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Do Servers Ever Spit In Your Food?

Many restaurant patrons seem to believe that servers and/or the kitchen staff will "spit in the food" in response to rude behavior. Does this actually happen? If not, can you describe any retaliation you or your coworkers have wrought upon surly diners? How rude is rude enough to merit such attention?

According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly one in seven U.S. adults has at least one personality disorder, and many have more than one. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is the most common, affecting nearly 8 percent of Americans. Paranoid personality disorder affects 4.4 percent; antisocial personality disorder, 3.6 percent; and schizoid personality disorder, 3.1 percent.

The typical waiter working an average sized six-table section would serve 18 guests in one seating and at least two complete seatings a night. Given the Mayo Clinic's statistics, this waiter conceivably could encounter at least five people who suffer from a personality disorder.

Startling, isn't it?

I approach waiting tables as Randy Cohen approaches ethics, as one who strives for moral perfection but doesn't always achieve it. In the case of an unreasonable or rude customer, I generally assume they have a problem and don't take it personally. And when these customers do get to me, I have never given a "spit order" because -- frankly -- I just don't want to live in a world where "spitting in the food" happens.

In all of my years of serving, I have only once seen a retaliation. A particularly feisty coworker at a coffee shop I used to manage got so mad at a regular jerk-ass customer that she once spiked his americano with Visine, believing it would give him diarrhea. (Apparently, it does much worse).

I can't categorically deny that the "spit in the food" response never happens. But, to be honest, most restaurants are too busy to even bother with retaliatory tactics. Most cooks would have five other steaks on a grill to worry about, severely cutting into the time it would take for him to jerk off onto one's "undercooked" steak.

Unfortunately, these concerns are just paranoia. And worse, most jerk customers seem to knowingly test a restaurant while simultaneously being paranoid of retaliation. I can't count the number of times I've heard "You're probably going to spit in my food now, huh?" from a difficult customer. Get over it, you paranoid freak. Go dine at the Mayo Clinic cafeteria.

I can honestly say that the worst I've done is started believing in hell in hopes that there will be a special corner for jerk customers, one where steaks are always undercooked and vegetables are too salty. And that's far worse than a bit of snot in your salad, isn't it?

Happy Dining,
Monkey Boy

"Ask A Waiter" is a regular feature in which we ask our contributor Michael Sendrow, a practicing waiter and self-described monkey boy, to demystify the mysteries of food service. If you have a question for the waiter, email us at info -at-


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