13 real-life stories of the worst customers ever
The customer isn't always right, but they invariably think they are, even while they're punching a barista in the face.
So with a goal of equal parts catharsis, shaming, and old-fashioned hater-tainment, we asked service industry veterans across the country to share with us tales of the customers they can't forget -- no matter how hard they try. Thank your lucky stars you've never dealt with anyone like this, and if you see yourself in any of these customers, may your shrimp servings forever be skimpy.
"Let's just say it wasn't pee."
Whine-o"I used to have a regular that made me keep a glass of ice on ice for her wine so it wouldn't melt. Best part? It was red wine. Just when you thought you've seen it all..."
Sad widow"Once, I misheard a customer and thought she ordered crab cakes, but she actually ordered the rabbit crepes. When I brought the crab cakes, she insisted that they looked great and wanted to eat them and wouldn't let me exchange them for the crepes.
"After the dinner, her friend pulled me and my boss aside and told me she couldn't believe my mistake and that this was her friend's first night out since her husband died, and I had ruined a young widow's evening with my incompetence. I cried.
"The widow later apologized for her bitch friend and said she really did want crab cakes."
"This huge dude (cop said 6'7") came into the coffee shop with his girlfriend and is giving all the baristas a hard time. He asked for a Lone Star and complained that it was flat. Then he pours a little on the counter, to you know, show its flatness. We let it slide, and I walked into the back. Then I heard him yell out 'great job'.
Coffee shop smackdown
"I come out and tell him he's not welcome at the coffee shop. He comes at me, gets in my face. I walk away but he follows, and grabs me by the collar, so I throw my dirty cleanup towel in his face. He proceeds to punch me hard in the side of my face, I return with a blow to the side of his head, and he goes down like a pile of bricks.
"I then grab a milk pitcher and throw it at his head, creamer goes everywhere, and I pounce on him. Trying to pin him down, he flails around and breaks the door glass. We're separated now, and he's pissed that he got embarrassed. I head back behind the register and then he picks up the computer and two cash drawers and chunks them at me. His girlfriend is yelling at him to leave, so he does.
"This is all going on while the shop is full of students studying for finals and the patio is packed with people watching a screening of Twin Peaks. So we have a nice David Lynch light show going on as our backdrop, with all the hard-working college kids inside, mouths agape."
Around her ankles"A female customer had a few drinks and fell asleep on the toilet. Since our stalls go all the way to the ground, I had to get on a coworker's shoulders, then dangle upside down over the top of the stall to unlock it. Then I'm blinded by her private parts, have to pull up her underwear from around her ankles, and wake her up. When she stumbled out of the restroom, her boyfriend asked her what took her so long and laughed at her."
"One time when I was 20 and working at a coffee house, this woman who was out on bail for dismembering a body threatened to kill me and my friend, then the manager kicked her out. True story, she is still in jail."
British charm"Here's one from England -- a guy claimed I damaged his coat, demanded $1,000, and, when I refused, he hounded me with death threats for two years. The police said, 'He's not a very nice guy, you should probably take him seriously.' We're pretty civilized across the pond."
Endless Shrimp"This one guy would come in for endless shrimp every day, park in his chair for two hours, and just crush the little guys. Here's the thing though: You can only order one refill at a time, so literally every time you walked by he'd ask for another order. At Red Lobster, you're only allowed three tables at once in your section, so he would take up 33% of your capacity to make money in those two hours. One day we counted, and he did 330 shrimp. 330!
"On top of that, he acted like he was doing you a favor when he left $3 as a tip. About once a week, his wife would come in with him, and it was the same thing with her. But the tip stayed at $3. If a small part of you wishes you were this guy, you wouldn't if you saw his wife."
"Once I had a couple come from a music festival and pressure another table into giving them a slice of their pizza. After their server calmly asked them not to ask other customers for food, they got really upset, made a loud scene, and demanded to speak with a manager. What made it all make sense was that they dropped a flask on their way out."
"We had one guy so 'wigged out' that he started eating the plastic plants at the front door. He bit into it and just started chewing it like the ahi tuna salad with jicama!"
Ratchet"I had a lady come in and seat herself. I asked her to go back to the host stand because that wasn't an open table.
"She still somehow ended up at the same table and orders food while she waits for her friend, and I accidentally drop a plate next to the table. So she claims she got cut by it. On the opposite leg. And on the opposite side, which would be completely impossible.
"How do I know? Because the last time she came in she told me all about how she scammed the restaurant my Mom works for.
"At the end of the meal she complained that she should get her entire meal comped over an accident that she faked, and it worked; she did get her food comped, but she still had to pay for her alcohol. She paid $14 and some change and stiffed me. Then I come back to the table to bus it, and she had stolen the salt and pepper shakers. One word: ratchet."
"One time this chick had to use the bathroom but the stalls were full, so she basically popped a squat on one of the owner’s plants and started pissing! The manager tells the owner, who gets really angry. All the manager could say was, 'She had to pee!'"
Watering the plants
The wet spot"I was working at a fancy fine-dining spot, and, one late Sunday night, I was at the end of a long double shift, and we were five minutes from closing. A couple walks in and sits at the bar, ready to eat a full meal. We aren't stoked, but of course we accept them. The couple commences a 1.5-hour lavish, tongue-filled makeout session right in front of us, hanging out at the bar, fondling each other in between courses.
"The staff was floored, and we were making fun of them throughout. At the end of their torrid sesh, I approached to ask if they wanted dessert because the pastry chef would be finishing up soon. The woman didn't appreciate my tone, got upset, and forced her dude to leave the restaurant. She wrote an email to the managers the next day claiming that I was a super bitch to them, an email which resulted in me getting fired on principle.
"The cherry on top happened when the couple had left, and we were cleaning up the bar area where they had been sitting. We noticed a huge wet spot on the woman's chair. She had been wearing a really short skirt. Let's just say it wasn't pee."
"I had this customer who liked this one certain fork that was bigger than the others. The problem was, we only had one of them.
This forking guy
"The next time he requested the big fork I thought he was kidding, so I kind of laughed. That was a mistake. He went Hulk on me and started to make a scene.
"I told him that there was only one and in order to find it I would have to unravel all of our silverware. He didn't care. He proceeded to cuss me out and told me that if I didn't get him his fork we wouldn't have his business anymore.
"The manager straight-up told him that he wasn't going to talk to our waitresses like that ever again or he wasn't allowed to come back in. He ended up getting a plastic fork."
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. When he was working as a barista, his worst customer was a blind homeless man who yelled at everyone that he hoped they enjoyed their ability to see. Follow him to more serious downers at @Dannosphere.