Off The Menu

The Worst Customers of All Time Have Nothing on These Assholes

Off the menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we have the classic: tales of truly epically horrible restaurant customers. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.

Prune Juice Lady

"For several years I worked at a large drugstore as a department manager. Like many larger drugstores, we also had a decent-sized food section that even included produce. We were a block away from an assisted-living retirement center and pulled a lot of customers from there.

"One fixture of the store was the Prune Juice Lady. She appeared to be in her late 80s and always had weird issues and opinions around food. Any time she came in, she would buy a case of prune juice. But she didn't trust us or the prune juice, so she had to 'test' it. This involved opening every bottle she bought at the checkout and checking it with her finger.

"Sometimes she would put her finger into the juice and declare the bottle was empty, demanding to know what we were trying to pull. If the plastic ring that holds on the cap also came off during opening -- something that happened about a quarter of the time -- she would yell that the juice 'has gone bad' and would refuse to take it. There was no convincing her otherwise. If we were out of prune juice, she would yell at every employee within range that we were hoarding it all in the warehouse and keeping it from her. One time the manufacturer changed the color of the caps (from orange to yellow), which caused her to rail on my store manager and I for 10 minutes about how WE changed the caps just to fuck with her. Good times.

"She would also often bring back half-eaten boxes of food, demanding to return them because the 'item inside isn't as pictured on the box.' Ritz were especially guilty of this. Again, there was no convincing her otherwise. At least once a week she would come in with a small white garbage bag filled with God knows what and ask that we throw it out for her. I always instructed my team to decline, and tell her to toss the bag into a can outside. She would then proceed to yell about how 'you have to do it!' before we complied. Sometimes the bags sloshed, which was especially distressing." -- Allan Gregson

Grape expectations

"When I was in college I worked at a popular chain of Canadian loose-leaf stores that always tried to push overpriced loose-leaf tea and tea-making paraphernalia to customers. This being a store in a high-end mall in a ritzy area, a large demographic of our customers were irritable rich people who weren't particularly used to doing things themselves, so more often than not we operated more like a Starbucks for tea.

"I had mostly evening classes at this point, so I had a lot of morning and early-afternoon shifts, which meant I served a lot of middle-aged cougars with rich husbands who had personal side-businesses selling soy candles or whatever and had the time to go shopping at luxury boutiques at 11am on a Tuesday.

"One such creature strolled in one day. Before I had time to launch into my standard friendly greetings she demanded a 'grape iced tea.' We didn't have a grape tea. I apologized, told her this, and offered to find her something else she may like or might taste similar to a grape juice-y flavor. She rolled her eyes, sighed, and said, 'Fine, but I was here recently and one of the other girls served me a grape tea. I'm a frequent customer here, and I know what I was served.' I'd worked there for almost a year at that point and was 1,000% sure we didn't have a tea with grapes in it, so I asked her if she could possibly recall the name of the tea, or if she wanted to have a look through our tea menu to see if anything rang a bell. She snapped back, condescendingly, 'I'm sorry, I was under the impression that was YOUR job?’

"I was about done with this lady, but I was the only person working the front counter so I couldn't pass her off to someone else. I spent about 20 minutes (right before the lunch rush, mind you, so other customers had started to build in line and were getting annoyed at the wait) showing her other teas and bringing her samples until she finally decided on one. I made her the iced tea and she paid and flounced off without so much as a goodbye or thank you.

"Five minutes later, she walked back in, bee-lined right to me, and said, 'This iced tea is awful. This tastes nothing like what I wanted. If you can't understand the words I'm saying to you or the product I clearly communicated that I want, I'll take my business elsewhere. But you're making me a new tea on the house right now.'

"As she was talking, a 14- or 15-year-old girl walked in and stood next to her, presumably this woman's daughter. When she finished her tirade, the lady turned to the girl and said, 'Honey, this is why you finish school, OK? So that, even if you have to work in the service industry, you have enough comprehension skills to understand the words coming out of a customer's mouth.'

"This was especially hilarious, because at the time, not only had I finished university and gotten a BA with honors and a 3.8 GPA, I was almost through with an additional specialist diploma that I was also killing. I really wish I could have yelled this at her, but instead I went to go make her a new tea and ugly-cried.

"I later found out that, a few weeks later on a day I wasn't working, the same customer called one of my co-workers a 'brainless bitch' and security had to escort her out." -- Lisa di Stefano

The real kicker isn't the tequila

"I was a server at Texas Roadhouse, a steakhouse in Willoughby, Ohio. Our clientele was usually a decent crowd, but like any chain of restaurants, we had some customers who were not so pleasant or intelligent. At the time, I was about six months pregnant with my first child.

"I was serving a middle-aged couple. The gentleman was pleasant throughout their entire dining experience. His wife, however, was not so enjoyable. She ordered a margarita with a 'kicker' (an extra shot of tequila in what looks like a test tube) of Patron. After finishing the kicker and half of the 10oz chalice of alcohol, she decided she didn't like it and wanted a beer instead. I politely apologized and exchanged the drinks for her.

"While they waited for their food -- two porterhouse steaks 'well-done not burnt' -- she finished off another two bottles of beer. When the meals arrived, I made sure they were pleased with how everything came out. They had no complaints and did not have any further requests at the time. After eating everything except the bone, I was interrupted by the lady while trying to take an order at another table.

"When I approached, she all but screamed at me about how the meat on the bone was red. I tried to explain to her that the meat connected to the bone cannot always be completely well-done without burning the rest of the steak to a crisp. She was appalled and wanted to speak with my manager, yelling, 'I can't eat red meat! I'm going to get sick now because I'm pregnant and you didn't thoroughly cook my food!' I silently turned and walked away. I knew saying, 'If you're sick, it was the tequila and three bottles of beer, not so much the slightly pink scraps stuck to the bone of your 20oz steak' probably wasn't the best idea.

"Also, being pregnant myself, I wanted to punch her square in the face. That definitely wouldn't have gone over well with my manager." -- Amy Harrington

Off the menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

What are Japanese food?

"While I was in college I worked as a waitress at a small sushi restaurant in the suburbs near New Orleans. It was located near a movie theater, so we got a fair share of people wanting to try something new while waiting for their movie to start.

"One night, these two ladies and their kids come in while waiting for their movie to start. After bringing them their drinks, I ask if they have any questions about the menu. One of them says, 'I see you have chicken, beef, and salmon teriyaki. Do you offer a shrimp teriyaki?'

"'No, ma'am, but we do have shrimp tempura, shrimp rangoon, etc.,' I say, pointing out ALL the shrimp options to her. She says they need more time to look, so I come back five minutes later. They order some shrimp tempura dinners, plus some appetizers. She then asks if she can add shrimp to the 'side of fried rice the dinner comes with,' so I tell her, 'Oh, the dinners don't actually come with fried rice; they come with white or brown rice. Our fried rice is a specialty item and is $6.95 --'

"She cuts me off: 'OK, whatever. We don't want any rice,’ and rolls her eyes at me. While I'm leaving with their menus, I hear her friend say, 'What kind of Chinese restaurant is this?' [Editor's Note: Oh no.]

"A few minutes pass and I bring out their appetizers. They had ordered stuffed mushrooms and shrimp dumplings. A few minutes later, I bring out their dinners, and here's where it gets worse: The lady who thinks it's a Chinese restaurant asks if we serve French fries. I tell her no, closest thing we have are tempura onions (tempura = fried). She says, 'No, that's OK. Do you have any ketchup?' So I go to the kitchen and they actually have a giant unopened can of ketchup.

"So I bring out some ketchup and some of our popular sauces. She says thank you, and then her rude friend says, 'Excuse me, these mushrooms don't taste anything like mushrooms. And these dumplings taste almost raw.' So I tell my manager and we take the dumplings off the bill. I offer boxes and they say 'no' with looks of disgust on their faces. Then I bring them the bill. They stare at the bill for what seems like forever (I guess they thought everything they didn't like got comped?) and then they finally pay (leave 5% tip each) and get out." -- Rhonda Wyden

Ned Flanders is a dick in real life

"I worked at an Irish pub for a while, and for the most part we had pretty solid regulars who knew how to behave in a pub/restaurant… and then there was Mr. Schultz.

"Mr. Schultz looked like Ned Flanders and was by his own account some type of big deal in the CPA world (because I guess that's a thing). How did I find out his name was Mr. Schultz? Because that's how this fucking sociopath introduced himself to me and my co-workers. Not, 'Hey, I'm Bob,' just 'Mr. Schultz.' Honestly, we never even knew his first name.

"For some reason no one could determine, our manager was attached to Mr. Schultz's dick, and despite the fact thathe was the cheapest, most exacting person, our manager always rolled out the red carpet for him. Here is a small list of things Mr. Schultz accomplished in his time with us.

"-- Created a training manual complete with illustrations on how to pour draft beer to distribute to the bartenders because he believed we were doing it incorrectly.

"-- Decided to bring in a book of Prohibition-era cocktails and demand we make him a random one from 'the book I purchased for the bar' every time he visited, then critique the results like an Iron Chef judge, being sure to tell us where we messed up.

"-- Despite our great state's laws banning minors from being in the bar area, he propped his kids up on both sides of him and was utterly dismayed when we informed him of this law. This happened MULTIPLE times, and his response? He would tell a server to take his kids to the restaurant and sit them at a SEPARATE TABLE and essentially babysit them while he waxed nostalgic upon the finer points of a hot toddy.

"-- Deemed our wine selection inferior (it's an Irish pub, for Christ's sake) and ordered three cases of (real expensive) wine on his own dime and had them delivered to the bar, then made a big production of telling people who didn't give a shit that he was drinking his 'private-label wine from his own private stock.'

" -- Once did us the favor of not sitting at the bar and decided to sit a table with his family. We were on a serious wait, and Mr. Schultz decided the best course of action would be to stand at the host stand, glaring at the hostess and impeding other guests from being sat until she relented and sat him and his family before the other guests on the wait list.

"Finally, FINALLY, our old manager quit and the new guy curtailed Mr. Schultz's activities. Of course, Mr. Schultz came back in and asked for all of his 'gifts' back, and watching him fill a half-empty case of wine with all the stupid shit he had 'gifted to us' (exact quote) over the years was one of the best moments of my entire existence." -- Chris Daniels

Do you have a restaurant, home-cooking, or any other food-adjacent story you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please email WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Off the Menu" in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome! Also, we are now requesting submissions for holiday-themed stories, so if you have any stories pertaining to Thanksgiving and Christmas, please send them in!

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