Service can make or break a restaurant experience. Everyone has experienced bad service from time to time. Usually, that just means the food takes a little too long or the server seems like they're having an off day. Occasionally though, something happens that really shocks the customer. From servers arguing with them to being accused of theft, some bad service is just ridiculous.
Here are the best stories about times people got ridiculously bad service in a restaurant. Content has been edited for clarity.
The Nutty Waitress
“Some friends were visiting me in Europe and I wanted to make a good impression, so I took them to a beautiful lakefront grill. I was the only one who spoke French so I made an effort to be jovial and witty with the waitress in order to show off as much as possible.
From the get-go, the waitress was combative. There was no way she was going to be ok with our presence. We made simple orders and I translated. She refused to understand. I’m talking, ‘I’ll have the number 2’ level French. There’s no way she didn’t understand, she was just making trouble.
My friends didn’t understand and didn’t get why the waitress was upset. After a few minutes of the waitress wailing on about how we aren’t making sense, I finally growled, ‘It’s not that difficult!’ and I smacked the table.
Unfortunately, the table was a light metal and the mighty clang that rang out was not in any way representative of the force I put into it. But that’s exactly what the waitress wanted. She cried, ‘I won’t put up with this,’ and ran off to her manager. I could see her waving her arms and screaming about us.
I told my friends, red-faced, that we may have to go elsewhere. I then calmly got up and approached the manager and waitress and said in French, ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve never been treated so poorly by a waitress, who clearly just wants to fight. We’ll be going.’
The manager looked at me and said, ‘You speak English?’
Already rattled, I responded, ‘I can speak French.’
He said, ‘But you speak English.’ I could not tell what he was getting at, but I was thinking it was leading to French anglophone insult. He said in English, ‘I’m going to speak to you in English.’ The waitress was still standing next to us, I was ready for it now.
‘She’s crazy,’ the manager said, ‘I’m not joking. Like really crazy.’ The waitress didn’t blink and I realized he switched to English because she couldn’t understand a word! ‘But I can’t fire her because she’s family, so please let me serve you personally and I’ll make sure everything goes better.’
Immensely relieved, I sat back down and relayed the story to my friends while out of the corner of my eye, I could see the manager yelling at the waitress.
The meal went amazingly. The manager came by every few minutes and apologized superfluously. He ended by saying, ‘She’s really a … How do you say in English? Jerk? Jerk!? Can you call a woman this?’
I didn’t impress my friends, but my faith in often dodgy European restaurant service was somewhat restored.”
You Want Cheese? You’ll Get Cheese!
“I went with a few friends to one of the few decent restaurants in our town. It’s some family-owned Italian place. We have gone there plenty of times with no issue. We ordered our food and had no issue with the waitress so far. We had not seen the crazy come out yet. It took a long time for our food, but eventually, it arrived. In stages. One of our friends let the server know she was given the wrong salad.
‘No, that’s the one you ordered,’ the waitress said.
My friend said, ‘No, it’s not. I specifically ordered Salad A because it has (insert dietary restriction here).’
The waitress responded with, ‘No, you are wrong.’
‘Uh, no? I know what I ordered.’
‘Well, let me get the menu for you,’ said the waitress. She left briefly, but long enough for us to look at each other with different levels of ‘What is going on?!’ Our server then returned, menu outstretched, and she began to read Salad A’s description very slowly. Then she got to the ingredient that was the whole point of said friend ordering Salad A. There was this flash of insane anger in her eyes, followed by the most thinly veiled restraint of anger ever. ‘Well. Then. I’ll go get your salad for you,’ she said.
She stiffly marched off to the kitchen. At this point, we were all shocked and angry, but kind of curious to see where this would go. About 15 minutes later (this is a salad, mind you), our waitress returned with the salad. It had no cheese, which was the other reason my friend wanted to eat it. So she called out the waitress again and told her there’s no cheese on the salad. The waitresses eyes bugged out, and she said, ‘I. WILL. GET. THE CHEESE.’
We were just, incredulous is not the word. At this point, no one was really eating because we were just thinking we were on Candid Camera. What the heck was this woman’s deal?
She returned, and said, ‘Okay, say when.’ Then she began to just grate the cheese like crazy.
My friend said, ‘Okay, you can stop now.’
The waitress said, ‘No. You wanted cheese. You’re gonna get cheese.’ At this point, basically, the whole salad has disappeared in this cheese mound. We got up, left no tip, and asked for the manager at the host stand. The hostess said the manager was busy at the moment, so we just said forget it. My wife left her phone number.
She later made a post about her experience on the local news website. It went viral within the community. The manager contacted us privately, gave us two $50 gift cards, and the unhinged waitress was fired.”
When Proving A Point Is Better Than The Meal Itself
“This happened when my social group was 16-17 and I’m 37 now.
To celebrate our freedom, we liked to drive outside the city to see the hill country and dine at the small town local places. We heard of a little French bistro an hour away, so we made the trip. It turned out there were only a dozen or so tables. Although we had no reservation, we got seated as only three or four other tables were occupied. Our waitress came out and got the drink orders. She returned with the drinks and took our meal order. We got our breadsticks, then another batch 15 minutes later.
The waitress came out to pick up all the baskets and cleaned up the little plates. Then she returned with the bill. We laughed a bit, said a mistake was made – we haven’t even eaten yet. She argued that we did, that she even just cleaned up our plates and silverware. We argued about it. She went and got the manager who came out to confront us about trying to get out of paying our bill. Nobody was sitting near us, and when asked, they said they weren’t paying attention to us, but we started getting ugly looks like we did eat and refuse to pay.
He gave us the ultimatum to pay up now or the police would be involved. We said we’re not paying for food we haven’t received. The police officer arrived and heard both sides of the story. The manager and waitress were going off how we were lying. My friend then stood up and said he had it handled.
He asked the waitress what he ordered. She picked up the bill, flipped it, and told him. It was a baked pasta dish with sausage. He confirmed that’s what he ordered. He asked the manager if the chef wanted to come out and confirm that he cooked it. It turned out the manager was also the cook and said he cooked it. He asked her if she did bring it out and serve it, she said yes. He asked if she threw away food away from the plates she picked up. She said no they were all cleaned up, as we ate all the food. He asked the officer if he would please step outside for a minute and he would prove they are lying.
Less than five minutes later, the cop walked back in. He said to the rest of us at the table that we were free to go, and told the manager/waitress they made a mistake. They tried to object. The cop bluntly told them that the only thing the kid threw up was breadsticks, and if they want to go out by the bushes and check for themselves, they were welcome to it. That’s right, our friend Craig puked into the bushes to prove he had only eaten breadsticks.
Everyone in our group had our eyes wide open and the manager and waitress were too stunned to reply.
We didn’t argue, we got up and left, and hit the first drive-thru on the way home as Craig was twice as hungry as the rest of us since he didn’t get to digest his breadsticks.”
Gift Card Conundrum
“I went to Applebees with my ex-boyfriend to use a $50 gift card I got for Christmas. The total of our meal ended up being $25, so I left a $5 tip and we left. A week later, we decide to go to Applebees again and use the rest of the gift card, which should have had $20 left on it.
Well, it turns out the waitress we had the first time changed the receipt and gave herself a $25 tip, draining the rest of the money on my gift card. I complained (and I honestly never complain at restaurants) and the manager gave me a $20 gift certificate, but didn’t do anything about the waitress.”
She Was Just Trying To Help
“I was 11 or 12 eating lunch at a place called the Egg Platter with my grandpa. Our waitress was old, but seemed friendly and was quick about getting us refills and putting in our order. I ordered a double-decker club sandwich and we had our food within 15 minutes of walking in. So far, so good. Until she brought my sandwich out at least. I could see her carrying it over from across the room and my chubby little eyes lit up. When she got to our table, though, she did the unthinkable.
She explained to me that this was a large sandwich and that I needed to grip it firmly so that it didn’t fall apart. She then demonstrated by picking up my sandwich with her bare hands and taking a bite, then put it back on my plate. We ended up eating at the IHOP a few blocks away.”
A Ridiculous Request
“It was not a waiter that was rude to us, but a restaurant owner.
My then-boyfriend was looking for a place to take his parents for their respective 50th birthdays, which are close together so they usually just have one celebration. We’d been to this place before and loved it. Several other relatives were coming too, so we made a reservation for 12.
The trouble started early when we were seated at a table – actually several short tables thrown together – too cramped for our numbers. The tables were pushed so close to the wall that the larger men in the family all were forced to sit on the other side of the table, and even the smaller people felt cramped. If the place had only had this tightly packed front room in which to seat us, the poor seating would have been understandable, but the restaurant also had a back room large enough to accommodate us, as well as an outdoor area suitable for a party of our size.
What was merely an uncomfortable situation became obnoxious when, after about 15 minutes, the owner approached us and asked if we could all shift down a little so he could take one of the short tables and give it to someone else. Since we were already squished and had started eating the bread, enjoying our drinks, and using the place settings, my boyfriend’s father said a polite but firm, ‘No.’ The owner started arguing with us, even sitting himself down at the table (in a chair briefly vacated for a bathroom trip) to persuade us to move. He was getting pretty worked up. Eventually, he stalked away, muttering, ‘I just thought you could help me out.’
After that, my boyfriend’s aunt left the table to talk to the owner. She basically told him that we were there for a special occasion and would appreciate it if he didn’t speak rudely to the birthday boy. He wasn’t impressed. He told her that if she didn’t like it, we could all leave.
We probably should have taken his advice.
Our poor server tried mightily to salvage the evening, but his boss could be heard muttering things about us under his breath whenever he passed our table. On several occasions, he started in with members of our party about how we could sit more compactly if we would shift how we were sitting mid-meal.
Towards the end of the disaster that was dinner, the owner came over one last time and tried to make peace. He soothingly admitted to my boyfriend’s mother that we had all gotten off to a bad start and that he may have been at fault. But he could not end it like that. Within 30 seconds of his apology, he followed up with something to the effect of, ‘but if you had just squeezed a bit tighter like I asked you to, we all would have been much happier.’
When it came time for dessert, my boyfriend asked the server if it would be possible for his parents’ desserts to have candles put in them, and if the rest of us could order dessert, too. The server was midway through taking our dessert orders when the owner pulled him away, shaking his head vigorously. The owner came back to tell us that there were simply too many people waiting for tables and he couldn’t serve us dessert.
Furious, we paid and walked out the door. Performing for the group of people waiting to be seated, the owner called after us in a saccharine voice, ‘Have a wonderful evening,’ to which my boyfriend’s father replied, ‘We’ll never have one here again.’
The owner said, ‘Never come back to my restaurant!’ and slammed the door behind us.”
This Abomination Of A Restaurant
“We arrived in Savannah, Georgia, hungry as can be. We’d driven from Richmond, Virginia. We decided to drive all the way to Savannah to eat there instead of stopping at a McDonald’s along the way. This local restaurant had a nice patio area, but we decided to sit inside because it was hot. First mistake. We were sat next to three empty kegs and electrical wires coming out of the walls. There were open bottles on other tables with no one sitting at them. The stucco walls were a smoke-stained yellow. Hanging on the wall next to our table was a word document with a review of the restaurant that sounded like it was written by a 9-year-old. It was a paragraph long talking about how great their spaghetti sauce tasted. We opened the menu and it had over 200 items on it.
I ordered an adult beverage and my wife ordered a different kind. When her order came, we noticed there was something floating in it, and my bottle of drink tasted extremely stale. We asked the waiter for any recommendations, and he laughed and said, ‘I would get nothing on this menu.’ After an uncomfortably long pause in which we thought he must have been joking (but looking back he must have been trying to communicate for us to get out of there), he suggested the stuffed shells. I ordered a crab soup because I was ravenously hungry. I forget what entrees we ordered. We never got that far. The crab soup came out and it was chicken broth with parsley in it. There was nothing else in the soup. I laughed, as did my wife as I ate two spoonfuls of the chicken water. My wife insisted that we leave. Part of me wanted to stay to see how this could end up getting worse for our entertainment, but we left a $20 on the table for the drinks and horrible soup and figured the waiter could just keep the rest for trying to warn us. I frequently check Yelp and TripAdvisor to read other guests comments about this abomination of a restaurant.”
Her Sob Story Didn’t Help Her Tips
“A restaurant in our town reopened with a new owner. Under the previous owner, the food was fine but the waitress was the worst I have ever seen.
So we sat down at our table with five people and some minutes later, the horrible old waitress greeted us. We started rolling our eyes but decided to stay. ‘How bad can it possibly be?’
So we ordered our drinks and she brought them after about 10 minutes. She got two drinks wrong. We went ahead and told the horrible waitress that the drinks were wrong. She took them away and came back after five minutes. She told us that we were wrong and that she tasted the drinks.
We proceeded with our meal and ordered the food. After some time, she brought the food. One meal was not what we ordered so she took it away again. The rest of us started eating and by the time the correct food was at our table, the rest of the group had already finished eating.
If you think that was the bad part you are wrong.
We told her that we wanted to pay. She came to our table, sat down and told us that something with the cash machine went wrong and that she had to make the bill herself. So she sat there with the menu and asked us what we had. She flipped through the menu to get the correct prices. While doing that, she started crying and told us that she wasn’t used to all the new prices. She really sat at our table crying and complained about her job. Needless to say, she got no tip from anyone. In Germany, you only give a tip for good service.
This was last summer. The restaurant is closed by now. Sadly, the food was quite nice.”
“I was with two friends at a restaurant in Rutland, Vermont. We had a decent meal and when the check came, they paid me their share in cash and I put the total, which a bit over $100, on my card. There was about $10 on the table while we were figuring out who owed what. That’s when the server came over, picked it up, and said, ‘Uhh guys, tipping starts at 15% and goes up from there, did you not know that?’
I took the money out of his hands and explained I was putting his tip on the card. It didn’t upset me at first, but it grated on me over the next few minutes. In the end, he cost himself a generous tip for his rudeness. He got his few bucks but would have gotten considerably more had he not been a total jerk.”
“I was 8 or 9 years old on vacation with my family in a beach vacation town. Our entire crew went to a restaurant. It was eight kids ages 6 -16 in age and 10 parents. We sat at a big table. We had no problem waiting for it. The orders were taken, no problem. The drinks and appetizers came out, no problem. The waiter continually asked, ‘Can I fill that drink for you?’ to the kid’s side of the table. The parents eventually noticed the kids were getting refills on soda, but we were on vacation, sure, let the kids drink a bit of soda. Sometimes the glass wasn’t empty, but the waiter was filling it.
We found out when the bill came that they charged $3 for every refill. The drink bill was over $150. There was maybe 1-2 adult drinks, my family was not drinkers. I never saw my dad lose it on a restaurant manager until that point. We’ve been to many places that would mention that the refills were not free, that’s fine. This place seemed to make it seem like they were free when they were not.”
The Waitress Took This So Far
“For starters, I’m 5-feet-9-inches. Trust me, this is relevant.
The steak was undercooked. I enjoy a good rare steak as much as anyone, but the inside wasn’t cool and red, it was cold and purple. I sent it back twice. When it came out the third time still undercooked, I told her to forget it, I was done.
Everyone else was done eating, and I was filled up on bread at that point. She keeps harassing me, telling me what a fine steak it was and just to tell them how I wanted it cooked. When I told her I wasn’t interested, she got rude. She told me she was cutting me off, I’d only had two drinks. I finally told her, ‘Please just leave me alone, I’m done talking to you.’
She came back five minutes later and said something like, ‘You’re stuck with me, this is my table.’ A few minutes more and that’s when she said, ‘Do you want me to get the chef out here? He’s 6-feet-3-inches.’
I said, ‘Why does his height matter? Is he going to kick my butt and force the steak down my throat?’
At that point, she tried to walk away, but I was beyond angry, so I stood up and said, ‘Yeah, get his butt out here, and I’ll explain to him how to cook a steak.’ She left and didn’t come back. The chef didn’t come out either. The manager came over, apologized profusely, offered to get me a new steak, and card for a free meal but I had no intention of ever going back there to eat.
Without a doubt, that was the worst experience I’ve ever had at a restaurant. I always treat wait staff very nicely and I tip well. I’ve done their job I know how much it sometimes sucks, so I can easily forgive a waitress that is in a bad mood or not very friendly. Her reaction though, to a valid complaint, was way over the line.”
There Are Much Better Ways To Spend $500
“Last fall, my wife and I went on a European vacation. I’m a big cooking and food guy and will splurge on a fancy meal about once a year. I’ve been to several Michelin starred restaurants and have never walked away disappointed. When you expect to spend $500 on a meal for two, you should never be disappointed.
We went for afternoon tea. First of all, we had to wait in a small hallway for a table. This, by itself, is pretty unacceptable. We showed up precisely at our reservation time. After about 15 minutes, we were told it would still be a little longer and were asked to wait at a table in the other dining room. The tables were tightly packed and I had to essentially shove my butt in a few diners’ faces to take my seat. I guess that’s part of the haute cuisine experience? We waited about 30 minutes before were summoned. During that time, we were not offered a glass of water, let alone an adult beverage or something.
After we arrived at our table, we waited another 30 minutes for a server. The room was pretty tightly packed and pretty much everyone there was just taking selfies. Service remained slow the entire time. For afternoon tea, you get a platter of finger sandwiches and a platter of desserts. Everyone gets the same thing, it’s not like they even had to take orders. The whole ordeal lasted about three hours.
When I received the check, I was eager to get out of there. I decided to time how long it would take by the time we received the check until we left… 45 minutes. It took 45 minutes for them to take my payment after we had already been sitting around, obviously bored and having been made to wait the entire time. I actually left a little hungry since the time between lunch and when I left was so long.
No apologies, no nothing. Just a $500 tab and a ‘See you later!’ Completely unacceptable. The decor is great; I guess that’s enough to get 2 Michelin stars?
The food was ok. I mean, it was finger sandwiches. I guess they were the best finger sandwiches I’ve had. The desserts weren’t anything to write home about. They were great, but I’ve had a lot better.”