Food & Drink

True Tales of the Cheapest Restaurant Customers Ever

Cheap customer
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

At the risk of surprising absolutely nobody, sometimes restaurant customers are just phenomenal cheapskates. Everyone who has worked in restaurants for any extended period of time has seen their share of these customers, and they tend to make our lives a living hell. We’re not even talking about shitty tippers here -- that’s a whole different subject entirely -- but people whose cheapness even about basic menu items sets a new ceiling on how laughable customers can sometimes be.

And because everyone who’s ever worked in this business has met more than their fair share of these customers, it isn’t difficult to collect a good number of stories of people cheap enough that they’re basically human Top Ramen. After consulting with a number of current and former restaurant workers (whose names have been withheld to protect their employment status) from around the country, here are just some of those stories. Enjoy.

chicken wings
Chona Kasinger/Thrillist

The ranch hands 

“A delightful table table asked for extra, extra ranch with their wings, and when I charged them 25 cents for each additional extra they asked for after three, they melted down and wanted to speak to a manager. Because an additional 75 cents for six sides of ranch for 10 wings was just too much for the group to handle.” -- Brittany

Author's note: OK, I know Americans love to abuse ranch in the worst ways possible, but what were they doing with all this ranch? Were they stockpiling it in case of the apocalypse in the belief it would be the currency of the future? Were they building the world’s grossest outdoor pool? Were they just average people from St. Louis? I have many questions.

Truly bottomless cup

“My parents’ coffee place, Mocha Mott’s, has a policy where refills are a buck as long as it’s a Mott’s refill ($1.25 in non-Mott’s cups). It’s a great deal considering the quality of our coffee. A Mott’s cup is one of our plastic, metal, or ceramic mugs or a paper cup from a previous purchase. It’s to promote environmentalism. No other reason.

Our paper cups are within reach for our customers. People would bring in nasty ratchet paper cups from days/weeks ago for the refill price. On SO MANY OCCASIONS, people brought these nasty-ass cups in and asked me to refill them. The number of times I was filling these literally disintegrating cups, burning my hand, only to turn around and see that someone was leaning over the counter to grab a fresh cup because they thought I wasn’t looking… just absurd. Usually they’d apologize and give some excuse like “oh I didn’t know!” (bullshit, you think buying a coffee here once entitles you to a lifetime discount?).

But this one dude starts arguing with me.

Him: “The cup is literally falling apart. What am I supposed to do?!”

Me: “Pay full price for a new coffee and start over? Or buy one of our reusable mugs?”

Him: “That’s not fair. I only came here for the deal!”

Me: “Well, there are other places down the street.”

He’s still holding his falling-apart cup at this point. He looks me dead in the eyes, dumps the coffee on the floor, throws the cup in the trash, and storms out. So because I refused to give this dude discounts for life for the noble deed of once purchasing a coffee at full price, I got a lovely mess to clean up.” -- Casey

Author's note: If there’s one thing experience has taught me, it’s that hospitality customers will never be cheaper than coffee-place customers incensed they might have to fork over a dollar they don’t feel they should be required to.

Tea shade

“One woman tried to convince us to let her leave her own box of tea at our coffee shop. She basically wanted to be able to come in and order tea for free (since we don't charge for water). She tried to argue that it really wouldn't be an inconvenience for us, since we have shelves just for tea (which we have set up in a super decorative way involving mason jars and florals and shit). So she wanted free hot water, free paper cups, free honey, free lemon, and storage space for her tea just so she could have the experience of going to a coffee shop in the morning for her beverage without having to pay for it.

The tea was just regular old black tea. It wasn’t even anything fancy or special.” -- Kelly

Author's note: This is the coffee shop version of all those customers who make their own lemonade using water with lemon and sugar packets, only somehow significantly worse.

Salad days

“I used to work at Outback, where steaks usually came with two sides: a starch or veggie, and a salad on the side. Our house salad was the same price, but for one of our ‘premium’ salads it was maybe 50 cents more. This was clearly labeled.

So this one guy orders his meal. Orders his premium salad, I let him know that it's premium and has an upcharge. He agrees. All is fine… until we get to the check, where he flips out, convinced I was trying to rip him off for a bigger tip.” -- BeLinda

Author's note: We’ve all encountered this guy at some point. I’m positive they know full well about the extra charges and are planning on doing this from the moment they’re told they might have to pay an additional 50 cents. It’s a scam.

Buffalo sauce vs. pants

“A guy at Capitol City-Shirlington wanted happy hour wings to-go. The bartender stated it was only for dining in. Multiple attempts at argument by the guy failed, so he orders the wings and eats one at the bar. Then he proceeds to wrap 11 saucy AF wings in a plethora of napkins and sticks it in the pocket of his khakis. He walks out complete with wings in his pocket and a nice big wing sauce stain seeping through his pants. Funny thing; we were disappointed he didn’t take the celery.” -- Ryan

Author's note: I’ve seen serious commitment to cheapskatery before, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone stuff wings down their pants out of a desperate need to eat them at home in the comfort of their own PJ’s. I love being pantsless as much as the next person, but for Christ’s sake, there are limits.

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