Aileen O'Leary reviews the top five customers you'll always come across in the world of waiting tables.
We’ve all had to make some soul-crushing sacrifices in the name of furthering our education, like getting a part time job. Its how we fund our nights out, pay for the unnecessary amounts of food we buy, and the clothes we end up leaving in a pile on an already messy floor. Let’s face it though, these jobs are our first real taste of freedom and responsibility; we have disposable income, we have to show up on time and of course, there are the customers we have to deal with on a daily basis. Like retail, bartending or any job that deals with human interaction, you will have some horror stories. You’ll have customers who restore your faith in humanity and those who make you question whether or not you need a job - is it really worth the aggro? Here are five customers you’ll meet if you work in waitressing
1.The ‘Gluten intolerant':
Now I have no problem getting you a gluten-free option if you are gluten intolerant, that is perfectly fine. If I had an allergy, I sure wouldn’t like to be served it by my waitress. But then you have some customers who want to waste your time. Recently, I had a customer who pulled me aside to ask for a list of ingredients in all the deserts on the menu; a small part of me died when she asked that. Its clearly written in bold on the menu to ask our chef for any allergen information and list of ingredients. When I pointed this out to her, as was stated in the menu she was holding in her hand, she replied: ‘Yeah okay, but I'm gluten intolerant so I can’t eat gluten, could you check for me?’ Or you’ll have a customer request the gluten-free option and watch in horror as they eat it with a side of bread. Some people genuinely amaze me.
2. The ‘Whinger’:
You’ll always have one; they walk in, sit down and the first thing they do is complain. They’ll say that it's so cold in the restaurant so you turn off the air conditioning, next they’ll say that they don’t like the table they’re at, so you move them. They want water with ice and lemon, they want fresh pepper, they ask for sweetener not sugar, decaf not regular, cream not milk and soy not dairy. Or the best one of all: "we’ve been sat here waiting for our drinks, where are they?" Sometimes I wonder do they see the full dining room around them? How the bartenders are trying to take orders, serve drinks and collect card details, cash and put it through the till? No? They don’t.
3. The tourist with no English:
Nothing makes a job harder than a language barrier. Going to clear plates is like trying to navigate turbulent waters when suddenly, a hand reaches out to take away your plate and you respond by yelling and freaking out at your waitress. Asking for tea and coffee is even more of a struggle when you get a blank face staring back at you. Or the worst, when someone whistles at you and shakes a coffee pot incessantly and wants a refill, or it’s a milk jug or water jug. Yet, when you refill said jug, there is a death stare; no polite thank yous, just a look of pure disgust as if your waitress, who is looking after ten or more other tables, should somehow know your every need before you do.
4.The family of ten:
It always happens, especially on a busy night. A family of walk-ins off the street walk to the front desk and request a table for ten. It’s not impossible to set up but it does take time, we don’t keep tables of ten just in case you and your family spontaneously show up some random Tuesday night. It will take a few moments to set up, and if you have small kids, we will need to find highchairs and remove table settings. Of course, it has to be a long table that is impossible to get around and even harder to clear, and no one wants tea or coffee until after dessert and you have to somehow carry all ten cups at once like some sort of magician.
5.The curious customer:
Every single time without fail, you’ll have a customer with questions. It starts off simple: "So how long have you been working here?". You smile and say X years. Then it gets a bit personal. "So is this your full time job or are you in college?". Again, you smile and say: "No I’m a student, this is just a weekend gig." Then the full 3rd degree begins: "What are you studying? How many years is it? Are there a lot of jobs for that though? Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you going to travel?". Sometimes, I don’t mind answering these questions but then again, when you’ve repeated these answers hundreds of times, you get tired of the questions and really, all you wanted to know was whether or not the food was alright.