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 tales of terror from the worst customers ever. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
So a few years back, I was dating a girl who was both a) an extremely picky eater (we’re talking 90% of her diet was cheese pizza and chicken nuggets — yeah, I know) and b) someone who took great pride in getting menu items comped if ever there was a slight hiccup in service. Yeah. I know.
Anyway, it’s our six-month anniversary, so we decide to go to this relatively high end Bistro in Chicago (I think it’s since closed). We had gone there with my family for my birthday, and they had steak frites with a red wine sauce that managed to sneak past my girlfriend’s inane dietary restrictions.
So, I get reservations at like, 7PM on a Monday. Already, traffic is bad so we’re about 20 minutes late getting there, which had me feeling a bit like a dick. When we get there it’s completely empty save for one person eating by themselves at a table. There’s a waitress and a bartender on staff, but otherwise it’s barren.
We sit down, and surprise surprise, the menu has changed. Instead of the steak frites, there’s a steak with pepper sauce and crispy onions. The girlfriend. Does not. Like this. One bit. She basically says that someone had better say something about this disaster. I sigh, hating myself every moment, and say to the waitress, “Um, so um, the last time we were here, sh… I mean, I… had a steak and frites with a red wine sauce?”
“Oh, yes, we’ve since replaced that, it’s now a pepper sauce with sort of fried, crispy onions. If you liked the previous one, you’ll probably like this too.”
My girlfriend goes “Well, can you make the red wine sauce and switch it out? I’m pretty sure the pepper sauce is going to make me sick tomorrow.” Yeah. I know.
“No, our sauces are made in advance at the beginning of shift.”
“That doesn’t seem right, *suburban supper/wine club that her family routinely goes to* doesn’t do that, can’t you just make new sauce today?”
I intervene, say, “Well, okay, we’ll talk over the menu. I guess in the meantime can you get me an old fashioned and I’ll take a dozen of your oysters.” At this point I am almost certain that we will HAVE to leave, so I don’t want to be the person coming in with a reservation on an empty night and leaving without ordering anything. My logic is, raw oysters are quick to prepare, and I can just tip 30% on what we end up with as an “I’m sorrrrrry about that.”
Oysters come, they’re good (I mean, they’re oysters, come on) and the waitress goes, “Oh, and I have good news. I talked to the chef, and he said he can make a red wine reduction very similar to the old sauce for the steak.” I’m frankly astonished, as that goes in the “above and beyond” category in my mind, so I appreciate it. My girlfriend does not.
“And what about the frites?”
“Oh, well, we don’t have the ingredients for that, but the crispy onions are actually–“
“Okay, let’s go. Can we have our bill, please?”
We end up getting in a huge fight because it was “very inconsiderate” of me to order food when she clearly wasn’t going to get what she wanted, as I was clearly “taking the waitress’ side.” We didn’t really last that long after that.
A few years ago I was on a ski club trip to Aspen Colorado. A couple of guy and lady friends and I met up in the lobby to decide on which of the great choices available to chose that evening. On entering the lobby, two of my friends were talking to two ladies from our club that I didn’t know but had seen at events in the past. Once we decided on our destination these two semi-strangers came with us, no problem I just thought they were the ‘plus two’ my friend had mentioned. Bad assumption on my part.
We went to a place that has a common kitchen for two restaurants, one steak & seafood the other French. I decided I wanted an a la carte salad with my steak/potato and the lady sitting next to me said that she wouldn’t be able to eat an entire salad plus her entree and could she have a little of mine. No problem, I’m an old married guy and familiar with the sharing, but not really splitting, routine.
Nice meal, good conversations all around. The problem started, as it often does when the check arrived. I am vehemently opposed to separate checks, unless it’s two couples splitting right down the middle, and this place had a no separate checks policy.
My immediate neighbor offered me a few bucks toward my $6.00 or so salad (this was a few years ago) and I told her to forget about it, and my total before tax was $36.00 or so. Quickly adding the 10% sales tax and a 20% tip I dropped a $50.00 on the table and said that would cover my end, including the salad. The other uninvited guest, an accountant by trade, said; ‘that seems like too much, what’s the tax rate here?’ I told her it was 10% and she insisted it couldn’t be that much. It is because (a) resort and (b) to cut down on pollution most Rocky Mountain ski resorts run free buses so idiot tourists aren’t always idling engines, driving around lost and adding to pollution.
She then trotted off and, after searching the kitchen, she encountered the owner/manager in the other house. She flounced into her seat and triumphantly announced that I was wrong: “the sales tax is 9.9%, NOT 10%.”
Accountant lady gets out her Blackberry (I think it was, I was still using a flip phone at the time) and proceeds to stylus in every number except her shoe size. After a few mistakes she proudly gets an answer and announces MY total as ONLY $48.75 or so.
For two years in college, I served and bartended at a local Outback Steakhouse. Being a college town, we had a variety of great customers (usually the townies) and college students on dates who thought filling up on deep-fried onions and mediocre, pepper-rubbed steaks was a great idea before trying to get to third base later.
One night, an older couple came in and I was relieved to not have to deal with another table of college kids who 1. didn’t know how to tip and 2. thought they could convince me not to ID them when they asked for a beer.
This table ended up being worse.
After greeting the couple and asking for their drink order, the man immediately orders a double Jack and Coke. The woman asks for a Diet Coke. The rest of their order and dinner went pretty smoothly, with the man ordering another double Jack and Coke, and then another.
At this point, I can tell the man is teetering the line of being over-served and went to talk to my manager and the bartender at the time. Both agreed that he should not receive any more drinks, but since the meal was over, none of us were too concerned about him ordering anymore.
As I am walking back out to the dining room, I hear the man yelling across the restaurant to me, “LADY! LADY! I NEED ANOTHER DOUBLE JACK AND COKE!” I walk over to his table and tell him that unfortunately, I can’t serve him any more Jack and Cokes, but I would be happy to get him a water or some complimentary bread. He isn’t having any of that and starts telling me that I am not doing my job right and that I HAVE to serve him. I then point out that the double Jack and Coke currently sitting in front of him is still nearly full, and that he is more than welcome to finish that one, but other than that, there is nothing I can do.
So then, I get one of the more creative requests I’ve ever heard. “Then can I get my last double Jack and Coke to go?”
Me: “I apologize, sir, but we cannot give you alcohol to go.”
Another argument erupts about how his wife is driving and it shouldn’t matter and blahblahblah and I am desperately looking around, hoping to see a manager to come defuse this situation. No such luck.
Double Jack and Coke man: “Okay, fine. Well, how about you get my wife a to-go cup for her diet coke?”
Me: “I am more than happy to do that, sir. I will be right back.”
Assuming he is going to try to fill the to-go cup with his double Jack and Coke, I fill up the woman’s to-go cup to the brim with diet coke in the kitchen. I return to the table, hand the woman her completely full to-go cup of diet coke and drop off the check. As I am turning around to leave the table, the man grabs my arm and yells, “WHY IS HER TO-GO CUP FULL?”
Calmly, I tell him that I noticed her current diet coke was almost empty and wanted to be nice by giving her a full glass before she left for the night (kind of true, mostly a lie). He tells me to dump the to-go cup and bring her another EMPTY one. At this point, I’m frustrated by the situation and pissed that he had grabbed my arm and said, “Sir, do you want an empty to-go cup so that you can bring your Jack and Coke to go? I have already told you that we cannot allow that.”
Apparently, when the man had grabbed my arm, another server saw and told our manager. Our manager arrived right as the man began berating me and told him to pay and leave, without the drink, or he would call the cops. The woman started apologizing profusely, paid for their dinner, and then escorted her unruly date outside (about time, since she had remained completely quiet the rest of the time).
My family and I saw something pretty special the first day out on our road trip this summer. After spending 10 hours in a small car that day, checking into our hotel, we looked for something to eat. We settled on East Side Mario’s (chain of Italian family restaurants in Canada, nothing fancy, decent enough food and good price).
We sat, ordered, got our drinks, got the standard basket of warm bread, but after a while I wondered where the food was. Half the tables were empty and there seemed to be a lot of servers running around. I finally noticed my wife frowning at something over my shoulder. Glancing over, there was a set of tables with maybe a dozen people, extended family by the look of it. One of the aunts had taken it upon herself to critique every single dish that came to the table, regardless of who the food was for. Every appetizer, soup, entree, you name it.
She had the entire complement of servers, the hostess and the manager scrambling trying to make each dish perfect to her liking, even though most of it wasn’t for her! As a result she had bogged down the entire restaurant.
We watched this for a while in a bit of a stupor. I hate scenes, so I didn’t say anything, although my wife made a couple comments just loud enough for some of the family to hear, but they were already shame-faced and dealing with a couple hungry kids of their own who were starting to get wound up because they weren’t getting their food.
In the end, although we got our food late, we had eaten, the kids had dessert, we had paid our bill, and were on the way out — and half this family was only just getting their entrees, despite being in there and ordered before we had even sat down.
We offered our sympathies to our server when she apologized for the slow service (the manager did too, completely unnecessary but kudos to them for professionalism and not breaking a chair over the lady’s head) and tacked on an extra 10% for the tip. Only wish I could have afforded to give them more.
I work at a Baskin Robbins. One time, this lady walked in with her two kids, her husband running the car outside.
She ordered two scoops of two different flavors for her kid but told me to only get hot fudge on one of the scoops, which is impossible to do, because they’re in the same cup, and that’s not how physics works. I tell her I’d be more than happy to put the hot fudge on the side, but she just angrily said, “never mind.”
Then she ordered a large chocolate shake. Chocolate shakes have a harder time mixing than most of our shakes because of the texture and density of the ice cream. I told her that I’d be happy to make it for her so I stuck it in the blender. I took it out of the blender because it wouldn’t blend, and before I could retry it, she flew into a rage. She said it shouldn’t take more than one time to blend it correctly and called me incompetent.
Then she knocked down our cone display, stormed out, stormed back in to call me a stupid bitch, then stormed back out again.
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.