Service With A Sneer

Anytime you write something about service these days, you're hit with a barrage of angry retorts from people identifying themselves as waiters and waitresses. According to these fed up staffers, diners are all just a bunch of unappreciative, whining morons who keep demanding more.

Presumably the right entrees, drink refills, that sort of thing. The bastards.

Now, we all know patrons can be painful dweebs at times. Decades ago I served a woman who called me back because I'd given her a cheeseburger when she wanted a hamburger. No problem, I said, returning after a while with a plain burger. But again she stopped me. "This is a hamburger," she complained. "I ordered a cheeseburger." I feel for bartenders forced to hold ten guests who are waving for drinks at bay while one weighs all the tap and bottle options for endless minutes before calling for a Bud Light.

There's no rule requiring customers to be pleasant--or sane, for that matter. As a server, you laugh and save it for the 'wait til I tell you what happened' conversations...unless, apparently, you're a put out Dallas staffer.

So let's figure this out. You sign on for a job you know requires contact with all kinds of people (who, as it happens, tend to want thing brought to them), and that you know is often thankless. Then you get upset when you find you have to exchange pleasantries with all kinds of people, bring them things, and are often not thanked with enough gusto (or spare change)?

Actually, I don't think that's what's behind the storm of comments we see. After all, every job comes with its own set of frustrations. Some servers point out that people never mention them in print (or online) except when they make mistakes. Probably true--and offensive linemen in the NFL say the same thing. Of course, they're paid more. But back in my TV days (and it was PBS, so little real pay involved) I was saddled with an executive producer who, because she wanted credit for more than overseer's role in one project, almost destroyed the entire production--script, negotiations for a host, schedule, everything.

We--me, the crew and the program's host--retaliated by making a separate (and very private) video mocking the executive producer, as well as ourselves...although there was less humor involved when we mentioned her.

Well, we thought naming her character in this video "Queen Polyp Massengill" was funny at the time. Yes, now it seems childish, I know. But it was an outlet.

As frustrations of a service industry job build up, waiters and waitresses find they can't take things out on customers--at least not obviously. Complaining to the manager is pointless. And they've shared the same stories with other servers many times over. Waiting tables isn't thankless because of the guests, really. It's thankless because there's no recourse when someone can't remember their burger order, another doesn't tip, a manager steals a cut from the tip jar or repeatedly assigns one staffer to the worst section...So when they have access to an anonymous forum, such as the blog comment section, they lash out.

Gotta get rid of the frustration somehow. Everyone needs an outlet, right? Or maybe it's all childishness.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries