The “Ultimate” Threat

August 14, 2009

Dear Petulant Customers,

“I’m never coming back.”

“Well, you just lost my business forever.”

“We won’t be visiting here again.”

In your minds, this is the ultimate threat. It supposedly means loss of revenue to the restaurant, loss of a tip to the server, and, hopefully, loss of employment to the offending employee. However, I thought you should know that, at best, this threat is an ineffectual scare tactic that only gets under the skin of the uninitiated. To the more experienced, your threats mean absolutely nothing.

Would you like to know why?

First: we only ever hear “I’m not coming back” or one of its variations during a temper tantrum. You want something comped, or you weren’t seated where you wanted to sit, or the server forgot something, or you’re just having a bad day and you want to take it out on someone. In other words, you’re an entitlement junkie or just a bitch, you act like a child, and therefore nobody in possession of a spine is ever going to take you seriously.

Second: people who are truly upset almost never make a scene the way you do. If they say anything, it will be quietly to a manager. Most simply finish their meals and leave, the poor or absent tip the only clue to their displeasure.

Third: the people who leave quietly, they truly never come back. You, on the other hand, almost always do. And you almost always find something new to bitch about the next time you’re in. In a pinch, you’ll bitch about what happened the last time you were here. We’re not going to take an empty threat seriously.

We had one of you lovely people come into The Restaurant last night. A beady-eyed woman carrying some shitty hardback novel, who ignored my friendly greeting and instead immediately asked “Do you have any booths?”

We have four booths. We only have four booths. They are immediately visible from the door. All were quite clearly full. No, we don’t have any fucking booths.

“I’m sorry, no, they’re all full. Would you like a table?” I asked her, gesturing at the completely empty table section.

“Ugh, I hate those tables. I really want a booth.” She looked at me as if she expected me to perhaps draw back an invisible curtain revealing the fifth booth that we maliciously hide from customers. Or perhaps she wanted me to tell one of the groups to leave so she could plop her solo ass down for an hour or two at a table that seats four.

“Well, I’m sorry,” I was desperately hiding my exasperation by now. “I don’t have any booths. I could give you the table in the far corner, it’s like a booth.” It also seats three people, but never mind.

“I hate having random strangers sit next to me,” she snapped, and then sat herself at the counter. With her back to me, I just rolled my eyes, got her a water, and went to find the counter waitress so I could warn her of the incoming blowhard.

Shortly after I had seated this bitch, one of the booths left. As our busboy for the evening–a fellow I’ll call The Comedian–passed by her to clean it off, she stopped him and declared, “I’m going to sit there.”

Now, as the name implies, The Comedian is quite the jokester, and he’s also probably my favorite of all our new staff. He’s fun to work with and he does his job well. But like most comedians, sometimes he doesn’t know where to draw the line. His reply to Crazy Lady’s declaration? “They’d rather you didn’t,” said with a big, stupid grin.

Unsurprisingly, she didn’t quite get the joke. And the first words that came out of her mouth were, of course, “Fine, then I’m never coming back here again.”

Astonished, The Comedian tried to placate her, telling her that it was only a joke and of course she could move to the booth. Alas, a joke is never funny if you have to explain it. He walked back into the kitchen, eyes wide and much of the color drained from his face. “I am so fired,” he moaned. I bet that’s what Crazy Lady thought, too, especially after she bitched to the manager for about ten minutes. A victory for the Petulant Customer, right?

No, wrong. One, while the joke was inappropriate (we sure thought it was funny, though), Crazy Lady blew it way out of proportion and was therefore not taken seriously. Two, this woman has threatened never to come back multiple times, and yet she always does. Three, The Comedian is one of our best bussers and The Restaurant’s resident clown. In other words, a valuable employee.

What happened to him? Oh, he was taken aside and told not to joke with the customers anymore. He might lose some hours for a little while; we’ll see what happens. But he’s not going to be fired. You see, we like him. And we don’t like you, Petulant Customers. We would all be much happier if you actually made good on your threats and never graced us with your presence again.

Sincerely,

K.

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Remember how I scoffed in my previous post at the notion of us being dead and/or nothing happening tonight?

Ahahahaha. That’s what we were. Dead. Not completely, but I couldn’t have sat more than 10-15 groups tonight. Nothing but standing around talking to N about his horrible new job and waitresses bitching about how they didn’t make any money.

Things should get more…interesting, though, because of the mass exodus of experienced people and the resultant influx of new folks at The Restaurant. Especially since most of these people are high schoolers. Oh joy! Of the new folks, about 2 of them are any good. The rest are either not cut out for the job or just don’t take it seriously, as teenagers are wont to do.

I’m not sure why teenagers so often make such shitty employees. Because they have other focuses in their life? So do I. I’ve got a social life, a relationship, and college to balance with work. Is it because they aren’t working to pay the bills? Neither am I. I live at home–I’m just earning money for a car and for spending cash. I still take my job seriously. Perhaps it’s just something about the middle-adolescent psyche, some responsibility switch that’s stuck in the “off” position until they decide to get serious about things. But based on the way most college kids I know treat school and life in general, I’m not sure if that’s it either.

Oh well. Hopefully more interesting stuff tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll actually get some customers tomorrow!

Hosting

July 10, 2009

The title of this blog is Eternal Carry-Out Girl, but I also host. Hosting at The Restaurant doesn’t work the way it does at most normal restaurants. From what I’ve seen, hosts at other restaurants typically have a rotation they follow, so as to distribute customers among the waitstaff in something resembling an orderly fashion.

That’s not how we do things here. Here, the host’s job is essentially to stand in people’s way as they try to sit wherever they damn well please. We do not have a “Please Wait to be Seated” sign. It’s also my job to set the tables (we don’t wrap silverware), get people water, and generally do whatever the waitresses tell me to do.

This setup leads to a lot of stupid situations. Single customers taking up a whole booth (we only have four booths, so this is actually a problem). Customers mistaking me for a waitress and trying to order from me, then getting angry when I explain to them that I can’t take their order. People sitting down before a table is set, or even while it’s still dirty. I then have to try and weave around them, setting placemats, napkins, and silverware while they try to look at the menu. It’s a little amazing how many people don’t bother to pick up their menu or their hands while I’m trying to do this.

This setup also leads to major problems for the waitresses. There are three dinner sections—4 booths, 8 tables, and then the two full counters and the entire back dining room. Woe betide the waitress assigned to counters, for they are doomed to either having no one all night or being completely slammed. Tonight was the latter situation, and I felt terrible as I watched the counters fill up and led groups of 8 to the back.

Some explanation: I understand that at larger restaurants, dealing with large groups is the norm, and an individual server can have a ton of tables at any given time. Said larger restaurants also typically have computer systems, food runners, and/or people making milkshakes for them.

At The Restaurant, waitresses do all checks by hand, take out all the food themselves, and are responsible for most sides, desserts, and our handmade milkshakes. Suffice to say, this makes it far more difficult than usual for any one person to deal with that many customers, especially when there’s a rush.

So I get to stand by and watch this happen to Mrs. T tonight, a very sweet woman who I am quite fond of, and who doesn’t deserve the shit she has to take from people and management (Owner always gives her the counter section and the most clean-up work). I feel like shit, but there’s nothing I can do about it—I have no control, and frankly I have to spend all my time running around setting up the back dining room (which is never set up) and having people think I’m a waitress.

I also found out my friend N is quitting—it’s about time, but I’m sad, as now I will have no one to chat with when it’s dead. Still, I don’t blame him. He’ll be making significantly more money at his new job. Good luck, sir.

Oh, and ten minutes before closing we had a group of ten come and sit in the section I was supposed to sweep. Note that here at The Restaurant, it’s the host’s job to sweep the carpet with a broom at the end of the night, which makes it hilarious when people with small children apologize to the waitress and tip them extra for the big mess they left. Tips aren’t split with the host or busser here, so the waitress gets more money while we get more work.

Thirty minutes after we closed, they were still there, and I said screw it and left. The disher was done, so I was done. I don’t mind staying a little after to help out or wait on a slow table, but I’m not waiting on a party of ten who’ve decided to camp after we close.