From a snotty customer who degrades her server in front of everyone, to a stubborn man who thinks the restaurant's lobsters are frozen and not fresh, servers who work at high-end restaurants share their horrible customer stories.
(Content has been edited for clarity)
Not Opening The Mustard Jar
“A girl I know got screamed at for not opening the mustard she served. She works in a relatively posh place, and the mustard comes in this little individual glass pot (I think Colman’s or whatever). She hadn’t opened the mustard for them and was yelled at. ‘I work for (local paper), they will be hearing about this! I’ve never been so offended! Disgusting behavior.’
She just stood there aghast and like, ‘Did you want me to open the mustard…now?’
More yelling ensued.“
Little Tip Is Worse Than No Tip
“I’m an event chef for a fine dining catering company. The wealthy tend to treat me well and with respect. They tend to understand that you treat other humans with respect, especially the one in the chef’s coat and hat handling your food. The most snooty customers are the ones that want to be wealthy. They’re usually upper middle class and think that this is how the wealthy treat the help.
‘Best’ insult I’ve had is with another company where I got a $2.50 tip (chefs get tipped too) for the whole night. Somehow worse than no tip.”
“Used to work in a ‘high-end’ tea room, and we had this regular who was a horrible human being. I was on my knees cleaning up a drink that another customer had spilled and this lady needed to get past me. I said, ‘Sorry, I’m almost done!’
And she said, in the most condescending way possible, ‘That’s quite alright, I like having people at my feet.'”
This Arrogant Professor Embarrassed His Own Wife
“I brought waters and menus, did the welcome speech, and asked if they’d like to order drinks right away.
The man glared at me and told me that I’d have to do better than that if I expected a tip. He wanted the best service.
I was a little befuddled, smiled and said that I’d do my best to make his visit an enjoyable one.
‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!’
When I admitted that I did not, he was really offended. He then informed me that he was a professor at the community college the next town over.
Seriously. The community college.
His wife was shushing him and face-palming like crazy. Poor woman.”
“I’ll Have You Shining My Shoes Just To Make A Little Extra Money”
“Just a couple days ago I was serving a very important business meeting, important enough to where one of the gentlemen flew in from Hong Kong for it. I guess they left some documents on the table that got thrown away and they came back in a couple hours later frantically looking for them. They pulled me aside and said, ‘Look, I make more in a week than you do in a year. Find me those papers or I’ll have you shining my shoes just to make a little extra.'”
Fresh, Never Frozen, Lobster
“I work at a pretty high-class seafood restaurant in Rhode Island and one evening, I had a table of people that I assume were not from around there considering their accents. I went to clear their table, all of them had some form of a lobster dish, and one of the men complained that the lobster was not fresh and was frozen. I politely informed him that the lobster was never frozen. He was very adamant that he was the correct one. So I said sorry and walked off. I passed my manager and mentioned it to him. He said, ‘Go back to that table and tell them we have 250 pounds of fresh lobster every day.’ So I went back and told them again, politely, and once again the gentleman still said the lobster was frozen. One more time I told my boss and he just stormed off to come back five minutes later with a cardboard box full of live lobster and said, ‘Go show these to him.’
One last time, I walked out to them and set down a box full of 10 or so lobsters and said, ‘See. Fresh.’ And the guy’s dumbstruck face was so satisfying. The tip was not so satisfying.”
Just A Nod Of The Head Would’ve Been Nice
“I started off as a server assistant/food-runner (I’m a server there now) at a real ritzy steakhouse. Anyway, I was super nervous when I first started and one time I asked to clear a guy’s plate. His plate was empty so clearly, he was done.
Me: ‘May I clear your plate, sir?’
The guy looked up at me and said, ‘You got any other bright ideas?’
I took his plate and smiled. Then I went to the first aid kit in the back for my burn wounds.”
A Terrible Role Model For His Son
“I was working a catering job for a 4th of July party at an exclusive yacht club.
I went about my business and was clearing used plates from tables. After stacking as many plates as humanly possible, I turned and started walking back to the kitchen. Next thing I knew, I felt something hit me in the back of the head. A chicken bone. A grown man who was watching me the entire time, with his 4-year-old son at his side, no less, decided he didn’t want to wait the five minutes it’d take for someone else to come by and clear again, so he chucked it at my head. And then cracked up while pointing at me.
I calmly set down my tray, and just walked on out without saying a word.”
An Insult He Gave Himself
“In college, I bartended at a high-steak chop house. 500+ adult beverage labels and bartenders call the cellar and have a bar back run up the highest end of wines to the bar and tables. A lot of men and couples would eat dinner at the bar, have a cigar, and listen to the piano player. Cool vibe, horrible customers.
Once, I made a fancy drink for a middle-aged, dressed-to-the-nines couple. They were short but not impolite (yet). I turned around and this guy CLAPPED HIS HANDS to get my attention and asked, ‘Should we just serve ourselves, or what?’ I got them menus sheepishly and provided a drink list, which is bible sized.
He reviewed the list and asked for a ‘BO-JAIL-ES VIG-AL-GES.’ It took all the effort in my soul not to smirk. This jerk, for all his ‘class’ and pretense, couldn’t pronounce anything. He wanted a Beaujolais-Villages but couldn’t see his own faux pas.
I went to the phone and called down to the bar back, ‘Hello, would you please bring up the ’06 BO-JAIL-ES VIG-AL-GES, please?’
The bar back’s laughed his head off, ‘Are you joking? Tell me you are joking?’
I thought I did him a solid by not correcting him in front of his lady. But still, the best insult was the one he gave himself. Poetic.”
He Showed That Guy Who’s Boss!
“I was bartending one night when a rude man asked how I was ever going to get a job with all of my visible tattoos. I responded with ‘Well, as you can clearly see, I am at work right now.’ He gave me a condescending half smile while I poured his drink. I responded to that with, ‘and I own this restaurant!’ I then chugged a drink in front of him I had just poured and said, ‘It’s great to be the boss!’ In hindsight, I wish I chugged his drink.
I do really own my own restaurant and I work every job there when needed.”
This Snotty Girl On Her Night Out
“Once I had a job as a fancy drink waitress at a bar in Hollywood. It was very ‘A-List,’ lots of movie stars and celebrities in there all the time. One very busy Thursday night, I was running drinks back and forth from the bar to tables. One of my tables had about five women that looked like a girls night out, they were probably in their late 20s. Obviously had money, I could tell by the purses, shoes and snotty attitudes. I put their order in for their second round of drinks and I was rushing to their table holding a tray full of drinks, including martinis going to another table. The one girl decided she wanted to change her drink order so as I passed by her she turned and grabbed the back of my dress to stop me so she could change her order. Of course, my tray tipped when I got pulled back and the drinks crashed to the floor. I turned and gave her a withering look and she just said, ‘Instead of a Cosmo, I want a Grey Goose on ice,’ then turned back to her friends like nothing happened. I was mortified and furious.”
“I worked for an event company throughout college in a pretty rich county, the old money people were almost always cool. They’d talk to you, take your advice, etc. Large LGBT community in my area too, gay guys are THE BEST clients hands-down. They’d bring us drinks (and not just bottled water, they liked to make us lemonade from scratch and such) and then let us take home whatever drink was left over. One guy gave me an entire case of Sam Adams Triple-Bock once, that’s like $200 I think!
I had a new-money jerk that owned a local car dealership tell me I should go buy another linen tablecloth (we were one short, for a fancy drink glass-collecting table) because ‘you’ll never make it back to your shop in time. My guests will not tolerate someone in a POLO SHIRT ruining the ambiance.’
Here is a happy ending: I’ve owned my business for 20 years now. His flight department has ordered tens of thousands of parts from me, and I still tack on 20% extra on all parts he buys as a fee.”
Feeling Worthless For A Bottle Of Red
“I was opening a bottle of red for this table and I started getting chest pains and I got scared because the last time that happened, I had a seizure. I almost dropped the bottle because of how quick the pain started. So I put the bottle down on the table real quick just in case. One lady was like, ‘Honey are you okay?’ because it was clear something was wrong.
The guy who ordered the bottle said, ‘We aren’t paying $50 a person for you to die here.’
After a couple seconds which felt like forever the pain gradually went away and I apologized and explained what happened to me last time that happened as I opened the bottle. Then the guy said, ‘At least you didn’t drop the bottle, it costs more than your life.’
Tears silently came down my face as I poured their drinks. I never went back to that table. The bottle cost $300.
The lady who asked if I was okay came up to me later and apologized for the guy. She gave me $100 in cash tip. But still, I remember feeling completely worthless at that moment.”
Learn To Respect And Treat Others Better
“I worked at a high-end steakhouse during college. To paint a little picture, women’s uniforms were 2-inch heels, fishnet stockings, and a black skirt. It tried to take to the ‘jazz’ aspect of the restaurant (there was a live jazz band there every night). It’s actually a part of a pretty major Steakhouse restaurant chain, super high-end dining, average $90/ plate.
On Valentines Day, we’d always get swamped. Usually they would overstaff the servers just to make sure we had enough coverage on the floor. This is all well and good, but that means smaller sections and I have to turn and burn these babies fast in order to have a good night in tips. I had a couple who was clearly on edge the entire dinner, and the husband would take it out on me every time I approached the table. He would criticize things I would say and had a problem with simple questions I would ask, he even mocked me a few times. Total jerk. They ended up staying 20 minutes after I dropped their check which is just a bad move. On top of everything else, it’s one of the busiest nights of the year in the restaurant business. The wife just kept looking over at me and apologizing. In the end, they left a 20% tip, but I’ll never forget the absolute disrespect I experienced with that table. I think about it, years later, from time to time and just tell myself I’ll never treat a human being that way, doesn’t matter who they are or what role they are in. The guy felt like because I was a young girl dressed all up serving him expensive steaks, he could treat me however he wanted.”
The Coolest Chef, And Most Awful Customers
“My very first job, when I was 16, was as a server in a very small very high-end lunch restaurant in a very wealthy seaside resort. Actually, scratch that, I was the only server. The place was so small that you could only really fit a couple of employees inside the back area, but we still had like 20 outdoor tables.
One day, we got slammed at lunch and sold out of everything. The chef was trying his best to make do, but still 86ing like half of the menu. We called the owner but he told us to keep seating people. So I sat a snooty looking older couple from somewhere in the Deep South judging by their accents. The woman wanted a lobster roll. I explained that we were sold out of a lot of stuff, including lobster rolls. She fussed but eventually made a decision, I tried to process her order, but as chef went to grab what he needed, he realized we couldn’t fill the order.
I went back out to their table to let her know I couldn’t fill her order and offered a special instead because the chef was awesome and he could come up with amazing meals out of nothing, and had come up with like a seafood paella he could throw together for her. As I left her for a moment to consider her decision since I saw another table that was trying to flag me down, she straight up screamed at me, ‘DONT YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME!’
I was stunned, the whole deck area looked at her awkwardly. I apologized and told her I’d be with her in a moment but she didn’t take kindly to take and began to insult my intelligence, ‘What is wrong with you?’ kind of insults. She was red in the face. Her husband looked really embarrassed.
At this point, I had been working for about three weeks without a day off, seven days a week, 10 hours a day. I was saving for university and was getting concerned about burning out. I kind of snapped. I first let out a burst of hysterical laughter and then just started sobbing. But I was sobbing and laughing hysterically at the same time. You know in the 90s Batman animated series when the Joker hits people with laughing gas? It looked like that. I took my apron off and threw it at her, stormed inside, still hysterical and grabbed a smoke from the chef, walked back out onto the deck and lit it. And sat at the bottom of the steps, crying.
Another customer sat beside me and told me not to worry about awful customers. She told me she had been a server for years and she knew how I felt, which was really nice. All the customers on the deck were looking at me having a breakdown, it was awful.
Chef had followed me out to see what was going on. He was livid at the customer who had screamed at me, and asked the couple to leave, saying something like, ‘She’s SIXTEEN! She’s busting her butt off!’ They left, embarrassed, and were not allowed to return.
We stopped seating customers for the afternoon after that, closed up, and chef and I drank a box of drinks and chain-smoked all evening instead.”
The Rudest And Most Hurtful Comment
“I worked as a waitress at a ‘casual fine dining’ bed and breakfast when I was 20. It was crazy busy one night due to us hosting a date night special, so there were lots of couples. There was an older married couple that was in my section and the husband was super nice. He asked how my night was and even postponed his order so that I could clear a nearby table. His wife had a permanent angry face and glared at everything. He asked about where I’m from, just casual banter that you get in that type of setting. Their meal got cleared and it was time for dessert and bubbly, as per the date night feature. She ordered a drink that technically isn’t bubbly. I didn’t want them to feel ripped off, so I told her, ‘That’s a great choice but just so you are aware, Brand X is a sparkling grape nectar and not what you have in mind. Is that okay?’ She just kind of looked at me for an uncomfortable amount of time. Her husband was just looking at her like, maybe she was having a stroke?
Well, her brain must have been going into overdrive trying to think of something insulting because after a while she just said, ‘Sweetheart, I see how hard you’re working and have you maybe considered getting some work done? You wouldn’t have to work so hard if you were a little prettier. Just a thought…’
I could not even process what she said until I got to the kitchen. Her husband’s face was what made me cry. I can take an insult but the mix of embarrassment, shame, and disgust on his face just made me lose it. I comped his dessert and made her drink with mostly apple juice. I hope that $27 glass of 80% cheap apple juice was good.”
This Customer’s Rude and Inaccurate Remark
“I used to wait tables and bartend at a very well known restaurant that isn’t expensive, but people go to indulge themselves in huge portions and great dessert and feel like they’re wealthy.
This was after I graduated from undergrad and two months before starting law school. I overheard a man, whose table I was serving, talking to his daughter and wife. Mind you, this family gave off the vibe of being Southern and lower middle class.
Daughter: ‘I want to work in a restaurant, it seems so fun!’
Father: ‘No, you don’t honey. Everyone who works in restaurants had something go wrong in life and just can’t get other jobs.’ Ridiculously rude and completely inaccurate, luckily I was in range to hear this.
Me: ‘Actually sir, I already have a degree with a double major and a minor where I was first in my class. I work this job because, usually, I really enjoy talking to people and making their day better by giving good service. I’m also starting law school in a few months. Do you mind me asking where you got your degrees from?’
Father: [sputtering, obviously embarrassed that I overheard him] ‘I own my own trucking company, I didn’t have to go to college.’
Me: ‘That’s awesome sir! Well, I’ll write down my name and number for you for when your daughter needs a lawyer.’
I got thoroughly yelled at by managers and threatened with being fired, but I was leaving that job in three weeks anyway, so I really didn’t care.”
Is The Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?
“I had this terrible regular come in that day. He ordered something different than usual. He said, ‘I’ll have a Grey Goose on the rocks, tall glass.’ So, I made him exactly that. He looked at the drink and with all his other buddies around him watching, said to me, ‘Would you say that glass is half empty or half full?’
I said something like, ‘I’m always a half-full kind of guy, so I’ll go with half-full.’
He said, ‘Well, that makes you a crappy bartender because I asked for neither! I very clearly) asked you for a glass of Grey Goose on the rocks, not half of one!’ Keep in mind, a tall glass full of Grey Goose even with ice in it is about 6-8 oz of straight beverage. Bars just don’t pour drinks like that, and if we did, they’d cost $30-$35 easy.
Anyway, I went ahead and filled his drink to the rim with Grey Goose, and he just said muttered something like, ‘That’s more like it.'”