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The Bottom Ten: What Are The Most Annoying Things A Customer Can Do In A Restaurant?

As the holiday season approaches, we at the Blue Cleaver would like to give a gift to all those hardworking servers out there who keep our wine mulling and our egg nogging all year long. In that spirit of giving, Waiter, give us some advice. What are the top ten things that you wish diners would never do in your restaurant?

File these under "Never."

10. Invite Your Pet To Dinner* -- I simply can't understand why you would want a Chihuahua on your lap while eating a hamburger. Are you so enamored of your position at the top of the food chain that you have to further dominate an animal by eating another animal in its presence? Besides, boneheads, it's against health code.

*Unless you're blind.

9. Shill For The Credit-Card Industry -- When dining in a big group, always bring cash. Though we'll do it, splitting a check between ten credit cards is a pain in the ass. And it ties up the computers or credit card machines. And please do your own math. I'm not an abacus. If you split the check evenly, you will generally pay what you owe.

8. Make Me Your Manny -- Most servers are not trained in child development. Don't put us in the position of saving your spawn from an oncoming stampede of bussers. Don't put us in the position of regulating their sugar intake. And don't expect us to keep them occupied.

7. Scrounge For Free Stuff -- Few things are more pathetic than a person of means trying to get free shit. A restaurant's portions and prices are set by people with whom most diners never interact. Frankly, some servers never even interact with these people. It's not up to us how much stuff you get for your money, so leave us alone about it. By the way, Happy Birthday! And, no, you don't get your dessert for free. [Editor's Note: Try Denny's.]

6. Make Me Your Nutritionist -- Please don't ask me what's "good" or what I "like." You're setting us both up for failure. I like liver. Do you? I also love This Is Spinal Tap. On the other hand, I'm more than happy to describe something to you. Along these lines, however, never ask me what I "have." I have a menu, enumerating a variety of items my restaurant sells.

5. Complain When The Truth Hurts -- If something is truly wrong with your food, you are not complaining. Don't be embarrassed to tell your server that the steak you ordered rare is medium well. A good server understands a customer is just trying to get what he or she has paid for. On the other hand, never send something back that you simply don't like. If it is what it is, chalk it up to experience. Live and learn. Now on those occasions when you do complain, never do it without expectations. If you're complaining, you want something. Pony up and be ready to negotiate. In the end, I really don't give a shit if you don't like your salmon. Just tell me what you want.

4. Ignore Why We're All Here -- When I'm at the table, I'm there to help you. I'm not some creepy third wheel trying to kill the mood. I'm not there to eavesdrop on your conversation. (Unless I am, so watch what you say.) And I definitely don't want to hang out (see three). I am employed to facilitate your dining experience -- to get you stuff. Give me a minute of your attention, and I'll make your night as smooth as possible. On the other hand, don't tell me you're ready to order when you're obviously not. And when you are finally ready to order, never wave at me when I'm speaking with another table. It's not only rude to me, it's rude to the table whose order you believe is less important than your own. Have patience and remember that we share this planet with many people just as special as you.

3. Get Up In My Shit -- Servers are never to be poked at. Some diners act like a 19th century British scientist fetishizing an African Hottentot. Believe it or not, most servers find it very patronizing when you ask us "what we do," especially when it's in a you're-too-smart-to-just-be-a-server tone. If your server has "larger" aspirations, your questioning generally only highlights the fact that those aspirations are -- at the moment -- just out of arm's reach. And just to reiterate what should be obvious, never question your server about his or her sexuality. It's none of your business, dirtbag.

2. Be A Joker Douchebag -- Try to restrain your inner chucklehead. Most of the time, your inappropriate jokes fall on deaf ears. And it's not because your server is humorless. (One has to have a sense of humor to be a waiter.) While I generally appreciate a Good-Time Charlie, I don't have time to trade quips back and forth. I'm working. And believe me, it's never -- ever -- funny to clap when someone drops something. Like you've never broken a glass, asshole . . .

1. Steal My Pen -- Never steal take your server's pen! Unless you see the logo of the restaurant in which you are dining on the pen, your server has most likely paid for it. No matter the size of the tip you might leave me, taking my pen is some kind of final passive-aggressive display of power and authority over me. It's kind of like sleeping with someone and stealing their underwear in the morning. While we're at it, please leave my pen on top of the merchant copy of your credit card receipt. If you take both credit card receipts, I don't get a tip. (For more information on tipping, see our guide, The Tipping Point.) The worst thing a diner could do to me -- as a server -- would be to take both copies of the receipt and my pen.

And just a word of advice, don't put my pen in your mouth. Aside from any bizarre relation to the previous underwear-theft analogy, it's simply for your, ahem, protection. I don't care if you suck on my pen as much as you should care about where that pen has previously been.

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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