths.
"I had these four women that came to Santa Fe from various places to give homage to their artist friend who passed away. I'm very sociable, and I did all my server duties. They asked where I was from and what I do besides waiting tables, and I told them my story; how I came here from school, graduated and I make art. They asked to see my art, so I showed them some pieces I've done and left my phone with them to look through the pics. Their bill was $88, and they gave me a 20 percent tip. When they were leaving, one of the women took my hand and told me not to stop creating. She said my stuff reminded her of her friend's work. She slipped me a $100 bill. I was so humbled by all that, especially working as a server and all the abuse that comes with it."