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 customers who redefined stupid. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
I work at a popular BBQ restaurant in New England — not exactly the part of the country you’d expect to find good BBQ in. Our food is delicious, but due to our location, we get a lot of guests that are either super unfamiliar with what they are ordering, or only have a specific type of food in mind. We make sure to explain the type of BBQ we serve, and explain the cooking process to each and every guest. Despite this, I often find myself being lectured by people who are from “a real BBQ town” or whose mom made ribs once or whatever that our food is wrong or inauthentic. I’m used to this and usually apologize and explain that we try our hardest to make the most authentic food we can and that’s usually the end of it. However, this woman’s argument will stay with me forever.
All of the meat at my restaurant is smoked — that is, except for the fried chicken. Therefore, there is a possibility that the chicken may be undercooked, despite the fact that our chefs individually temp each piece as they come out of the fryer. I’ve found that the usual problem is that most people have little exposure to eating dark meat on the bone, and what they see as undercooked is simply a vein. Our management allows us to explain this to a guest if it is apparent that the chicken is cooked, but we also have no problem switching their meal if the guest is uncomfortable.
One day, fairly soon after I began working there, a woman at one of my tables ordered the fried chicken with collard greens. After dropping her food, I went around to my other tables planning on checking in a few minutes. That’s when her arms started waving in the air as she stared at me. I hurried over and she complained that the chicken was raw. I glanced at the piece she had bitten into and saw that it was fully cooked, you could just see a bit of vein by the bone, so I decided to offer her a new meal, but also to assure here that the bite she had was fully cooked chicken. Then she started screaming, “I’m going to get salmonella! Salmonella! YOU ARE POISONING ME!”
I grabbed her meal and ran back to the kitchen, showing both my manager and the chef the chicken and they agreed with me that it was cooked, and also began to prepare her new order. My manager then went to the table to calm the woman down and explain that she agreed with me, but the woman’s meal would be on us. That, however, was not enough to calm her down. She began berating my manager, telling her she was from the south and therefore knew what fried chicken was supposed to look like, and that “CHICKENS DON’T HAVE VEINS.” Stunned, I watched as my manager blinked, took a breath, and responded, “Ma’am, all animals that can bleed have veins.” The woman rolled her eyes and I brought her her new meal. Before leaving, she informed me that as a southerner, she didn’t feel like we were authentic, but that the collard greens were “actually pretty good.”
Luckily, her boyfriend, who had been silent during the whole interaction, left me a large tip.
I work at my family’s small drive-thru in a small town in Kansas. My father named the place PAWPAWS, because that’s what my son called him when my son was learning to speak. Anyway, we get a lot of confusion as what type of business we are when people phone in, despite that we’re listed in the restaurant section in the phone book.
One day, I get a call from a very upset woman. She demanded I send her dogs records to her new vet, as my service was unacceptable. I tried to tell her I never saw her dog, and what my business was. She said she was just here yesterday and my staff was incredibly rude, as when trimming the dog’s fur and nails we didn’t give her what she asked for.
At the time, there was a dog groomer in town, Wizard of Paws. I pointed this out, that maybe she went there, and could I give her the phone number. She yelled at me some more and hung up before I could help her with the number.
I’ve worked in the same bar for almost six years. Let me stress that the place is much more bar than it is a restaurant. With that said, the owner has tried to revamp the menu to be more restaurant but it has only shifted minimally. We are a bar with above average bar food but I have to stress that we are a bar. There is a lot more emphasis on us knowing the beer and booze we sell than the food. Despite that, I’ve been there long enough that, with the help of menu labels, I know what items are friendly to vegans. With that said, we’re not super vegan-friendly.
Anyway, a few days out of the week, lunch will only have one server on the floor. It sounds like a bad idea, but it generally works out and if it gets really busy, the bartender will pick up tables. One day, I’m working a solo lunch shift and this woman starts interrogating me about vegan options. She needs to be 100% confident that she is not eating any animal products, and has me running back and forth checking many of the items for animal products. I’m starting to get a little bit of a lunch rush and trying to help this woman pick something for lunch, but also help the other eight tables that I have. After my fourth or fifth trip to the kitchen, I am starting to get annoyed because my other tables also need help and this woman is bogarting my time as only a vegan can. Finally, she settles on a salad, but sends me on a few trips to check dressings for her before she settles on one.
As I walk away from a 25-minute fiasco that is taking this woman’s order, she says, “why don’t you go ahead and throw a chicken breast on that? I’m starving!”
During my undergrad, I took a number of on-campus jobs to make enough income to cover the cost of books and rent. One of these included working for the university’s food services department in the “snack bars” branch. Essentially, these were grab-and-go setups in different buildings across campus that allowed students and staff to get a sandwich, chips, etc. without trekking too far. I rotated around to a few different snack bars, each with their own subset of customers and menu offerings. The nicest customers I dealt with were the law students, who were too overworked to be rude and mostly seemed really thankful that I was able to give them the gift of coffee and carbs in the morning.
The rudest, hands down, were people who patronized the business school cafe. I only worked there one semester, but I’d taken a shift twice a week directly after one of my lectures in the same building to make things easier on my schedule. I think there was like a 35-minute break between that allowed me to switch from student mode to food service mode. My shift fell directly in the middle of the lunch rush, so I was usually shoved wherever a set of hands was needed — sandwiches, salads or cash register.
We offered a “build your own” option for both sandwiches and salads. Sandwiches were, naturally, more complex, but the salads were simple because there were just two options — garden or Caesar, plus a list of ingredients for each. Customers would grab a tiny pencil and an order sheet and circle the salad they wanted, then circle all of the ingredients they wanted on their salad — think onions, croutons, etc. Some people would cross out items they DEFINITELY didn’t want in there, but most got the idea and circled and everyone was happy. The order form would get placed on the counter and when an employee was ready, they’d grab it and add all the ingredients the customer indicated to a bowl then mix everything together. We had separate mixing bowls for those who wanted dressing vs. those who didn’t.
This was a private university populated by a looooooot of rich kids from NYC/Jersey, so everything was massively overpriced. I think a Caesar salad with chicken was something like $9.50, which to my broke-ass 19-year-old self seemed like a fortune. I pride myself on my attention to detail, and I was really good at whipping out salads or sandwiches at lightning speed, correctly. One day in the middle of the typical rush, I get an order form for a chicken Caesar salad with the entire list of ingredients enclosed in one gigantic circle.
Easy enough, the lady clearly wanted a salad with all the fixings. So I whip it up, plop it into a clear plastic to-go box, and slap it on the counter with her order form underneath. I’m turning to start on the next order when I hear the most disdainful, “Um, excuse me?”
A painfully stereotypical Long Island sorority girl is standing there holding the salad I’d just made.
“This. Is not. My. SALAD!”
“Oh, well, just look at the name on the order form to see which one is yours,” I told her, thinking she just grabbed a salad without checking to make sure it was actually hers.
“I don’t want any of this stuff on it,” she said, wrinkling her nose.
Now, mind you, this entire time she’s talking to me like I am the most inconsiderate asshole on the planet. I was used to students talking down to me when I had my food services uniform on, which was always super ironic since I was literally sitting in front of them in class an hour prior. So I take back the salad and look at the form, and I’m confused because she circled everything and that’s what I made her. “Was there something else you wanted on your salad?”
“I didn’t want ANYTHING on my salad,” she seethed.
“You circled all of the ingredients, which usually indicates that someone wants everything.”
She rolled her eyes. “No, I only want chicken and lettuce. Nothing else.”
Oh. Okay. You want to shell out nearly $10 for a pile of leaves and six chunks of grilled chicken? Fine, not my money. But on what planet does “circle all the ingredients you want on your salad” translate to “circle all the ingredients you DON’T want on your salad?”
I quickly remade her a bone-dry salad and tossed the offending (*sniff* perfect) salad in the trash. I wish I could say she was the worst customer I ever had, but she definitely takes the cake for most idiotic.
I worked in a snack bar in a local park that had a beach in Ontario, Canada for a few summers. My first summer there, I was 15, this was my first ever job, and on the weekdays it was usually slow, so there were two of us on shift, myself and a cook. I was at the window and a woman came up with three children, probably somewhere between the ages of 3 and 10. She asked for four orders of large fries. I ring her up and give them to her. The woman handed each child their own container and walked off.
About 15 minutes later, she came back with the smallest child in her arms. The kid was crying.
“I need another order of fries, please,” she said. I put in the order. “That will be $4.50 please.”
She immediately got irate with me. “I’m not paying for another one. Can’t you see my kid is upset?!” Being a teenager and new there, I had no idea what to say, so I kind of just looked at her, bewildered. She went on: “one of your seagulls snatched her fries right out of her hands! I can’t believe you let them fly around like that near children!”
I began to try and explain that the seagulls are not “ours,” we had no control over them, and if she wanted her fries, she’d need to pay for them. She kept yelling at me until my co-worker, the cook, came to the window and, having overheard and seen the woman hand over the previous order to the child, demanded the woman pay. The woman again exclaims that the seagulls stole her kid’s food and she shouldn’t have to pay.
She finally gave in, but threatened to contact animal control on us.
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.