Somebody Doesn’t Like Me

A couple walks in the door. Fluvio seats them in my section.

From my perch at the hostess stand I overhear the man say, “Can we sit somewhere else?”

Fluvio tells them he can’t. The other sections are full.

Throwing me a sideways glance the man replies, “Well, can we have a different waiter?”

Looking startled, Fluvio tells the man it’s not a problem. After the couple sits Fluvio comes over to me.

“Don’t take that table,” he says.

“Gee, you think?” I reply.

“What’d you do to that guy?” Fluvio asks.

“I have no idea,” I say. “I’ve waited on that couple several times and never had a problem.”

“Well, they have a problem with you.”

“Can you imagine anyone having a problem with me?” I ask.

“Yes,” Fluvio snorts.

“Thanks a lot boss.”

“Maybe they caught you on a bad day,” Fluvio suggests.

“Do me a favor,” I ask, “Find out what the problem is.”

“Ok, I’ll ask after they’re done eating.” Fluvio says.

“Thanks, I really want to know.” Believe it or not, if someone has a valid criticism of my performance, I want to hear it.

Louis is stuck with the table and he’s not happy about it. He’s busy with a party in the back.

“Why aren’t you taking the table?” he asks.

“They don’t like me,” I reply.

“Why?”

I shrug helplessly.

“Maybe you crop dusted their table once too often,” Louis suggests.

“Nah, I stopped doing that months ago.”

“Did you stare at his wife’s tits?” Louis asks.

“No.”

“Well what then?”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” I reply.

Louis shakes his head and goes to my detractor’s table.

I’m a bit worried. It’s not good when customers start requesting you not be their server. You want to encourage the reverse phenomenon. What did I do to piss these people off? Concerned, I start running though all the possibilities.

Was I impolite? Moi? Never.

Did I unconsciously do something gross at the table? Did I pick my nose, scratch my ass, or grab my crotch? Was a booger hanging from my nose? Did dandruff fall into the food? Scratch that – I don’t have dandruff.

Did I have a rip roaring erection while I recited the specials? Maybe I did stare at his wife’s tits.

Nah – the apron would have covered that up.

Did I say something weird? I mean, haven’t you ever worried that something might just Freudian slip off your tongue? Did I have a mini psychotic episode and say, “Hello I’m the King of the Wicker people, can I take your order?”

Nah.

Did this guy overhear me complaining about him? No, that’s not it. I’m careful and he’s never given me cause to complain.

I sigh. Worrying isn’t going to help any. Fluvio will find out what’s up.

But I take solace in the fact that in my five years at the Bistro I can count the number of customers who’ve said they don’t like me on the fingers of one hand. That’s roughly one a year out of thousands of people. Not bad.

And, looking at my tipping average, I must be doing something right. My tips usually hover in the 20% range. This past week I’ve had a couple of 25% nights. If I was a shitty server my average would be in the toilet and Fluvio’d be wondering why. The numbers don’t lie.

The couple finally finishes eating dinner. Fluvio goes to find out what’s what. After a five minute conversation he delivers his report.

“I can’t wait to hear this,” I say raising an eyebrow.

“They said you’re cold.” Fluvio says, grinning.

“That’s it?” I say relieved, “I’m cold?”

“Aloof was another word they used. But they said it wasn’t a big deal.”

I start laughing.

“An aloof waiter,” I say, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

Fluvio rolls his eyes. “Well you know how you can be,” he says.

“Thanks Boss.”

Fluvio and I, in the grand scheme of things, both know this isn’t a valid criticism. It’s nothing to worry about. I’m a good waiter and bring in a lot of money.

But I can hazard a guess why these customers don’t like me.

Some diners, operating under a set of unrealistic expectations, want their servers to behave like a cruise line entertainer or a groveling serf. I am neither. I believe good service is subtle, invisible. You won’t catch me telling people my name, interrupting every five minutes, asking how the food is, or doing magic tricks. My job is to make you comfortable, guide you through the menu, and separate you from as much of your money as possible. A good server knows the focus should be on the customer and the food – not the guy bringing it.

And a good customer remembers that this is a business transaction.

But some patrons, raised on a fantasy diet of celebrity magazines, expect their server to act like the bastard son of Jeeves and Richard Simmons. And some waiters try and be just that.

Be warned. These ass kissing waiters usually suck. Confusing sycophancy with good service, they’ll cover up their incompetence with aggressive friendliness and happy bullshit. I’m sure you’ve encountered waiters like this, a sneer hidden behind every one of their dripping faux smiles. Be afraid. These are the guys who’ll spit in your food.

And what does it say about you if you don’t like the server’s “personality” even if you receive excellent service? What’s your problem? I know some of you harbor “I’m a secret rock star” fantasies. Some of you feel entitled to have me peel you a grape and tell you how wonderful you are. But guess what? I’ve waited on rock stars. You probably don’t qualify. Get over it.

And 85% of all customers realize this. They’re entitled to good service and a pleasant experience. It’s the humorless pricks with outsized egos that get all upset if their waiter isn’t willing to commit seppuku tableside. Fuck them.

“So what did they say?” Louis asks me.

“I’m cold and aloof,” I reply.

“Well you are kinda reserved.”

“But oh so lovable,” I say.

“You getting in trouble?”

“Over this?”

“Guess not,” Louis says.

But that gets me thinking. Did those people realize they could have gotten me in trouble? There are restaurants that will fire you on the spot for less. Whatever this couple thought about me they couldn’t keep it to themselves? Did they even think I might have been having a bad day? I strive to be professional but, in the real world, that’s not always possible. Haven’t you ever had a bay day at work? As my mother always told me, don’t be too quick to judge – you never know what’s going on in a person’s life. Maybe someone died. Maybe they just got dumped or found out they’re sick. You never know. Lord knows I’m not perfect – but couldn’t they have given me the benefit of the doubt?

Guess not. I’ll bet those people are backstabbers in real life. Passive aggressive in extremis.

Or, maybe they were having a bad day.

The next evening I’m outside talking to a curvy blond who’s just finished her dinner.

“How was everything tonight?” I ask.

“Oh the food was wonderful,” Blondie says, “It’s a shame you weren’t our waiter.”

“How was your server?”

“Oh she was good,” Blondie purrs, “But she’s not you.”

This woman and I have been casually flirting for years. She’s a lot of fun.

“Not everyone can be me I’m afraid,” I say.

“Well we want you to be our waiter next time.”

“Just ask for me when you make a reservation,” I say, “Not a problem.”

“My friends and I really like you. You’ve got (get this people) such a great personality.”

I laugh out loud. “Gee, I wish everybody thought that.”

“Someone didn’t like you?” Blondie exclaims.

“Fraid so.”

“I’ll bet they were assholes,” Blondie says.

“It’d be a boring world if everyone liked me,” I reply.

The woman laughs a deep rich laugh.

“Well I like you,” Blondie says, “You’re so cute.”

I seem to be a hit with the over 40 crowd. Why can’t I have this effect on twenty five year olds?

“Thank you,” I reply, blushing slightly.

Blondie’s husband joins us. We talk a bit, shake hands, and say our goodbyes.

“You’re our waiter next time,” the husband says.

“Looking forward to it sir.”

Blondie gives me a peck on the cheek. “See ya next time.”

“Have a nice evening madam,”

I watch Blondie and her husband recede into the distance.

Well, not every customer can like me. But some think I’m “cute.”

And I’ll take that any day.


Comments

Somebody Doesn’t Like Me — 9 Comments

  1. Cool post. I think I’d like you but unfortunately I’m 47. A young 47 but there you are. I do like professional wait people though, when they are too “chummy” that makes me shiver.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so self centered that they never even stop to consider what the another person may be going through.

    I’m a firm believer of checking your personal problems at the door when you go to work, but sometimes, life can be affecting your behaviour in ways you are not even aware. For example, approximately 7 years ago, in the span of 3 months, my husband left me, I was diagnosed with a serious, degenerative condition, and my son got diagnosed with Autism. Needless to say, I was not my usual cheery self. How I managed to keep working is a mystery in itself…

    I can’t remember one particular negative incident, I thought I was performing my duties in an acceptable manner inspite of all the shit flying around in my so-called life. However; one of the “patrons” had the audacity to write an incriminating letter about me, to my boss at her HOME ADDRESS!!!!!! Can you believe it???

    Well, a couple of years later, just before I left that job for greener pastures, one of those “chance opportunities” comes my way and I have a chance to talk to this woman to tell her that I am leaving my position. I think proceed to tell how grateful I am that things are looking up for me after the rough time I had been through. I then regale her with the terrible things I had experienced a couple of years before. By coincidence, it was the same time period of when she sent my boss that damning letter about me. (My boss and I discussed it and it was dismissed at the time)

    As I was listing all of the things that had happened you could see colour draining from her face then begin to creep back up from her neck in a rather unflattering colour of puce. As I was leaving the room I said, “Be kind, EVERYONE you meet is fighting a difficult battle”….great exit line…(Thanks Plato).

  3. I agree with you that good service is subtle and invisible. I get really annoyed whena a server (hungry for a good tip no doubt)starts popping his head in the middle of my table to ask how everything was and if he could get us anything else. These ones don’t usually get more than 15% tip from me.

  4. I agree that good service is “subtle and invisible”, too, but I HATE when waiters only ocme to the table to take the order, bring drinks, and then to present the bill. At least drop by once to make sure that everything is ok with the food!

  5. It’s considered bad service in Australia if you don’t confirm that a patron is happy with whats on their table. Not checking also gives them right to say “well I didn’t enjoy my meal and nobody fixed the problem” and complain/ask for something to be comped.

  6. I think we have the same idea of what constitutes good service. I considered my work as a server as just that — my work! I was a professional doing my job. I worked at a place once in an old-money neighborhood of a Southeastern city, and while most of the (admittedly very Yuppie) clientele were just fine, a sizeable portion of it apparently defined good service differently. For them, I needed to walk a fine line of acknowledging their higher status — after all, being “just a server,” I was there to serve them — while pretending they were my old friends and I had no other goal in life than to make them happy. It’s a strange dynamic: constantly acknowledging the status difference, while pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s hard to describe, but after reading this post, I think you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The fact that I’m getting your drinks and food out correctly and on time, I remember the way you like your martini without your having to remind me, I’m attentive enough to notice when you might need something even before you notice you need it, AND I’m friendly in an inobtrusive way — all that still was bad service unless the requisite level of thinly-veiled obsequiousness was thrown in. The hell with it. I ended up getting work at another place in a much cooler neighborhood in the same city, and had NONE of these problems. At the old place, I’d wondered if I just wasn’t meant to be waiting tables; at the new place, it turned out I was pretty damn good at it. Some clients really need to have their fragile egos propped up constantly, and I guess I just wasn’t the one to do it.

  7. For people who don’t like it when their server drops by to make sure the quality of their food matches their expectations, they have likely failed to realize that that step in the process is mandated by the company. It’s not left up to the server to decide whether or not he/she does it. Don’t like it? Take it up with corporate.

  8. @aaron s. Once is fine, even twice is fine but there are some servers who just keep coming back to chat and create this false sense of friendship. I go out to chat with my friends or family not with the staff. I don’t want a rude server or one that I can never find I just don’t want someone pushing themselves on us to get a better tip.

    One of the best dining experiences we ever had was on our honeymoon. My husband and myself found this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The place smelled so good. Just like you walked into your Grandmother’s kitchen. Our server was a dream. He was super polite, friendly, helped us with menu, guided us in our food choices, timed our meal perfectly but best of all he didn’t hang around. He made sure we were happy with everything but he also was observant. Coffee and water glasses never got below half empty, fresh bread when the basket was low, plates removed as needed all without being asked. He anticipated our needs. He offered the best service by being so professional and yet so charming without being intrusive.

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