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 more stories of almost unfathomably dumb restaurant customers. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
That word does not mean what you think it means
"While I was studying for my master's, I picked up a part-time position as a cashier for a sit-down restaurant near my college. The restaurant I worked at was known for its rotisserie chicken, but we had a large variety of foods people could order.
"One day, I'm working a super-lazy shift. The lunch crowd has come and gone, and I've got about another hour before my shift is over. The store is dead, so I'm just rolling silverware when a customer comes in. I put down the silverware and greet her before walking to the register. I'm about to do my opening pitch (we had one we were supposed to give all customers in case of a secret shopper) when the woman stops me. 'What kinds of soup do you have?'
"We have two soups, a chicken noodle and a chicken tortilla. I tell her that and ask her which one she'd like.
"'I'd like something with a clear broth.'
"'Well, ma'am, our chicken noodle has the clearest broth. Would you like that one?'
"The woman shakes her head and enunciates more, as if I didn't hear her: 'No, I'm looking for something with a CLEAR broth.'
"I blink once, because we really only have two options and a chicken noodle soup has a pretty clear broth, but whatever. 'Unfortunately, ma'am, we only have those two options. If you want something with a clear broth, I'm sure you could find a Chinese restaurant and ask if they have wonton soup.'
"The woman shakes her head more and insists, 'No, I'm looking for something with a clear broth. Like a French onion soup.'
"My mind breaks for about five seconds. French onion soup has a dark, opaque broth. That's about the opposite of clear. I'm pretty sure I opened and closed my mouth once or twice.
"I'm about to open my mouth and attempt to explain that a French onion soup has a thick, opaque, brown broth, when the woman speaks again. 'Never mind, I'll go find one of those Chinese restaurants and see if they have a French onion soup.'
"WAT. I'm about to stop her and try to understand the plane of existence she lives on when the door slams shut. It takes all of three seconds for the hilarity of the situation to set in, and I start howling with laughter." -- Alice Martinson
Affluence says nothing of intelligence
"I was working at an upscale restaurant nestled in an old and pretty part of Auckland, New Zealand. I worked there for so long that I knew how to do everything; this particular afternoon, I was working the bar.
They liked to talk very loudly, cover themselves in expensive jewelry, and brag about their overseas holidays.
"Now, our clientele was primarily on the affluent side of society and our place was notorious for rich ladies' lunches, Champagne and oysters, and all-day piss-ups for the local, wealthy stay-at-home mums while the nannies looked after the kids. They liked to talk very loudly, cover themselves in expensive jewelry, and brag about their overseas holidays.
"As I was waiting to take a drink order at the bar for two such ladies, they were blabbing on about how much they love holidaying on the South Italian coast, how many times they've been there, how beautiful their private villas were, and how they go there all the time for wine tours and whatever. I ask what they would like to drink -- one of them responds, "I'll have an Italian bubbly, you know, a glass of prosciutto."
"I had to duck down to retrieve the PROSECCO while laughing at the mental image of a piece of cured ham in a Champagne glass." -- Kelly Weiss [Editor’s Note: Could've been worse -- she could've ordered the Piglio Griglio.]
No white meat
"I work in a grocery store. We have a deli section where customers can buy pre-made sandwiches, soups, salads, fries, and chicken wings. One day, as I was waiting in line to get my lunch, I witnessed a culinary expert doing the same thing:
"'I want a dozen chicken wings, but no white meat.'
"[Confused counter worker] 'These are whole chicken wings, sir. They're not mechanically separated…'
"'No, no! Listen to me! I know how chicken wings work, and I don't want any white meat!'
"'… Sure thing, sir. No white meat.'" -- Greg Killian
Intoxicated customers are the dumbest customers
"I used to be a bartender.
"One day, while tending bar, I had cut off a regular customer, Jeff, that I knew lived a few blocks away. I had made sure he wasn't planning to drive home, and offered to send someone along to make sure he could walk home. He assured me that he was fine for the walk home, and left.
"A few minutes later, I looked through the window to see Jeff sitting in the backseat of his car, reaching over the front seat, trying to grab the steering wheel. I went out with a waitress to speak to him.
"'I thought you were going to walk home.'
"'I did, and now I came back for my car.'
"What, no, that's… what?
"'You having trouble reaching the steering wheel?' the server asked.
"'The seat is too far back and I can't find the thingy to adjust it.'
"'And where did you put your keys in?'
"He reached to the seat next to him and held them up. 'I can't put them in until I reach the steering wheel! The hole is behind the steering wheel! It's behind it!'
"At which point she snatched the keys from him and said, 'You are in the backseat. You're not allowed to drive from the backseat.'
"'Oh, OK.' Then he pulled the door shut and laid down on the backseat.
"Neither of us had any idea of what to do. The server wanted to just drive him home and leave him in the backseat in his driveway, but I didn't think that was a great idea. Since we were hours from closing, we just brought his keys inside and figured he'd come in and we'd deal with it then. By the time we closed, he was still passed out in the back of his car, so we left the keys (which included his house keys) in the glove compartment and stuck a note on the front door of the restaurant saying 'Jeff, your keys are in the glove compartment. WALK HOME.'
"Find out the next day that the owner was called in the morning before opening because Jeff was sitting on the steps to the restaurant waiting for it to open, and the police stopped by to see what was going on. He told them he left his keys in the bar and was locked out of his house. So the owner came over immediately and as soon as he went to open the door, saw the note that neither Jeff nor the police saw, and pointed it out to him.
"Unfortunately, when Jeff woke up in his car and couldn't find his keys (and to hear him tell it later, he looked EVERYWHERE except the glove box), he had locked his car." -- Jon August
Pretty sure that's not how dieting works
"I used to work for a Starbucks kiosk in a mall. One day a woman ordered a venti latte with heavy whipping cream. Not topped with whipped cream… made with steamed whipping cream instead of regular milk.
"Now, I'd get a lot of weird orders at that kiosk -- no-foam cappuccinos, unblended Frappuccinos, steamed Frappuccinos, and so on. What made this drink special was not that it used heavy whipping cream (you do you, lady -- also, that sounds delicious), but that she claimed she was drinking it to lose weight. She actually thought exchanging the ~200 calories of milk in her normal latte with ~1,800 calories of heavy whipping cream was going to make her drop the pounds.
"I hope it was filling, at least." -- Kelly Edwards
What is this funny money?!
"I used to work at a (hopefully) now-defunct Swiss chain that had just opened a ton of franchises in Canada. We would accept US dollars at an exchange rate best described as usurious, as many places here do (pro tip: withdraw Canadian funds from an ATM or use your credit card, it'll be much cheaper in the long run). An American family passed through my cash register one day, with full meals for all, and the dad paid with American cash. No big deal, just hit USD$ on the register, the system tells me how much change to give, hand over the change and receipt, wish them a nice day, next please. Right?
"The dad flipped. The hell. Out. And hollered increasingly louder at me to give him his change back in real money, not this 'fake colourful' stuff, accusing me of stealing from him, and so on. No amount of side eye or polite attempts at interjection could stop his ranting. He finally paused for breath, at which point I calmly explained that while I understood his frustration at having to figure out exchange rates on the fly, it was neither legal nor possible for me to give him his change in any currency other than Canadian, to which he responded that since Canadian money is dollars, could I please just give him his fucking change in dollars and not whatever the hell this funny money is? [Editor's Note: 'MURICA!]
"Still trying to be nice, I explained that while Canadian money is also called dollars, it is in fact its own currency, distinct from the greenback, given that we are actually a sovereign nation. He looked at me, and said that was impossible since we were close enough for him to drive up, to which I replied, as Canadian-ly, passive-aggressively nicely as possible, 'Sir, when you were about an hour and a half from here, did a nice man in a navy-blue uniform, maybe with a gun at his hip, pull you over and ask to see some ID? Yes? That was the border. You're in another country, this is our money, I cannot give you change in any other currency, I'm so sorry.'
"I quit not long after, and I still hate tourists.
"Yeah, there's a u in 'colour.' Deal with it." -- Brenda Yang [Editor’s Note: Normally I would argue with the final point about spelling, but I like the cut of Brenda's jib enough here that I’m going to go ahead and concede the point. Well played, Brenda.]
"My first job was at a Dairy Queen in Northern Virginia. The place was always pretty dead and I'm not sure how long it lasted after I left at the end of the summer.
"One day, no customers in the place as usual, a smartly dressed woman swept in, stalked up, and kind of tossed a wrapped hot dog down on the counter. She was clearly very unhappy about it. I greeted her and asked how I could help. She looked at the slightly smashed wax paper-wrapped dog as if it was a piece of shit sitting on our counter and said, in a tone that made it clear that she was making an effort to be civil, 'It's cold. I want my money back.' I didn't handle anything except cones and Blizzards, so I fetched the manager. He asked her what was wrong. Same basic response.
"My manager paused for a moment, and then carefully informed her that she had bought it some three to four hours ago. Of course it was cold now.
"She was having none of it. She informed us that she came in on her way to work, and bought a chili dog with the intent of having it for her lunch. She put it in her purse, she went to work, a couple hours later it was lunchtime and her purse chili dog was cold. So she brought it back.
"My manager didn't want a problem and refunded her money." -- Ian Vinland
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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