This weekend, I tried to introduce a friend to a fun new game called “Guess Whether or Not Karen Likes This Waiter.” Unfortunately, I was informed that this game would probably not be very much fun as the answer is generally obvious within seconds. So, for those who don’t have the pleasure of dining with me, or who just miss the experience, I present:
My Top 10 Things Waiters Can Do to Make Me Hate Them*
- Ask if I want more water. Well, if it’s empty, that means I’m drinking it and since it’s free for you, why don’t we go with yes. Yes, I do want more water. Keep that glass at least half full.
- Bring the check while I am still consuming dessert and/or before asking if we’d like coffee or anything else. This is actually just rude. Not only does it reduce the chance of a final few items being put on the bill (thus adding to the tip) but it leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth. I’m not a starving writer camping out at Starbucks for Wifi, I promise I’ll leave when I’m finished.
- Use the royal “we.” This KILLS me. “What are we having today? Are we enjoying our hummus? Do we need some more Diet Coke?” This is both grammatically incorrect and could lead to some uncomfortable moments. What if I said “we are” and she replied “well actually you haven’t let me have any yet?” How awkward would that be?
- Not have an opinion on the food they’re serving. I’ll admit it, I ask a lot of questions when I order. I’ve been called a “high maintenance orderer” before (albeit by someone who didn’t know the difference between brioche and a popover so take that for what it’s worth). The point is, if I ask which is better the burger or the chicken and you ask me “which are you in the mood for?” that doesn’t actually help me at all. If I was in the mood for one, I would have ordered it.
- Try to upsell me on a “signature” appetizer before I’ve ordered my drink. This used to kill me at Dos Caminos when I still had my menu, hadn’t thought through my meal, and had $15 guacamole forced on me in a lava pot. Just give it time, I promise I’ll order three courses, but I don’t want overpriced avocados just because you put it in a special box on the menu.
- Act too Disney-esque. Maybe I’m cynical, but when someone is that cheerful with me, I assume it’s a front and they’re thinking of stabbing me in the face. It’s tough to feel at ease when you’re looking over your shoulder all night for a steak knife-wielding maniac with a big Disney grin.
- Explain the restaurant “concept” to me. “Have you been here before? No? Great, let me explain what we’re about to you. We’re into a locavore dining experience specializing in small plates with Mediterranean influences. We recommend you order 2-3 items from column A, 3-5 items from column B, and at least 2 items from column C, but if you order 3 or more items from column C you should probably eliminate everything from column A.” Guess what, I went to your website, I figured out what your concept is, and it’s called pretentious, but the Yelp reviews are good so just bring me some wine.
- Add to my own personal anxiety. When you seem nervous or flustered or brusque or distracted, I start to assume my food has been poisoned.
- Not be around enough. I may be paying to eat at your restaurant, but in some ways, I’m a prisoner. When I’m out of bread or want a lime wedge or need a utensil, I just have to sit there and hope that you’ll remember to come back and get to me. And if it takes too long, I have to contemplate eating with my hands and bringing shame to my mother from afar.
- Be around too much. The third time you ask me if my meal’s okay, it starts to taste a little funky. Save all that personal attention for your loved ones.
*I should note that I don’t believe any of the reasons above are cause for poor tipping unless they’re over the top (or they really do stab you per #6).
And if you are a demanding diner, you should certainly reward those on their feet getting your meal for you.