Plenty of times in restaurant work, a customer who seems like a dick turns out to be awesome. On the flip side, one who seems great might end the night by giving the server a 2% tip. It's often extremely difficult for the servers to know what kind of customers they're getting. But sometimes it's extremely easy to tell whether a customer -- that's you! -- will be a saint or the restaurant equivalent to ocular surgery sans anesthetic. These are the red flags customers throw out that cause servers to identify them instantly as problems.
Interrupting the server's intro
"Hi, how are y--" "WATER." Well, shit. This'll be a fun experience, and not at all more painful than feeding my fingers into a wood chipper. COOL COOL COOL.
Responding to the server's intro with dead silence
What kind of weird social disorder to you have to have to respond to someone saying, "Hi, I'm ______, I'll be your server today, can I get you anything to drink?" like it's the 1840s and you're in a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel? How emotionally broken do you have to be to respond to a friendly greeting like a particularly standoffish house cat? Screw you.
Brotato, if you're supposed to seat yourself, there will be a sign. If there isn't a sign, wait your ass up at the front. Anyone too self-important to wait to be seated is going to be too self-important to be even a halfway-decent customer.
Asking the server to "hook you up"
Jackass, I don't know you. We aren't pals. I'm not going to get you free shit when A) I have no idea what kind of tipper you are and B) we just freaking met. Note as a counterpoint, though: If a customer immediately hands me a $20 when sitting down (and this has happened before), I will hook them up however they damn well want. You bet your ass I'm taking care of you at that point.
Bragging about being a great tipper
No, you aren't. Anyone who utters these words thinks 10% is a great tip. Never once has anyone who has ever claimed to be a good tipper actually been a good tipper. It has never happened in history. It's like the idea of a dentist that doesn't make you wait half an hour just for funsies -- it has never been a real thing. This is often comorbid with asking one's server to hook them up (which shouldn't be surprising).
Asking "what is the cheapest thing on your menu?"
This is the fastest way to tell your server "I won't be tipping you today, for I am human garbage." And I don't want to hear even the slightest bit of shit about "well, what if they couldn't afford to tip." Then they can't afford to eat out and they should take their asses to the dollar menu. It's not my or any other server's job to work for free just because a customer decided their extra-fancy night out at Billy John's House O' Discount Turkey was more important than their server's ability to pay their bills.
Telling the server you work in a restaurant
OK, this is sort of an odd one, but hear me out: a LOT of people who tell servers this are the most likely customers to be unforgiving assholes. I'm honestly not sure whether they have ever worked in a restaurant (possibly for a week as a busser or something), or whether they just say this to make themselves seem sympathetic. Regardless, it doesn't make any sense that these would be bad customers, but it doesn't make sense that Firefly only got one season while Big Brother is somehow still running (it's true, you can look this up), either. Yet here we are.
Asking the server what the quickest thing is on the menu
"Hi, we have a show to get to in 17 minutes, what can you give us immediately?" This isn't a Long John Silver's, you wankdolphin. That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.
Repeatedly using the server's first name
This one isn't a hard-and-fast rule; a lot of people who do this are perfectly nice (and obviously this doesn't apply to regulars at all, who are encouraged to use our names as long as we don't hate them). Still, most servers are wary of customers who go out of their way to use their first name. More than anything else, there's just... something creepy about it. There's an oddly attempting-to-recruit-you-to-a-cult-ish feeling that goes along with it.
Addressing the server as "waiter"
This is a small half-step from just coming out and saying "excuse me, servant, please fete me with the adoration and respect for which I am so desperate, because everyone whom I don't hold immediate financial power over treats me like the dog's turd I so clearly am." Just cut out the doublespeak there.
Asking if the restaurant gives free refills on fountain drinks
What restaurant DOESN'T give free refills on soda? How freaking cheap do you have to be to make sure of this beforehand? I can almost understand this question if you're at some incredibly fancy place with artisanal handcrafted avocado soda or some shit, but if you're asking this at Applebee's, you're pretty much guaranteed to be an asshole.
Snapping your fingers
If a customer snaps their fingers at a server, ever, for any reason, it's basically a siren blaring "Hi, I'm an ambulatory tower of raccoon feces and you will want to murder me before my appetizers even arrive." A friend of mine has threatened to break a customer's fingers before, and she's a 6-foot North Dakotan who looks like the Norse goddess Freya and sounds like Bobby's mom from Bobby's World, so you damn well know she'll do it, too.
Touching the server's arm (or anything else)
This one is less "you know they're going to be shitty" and more "you immediately notify your manager to dial 9-1 and then just wait for something to happen before you hit the last 1." Seriously, what kind of sociopath doesn't realize it's not appropriate to touch someone you just met? Particularly someone who you have financial authority over (in the form of tipping). This is something women face far more as servers than men (although it does happen to male servers occasionally), which makes sense, since this horrible shit is endemic to literally every facet of society.
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C.A. Pinkham is a guy who makes inappropriate jokes about Toblerones on the internet. Follow him on Twitter @EyePatchGuy.