About a year ago when things started to get back to normal (for the second time) I asked everybody to send in some of their worst stories from working in the service industry. Horrible bosses, customers, co-workers, you name it. I know there's an endless supply, especially post-covid, so figured it would make a good blog series. The result was Service Industry War Stories Volume 1.
Somewhere along the way I dropped the ball. For that I am sorry.
But after blogging about asshole Yelp reviewers last week, stemming from this beauty -
we got some more gems submitted so here we are for Volume 2. Would love to actually make this a regular series so if you have any good stories- shoot them to me on social media or email me at email@example.com, your anonymity will be protected don't worry.
Leading off, a buddy sent me an all time yelp review his place of work received recently. If I didn't know and trust this person there's no way I would think this was legit.
Here it is for you to attempt to read.
I mean I don't really even know where to start here so I'll start with apologizing for not giving the businesses name or address so everybody can partake in getting this fucked up off a $9 drink. Incredible. I'll give you a hint that it's on the "river rats river", its where "rats dressed as humans dance to boom boom boom music and music", they drink bahama mamas, and complain about old bay on shrimp.
Lets go to the reader submissions -
To start, here were some commenter stories from the last blog.
Question for @Don_Keedic - did you happen to work at The Pumping Company on Broadway and Granville in Chicago by chance?
Blacklist this person.
The absolute worst.
Here were some emails-
What's good Dante? Fantastic blog series idea! I was in the restaurant industry for over 10 years and I got a million horror stories, but we'll start with one of my favorites…
Scene: Tiny privately-owned mediterranean restaurant in the city's college district - Saturday Lunch Rush. May, 2010.
It's only on-street parking near the restaurant. Me and (for the sake of protecting her identity we'll call her) Alice open the place at 10am so we both get primo parking by the front door. It's slow as shit until about 2:30pm when some college conference let's out and we get absolutely BURIED. Good thing our owners don't believe in hosts to seat people on lunch shifts, and we just sent home the new kid who was training with us. Two of us to manage a 80+ cap restaurant and bar… fucking great.
If you've been in the service industry of any kind you know that when things get busy tempers flare. Well, in the whirlwind of Alice and I manning a full restaurant we see this beautiful silver Infiniti trying to parallel park in front of Alice's car. After numerous failed attempts and getting honked at by the backed up traffic behind him on the one-way street, the driver says 'fuck it' and revs the car in reverse crunching into the front bumper on Alice's prized '98 Sebring. He parks quick, gets out, gives a quick look to her bumper, shrugs and then jets off down the street.
I lock eyes with Alice and she screams in the full restaurant, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?" Could hear a pin drop in the place for a moment. Within an instant everyone resumes their lives and Alice dashes into the kitchen to drop her plates. She rushes out to find no damage to her car, but it's too late. We're slammed, ticket times are at like 45 minutes, customers are pissed and complaining…
She comes flying back inside into our pantry calling him all sorts of very racially insensitive things loud enough so the couple tables outside the pantry could definitely hear it. Alice grabs a water glass and smashes it on the floor in a rage. The destruction feels good so Alice's rampage continues. Grabs two more glasses. SMASH! SMASH! "Are you good!?" I ask in a tense tone of "can you lock it the fuck up, we're swamped right now".
The madness eventually subsides and around 4:30pm the crew for dinner shift starts to trickle in. I'm on a double so we cut Alice so she can start sidework. We're jokingly retelling our tales of the lunch rush insanity to the night crew when wouldn't you know who just happens to walk in needing a little bite to eat before taking his Infiniti home… Alice and I lock eyes again and she instantly says, "I'm taking him."
We all watch as Alice gives this guy terrible service while she exacts her revenge. She starts with a dirty water glass, goes to the swill sink, grabs a handful of ice, lemon, and straw (all used), fills his water from the tap (not the gun, and our city's tap water is chewable), and serves it. Mr. Infiniti stirs his lemon and ice with the straw, takes a sip from the glass and chews his dirty ice while he orders.
His side-salad is ready and Alice sprinkles whatever counter crumbs were left on the line in the back-of-house not yet cleaned up from lunch rush. Various cheeses, bread crumbs, sauces, meat and fish juices, etc. Mr. Infiniti enjoys the whole thing.
Alice, who's finished her sidework and transferred the table to me, has been waiting for 20 mins while his well-done lamb kabob dies in the oven. Once ready, she prepares his kabob, rice and mixed veggies with olive oil from a very expired (over a year) oil can she found downstairs. Next came more ice from the swill sink mixed into his rice so it would melt. The veggies were last and, in something straight out of Mrs. Doubtfire, she dusts an ungodly amount of cayenne pepper all over them. She serves the food SWIMMING in a pool of expired olive oil and melted swill ice. He eats half the kabob, 4 bites of rice, but it was the veggies that got it sent back.
After another 20 minutes he gets his fresh plate and finishes his entree. But Mr.Infiniti isn't done so Alice isn't either. He orders a baklava and turkish coffee for dessert. The baklava gets the drowning treatment as Alice waterboards it with overly sweet honey syrup we normally just drizzle around the edge of the plate. And, as her luck would have it, there was an extra turkish coffee left dead in the window from lunch rush; at least 3 hours old. She nukes it in the micro for like 2 minutes so it's boiling hot, and harshly drops Mr. Infiniti's cavity-inducing and scalding final course on the table.
She grabbed her purse from the panty and waved goodnight to the rest of us. We all watched in awe as she galloped away on her high horse (Sebring), nose to the sky, feeling victorious, avenged and fertile (probly). Meanwhile, Mr. Infiniti left me zero tip (obviously) and needed to be appeased with a $25 gift card just to come back. In the end it's just another Service Industry War Story I'll remember for the rest of my days.
TLDR; "We should probably feel guilty, but [he] broke the cardinal rule. Don't FUCK with people who handle your food." - Monty, Waiting… (2005)
Author's Note: Sorry if this was way too long, but I'm a sucker for a well-told story. Hope I achieved that. Like I said, I've got a million stories from my days in the trenches. If you want me to trim them down or outright fuck off and stop sharing that's cool too. Just lemme know. Love your work, Dante!
Straight out of Waiting. And I too love a well told story. Well done. Fuck the Infiniti guy.
I don't want to get too worked up, so I'll just stick to the facts.
I have over ten years in the service industry, starting out at chain restaurants near the mall followed by five years of fine dining in Boston's North End. I've worked weddings, memorials, magazine shoots, corporate events, and everything in between. I thought I had seen it all. Little did I know.
I moved from Boston to Los Angeles in the middle of the pandemic for some family stuff. With ten years experience in Italian cuisine, I assumed I would have no problem locking down a serving gig. I was wrong. After countless interviews where management could not understand I was not some part-timer/wanna-be actor, I finally landed a job in Beverly Hills. I've waited on athletes, celebrities, and politicians. None of it prepared me for the clientele here. While I could go on and on about how delusional these people are, one guest quickly established himself as the worst of the worst.
The first time I waited on this guest was a Saturday night. We were short-staffed so I had the entire front patio to myself, about fifteen tables. Two years at a turn-and-burn Mexican restaurant taught me how to handle volume. I will run, sweat staining the collar of my button down, but the guest will never see me crack. Or so I thought.
The Guest, already belligerent, rolls in around 8:30 with a party of six. Picture a trust fund personified in a pair of rhinestone jeans. Unfortunately, he cannot go more than fifteen minutes without a cigarette, so they are sat on the far end of my patio. I tell my boss I do not want to serve them alcohol out of fear of Dram Shop Laws. However, the Guest orders two bottles of Cristal at $850 a pop, so he is served. During his time there, he nearly gets in a physical confrontation with one of the women he is with, the table seated next to him, and my busser. I approach, and request he sits down and enjoys his meal. He two hand pushes me. I know if I lay a finger on this trust fund baby, his lawyers will take everything and anything from me. My manager serves him the rest of the meal. No guest has ever made me as mad as this guy. The only redeeming quality was he left an additional $200 on top of the gratuity, assumedly because he was too drunk/rich to read the receipt.
A few weeks pass, and I've mostly managed to put it behind me. I've waited on some high profile guests that I enjoyed talking with. It's a slow Friday night on my patio (Californians need a snowsuit if the temp drops below seventy) when my boss informs me the Guest is coming in again. I prepare for the worst.
The Guest shows up much more sober, and in a smaller group. This prick introduces himself to me like he did not try to fight me two weeks ago. He orders drinks for his friends who do not want to drink. The cocktails sit on the table until the ice melts and I take them away. He spends most of his time smoking down the other end of the patio. After ordering, the Guest asks to keep a menu, in case they're still hungry after. I think nothing of it.
Finally, the meal is finished. I bring out dessert. The Guest orders two Amaretto Sours. I say OK. He asks if I know what an Amaretto Sour is. I have years of bartending experience. I say yes. He asks if I'm sure to which I reply I am. I ring them in and wait at the service well for the drinks. I put the drinks on the tray and walk towards his table.
About halfway to the table, something sails towards me. I put a hand on the base of the cocktails and sidestep. The object lands at my feet. It takes me a moment to realize what flew at me. The menu the Guest had asked to hang onto has been fashioned into a paper airplane, which he threw at me. In the fold of the paper airplane, the Guest has placed his AmEx. I step over the paper airplane, drop off the drinks, and ask if there will be anything else tonight.
"Just the check, we're ready to go. Did you see my card?" The Guest replies as he slurps down his drink.
I walk back, pick up the card, slap a 20% gratuity on his check only because that's the highest the system will put on, run the card. The Guest leaves an extra couple hundred bucks, but it still feels too low. At some point, the money isn't worth it.
I don't know how much longer I will last at this place or in this city, but thanks for listening.
Just an absolute piece of shit. Can only hope karma got him and he got t-boned by a semi on the drive home.
Good blog on the Yelper kook. I fully agree with Mike Rowe (and I think you're right that was one to really promote that idea). I actually think every HS graduate should work a min of 6 months in the F&B or service industry and 6 months in a trade (electrical, construction, plumbing, HVAC, landscaping, etc.). Honestly, I think 1 year in each would be ideal but I'd take 6 months. That would allow them to build skills, provide a workforce for those industries, and create better humans overall.
So, service industry war story. I worked a number of years as a busser and server in several restaurants from local pizza places to fine dining. I definitely have a few stories from those years but at the top is the time I had to serve Uma Thurman and her family for dinner. This was in the mid 2000s and I was working at the Westbank Grill in the Four Seasons Jackson Hole. The restaurant had a nice layout with different tables on the floor and then an elevated "chef's table" that was right in front of the open kitchen. Don't know how much you know about the Four Seasons, but everyone is a "VIP", except they love to fawn over the real VIPs. So, Uma and family had a reservation and were going to the chef's table with one of our more experienced servers. I had two two-tops on the books to serve the peons. I loved two-tops, it was always a couple on vacation and this was their night out. They would always get wine or drinks and a nice bill and I would always go home with $150 minimum in tips plus hourly pay for 5 hours of work. Easy peasy. If I got another walk in then great.
So Uma and clan come in, I think it was a party of 10. It was her, significant other, two young children, and friends with kids. Management is tripping over themselves getting them to their table and they hate it, too close to the kitchen and noisy. They immediately ask if they can push together all of my 2 tops to make one long table with chair and booth seating. Management says of course and off we go.
So, management decides to keep me as the server instead of switching sections. Oh man, I don't need to serve Uma Thurman. I could care less about serving someone famous. I just wanted to some easy money. I can already see it's someone famous and kids, that is not the combo you want as a server.
I start service and it is a disaster from the start on their end. Kids have no shoes on, climbing all over the furniture, running around the tables. Everyone orders something special or makes changes to menu items. The kids don't even want anything so they get ice cream for dinner. We don't even have ice cream on the menu. I have to clear everything with the chefs to make sure we have what they want. Adults order several bottles of wine. Service goes great, no mistakes and it was my only table all night so I was literally waiting on them hand and foot. Everyone is happy, final bill was around $1,200 I think. I'm thinking to myself we are all good, I'll get decent money and running around taking care of them was worth it. They pay and leave, I get a $70 tip on the bill. SEVENTY DOLLARS… AMERICAN! From someone with a net worth of $45M currently.
Needless to say, I was fuming and the server who waited on my 2 two-tops made around $200.
Un fucking real.
I have a tipping reminder/advice blog in the works for reasons like this.
I worked at a gas station (Turkey Hill) as soon as I turned 16. The employee turn over rate was insane. By my first year, the only person employed there longer than me was my manager. One day a customer came to the register and stated that the bathroom was in need of some cleaning. Our bathroom was a just single toilet and basically the size of an indoor porta john. I went to check the bathroom and to my horror I saw something I couldn’t imagine a human being would do. Someone had a horrid amount of diarrhea. The worst part was that the individual then proceeded to toss the diarrhea all over the bathroom. I’m talking all four walls and even the ceiling. I quickly shut the door and took a moment to collect my thoughts. I then asked our new, 2 weeks of experience, 30ish single mother clerk to clean the bathroom. She left to clean the bathroom and then came storming back. She utterly refused to clean the bathroom and said she would quite and walkout if she had to clean it. I said yeah you gotta clean it. I never did see her again. Come my shift change at 11pm, my relief was a morbidly obese, cat urine stinking lady. She was so nice and polite but if I relieved her in the morning, I would have to air out the gas station due to her odor. Anyways, I told her that the bathroom needs some extra attention. She just said ok and I left for the night. After school was complete I went to work and asked my manager if the overnight chick said anything about the bathroom. My manager said nothing of note and I checked the bathroom. It looked back to normal.
This was back in 2007-2009 time frame and gas was expensive. I would have grown adults scream at me about gas prices and hurl profanities at me when I manually changed the prices. Plus my gas station is basically connected to a trailer park. Been a stoolie since Mo and smitty was slinging pasta. Go birds, mostly go Phillies
Is this a common thing? I didn't really know humans were capable of shitting on the walls, sideways, and the ceiling too apparently? But we have two instances of this occurring in one blog. So is this more common than we think?
By the way, if you are one of these "wall-shitters" walking around amongst us, and you commit this crime and leave it for an innocent employee somewhere to take care of, you deserve a slow and painful death.
Here were some twitter submissions -
I can never understand where people get off speaking to people who have a uniform on differently than they'd speak to a regular person walking on the street. Maybe because they know the person probably won't sock them in the jaw and lose their job so they're protected? Fucking jag off.
Gotta politely ask her not to return. You're just enabling her at this point. Intervention time and cut her off. Sad part is she probably has 4-5 other spots she does this with and keeps a steady rotation.
Here's your reminder to treat service industry workers with a little respect and civility. There's a lot of shitty people out there.
Let's keep these stories coming. Send them in on social or shoot over in email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't worry about needing to stay anonymous. Nobody's name will be used unless you ask.