If you've ever worked in the food industry, it's no secret that certain customers make some pretty out-there requests. Even though your mother taught you not to be a picky eater, it seems like a lot of folks out there have some very specific dietary habits. On top of that, the only person more likely to make you bend over backward than the customer is your boss.
Whether it's a customer who wants you to censor other patrons, or a manager who expects you to handle food while you're sick, the food industry has no shortage of loony people with loonier demands. Here are some of Reddit's craziest, most cringe-inducing stories about food industry workers and the absurd requests they were asked on the job.
Bosses Love To Manipulate The Young And Naive
“I was fifteen years old and working in fast food. I always opened with just me and the manager, and our fryers were ancient pieces of crap. They couldn’t turn on normally, and the owners were so cheap they refused to fix them.
I was expected to twist a paper towel into a knot, reach my hand under the machinery, and light the darn thing while somehow not getting burnt. The manager refused to do it, and I was a pushover at that age.
I ended up doing it and predictably burnt myself all up my forearm and got blisters on my thumb, then he refused to let me go home. That felt pretty unreasonable, if you ask me.”
What He Found In The Freezer Turned His Stomach
“I used to work in a restaurant that was above a golf shop. Across the street was a ski area (Bear Mountain, CA), and the guy that owned the restaurant where I worked also owned the seasonal snack bar/restaurant in the chalet at the bottom of the ski slope.
He had a big chest freezer in the chalet where he kept a bunch of meat, and one time some doofus turned off all the electricity (including the lines going to the freezer) when the ski slope shut down for the season. My boss didn’t discover it for almost two months.
He told me, ‘I have an unpleasant job for you to do, but you have to do it.’ When he lifted the lid on the freezer, the shock of how bad it smelled literally made me vomit right there on the floor. I could tell my boss was close to hurling as well, but he’d already been exposed to the horror once already, so he was prepared.
He told me to put it all in garbage bags and tote it out to the dumpster. He said that dealing with the smell and the slime was really nothing more than ‘mind over matter.’ I was 14 years old and living on my own. I needed that job, so I did it.”
Nobody Wants Their Butcher To Be Ill
“I worked in a grocery store meat department and had to clean up all the equipment in the back room. It was a lengthy job, but my boss insisted that I only needed 4 hours to do it. During that time, I also had to serve customers and package their meat and what not. Keep in mind I was the only person in the department for each of those shifts.
One day I had a pretty nasty cold with a mucusy coughing and a constantly running nose, so I hit him up a good 8 hours in advance (minimum is 4 hours prior to starting the shift) saying I couldn’t come in because it wouldn’t be hygienic. He said I needed to either find a person to cover me or come in.
There were only 2 other people at my position, and both said they were busy. I informed him of this, and he said, ‘Well, it looks like you need to come in then.’ I replied, ‘Fine, I’ll be sure to have a chat with the store manager before my shift.’ That set him straight, and he told me he would find someone.
It just ticked me off that managers think they can force our hand and that we won’t do anything about it, especially since I was 18 at the time. You better believe I’m taking that stuff to the big boss, especially when it involves germs and food.”
He Was Deeply Irked By Her Holier-Than-Thou Attitude
“I’m a bartender, and on Good Friday at 9 PM a lady had the nerve to ask me to tell another customer to quit swearing because it was Good Friday. I told her as nicely as I could that we’re all adults and that I simply wouldn’t feel ok with telling another paying customer to stop swearing.
My boss saw the conversation and me walking away while she had a sour expression on her face. He asked me what that was about so I told him. He actually had the gall to tell me that I needed to go tell the guy to watch his mouth.
Now, keep in mind, my boss was a cool guy so I could speak openly to him. He wasn’t the best bar manager; he was a banker before and got the job because he was the owner’s friend and just got tired of banking.
I responded to him like I wish I could’ve responded to her, which was something along the lines of, ‘If the sanctimonious witch is so worried about swearing on Good Friday, what the heck is she doing drinking in a sports bar? I will literally walk out of this job right now before I impose her will on another customer because of her beliefs.’ He replied, ‘Good point, eff her.'”
That Would Definitely Be Against Sanitation Procedures
“Years (and years) ago I day managed a deli. The owner was a staunch ‘coke for nighttime/Xanax for daytime’ believer and was usually pretty easy to deal with. One day I had to knock on the office door to tell him that the new girl being trained had sliced off the very tip of her finger while prepping lettuce for the bain-marie.
I told him what happened and that her ride to the hospital was already set up, so everything was taken care of. He looked at me with droopy lids and asked me how much lettuce she’d prepped when she messed up.
I replied that it was about 5 heads, and he told me to go through the bin, find her fingertip, remove it, and use the lettuce anyway. I smiled, assured him I would, and closed the door so he could go back to la la land. Yeah, no. I grabbed the nearest employee, asked her to toss the old lettuce out back in the dumpster, and prepped replacement lettuce myself. Dear lord, that memory still gives me the shivers.”
“She Was The Worst Narcissist I Have Ever Had The Displeasure Of Knowing”
“I used to work for a crazy lady who was trying to get a cooking show off the ground (it never happened). She also ‘ran’ a nonprofit that was supposed to get kids into cooking healthy. I say ‘ran’ because in the two years I worked for her, I never saw anyone do any kind of activity with the nonprofit. They sure did collect donations for it, though!
The worst thing she would make us do was beg for free crap. She made me hit up a large gourmet grocery for a donation to the nonprofit, which of course she was planning to use on the for-profit cooking show. They generously donated about $400 worth of any food in the store. She sent me to pick it up, and my instructions before I left were, ‘Ask for more, don’t leave until they give you extra. I’m going to call and find out if you asked, so you better not say you’re going to ask then not do it.’ I didn’t ask.
Then one time she got super into goat cheese, and during that phase we visited a local goat cheese farm I found online. The place was pretty cool, actually; the animals were treated really well, the cheese was delicious, and the owners were happy to get some publicity. So we all rolled up in our van with the camera dudes in tow and the owner gave us a tour of her lovely (and obviously extremely expensive) farm and cheese making facility. At the end of the tour, she was graciously letting us sample all of the different types of cheese they made.
Toward the end of the tasting, we started wrapping things up and the camera guys and I were all purchasing wedges of cheese to take home. My boss pointed at a wheel of her best blue cheese and said, ‘Can I have that?’ The lady was a little flustered and started to cut off a wedge. Then my boss said, ‘No, that. The whole thing. Can I have it?’
She just expected this hard-working woman to give up an entire wheel of her most expensive product. The lady kind of mumbled something about how her investors would shoot her if she gave away that much product. The entire drive back into town, my boss complained at length about how rude it was that she didn’t get the entire wheel of blue cheese. Then she tried to stiff our waitress when we stopped for lunch, but I was able to sneak behind her and leave some cash without her seeing. She was honestly the worst narcissist I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.”
His Job Wasn’t Worth It
“When I was 18, I worked parttime at UPS and parttime at Burger King, which was more of a way to eat for free every day than anything else. This was in 2000, so minimum wage was around $5 and I wasn’t making much more than that at Burger King.
I was working the drive-thru window one night when a visibly wasted couple came into the dining room and ordered some food. My manager was working the register and one other guy was there ‘cooking’ the food. The couple ordered a bunch of deep-fried stuff and we didn’t have enough chicken tenders on hold, so my manager told them it was going to be a couple minutes while the tenders and fries cook. They said no problem, and went to use the restroom.
The restrooms were down a hall and the doors faced each other, so we didn’t think anything of it when they went down the hall together. Then their order came up and they weren’t back yet, so we bagged it all up and left it under the heat lamps while we waited for them. 2 minutes turned into 5, and I was busy on the drive-thru window so I forgot about them.
An indeterminate amount of time went by, probably 15 minutes, maybe half an hour, and my manager asked me if I’d given them their food yet. I tell her no, because they never came back for their food after going to the bathroom. She went into the women’s room, didn’t see anyone, then opened the door to the men’s room…
I heard her dry-heave from my station at the window, a good 20 feet away. She came around the wall that separated the dining area from the work area and it looked like she’d seen a ghost or a dead body. I asked her what was wrong, and she just shook her head, telling me that she would take over the drive-thru window because I had to clean the bathroom.
I geared up with elbow-length gloves, goggles, dust mask, and slickers, not knowing what kind of terror was unleashed in that stall. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for what I saw in there. It looked like they hooked up a colostomy bag full of mostly-liquid feces and semi-chunky vomit to a paint-sprayer and blasted every single surface in there with the crappuke. The stall was caked, the door handle had poo smeared on it, and there was vomit in the sink, next to the sink, in the trash can, and next to the trash can. Freaking everywhere I looked, there was crap, puke, or both.
I didn’t even make it three steps into the room before my gag reflex reminded me that it existed. My eyes were watering, my stomach was doing somersaults, and I was choking back my own barrage of puke when it hit me: ‘Hey, eff this.’
‘Nope, not a chance, ‘I choked out through gasps of air. ‘Not a freaking chance I’m cleaning that up, call HAZMAT,’ I said, half-joking, not thinking my manager would actually expect me to clean that up. Boy, was I ever wrong.
‘Listen, if that bathroom isn’t clean by the end of your shift, then don’t bother coming ba-‘ She didn’t get to finish the sentence, because I’d already thrown my hat and shirt on the floor.
‘Sorry, Jill, but you don’t pay me nearly enough for this. I can find another crappy minimum-wage job tomorrow, so good luck with that debacle in there,’ and then just like the phantom crappukers, I was gone.”
He Tried To Do The Right Thing
“It was my first day working at a pub which had a bit of a reputation for serving underage kids. I asked what the deal was with that.
The manager just didn’t give a crap. He honestly said, ‘If it’s really busy and they aren’t bothering anyone, serve them. If it’s really dead and we need the business, serve them.’ The only time he wanted me to not serve them was when the regulars were in so we didn’t disrupt them.
I refused and would ID most people, and then people whose IDs I suspected were fake I wouldn’t serve. Then one night a girl, who was about 15, kept ordering lemonade all night. Little did I know that she snuck a flask in with her and was spiking her drinks. She was absolutely paralytic at the end of the night, so I had to call an ambulance. The manager attempted to completely throw me under the bus to the owner and tried to put the blame on me for the girl being hospitalized. I got sacked a few days later for something super trivial. I really hated that place.”
“He Literally Expected Me To Be In Two Places At Once”
“I used to work at a grocery chain as a courtesy/utility clerk. One day the vendor for 7UP and Dr. Pepper messed up stacking their pallets, so they all fell over, creating a nice pile of broken glass, sticky soda, and wet, messy cardboard.
My boss made me clean it all up and told me not to leave it for even for a second. I got it all cleaned up in about two hours, which wasn’t bad save for me nearly getting shanked by some large glass shards on the floor.
Where it became unreasonable was the very next day, I got called into the office and written up by the same boss. Why? I had failed to do floor inspections. He literally expected me to be able to be in two places at once.
I ended up contesting it with the union, but it stayed on my record and was eventually used to fire me one year later. Apparently, if you miss floor inspections three times in a year, they can fire you. That was never consistently enforced on anyone else, except for me.
I didn’t even bother trying to get my job back, and that store ended up closing a few months later. To top it all off, the union also wanted my remaining dues; like, my final paycheck was $100 and they wanted $50. Sorry guys, there’s just no way.”
He Nearly Faced His Greatest Fear In Life
“I worked at the deli in a grocery store and we had to empty the oil from the chicken fryers, but we didn’t have time to wait until they cooled down. So we had to drain VERY hot grease/oil into huge buckets and walk those buckets a few yards to the sink to dump them. Yes, we dumped grease and oil into a sink by the gallon. This place sucked.
Here’s the kicker: the floor was insanely slippery from spilled oil. My greatest fear in life is being horribly burned, and here I was transporting almost-boiling grease over basically a 4-yard ice rink.
Thank God the last bucket was almost all water. I took it up to the sink and dumped it, and when I did it splashed back up on me. The whole deli went dead silent for a second while everyone was looking at me, ready to go in to emergency mode in case I was burned. Luckily, as I said, it was mostly water.
I was really shaken up when I got home and told my brother this story, reminding him that getting burned is my biggest fear. After he showed me some very alarming videos online of restaurant workers who became burn victims, I decided that job was not for me.”
He Made A Despicably Offensive Comment To Her And Ended Up Paying The Price
“Back when I was waitressing I once called out sick with a raging UTI and bladder infection. The manager kept calling to get me to come back in, even though I had a doctor’s note and had ended up in the hospital with a fever. I said ‘NO’ one last time, and he said, ‘Well, that’s what you get for hooking up with your black boyfriend.’
SCREEEEECH ‘…what did you just say to me?’ FULL STOP. Then I calmly said, ‘I am reporting you to every single level of this corporate restaurant chain. You are an awful human being.’ Then I called the general manager, the district manager, the head of human resources, and finally the vice president of operations.
They asked me for a meeting the following day and I went. They apologized formally, asked if I had contacted a lawyer (I had not), and promised to make it up to me if I wanted to come back to work, which I didn’t. Then they gave me a $1,000 check for my ‘medical bills’ and a letter of reference, plus the guy got fired.”
No One’s Going To Go Above And Beyond For Minimum Wage
“It’s expected of us to challenge shoplifters at Asda (similar to Walmart in the UK). Getting a knife pulled on me to stop a guy with a pork joint or block of cheese? Nope, not doing that.
Also when the frozen delivery has stood untouched in a sweltering warehouse for 4 hours, the ice-cream liquid and the frozen chicken fully defrosted, I’m not going to deal with it. The deputy manager threw a hissy fit because I said no and she had to do it herself. Aside from the fact I was just about to go on my break after having been left on my own to run an entire department while she and the supervisors fooled around all morning, giving someone food poisoning and leaving myself open to lawsuits isn’t worth minimum wage.”
He Didn’t Understand That Student Workers Have Other Priorities
“My first part-time job was working in the cafe inside a department store. I was 16 years old at the time and my boss was utterly awful. He refused to let me leave work after I’d slipped a disc in my lower back and could barely move, and before that he used to repeatedly tell me to skip school to cover other employees’ shifts.
He also took a dislike to one of the other young girls who worked there and put her on constant pot washing duties for the duration of every 8-hour shift, instead of swapping her around onto other tasks as he did with everyone else. I think we were all too scared to stand up to him. The department store went into liquidation last year and all stores were closed down, so I like to think that’s some sort of retroactive karma.”
That’s Definitely Not His Job
“A manager once asked me to wrap my arm up in a trash bag and stick my hand into a toilet to try and unblock it. I was a waiter/barman taking food out to customers, so I highlighted this to him and he insisted that I do it.
I promptly told him to get lost and mentioned health and safety. He ended up doing it.
On a side note, he was fired two weeks later for making inappropriate comments to female staff members. He was a real jagoff.”
These Practices Were Definitely Not Legal
“In college, I worked at a fast food Mexican restaurant (not Taco Bell, a popular 24 hour one in Texas). We were required to show up ten minutes early, start work, then clock in when our shift started. We got yelled at if we forgot to clock in on time.
In addition, I was the only employee who couldn’t speak Spanish and there were three who couldn’t speak English, so I was told that to keep my job I needed to learn Spanish. Not a bad idea for personal growth, but seemed like a big undertaking for a job that paid $3.35/hr. Luckily I soon found another job that paid $4.65/hr, so I started living the high life.”
The Boss Had A Totally Unrealistic Drive-Thru Goal
“When I worked at a fast food place, my boss wanted us to get customers through the drive-thru in under a minute.
Customers did not want to get through the drive-thru in under a minute. They wanted to look in their bags, make sure all the food was in there, unwrap the straw and put it in their cup, put the cup in the cupholder, make sure their bag of food was settled securely, put their wallet away, check their phone, and then drive away. It’s just poor customer service to try and rush them through the line.”