I don’t post much about my supplemental income in the service arts. Not because I don’t see it as very respectable employment. When waiting tables was my sole income, the occasional person would ask me, “Did you ever think about getting a real job, Mikey?” I would then reply, “Yes, because this one pays me in monopoly money.”
I’ve been very fortunate that I have almost always dealt with some good customers. A couple of them I even dated. Of course, there are certain things that get on my nerves that’ll jump on everyone’s nerves.
“What’s in this dish?” All the ingredients that it says on the menu.
“Do I want to sit inside or outside? What’s it like outside?” Exactly like it was when you came from there, 10 seconds ago.
“If I get less ice, can I have more alcohol?” Yes, because vodka and frozen water are just about equal in price.
I will say this though: people can ask any stupid question they want…as long as they’re nice. A good person who just forgets to read the menu will bring me infinitely more joy that a fellow who thinks his six bucks is a license to leave his manners at home.
Another reason I don’t like to complain is, hey, it’s not like I’m God’s gift to the restaurant clientele. Everybody has an off day. I’ve forgotten to put an order in once or twice (usually I blame it on the kitchen). I’ve spilled a drink or three. I’ve completely not realized I had a new customer a couple times. So yes, glass houses, stones, yada, yada.
However last week I was baffled by a customer’s behavior. It started a-ok. Drinks came out correctly and quickly. He ordered a mole verde dish, which, for those who don’t know basic Spanish, verde means green. In case he didn’t know basic Spanish, the second word in the description was…you guessed it…green. As you might have foreseen, when it came out and it wasn’t a cocoa-based mole as most are used to, he was unhappy. “This isn’t mole,” he told me. Yes, our very Mexican chef is wrong on what a Mexican dish is. My apologies.
The shock wasn’t completely out of line. Most see the word mole and don’t continue reading, assuming it is the mole they have had somewhere else. I tell anyone I have no problems taking a dish back; no need to be a martyr over some enchiladas. He ordered a dish that he then told me had way too many onions the last time he had it there. I had to fish out of him whether his remark meant light onions or no onions. The answer was no onions. Don’t worry, I’m still smiling at this point.
His replacement dish came out five minutes later: a giant pile of chopped steak with about six tiny bell peppers mixed in. He sent it back with the manager, saying it was all vegetables. Even the table next to him was as confused as I was, wondering why this man did not want a plate obviously filled with meat. This time he didn’t feel like replacing his entrée; he had “lost his appetite.”
I brought the check out for him and his friend: two drinks and his friend’s entrée, all of which had been licked clean. He beckoned me over once again to tell me that he didn’t understand why I was charging him when I had ruined his meal. I told him that, for the life of me, I had no clue how I had played any part in ruining his meal as everything came out exactly as it was supposed to, and his replacement meal even arrived in record time. Nope- I ruined his meal.
While I got the manager, the table next to him chimed in. By chimed in I mean they offered to pay his bill in return for his leaving and taking his abundance of negative energy with him. Even though it probably escalated the situation even more, I have to admit I was a little happy for someone to put him in his place because I wasn’t going to be the one to do it.
My manager diffused the situation between them. Now’s the part where I love her. She didn’t give in. She insisted the man pay for what he and his friend had consumed because there was nothing at all we had done wrong. If we had, we would have been happy to take something off the check.
Guess what: The customer is not always right. No one is always right. Except Oprah. If you lead people who are in the wrong to believe they’re right, you’re giving them carte blanche to act like that anywhere. You’re also invalidating the respect your other customers have given you by rewarding someone like that.
Angry man left, but not before paying his bill and then complaining to anyone who would listen about his horrible experience. Another table next to him that had witnessed the incident looked at his check after he left to see if he had tipped me. He hadn’t. They doubled their tip.
My manager gave one of the adjacent tables their appetizer for free. For the other adjacent table she took off one of their drinks. I loved that manager a little extra that day.
I want to live and work in a world where being nice is recognized, and people don’t get undeserved rewards simply because they like to complain. That’s what Oprah would want, too.
love and a big plate of meat,