More Stories of the Most Horrific Customers in Restaurant History
Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we've got stories of restaurant customers who appear to have come straight from the deepest realms of my nightmares. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
An impressively evil capacity for vengeance
"We were working at a tennis club that would hold tournaments throughout the year for young up-and-coming players and pros. It was at one of the tournaments that the following happened.
"On the first night, my friend sat a six-top, mostly young tennis pros from various different clubs, and a local lady hosting them. My friend takes their order and does everything right, but as dinner is being served, a plate is dropped in the kitchen by someone else. My friend is informed that the kitchen is working hard to replace the lost meal, while he goes to inform and apologize to the table. The actual diner whose plate had been dropped is completely cool, but the local is steaming. In a short time, a new dish is procured and served and all seems good. That is, until the check is presented.
"No matter that the dropped meal had been taken off and apologies offered from the chef, manager, and server; the local pays by credit card and leaves no tip. Six adults, six entrees, plus drinks. My friend picks up the bill and writes it off, but the local comes back and informs him she would be dining every night that week and that she would ask for him and that he "would get nothing" for “embarrassing” her.
"That's exactly what happens: four more nights she shows up with a large party, asks for my friend, runs him ragged, and tips nothing. The manager had flushed his spine down his nose and spends the entire week telling my friend to suck it up." -- Rick Loughery
We're all fighting our own mustard war
"When I was in high school, I did my time at the local McDonald's. The place was an extraordinary cesspit, but the worst was the mustard guy.
"He was a repeat offender of completely ignoring the protocol of entering the drive-thru lane by driving around the building and past the menu, a process which sets off an alert within the restaurant and lets someone know you're there ready to order. Instead, he would swoop in from the other side of the lot and do a U-turn every time, ignoring the pressure pad and creeping up to the back window sideways. You'd have no idea he was there until he was banging on the window in a full-on froth, certain that the whole ordeal was YOUR fault for not just standing there at the window waiting for his arrival. Taking his pissed-off order was bad enough, but serving it to him at the pickup area was 1 billion times worse. When he was coming your way, you'd know it, because the order on the screen would always, always say:
"2 CH BRGR
"That's right. He wanted his cheeseburgers soaked with mustard. They had to be sloppy, inedible. They had to smear mustard down the inside of the bag. The wax paper wrapping had to slide off, more mustard than paper. They had to be drenched with an insane amount of mustard.
"The grill people were familiar with him and had a method of pleasing him: they would basically soak the meat, put cheese on, soak the cheese, then soak both sides of the bun with mustard, then sort of fold it all together. By the time they were done, the whole place smelled like that nostril-stinging, antibacterial gel-smelling McMustard. You had to use a napkin to take the cheeseburgers directly from the grill person who made them (they would stain the metal chute otherwise) so you didn't get the yellow dye all over your hands. They were terrible.
"One night, after handling this process flawlessly, I gave the guy his bag of mustard burgers. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he lingered in the spot for a moment after I closed the window, but he slowly drove away. Minutes later, he was back, and I only knew this from the muffled screaming coming from the other side of the window. I carefully slid it open and there he was, a lap full of soggy, sloppy yellow food, mustard smeared all over his shirt and pants, mustard all over his steering wheel, mustard in his beard. And he was freaking out -- about THERE NOT BEING ENOUGH MUSTARD.
"I calmly told him that we would make his burgers again, and the grill person handed me two of the nastiest balls of mustard bread I had ever seen in my life. We even filled a child-size drink cup with more mustard for him. I brought him the new 'burgers' and handed them to him with an apology, which he ignored. He opened the bag and inspected the mess, and then hit the gas and made it almost all the way around the corner before reversing, just to splatter the original, not-mustardy-enough burgers all over the drive-thru window.
"So that's how I got to spend the rest of the night, standing out there with a spray bottle, scrubbing at globs of mustard in the crevices of the sliding window, stepping out of the way and waiting, covered in mustard and in tears, between the incessant parade of drive-thru customers. Because of this experience, I'm EXCEEDINGLY nice to people in service positions, probably to a creepy degree, even if they're terrible or rude or whatever. It helps to remember that everyone is fighting their own mustard war." -- Jordan Waterston
Sympathy is fine, but tips are better
"I briefly worked at a lunch/dinner/bar restaurant near an urban national landmark, staffed by national park rangers. They regularly came into our restaurant for lunch, and sometimes their table of two to four was the only lunch crowd we had on weekdays. When I started working at the restaurant, other servers told me that they never tipped and were sort of picky, and mostly just a pain in the ass. Lots of stories about sending food back and complaining the sweet tea wasn't sweet enough.
"We offered a 10% discount to police and fire department employees, and our ranger friends had bamboozled their way into this discount. Yes, they were technically law enforcement officers, but unlike park rangers in Yosemite that deal with bears and stranded hikers and stuff, these guys were basically glorified mall cops guarding a house and a statue.
"Being the new server in the restaurant and an overall cheery person, I was determined to make friends with these folks and get a solid tip out of them. My first few lunches, I was a little dismayed by the '$0.00' handwritten into the tip line on their bills. But one day, one of the female rangers came in by herself and looked like she was having a tough day. We slipped into a conversation about her life, her measly government paycheck, her bills she was behind on, and she explained how her pension from the government worked, and that she couldn't retire for 15-20 more years (she was probably about 50). She asked me how things were going at the restaurant -- she knew I was new and things were slow at lunch. I casually said it was OK, but it was frustrating sometimes because the only money we actually got to take home was from tips. I told her that sometimes our paychecks were zero dollars because of taxes and stuff. She was very sympathetic and gave me some 'Oh honey, I remember working for tips!'-type of stories. By this point another table had come in, so I walked away and got them situated.
"Walking by her table a few minutes later, she motioned for the check, which I had already printed and had written 'Hope the rest of your day is great!' on. I left it on the table and walked away smiling, getting ready to gloat to my co-workers at shift change that I had won over one of the icy rangers. I ran her credit card, dropped it off at her table, and checked on my other table. I went back to the table after she'd left to pick up what I knew would be a solid tip.
"The tip line said '$0.00.' I quit two weeks later." -- Felicia Baker
Not so fast, lady
"When I was a senior in high school, I worked in a coffee shop franchise located in a grocery store, where I saw a lot of obnoxious customers, but one took the cake.
"Immediately after she came in, she slammed her manicured fist on my counter and demanded one of our frozen fruit drinks, but with a flat lid instead of the usual domed lid. I went to get the ingredients, when my co-worker asked me if I needed help closing that night. I turned to answer her and this woman screeched that I had to do my job. So I turned back and went back to making the drink, placing both types of lid on the counter (you need a domed lid to blend the drink and not make a mess). I served the drink and told her the total and she completely lost it, screaming how dare I place her lid on our ‘filthy’ counters. Then she started berating me, telling me I'd probably never bathed and that my clothes hadn't been washed in years (by the way, the counters were freshly washed, just like my clothes and self). After nearly reducing me to tears, she reached for her drink and told me she wasn't paying for it, due to how disgusting I was.
"I meekly told her she had to pay for it or she couldn't have it. She went for it again, so I finally grew a spine and snatched it from her, and tossed it in the sink. She stormed off, muttering she'd get me back for that.
"A few months later, she was banned from the grocery store for harassing a mentally challenged bagger." -- Jenny Dillinger
"I was working at an independent sports bar/pizza place. It had been open forever and had a reputation for awesome pizza and the owners and other workers were awesome. We also had a very large group of regulars, one of whom we'll just call Bill.
"Bill was the soul of cheapness. He would drink whatever was the cheapest thing we were selling -- usually some shitty dorm room-class draft beer. In his defense, he did tip alright, always 15% [Editor’s Note: We have different definitions of ‘alright.’], but he was that guy that got his bill and if it was $15.63, the calculator came out and you got $2.34.
"Bill had a strange habit on the weekends, which is what makes the story. He would come in, drink four or five beers. Then he would leave for about two hours and return to have some more beers. This went on for months and was so regular that when one of us saw him gulping his beer, we'd automatically bring him his check.
"Finally, months and months later, I asked him where he went. He looked at me like it was the most self-evident thing in the whole wide world. He said, 'Well obviously, YOUR COMPETITOR (insert name of) Sports Bar has 70-cent wings on the weekends. Your wings are 75 cents. I'm not paying that.' I was puzzled, because (insert name of) Sports Bar was 25 miles away from us, in a totally different part of town. Dude was making a 50-mile round trip when gas was $3.50 a gallon to save 50 cents on his wings. This logic was lost on him. I asked why he didn't just go there to begin with. His answer: our beer is 25 cents cheaper, and he didn't drink their higher-priced beer. The idea that the greater savings on the beer negated the slightly higher wing price also eluded him. [Editor’s Note: And driving after drinking, apparently? Can we talk about that part?]
"It must have dawned on him sometime of the next week because on the following weekend there was a huge blowup between him and another bartender. He apparently tried to order a bunch of pizza toppings without the pizza and have them baked together for him in a dish. He lost his mind when they charged him a reasonable price for making a special menu item for him rather than adding all of the 50-cent toppings together and his grand scheme for a $4 big meal menu hack was thwarted.
"I've dealt with cheap people before, but he's the only one who took miserliness to a religious level." -- Mickey Myers
But... do they have fish, though?
"I'm a front-desk agent at a high-end hotel in Downtown Seattle. We're roughly a 10-minute walk from the Pike Place Market. Being so close to the water, we have some AMAZINGLY fresh seafood. All of the front-desk agents have their favorite seafood places and there is a large binder full of menus behind the desk for guests who want suggestions.
"The other night, we had a particularly rich set of young white women staying with us. They all had their nails freshly French manicured, their hair triple-highlighted, Gucci bags, sky-high Louis Vuittons, the WORKS. It was obvious that they regarded me, with my short haircut in my stuffy gray uniform (and a mandatory striped scarf from the '70s), as something less than human. While two of the women sat in the lobby, the third came over to me.
"'I need a recommendation for seafood dinner,' she spat down at me.
"'I have the perfect place!' I chirped back, grabbing the menu binder and taking my pick out. 'It's called Blueacre Seafood. They're just two blocks away and their seafood is farm-to-table, super fresh, and the menu changes every day based on what they're able to catch.'
"This woman, with all of the seriousness and contempt in the world, looked down her contoured nose at me and snarled, 'But do they have fish?'
"I, a small helpless queer in an ill-fitted polyester suit, just pushed the menu closer to her and squeaked, 'Yes, see?'
"She did not believe me. Her polished friends were furiously texting her about how stupid this restaurant sounded, which I know because she was shouting her responses at them.
"She glanced over the menu (for Blueacre SEAFOOD Restaurant) and declared that they had 'too much meat' (one steak item and one turkey sandwich apparently qualify as too much meat). She then CALLED THE RESTAURANT and said, 'Do you have fish?'
"I'll never know what the hostess at Blueacre said, but it caused this woman to whip around and stomp over to our bellman and demand of him, 'I want a seafood restaurant recommendation!'
"He (having no idea what I had just endured) smiled, whipped out a voucher for a free appetizer, and said, 'Yes! I love Blueacre Seafood, just two blocks from here!' She shrieked at him that they have too much meat, and then she and her polished pals stomped out the door in an absolute rage.
""It took every ounce of strength in me to not tell her that there was an ocean just down the street, and she could jump into it if that's the amount of fish she so desired." -- Terri Suskind
An OTM first
[Editor’s Note: This is a unique OTM entry, because in two years I’ve never run a story in Worst Customers from the terrible customer’s own perspective. This guy, though… wow. Just wow.]
"I was in law school and it was Friday night after a rough week of classes and exams. Along with several classmates and our dates we went to a small, locally owned restaurant near the university which served mostly Italian food. Our party grew as the evening progressed, ending up with about 12 people. Many pitchers of beer were consumed along with suitable pastas and pizzas, but the service was slow and inattentive and when it came it was condescending and arrogant, correcting our pronunciation of Italian terms on the menu. It took forever to get drink refills and food was served cold while our waiter congregated with other servers near the bar engaged in chitchat.
"By the time we were ready to go, everybody at the table had had enough of the poor, contemptuous service. It was agreed that I would handle the check when it came after collecting shares from my friends. We were paying cash and when the waiter returned my change I left one penny in the tray and we departed. When I reached my car in the adjacent parking lot, our waiter came to me and said, 'Mister, you forgot something.' 'What is that?' I asked. 'A penny,’ he said.
I responded, 'I didn't forget it, you earned it,' which left him speechless and our crowd highly amused.
Maybe you will find a use for this story in a future Off the Menu feature." -- Gary Danvers[Editor’s Note: In fact I did find a use for it, Gary, just not the way you expected me to! Congratulations, you are unbelievably terrible.]
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!
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