Astoundingly Stupid Restaurant Customers, Part 1

In Depth

Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. This week, we’ve got more stories of that old favorite: dumb restaurant customers. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.

We’ll have more dumb restaurant customer stories next week, too. Considering the sheer number of these I have saved up, we might actually go three-for-three on this topic.

Kathryn Ellington:

My husband was waiting tables and one of “those guys” comes in and is acting like he’s just the hottest guy in the world for his date. It seemed like a first or early date, and the date seemed distinctly unimpressed with his attempts to impress her. He asked for a wine list — my husband said, “We don’t have a wine list. We have Chablis, White Zinfandel, and Merlot.” (For the record, this was a mid-priced Mexican restaurant. The wine came in gallon jugs.) The guy ordered White Zinfandel, “and the lady will have the same.”
My husband ran the wine out then went on to take another order. As he was walking past their table to get back to the wait station, That Guy stopped him: “Sir! This wine is PINK. I ordered WHITE Zinfandel!” This was before the age of smart phones and instant internet access so Husband was not able to convince That Guy that he was indeed served White Zin—he even brought out the jug and poured a glass in front of the couple. That Guy said it must be incorrectly bottled.
My husband brought him a glass of Chablis; That Guy takes a sip and says, “THANK you. Now THAT’S White Zinfandel.”

Sara Wedemeyer:

A few months ago my fiancé and I out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant, which we frequent. That night we were seated behind three very bubbly, loud, college girls. When the server came back with their cocktails and asked if they were ready to order, each girl seemed to be confused by the menu. I assumed they were going to have questions about whether they could order off the hibachi menu. When the first girl asked the server why there was “no Lo Mein on the menu?”
The server tried to be polite and point out a noodle option on the menu, but this just perplexed the girl even more. She started again, but slower and with a little more attitude. “So you don’t have Lo Mein? You know like L-o M-e-I-n?” The girl was at a loss, her mind was completely blown. That’s when the second girl began. Her question was “California roll…is that just like an egg roll?” and “If I get chicken teriyaki will it be like steak teriyaki?” The server explained the mechanics of the California roll and then pointed out that there was a beef teriyaki option the menu. That only caused more chaos and the three girls had to have another few minutes to look over the menus again. Thank God the third girl just kept drinking and looking puzzled without questions. The server, the manager, and another server all took turns to field questions before they ordered.
By that time we had finished eating completely and were on our way out the door. That poor, poor server. I just figured since the restaurant was called Tokyo, and the fact that the sign said “Japanese and hibachi,” it would have clued these college girls in on the fact that this wasn’t a Chinese restaurant. But hey, what do I know?

Melissa Melancon:

I work on a university campus in southern Ontario in a food service coffee place. Because it’s a Canadian campus, there are also more Tim Hortons than you can shake a stick at. I don’t work at one of the Tim Hortons (thank the Lord—Roll Up the Rim just started and that shit is a nightmare), but I do get a lot of customers who think that my coffee place is a Tim Hortons…because it’s a place on campus that serves coffee, and even though there is nothing indicating that where I work is a Tim Hortons, it just has to be Timmies. Usually that just means that I get to tell customers that no, I’m not going to make your coffee for you, you do all the work, but it does lead to some confusion from time to time.
I recently had a customer come in who wanted hot chocolate. When people ask for that, we (me and the full-timer I work with) tell them that we have expensive shit. The customer doesn’t care; she orders a large with whipped cream (which is nearly $5). Our hot chocolate is so expensive because we make hot chocolate with steamed milk and chocolate syrup. In comparison, Timmies makes their hot chocolate with super sweet chocolate powder and scalding hot water. Not to brag or anything, but our hot chocolate is objectively better than Timmies’. So we make her drink, she pays, and leaves. Five minutes later, she comes back with the hot chocolate and looking for a refund. Her reason? It wasn’t brown enough. She even pulls off the lid to show us just how brown her hot chocolate isn’t. Basically, she went to a coffee place that wasn’t Tim Hortons, wanted a hot chocolate like Tim Hortons makes (you gotta hand it to ‘em, Timmies knows how to make a brown hot chocolate), and wanted a refund because the coffee place that wasn’t Tim Hortons didn’t make hot chocolate like Timmies.
(Editor’s Note: Like I’m ever going to pass up a story that makes fun of Tim Hortons…)

Kelli Staten:

I managed a restaurant that went through great pains to ensure guests with allergies could safely enjoy their meals. Servers were trained to modify items, tell a manager and confirm with the kitchen. A family came in and immediately told the server the 20-something daughter had a nut allergy. The server pored over the menu to highlight items that were safe or could be modified for the guest. She rang the daughter’s meal on a separate ticket, made sure it was prepped away from the copious amounts of nuts we use in house and presented it in a flourish before she brought everyone else’s food. The daughter first took a bite of her boyfriend’s food…that had nuts in it.
(Editor’s Note: No, I don’t know what happened next. Maybe Kelli will show up in the comments to explain. If not, let it go.
Anyway, after this weekend’s post, I figured fair was fair as far as a story about a customer with allergies whose dumbassery makes you wonder how they’re still alive)

Kara Kyle:

A man who came in ALL THE TIME with his girlfriend suddenly had a lot of questions one night. Everything started off normal: they got their usual drinks, and then he asked to see the Gluten Free menu. I obliged (even though he had eaten off the regular menu before) and after perusing the menu he says, “I have a gluten intolerance….is there gluten in waffles?”
“Um, yes. There is gluten in our waffles.”
He thinks about this for a moment and then asks, “What about pancakes? Is there gluten in the pancakes here?”
“Yes, there is gluten in our pancakes as well. There is also gluten in our breads and baked goods, which is why those things are not on our gluten free menu.”
He nods like suddenly it all makes sense. “I think I’ll have the international breakfast.”
The international breakfast is a half-waffle and one slice of french toast served with eggs and sausage.

Doreen Jamison:

I worked for a notoriously high-calorie, large-portion casual dining chain that specialized in having an obscene selection of cheesecakes on their dessert menu. The location where I worked was notoriously busy. Super, super busy. It wasn’t uncommon to go on waits of 4+ hours over the holidays. If you had a large party, forget about it.
While I was pregnant, I worked as a hostess because the smell of the food left me nauseated 24/7 but I had to keep working. I sat a group of 12 women down at a table, after they had waited in the lobby for what seemed like ages. Once I sat them at their table, they looked incredibly confused and upset and asked to speak to a manager. I said, again enthusiastically, “Absolutely. May I tell him what your concern is?”
One lady responded, “Well, we waited all this time to be seated at a table? We thought this was The Cheesecake Factory—we wanted to get a tour of the FACTORY.” I kept a straight face and said, “Let me get you a manager right away” and then ran to the back to laugh hysterically and get them a manager (I’m pretty sure we comped their desserts for their time).

Dan Baker:

Working the El Crab Catcher on Kaanapali beach on Maui. A polite and (I’m pretty sure) unintoxicated couple is having lunch. I have to add the beach view is great, the ocean, the sand…
The husband asks me, with a straight face “How high above sea level are we?”
I pointedly look at the ocean, then back at them, and say, “I don’t know about you, but I’m about 4 feet.”
They. Can. See. The. Ocean.

Kinja user Plaatsvervangende Schaamte:

I ran a Subway sandwich shop for a few years back in college. I did get my fair share of idiots (and committed my fair share of faux pas as well), but one woman in particular during a lunch rush stands out in my mind as the most aggressively stupid customer I had. Not stupidest period, but definitely most determined to infect her stupidity upon others.
She ordered a standard cold cut sandwich, got through all the toppings without incident, then hit a brick wall on the sauces. Oil and vinegar? Easy peasy. Mayonnaise, no problem (this was the south… kids are born knowing how to pronounce mayonnaise). Dee-john mustard (whatever, it’s phonetically how it’s spelled, sure, you get a pass). Then comes chipotle sauce. She goes “Chip…chip-holt…chip-holt-uh-lee…chip-oh…chip-POH-little. Chipohlittle.” I make sure to say “chipot-lay” in response to gently correct her, and she proceeds to correct me with “chip-poh-LITTLE” and give me a condescending smirk. Whatever. I wrap up her sandwich and leave it for the cashier to finish.
As I’m working on the next sandwich, the customer asks for chipotle sauce, and she immediately corrects him “Chip-poh-little.” I say chipotle again, and she clucks and corrects me again. After paying, she decides to stand behind the line and correct every single person who asks for it (and, as luck would have it, the next few people all wanted The Sauce That Shall Not Be Named). It wasn’t until another employee and a customer simultaneously shot her a dirty look that she abandoned course and bustled her soggy, over-sauced chip-poh-little sandwich out of the store.

Do you have a crazy restaurant story you’d like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please e-mail [email protected] with “Behind Closed Ovens” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome! Also, you don’t need to hide the name of the place with some goofy pseudonym. You can just say it. It’s cool.

Image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock, because of course it is.

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