Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got the classic: horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad restaurant customers. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
A year or so ago, I was working a closing shift at popular restaurant which never had the highest quality of patrons to begin with, but this night really took the cake. It was late night and five minutes til close, and the place was mostly dead, with just one or two regulars finishing their drinks at the bar. It was just me, the other closer, and the bartender on the floor and all of us had basically closed up shop, putting chairs on tables, sweeping the floors, etc. I was in the back breaking down the soda machine when I heard the commotion at the door and looked up to see an entire minor league soccer team descending onto the hostess stand like a swarm of evil locusts. Since the hostess had gone home hours ago, I walked to the front, getting ready to offer my apologies that we were no longer serving.
I got to the front and one of the coaches stepped up to explain they’d just finished a game with the local minor league team and they just wanted to get some drinks. I explained that I was so sorry, but we were closing in five minutes, the bar called last call 10 minutes ago, etc. etc., but they were having none of it. First I got an earful about how early places closed around here (it was almost midnight and we were more restaurant than bar, but fine, whatever), and how ridiculous that we’d turn away this much business, etc.
By this point, my manager had emerged from the back and called me back to the service station to explain what was going on. After explaining the situation, dollar signs went off in his eyes and he told me to tell them we could serve them one drink each. I was annoyed, but figured, fine — the other girl could go home and I’d stay the extra 20 minutes and make a few extra dollars. I relayed this info back to the coach and the chaos began.
The 20 or so players blocking the door began taking down every chair in sight and moving all of the tables around, which cleared the path for an additional 20 that were standing out of view in the foyer and on the sidewalk. The coach offered to “make things easy” for me and just ordered everyone a Heineken draft. I punched the order in, rolled my eyes at the bartender (who I’d promised half the tip for staying open with me) and we got to work ferrying out beers to the group as quickly as she could pour them. Of course, the group also requested lots of waters and spilled half of them, then asked for lots of napkins to clean up. Instead of the promised “15 minutes and we’ll go” they ended up staying something like 35 minutes before we started kicking them out, the whole time going above and beyond the typical restaurant patron to catcall, hit on us, try and grab us, and generally make us feel uncomfortable.
Finally, the coach signaled for the check, which I dropped and warily returned to the service station to wait to run the credit card. To my astonishment, the coach took out a book of free beer coupons… literally a stack of probably 100 of them, and started counting them off. At that point, I was out of patience and hustled over to ask if they were seriously asking us to comp 50 beers after keeping us open an extra 40 minutes to serve them. They sheepishly nodded yes, but told me ‘don’t worry, we’ll take care of you,’ so I went into the back to tell my manager what was going on. He took a look at one of the coupons, which apparently had no restrictions on them, and caved like the chickenshit he was. I came back out and the team was already filing out, laughing raucously, leaving a swath of sopping napkins and destruction in their wake for me to clean up. It took us 15 minutes to run all the coupons and close out the check, and then another 15 minutes to pour out all the gallons of beer because the majority of them only had a few sips.
Oh, and the tip they left for the bartender and I to split for the $200-something check? One crumpled $10 bill.
I used to be a barista at a coffee shop in a VERY ritzy town in New England, so, as to be expected, customers were regularly rude and bad tippers. I only worked there for a summer, but my worst one was this guy.
Made a to-go cup of regular brewed coffee, guy pays for it, puts money in the tip jar, and goes to the sweetening station. By this point I’d turned around to start cleaning the espresso machine for the end of the day.
Then the guy comes back to my counter and starts yelling at me that his coffee isn’t hot enough. I offered to steam it for him or make him another drink, which sends him off into a rage. He continues yelling at me, to the point where the customers sitting down are now watching us. I offered to give him a refund THREE times before he finally screams, “I WANT MY MONEY BACK!”
I go to the back to grab my manager and explain the situation to her, then we see him on the security camera digging tips out of my tip jar!
My manager and I return to the front and she apologizes to him and starts inputting the information into the register for a refund. He yells at her that she’s taking too long and that if she needs help opening the register he can “break it open himself.”
My manager hands him the $3.50 back and he goes, “I paid with a ten dollar bill. I want the TEN back.” My manager then had to spend the next five minutes explaining to a fully grown man why she can’t give him ten dollars back for a drink that costs $3.50 before he finally left.
When I was in high school, I worked at a cafe in Chicago whose owner desperately wanted to create a “European vibe.” Because of this, in addition to piping in a French-Canadian radio station, all items worked out to whole dollar prices after tax, and there was no tip jar allowed. The owner was a jerk, but we were paid $10/hr when the minimum wage was something like $7.25 so while we of course wanted a tip jar, we didn’t make too much of a stink about it.
One day I’m working alone and it’s dead, as usual. A mom and her daughter come in after being seen at a hospital about a block away. The teenage daughter has both of her broken arms in casts and the mom proceeds to order about $20 worth of Belgian waffles, toppings, and drinks. She’s presumably trying to make up for the shitty situation by buying the place out, and I just stand there horrified, thinking about how this poor girl is going to go to the bathroom for the next 6 weeks.
It was an order-at-the-counter type of place and after they pay I tell them to go sit and I’ll bring everything out to them. I try to do everything I can to make the experience less horrible — I cut up the waffles and put the straw in the bottle of sparkling water and bring forks and lots of napkins, etc. I wasn’t doing it to be a saint or to get a tip, but they were the only customers and it felt like the least I could do for someone who probably was going to have to have her mom help her change her underwear in the immediate future.
They had a seemingly nice time and after a half hour or so they start getting up to go. I am up at the front probably making free samples or something and as they are heading out the mom has something in her hand and is sort of scanning the area near the register with a look on her face that I’d come to recognize as the “isn’t there a tip jar?” look. So as I start to say “I’m sorry, we don’t have a tip jar,” she just sticks her hand out and I reach forward to accept.
They walk out the door as I look down at a dime and two pennies in the palm of my hand. She tipped me less than 1%. I stood there for a full minute, honestly trying to figure out if she was trying to insult me or somehow I thought that 12 cents would just make my day. She went out of her way to dig out 12 cents from her purse (there were no coins in her change) and decided that was a good amount to “tip” me.
To this day I wish I knew what she was thinking.
Some time ago, I had a shitty job at this shitty fast food place that was essentially a glorified hot dog stand. I was the only woman working at the hot dog restaurant (insert dick joke here).
So one day, this very old white guy comes in, dressed in bike gear and wearing a big-ass “Vote for Trump” button. The old guy (who will henceforth be known as Asshole) orders a hot dog, butterflied with extra mustard and relish. Almost immediately, he starts arguing with the poor cashier about the sales tax, which is a negligibly tiny amount. After an argument where the cashier explains several times why it is required he pay the fucking sales tax, Asshole relents and forks over the approximately four fucking cents of sales tax, while moaning about how unfair it all is, and how greedy the restaurant is being.
Anyhow, I’m behind the line, prepping this idiot’s aberration of a hot dog, and this creep starts hovering over the counter like a vulture, because of course he’s determined to be as shitty as humanly possible. So Asshole starts making small talk and at the same time micromanaging me about how much fucking pickle relish I put on the hot dog. I’m being polite and answering his inane questions when suddenly he goes “are you happy?” I think to myself, no, I’m not happy, because I have to deal with you. But I just say, yeah, sure, I’m great. Then, Asshole grins his gummy grin and goes “then you should smile! Why aren’t you smiling? SMIIILE!” He leers over the counter at me and grins like he just delivered the greatest fucking idea the 21st century has ever seen.
I paste on a tense fucking grimace of a smile, all teeth, that probably makes me look like the most constipated person in the world. He beams, obviously thinking that he just brightened my fucking day with his incredibly brilliant and groundbreaking suggestion.
I finish his order as quickly as possible to get him the hell out, and afterwards, the staff convenes in the back and has a brief impromptu meeting about how much we fucking hate him. So that’s the story of the time a Trump supporter told me, a young immigrant woman, to smile. Even to me, it feels like a totally made-up bingo card of cliche shittiness, but that’s how it happened. And, of course, he came in the next week.
[Editor’s Note: I’ve seen a LOT of shitty customer stories while doing this series. This guy is in the running for the absolute worst. Be prepared.]
This one customer I used to have to deal with, Car Accident Man (aka “Mr. Tom”), still terrorizes local restaurants to this day. His entire M.O. would be to establish a rapport with the bar, where he would drink a bottle or so of white wine and tip generously, boasting that he was in a car accident and won a settlement for a large enough amount of money that he would “never have to work again.” At this point he would ask to speak to a manager to introduce himself and work his magic. He would promise them business, lots and lots of repeat business including private parties that he himself would host. This was enough to sucker most restaurant managers into kissing his ass. Once the hook was set, he would deliver his typewritten and printed list of demands.
Here they are, in all their insane glory:
- I insist on female waitresses(sic) only.
- They must be between the ages of 18 and 25 only.
- Brown or Blond hair, tied in a neat ponytail only.
- No excessive makeup. If I so request, she must wash her face before continuing to serve me.
- No glasses. Contacts are fine, but only natural colors.
- No other staff will speak to me during my meals, only my agreed upon waitress.
- If I am with a dining companion, she must only speak to me and present the check to only me. I will order for everyone I bring in, and this includes my private parties.
- I will be addressed as “Mr. Tom” and “Mr. Tom” only.
- I reserve the right to request a different waitress if I disapprove of anything listed above.
Just batshit insane. He would yell at other employees for trying to help his server by clearing dishes, refilling water/tea, etc…and he would come in 3-4 times a week, always at lunch and would always drink a bottle or more of white wine with his meal and leave drunk. He didn’t drive himself anymore after the accident, he had a driver, so the manager never cut him off. He would always find one girl he preferred at each restaurant and constantly call and ask for their specific schedule so he could plan his “visits.” The girls all hated waiting on him because he was misogynist and creepy, but he did tip well, so I was told.
He used to come into the restaurant I was bartending at, which is how I first met him, but as I left and started bartending at other places, he would just show up one day and the dance would begin anew.
We later found out that when he crossed the line and was told that his behavior would not be tolerated, at which point he would cause a big scene and declare that he would never do business there again, and move on to a new place. I had the pleasure of seeing him in three of the bar/restaurants I worked in, although I knew not to speak to him, because I was male (and he was abhorrent). The third place I worked I introduced him to our GM, who was female. Upon being presented with his “list of demands” she laughed in his face and asked him to leave. I then got to regale her with all of my other stories about Car Accident Tom.
Fast forward 10 years and I head out with my wife to get lunch at a new place by my work (in the town I used to live in) and lo and behold, there is Car Accident Man, sipping white wine and ogling his young brunette waitress. I asked the bartender how long he had been coming here, and she said four months, and he only comes in when that particular waitress works, isn’t that weird?
Sure is, pal. Sure is.
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu?Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.