The Worst Restaurant Customers Ever

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, in a special extended edition (seven stories!), we bring you stories of the worst restaurant customers ever. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.

Kinja user Zokajo:

“I served for four years, and only (‘only’, hah) cried in front of customers twice. Considering what I had to put up with, I’m proud of that! The first time, I was working at an Italian pizza fine dining restaurant and I was 18. Mother’s Day was our big day. We had flowers for all the mothers, specials, extra servers working, and every table full all day! I generally thrive in a busy environment, so I was having fun with my tables, until the Mother from Hell got seated in my section.
The family ordered a family-sized Caesar salad and a couple of pizzas, so I ran off to make their salad (at our restaurant, the servers had to make the salads). After working there for a year, I’d perfected how to make a Caesar salad to the point where nearly every customer complimented me on it; basically, throw in extra of all that tasty fatty stuff — extra parmesan, extra bacon, a bit of extra dressing. I brought them their salad and dropped it off.
Cue absolute RAGE from the mother, who hated the Caesar salad – said it tasted too ‘fishy’ (we didn’t make our own sauce, and it was a totally standard Caesar salad dressing, but yeah, it had anchovies in it). Okay, I’ll try it with less dressing. Made her another without complaining about it. And then another. And another. After the fourth sub-par Caesar salad, at a point where she was screaming that I was incompetent and THROWING a crouton at me, the pizza was ready, and the mother gave up on the salad. The rest of the family, by the way, had happily dished out a serving from each of the bowls, with no complaint until she ordered them to turn their bowls over to me each time. Poor dishwasher.
The pizza seemed to satisfy her, although it (obviously, with this type of customer) didn’t result in an actual compliment. When the bill came, she paid credit, and I handed back her credit slip to sign. She spent five minutes writing on the slip, and when I picked it up I burst into tears.
On the “tip” line, she had written “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” and written other random abuse across the slip, like “THIS SERVER IS COMPLETELY INCOMPETENT, FIRE HER IMMEDIATELY.” She did sign it, though. Her husband left a generous tip under his plate, and one of her children apologized on the way out. There is a special place in my heart for people who do what they can to make up for a horrible customer in their party, even if they can’t actually stand up to them.”

Juliet Robertson:

“When I was in my early 20’s I worked at a restaurant chain attached to a huge mall. This meant we got all types of classy people and a lot of families.
One night three couples and their combined eight young children came in for dinner. The restaurant, which was packed as usual, separated the group. I served the kids, who crammed nicely into a six-person booth. Another waitress served the adults in a different section.
I basically felt like my job was just babysitting. My tip was resting on the other waitress serving the adults well. So when she told me one of the men at the adult table was a total jerk and to make things worse, he had ordered a half roast chicken and the kitchen sent it out cold. I knew we weren’t going to be making any money.
The second half chicken was out and being delivered to the table of adults. The man who was sitting at the farthest end of the booth stuck his finger into the roast chicken. Said this one was cold too. Picked it up off his plate and threw it at the waitress who was standing at the head of the booth. I watched it hit her in the chest and bounce onto the end of their table. She walked away and told our manager who didn’t want to approach the table because he was afraid of the man. He told her to apologize to them.”

Steve Myers:

“As a student I worked in an up-market East Asian restaurant in London’s Square Mile — the financial heart of the city. Our prices were ridiculous, and so we almost exclusively served bankers. One night, the Royal Bank of Scotland had hired out the whole restaurant to celebrate their end of financial quarter or some such bullshit. The party was for the head honchos at RBS, so it was attended by old dudes on eye-wateringly huge salaries.
That evening, it was my duty to make sure that the toilets were immaculate. On one of my check-ups, I discovered that one of the party goers had shat in his own hands and smeared his crap all over the walls of the cubicle and the mirror directly outside it. It took me a good hour (and countless dry heaves) to clean his mess up. When I reported it to the party organiser, she didn’t even apologise — she simply laughed and said that she hoped I had cleaned my hands afterwards.

Carly Reston:

“During college, I worked at an American-style restaurant/bar chain in the south. One busy night, a couple was seated at my table. They were very chatty and friendly and we were laughing together like old friends. As they were ordering, they asked me if we had milkshakes. When I said we didn’t, he asked where they could get one nearby. I couldn’t think of a place, so I said jokingly, “well, there’s a McDonald’s up the road!” They laughed like I was the funniest person they had ever met and said thank you.
About ten minutes later, my manager comes up to me to tell me that a table had complained about me and wanted their meal comped because I was so rude. I couldn’t imagine who it would be, but then he says, “They said you insulted them and told them to go to McDonald’s.” My jaw literally dropped open. I walked over to them and said loudly “Come on guys, are you serious??” The man was staring right at me, but the woman had the decency to look away. I was actually HURT. They got their free meal because my manager didn’t want to deal with it.
Two weeks later, a co-worker slammed into the back of the restaurant where I was dropping off some dishes and said she had a horrible couple who acted all friendly and then complained to the manager that she commented that they looked poor. She said they had been talking and laughing about money (or lack thereof) and she said “you know what I mean” in truly contextual way. I went out into the restaurant and saw that it was the same couple. I told the manager on duty what had happened two weeks prior and he kicked them out and told them not to come back.
The funny thing about it was how weirdly concise and effective their plan was – they get you to say something jokingly that can sound like an insult when repeated, so all you can say is “well, yes I kind of said that but…”

Clarissa Bradford:

“After college I was working at what you would classify as an upscale sports bar. We had higher end versions of burgers, pizza, and sandwiches in addition to steak and seafood.
We often had customers who were appalled at our prices because of the area we were in but one woman took the cake. I greeted her table and she immediately cut me off to inform me she wanted half sweet, half unsweet tea because she wasn’t a southerner and didn’t like to chew her tea. The other woman and child politely ordered their drinks.
When I returned to the table with their drinks, the woman immediately asked me if there was gold flakes in the steak and cheese sandwich because there was no way in hell it should cost her $12.95 (we used shaved prime rib for the sandwich).
She then continued to criticize almost every item on the menu asking if her drink, an appetizer, and dessert was included in those prices or if the chef was going to come massage her feet after eating. She finally stopped to take a sip of her tea, which she promptly spit out citing it was “too damn sweet,” so I gave them a moment to look over the menu while I poured her a glass of unsweet tea she later said was the perfect way to make sweet tea.
Eventually the woman insisted on ordering off the kids menu. I just let her despite it clearly stating it was for kids 12 and under. When I brought the bill later she freaked out that I hadn’t brought her the cookie that was included with her kids meal.
Fortunately for me, the woman’s friend seemed to pity me and left me a good tip when her friend rounded up to the nearest dollar on her tab.”

Sandra Harrison:

“I’m a hostess at an IHOP in norcal. I was working a crazy busy day and one of my servers hands me a wad of cash and a customer’s receipt to cash out at the register.
When I arrive at the register there’s a little girl holding her family’s ticket and some money. She’s around four, I love kids, and she’s adorable to talk to — but when I count up the money, she only has 20 dollars for a 50 dollar check. So I ask her where her parents are and her dad comes up and asks, “is there a problem?” I explain to him the situation, and we look around for the money, assuming she dropped it because she’s four.
After a minute, the mom comes up and gets hostile, saying that I must have taken it. She points to the money in my hand that one of the servers handed me. I calmly explain to her that that money is from another table. She proceeds to call me a fucking liar and accuses me of stealing.
Now, I’ve worked in restaurants and retail long enough to know to just call my manager over instead of trying to handle this myself. My manager tells me to take care of the check the server gave me while she handles the lady, who is still ranting saying “I gave my daughter sixty dollars and she stole it and is blaming it on a little girl” and so on and bringing a lot of attention to the front register.
That’s when a guy walks up with the missing forty dollars and tells the woman it was on the floor by their table. To which she says “bullshit” and storms out saying that I’m a fucking thief. Moral of the story is, don’t give small children lots of cash. (Editor’s Note: And also that people are fucking horrible. That is also a moral.)

Nancy Gottskrieg:

“I work in an upscale, small local chain restaurant in the New Orleans area. I have worked in restaurants for over ten years in a city known for its restaurants and it’s impeccable service. I have waited on celebrities, athletes, politicians, musicians, models and every other kind of horrible person that loves to dine in restaurants and abuse their server. Nobody even comes close to this terrible woman and her adorable twin babies.
Within 30 seconds of her walking in the door, 20 minutes before we get off, we knew she was going to be a problem. The hostess walked her around the whole dining room as she refused table after table. We have a very large table in the dining room reserved for parties of 10-12. This is the one she insisted on. After inspecting our high chairs she informs us she will use her own and the babies must be seated ON the table. After getting her babies situated, she handed me two sippy cups and told me I needed to remove the plastic from them, wash them in hot soapy water, sterilize them in boiling water, then put exactly 2 ounces of filtered water and 2 ounces of pineapple juice in each. Chilled if possible.
Then 20 minutes of menu questions started. I detailed every item on our menu down to the ingredients in each. We have no food suitable for babies who are just starting to eat solid food. I informed her of this repeatedly. She ended up ordering ribs. As the babies happily gnawed on rib bones, the only thing they ate, she proceeded to order half our menu for the babies. I literally ran back and forth from her table to the kitchen for almost 2 hours. Everything that came out of the kitchen went back for some reason or another. Her, “Oh, this is spicy. It’s much too hot for them.” Me, “ma’am I told you that dish was spicy when you ordered it and that it wasn’t appropriate for babies.” Her, “I didn’t think it was this spicy.” Her, “well, this is too hard for them to chew they will choke.” Me, ” ma’am I told you the babies wouldn’t be able to chew it when you ordered it.” This went on and on and on. The babies ate none of it, except the ribs they kept throwing on the table (every time one hit the table or floor she ordered more) and the bread pudding that I had to remove the pecans from by hand. After boxing up the bags and bags of food that would easily feed 5 adults, she tells me the babies are tired and she is going to walk them around the dining room until they fall asleep.
Finally sleeping, she decides to order for herself. She orders a sangria and after drinking every sip of it asks to have it taken off the bill because it was too sweet. I asked her why she finished it if it was too sweet and she responded that she should have said something earlier but still wasn’t satisfied with it and wanted it removed. She also didn’t touch her salad because she didn’t like the way it looked. NOPE.
After getting her credit card and thanking god it was over, she left, vowing to return again because we were so accommodating. When I looked at the bill, she had left a ridiculously small tip of $22.22 (on a check around $190) with a little smiley face and note that said,”because 2 is my favorite number.” I am honestly scared every day that she might return.
God help me and those poor babies.”

I mentioned on the Good Customer BCO that I’ve been saving up for this one, so I hope you enjoyed the end result. A couple of these stories were received recently; the top two have been sitting in my BCO Google doc almost since I started doing this. I think I just reduced that thing by about five pages (luckily I still have 15 more pages sitting there).

Do you have a crazy restaurant story you’d like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? 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!

Image via amenic181/Shutterstock.

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