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 more stories of wonderful restaurant revenge. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
I used to work as a reluctant supervisor at a Seattle’s Best Coffee, the kind that was attached to Borders back in the day. Although we were connected to the bookstore, we were definitely our own entity, something that the Borders management was quick to remind me of all the time.
One of our customers, who we called Silvers, was a certified nutball. She came in almost every day and spent hours sitting in the cafe writing on scrap pieces of paper and talking to herself and drinking cup after cup of coffee. She ate lunch with us almost every day, too, which I never understood, because our sandwiches were basically soggy pieces of bread with meat on them. Because she was there ALL THE TIME, we were also privy to her crazy conspiracy theories. In our communications log book, we referred to her ramblings as “The Silvers Saga.” Among her more notable pieces of conversation: Oprah stole her idea for a magazine, Jennifer Aniston stole her haircut, her ex-boyfriend was drugging her (we suspect that he was making her take her medication), sandals were a conspiracy so that people could hurt your feet and blame it on you, the Pope was part of the Illuminati, witches had cursed her, etc. Like I said, crazy.
As part of her insanity, she also used to regularly call corporate and make false accusations against us. Two or three times a day, she would use our payphone (I really wanted to rip that thing out of the wall) to complain that we were putting poison in her food and her coffee. She would act all nice to your face and then three minutes later would be on that damned phone telling someone that her coffee smelled like arsenic and she was probably going to die and she wanted us all fired. And then she would come back the next day and do it all again. Everyone in the corporate office knew who she was and completely disregarded whatever she said. When I tried to get her banned from the store, I was informed that I didn’t have the authority — only the Borders could do that. Since the bookstore management never had to deal with her, they weren’t at all concerned about it.
That is, until the day she complained and a new employee at corporate, who didn’t know anything about this lunatic’s ramblings, raked the Borders HR manager, Bob, over the coals. “There is a whole file on this woman. Why haven’t you done anything about this? We are going to have to send someone to investigate, because these are serious accusations. Your cafe staffs’ jobs are on the line. Your job is on the line.” Well, now the management cared. Silvers was as usual, sitting in the cafe eating a sandwich and drinking her coffee and pretending like she hadn’t just called corporate to complain about us for the hundredth time. With the woman on corporate still on the line, Bob marched over to Silvers and the following exchange happened:
Bob: Get up.
Silvers: (smiling) Are you talking to me?
Bob: Yes, get up.
Silvers: (with a look of righteous smugness) I guess you’re finally going to take me seriously now?
Bob: Yup. Get the fuck out of my store. Now.
Silvers: (smile gone) What?
Bob: What word didn’t you understand? Get? Fuck? Out? Now? You are not welcome back here. No one wants to poison you, because no one gives a shit about you. No one. Get. Out. Now.
And then my favorite part: Bob put the phone to his ear and asked the lady on the line, “Was that handled to your satisfaction?”
Coincidentally, after this incident, management was a lot more open to employee complaints concerning crazy customers.
On Christmas Eve, 2015, I was at a country club serving the extremely wealthy of our small city of 49,000 people an enormous buffet of delights such as prime rib, salmon, lobster, and bread from the local grocery store because we were all tired as hell of putting food out.
The local country club had never disappointed before, and would not do so now; the next eight hours were a blur of enormous tables (26 was the largest I had, along with two ten-tops, an eight-top, and four four-tops from four pm to 9pm at night), long ticket times (twenty serving staff, three computers, over five hundred guests), and obscene amounts of glass and alcohol wasted because of both serves and members dropping drinks.
Now, for the most part, once they had a little alcohol in them, our tables settled into the normal “loud, happy, celebratory drunk” stage, and we were happy to oblige that, since more booze = larger tickets = much larger tips. In particular because at this club, nearly three-quarters of the patrons only tipped between 5 and 10%, unless it was the longest-serving waitress who took them, then she got 30%. We already had the horrible news of a 2-dollar pay cut hanging over our heads, and this would be the second to last holiday party to get our full ten dollars an hour, so all of us busted our asses.
The problem this time came not from a customer, but from that waitress; as the oldest of the serving staff that wasn’t our hostess, she felt entitled to a share of the tip if she got any of our tables anything, from water refills and clearing to drinks. It was extra frustrating because we could do the same for her, and she would deny that we even raised a hand, let alone served two of her tables completely (as I did one night.) Not only that, we tipped out our bussers and bartenders 3% and 5% respectively, so our take home of a night was usually in the $40-50 range.
Finally, though, I had had enough when she got the check for my 26-top, without telling me…and to my dismay and rage, had put it under her name, cashed out and all. The only reason I ever found out was because the head of the table, who was also the president of the club, asked if I was covering for her or what, because he thought I was supposed to be their server. (Good guy, always did like him.)
She had gotten them one drink the whole night (while I hauled ass and cleared and served without a single break), and so when she was back in the kitchen, bitching about all of us (again) to the cooks, I slammed the door open and slapped the book down. She was pissed, said that I had no right to take her ticket, when I finally snapped and unloaded completely on her. At this point, I hadn’t even been at the job for more than four months, and I was entirely done with her bullshit, her lying, her outright stealing, and the crock of shit she fed to each of the members whenever we moved away from /our/ tables, often adding personal details and issues that were often taken from Facebook.
As soon as I was done shouting, she stormed off to the bosses, demanding that I be fired, but the problem was in the ticket itself; each of us was assigned sections that night, sections that were very, very rigidly enforced…and when the bosses realized that she had essentially taken my table…vengeance was sweet. I redid the ticket, put in the tip under my name, and finished up the night, turning down the kitchen’s offer to get fantastically drunk afterwards so I could focus on cleaning up and going home…though I did not turn down our sous chef’s offer of a massage. God, he was good with his hands.
During high school, I worked in this little cafe in my hometown as my summer job. The cafe was open for lunch and dinner and was owned by this nice retired couple who got tired of being retired. The couple we called “Mom” and “Pop” were pretty cool bosses (I attribute this not only to the fact that they were great people, but also that they didn’t really need the business to make ends meet) and were really egalitarian about who they hired, so the staff were a pretty eclectic bunch.
Being a kind of touristy coastal town (our population only ever reached peak during winter when the “Snowbirds” came south), we had a mix of regulars and one-timers as customers. There was one regular, let’s call him Bob, who would come in every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night after getting cut off by the bar next door. Bob was a jerk. He would comment about the “bad quality” of our food (but would eat it all and come back time after time) and would sexually harass the female staff in a casual “Did he just really just say that?” way that we mostly just shrugged off. His favorite thing to do would be to say something vulgar and then immediately follow with “Redacted!” and he thought that was so fucking funny. It was irritating. Pop would give him “warnings” and he’d simmer down, but would always be back to his antics the next day.
One day Bob comes in while we’re training a new waiter. Bob was slightly more drunk than normal and must have really had a bad day, because he was constantly bitching the whole time. His drink was watered down, his appetizer was cold, it was too hot in the restaurant, the waiter was too slow, etc. When Bob’s entree was served (rib-eye steak with fries) he took one look at it and screamed at our
trainee, “I asked for MEDIUM-RARE. Can you do anything right, you FUCKING RETARD?”
That did not go over well. Remember how egalitarian our bosses were? The new trainee was a kid with Down’s Syndrome.
It was at this point that Pop yelled “I’ve had about enough of your bullshit!” and came storming from behind the bar, went straight to Bob, picked up the plate of steak, and promptly smooshed it into Bob’s face. The fight was on at that point and we all had to jump in to pull them apart while Mom called the cops.
When the cops arrived they separated us and got the story from us individually. Bob was pretty pissed and wanted to “press charges” against Pop for “assaulting” him. One of the cops who showed up said, and I quote, “Seems like mutual combat to me” and they promptly escorted Bob out of the restaurant, but not before issuing Bob a trespass warning (which was this paper that stated Bob couldn’t return to the restaurant for a year or he’d get arrested). As Bob was being led out he was yelling at Pop, saying he’d be back the next day and would expect an apology. Bob didn’t pay his ticket, but no one complained.
The next day, sure as shit, Bob showed up predictably drunk and went directly to Pop at the bar. He immediately started going at it again, demanding an apology for the mess Pop had made, for how much he embarrassed him, etc. Meanwhile, our greeter had already called the cops and they showed up a couple minutes later. One cop was the same from the night before. No words were exchanged, that cop just went right up to Bob, held him against the counter, and cuffed him right there for violating the trespass warning. The other customers were watching us with these vaguely horrified looks, but the rest of us were pretty damn pleased about it. We didn’t see Bob for months later, and even then it was only when he was at the next door bar.
I only worked at that cafe for three summers before I graduated and moved on to college and that was years ago. But my mom tells me that, to this day, Pop dutifully goes to the police department every year to renew that trespass warning. It’s become a kind of town joke. And Bob hasn’t been seen in the cafe since.
There were two locations of an ice cream shop in my hometown. One was walking distance, up the street from me, and the other was across town. Summer after my junior year, my high school boyfriend’s sister got me a job working as an ice cream scooper at the shop across town, because the one near me was where “the guys” worked. Yes, only girls worked at one location, and only boys worked at the other.
From day one, the boss HATED me. Some days it was because I was talking to the other girls too much. The next day it was because I wasn’t talking, so I was stuck up and bitchy. Then it was because I said “Okey dokey!” when I went to get customer’s order and it “wasn’t professional” (at an ice cream shop where our customers were families going to the beach). Then I wasn’t friendly enough with customers. I wasn’t allowed to get tips “until I was ready.”
She was very micromanage-y, to the point where she would hover while you made sundaes, washed sponges, cleaned windows… basically, any chore that involved anything more strenuous than breathing.
One day, I was making a chocolate milkshake. This was a very tricky and precise procedure, of course. I mean, you had to take the milk and put ice cream in it and then put it under the mixer. Sometimes, for super extra difficulty there was a flavored syrup, sometimes it was hard ice cream instead of soft! Good heavens! Obviously a job for a professional ice cream scooper and not a rookie who still hadn’t gotten tips after a month.
So I’m making this milkshake. Boss was literally over my shoulder scolding me for however I was making it (reiterating the steps for people who are as dumb/unfriendly as me: Milk. Ice Cream. Mix.) I’m fuzzy on exactly what happened — she jostled my arm, I got anxious because someone was hovering over me, I’d been running around for five hours and was exhausted, or simply great karma — but the milkshake tumbled and exploded. All over my boss’s head. At peak tourist returning from the beach o’clock. It was beautiful. It was terrifying.
I don’t remember getting yelled at. A couple days later, a girl who had been hired less than a week before was told that it was time for her to get tips. Boss turned to me and said “Remember how it exciting it was the first time you got tips?”
I said, “No. Because I still haven’t gotten any.”
I got the entire tip jar that night. Maybe she thought that I’d gotten a taste of revenge and tried to placate me before I smashed a sundae in her face?
I serve at a higher-end pizza shop in Minneapolis — local, organic ingredients, big ol’ compost bin, run on wind power- that whole deal. The very first table of my shift on this rainy Tuesday was a big ‘n’ tall dude in his late 20’s/early 30’s, sipping a beer and chowing down on pizza. My boss transferred him over to me, saying that he probably wasn’t going to order any more and was almost done. I go over and introduce myself, let him know I’ll be taking over his service and that I applied happy hour to his tab, so if he needs more beer/appetizers, they’ll be discounted. He thanked me and I continued with my starting side work.
By the end of Happy Hour, his tab contained five beers, two appetizers, a small salad, and TWO 10″ pizzas. While alarms should’ve been sounding in my brain, I was too busy being impressed with the sheer volume this dude could take in to worry about him walking out. I checked in toward the end of every beer to see if he wanted to tab out, and every time he’d look at his fancy-ass Apple watch, shrug, and order another beer. I encouraged him to keep drinking water, shared that I was nursing a hangover and wanted to do what I could to help him avoid the same fate, and generally did my best to connect with him because I care about my damn tables.
Over the next two hours, the restaurant filled and emptied. Tables turned, and he added four more beers to his tab. All of my tables other than him were closed out, a few of them just hanging out, avoiding braving the rain (it was slow at this point, so it was no problem). He was cozy in a booth with his computer and a full beer, so I figured I was good to go on a quick break.
After about three minutes of glorious sitting, my super server senses started tingling. Something was not right. I popped into the dining room to see my closed out two-top hanging out and chatting, and my $90+, small salad, 9 beer, two pizza, and two appetizer table MOTHERFUCKING GONE. There was a practically full beer at the table, plus half a small pizza and the box that he’d had for the last two hours. I checked in with my lingering two-top, and they said that he had come up to the front, looked around, packed up his things and left. They were shocked that he hadn’t paid.
I was shaking with frustration. Having just spent four hours serving this motherfucker, making sure he was drinking plenty of water to go with his 8 finished beers, offering to call him a cab if he needed it, I felt personally taken advantage of.
Our midshift cook that night (a service industry vet who suffers no fools) happened to get off his shift just after BeerBelly McAllTheFood (let’s call him BM for short) ditched, and because he’s the best, went out into the neighborhood looking for him. About 30 minutes had passed when our dear cook called the restaurant to let us know that he found BM at a bar two blocks away.
Ten minutes after, in walked BM, accompanied by my coworker. He let us know that BM’s cards were getting declined down the street, and that we should be prepared to call the cops. He came to the counter, and I told him I’d prepare his tab for him.
He started to walk away, saying, “I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?”
He pointed to his bag sitting in the booth, grabbed it, and came up to the counter.
He smiled apologetically and let me know with a light laugh that– it’s funny– but his cards hadn’t been working! Totally weird. Such a surprise to him. I told him we’d give it a shot anyway.
BIG SHOCKER, his cards were declined. He could tell my patience was wearing thin. He did not have any cash on him. I stared him down, trying to figure out how to proceed, while he tried to lighten the mood with excuses, presumably so I wouldn’t get his dumb ass arrested.
“Yeah, it’s funny, I just… I realized my cards kept getting declined.”
“Without us running them.”
With a deep breath and the smile of someone about to lose their fucking shit, I said, “So, just to be clear: you ordered over $90 of food and beer, and then you left without even TRYING to pay your tab… because you realized that your cards–that we never attempted to run–were getting declined?”
“Yeah! It’s weird, right?!” he said, with a “pfft” sound at the end, as if I were on the same page as him.
At this point my manager had come up front, both of us thinking “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME NO IT IS NOT WEIRD WHO EVEN ARE YOU,” and we both responded with, “No. It’s just shitty.”
He asked if we could take down his information so he could pay at a later date. My manager took the lead from here.
“Can I have your ID?”
He nervously dug into his bag and then offered her his passport to hold as collateral.
“This is expired.”
“Oh, uh…yeah…I, uh, I just ordered a new ID. I have a new one coming in the mail soon.”
“This is useless to us. Do you have something that isn’t expired? Like a driver’s license?”
With a smile and a shrug he said, “I biked.”
Because he wasn’t going to budge on this, he didn’t have valid identification, and he was being a smug piece of shit, I went to the back to call the cops. When I came back up front, my badass manager had his iPad behind the counter and was writing him a note explaining where it was and how to get it back (he seemed functional, but he was still 8+ beers deep).
He said, “Please take care of it” before going back to his abandoned table, boxing up his last slices of pizza, and leaving.
So once he pays his $90 tab, he can have his $500+ iPad back. We cancelled his police escort. Here’s hoping that he pays and leaves me a fat tip for the four hours I gave his dumb ass excellent service.
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.