Being a server is hard work. You're on your feet for hours, you are carrying hot, heavy trays all night. Little kids make big messes. Small-minded adults make big complaints. People yell at you like you are lower than dirt. And then they stiff you on the tip.
It's not a job for everyone, but one thing that all servers share is the insane "war stories" of the worst customers they've ever had to deal with. Reading these stories will make you angry. If you're a server yourself, you may laugh, cynically. Hopefully though, they will make more people appreciate the nonsense that all servers have to deal with on a regular basis.
That Escalated Quickly!
“Last Christmas, I was serving an older man who came in during a rush. I served him like any other normal customer. The cooks had messed up his order and I mistakenly hadn’t noticed. The dude was TICKED. He cussed me out in front of multiple other people, cussed me out to my manager, and filed a complaint. That was just the beginning.
The jerk FOUND MY FACEBOOK PAGE AND MESSAGED MY PARENTS SAYING HOW MUCH OF A MISTAKE I WAS. LIKE WHAT?! The only good thing that came from it was another customer saw how terrible he was to me and left me $20. Another day in the life of an 18-year-old Frisch’s server”
The Birthday Boy Is A Jerk!
“Once upon a time, I took care of a family of four, and it was the husband’s birthday. They were my last table, so I had tried very hard to give them good service. Being that I worked at this restaurant for years, I was in pretty good with the managers so I could get people upgraded food items for free. Got this guy a free add-on salad and a large chocolate sundae for his family to share. Dude asks me, ‘Do you play the lottery? Because you just won,’ and proceeds to hand me a scratch-off ticket with 50 dollars in winnings as a tip.
Go to the gas station to cash it in the next day, dude had already cashed it in. We paid 3% on our tables totals so I ended up paying like 5 dollars for this guy to eat out and get a bunch of free stuff on my behalf.”
“I served at Olive Garden for two years.
It was a typically busy night during the never-ending pasta bowl time of year. It was one of my first tables of the evening.
This family of five, mom, dad, two sons, and a little girl (probably 2 or 3) come in. They were all exceedingly overweight, and the daughter had on a dirty shirt and no pants, just a diaper. On a check back I noticed an overwhelming scent of poop lingering around the table. I don’t judge, I have no idea what’s going on in their life. I just tell myself someone probably farted and I just walked up at the exact wrong moment.
Well, I return with some refills (poop smell still just as intense as before) and on my way around the table to pass out beverages, I pass the high chair and notice the little girl has her hand in her diaper. Like, what?!? I then proceed to watch her pull out a turd & throw it on the floor to join an even larger turd that was already there slightly covered by a napkin. I could not hide the disgust on my face.
I don’t remember exactly the words I used but I turned to the parents and said, ‘Umm, your daughter has a situation going on over here.’ The mother replies, ‘Oh yeah, I know I threw that napkin over it,’ and then continues to devour her third refill on never-ending pasta. I was in disbelief. Not only is there two pieces of fresh honey boo boo-style poop on the floor, but the girl’s hands are obviously covered in poop and not one family member seems to care in the slightest! One of the brothers even asked me for another Dr. Pepper while I was standing there still in shock.
So I immediately told the manager on duty & she didn’t believe me. I said ‘I kid you not, Amanda, there is poop on the floor. Go see for yourself.’
She ended up politely asking the mother to clean it up immediately, she even gave her disinfectant wipes. The mom became irate and claimed it’s not her job, and that she feels discriminated that we would ask her to do such a thing. She even demanded that everything they ordered be paid for.
In the end, she did pick up the poop. She picked it up but she didn’t wash her hands, didn’t clean up her daughter, and continued to finish her meal. I thought it was over and they’d pay & get out to never return.. but no, as I’m dropping the check mom says, ‘Uh it’s my son’s birthday don’t y’all sing and give us dessert??'”
An Ingenious Plan!
“I had been working at this Thai place in my town for about 8 months, and for the last 4 months, I’d seen the same teenaged couple come in every Sunday and leave 0% tip, regardless of service. And it’s not like they didn’t know tipping was expected as I once watched her parents teach her how to tip when she was dining with them, before she started coming in with her boyfriend.
One day my boss decided enough was enough. ‘Tui noy!’ she all but yelled to me (that’s my Thai nickname, it’s an endearing name generally given to chubby children that loosely translates to ‘little something’), ‘I don’t care whose turn it is, you take them next week, and you make sure you earn that 0%.’
I do a bit of a double take. She can’t possibly mean what I think she means. ‘You mean?’ She nods and gives me this smile that is equal parts devious and smug. A week later they come in 5 minutes into my shift. She seats them in my section, smiles at me and tells me to do my worst.
Here is a fairly detailed account of the wonderful 45 minutes that followed:
I wait a good 5 minutes before going to greet them and bring waters. They’re ready to order. I don’t have a pen. I’ll be right back. I promise. I go out back, power smoke (takes me about 90 seconds) before I return. They’re my only table and I’m not handling food yet, so I don’t wash my hands. I reek of smoke.
I take her order, pad thai no bean sprouts like always. As he opens his mouth to tell me he’ll have the same I give him the ‘just a minute’ finger and pull out my phone. I text my fiancé and ask if he wants to get dinner from my place or his tonight. I take his order. I somehow misunderstand and write down extra bean sprouts. Their food comes up while I’m telling my boss and the other waitress a story about my cat. I finish telling the story before I get their food. I bring it out and walk away as they’re starting to complain about the sprouts. About 5 minutes after they get the food I get a second table. One is a customer from a former job of mine and we spend a few minutes catching up when I go to greet them.
The 0%’s try to signal me as I leave the table, but I stare straight ahead. I come back for my new table’s order and see that their glasses are missing roughly four sips of water. This simply won’t do! I hang their ticket and come back to fill their glasses. I look at 0%’s empty glasses, look the guy straight in the eye, smile, and walk away. He stops me as I’m walking over with apps for my new table and asks for boxes. I tell him I’ll grab them right after I drop off this food.
I play a game of 2048 all the way up to 1024 before bringing them one small box. They ask for two bigger boxes and the check. I promise I’ll be right back, and then ask my boss to keep an eye on the table I like while I go smoke again (obviously, I don’t usually take this many smoke breaks, especially not this early into a shift). I come back and my boss tells me they came to her for boxes and to pay and told her they’re never coming back. She voids their check, gives me the $20 some dollars, and tells me I earned it.”
The Arnold Palmer Fiasco
“Okay, this is a crazy story all around.
I used to work at Cracker Barrel and one day our managers decided to run a server contest. They would do this all the time and normally it was with something like carrot cake for example. This time, the manager wanted us to see who could sell the most ‘Arnold Palmers’ (half iced tea, half lemonade).
Now don’t get me wrong, Arnold Palmers are delicious and everything, but there’s something insanely awkward about asking a person, ‘Can I start you off with something to drink? How about a nice refreshing Arnold Palmer?’
Nevertheless, I wanted the free meal that was the contest prize so I asked every table I had that day. Most tables gave me a weird look, many of them asked me what it was, and a couple actually ordered one. There was one guy with his family, however, who asked me what an Arnold Palmer was and I told him (this is important) HALF-LEMONADE/HALF ICED TEA. So he orders one for himself and his kid says he wants one too. Sweet, two Arnies coming right up!
Fast-Forward to the end of the meal and the guy calls me over and tells me, ‘Where is the Jack Daniels? You didn’t put any in my drink!’ I said, ‘Ummm, we don’t serve that at Cracker Barrel, and that isn’t in a traditional Arnold Palmer.’ ‘You told me there was Jack Daniels in one, why else would I have ordered it?’
I responded again that no, I didn’t say that as it doesn’t come with Jack Daniels and we don’t serve that at Cracker Barrel! He keeps arguing with me, and eventually I say, sir, you knew there was no Jack because you ordered one for your child, thinking this bit of logic would help him come to his senses.
At this, he stands up and yells at me, ‘Don’t tell me how to raise my child!!’ flips his empty plate onto the ground in protest and tells his family, ‘We’re LEAVING!!’ and they walked out on the check after they had pretty much eaten everything on the table.
Needless to say, it was a very confusing shift”
She Still Has The Scar
“A man comes in alone, looked to be in his late 50s or early 60s, and snaps at me to get my attention. Before I can speak he says,
‘Coke. With a lemon wedge.’
We were a tiny little cafe without a machine so we didn’t serve soda. I told him so, and he said,
‘I don’t think you heard me. I want a Coke with a lemon wedge.’
I was pretty confused because I made it pretty clear we didn’t have Coke. It turns out, he actually wanted me to walk next door, buy him a coke, and then bring it in and serve it to him. I told him as politely as I could that this was absolutely not happening, and he picked up the China tea cups we put at each place setting and threw it on the ground, shattering it and cutting open my ankle just a bit.
The whole cafe went very quiet, and I just kind of stood there looking at the mess of broken china. These were beautiful, rare cups that were all but impossible to replace, and I just didn’t know what to do being an 18-year-old facing up against an aggressive older man.
Fortunately, just literally a few seconds after the china hit the floor, a man got up from his table across the cafe and walked over. He then reached into his back pocket and showed the man his police badge, because he was an off-duty cop. China throwing guy did not get his coke with a lemon wedge or any food, but he did get arrested and a ticket for making threats and breaking public property.
The fun part?
‘I JUST WANTED A COKE! IF THIS LITTLE GIRL KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT SERVICE I WOULDN’T HAVE HAD TO SET HER STRAIGHT.’
I learned later he was the town looney who had actually done something like this in several other locations in town. I still have the scar from the piece of China that cut my ankle.”
Entitlement And A Frappuccino Problem
“I was able to do this once in god knows how many years of retail service.
I was working in a coffee shop and we had a regular who was insufferable. She was your average white suburban stay-at-home mom with a massive entitlement problem. Funny thing about MOM was that all her kids were in school for 7-8 hours a day and she spent her time shopping, going to the gym, and getting lattes and our frappuccino knockoffs.
Our biggest problem with her is that no matter what you made for her, YOU messed it up and it tasted terrible. She’s had this drink a hundred times before and knows exactly how it’s supposed to taste, so you’ve done something wrong. MOM would bring the drink back, complain, and want a refund and a new drink. Depending on who was working, she’d either get one or both of those things.
I got stuck working the afternoon shifts for about a month or so and I noticed she came in 3-4 times a week, right around 2 o’clock. And the same routine occurred every time, no matter which employee helped her. After 3 weeks of watching this petulant woman pull her ‘customer is always right’ crap, I decided we were done with this.
I waited for a day when I was on shift with one of the newer employees and no managers were in the building. She comes in and orders a mocha frappuccino. I make it with painstaking accuracy, measuring out each ingredient precisely and in full view. Swirl the whipped cream beautifully, drizzle the chocolate, put a lid on and serve. This smoothie thing looked gorgeous, it could have been used in a print ad it was so appealing. I serve it and wait.
Sure enough, two minutes later she comes back to the counter complaining that it isn’t as sweet as it normally is and she wants her money back and a new coffee blended candy bar. I flat out told her no, she’s not getting either. She was speechless for a minute, I’m guessing because no one’s ever called her out on her scam before, and then she demanded to speak to the manager.
I lied, said I was the manager, and that she wasn’t welcome at this store anymore. I’d seen her do this multiple times over the past few weeks and we weren’t going to be giving in to her little con game she was running. MOM was ticked. She grabbed her frappe back and stormed out of the store.
She called the store manager the next day and complained. He was pretty ticked at me. I saved my job by sitting down with him and showing him how much money and the free product she had scammed out of us in the last month. He wasn’t happy with what I did, but he couldn’t deny that this woman was definitely just getting free stuff by ceaselessly complaining.
I got to keep my job and she never came back so I still call it a win.”
“I was a busboy the entire time I was in high school. We had this family that would come in, dude and his wife, their two small kids.
They seemed like the most ordinary family. But they were like Vishnu, the destroyers of tables.
They always left a freaking disaster. Fries everywhere, food and stuff all over the floor.
I sat and watched as one of the kids put the salt and pepper shakers into a glass of milk, and then watched the dad be like, ‘Hey can junior have a new milk, he had a little accident.’
THEY WERE BOTH SUBMERGED IN MILK. Fries everywhere. Crumbs everywhere. 1% of the food had been consumed. They screamed the entire time to zero reaction from the parents. It was chaos for the entire hour they were there, every time.
I had to clean this up probably a dozen times before the hostess asked them not to come back.
Yeah, they threw a freaking fit. Didn’t come back though
The Denny’s Regular
“I worked midnights at a college-town Denny’s for over a year and for the most part it was one of the better experiences of my life. There were some interesting moments, to be sure. I was usually the only male on staff, which meant that I would volunteer to serve any of the more slimy or gropetastic customers. Somebody was going to get a crappy tip, either way, I figured no one deserved to have their night ruined as well, at least on my watch.
At the time, one of our more notorious customers was an old guy named Ollie. You could tell that Ollies was a sad tale. You could also tell it was entirely his fault. He was like if Santa Claus had a charming brother and some terrible beast had chewed him up and digested all of the charisma leaving a bitter unlikable shell that thought it was entertaining. He wore the same crappy red tee shirt and a baseball cap that had the eyes of the Tazmanian Devil emblazoned on the front, to perhaps hypnotize wasted people like some horrible white-trash Cobra.
He often talked about how his wife hit him with a bat.
When I first met him I was sympathetic. The ladies simply asked if I would cover him, he just needed coffee refills. No one shared anything about him besides the fact that he was a coffee-sipping lunk and with that off-white soup-stained beard I didn’t expect a tip going in. All night he kept putting a lit smoke on the bar, standing on its butt (you could smoke in Denny’s at the time) and telling female passersby that ‘He-is Raockit Shi-ip wus abut to BLASHT OFF.’
There was a period in which he had a single razor-wide strip of his beard shaved off of his left cheek. No one wanted to know why.
As the months went on, I became aware that he had been grabbing the ladies. Or worse. I caught him blocking someone in the bathroom once. Not physically barring the door, but being too creepy and getting too close. It wasn’t immediately obvious, mind you. He backed off when I got there and the look on the ladies face as she escaped the bathroom told me the rest of the story. Had she fessed up about what happened I would’ve booted that creepy dude immediately, but she left as soon as she could (and I don’t blame her).
Then came the fateful night where he ordered food. I knew he didn’t have the money to order from us, he’s never ordered from us. Had he not been a creeper, I would’ve just paid for his meal and called it a reverse tip. But this was all I needed. He finished his meal, I delivered the bill and he told me he couldn’t pay. I made sure to say it loud enough for all the ladies of Denny’s to hear: ‘Alright Ollie, get out. And you can’t come back.’
He shuffled out and they all swarmed over to learn what had happened. It was true, Ollie was 86ed. None of the ladies could ever prove that he grabbed them, but we could conclusively prove that I was stiffed. They cheered as one voice. It was almost as glorious as when he tried to come back the next night. The lady who had endured his hands more than any other was working that evening and came to me doe-eyed to thank me personally. When Ollie inevitably lumbered up to the door she ran to intercept at full speed and held it shut with all of her might screaming at him that he could never come back.
One of the happy endings I was able to supply in my life, I’ll never forget it”
The Last Table
“I work in the nicest restaurant in a terrible military town, so we host patrons from a wide swath of different demographics from multi-star generals to just-married 18-year-old servicemembers to lifelong community members and business owners.
The other night we had a wedding reception in one room and a few private tables in the bar area. At 7 pm a 4-top sat down, and I served them dinner and two bottles of Merlot. At 8:45, the big party was all leaving, and a guy at the 4-top said to me, ‘What time do you close?’ I told him that our posted close time was 10, but we typically closed up when the last table was finished (whether that was before or after 10).
He asked: ‘Are we the last table? ‘Cause we don’t want to be THAT table.’ I assured him that we had PLENTY to clean up after the wedding party, and not to worry at all. He looked at me intently and told me ‘this thing’ was all about ‘communication’ and gestured from his eyes to mine in the ‘I’m watching you’ signal from the movie Meet the Parents. ‘SO KEEP ME INFORMED, OKAY?’ I thought this was peculiar behavior, but whatever, sure.
At 9:20 they were finishing their 2nd bottle and had stopped picking at their desserts, so I dropped a check. I came back about 5 minutes later to collect the check, and he seemed sort of flustered but gave me a card. I ran it and returned, telling him that we had just about finished cleaning up the wedding party and otherwise closing up for the evening (that communication he had asked for, right?).
I asked him if they wanted me to box the food. He said yes, and when I brought it back, he asked for a manager, so I went and got the owner’s son from upstairs. Then all heck broke loose.
He told the manager that I had been extremely rude in asking them to leave and they were VERY, VERY angry about this. The manager reopened their table and comped some stuff, but that didn’t mollify him. They sat there until 10 pm, even asking us to turn on the NCAA game, then somehow convinced the manager to GIVE them a THIRD bottle, free.
At 10:40 pm, the manager finally told me to go home (I hadn’t spoken to the table since 9:30, since he had been dealing with them). Apparently, they stayed until 11:15, then went home and wrote us some crappy reviews about our terrible, rude service. Of course, on their $250 check, they left absolutely nothing (I work for $2.13/hour).
I am totally the last server to try to push customers out the door, too, a characteristic that routinely irritates my coworkers and managers. I’ll let people sit there for hours, checking in, getting more drinks, whatever, but this JERK ASKED me to tell him. It serves me right for trying to give a customer what he asks for rather than what I think is right (pretending like I want to stay all night, my usual MO).
Oh, and then we got to have an extra server meeting this week because of the dramatic increase in customer complaints, and I got yelled by the sommelier for the comped bottle, which I had nothing to do with. Forget some people.”
So, You Like Garlic?
“Every so often, this woman and her sister came into the pizza place where I worked at. They always started off the phone call with how much they loved our food, how fantastic the service was, etc etc but that we also never put enough garlic on the crust. And I’m talking like 5 minutes of buildup to just tell us she wants extra garlic.
So I tell her don’t worry, we’ll make sure to put extra garlic on the crust. They come in, get their food, and leave. No problem.
Except for 5 minutes later, they’re back. She starts grilling me on how there was almost no garlic on the pizza, I take a look at it, and there is considerably more garlic than normal on that cheese disc. Not only did she get a free pizza, but she kept the one she complained about! This happened a few more times, each time with more and more garlic. I’d have thought she was going vampire hunting but also wanted a snack. She got like 3 free pizzas total.
However, I remembered the name that came up whenever they ordered – it was a pretty unique name, but let’s just say ‘J.’ So, a month-ish later, I pick up the phone and see J on the Caller ID. I take their order, we go through the garlic spiel, the call ended.
Both I and my manager were fed up with this chick at this point. The garlic bottle needed to be refilled, but it still had enough garlic for maybe 6 pizzas. My manager says, ‘Hey, watch this’ and DUMPS the garlic on the entire pizza, not just the crust. It was an apocalypse of garlic. Lakes were forming on the cheese of the pizza, and the crust was stained a bright, sickening yellow-orange. It soaked through the box and stained the table underneath it. It was truly an unhealthy amount of garlic for anyone and had I seen it without context I would likely advise not eating it.
J showed up, opened up the box, and seeming satisfied, paid for her order and left. I was dumbfounded. I am seriously concerned with her wellbeing. She hasn’t been back since.”
The Biggest Fight Ever
“I used to work weekend third shift at a local diner chain. Every Friday and Saturday night was packed, even more so after the pizza place across the street lost their late-night license due to too many assaults and attempted murders.
So things are pretty awful normally, but one night one of my tables kept eyeing one of my coworkers. I didn’t think much of it because hammered people are hammered. However, it turns out these three were extremely homophobic and they decided to attack my gay coworker. They tried to jump the counter to get at him and it started a melee between us and the customers.
One cook ran out to block the way behind the counter because more customers came to join in. As one guy was jumping over the counter I shoved him but momentum kept his lower body going while his head hit the counter. This caused his girlfriend to yell at me to ‘get your hands off of my man!’ and she attacked me with her acrylic nails. I still have the scar on my arm. Next to me, another coworker grabbed a customer who had jumped the counter and was about to attack me and put him in a full nelson. Another cook, who probably barely broke 90 lbs, ran out of the kitchen with a hot frying pan in her hand to help.
All the while another woman was whacking the original coworker with her purse. He has a scar too and they broke his glasses. This all stopped because the police showed up, to answer a call we had placed about ANOTHER fight HALF AN HOUR earlier.
No one ended up being charged because they said my table and the other server had ‘exchanged fighting words.’ Bull.”
The Man Went Nuts Over A Spoon?
“Once, when I was working at this insanely popular breakfast joint, my first table of the morning was a seemingly adorable old couple. After going through our specials, at their request, she ordered the duck hash special, and he ordered two boring poached eggs on toast. All good.
I bring them their food and the guy starts freaking out. You see, I didn’t bring him a tablespoon for his eggs. Granted, he didn’t ask for one, but according to him, everyone knows that poached eggs are supposed to be served with a tablespoon. I’ve been a waitress for nearly a decade, and I’ve served a LOT of poached eggs, and I’ve never heard this rule.
Nonetheless, I apologize profusely and tell him I’ll go grab him a spoon. ‘No!’ he yells. ‘My breakfast is ruined now!’ and then, this grown adult throws his plate of food at me and storms out. His wife gives me a sympathetic smile as she slinks out behind him, and I work the next 8 hours with egg yolk stains all over me.”
The Hockey Star Sucks
“I used to work at a bar/restaurant that was inside a hockey arena. It was a cool place and the people who worked there were fantastic. However, the arena was home to a (now defunct) OHL hockey team. On the surface, it was pretty cool because one of the banquet rooms overlooked the ice, so when it was slow during games, staff could check out some of the action, and see a few guys who made it to the NHL.
But the players were freaking awful when they would come in after the games. Most of them were 18-20 at the time, they never had any money and they acted like they owned the place. One night, after a game, a player (best kid on the team, blue chip, top five NHL prospect) comes in, orders a pizza, eats, gets the bill, waits until I’m out of sight, leaves the book on the table and leaves. When I approach the table, I assume he’s left cash.
The little prick left me five promotional hockey cards that the team gave out that night. And one of them was the freaking mascot. I go tell the manager, and he says that I’m going to have to cover the $12 bucks for the pizza. I, a 24-year-old waiter, am irate at having to pay for a meal for a kid that is getting ready to sign a huge NHL contract, throw a huge hissy fit and eventually he agrees to void it. The guy is still playing in the NHL and is having a pretty solid career. I should have just paid for the pizza and had him sign his dumb card…”