"Just after the kitchen opened for dinner, the Family From Hell arrived and was seated. I knew I recognized the parents -- in that way you do when you know someone has been difficult before [Editor's Note: This is one of the worst feelings you can get as a server.] -- these were the type who work hard to find something to complain about and aren't mollified until they manage to scam a free drink or a complimentary dessert, so I knew they were likely to be difficult again.
"When I went to take their drink order, the mother wanted a gin & tonic, which we didn't currently have, and she acted like I had throttled her kitten when I politely explained we had sold out and why. In the end she ordered a bottle of wine instead. When the barman took her wine down in an ice bucket, she complained that it wasn't chilled enough -- it had been in the fridge for nearly an hour, but as I said, stock turnover was super high that weekend and yeah, it wasn't as cold as normal, but it was still properly chilled.
"The barman explained why it wasn't as cold as usual and offered to take it away and put it in the freezer for a while, the mother refused, saying that we should be keeping our alcohol for 'proper' (whatever that means) customers and drank it anyway. She then decided the seats were 'too soft' to be comfortable and the manager had to start shifting furniture around for her. All in all exactly as expected from previous encounters.
"It didn't stop there. They were quiet during the starters, but they were only saving their venom up for the main course. They ordered three steaks and a fish special as entrees. When I took their sides out to them, they were wrong. Again, you'd think I'd killed a beloved pet, they were so incensed by the mix-up. I apologized, returned the sides to the kitchen, and informed them the correct sides would be with them in five minutes. When I returned with fresh sides five minutes later, I was berated again, both parents shouting at me about how it was 'all ruined!' They started bitching about their steaks being cooked wrong. I don't mind customers complaining -- if you're paying for a meal it should be done right -- but their attitude, the entitlement, the way they spoke to me… they were seriously getting to me. So I turned them over to my lovely manager before I said something I regretted.
"The manager offered them four entirely new meals cooked from scratch. They refused. The manager took their main courses off the bill (the four most expensive main courses on the menu, coincidentally). They accepted. We went to remove the 'ruined' meal from the table and they wouldn't let us. They proceeded to CLEAN their plates. They nearly licked them. There wasn't a scrap of food left, bar the skin from the father’s fish special. Not a veggie, not a potato, not even a bit of garnish.
"As I was clearing the table, the father asked to see the dessert menu. When I left the plates in the kitchen our chef (who is also the owner) asked me to tell them that she'd be happy to come out and chat to them about the food if they liked -- so I relayed this offer when I went back with the dessert menus. 'Oh no,' said Papa FFH smugly, 'we sorted it out with the manageress.' He then started ticking off on his fingers what he was getting for free and what he was paying for. He was practically glowing, he was so delighted with himself.
"It was at this point I couldn't hold my tongue. I plastered on a fake smile and said jokingly, 'Well, you know, the food couldn't have been that bad. You cleaned your plates!'
"The mother nearly lost her mind at this (never mind how rude she'd been to every member of staff who came near her all evening) and screamed at me across the restaurant to 'FUCK OFF!' It was loud enough that the whole restaurant heard. The table behind her (a lovely couple) had been cringing at their behavior all evening anyway, and they nearly sank into the floor with embarrassment at this point. So I fucked off. The father came to find the manager and complained about me before THROWING the money still owed on the bill (very little after they'd been comped their mains) at her and they departed in a strop, sans dessert. Obviously they didn't tip, but the table who sat behind them left a tip that was larger than their actual bill. I can only assume out of sheer embarrassment at their behavior. Thank you, nice people on table 10!
"I found out later the father is a local radio personality and not short of money." -- Cathy McNamara