Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we have stories of restaurant customers who were dumb beyond all reason or rationality. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
The legend of Lawsuit Lady
“For a while, I had a part-time job as a sample lady in a supermarket. You think it's hard to serve people food for money? Try giving it away for free and watch how quickly they devolve into feral animals. There were lots of snotty children, gluttonous assholes, entitled women, and all-round general jerks. But the one that stayed with me the most was Lawsuit Lady.
“I was sampling salad dressing in the produce section. It was the middle of winter of course, so I was wearing five coats, and people were tracking slush and muck into the store all day. There was a store employee whose only job was mopping, and he was busy. The weather was crap, so there weren’t too many customers in the late afternoon, and at one point I was alone in the huge produce area. I was busy when I heard someone clearing her throat. I looked up and there was a middle aged woman standing about 20 feet away in between two huge tables filled with fruit.
“As I made eye contact with her, she fell down. When I say she fell down, I mean that she slipped and slid and pinwheeled her arms in the fakest, most glorious pratfall I have ever seen in my life.
Somebody cried out “It wasn't a trick!” and there was Lawsuit Lady, sitting with ice pack on her ankle -- I guess still waiting for the ambulance.
“I burst out laughing (she must have heard me), and, I shit you not, I started looking around for hidden cameras, convinced that I was being pranked or Punk'd or something. Nobody burst out to ask me to be on television, so I looked back at the lady. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her mewling and scrabbling around on the floor. For a moment, she raised her head to check to see if I was paying attention, then fell back to the floor and moaned louder.
“I immediately cottoned on; she was going to sue the store for a nice payout, and I was her only witness. Fuck that shit. I went back to my phone and ignored her increasingly more anguished bleating. After a few minutes, a teenaged employee, a boy, walked through the section, saw her, and helped her to the front of the store.
“I started packing up my stuff, certain that a manager was on the way. He showed up three minutes later holding a digital camera and asked if I had a minute. I showed him the spot where she fell, and it was bone dry! He started taking pictures of the perfectly clean and dry non-slip flooring and asked what happened. I told him she took a dive. The fakest, most obvious dive in the history of dives. He laughed and told me the lady was at the front of the store waiting for an ambulance. I gave him my name and phone number and offered to sign a statement for any lawyer who needed one.
“I went for a smoke break, and when I came back I walked across past all the registers to get to the washroom. Somebody cried out ‘It wasn't a trick!’ and there was Lawsuit Lady, sitting with ice pack on her ankle -- I guess still waiting for the ambulance. I gave her a thumbs up and kept walking. I never heard any more about it, so I guess she decided not to sue.” -- Melanie Walker
Nothing with egg
“In college, I briefly worked at a restaurant popular with the hippie set in Boulder, Colorado. Once, during breakfast service, a very snooty hippie man ordered one of our breakfast combos, which was potato pancakes, pancakes, and a fried egg. When I set the dish in front of him, he pushed the fried egg off his platter onto an appetizer plate with great disgust, using as little of his knife as possible.
“I cannot overemphasize how grossed out he was by that egg. I might as well have served a dead rat on his plate. He said he had no idea that it came with an egg and could I please remove the egg, as he was a strict vegan. He definitely could not ingest anything with egg!
“He then proceeded to eat the entire remainder of the dish: pancakes and potato pancakes. Which are made with eggs.” -- Sarah Karl
This is not the store you’re looking for
“I worked at a semi-national sub chain, DiBella's. We were stationed next to a Pizza Hut, and kind of shared a parking lot with them. However, both places had very different signage and branding, and were not attached to each other in any way.
“One day, a lady walks in and says ‘Can I have the $10 special?’ At first I thought maybe she had us confused with Quiznos or Subway or some other local sub place or something. I said we did not have any specials like that.
“Woman: ‘No, I want the $10 any pizza deal.’
“Me: *Stares blankly for a moment* ‘I am sorry ma'am, we do not serve pizza here.’
“Woman: *genuinely shocked* ‘You don't?! This is Pizza Hut!’
“Me: ‘... No, ma'am, they're located next door.’
“Woman: *eyes light up* ‘Ohhhhh. OK! Thank you honey!’
“To ensure I was not absolutely crazy, I went outside and counted the number of times you saw our company's name before approaching the counter to order. Seventeen, including two large signs out front, the name on both sets of doors, and various very visible signage, and the embroidered hats we wore.” -- Al Byers
A crime against pancakes
“My best friend and I love to travel, and a major highlight of our trips is eating at fine-dining establishments. We had planned a trip to NYC and were anticipating dining at Daniel, WD50, Le Bernardin, etc. At the last minute a friend asked if she could come with us. There was no way to say no, but we were incredibly disappointed because she is the worst person to eat with -- cheap, limited tastes, and very picky. Her idea of a salad is iceberg with a lot of croutons and extra, extra, extra ranch. I researched places that were decent and affordable and she was incredibly pleased with each and every place I chose. In fact, she was downright precious, considering herself a ‘foodie’ because we ate in an organic restaurant.
“During the trip, it was her birthday, so my friend and I decided to treat her to breakfast at an upscale restaurant. After all, she had done so well all week and was so full of pride with all of her ‘sophisticated dining,’ she was certainly ready for something really upscale.
“The particular restaurant we selected for the birthday fete is truly beautiful with the highest standards of service. We were seated at the entrance, and our friend was overwhelmed by the elegant atmosphere. She ordered pancakes with raspberries and Devonshire cream. When her order arrived, her eyes nearly popped out of her head. Without saying a word, she took her linen napkin and began wiping up the Devonshire cream. She then grabbed an additional linen napkin and continued to saturate the napkins with the cream and raspberry sauce. She proceeded to wad the napkins up and place them to the right side of her plate; it looked like she had flopped a used sanitary napkin on the table. Diners entering the place stared hard at the disaster.
“The tablecloth was also stained. The staff could not have been more gracious about this, offering her another selection from the menu, but she shook her head saying that SHE had taken care of it. My best friend and I were so embarrassed, but she did not miss a beat, and said ‘can you believe that they put that mess all over my pancakes?’” -- Sara Borland
Not the greatest thief in the world
“My fiancée worked at a Dairy Queen in high school, and, as one would expect, winters were pretty slow. Not much demand for ice cream when it's barely 30 degrees outside.
“One day after school, he and a buddy were working, and other guys they knew from high school came in. They joked around for a bit and gave them extra ice cream at no charge. Typical hooking-up-your-friends shit. After the guys left, Bill and the other guy working went in the back and hung out. They heard the front door open, and the other guy drew the short straw and had to go help the customer. My fiancée was in the back playing on his phone or whatever when he recognized the voice, so he poked his head around the corner, only to see his coworker GETTING ROBBED. The thief made out with the like $100 that was in the cash register (again, middle of winter at an ice cream shop). Why did my fiancée recognize the voice? The thief was the same guy from high school they had just given free ice cream to 10 minutes earlier!
“The cops apparently wanted to make a big show of it, so they arrested the guy DURING a home basketball game in front of everyone.” -- Katie Moreno
Themed cakes are a difficult concept
“I spent a year managing a boutique bakery. We also did custom cakes. Wedding cakes, but also cute cakes for bridal showers and lots of ‘themed’ cakes for kids birthdays. Think Elsa from Frozen, or a firefighter theme. Some moms (always moms) would come in with photos of what they wanted and we could often match them, but most would allow us to do ‘artist choice’ on how to make the best cake for their budget.
“The average themed cake that served about 20 was about $80, but it was excellent cake and created by real artists who did a great job. Would I ever spend $80 on a cake for a 1-year-old’s birthday party? No. Never. But there are people who want to do that, and we were there for them.
“So I’m working and a mom comes to pick up the cake she has ordered for her 1-year-old’s party. Thomas the Tank Engine theme -- I pull the order and see that it's ‘artist’s choice but Thomas on top.’ I grab the cake and see that it's super cute: Thomas's face is staring up from the top, and ‘Happy Birthday Eammon!’ written across the top. [Editor’s Note: She named her kid Eammon. This should’ve been the first clue.] Tracks and other trains are on the side of the cake. It's a nice cake.
I have two small children myself, so I know that children are disgusting, and I wouldn't let my kids’ toys near my food without serious scrubbing. Why doesn't this woman know this?!
“‘This is not what I expected,’ says the customer.
“‘Oh, well, what were you expecting?’
“Customer gets out her phone and says, ‘This.’
“She shows me a picture of the Thomas the Tank Engine cake from Cold Stone Creamery.
“‘Ma'am, did you show anyone this photo when you ordered your cake?’ (I wanted to see if someone had left this info off the order, which COULD have happened.)
“Lady: ‘No, I thought you would know.’
“Me: ‘How would we know that?’
“Lady: ‘Well it is THE Thomas cake.’
“Me: (calming breath) ‘There are lots of Thomas cakes. This seems to be THE Thomas cake at Cold Stone Creamery, and we are not Cold Stone Creamery. We don't even have the figurines that would go on top. Customers typically provide them, so if you had ordered a cake like this, we would have asked you for those.’
“Lady: ‘Well, what can we do?’
“Me: (blank stare) ‘... if you give me an hour, I can have the designer scrape the top of the cake and put down a frosting ‘track.’ I assume you have some Thomas engines at home that you can put on the track? It will look pretty close.’
“Lady: ‘Do you think I have to wash them before I put them on the cake?’
“I have two small children myself, so I know that children are disgusting, and I wouldn't let my kids’ toys near my food without serious scrubbing. Why doesn't this woman know this?!
“Me: ‘Yeah, that would probably be good.’
“She allowed us to ‘fix' the cake (for free), but she grumbled about the wait. As she left, she still had no idea why we didn't magically know exactly what cake she wanted. I don't know how she functions in the world on a daily basis. I hope her 1-year-old liked the cake -- oh wait, he's 1 and will have no memory of any of this crap.” -- Kelly Walker
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 e-mail 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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