Last night while working on homecoming mums (A Texas Tradition) for the Little Pawners, my niece Stephaney sent a text regarding how upset she was that a 20 top table left her a two dollar tip.It’s not well know that my twin sister and I both worked as waitresses some 25 years ago which is why we understand her frustration at the most demanding clients who are always the biggest cheapskates.
Stephaney learned Spanish by working at Mexican restaurants for over 15 years and prides herself on excellent customer service. Since we’ve all been victims of bad service- it’s easy to “spot” the difference.
Since my other niece, Leigh Ann Blais is now married and we can no longer laugh at her “disastrous dating” stories, Stephaney keeps us entertained with her hilarious observations regarding dealing with the public.My twin sister “has something to say about everything too” and was offended when I told her that most comedy is cynical. The truth about humor is that someone is always “the butt of every joke.” Although Cindy doesn’t think her #Cindyisms are cynical- they are. Let’s look at a few examples on my previous blog- Cindy Daniel Has Something To Say About Everything! Meet My GingerTwin.
Dating stories from my dad are also fairly funny since no one in my family is shy and also because when relating their experience to others- you get the added advantage of every detail. After being widowed the past several years, my dad has nearly given up dating altogether due to the women he’s corresponded with. At one meeting, he didn’t even recognize the lady because she had used a 40 year old photo for her online dating profile.
Having an “unfiltered” family that has something to say about everything doesn’t leave me out of being the butt of a joke either. I’ve been called “bossy” and “the captain” by just about everyone in my family. Why? Because I’m OCD and strive for perfection in everything from how clean my house is to perfect execution while on location at an event for Texas Twins Events & The Pawning Planners. While refurbishing a trade or even designing bouquets and bouteniers, if I’m not happy with the results- I tear everything apart and start over! I don’t do anything half heartedly, why bother committing yourself if you aren’t “all in?”
Cindy and I often bring the Little Pawners with us to go see my niece and work when she’s having a bad day and leave her a nice tip. While at the restaurant, we people watch. People watching is fun for us at events, airports & everywhere in between. You can “spot” the “demanding diner” a mile away- they custom order everything and try to find something wrong to complain about. You just can’t make them happy and the “space out” their requests for more salsa, more tea, more lemons, etc in order to watch you run around in order to accommodate them. I think it’s a power play for being able to control the server and have the diner feel superior.
Even our Little Pawners are picky about what they will or won’t eat (no lettuce or tomatoes) and although we carefully place their order- drive through windows often leave the girls picking through their order and complaining about this or that. Maryssa is far more tolerant than Makenna regarding a “messed up order” aka “getting jipped at the drive thru.”Yesterday afternoon while meeting my son on his lunch break since Cindy and I were near his “day job,” my son (who is also pretty funny) told us about the time that someone called 15 minutes before closing his shop and begged him to stay open. Waiting over 25 minutes, the customer didn’t buy anything. My son will eat anything at a restaurant whether it’s served cold or hot because he’s afraid to send anything back and offend the server. His reasons for this are the horror stories we’ve all heard about what happens in the kitchen when you irritate someone serving your food. This isn’t unusual because I’ve worked within the customer service industry most of my life and had several remarkably similar instances myself. Anytime I was preparing to lock the doors at Texas Patios, someone would “roll in” 2-3 minutes prior to closing and promise to look quickly. After being over an hour late getting home to my son, you can imagine my attitude towards last minute “shoppers” who ruin your day by holding up counting your till and going through closing procedures. I’ve never had a big sale to a last minute shopper.
In fact, I’ve spent over an hour going over the features with them and buying points to find that they came back and bought from someone else. To those of you who regularly arrive at the last minute, if you are expecting a smile from someone who has been working all day and wants to get home, if the salesperson stayed late to help you decide on something, try being loyal enough to buy from the “commissioned salesperson” who helped you. Ask yourself if you went above and beyond how happy you would be that someone else got paid for your efforts?
Restaurants are similar to traditional storefronts in that no employee likes to see you coming five minutes to closing! One of my first jobs was at Red Lobster where I made pretty good money but also had to work split shifts. A split shift means you are there to open the restaurant at 10AM and leave after the lunch hour (2PM) then return at 4PM for the dinner shift and are lucky to get home by 11PM only to start all over again the next day. I learned a lot about people working at Red Lobster with the best part of the job being my “regulars.” Regulars are be back clients that ask for you and always leave a good tip.
After 3 years, I had several regulars that always brightened my day. When Red Lobster decided to start offering all you can eat menus, my income was cut in half and my workload doubled since the portions were intentionally small and had servers running back and forth to the kitchen which left the folks who were ordering from the traditional menu (and tipping!) struggling for good service. I hate all you can eat restaurants because the clients are usually rude to the wait staff and the idea of watching someone stuff themselves holds no appeal to me.
One evening at 9:56PM (minutes before Red Lobster closed), a large party of all you can eat folks (go figure) strolled in and were seated at my table keeping me working late and the entire kitchen staff. Running back and forth with the tiny portions on salad plates- I advised the cook to just throw it in a bucket because my feet were killing me and I had already made 9 trips to the kitchen for these folks.
The truth was that my manager wouldn’t allow any portions larger to ensure that we weren’t wasting food on the glutenous crowd who favored the all you can eat fare. At 11:32PM, this group of 18 finally had enough food and asked for their check. Like any server, I expected that running back and forth long after my shift- I could at the very least expect a tip! I was wrong and found a quarter while cleaning the table off and putting dishes in a bus tub. I quickly walked to the cashier and advised the man paying “you must need this more than I do- staying late and running around all night for you obviously was a waste of my time. I make $2.00 an hour because my wages as hinged on making tips but folks like you ruin the life of a server!”
The end result was that I was fired but “I took it on the chin” because for the two years that all you can eat diners lined up at Red Lobster, I was going deeper in debt. The “all you can eat” clients and their crappy tips were killing me and leaving my finances in terrible shape. While I continued to work harder- my tips became smaller based on the clients that the “all you can eat” menu brought to the restaurant.
Leaving the restaurant business and going into sales was the best decision that I’ve ever made. I now overtip on purpose because of the years spent hoping for a decent tip. The restaurant business taught me the most demanding clients were the ones that you could never make a buck on and in any business I’ve worked at since then- the same holds true.
Working harder than anyone else became a way of life for me but I no longer “take it on the chin.” I’ve learned that if a client is too demanding or impossible to please, it’s best to kick them to the curb and focus your attention on reasonable people who most likely have worked in the customer service industry at some point in their life. You never forget being on the other side of that table. Please and thank you are a way of life for the previous service industry folks.
Cindy and I suggested “shaking off” a bad diner to Stephaney in order to not let it ruin her night and to go tell a few jokes to her friends in the kitchen. After all, it always worked for us!
On the flip side of the table- my other niece Leigh Ann who has never worked at a restaurant has my entire family shaking our heads because waiting on Leigh Ann is a real ass whipping. She customizes every dish and prior to moving to California, was a frequent diner at Stephaney’s section. Since I’ve been present when “the chicken is rubbery and overcooked” to “there isn’t enough ice in my glass” and everything in between- I go above and beyond traditional overtipping whenever my family dines with Leigh Ann because all of us realize that the poor bastard waiting on us is going to be working their ass off to make her happy! Leigh Ann always thinks a server doesn’t have anything wher to do other than attending to her needs because she has never worked as a server and most likely, never will.
At 32 years old, I’m fairly certain that my niece Leigh Ann will never be a gracious guest at a restaurant. However, she isn’t the only critical client out there. I’ve been with a few and no longer lunch with them based on previous experience which is why I wrote a blog following one disaster that left a waitress in tears one day detailing why I won’t-My Observations At Dinner With A Rude Diner. Outrageous behavior to wait staffs is why I consistently decline invitations from this unnamed acquaintance.
Dealing with the public isn’t easy- everyone is unpredictable. I often “go in blind” to an Appraisal Appointment or first meeting with a client and on short notice to officiate a wedding, baptism, anniversary or other event. My “job” isn’t for anyone that is shy and requires me to often think quickly and be a chameleon trying to decide what the client wants and what it will take to accommodate them which isn’t too different from my job at Red Lobster years ago. The main difference between now and then is that I no longer serve food. I wear many hats today but none of them include stacking hot plates on my arm or a very large tray.
Thankfully, I don’t offer an all you can eat menu which has significantly pared down my running around to accommodate clients. Sure, I still have a few “demanding diva’s” who contact me and #Cindyism “Pay for a singer and expect a choir.” But, I’ve learned to say no and focus on the families who appreciate what we do and understand why.
Humor is often based on life experiences and while I’ve begged my niece to start a blog or even a video diary on YouTube since she is such a good storyteller, to date she has declined to do so mainly because she doesn’t realize how funny she is and because laughter is the best medicine!
I could listen to my family for days because when they are explaining what happened, they play both roles with animated action that leaves us all rolling in the floor…
Wendy M Wortham