The 10 Inalienable Rights of Every Restaurant Customer
Restaurant customers can often be the lowest of the low -- this is undeniably true. But there are certain things every customer should be able to expect out of their restaurant experience. And so it is on this day of our lord that we have established the Restaurant Customer Bill of Rights, 10 things that everybody -- from extremely polite big-tippers to Satan himself -- should respect in any restaurant, regardless of race, creed, or douchiness.
You have the right to expect the same level of service no matter what you look like
This is the big one. Any server who claims their co-workers (and themselves, let’s be honest) don’t frequently judge customers based on a casual glance is lying through their teeth. Even the servers who are good about not doing this know full well that a lot of their co-workers assume customers will tip badly based on a customer looking younger or not being as well dressed or, oh yeah, not being white. And no matter how many angry servers quote studies that show certain groups might tip less than others, it’s still bullshit -- every restaurant customer should be able to expect the same level of service no matter what they look like. This particular tendency among servers is the biggest service-side issue in the restaurant industry, and it isn’t even particularly close.
I’m not going to claim I didn’t make those snap judgments in my head when I was doing the job -- I definitely did, and any server who tells you they never have is lying through their teeth -- but I will say I didn’t fall into the trap of giving bad service as a result, because I didn’t want there to be any excuse for me to get tipped badly. Paradoxically, this would sometimes lead to customers I assumed would tip badly getting unusually good service (well, by my own standards, anyway, I kind of sucked at that job) as I almost dared them to give me crappy tips. I also tended to get tipped better from the sorts of customers other servers didn’t want as a result of it. Funny how that works.
You have the right to receive food the way you ordered it
It doesn’t matter how mindfuckingly stupid your order was: You deserve to receive that dumbass order exactly the way it was promised to you. Ordered your steak extra well done? If the restaurant told you that was what you were going to get, you deserve to suffer through your shoe leather. Ordered your tuna steak sandwich cooked through? You’re terrible and your taste buds are an anarchic wasteland of horrors, but sure, you deserve to get that crappy, dry, ruined protein. If the restaurant has promised you food a certain way, you deserve to have food delivered that way.
You have the right not to have your food messed with
Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t care how dickish a customer is. I don’t care if you know they’re going to tip badly. I don’t care if they aggressively fart at you and tell you your mother has carnal relations with dead goats. You do not get to spit in or mess with their food.
That being said... this doesn’t really happen. Oh, I’m sure it has happened before, on occasion, somewhere, but most people who’ve never worked in a restaurant assume it happens all the time (I’ve had restaurant story submissions where customers assume it’s going to happen for everything up to and including looking at the server with a mildly perplexed expression), and that’s just not true.
Blame whatever you like for this borked perception (personally, I blame the movie Waiting), but in about six years of waiting tables, I saw or heard about a server spit in a customer’s food exactly zero times. And honestly, every server I’ve ever known who is also a decent human being is horrified just by the entire concept. I’ve talked to a lot of fellow servers about this, and I know one who had seen it happen -- and in that case, the food never made it to the customer and the server got fired for it. Even still, it’s important to note that this is Not OK.
You have the right to have your allergies taken seriously
I’ve talked about this frequently, but come the ever-loving Christ on with this -- allergies are real. No, I don’t care if customers have pretended to have allergies in the past when they actually didn’t like something. That doesn’t excuse servers or cooks potentially putting another customer’s life at risk because they don’t feel like caring about their allergies. Every customer has the right to have their allergies taken seriously, whether those allergies could lead to an anaphylactic reaction or simply an upset stomach.
Unless they’re claiming to be allergic to crunchy or to red. Those people can take a flying leap.
You have the right to be greeted promptly and feel like you're being taken care of
Servers do get overwhelmed at times, so there’s some wiggle room on this, but it doesn’t take much of a time investment to swing by a new table and say, “Hey, I’ll be with you in just a minute.” It sucks to sit there and feel like you’re basically a human coat rack. Seems like a pretty basic thing every customer has a right to, doesn’t it?
You have the right not to be interrupted by your server
It can be sorely tempting to jump in when a customer drones on and on and ON and ON and ON AND ON AND ON DEAR GOD HOW DO THEY NOT GET TIRED AT THE SOUND OF THEIR OWN VOICE, MY SKIN HAS FLAYED OFF MY BONES AND UNIVERSES HAVE BEEN BORN AND DIED SINCE THEY STARTED SPEAKING, DEAR JUST AND LOVING CREATOR, MAKE IT END. In the face of that, it’s understandable to sometimes want to jump in and move things along. But every customer has a right to say what they’re going to say (no matter how brutally banal it is) without their server interjecting.
You have the right not to get hit on by your server/bartender
Let’s grant that this usually works in the other direction -- skeevy-ass dudes hitting on their server, who has to pretend to be into it if she wants to pay her rent. But it works both ways -- servers and bartenders, don’t hit on your customers. Just, ever. There’s no instance where it would be considered acceptable behavior. Just don’t.
You have the right not to be argued with if there's an issue with your order
We’ve all had an order come out that is not the way we wanted it. You wanted it medium-rare and you’re holding a hockey puck, or you wanted your sandwich light on salt and it tastes like the Dead Sea, or you simply didn’t want a hair in your damned salad. A server’s job at that point is very simple: fix the issue, no matter what caused it in the first place. What is very specifically not their job is to argue about whether the thing you’re complaining about is actually a problem at all.
Look, every server has had a customer that keeps making unreasonable complaints and asking for the impossible. You can’t do the job for more than a few months without running into at least one of these. But some servers get so jaded from these few encounters that they refuse to acknowledge when things have gone awry. As a customer, you have a right for your concerns to be taken seriously.
You have the right not to be physically judged for your order
OK, this takes some clarification: Your server has every right to take their tip into their own hands and tell you the WAY you ordered your food is not the best way to eat it. That’s just your server trying to make your order not be terrible! That is literally their job! If you’re ordering your salmon cooked only on one side with your broccoli steamed without any sort of butter or oil whatsoever, your server has every right -- nay, RESPONSIBILITY -- to tell you these are horrible ideas that will end badly. You utter, bleeding moron.
What they do not under any circumstances have the right to do is, if you order something unhealthy, to make comments like, “well, I guess you’re not watching your weight.” Come the hell on -- that is seriously messed up, and I know more than one woman who has reported this happening to them in a restaurant more than once. You have the right to expect this not to happen. This should be a damn no-brainer.
You have the right not to have anything spilled on you
This seems obvious, but basically every server I know has screwed this up once (and hopefully, no more than once). At my second serving job ever, I spilled a ramekin of blue cheese in a nice young woman’s hair, and I’ve never been more mortified. A friend of mine once tipped a tray with beer bottles on it, and all of them fell off in succession to play the bongos on a bald man’s head. As a customer, you have the right not to have this happen -- even when it does. This is one of a very few instances where honestly, your server probably isn’t going to be mad if you don’t tip.