Not long ago some folks in the restaurant community shared with me some amazing horror stories. In one, a very minor celebrity came in, ate a robust meal, and when the check came the person said, “Oh, we never pay for anything. I’m on TV.” Amazing.
On Facebook I asked about what some of their worst experiences in the service industry have been and I was on the receiving end of some doozies. Here is the first of a few offerings.
- I accidentally dumped an entire glass of [cabernet] on Olympia Snowe’s white linen pants suit while waiting on her on the deck at the Blackpoint Inn when I was 19. Awkward… Uncomfortable… Terrible. Horrifying. These words don’t even begin to describe it.
- On my first day a woman yelled at me until I cried because we had run out of her favorite item. She was taking her pastor out for breakfast.
- I failed to recognize a minor celebrity who came in with an entourage. They weren’t pleased. Eventually, they called the waitress the C word in front of a little kid and had to be asked to leave.
- I had a man take “it” out! Walked over to the table to great him and ask for his drink order and “it” was just hanging there for my complete enjoyment. Needless to say he left the restaurant in cuffs but I had to continue to wait on him while we waited for the police to show up. Not really sure what he thought he had going on but it wasn’t impressive! He was a… tiny tipper.
- My first job ever, I worked at a wine bar when I was 16 and legally couldn’t taste the wine. Once, a woman came in on her lunch hour and neatly lined up about two dozen signed checks and invoices on her table. I spilled her Arnold Palmer all over all of them.
- Working as a cocktail server on Mt. Desert Island. My first job out of a small town where everyone knew me. Tourists. Lots of tourists. One guy in particular was with a group of his friends, I took their order and as I was walking away he grabbed my ass and held on. My instinct, for some reason, was to immediately elbow him in the face. To the joy of the surrounding tables. And his friends. Who spent the rest of the night apologizing profusely. They left me a $200 tip.
- Once when I dropped [in to my restaurant] to see the Bourbon tasting [my then-husband] was hosting, I had my two-year-old son on my Hip. After noticing some snarks and pointing and eye rolling, a pair of old ladies came up to me, clearly unaware that I was also the restaurant owner, and told me that that Bartender should not have let me in in and shame on myself for bringing a baby to the tasting. And how could they support a business that would allow babies to be at such an event. I was an unfit mother and horribly misjudging my role as a mother and my seat at the restaurant. When someone explained to them who I was, they follow that up with “disgusting”.
- I’ve got a lot of stories of waitressing where a few select groups of the richest people gave the worst tips. Once when waiting in 10+ people for a crazy messy lobster dinner with their whole family the grandpa who was paying (and had plenty of money) left a $10 tip. We pooled tips and I was only 16 or so and an awesome senior waitress called him on it and he was rightfully embarrassed. I think he coughed up another $10.
- I threw four glasses of red wine over the dress the wife of the new owner of the bar I worked at was wearing. Not even on purpose.
- I had to kick a guy out for peeing in the ladies’ room sink. He was, to put it lightly, five or six sheets to the wind.
- A V.I.P. couple came in on my first night to meet the new chef and they proceeded to ask me what was fresh. The new open kitchen and staff were in the background and I was distracted and mixing up the words Sea Bass and Salmon, I told them we had “fresh semen.”
Just so you don’t think it’s all bad—because it’s not! I LOVED working in the industry so much—here is one nice story: I once catered an event for the musician Neko Case and she could not have been more amazing. She picked up after some messy crew members and came back to the kitchen and thanked us all individually. She was so extraordinarily gracious and wonderful.
Many thanks to Meredith Finn, Anna Lombard McGreachey, Anna Berks, Melissa Reinhard, Greta Rybus, Alicia Willette-Cook, Martha Mai Thompson, Hannah Pingree, Dennis Seine, James turner, and Victoria Karol for sharing their horror with me.