Food & Drink

Legitimate Reasons to Get Mad at Your Restaurant Server

reasons to get mad at your server
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

We talk a lot about terrible restaurant customers, and with good reason: restaurant customers can be awful and horrible, and often lose their tempers for no reason at all. But what about -- and I know this might sound crazy, but hear me out here -- servers who are ALSO terrible? What are some things a server might do that are totally legit causes for you to get mad at them? They exist, I promise, and to prove it, here’s a whole bunch of them.

It goes without saying that if you’re going to respond to any of these by leaving two pennies in lieu of a tip, the asshole hot potato hops right back into your hands, though.

They spill something on you

I don’t know a single server who would disagree with this. It’s fair game to be angry or tip badly if you get blue cheese accidentally dumped in your hair: I actually did exactly this to a customer once at my second serving job, and I would not have begrudged no tip whatsoever (but I think I actually got 10%). Plenty of people will be super-nice about it as long as the server looks appropriately mortified. If the customer is pissed off, though, they frankly have a right to be. Take your lumps, waitstaff; you earned this one.

They talk trash about what you're ordering

It’s one thing to warn people away from a particular menu item: I once worked a shift when the well-meaning cook had decided the best option for soup of the day was something he called “French onion Cheddar,” which was French onion soup with nacho cheese dumped in it. Warning customers away from that monstrosity was frankly an ethical obligation. No, what I’m talking about here is something completely different. If a customer orders a cheesecake, and the server says something like, “Well SOMEONE doesn’t care about calories, LOL,” great bedazzled Jesus, that server is an asshole. It’s not the server's job to judge someone’s eating habits relative to their physical appearance. Even if they haven’t ordered, telling someone "you look like you'd loooove a dessert" is messed up.

They don't acknowledge mistakes

Hey, mistakes happen! There’s nothing wrong with that. And if a little goof occurs, there’s no reason to get mad at a server for it -- unless the server takes the opportunity to act like a dickbucket instead of just fixing the damn problem. Saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry about that” goes a long way. It’s not an admission of guilt, but a comment of sympathy.

Sometimes mistakes happen because the kitchen screwed up, and the server doesn’t want to admit guilt for it, which I KIND OF get. (But it’s still dumb.) Plenty of servers, though, just don’t want to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Why so many people can’t admit fault baffles me, but at the very least, those people should not ever be waiting tables.

reasons to be angry at your server
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

The place is dead, yet they're not around

If there are two occupied tables in the entire restaurant, and your server still hasn’t deigned to get you water after you asked for it 10 minutes ago, the fault does not lay with the customer. I get it; when things are dead, it’s actually harder to focus than it is when the place is packed. Servers really have to work to keep their head in the game. But the bare minimum of making sure the only four-top in the place has what it needs isn’t tough when there's LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE to do.

They're dicks to people dining solo

Servers live off tips, and it’s not fun to have one of your tables taken up by a solo diner who isn’t likely to yield much of a rate of return based purely on check size. But think about this: Almost no one wants to eat alone. It’s fine for the server to be disappointed, but it's never OK to be an asshole about it.  Assuming they’re not a dick, the customer deserves the same respect and service as a four-top: that mean no greeting them with overdramatic sighs, no making faces every time they ask for something, and no getting pissed when they don’t order dessert. The customer probably won’t even require much in the way of extra attention (people who solo dine are usually pretty good at entertaining themselves), so they’re not likely to absorb too much of the staff's time. And they tend to tip to show their appreciation for being treated well.

They cop an attitude over basic requests

Look, I love me some smartass servers, and deserving customer clapbacks are just THE BEST.

But there are times when server attitude just makes no sense whatsoever. Letting attitude loose when a customer is an asshat is perfectly acceptable, but if all they’ve done is politely ask for extra napkins and the server reacts like they just started reciting a treatise from the worst sections of Reddit, the server is the asshole, not the customer, and the customer has every reason to react.

They're assholes about allergies/dietary restrictions

Take a deep breath, because this is the big one!

Servers and restaurant employees will argue incessantly with each other over the subject of allergies. A lot of servers try to shift blame back to customers who claim they’re allergic to something when they just don’t like it, which, OK, that’s a lame play, but it’s also not an excuse for a server to just assume everyone is doing that: someone I know recently claimed that 99% of customers who claim allergies are just being picky, which is some pretty irresponsible math.

As soon as the server makes that assumption, the customer ceases to be the asshole. At a restaurant in Frederick, Maryland, I worked with one cook named Chris who liked to claim that he had learned in “culinary school” that human beings could “only be allergic to like five or six things,” and anyone who claimed an allergy to something outside those boundaries was lying. The moral here is don’t be that kind of asshole, restaurant employees, because someday one of your coworkers might out you as a complete douchetart on a major national food website using your actual first name! Or you might seriously make somebody sick or dead. Either way, don’t be Chris. Chris sucks.

When I submitted this subject to my server friends, one of them used an excuse I’ve heard before but never even slightly bought: restaurants, when informed of an allergy, clean everything and use separate utensils and basically put on Cirque du Soleil in the kitchen in service of the customer’s issues. Look, I’m not going to say this NEVER happens. There probably do exist places that actually do this, somewhere, and if a kitchen is forced to decontaminate because a customer is full of shit, that customer deserves ire. But I worked in a lot of different restaurants, and I never saw ANY of them get particularly antsy even about cross-contamination, let alone the production described herein. It’s just not a thing that happens frequently (even assuming it happens at all). But if it does, it's probably for a very good reason: safety.

Bottom line: just don’t be a dick about people who claim to have allergy issues. Always assume they’re legit. If they aren’t and you believe it, sure, the customer is an asshole, but that’s all that happens. If they ARE and you don’t believe it, you could freaking kill someone, which definitely merits some anger on the part of the customer. Getting to hold onto your feeling of moral and intellectual superiority isn’t worth that possibility.

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C.A. Pinkham is a guy who makes inappropriate jokes about Toblerones on the internet. Follow him on Twitter @EyePatchGuy.