my boss is rude to waitstaff

A reader writes:

I’ve recently left an extremely toxic workplace (so toxic that I’m pretty sure it gave me some form of trauma that I needed three weeks off to cope with), and I’m happy to leave that part of my career behind. However, I’m remembering a situation I ran into while there that flabbergasted me so much that I’d like your input on.

Our nonprofit was very small, with only about six people in our administrative offices. One day we, the admin staff, met up with our program managers and our executive director for a holiday lunch at a local restaurant. We were allowed to have a little bit of alcohol and the whole thing was paid for. It sounded great.

Until we got to the restaurant and our ED proceeded to complain about the menu (even though they chose the place), disparage the waitstaff, insult the manager of the restaurant when he came over to apologize for a mis-timed order, and then continuously rag on the restaurant staff throughout the meal. None of us knew how to handle this and nobody spoke any time they said something insulting about these poor workers. I, personally, wanted to apologize to the manager once the ED left for a meeting and we stayed behind for a little bit, finishing off our drinks, but I chickened out and didn’t get the opportunity.

What is there to do in situations like this? I know what it’s like to work retail and food service and I always hated customers like my ED. But when we’re on the other end and it’s the head honcho doing all of this, I have no idea what the best course of action is besides being obscenely polite to the staff to try and make up for her incredible rude manners.

Being unkind to people who are required by their jobs to continue being nice to you is the height of asshattery. Your ED was an ass, and I’m glad you’re out.

Often in these situations, it’s clear to the waitstaff that the person being rude is in a position of authority over the rest of you, and simply being scrupulously polite and respectful yourself is all you can do or need to do. (Hell, the waitstaff may feel worse for you, knowing you have to deal with your boss all the time, while they only need to deal with her for an hour or two.)

In fact, sometimes being scrupulously polite and respectful in the face of rudeness creates such a contrast that it makes the rude person uncomfortable in a way that can be very satisfying for everyone else. It depends on how self-aware they are, though.

But there are a few other things you can do as well, depending on your circumstances:

* Push back in the moment. If your boss is complaining about the waitstaff, you can say in a mild or sympathetic tone, “They’re really busy in here right now” or “They’re doing a good job” or “I’ve waited tables before and it’s a tough job” or so forth. If your boss gets really bad, you could say, “These are the people preparing our food, we probably shouldn’t alienate them” or “Whoa, they’re not going to let us come back here.” How direct you can be will depend on how punitive your boss is; adapt accordingly.

* Let your face speak for you. Giving your server a sympathetic look or furrowing your brow in surprise/concern after a rude remark can convey a lot. That’s a small thing, but in a short interaction like lunch it can be enough.

* Leave a bigger tip, if that’s something you can afford to do. Even when you’re not the one picking up the check, it’s often possible to put down some more cash on the table as everyone is leaving. (Take a while getting your stuff together to leave so you’re the last one to go.)

* Speak privately to your server or their manager, either during the meal (excuse yourself to go to the bathroom) or afterwards (linger behind when others leave). You don’t even need to explicitly reference your boss; if you say something like “Thank you so much for your good service” or “I know we were a tough table and we appreciate your great service,” they’re going to get the subtext.

I know a lot of people say everyone should work in retail or food service at least once to understand how hard workers in those industries work … but people should be able to figure out how to be decent humans even without that firsthand experience.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

    Kindly, I’d like to push back on “These are the people preparing our food, we probably shouldn’t alienate them”

    It has the implication that the staff may tamper with the food. Even if the intent is more along the lines of “oh no, they may ask us to leave and we won’t get our lunch and we’ll be hungry” that is not how most people are going to interpret it.

    After a 15 year career in food/bev I just… I want the myth of food being spit in to die. Have a handful of malcontents done it? Sure. Is it an actual, legitimate threat that regular people partake in? Absolutely not. It’s unkind to the human beings working there to imply they’d do something as low as tamper with your food or drink.

    The rest of this advice is good. Unfortunately there isn’t really anything terribly satisfying you can do in the moment.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      In this case, I agree. No matter how much of a jerk someone is to the staff, it is very unlikely that their food will be tampered with.

      I will say, as someone with a chronic illness and a specialized diet, I have absolutely had my food tampered with (I specifically mean things like “I asked for more bread after being informed that they wouldn’t alter my meal to remove the tomatoes and they covered it in ketchup”). But that’s ableism, and hardly limited to food service.

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s not that unlikely. I’ve worked in restaurants where a thumbs up meant you’re fine because you weren’t a jerk about it. Thumbs down meant your food was in the floor before it went back out to your table. Sorry to tell you but it does happen and in higher end restaurants, too.

        1. lulululu*

          This “thumbs up thumbs down” thing is literally a scene in the movie “Waiting”. It’s not real. And honestly, as someone said above, this urban legend is… dumb. You’d have to have buy-in on this kind of tampering from every single person in the kitchen, and a rude customer isn’t worth losing your job, or going to jail and having to pay 10k in fines since it’s literally illegal. Stop perpetuating this classist nonsense.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Although we had a gentleman who added special sauce to a few things during his employ at a local Taco Bell, and he was finally caught at it…so this stuff does happen, but it’s rare.

    2. Antilles*

      Thank you.
      The idea of people spitting in food is a common myth, but extremely rare in real life. I worked in food service for a total of about four years at a variety of food service jobs. Had more than our share of jerk customers, plenty of people who deserved retribution, and a few spineless “customer is always right, can’t risk offending them” managers to go along with it. And not only did I never see anyone spit in food, I never even heard a first-hand *rumor* of it happening.
      You know why? Because tampering with food is a Fire-on-Sight level offense that people take seriously. And no matter how big of a jerk you might be, you’re just not worth it.

      1. Anon4This*

        Perhaps it depends on the restaurant, but having worked in fast food as a teen and having most of my friends work fast food- nasty things being done to a customer’s food, whether or not they were a jerk, was pretty friggin common. *note- I did not do this myself, but witnessed many NASTY things. Not just spit in food… *

    3. Georgia*

      Absolutely. My heart sank when I read that. Please don’t perpetuate this notion, Alison. It’s harmful, rude and unkind to waitstaff.

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s not a notion. It does happen; I’ve seen it first hand. It’s not at cheap restaurants, either.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I think it does happen but certainly in the restaurants I’ve worked in it has never been, like, a habitual thing that people do whenever a guest annoys you a bit, which is the way that people talk about it. I’ve never even seen it happen first-hand, I’ve just heard about it. (I’ve definitely seen guests try to use “the waiter gave me funny look so they must have spat in my food/deliberately oversalted my food/deliberately served me off food” etc etc to try and get a comped meal, though.)

        2. somanyquestions*

          I worked in food service for years and it was only a joke, no one ever actually did anything to people’s food.

          You worked with a small group of real assholes, if they treated people’s food like that. Most servers aren’t assholes.

    4. Marny*

      Thank you! As someone who has worked in food service, I find it so ridiculous when people assume that we cannot control ourselves enough to refrain from spitting in food or whatever. Everyone’s job has stressful interactions. Food service workers deal with them like everyone else: smile to your face and call you an asshat to everyone behind your back.

      1. MayLou*

        I had more interpreted it as “they are doing something important and difficult, don’t be a douche” but I can see why it might be interpreted differently.

        1. Happily Self Employed*

          Or “they could make us wait for our food if we’re jerks”. Or if there’s a smaller piece of chicken or a greener tomato, guess which one the polite table gets and which one the asshats get?

      2. Me again*

        My husband’s cousin brought her elderly parents (his godparents) to see him in the hospital shortly before he passed. She then took me and her parents to dinner at a chain place near their hotel. Aunt Mary was known as one of the sweetest people on earth but that night it was clear that Alzheimer’s was taking hold of this dear lady. I did not recognize the person she was becoming. She was thoroughly nasty to the waitress and berated her through the meal. When we left, the cousin left a generous cash tip on the table only to have her mother snatch it up saying loudly that the server did not deserve it. Since Aunt Mary was clearly spiraling out of control we left quickly. The next day, the cousin called to check on my husband and to apologize for her mother’s behavior. I assured her that I understood the situation. She made a point to let me know that she went back to the restaurant in the morning and left an even more generous tip for the waitress with a note apologizing for the circumstances. She is one classy cousin.

    5. So so so anon for this*

      The *only* time I ever spit in someone’s food was in the drink of the man who had on multiple occasions called my grandmother the c-word. To her face. I was 16.

      I honestly only feel kind of bad about it. You don’t mess with my Gagi.

      1. Crivens!*

        I got fired from my one and only restaurant job at 15 for pouring an entire yard of beer over some frat dude’s head. In my defense, I was very clearly a minor and he kept grabbing my ass.

        1. Saradactyl*

          Absolutely justifiable.

          14 year old me pulled a butcher knife on the line cook who came up behind me while I was doing prep work (taking the meat off cooked chickens for various dishes) and grabbed my ass. He was in his late 20s and knew I was 14. I had been sexually assaulted before and wasn’t going to tolerate it this time. I told him that if he ever touched me again, I’d castrate him. In less polite terms. He never bothered me again.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Oh lawks there’s an r/AITA about this today, only it’s a husband repeatedly assaulting the cooking wife (she has had multiple burns and scalds as a result, plus surgery for a knife injury).

        2. Heffalump*

          Do an online search for Emelia Holden of Savannah, Georgia, who body-slammed a customer who grabbed her ass.

    6. bunniferous*

      This depends on the restaurant. Let’s just say you never know and let it go at that. Back in the day I have seen some things….

    7. boo bot*

      Yes, this stood out to me as well – I feel like implying that the servers might tamper with the food could even reinforce the boss’ idea that they “deserve” this treatment.

      All the other suggestions I definitely agree with, particularly the tip, if possible. One thought I had was, if you have a sense that other people are also embarrassed by the ED’s behavior (and most probably are) you could coordinate, and each plan to pitch in $2-3 for an extra tip when you go out so the burden doesn’t fall too heavily on any one person.

    8. Environmental Compliance*


      I really dislike that as well. I didn’t work in food industry for long, but not a single one of us would have tampered with food (other than sending it evil glares), and *especially* not spitting in it. It’s very unkind to waitstaff.

      Would some staff do it? Well of course, there’s shite people in every company/industry. But by far the majority would not.

      1. Mimi Me*

        I never saw anyone ever do it, but I did see lots of people make customers think it. LOL! Something about taking food from someone you know you just pissed off while they smile and sweetly say “enjoy your meal” as they slide your plate in front of you can make a person doubt their food. I think a good rule of thumb is to just not be a dick to anyone. LOL!

    9. Observer*

      I wouldn’t be worried about people spitting in my food. I would be worried about “mistakes” and “unavoidable” delays in service, though.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Honestly in my experience it’s more likely that your group will just get correct but very, very, very brisk service to get you out the door as fast as possible; forget anyone offering you refills or a digestif or another look at the dessert menu, and you’ll get the bill as soon as the last person puts their cutlery down. You don’t want to delay terrible people in your section! Mistakes and delays keep the terrible people hanging around your tables and make them even angrier and more obnoxious. From the staff’s perspective, you just want them gone as fast as possible.

        1. Mimi Me*

          100% this!!! Rude customers / diners would get my clinically polite treatment – no small talk, no suggestions, no freebies, nothing!!! Get them out the door. Oh…and I’d be especially warm to the neighboring tables so it was clear that the rude customers were not getting my best service any longer.

    10. staceyizme*

      I don’t think that it’s within the realm of normal for food to be tampered with. But- if you’re ragging on people for no good reason and on an ongoing basis, you ARE in fact provoking them. It’s a very bad idea, even if the likelihood of this kind of retribution coming into play is infinitesimal. It’s a reasonable statement to make when it might serve as at least a partial deterrent to a terrible client. (Though I, too, think that not getting drinks refilled or being requested to leave are the more expected outcomes for even very rude clients.)

    11. Former Waitress*

      It might not necessarily be spit or tampering with the food. There are still other ways that restaurant staff can passively “get back” at a rude customer without getting in trouble. For example, serving fries from a cold, older batch instead of the new batch that just came out of the fryer. Or taking their time bringing food to the table, so it gets soggy or sits under the heat lamp for too long. I’ve never done those things myself but have seen others do it.

    12. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Maybe it is a once-in-a-lifetime event, like being struck by lightning while holding up a 1-iron on a golf course. The point you’re making is, why create the risk of it happening?

    13. Pennalynn Lott*

      I didn’t interpret it to mean “they’ll spit in our food.” More like, “The food order may be delayed and/or not perfect.”

      I’ve worked in restaurants and it was 100% real that wait staff would “forget” to bring out the chips and salsa, or “forget” to refill water, and purposefully avoiding eye contact with asshats so they couldn’t get flagged down and called over. And then be super, over-the-top apologetic about it.

      Also, “Ohhhh… you *wanted* cheese on that? I’m SO sorry. I thought you said no cheese. Let me take that plate back to the kitchen for you and get it fixed.” The managers were OK with stunts like that as long as it wasn’t taken too far.

      No spit involved, no health/safety issues, and it can all be done with plausible deniability that you’re jacking with the customer.

        1. Saradactyl*

          With that kind of customer – the asshole who complains right from minute one, rags on his server, calls the servers names, trash-talks the establishment – you know damned well that he’s not going to tip no matter how sweet you are, no matter how you butt-kiss him. You’re not losing anything by letting an asshole know you think he’s being an asshole.
          Best just to get the asshole out of your restaurant as fast as you can.

    14. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I wholeheartedly empathise with the sentiment you’re expressing. However, I think that the jerk boss would probably not care about anything else you might say along the lines of “it’s really crowded so it’s not surprising that service is a bit slow”, whereas reminding him to behave in such a way as to not have anyone spit in his food might just get through to him.
      Given that he’s probably the kind of jerk who’d spit in his customer’s plate.

  2. Observer*

    For all the people who think that “everyone should work in food service” is relevant here, I’ll point out two things.

    Firstly there are lots of people who take the attitude that “well, I went through that, now it’s my turn to be on the other end / it’s your turn to suffer.” This shows up in all fields, including former service workers.

    Secondly, to quote Alison people should be able to figure out how to be decent humans even without that firsthand experience. Sure, there are certain things that people may not realize. But a healthy 10 year old can understand that this kind of behavior is out of line. Any adult who behaves the way the OP describes is doing so regardless of whether they had service work experience.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Indeed. I’m glad Alison included that as her last line. Because no, you really don’t need to have worked a service job in order to know you need to be decent to people.

      Sure, it might be good to get that experience of “wow, people are shockingly horrible all the time and I had no idea the depths to which they could stoop” to get a more full picture of humanity. But it’s certainly not necessary to be a kind and decent person. There’s a reason it’s an oft-cited behavioral red flag for how a person feels about/treats others.

      1. Ali G*

        Yeah I worked in a grocery store for a few months after college. While I will always jump in a bag my own groceries as a relic of that experience, I didn’t need to do that to just treat grocery store workers with respect. That should be a given.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      But a healthy 10 year old can understand that this kind of behavior is out of line.

      My mom taught me this behavior was bad when I was a toddler.

        1. boo bot*

          Diahann Carroll didn’t say she understood all the nuances of social interaction as a toddler, she said her mother taught her the behavior was bad, which seems extremely plausible and age-appropriate.

          Learning empathy is a long process, and toddlers are generally in the early stages of it.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. Children learn things by rote to begin with and then learn the reasons for them later as they grow up. So you learn to say “thank you” as a child without knowing the reason why. Over time you understand why you do it.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree so much with the first point – mutual experience does not always generate empathy. I went to college with someone who had substantial food service experience, and she was so embarrassing to eat out with that I ultimately stated turning down any invitations that involved a sit-down meal. She would harp on the wait staff all. night. long and nitpick very single thing – even the things that no one else even noticed and had no bearing on our enjoyment of the dining experience. God help you if your meal included any sort of wine service because she’d coach the wait staff through the formal serving process (“ma’am, this is an Olive Garden….”).

      Neither my husband nor I have ever worked a food service job, but being polite to your server and, well, just people in general, isn’t that hard. Being rude to anyone in a service job is a major pet peeve of my spouse’s, too.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Ugh yes, I had a coworker like that. Apparently, she was the best waitress to ever wait, and if people did not live up to her white-linen-dining-level past self, they did not deserve a tip. Like, sorry the high school kid scooping your ice cream didn’t know its a faux pas to pile the change on top of the receipt?

    4. TiffIf*

      So much this!
      On Saturday I ordered some drive-through pickup for dinner to be picked up at 4:15. When I got there they had part of it ready but not the rest, so they asked me to pull over to the stalls to the side of the drive through while they were finishing. I was a little annoyed that my order was not ready on time, but I was not rude by any means. The manager came out, explained to me that they had read the order wrong and prepped it to be picked up at 4:00 and so it was no longer fresh by 4:15, she apologized, said they were remaking it fresh and gave me a gift card for the inconvenience. I was rather stunned. I wouldn’t have asked for any of that actually, and wouldn’t even have lodged a complaint about my food not being ready for pickup on time.

      I mean this is one of my favorite restaurants so its not like I was going to never go there again or something. But they totally impressed me by going the extra mile when I probably wouldn’t have noticed the difference!

    5. On Fire*

      Yes!! I see/hear that all. the. time, and it’s so condescending. I’ve never worked in retail or food service, but I’m polite and kind to those who do. Because I’m a mature human with compassion and empathy. And someone who is NOT that — well, working in retail or food service won’t provide it. Those people will, as Observer said above, adopt the attitude of, “I had to suffer, and now you do, too.”

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yup. I feel like working in certain customer service industries allows you to be more patient in certain aspects because you’ve been on the other side. But it’s not going to keep an asshat from being an asshat. I’ve never worked in food service, but I have worked in retail (clothing and grocery), and I am well aware that I need to treat people like humans not servants.

      1. Professional Straphanger*

        I’ve never worked a retail/CS job but I agree, it’s not a prerequisite for treating CS staff with politeness. Treating them like humans with feelings makes life easier for everyone.

        I have fairly frequent interactions with Sprint because of billing mistakes or special situations (the vagaries of international plans, buying a phone that can accommodate dual SIM cards) and I know at some point in the conversation there will be a “I’ve never handled this, I need to talk to my manager” so I block out a chunk of time and expect this will take a while, but they’re helping me and I appreciate it.

        Last time it took most of an hour and when we were done the CSR thanked me for my patience and told me there was a note in my file that said I was a nice customer. I was simultaneously flattered and depressed for them that they needed to note stuff like that in their files.

    7. EchoGirl*

      Thirdly, some people really can’t. I’ve never worked in retail or food service BECAUSE I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the nature of the environment (not just because of customers; food service is too fast-paced, and retail establishments are often sensory hell). Essentially, whether they mean to or not, people who seriously suggest this are suggesting putting me through a hellish experience that would probably leave me with long-term mental health damage, just because other people are mean (and I bend over backwards to be nice to people working service jobs — just because I’ve never done it doesn’t mean I can’t have empathy). The concept is honestly kind of ableist. (And please don’t say I’d be able to get an exception; I’ve been doing this long enough to know how hard it is to get people to accept my limitations.)

      1. Happily Self Employed*

        I agree, it is definitely ableist. And if you had managed to get an exception, then that would stand out awkwardly. If you got to work at the “be nice to the disabled workers” sheltered workshop coffee stand, then that would be its own flavor of ableist condescension.

      2. ACM*

        I totally see where you’re coming from, but you could equally argue that having the option to find work that’s NOT customer service is a bit classist. When I worked in the service industry, a lot of my coworkers were also *wildly* unsuited for customer service because of everything from physical problems they ignore to probably diagnosable mental/emotional/sensory issues to just really not having the personality to take it from an awful customer without getting their own back. And yes, some probably with the long-lasting mental health damage that you describe. But it was the only kind of job they knew how to get. A lot of them seem to spend most of their working lives bouncing from one retail/food service job to another one, getting fired from one to the next but don’t have the education, background, or qualifications to get anything else. So that’s sort of what I have in mind when I say that everyone should work in customer service at some stage, even just for a week. Not because everyone is suited to it, but precisely because most people aren’t, and unfortunately probably a solid half of the customer service workers you see every day fall into that category.

        1. EchoGirl*

          I think a week is one thing. I’ve heard people suggest it should be a year, and that’s more what I’m generally responding to. Also, I have done at least one pretty awful near-minimum wage job, just not in the particular field of retail and food service.

          And believe me, I wish everyone had the chance to avoid those kinds of jobs if they were harmful to them. But forcing everyone to do it because some people have to isn’t going to fix that problem.

      3. allathian*

        I’m sorry you’ve had a hard time getting people to accept your limitations. Many people start out in service jobs, but not all of them are in food service or retail. I also did a stint in a call center (outgoing calls), which was fairly noisy, so I can imagine that it could be too much for someone with sensory issues. I quit after a particularly nasty call that ended in a death threat, although my employer was great about that. All our calls were recorded and my shift supervisor called the cops on the person I had called. I didn’t even have to give evidence, the recording was there for all to hear. But I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was also lucky that I was able to get more hours at my other job, so I didn’t lose any income, either.

        1. EchoGirl*

          I also worked in a call center, but it wasn’t your typical customer service situation. (Sorry to be vague, but I don’t want to give too many details because it’s too easy to figure out specifics with basically any details.) So I had some experience of “dealing with annoying customers” but it wasn’t quite the same thing — I had to provide what they needed but I didn’t exactly interact with them directly.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I wish I could have brought you along to the benefits lot who kept insisting that I HAD to take any job available, including retail, if I was unemployed. I don’t think I ever managed to get through their heads that I’m neither physically nor mentally able to handle customer service.

        (I’ve got a long career in tech support but have never worked helpdesk. I could not handle more than a couple of phone calls a day.)

        1. EchoGirl*

          I’ve actually done some advocacy work, though not in the realm of disability (I worked with seniors on Medicaid and food stamps for a while), including a couple of client hearings (I’m 2 for 2, though to be fair the first one was largely on the much more experienced person who was paired with me). I’ve thought about trying to do something permanent with that, but until recently, a lot of the jobs of that type in my area weren’t commutable by public transit, and then COVID happened.

          1. EchoGirl*

            “but until recently, a lot of the jobs of that type in my area weren’t commutable by public transit”

            That should say, “until recently, I COULDN’T DRIVE, and a lot of the jobs of that type in my area weren’t/aren’t commutable by public transit”. Much as I wish they would, they have not improved the public transit system in my area.

    8. allathian*

      This is so true. I worked retail for several years when I was in HS and college, and I’ve also worked in fast food service. I’d like to think that having done so has made me a pleasant or at least a neutral customer to deal with, but I certainly didn’t need that experience to know that you need to treat other people decently.

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      Agree that you don’t need to work in food service to treat people well, but what does that have to do with this letter? I haven’t seen anyone defending the boss saying he doesn’t know any better because he’s never been a waiter…

  3. Chris*

    I’d also point out that as unpleasant as the experience was, it did give the OP important information about the Executive Director. As the old saying goes, “Someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.”

    1. Letter Writer*

      Don’t worry, they weren’t nice to me either!!!! This was one bad personality trait on top of a WHOLE LIST of others.

      1. Clorinda*

        Not surprised. A person who’s rude to the waiter is rude to everyone he sees as of “lesser status” than himself, and that would include employees.

    2. Forty Years in the Hole*

      Feels. This could have been my CEO at a former super-toxic job – oh so toxic in oh so many ways. Would treat us to lunch at his fave Italian restaurant (COS, exec assistant, senior staff advisor), then proceed to berate the manager in front of staff and customers for not carrying the “right” sparkling water, or snapping his fingers to catch the waitstaff’s attention- at their busiest time. Just so…full of himself. Coworkers and I just exchanged glances, and tipped like nobody’s business. So embarrassing. He was also good at calling down his Directors in front other staff and playing them off each other. Another story for another day. We were so glad when he retired a year later, but man, how he laid waste to the organization.

    3. Anne Elliot*

      The quote — Someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person — is from Dave Barry. :)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Dave Barry has published it – but it predates him. My father said it to me, and he died in the 1970s.
        (Correlary: Don’t judge people by their clothes; sometimes the guy in ragged cutoffs just walked off his yacht.)

        1. Deejay*

          This reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s view on the Sherlock Scan method of judging people.

          Samuel Vimes dreamed about Clues. He had a jaundiced view of Clues. He instinctively distrusted them. They got in the way. And he distrusted the kind of person who’d take one look at another man and say in a lordly voice to his companion, “Ah, my dear sir, I can tell you nothing except that he is a left-handed stonemason who has spent some years in the merchant navy and has recently fallen on hard times,” and then unroll a lot of supercilious commentary about calluses and stance and the state of a man’s boots, when exactly the same comments could apply to a man who was wearing his old clothes because he’d been doing a spot of home bricklaying for a new barbecue pit, and had been tattooed once when he was drunk and seventeen and in fact got seasick on a wet pavement. What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience!

    4. TiffIf*

      And now I’m remembering that question where the guy was complaining that his university career advisor had never TOLD him you should be polite to the secretary when going to an interview.

          1. TiffIf*

            Here is the original post:
            and here is the update:

            OP had gotten a lot of advice in the original post about being polite to other people at the company when going to interview and in the update came back with this:

            I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones. We get a lot of tips about how to write our resume and cover letter and how we should conduct ourselves during interviews, but not this type of real life recommendation.

            And there were many people in the comments responding with “!? you have to specifically instructed to understand how to behave in society?”

            1. generic_username*

              Omg, the privilege and entitlement pouring out of this kid in those letters, lol… His parents missed teaching him an important lesson about kindness and treating others with respect no matter who they may be or who we think they may be, but it does appear he learned something from his experience so that’s a positive. (But also, imagine complaining to HR about this as if something had unfairly been taken from you….. lol)

  4. Apologetic*

    This letter fits my MIL to an absolute T, down to the description of the workplace and her job title… if this is or isn’t her, I am very sorry. Before COVID we stopped eating out with her altogether, politely suggesting they come over for dinner instead. I’d rather make a full dinner for four people than subject a poor person making less than minimum wage to her behavior. I just can’t fathom someone having such a severe lack of empathy.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      Oh, my mom can be a terror to waitstaff. I waited tables in college and can’t count how many times I’ve hidden an extra tip under my dish (hid, because she’d yell at ME too on the rare occasion when she caught me). And yet she likes to accuse me of not having empathy (subtext: to her).

    2. Gigi*

      My grandfather was like this. I think it came from a place of insecurity. He grew up poor and was obsessed with status. Yelling at the server for meat that was cooked perfectly fine was one of his ways of looking/acting like a big shot. Empathy wasn’t his jam either.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        My mom can be this way a bit too. Thankfully my Dad is the polar opposite and is nice to pretty much everyone. He has no problem telling my mom to be quiet, lol.

        Also my husband practically grew up in the restaurant industry. His Dad has ran restaurants for 30-40 years. We can usually tell the difference between horrible service, a kitchen mistake and a busy restaurant. We are also overly nice to Servers. We try to make that clear to my mom when we dine together.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yeah, absolutely. I will never take it out on a server’s tip if the kitchen makes an error. Everyone is human including the kitchen staff. In fact, a well-executed save on an error like that can actually increase a tip in my book.

  5. A New CV*

    These days there is a whole new form of asshattery to service workers where they are expected not only to be polite to people being rude to them, but to enforce mask mandates. Asking someone who has chosen not to wear a mask to comply and risk a confrontation for a minimum wage job is now the New Normal for retail and waitstaff.
    This is the time for bystanders to speak up and speak out for the lowest paid workers.

    1. MassMatt*

      Yes to this, wait staff asked to enforce mask rules are getting subjected to all sorts of abuse when they don’t make the policies. I shudder to think of all the people that have decided not to tip because their waiter told them to wear a mask, which in addition to being for everyone’s safety (not just the non-mask wearing patron) is a restaurant policy or in many cases state or local law. It’s dumb that mask wearing has become so politicized in the US but here we are.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Thankfully, this occurred before COVID, so mask wearing wasn’t a thing at the time. But honestly, I haven’t been to a restaurant for a sit-down meal since March of this year and I cannot imagine having to put up with this while COVID restrictions are in effect. I think it would have been an even more miserable situation.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I was watching a tourism and aviation journalist vlogging his travel experience and the passenger in front of him refused to wear a mask. He later mentioned airline staff told the man and his service dog wouldn’t board unless he complied. Luckily the journalist blurs all faces.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I recently had to fly for work, and the behavior of my fellow passengers was truly astounding.
        Like, you have to certify that you will wear a mask roughly 60 times before you get on the plane. So why are you being a jerk to the flight attendant about it now?

        One normal looking young in particular, took his mask off to have a protracted and sweet cell phone call with his girlfriend well after the time to turn off cellular devices had passed. The flight attendant was really nice about it “Sir, I’m sorry, but I need to ask you to wrap up the call and pull your mask back up.” He did the one minute finger at her for a full 2 minutes or so, before she said “sir…” and he sweetly hung up the phone “Ok hun, I’m sorry, I need to go now, I can’t wait to see you,” only to launch into a full barrage about “F*** B****, we get it already, GD” the second he hung up. Then the poor attendant had to return to ask him to wear the mask over his nose, and again a barrage of “God, you won’t just F*** lay off, will you B***?”
        I spent the flight grateful to the flight attendant for enforcing the rules, and dreaming up ways to let his girlfriend know what a closet psychopath he was.

        1. yala*

          I can’t help but thing….hm, the airlock is RIGHT. THERE….

          Seriously, tho. People like that know that short of something excruciatingly drastic, no one’s going to stop them or hold them accountable and it’s disgusting.

        2. Epiphyta*

          And people like this are one more reason why Spouse and I had to tell his nephew that we are not traveling halfway across the country for Spouse’s half-brother’s funeral tomorrow: we’re both in a high-risk group, so we’ll watch the livestream from the church – which is limiting attendees, requiring pre-registration and masks – wrote letters, and made as big a donation to the chosen charity as we could afford . . . .

          But we still aren’t there. With entitled jerks like this acting up on the planes we’d have to sit in for hours, we can’t take the chance.

      2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Oh my. The journalist made a comment that sounded like “don’t be rude to airline personnel like that man, remember they can call police if they feel it’s necessary”

          1. Happily Self Employed*

            Remember the doctor who was dragged off a plane because he drew the short straw for getting bumped and didn’t want to be bumped? And he was just asking them to please pick someone else who wasn’t supposed to be providing medical care on the other end of the flight.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          One of my cousins is an air traffic controller and told me right before my first flight ever (after reassuring me about how safe everything is) that it is not worth, ever, arguing with the staff aboard a flight you’re on. Because they don’t mess around and can, and will, make unscheduled landings to boot uncooperative passengers off the plane miles from where you wanted to be.

          (He did point out that he can argue with pilots in the course of his job ‘you can’t refuse to stop short of bravo. You’ll smash into runway traffic’ but a passenger is not in the control room)

    3. Cheesehead*

      We went to a restaurant this summer in a touristy area and I LOVED the sign I saw on the door of a restaurant; it said “State of XXX mandates the use of masks in all public areas. (You may remove mask when seated.) Please don’t make our staff police this mandate. Do your part by acting like responsible adults.”

    4. Ellen N.*

      Thank you for making this point.

      Our local (Los Angeles, CA) has many posts criticizing local retail outlets for not having their employees enforce the mask mandate. I always point out that retail employees have been assaulted and even murdered for attempting to enforce the mask mandate. Every place I visit has many signs stating that customers must wear masks, so anyone who isn’t wearing a mask is being defiant. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to require retail employees to confront defiant customers.

    5. Firecat*

      Yep I have been doing this. I noticed that local grocery store always staffs a 15 yo to enforce the masks. I make a point to loudly complain when there is a large crowd how that poor child getting paid minimum wage to enforce masks. Well thankfully us adults don’t have to be babysat. Most of the time the folks around me mask up before the kid has to say anything.

      But yeah thankfully haven’t ran in on anyone harrasing a kid yet.

    6. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*


      Also said arsehats will engage in a lengthy diatribe talking right in your face, spraying their saliva everywhere – the entitlement is unbelievable (source my second public facing job). Be great for silent majority not to be so silent in those times.

      1. Happily Self Employed*

        There was a guy in camo wearing his camo mask under his nose when I was at an auto parts store tonight. Everyone else was wearing a mask properly (even the customer with his T-shirt over his nose was doing it better) but I was also the only woman present and wasn’t sure what I could say that wouldn’t end up badly. I was tired and hangry and about 95% sure I would sound snippy or sarcastic.

  6. Anne*

    I have been in this situation many times… If I know that I will be at a dinner with Manager X, I get there early to make sure appetizers are already ordered etc… and give the waitstaff responsible for our table a heads up. They seem appreciative, and I make sure to let them know we will most likely have a high bar tab, and a very nice corresponding tip. I also make a point to let them know of any eccentricities that can be preplanned (like chilling a wine that normally isn’t chilled, etc…). Everyone is much happier in the end.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      It’s gotta be frustrating that you have to be a Manager-X-Wrangler at the same level as the tour manager for over-the-top entitled musician.

          1. ShanShan*

            I know you’re just being tongue in cheek, but I want to state for the record that that band had a very good reason for making that request about the M&M’s. They were CHECKING TO MAKE SURE THAT THE VENUE HAD READ THE RIDER CAREFULLY.

            If they hadn’t, it would have been better to find that out while looking at a bowl of M&M’s than when a fifty-pound light fell on someone’s head.

            1. Mami21*

              Because pouring a normal bowl of M&Ms in the green room would mean the venue was somehow negligent in health and safety regulations??
              It was a ridiculous request which is why it’s always remembered as such.

              1. ShanShan*

                It would mean they either weren’t reading the instructions given to them by the band or weren’t following them.

                M&M’s are cheap, picking out the green ones takes two minutes at most, and it’s not physically difficult. It’s also very, very easy to tell if someone has done it or just lied and said they did.

                None of those things are true about the many other, much more important requests that the band also made.

                There wasn’t really anything ridiculous about it. It was a very easy test that the venue could either pass and keep the band’s trust with regard to their attention to detail, or fail and lose it.

                1. Sesquedoodle*

                  i used to be into forum rpgs and there were a few where the rules list had “the secret word is gefiltefish” or something along those lines buried in the middle. you had to include that when you signed up to prove you’d read the rules.

              2. Happily Self Employed*

                There are many articles and interviews about the M&Ms. The tl;dr version is that they had a disaster at a concert when a venue didn’t construct the stage to their specifications which were engineered to withstand the weight of their equipment. They added the M&M detail to the rider as an easy way to see which venues were reading the contract and which were just doing things the way they always do. If the M&Ms were not done right, they would inspect everything ASAP and thoroughly to see what else the venue had done wrong.


                I think it’s amazingly clever.

                1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

                  Of course, if there were any problems, they would proceed to trash the dressing room because, hey – Rock’n’Roll!!

              3. Traffic_Spiral*

                It’s only remembered as ridiculous by people who don’t know what they’re talking about (the sort who tend to be prone to believing crappy email/whatsapp forwards).

                Everyone who took the effort to learn about it knows better. Big bands had serious pyrotechnics, heavy lights, and high-voltage speakers – all of which would be more than your basic provincial venue had ever dealt with before. There wasn’t time to make sure the local setup staff hadn’t been like “eh, you don’t need that many bolts and cables to keep those heavy lights up,” or “eh, you don’t need that extra electronic capacity,” or “eh, the stage doesn’t really need to be reinforced for the extra weight” or a dozen other things that could end up with fried roadies and trampled fans. The candy dish was a simple way to make sure at a glance that they really had set up as per requirements, even if they didn’t know why it was required of them.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Are you this person’s assistant or some kind of authority below the entitled manager you’re trying to save people from their tyrannical treatments? How would you have the power to go there and order ahead even? That’s not a typical setup to have. Most employees would not be able to go above and beyond like this!

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Yeah, I mean, this is truly extreme and horrible that its necessary.

        In general, apologizing for other adult people’s behavior feels weird to me. Its not like you’re apologizing because your kid threw a tantrum and had to be taken to the car. You’re apologizing for another adult who possesses their own autonomy. It doesn’t actually make anything about the situation better. It doesn’t mean that the offender is remorseful or will do anything differently next time. It doesn’t make waiting on the person less stressful. In fact, its just one more interaction where you have to smile and pretend to appreciate. And could cause drama if the offender overhears.

        Compliments and absurd politeness? Sure. But apologizing on behalf of another person? Nah.

        1. WindmillArms*

          I’m a bit of an “I’m sorry you have to deal with this.” Even if I’m not with a rude, ranting stranger who’;s being cruel to a worker, I might offer an apology. It’s more of a “condolences sorry” I suppose. But I’m Canadian, where people apologize as a greeting.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I don’t apologize on anyone else’s behalf. But I am known to say “wow, I’m sorry that you have to deal with people who are absolute dillweeds!” It’s really all about commiserating in the end and reminding them that decent humans still exist.

          But I also would be done and dusted if I ever dealt with this kind of nonsense. I’m blessed to have never been gifted such an awful human in my life, let alone in my work life. I have had bosses who were demanding and weirdos but they still managed to treat everyone serving them a meal with some respect. The reason these people act the way they do is because they have managed to intimidate enough people in their world and get to some weird position of power. Those people don’t hire people who are naturally intimidating themselves, which hi, that’s me.

        3. Traffic_Spiral*

          Basically, when it comes to verbal abuse silence is complicity. If you sit silent while someone in your party verbally abuses the waiter, you’re participating in it by implying that this is acceptable behavior.

          So, yes. If you sit there while your boss is a jerk to the waitstaff, you owe them a “sorry, but he’s my boss – I can’t tell him to stfu any more than you can.”

        4. Avasarala*

          Well the boss is part of your party, and your party is causing trouble for someone who doesn’t deserve that grief. It’s not a legal admission of culpability. In many cultures in the US and around the world it would not be out of place to apologize on behalf of your drunk spouse, your idiot boss, the jerk customer in front of you, etc… It’s about creating a moment of commiseration and sympathy with the victim, not accepting blame for the perpetrator.

        5. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          I tell people I’m sorry their grandma passed. It doesn’t mean I killed her.

          Sorry can be an admission of guilt, an expression of remorse, or it can serve to commiserate and console and show sympathy. An apology does lots of things, culturally.

    3. Workerbee*

      What a lot of extra managing for a manager who chooses not to manage themselves. Or have any accountability for their actions. I am hoping all that is in your past!

  7. MassMatt*

    People who are nasty to waitstaff usually tip poorly. Unless your party is large enough to trigger mandatory service charges, it’s extremely likely that someone who acts like this is also stiffing them on the tip. Staff subjected to this kind of abuse will assume the abuser is not going to tip and will act accordingly. If they are very professional they will still give good service, if not then all bets are off as to what they are going to do with your food before giving it to you.

    This is tough when the abusive person is your boss, it’s harder than when it’s a friend/acquaintance or family member. I’d double down on making sure the tip is good. Sympathetic looks etc are not going to pay the bills. Do something to make THEIR lives better, not yourself feel less guilty.

    I’m glad LW is out from that job, you can tell a lot about someone with how they treat waitstaff, no surprise to me someone who acts like this also runs a toxic workplace. If I did a job interview that included a meal where an interviewer acted poorly like this it would definitely damage the employer to me. Same with dating.

    1. Mel_05*

      Yeah, if it’s family or a friend it’s much easier to call out. A boss who would do that isn’t likely to be one who would make your life miserable if you call it out.

    2. Observer*

      In a lot of restaurants, you can just be a pair and trigger the mandatory “service charge”.

  8. Detective Amy Santiago*

    but people should be able to figure out how to be decent humans even without that firsthand experience.

    And yet…

    OP – good luck with your new position!

    1. Letter Writer*

      My new workplace brought with it an excellent supervisor, a much lighter workload, work-life balance, and people who appreciate me for what I bring to the table. It’s slightly lower pay, but given how my precious workplace was beginning to give me stress related injuries, it was worth it. So I am much better off. Thanks for your well wishes!

        1. Letter Writer*

          Honestly, I was spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars at the previous job in medical bills (dental work from eating poorly due to stress, injuries to my shoulders/neck muscles that required prescription meds to treat, etc.) that I’m probably making more money at my new job than the last one haha. And I’m not in pain anymore!

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          I interned with the Fortune 1 company for the last semester of grad school and had an OK experience. I interviewed that semester with lots of companies and received several good offers.

          Fortune 1 offered me $20K more than the average of the other offers, plus an annual bonus in the $10K-$15K range. I took it because duh.

          I left Fortune 1 for a Fortune 600 company after just seven months. I was made whole in terms of the bonus I expected to receive from Fortune 1 (in my base salary at F600), but it’s still a pay cut because I won’t be getting the difference between my expected F1 raise + F1 bonus in any salary increase going forward at F600.

          And I couldn’t be happier.

          The people at F600 are just. so. nice. Like, I keep expecting the other shoe to drop and it… never does. My commute (pre-COVID) is 1/3 of what it was for F1. My managers and VPs are *human*. People support each other and there’s no back-stabbing (which was an identified sport at F1. As in, I had people tell me, to my face, that they were going to do X-thing to undermine me because, “That’s how the game is played here,” **and they weren’t even being mean**. It was all said matter-of-fact and friendly).

          Anyway, quality of life and experience at work are really important considerations, too, when evaluating a job.

      1. Casper Lives*

        I’m glad to hear that! I turned down offers for higher pay when I accepted my current job. I was leaving a terrible job with bad management. This job is great, management is great, work-life balance is great. I’ve resisted recruiters that I know have higher-paying jobs in toxic workplaces. Not worth it.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I hope that your new job has more earning potential as well!

        I took a pay cut to leave my last awful job but I’ve increased 20% and have better benefits, plus a IRA contribution over the course of a couple of years. When you’re happier places, you have a better production rate as well, which can lead to better opportunities!

        1. Letter Writer*

          It does! Barring this year – due to COVID – they usually do a 3% raise each year as long as your supervisor is happy with your work. So I’m looking forward to that pushing me back up to my previous pay rate. On top of that, there’s lots of ability to move around and move up, but I plan to be here at least two years before looking to hop into another position. The benefits are also definitely better and cost less than my last job.

          I’m also in a much better position to pursue more freelancing on the side which will easily make up for the lower pay. I’m exempt/hourly, so I legally am not allowed to work when I clock out haha. It’s great!

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Having spent time unemployed rather than continue at Toxic Firm That Was Killing Me it’s really nice to also hear that reduced pay (or in my case, none) is worth it if your mental and/or physical health improves. Stress can seriously injure you, leaving permanent damage in worse cases.

        So, good on yer for getting out! Look after number one :)

  9. Luke*

    Wow. Unfortunately, I can identify with the OP. At my last job, I had a toxic manager who routinely talked badly about other departments in the company. She’d routinely claim other departments aren’t doing their job and go on self-absorbed monologues about how “they” should work their tasks. She extended this “courtesy” to her working team, bellyaching about my coworkers flaws my one-on-ones.

    Best any of us could do is grit our teeth and ignore it.

  10. MK*

    Leaving a tip, as big as you can afford/think appropriate, is a good way to go, I think. My country doesn’t operate on the tip system, but I always leave something, unless the service was actually bad, and especially when we were a difficult table (not rudeness usually, just long or complicated orders, people coming in at different times, switching tables etc). If the rest of the group doesn’t want to leave a substantial tip, I discreetly leave some cash on the table as I leave.

    1. allathian*

      My country doesn’t operate on the tip system either, and employers are allowed to keep any tips unless you pay in cash. Even if they don’t keep the tips, they’re distributed between all the employees who work that shift, so you can’t reward a waitperson who gives particularly good service. Employers are supposed to use any extra money for the benefit of the employees, but there’s no obligation to do so and there’s no monitoring of it either. So I don’t tip.

  11. Letter Writer*

    Thanks for the advice, Alison. Honestly, I would’ve left a tip but I have a bad habit of never carrying cash with me anymore. But I for sure will make a bigger habit of thanking the servers in the moment before I leave. I’m hoping I never have to experience it again since my new workplace rocks, but you never know!! I look forward to seeing what other people have done in similar situations.

    1. All Monkeys are French*

      Tipping is the main reason I still carry cash. I had gotten in the habit of leaving a tip on the card, until I read too many reports of wage theft by unscrupulous restaurant owners/managers. If I’m paying with a card I write “cash” on the tip line so the server knows they weren’t stiffed, and I know their hard-earned tip can go right in their pocket.

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        I write “cash” on the line as well! I’ve never met anyone else who does that, so it’s nice to hear someone else do that.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Here too. I’ve been tipping cash on a credit card bill ever since I learned that the credit card companies take a fee out of the tip. Forget that, I’m not tipping the credit card company – I’m tipping the hard-working humans in front of me!

    2. Ally McBeal*

      You could also pull the manager aside (tell your boss you’re going to the restroom) and directly contradict your boss’s complaints. Tips are always the best option, but compliments to the manager also mean a lot.

    3. drpuma*

      If you haven’t already done so, I hope you’ll share more about your new workplace as a Good News Friday!

    4. Dawbs*

      FWIW, (not that it helps right now), there are work arounds (as a fellow-non-cash-carrier)

      When I would take my saintly-but-under-tipping grandpa out, I’d go to the bathroom and then snag the bartender. Explain I needed to pay a tip, could they just create me a tab for a tip.
      And usually they could. And I’d charge $10 and everybody won.

  12. Ali G*

    I’ve done the “be nice and polite to the waitstaff to compensate for someone who is awful.” Depending on the situation (how safe you feel), it’s fun. I mean, what is the Jerk going to do, call you out on it (Gawd Jane why are you so POLITE??).
    In the one case I remember, it was a higher up from another org we worked with, but had no power over us/my job. So when Jerk was all “Jeez, can’t anyone cook a steak to save their lives around here!?!?” I was like “Hmm mine is a perfect medium.” Then I gave the whole table a lesson on sous vide cooking and how restaurants are able to get edge to edge temps every time.

  13. ZSD*

    This isn’t with a boss or co-worker, but I once tipped 30% on my half of the bill and wrote on my receipt, “I’m so sorry my friend is insane!”

  14. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I worked for a guy who wasn’t exactly rude to the waitstaff but he’d run them ragged with special requests. And as a European he’d only tip $10 on a $300 tab. I got him to limit the restaurants he’d go to where I had the managers “trained” to give their employees a 30-40% tip (at their discretion) whenever they saw his credit card, and then fax the new receipt to me (pre-email). I can’t say they were happy to see him, but they were at least less unhappy.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      That’s usually not necessary, and probably not preferred during Covid – it’s very rare for managers to steal tips off the tables, and if the establishment is nice/big enough to employ bussers, they have a system for splitting tips that really shouldn’t be messed with.

      1. Dawbs*

        (and man, as someone who was a busser, you’d think wait-staff wouldn’t steal busser’s tips. But they sure as shit did. often. I kinda needed to see the cash [that I would not touch] in order to make sure I didn’t get stiffed)

        1. Dawbs*

          Yeah, but I’m 100% sure on multiple occasions, waitresses misrepresented their tip total for the night in order to not have to tip the bus boy (me) the 10% of their tips I was due.
          Handing it directly to the waiter let them say it was $1 and tip me $.10. If I saw it on the table I knew it was $5 and they owed me $.50.
          It added up.

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Managers may not steal but other customers may! I haven’t had anyone complain about cash, I wrap it in a napkin. I’m crazy though so I disinfect any cash I carry, which isn’t much. I’ve only eaten outdoors a handful of times during the pandemic, and won’t be eating out at all now that it is getting cold here. So I left very big tips those few times I was out.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I put it in the booklet with the receipt or under something that would be weird for someone to brazenly move for it. I’m not sure where you’re frequenting but it’s rare to find your server again after they drop off your bill in this area.

    3. Laura H.*

      I don’t leave until they get it if I tip with cash.

      I’d rather stay with the money until it’s off the table because I want to make sure my server gets it.

      It just makes me rest easier.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      If you read these in an RSS feed, I think Alison published it earlier this week and then retracted it nearly immediately. I attempted to comment on it at the time here on the site but it had disappeared. It lived on in my RSS feed though!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — part of all the tech problems last week. (It actually was originally slated for last week on the day of the big outage, and then I couldn’t get in to move it in time.)

  15. TiredMama*

    I like reading tales from the waitstaff on reddit. It means the world to them when someone comes back to apologize. Hearing someone else say it was wrong is helpful and they get that you may not be able to speak up in the moment if with your boss. Oh, and delivering that message with some extra tip obviously helps too. But it’s awful how often this happens.

  16. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I’m glad you’re not working under that ED anymore. What a jerk!

    I used to work under a VP who acted like this boss. After one too many embarrassing dinners, one of our Sr. Directors volunteered to be The Host at the next meeting: ‘VP, you know how much the team loves your stories, why don’t you tell them about your recent trip to New York? I’ll handle the waitstaff…what entre did you want?’ and so on. Found out later that Sr. Director had already told the manager and waitstaff to direct questions to him, so they already knew to avoid and evade the VP as much as they could. Sr. Director kept encouraging the VP to tell us stories, and so did we. He really was a good story teller.

    Upshot is, the VP was so busy keeping us entertained he didn’t pay attention to the waitstaff or even the food, so his comments and behavior really improved. The Sr. Director told me privately that our VP was no different than his 3 year old kid, you just have to distract and redirect them the right way. I was and still am in awe of his tactic.

    1. Observer*

      On the one hand, yes, it’s effective. On the other, if the senior levels at the company are aware of this, why were they not calling him on it?! And what other garbage was he getting away with?

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        At my company, at least, that would be because the VP was Sr. Director’s boss and Sr. Director didn’t want to risk losing his job. We can’t always speak up — we absolutely should when we can, but not everyone is going to have the guts or political cache saved up to say “hey VP, my 3 year old would go to time out for being so incredibly rude to waitstaff.”

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        To be fair, the VP was a decent sort at the office. He was actually a good ally for me and my team, which made his behavior at those dinners all the more disturbing. It seemed out of character for him.

        For all I know, he behaved the same way at dinners with peers and the C-suite because they behaved just as badly. Or maybe only displayed his bad behavior in front of people who couldn’t call him out for it. If only I could explain why nice people become tyrants at restaurants…whatever the issue and reason, I’m still glad the Sr. Director did what he could for the waitstaff.

  17. Rachel in NYC*

    I used to sometimes find when I was out with my grandmother and she’d get agitated that something was taking too long that I could do a lot if I could deflect her or handle any interactions with the waitstaff myself. And I found the waitstaff were aware of my efforts (nothing says thank you like extra truffles.)

    It’s harder to do with a boss- especially in a toxic work environment but doing things so what the waitstaff also hear was- thanks and I appreciate it, rather then just ‘why are you taking so long’ has some value.

  18. Cordoba*

    “Take a while getting your stuff together to leave so you’re the last one to go.”

    Alternate option: Put more money on the table at the end of the meal, but don’t try to hide it. This often inspires other people to do the same.

    Obviously this might not be doable if the boss would see it as a challenge to their authoritah or whatever, but if that’s not the case it’s worth considering.

  19. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I’m a fundraiser and once had a meeting with a donor over a meal, and they were just AWFUL to the poor waiter. It was a brunch spot popular with families and the place was packed, kids everywhere, and this poor guy was literally on his first day – he had a trainer server with him and everything. My donor was just super rude and demanding and literally told the guy “you’re not doing very well”. The manager ended up coming over to apologize and say they’d be addressing it with the server. I couldn’t say anything in the moment because of the power dynamics inherent in working with clients/donors, but I sent an email to the manager as soon as I could. I explained what had happened and that the poor guy hadn’t done anything wrong and he certainly shouldn’t be punished. She sent back an extremely enthusiastic email thanking me for my comment – I think wait staff only ever hear the negative things and rarely the positive ones.

    So, if you feel you can’t speak up in the moment, definitely try to do it later!

  20. LGC*

    Hi, I actually dealt with similar situations (with a friend who…is extremely privileged) outside of work! A lot of those – namely, leaving a larger tip and speaking privately – are things I’ve employed. They’re relatively low-conflict solutions, which is good for when you’re dealing with someone who’s willing to behave poorly in public.

    Another tactic I’ve pulled sometimes – which probably won’t work with a boss – is to actually cut in when someone’s being rude. This, in contrast, is pretty high-risk, but it does protect the servers and signals that you’re not on board with the behavior.

    Finally – don’t feel bad about not speaking up in the moment. Honestly, the first few times my friend behaved in a way I found embarrassing, I was just stunned. (Mind, we’re both POC, but I was raised to be on my best behavior in public.)

    1. Letter Writer*

      I think the little tidbit you added there at the end may have been why I didn’t feel inclined to pipe up in the moment.

      My ED was a white individual who had – on several occasions – made really crappy stereotypical assumptions about individuals (be them clients, donors, or employees) like “I think she’s been drinking” or “he doesn’t look like he knows how to do this, look at how he dresses” or “I think they’re not here legally” and most of the time, these individuals were of hispanic or latino/a/x descent. Being hispanic myself, I never wanted to push back because I was afraid those assumptions would be made about me as well and I really did not need that on top of everything else. Not to mention that my ED always refused to pronounce my last name correctly which made me pretty angry. (It’s not a hard last name to pronounce at all, they were just lazy.)

      I think the power dynamic was just another burden on me and I really hate that it was. But I’m working on not letting myself be put in that position again, for sure.

      1. kt*

        Oh dear… the layers of toxic just pile up here :( I’m so glad you’re out. I’m also sorry none of your colleagues stepped up.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Honestly, I could write a whole book about my two years there, but I’m doing my best to be covert so I don’t get angry current employees harassing me on Facebook haha. It’s typical.

      2. Observer*

        Not to mention that my ED always refused to pronounce my last name correctly

        Just… I’m SO glad you are out of there. What a slime bucket!

        1. Artemesia*

          I understand that some ethnic names are very hard to pronounce. I have done some work in China, Singapore and Thailand – and OMG — not easy for those names to roll off your tongue when you are not used to them — I always tried and sometimes still bungled it a bit.

          BUT zero excuses for people who work for you. You do what it takes to learn those names. Not doing so is a giant red flag about your basic character.

          1. Observer*

            Also, you can tell when someone is trying and not getting it EXACTLY right, vs someone who can’t be bothered vs someone who refuses.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this. One reason why I changed my name when I got married was that I was literally sick of people not bothering to learn to pronounce my maiden name correctly. I was also having to spell it out all the time. My married name is a very common one and everyone here can spell and pronounce it properly. But I could still tell when someone was trying and failing vs. not bothering or refusing to even attempt to pronounce it correctly.

  21. BigSigh*

    I left an old toxic job and I’ll always remember going to dinner with a group of executives. While we did this fairly regularly, on one occasion we were taking out an executive from a different branch. He was confused about how NICE I was being with the waitstaff during dinner, to the point where he asked me to stop thanking them when they refilled my drink or dropped off food….

    1. KoiFeeder*

      I think I went to undergrad with his son. One of the most baffling interactions (for a loose definition of interaction) I had in undergrad involved me thanking one of the dining hall staff and a random person behind me getting spun up and ranting about how I shouldn’t do that.

      Why are people like that?

  22. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Considering how many people who are guilty of this behavior who were servers in the past, I roll my eyes heavily at the idea of “everyone should work in the service industry so they know!”. I’ve personally seen it and heard stories of it from my service industry friends. Tons of people love to throw it in your face that they have done your job and done it better. These people don’t do it because they haven’t done the job, they do it because they’re crude and vile humans who like to treat people poorly!

    I’d find an ATM and leave this staff a tip if I had to. I do this even if it’s not someone in my party that’s engaging in egregious behavior but I overhear it. “I hope your evening gets better, you are great.” also goes a long way when you’re lingering behind.

    Use these moments to remind yourself to be extra kind to everyone you meet because you never know who just had to deal with a d-hole like your former [yay former!] ED. I’ve learned to be incredibly patient because I’m tired of hearing people start complaining about every slight inconvenience that trickles into their day. Someone tried to complain about someone taking longer than usual with a cashier transaction because the person was using a WIC certificate. My response was “Its no big deal, I make it a habit to to go anywhere when I’m in a hurry.” in a calm voice and they started calming down without someone to feed their negativity spiral off of.

  23. iglwif*

    I briefly had a boss who was The Biggest Cheapskate about tips–as in, literally tried to amend the org’s travel policy to prohibit tipping more than 15%, and then when that got pushback, decreed that no tips >15% would be reimbursable.

    So whenever I had to travel with him in the US, I ended up spending a bunch of my own, non-reimbursable money on tips, because I didn’t feel like I had the capital to call his BMW-driving ass out on being a cheapskate, but also couldn’t just sit there and tip that badly. I never carry cash normally, because I don’t need it, but on work trips to the US, I always do (well, did, back in the days when business travel was a thing people could do).

  24. zinzarin*

    In my head fantasy, I’d request a separate check so that my dining wasn’t party to the ED’s poor behavior, and name that as the reason when I asked to be separate…

    …but ED, right? Fantasy-land.

  25. employment lawyah*


    Sometimes there IS bad service and sometimes there ARE problems, and there IS a reason to complain and/or not leave a large tip.

    (and yes, I waited tables for years, so did all my siblings, and my kids do it now)….

    I don’t know if your ED is just a cheapskate pisser (quite possible!) but there is also a subset of folks for whom it’s always “well, they’re trying.” And THAT doesn’t make sense either: When you pay a lot of money for a luxury good you are reasonably entitled to judge the quality of what you bought, not the attempts to produce it.

    I can’t easily think of the last time I left a tip under 20%; it was years ago for sure–but it does happen.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      What’s the point?

      Yes, bad service happens. You complain about it and you let it go. You don’t spend the entire evening harping on it. If some place is that bad, you gather your stuff and you leave the place instead of just making everyone around you miserable.

      Nothing about this post said they simply were complaining reasonably. Nothing about this post said that they simply left a crappy tip at the end of a sub par night. RME @ paying a lot of money for a luxury good, nothing about this says it was a luxury night out. It was a holiday lunch. Lunch is not a luxury item.

    2. Observer*

      our ED proceeded to complain about the menu (even though they chose the place), disparage the waitstaff, insult the manager of the restaurant when he came over to apologize for a mis-timed order, and then continuously rag on the restaurant staff throughout the meal.

      Poor service would not excuse any of this. To start with, the ED started complaining BEFORE service could even be an issue and acted like a jerk when the manager tried to apologize for something.

      There are plenty of appropriate ways to react to genuinely poor service without acting like this.

    3. Letter Writer*

      The service was definitely not subpar. They paid special attention to us because we were one of few tables in there. The manager was very nice about the mis-timing of an order and we all ended up getting our food together anyway, plus they were quick to bring us plenty of extra bread. I’m pretty patient with food service, but know when to bring something up if there’s an issue (food forgotten, drinks not refilled, etc.). People forget things! Bad days, servers are often young kids just looking for a paycheck, the chefs maybe didn’t drop an entree when they were supposed to. I totally get it and get that there CAN be frustration during an afternoon out.

      But, there’s still a polite way to point out issues.

      My ED was not polite in any manner of speaking. So tbh, I don’t think the situation justified her attitude in the least. Even when I’m paying for a luxury good, I know that there are /people/ behind those goods and services. It’s not right to treat them poorly just because you’re dropping lots of money imho.

    4. EventPlanner*

      Of course there is sometimes bad service etc etc, but there are ways to deal with that that aren’t just “piss and moan and insult the staff for the entire duration of your visit”. You can ask to speak to the manager – most places I’ve ever worked would STRONGLY prefer that you speak to the manager/host/senior staff member if you have a problem with service or your meal so they can try to fix it on the spot and avoid bad online reviews/word-of-mouth. You can point out genuine problems with service in a polite, calm manner, or if it’s something you find truly egregious then you can ask for the bill and go elsewhere. (As for having a problem with the menu of the restaurant you selected, you could, idk, read the menu before making the reservation?) But what the OP describes doesn’t sound like any of that, it just sounds like bog-standard rudeness.

    5. Merci Dee*

      Yes, sometimes there are problems and there is a reason to complain about your meal.

      My daughter and I dine out pretty frequently, so the law of averages says that we’re going to run into a problem at some point — not every place can be perfect 100% of the time. I acknowledge that this could be the day any time that we go out so I’m not completely thrown by it. But out of the slim handful of times that we’ve had a problem with our food or whatever, I’ve actually ended up leaving a larger tip for the server than I had originally intended: when I’ve brought the problem to the server’s attention (item wasn’t what I ordered, wasn’t prepared the way I requested, etc.), they’ve typically gone above and beyond to correct the problem and to make sure that the remainder of our dinner was a great experience for us. In every one of those situations, I’ve had a brief chat with the manager and just gushed about what a wonderful server we had, and how we’d run into a little hiccup during the meal and they’d done such a great job of getting everything sorted out for us, and how lovely it was to have such an experienced server looking after us today! The servers are beaming, the managers are beaming, and they’re both just glad not to get another earful of complaints.

      Also, I don’t think the serving staff should have their tips reduced for a problem that originated in the kitchen, since the servers don’t have any control over that.

      I can’t really think of a time in recent memory that the problem we’ve experienced has been because of a bad server or poor service in general.

    6. Evil finance person*

      Some firms are known to take interviewees to lunch, ask the restaurant beforehand to deliberately screw up the order, and will gauge whether the interviewee speaks up or “goes along to get along.”

      You shouldn’t be an asshole about it, but not saying anything because “you’re afraid of being overly demanding” would also be the wrong reaction.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s such a waste of time and effort. It’s a lunch, it’s not that important. How much do they have to “screw up” the order?

        Everyone I know in the food industry would hate whomever these people are, wasting their time to “trick” interviewees into pointing out an error. Especially during the INTERVIEWING PROCESS wherein you’re even more likely to not even notice an error in the ordering process.

        Some people aren’t over demanding, they simply aren’t wound up tight and don’t care that you forgot their side of ranch dressing.

        Stop. Tricking. People. Looking. For. Jobs.

      2. Thankful*

        What would this even tell employers? I’m unlikely to speak up about a problem restaurant order during an interview but I would 100% speak up about a problem impacting our clients.

      3. Observer*

        Either they are bad employers or they are bad at hiring. There are a lot of reasons why someone would not speak up in those circumstances, and many of them are quite reasonable. Smart employers want people who know how to pick their battles. Speaking up about a messed up order during a lunch time interview may be a “battle” someone doesn’t want to pick because they don’t want to side track the meeting, they have decided that they are never coming back there again if they can help it, they plan to discreetly talk to the manager later or whatever.

        But, setting traps for people and trying to see if they will respond in the ONE RIGHT way is just a bad idea.

  26. staceyizme*

    There’s not a LOT you can do when someone is acting the fool, especially if they are in a position of power. You CAN, however, leave at the earliest opportunity. It’s the same etiquette for meals, meetings or other settings- as SOON as your presence isn’t absolutely required, you leave. No conflict, no trying to police the conduct of others, you just don’t engage. If you can’t leave (stuck in an elevator, you have to present at the meeting, your ride is another colleague, then do what parents do when their kids act up- ignore the miscreant (scrupulously) and attend to the offended party (I’m so sorry that we’ve been difficult… I can’t quite agree that service has been lacking, I’m having a LOVELY time… SO sorry that you heard that unfortunate remark… etc…). Depending on the power dynamics, you may have to move towards more oblique language, but you don’t have to let it go, you don’t have to engage in conflict and you don’t have to tolerate the spewing of toxic verbal vomitus. If you truly can’t leave, a long break to the car/ restroom/ other part of the room or facility can substitute for a departure. Your boss (or board member or whomever) will have a very hard time making the case that your absence created disruption or was rude- (and if they try, you can then remark that you prefer to stay away from unpleasant and difficult situations or that you wanted to afford them privacy to express their concern etc…).

  27. Brian*

    I had a relative who was always incredibly rude to waitstaff, which made me dread going out to dinner with her. A few years ago, someone suggested that I call the restuarant ahead of time and tell them she has a traumatic brain injury which causes her to be extremely rude. Explain that she doesn’t mean it, and it’s not personal, but that the part of her brain that regulates social interaction just doesn’t work anymore.
    It was GENIUS. I have done it several times and it works like a charm. Waitstaff don’t mind her outbursts, no one takes her antics personally, and she has even commented that waitstaff “seem a lot nicer lately” for reasons she doesn’t understand.

    I know it doesn’t help the OP at all in their situation, but it was such a brilliant idea and has saved me so much embarassment that I felt inclined to share :-)

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Except the waitstaff who feel pressured to put up with her abuse because “she can’t help it.”

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Does she really have such a traumatic brain injury, or is it that you made this up? Because if you made it up, you’re still subjecting waitstaff to her awfulness. Just tell her that you are never going out to eat with her again until and unless she resolves to start treating waitstaff like human beings.

  28. Artemesia*

    well FWIW. good wait service is unobtrusive and the interruptions of constant thanking for service throughout the meal are inappropriate. Once — or at the end of the meal yes, but interrupting the course of a business lunch with everyone saying thanks every time their water glass is filled is aggravating.

    1. allathian*

      I’ll be honest and say that it used to bug me a lot when servers started to come round in the middle of a meal and ask my table if we were enjoying it. It doesn’t come naturally to many people of my culture, meaning that it has to be trained. It takes a bit of experience for waitstaff to notice a lull in the conversation, rather than barge in and interrupt a lively discussion, and even more for this to be automatic when it’s busy. It’s easy to tell when someone’s just basically so service-minded that they do it naturally and when it’s a case of the employer requiring waitstaff to ask every table at least once if they’re enjoying the meal, and the server is just checking a box on their mental to-do list.

  29. christine c*

    My mother is often kind of unpleasant with wait staff — a lot of weird guilt-trip-y stuff about things that are not remotely the server’s fault and which they can’t do anything about. Like recently four of us showed up for a restaurant reservation and the host had just screwed up and split their last four-top into two pairs of two, so we ended up crammed in a corner around what should have been a 2-person table. Not ideal, host was apologetic, but the restaurant was packed and they couldn’t fix it, they gave us some freebies and the food was excellent. My mum then continued ALL NIGHT to emphasize to the server how annoyed she was, how they should have better reservation processes, etc. Not the server’s job or remotely her fault!

    When this stuff goes on I try to defend the servers to my mum, and am extra polite and warm to them. If we’re picking up the tab I’ll tip really well. However, my parents usually insist on picking up the tab, but my mum has difficulty operating the point of sale machine due to farsightedness issues/technological incompetence and often passes it to me to operate. She thinks it’s ok to tip 12-15%, but I always type in 20-25% depending on how difficult she’s been. She can’t see the machine very well and doesn’t check the receipt very carefully afterwards so she’s none the wiser, and i figure she’s just paid a fair and appropriate “being a jerk” toll.

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      Ouch. Can’t blame your mom for being ticked about that. The restaurant screwed up and you even had a reservation. They hopefully gave you all some free meals. She shouldn’t have complained all night but I understand her venting and honestly, the restaurant should have moved you ASAP to a larger table or moved one to you.

  30. JessicaTate*

    Long ago, I worked for a boss who was like this in restaurants, hotels, etc. I was much more junior in my career, and couldn’t overtly chide him – although he was rude to people regularly, his own feelings and ego seemed to be very delicate. Funny, right? Alison’s suggestions are great. I essentially used to trail behind him when we were on work travel trying to apologize for him without getting caught.

    So, when he was rude and demanding to a hotel desk agent or airline agent about something that was not their fault and they were trying to address, making an apologetic facial expression and mouthing, “I’m sorry. Thank you so much.” When he was rude and demanding to waitstaff, I’d try to be the nicest, easiest customer they ever had. (In other words: not a time to start asking for ingredient substitutions; I’d pick something easy to eat as-is.) And again, using facial expressions, tone, and effusive politeness – essentially to telegraph to them that I’m aware this man is an ass, I wish I could change it, but I can’t and I’m sorry. And I believe he was a stingy tipper, so whenever I could get my own check, I would… or I’d slip extra cash under my plate for them, even though I’d never get it back from the company.

  31. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    This is my mom. She can be unbelievably rude to restaurant staff. We once gave a 100% tip to the waitstaff because she was so awful, even after we warned her several times to be polite. At the time, I seriously wondered if her behavior was an indicator of the onset of dementia, but no, she’s just entitled and snarky in her old age. We have since avoided eating out with her. I have never worked in a restaurant, but wow, my hat’s off to those of you who do.

  32. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I used to go to a particular sub shop …. but … after seeing how the manager verbally abused his staff, it made me sick. I don’t go there anymore.

    Another place, recently, a woman was allowed to run around in the store (again a sub shop) without a mask. The manager wouldn’t act. The woman wore a political t-shirt backing a crackpot “medical freedom” candidate.
    I don’t go there anymore.

    The local supermarket has signage = MASKS REQUIRED. I saw them almost forcibly remove a woman who refused to wear a mask.
    I shop there often.

  33. Malty*

    As someone in retail myself I’d appreciate the spirit of a private apology but it is also putting us in an awkward position – we’re still bound by the weird power dynamics and even if we get that your boss has power over you, you still have ‘power’ over us as a customer whereby we still have to perform the host role. Basically we can’t reply ‘yeah they were a total ass weren’t they’ but instead we have to play it down and make you feel comfortable, ‘no it was fine, all part of the job, I appreciate the apology but not necessary’ etc. Maybe an email from a non work account afterword thanking and praising the specific servers involved for excellent service while dealing with a difficult table? That way the staff involved get the kudos, which can be very well received by managers/area managers etc, without having to ‘perform’ their okayness with it?
    This may seem like overthinking but if you think customers haven’t apologised and then become angry/complained to head office that their apology wasn’t accepted to their liking, you’ve never worked with the public

  34. Researchalator Lady*

    I am surprised at all the mentions of leaving cash. Don’t restaurants in the US request contactless payment, such as tap debit like we use in Canada?

    1. Anonymous J*

      This was pre pandemic, but I once used a gift card and it only covered the bill and part of the tip. I wanted to use my debit card for the rest of the tip, but since the bill had already been paid I had to use cash for the rest. It was kind of embarrassing because I had to break a 20 to do it. OP might be in the same situation if the boss already paid the bill.

  35. LGC*

    or “I think they’re not here legally” and most of the time, these individuals were of hispanic or latino/a/x descent. Being hispanic myself, I never wanted to push back because I was afraid those assumptions would be made about me as well and I really did not need that on top of everything

    …well, that escalated quickly. (Honestly, I shouldn’t be as surprised that in addition to being a jerk, your former boss was also racist – those things are often less a Venn diagram than a single circle.)

  36. 653-CXK*

    When I was working at ExJob, we would have a thirteen week settlement of medical claims.

    Midway through one of them, right before we left, we had a pizza party. We had our choice between cheese, pepperoni, Hawaiian, vegetable, etc. Of course, people would line up, take a couple of slices, and then sit with their group of buddies.

    Almost 3/4 the way to the end, the VP of Operations (who was once the director but it seemed that stirred a lot of s%$# up and had a ton of HR complaints, so they kicked her upstairs) came in. There was plenty of pizza left, but when she saw the Hawaiian pizza, they made crass remarks about it. Not just “eww,” but fully-within-earshot derogatory remarks. (On a side note, she was an unabashed bigot against Asians – one time she had a tirade against Walmart and China, and almost all of the people in that meeting were Asians.) No one stepped in to tell her to knock it off, because then you would become a target and be pushed out.

    A few months later, after I was let go, one of my friends told me that upper management had enough of her antics, and fired. I hope in her case, she was escorted out of the building, kicking and screaming all the way out. To be a fly on the wall that day :-)

  37. EventPlannerGal*

    Agree with all the advice about tipping well and speaking up in the moment if that’s possible. One other nice thing you can do in addition to all the stuff mentioned already is leave a positive review online on Tripadvisor or Yelp or whatever, ideally mentioning your servers by name. A few places I’ve worked at have had incentive schemes where if you get X number of positive mentions by name in online reviews then you get some reward, a bottle of wine or a gift voucher or something like that; and even if the restaurant doesn’t do that it’s a good way to show general appreciation of the restaurant, not just specific staff.

  38. ACM*

    Okay, I agree that you don’t need to work in customer service to be decent to people, but I do think that people who have done so have a more visceral idea of what the people they’re dealing with on a daily basis go through. Things like, when you see a store is still open for 5 more minutes, not being like “yessss we made it!” but rather “ah well, let’s go back tomorrow” (unless it’s a real emergency). Or rolling your eyes to your dining companion (even out of sight of the waitstaff) because how hard can it be to get an order right? Or being a bit indignant about not-very-friendly service because “nobody’s forcing you to do this job”. I have seen people go from doing that kind of thing to never doing that kind of thing again, because you have had an inside look at exactly how hard it can be, how many moving parts there are, how very few people really want to be in the service industry and have to do it anyway because of their circumstances, and how GD *invisible* you feel as a human being when you’re in a cap and apron uniform. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who are lovely and empathetic to service industry workers even without this experience, nor that it will stop a*holes from being a*holes, but for a lot of people in the middle it does change their perspectives for a good long time anyway, if not for good. It wasn’t just the a*holes that ruin your day as a server/barista/cashier, it’s also the people who are polite enough to you but don’t really see you as anything more than furniture.

    Sorry, still a little bit of PTSD from my stint in customer service, even though it was years ago.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I think this is a great comment. I definitely agree with the larger point that you do not need to have experience as a waiter to understand why you should be respectful to waiters, for example. But for all the people saying that they’ve never done any kind of service industry work but get it anyway, I do believe you but, like… next time you find yourself feeling like oh well usually you’re so polite but THIS time it’s justified, maybe pause and think, do I actually understand what is going on here? Do I genuinely understand what it feels like to find yourself the only person on the dining room floor at 7.30pm on a Friday because everyone else has somehow vanished and the 10-top have been dithering over starters for 30 minutes and you NEED that table back to split into a 6 and a 4 for the late sitting and the guy at table 5 keeps snapping his fingers at you like he’s really something and the boyfriend on 7 wants to sloooowly go through the wine list and ask you penetrating questions about each one to prove to his girlfriend that he’s a wine expert and the chef is having an angry smoke outside because he’s run out of fish? And every single one of those people feels like usually they’re ever so polite to waitstaff but this time really, can they be blamed?

      Because don’t get me wrong, some people who have been in that position are still assholes. But a lot of people haven’t and still tell themselves that they get it while being an asshole.

      1. I take tea*

        I agree. I have a hobby that requires a lot of unpaid work, especially when we have meet ups with several hundred people. I have had a lot more patience with things not going smoothly after I was one of the organizers. They work literally 24/7 without pay. No need to get upset for small things.

        Wait staff are paid, albeit poorly, but still, they usually do as well as they can and rudeness is just embarrassing.

  39. Quill*

    Aside from this being a nonprofit, this was the holiday meal at pig lab from hell. We went to a restaurant / bowling place (one of the fancy ones) and my boss started off with the “has to be right about everything” thing he did every time we went out to eat, (which was relatively often) and I ended the night with a collapsed arch from being dragged into a third round of “we’re having so much fun don’t spoil it by leaving” bowling.

    So glad for you that you don’t work with this boss anymore.

  40. hanna*

    My old nightmare boss at my old nightmare job once took my team out for lunch after a successful project… and then pulled a dine n’ dash, leaving the rest of us (entry-level employees) with the check. I am still suffer far too much shame to return to that restaurant. But it was pretty satisfying to hand my notice in at that job.

  41. LogicalOne*

    Customers who are rude to waitstaff…..I can’t…it’s one of my peeves in life. I sometimes am tempted to call out these people. I’ve only ever done it once where a woman was treating a waiter like scum. She complained about the food and that it wasn’t adequately at the right temperature, he was too slow, the food wasn’t prepared correctly, overall she was pretty demanding and even wouldn’t look at the waiter. My group and I noticed it and the rest of the party she was with were pretty quiet so I wonder if it was awkward for them. I told the woman as we were leaving, how dare she be rude to staff like that. There is no excuse or reason to treat another human like she did. All she said was “Excuse me?” and I left. I wasn’t going to argue. Sometimes people need to hear things if those close to them aren’t going to speak up or are afraid to.

  42. Heffalump*

    Some years ago some people from the reseller for our CAD software came out to resolve some issues we were having. I’d been working with them for several years, and we had a good rapport.

    A peer of mine, who was fairly new with the company, was really rude to them. At one point he lit into the tech, and one of the sales people said, “He’s one of our best techs, don’t attack him!”

    At the end of the day I followed the guys out to the parking lot and apologized for my coworker’s behavior. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

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