More Stories of Terrible Restaurant Customers, Part 2
Welcome back to Off The Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we have week two of some of the worst human beings to ever slip into a restaurant booth. (You can read Part 1 right here.) As always, these are real emails from real readers.
In high school, a friend and I had gotten jobs at the local Dairy Queen in a small, decrepit, economically crumbling Indiana town. It's pretty damn white trashy, and our DQ was right in it: we were located not 100 yards in front of an extensive trailer park and more than once found one of its denizens sleeping it off in our dumpster.
This story happened on a fairly busy evening in the summer of 2000. Important background information: we cooked all hot food to order. We had a griddle that we made the burgers on, which, in hindsight, is really weird for a fast food place, let alone a fast food place that specializes in white sort-of-ice-cream stuff. But it meant that our burgers were, honestly, pretty good; it just took a bit longer than the BK down the road.
The drive-thru alert dings and one of my coworkers takes the order: multiple double cheeseburgers, a couple of chicken strip baskets, a giant pile of fries, some sodas, and three large Blizzards. A battered and rusted old pick-up truck pulls around with a greasy dude in an ancient trucker cap at the wheel. As he was paying, our manager walked over to explain to him that the burgers were cooked to order and might take as long as 20 minutes, so it would probably be best if he waited to get his Blizzards with the rest of the meal so they didn't melt. He looked at her dumbfounded, blinked a time or two, and replied "No, I want 'em now."
"Are you sure?" she said. "They might melt before you get your food."
"Yeah. I want 'em now."
She shrugged and had me make the Blizzards. Large ones, remember. In the big cups. The girl in the drive-thru handed them to him and asked him to pull up while we made his food.
We were just about to start wrapping the burgers when the door slams open and Blizzard Now Dude stomps his way in, large cups of soft-serve and candy in hand, and yells "This is fucking bullshit!" Before the manager can even approach and ask what's wrong, he continues "Look at this shit!" and proceeds to dump all of them, by now well and truly liquid, onto the floor. He then starts screaming and cursing more as the manager is trying to get him to calm down.
As is the way with every goddamned chain restaurant in the world, instead of telling him to piss right off I was instructed to remake his Blizzards and his money was completely refunded, despite the warning he was given.
It took almost half an hour to get the mess cleaned up.
I had recently moved and made friends with a girl I worked with, and we decided to go to dinner to get to know each other better. We go to a Cheesecake Factory, where she proceeds to order a pasta. She takes a bite or two and looks pissed. Finally, the server makes her way back and the conversation is as follows (not verbatim):
Friend: "What water do you use to cook this pasta? It tastes like tap water."
I’m now mortified and intrigued that there are other water options for boiling pasta, and that a person could even taste the difference when the pasta has an abundance of toppings and sauce.
Server: "We do boil our pasta in tap water, but I can take it back and have it remade."
Friend: "Yes, please remake it in filtered water."
Server comes back literally like five minutes later with a new pasta bowl. Friend tries it directly in front of the server.
Friend: "This still tastes like tap water." She then decides that the Cheesecake Factory is an abomination because they make their pasta in tap water, and proceeds to order a non-pasta dish.
After dinner, she proceeds to pull out her floss and floss at the dinner table in public.
During my senior year of high school, I worked multiple jobs. I was a bit strung out, but a girl's gotta save money for college somehow, right? One of these was a spot waiting tables at the local banquet center. Most of my friends at the time worked fast food (or not at all), so I was automatically a step up because I was “classier.” Hoo boy, was I in for a surprise.
I had one bride yell at me because our uniforms didn't coordinate with her colors -- thus, I was ruining her "dream wedding." Her mother dragged me by my hair to speak to my manager -- lovely sort of individual there. Another time, I got written up when a customer groped me (multiple times) on the dance floor during an open bar company Christmas party. I can understand that one -- I've had several years of martial arts training and an ex-military father, so I laid him out then and there. Still surprised I didn't get fired.
But the ultimate event that got me fired was a frat party for the university I was then applying to (I’m now attending their rival, because they have a better program for me. And, well...this). Fifty boy-men, already drunk, pulled up in two party buses. This was after they called half an hour ago to cancel the event, mind you. We later overheard that they wanted to see us running around frantically. You see, we were so customer service oriented that the frat boys knew that we couldn't turn them away.
But while we attempted to placate them with pizza and booze while waiting for the main course, they proceeded to get belligerent. I had only been there for cleanup and set-up for the next event, and it was only me and my boss on-site, besides the kitchen staff. I was frantically trying to call people to come back in while my boss was taking care of these idiots. That is, until I heard a scream coming from the rented room. I ran back into the ballroom, preparing for the worst. Were they tearing up the walls? Ruining the tablecloths?
None of that, though. They'd surrounded my boss and she'd climbed up on a table. Now, I'm not sure what they'd been thinking. Or even if they were. But I was seeing red. I waded through the crowd, containing my temper, trying to create a path and be backup. But my boss was frozen in fear. When I reached the table she was cornered on, she wouldn't move.
One of the assholes took advantage of the fact that I had my back to pretty much everyone and clocked me in the back of the head. Hell hath no fury like I did right then. I reacted by punching him square in the jaw. So his buddies decided to get in on the action, and there was a full-on ballroom blitz going on.
The kitchen staff had to call the cops. All the frat boys were taken away in cuffs. Thankfully, I wasn't. Simple clear-cut case of self defense. But I still got fired for it. I can understand why, but...damn. I'm never working food service again.
I worked at the same restaurant for about 5 years when I was in high school and during my first summer home from college. I was taking care of a pretty particular family, who came in towards closing time, that had me running all over the place getting things for them. Kind of annoying, but par for the course when it comes to serving tables.
When it came time to bring their check to the table, I set it down and it was quickly picked up by a man (who had not dined with the family) who said "What's this? A bill?" and crumpled it up and threw it on the ground. While INCREDIBLY obnoxious to me, the family literally erupted in laughter. The woman at the head of the tabled asked if I could print another bill for them. When I brought the second bill to the table and handed it directly into the hands of someone who had actually dined at the table, the same man grabbed the check out of their hands and screamed "ANOTHER BILL?" and promptly crumpled it up, put it in his mouth and spit it AT MY FACE. The family erupted in laughter, yet again, however this time my little 17-year-old heart couldn't take it and I thanked them for dining with us and walked away from the table to cry in the server station alone.
My wife and I were having dinner in a casual seafood restaurant on Cape Cod. The only other guests in our small room were a table of five -- a husband and wife, their two high-school age kids...and the man's mother. Dear mum clearly had the money in the family. She sat at the head of the table, dismissive of everyone, terrible to everyone, snapping at the wait staff (literally, snapping her fingers) when she wanted something. Table conversation included asking her granddaughter why she got “that dyke haircut.” All the while, everyone sat there barely responding and looking sad. It made us sad too. Sadness must follow that woman.
And then came dessert. We had just paid and were heading off to someplace less sad when the waitress arrived to tell them that dessert special that night was creme brûlée cheesecake.
“I’ll have the creme brûlée,” mum said.
The waitress, already a bit worn down, now just looked confused.
“It’s a creme brûlée cheesecake, ma’am.”
“I don’t want the cheesecake. I just want the creme brûlée.”
“She’ll have the creme brûlée!” her son said.
“But, we can’t do that,” the waitress tried to explain. “It’s a cheesecake flavored like creme brûlée..."
“Then leave the cheesecake out!”
“You said you had creme brûlée!”
I wish I could tell you how this ended, but we were already leaving as things started getting loud and a manager was coming over. Part of me is sorry we didn’t stay, but hey, we we were allowed to run away from that terrible woman. Unlike the wait staff. And her family.
I used to work in a miserable combination of bowling alley and cafe. I was waitress, hostess, and sometimes a dishwasher. This was in a fairly rural area in a fairly rural state, so it wasn't unusual to see familiar faces. One such face was a woman I'd known as a junior-high volleyball coach. She, her husband, and her kids -- two school-age children and an infant -- came in for a meal, and I smiled and directed them to an empty table, then turned away to grab the appropriate number of menus and silverware wraps. As I turned back around and strode toward them, I saw that the adults were leaning over the table and the infant was lying on its back in the center. A horrible, awful, disgusting thought occurred to me, but I brushed it aside with a quick “they wouldn't do that.”
They were doing that.
The baby's diaper was wide open in the middle of the table. Never mind that the entrance to the bathrooms--you know, where you're SUPPOSED to attend to bodily functions and any aftermath--was literally within five feet. I must have had a horrified look on my face, because the mother glanced up and waved her hand in a dismissive motion. "Don't worry," she smiled, "It's just pee!" I was not reassured.
My attempts to coerce the family to move stopped just short of begging. I tried to wipe the table down first. They were having none of it. They ate right where they were seated, and where their child's urine-soaked bottom had rested its li'l cheeks. We bleached the hell out of that tablecloth the minute they were out the door, and, to this day, I'm terrified to run into that lady ever again.
I worked at a Wendy's in Ontario, Canada for 8 years. I was around before a lot of major changes were made in the food preparation. For this story, the notable change was how we used to prepare salads compared to how they do it now. Previously, they would wash the lettuce in an ice bath, strains it in a strainer above the bath, check for cleanliness, then throw it in the chopper. The new way includes spinning it after chopping to ensure it isn't still wet.
One night, I was doing a closing dining room shift. Back then, the doors locked at midnight and I was out at 1am. I usually received a break a tiny bit before the close to eat and rest before I cleaned, and the manager usually covered my till. It was maybe 10:30pm when I went for my break.
I came back to an irate woman in the dining room with her tiny wisp of a husband. Apparently, she had ordered the taco salad and it was soaked. My manager went and made her a fresh one, and it was still too wet. I offered to make one more. The salad I made was apparently satisfactory, because she sat and wolfed it down. Her husband, this entire time, only had a small frosty.
Once she was done, she got up and yelled at me about how my manager was terrible at her job (how can I control this?) and that she, herself, was a chef, and would never, ever serve a salad so terribly prepared in her life. She then stormed out, husband still eating his frosty, and off they went into the night at about 11:30pm.
Midnight struck and I went and locked the doors. Beside me was the big, open glass window, and something SLAMMED into it. I was startled and jumped back. It was a half empty small frosty. I saw the woman from earlier speeding away in her car.
I told my manager and she went and cleaned it up for me because she was a nice woman like that. But wow, lady. Didn't even let the man eat his own frosty.
I was working as the bartender on an inland cruise ship in France. This was a high-end small ship -- 18 passengers maximum--for a week long canal/river cruise from Paris to the Champagne region. All meals aboard ship, with guided excursions morning and afternoon. The ship cruises canals & rivers and stops each night in a new town. Passengers book their travel months in advance, and the company both posts and emails the passengers and asks them to note any special diet/food allergies. If someone is allergic to, say, oranges, the Chef will remove oranges from the entire menu for week.
Sunday afternoon, Seine River, Paris France: a full load of 18 pax arrive aboard. The crew started working at 7 am, and it's now after midnight. I’m in the bar cleaning up when Mr. New York City calls up and asks me to come down to his cabin. When I arrive, he asks me if I can do anything about the "horrible noise.” I listen carefully; everyone else on the ship is asleep. I don't notice any "horrible noise." "That noise, it's keeping us awake. Can you make it quiet?" I finally realize he is talking about the generator. I explain that the generator is used to generate electricity, and to power things like water pumps. Sorry, we can't turn the generator off. He persists in requesting I make it quiet for him. I gently explain that we are legally required to have power. Shore power is not available at this dock. We need the gennie for lights, smoke detectors, to power emergency bilge pumps, and to provide water pressure to power the pumps in the toilets and plumbing.
Mr. NYC isn't happy. He demands that I get the Captain. Reluctantly, I go the the Capt's cabin and knock, waking him up from a dead sleep. Captain Peter, bleary-eyed, opens the door. I explain the situation. Peter reluctantly gets dressed and goes with me forward to Mr. NYC's cabin. Replay the previous conversation. Replay the exact same answer I gave Mr. NYC 5 minutes ago.
Now Mr. NYC asks to be moved to a different cabin, to get away from the "horrible noise." Peter explains that the entire ship is full -- every single cabin and bunk is occupied; sorry, we can't move you. And if it makes you feel better, some crew (including Peter’s, the Chef’s, the Pilot’s, the First Mate’s and my own) cabins are located directly above the engine room, so the crew gets to listen to the gennie hum all night long. There is a sound-deadening isolation door, a solid metal wall, plus about 30 tons of fresh water tanks, plus another door, plus another 5 cabins between Mr. NYC and the offending gennie. This cabin is as quiet as it gets. Mr. NYC reluctantly concedes Round 1 to the crew, dismisses us, and plots his next torment(s) of the crew.
Breakfast, Monday morning, rural France, 4 hours up the canal, North of Paris: Mr. NYC demands a morning newspaper, the New York Times. The International Herald on the sideboard won’t do. Yeah, sorry, no newsstand in rural France carries the English version of the NYT. We'll special order the paper for you, and make sure it is available for breakfast every other day of the week. To accommodate this request, we have to find some newsstand in each town where we will be staying in every night, then prepay for the newspaper (about $10 per issue), then have the First Mate go out at about 5 AM to fetch the fucking paper in order to have it aboard the ship for this asshole to brag about how he always does the crossword puzzle, in ink! Ink!, he says. He didn't complete one puzzle the entire time he was aboard, the fucking liar.
This counts as a "special request," which we asked you to make months ago, when you filled out your paperwork. We'll do damn near anything to make a passenger happy, but we need fair warning to make the impossible happen.
Diner, Tuesday evening, rural France, aboard ship: about 15 minutes before dinner is served, Mr. NYC calls me over to the side of the bar, and informs me that tonight is his wife's birthday. After dinner, can we bring out a special cake, sing the old goat 'Happy Birthday' and, you know, throw her a fucking birthday party, on 15 minutes notice?
I go to the kitchen and inform Gunther, the Chef. Gunther speaks 4 languages fluently. He begins swearing in 6 languages. He's got to plate 18 diners, plus crew food, and finish cooking 4 courses in a kitchen that is about 60 square feet. He plans menus weeks in advance and only buys provisions for the week (there’s not enough storage space to keep extra stuff on hand). Amazingly, Gunther, who is a goddamned magician, somehow manages to serve dinner and, at the end of the meal, a very nice made-from-scratch birthday cake materializes from the kitchen. I have no idea how he pulled this off; keep in mind, we're in rural France: the one and only local bakery closed hours ago. The one grocery/post office/bar/municipal office building in town is closed. We can't send someone out to the local Krogers' to grab a cake off the shelf. Gunther somehow just made it happen.
Mr. NYC manages to piss off pretty much the entire crew. He pisses off the Pilot; something about how this 'small boat' doesn't stand up to American ships. The Docent is tired of finding Mr. & Mrs. NYC when they wander off from the tour group to normally-closed-to-the-public castles, chateaus, and wineries. He pays for multiple taxi rides to get the jackasses back to the boat, because they keep missing the plush private coach all the other passengers are happy to ride. I am exhausted from working all day and staying up half the night serving him top shelf everything and truly exceptionally fine Premier Grand Cru wines by the bucket to this bragging windbag fucknut. I can barely maintain a semblance of politeness to this guy or his ragging She-devil wife. The First Mate is exhausted from his normal 80 hour hard labor workweek, plus getting up a hour early to go fetch a fucking foreign language newspaper somewhere in dirtfuck farm-country France.
The Chef, Gunther, has developed a special, soul-sucking hate of this couple. Our normally urbane, well educated, amazingly talented, verbose, witty, and delightful Chef is now a stream-of-conscious swearing beast in the galley. Mr. NYC refuses to eat the "weird" cheeses served at every meal. France has about 500 specialty regional cheeses, and the cruise company takes pride in properly serving some of the best cheeses in Europe. Gunther is insulted, repeatedly.
Wednesday night, aboard ship, immediately before dinner is served: Mr. NYC wanders up from his cabin and reads the day’s menu, which has been posted at the side of the bar since last night. He notices that French Onion Soup is tonight's soup course. Fucknut informs me that he, or his wife, or perhaps both, are "deathly, deathly allergic to onions.” He/she/they can't eat onion soup. Never mind that they've happily been eating onions in salads, soups, and main courses for days now. I'm floored. Sputtering curses, I go tell Chef Gunther the latest diet revelation.
Gunther loses his mind. He is now yelling loud enough for the passengers to hear him. I think he is going to have a brain aneurysm, a massive stroke, and heart attack all at once. His face is purple with pure, absolute rage. He has about 2 minutes to scratch-make some soup for these assholes before dinner is served. I back out of the kitchen before more bad things happen.
Back in the bar, passengers enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail can hear Gunther yelling; it's no secret Mr. & Mrs. NYC have suddenly developed "fucking merde onion allergies!" I take a blank sheet of paper and not-too-discreetly put it in front of Mr. NYC. I put a pen in his hand and demand that he write down absolutely everything he and She-devil are "allergic" to. I not-quietly explain that we adjust the entire menu for the week to accommodate people with dietary special needs. Meals are prepared from scratch. It takes time to make meals. It takes ingredients to make food. Food is delivered dockside once a week on Sunday morning. The Chef spends about 18 hours a day preparing the meals. We will do damn near anything to make passengers happy, but we *need time* to pull it off.
He begins to concoct a lie that he can't tell me what he/she/they are allergic to until he bothers to read each day’s menu. I tell him to write down everything he won’t eat. My anger at his bullshit is not at all disguised at this point. She-devil finally begins to understand, or at least become embarrassed, at pissing off the entire crew. She departs for the dining room. Mr. NYC can't think of a lie and mumbles that the onion soup will be acceptable. He writes nothing on the sheet of blank paper in front of him.
Dinner service begins. At this point, the entire crew is clearly pissed off at Mr. & Mrs. NYC. The other passengers are, amazingly, openly making comments about what shits they are. Everyone else gets delicious, piping hot onion soup. Mr. & Mrs. NYC get mildly-warm, watered-down, tasteless brown broth, served last. Mustering a shred of decorum, She-devil eats her broth, and declares it fantastic.
The rest of the week, Mr & Mrs. NYC behave like humans. The entire crew is openly hostile to them--this is a truly unprecedented occurrence. The crew, French, German, English, Irish and me, the lone American crew member, all despise them. We make no effort to hide our contempt. Peter, the German Captain, raised with strict Prussian proper manners, can barely look at them. The other passengers, noting the distinct change in atmosphere, become more polite and are even easy to work with (not that they weren’t nice to begin with). At the end of the week, these passengers are effusive in their praise and note--loudly and publicly--the crew’s efforts, hard work, and gracious manners. Other passengers make a big show of giving extra large tips in recognition of our extra efforts. Mr. & Mrs. NYC tip decently, but not particularly generously.
As the passengers leave ship to board the private coach that will take them back to Paris, the crew is chucking the passengers' bags onto the storage bins of the bus. Debbie, one of the Cabin Wenches, loudly belts out that she has "never been so happy to see the asses of passengers!"
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