I Have Been That Customer!

Posted on Saturday 15 April 2006

A friend who just started reading this blog, despaired at the descriptions of some of our guests. “I have been that customer, I know I have,” she admitted.

No, I don’t think so. Not THAT customer. I wouldn’t have friends–never will–who are THAT customer.

I have been out with acquaintances or former coworkers who behave badly to service staff of all sorts. They are THAT customer. An article published in yesterday’s USA Today covers the topic really well. Waiter from waiterrant.net was even mentioned in the piece!

But the truth is, we probably have all been a frustrated restaurant customer, at various times. And likely, we could have behaved better under some circumstances.

Even yours truly, Restaurant Gal, would like a do-over on one occassion about a year ago. True, I wasn’t working in this business then, but still.

At a VERY fine dining spot, where I had eaten before and had reservations again this particular evening, I asked the hostess to move us twice–in a not-so-nice tone the second time–because she kept seating my family of four at tables crammed next to large parties of 20 or more. (For some reason, no less than four very large parties were seated all over this restaurant.) It was a going-away-to-college dinner for my daughter, and we wanted to hear ourselves speak and not feel squished in next to the big groups. Eventually we worked it out, the waiter was wonderful, and we tipped accordingly. But, initially, I could have been nicer to the hostess about it.

The flip side of this is when fate sends that nasty attitude right back atcha.

My girlfriend and I were walking forever in our city one Saturday afternoon, when we saw a hand-written sign posted on the sidewalk outside a tiny, tiny Indonesian restaurant: “Best chicken rolls in town. 99 cents each. Take out only.”

How could we pass them up?

It was about 3 p.m., the eight or so tables were empty except for one deuce, and it was quieter than a tomb in there. My friend and I awkwardly stood in the doorway near a front table, waiting for someone to emerge from the back. Finally, a woman did.

“Yes?” she barked.

“Um, hi,” I smiled. “We saw your sign. We’d love to try the chicken rolls.”

“How many?” she frowned.

“Two, please!” pipes up my friend in a nervous, too-cheery voice. Because it’s true, this lady was intimidating the hell out of us.

“Two minutes. You sit.” She gestured to the deuce closest to the bar at the back of the restaurant. We didn’t hesitate; we sat.

We sat in complete silence, because the only other guests in the place were quietly eating, saying nothing. We felt like we’d have to whisper if we dared to talk.

A moment later this same proprietor came out, glared at us, and walked back into the kitchen. When she returned, she was carrying a hand-written sign, folded to stay propped up, which read–RESERVED. She set it none too gently down on our table.

You know those moments when you start laughing at the most inappropriate times and you absolutely cannot stop, and soon you are sputtering and shaking and practically crying from trying so hard not to laugh?

My friend and I both had that moment right then. And of course, we scampered out of the seats of the “reserved” table and huddled against the back wall next to the service bar to wait for our chicken rolls.

Finally, we were handed the order we weren’t sure we even wanted anymore, and pretty much ran out the front door so we could properly collapse on the sidewalk in hysterical laughter.

At unexpected times–say, when I am riding the subway to work–I remember that incident and start laughing all over again.

As for the chicken rolls, they had a nice, unique taste, although I might have suggested less steamed greens and tad more chicken. I’d order one again.

Wait. No. I can never go back there. She’ll yell at me!

Too funny.

7 Comments for 'I Have Been That Customer!'

  1.  
    April 16, 2006 | 4:54 am
     

    hahaha…too funny.

    Maybe you came across one of those gimmic’y restaurants and didn’t know it. You know, like the one in Boston, where they are purposely rude to you, and people eat it up and keep going back for more abuse. It’s always full.

  2.  
    April 17, 2006 | 5:14 pm
     

    Sounds like you found the Chicken Roll Nazi!

  3.  
    Former Hostess
    April 17, 2006 | 5:24 pm
     

    An almost-completely empty restaurant, and the one table you choose is the one table that is, uh, “reserved.” too much!

  4.  
    Sue
    April 18, 2006 | 9:59 am
     

    I am not that customer, but my boyfriend is! He has some psychological problem that does not allow him to decide on what to eat until the waiter is standing there watching him read the menu. I mean, we can get seated and have menus forever, but he WILL NOT decide until he makes the server stand there for at least a couple minutes.
    It is baffling. I have tried to head it off with the “What are you going to have?” conversation before the waiter comes back, or by sending the waiter away and saying “It’s going to be a couple minutes,” but no. He will LOOK like he has decided and then when the waiter comes back, he begins to peruse the menu all over again as the waiter stands there, steaming.
    It must be a control thing. It is just so weird.

  5.  
    May 5, 2006 | 12:59 pm
     

    There are those people working in customer service, whose job it is to HELP you, who act as though your very presence is an inconvenience, if not an insult. Chicken Roll people seem to fit that category.

    Whenever I encounter folks like that, I handle it like this. I walk up, they snap something at me in an unfriendly tone; I guess they call that a greeting. I pause for a beat, looking them in the eye, then I smile and say “Good morning/afternoon/evening (whatever the time of day)!”. 9 times out of ten they realize that they were rude just then and they smile back, and start over.

    The tenth time they just get more irritated, in which I just state my case, get their name, and call their boss (being nice abou tit). That almost always nails it. If it doesn’t, I just don’t go back there. Why reward deliberate rudeness?

    Conversely, when they do a good job and I feel taken care of, I make a point of telling the boss that too.

    Love your blog, RG. Rock the house!

  6.  
    Amy
    May 9, 2006 | 2:58 am
     

    I had a funny incident at a pizza restaurant in Austria that I laugh at even today when I recall it.
    My step-sister and I were eating dinner and we each orderd our pizzas and drinks. The waiter brought out the drinks with two hand-made coasters that the owner’s wife probably knitted. He set the coasters down on the table carefully, and placed our cold drinks on top of them.
    My sis and I were chatting, and drinking until the food came out fifteen minutes later. In expectation of a meal, my sister set her drink down, but not on the coaster.
    The waiter took one look at our table, and while balancing two pizzas, gingerly moved her glass from the table to the coaster, and then, only then, set our food down. We were trying not to bust up right there, but we managed to wait until he was out of sight.

  7.  
    Carlos
    March 23, 2007 | 9:15 am
     

    AMY and thats funny because??

    Freak! Simple things please simple minds

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