Food & Drink

How to Not Piss Off Your Server

Published On 10/21/2016 Published On 10/21/2016
Things that servers hate
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Look, I'm not saying you're an asshole. NO ONE IS SAYING YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.

All I'm saying is, maybe you wouldn't have clicked into this article if you yourself hadn't been the victim of subpar service at a restaurant and/or tavern at some point in the recent past. And considering most of America's service industry is made up of hard-working, attentive individuals, there might be a reason your table last Tuesday at Applebee's was the culinary equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.

Simply put: The customer is not always right. In fact, they are usually wrong. 

I talked to a gaggle of (anonymous) current service workers to find out what customers are doing the wrong-est so you can avoid the traps and keep your servers in good spirits. A happy server means good service. Can someone get that embroidered and sent to every Waffle House please?

Do follow basic rules of hygiene

"It sounds weird to even have to say this -- but we've had people who have come in smelling really badly, and just being dirty, like physically dirty. That's a definite way to make sure we stay far away from your table." -- Linda, 24, New York, New York

Don't dress like a douche... um, unless you are rich

"I hate to judge a book by its cover, but when you come into a higher-end restaurant in like... flip-flops and a tank top... it's hard not to treat you like an asshole. That being said, some of the richest people I know dress like that, so it's a double-edged sword." -- Richard, 33, Baltimore, Maryland

Don't snap your fingers

"A customer snapping their fingers is like the international sign for 'Hey, I'm an asshole, please do everything you can do to avoid my table.'" -- Dani, 28, Los Angeles, California 

Do treat service workers like human beings

"Look, I don't expect you to have a conversation with me, or treat me like I'm your best friend. But don't treat me like I'm some type of indentured servant there to fulfill your every need. Everything will go much more smoothly if you just treat me like an actual person." -- Jane, 29, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Don't act like your creepy uncle

"Please don't hit on me, slip your number in my bill, write it on the cash you hand me, hand me your cellphone, or ask if I want to go to the bathroom with you. If you think I'm interested in you, I'm definitely not. And that is major motivation to give you shitty service." -- Linda

Don't try to get a server's attention when they are with another table

"It's rude. If they see me talking to another customer, clearly they know I'm not ignoring them... I'm just working. And if you stop talking to the other guest to speak to them, you validate their interruption, and the other guest takes it as rude, on your part. It's a vicious, intrusive cycle." -- Meredith, 25, New York, New York

Do clean up after yourself

"Being an outright slob creates a certain level of contempt with the customer... someone is going to have to clean that up eventually." -- Richard

Flickr/criminalintent

Don't split the check 100,000 different ways

"I get it -- but it's annoying. I will take much longer than I need to with this. Sorry." -- Richard

Do be clear with what you want

"Look, specificity isn't always super annoying. In fact, a lot of the time it can be a good thing. If you want something cooked a certain way, or ingredients left off -- I'd much rather you be upfront with it than be sending back dishes four times." -- Jane

Don't be overly dramatic or picky

"... That being said, there's definitely a line where you can get too picky or annoying. Like, if you go to a sushi place, don't get pissed off if they don't have bread. And if you want your steak cooked through the middle, don't ask for it rare. These are two things that actually happened to me. I wish I was kidding." -- Jane

"When a customer is being too picky or way too dramatic, it's big motivation to stop giving a shit. We can definitely turn the AC down a little bit if you are cold, but we can't make it 90 degrees in our restaurant in the middle of July." -- Richard

Do give your compliments to the chef, if you feel it's warranted

"It's actually a very nice thing to do. I appreciate it a lot, and so do our chefs. So it's a good way to show you are probably a cool person." -- Mary, 35, Boston, Massachusetts

Don't threaten to punch the chef in the face

"This is kind of a unique experience, but we had one guy who formally requested access to the back of our kitchen, to fight our chef because he kept getting his order 'wrong.' Yeah, that is one way to guarantee less-than-stellar service." -- Mary

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He actually blames Gwyneth Paltrow for most of the world's problems. Follow him @wilfulton.

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