Going back to Mr. Pollock's observations there are a few pieces of information that need to be added. I will preface my comments by saying that this is not in reference to dining at the highest level but rather at the majority of mid scale, some independent, some chain restaurants. My opinion is that when you are paying over $100 for your meal your server should be the gastronomic equivalent of Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster.
Before one complains about the WAY in which a server attends you, not the quality of service, but the practices that are used (such as outlined by Mr. Pollock), one needs to realize that these are not up to the waiter's discretion, there are specific practices that need to be attended to as a waiter. I worked as a waiter for 2 years in a mid to upper scale chain. At least once each quarter of the year we as servers would be shopped, ie. the anonymous diner comes in and has a 3 page marking sheet with which they record every thing you do and say, over 60 different check marks. As servers if you forgot to ask if they wanted seasonal berries with their cheesecake, listed only 1 special at the beginning, forgot to use your name and specifically welcome them, etc. etc. and wound up with less than 80 points out of 100 you would find yourself fired.
This is standard practice in the restaurant industry, especially for anything that is a chain. Does this lead to formulaic delivery of service and unnecessary hounding of specials and unnecessary talking by the waiter sometimes, yes. BUT, it's not the server's fault. When I was working I was always scared shitless that I was going to get one of the shoppers, fuck up on what is essentially some small insignificant detail and find myself out of a job. So I did all the pedantic things that were required of me. If you really have that much of an issue with items like this take it up with the restaurant, not the staff. I had no choice as to whether or not I would tell you my name, tell you the specials or ask how you wanted your steak done, or any of the other trivial matters that were required of us in the 80 page serving manual we had to memorize from cover to cover.
If you were to complain about bad service, slow/cold/wrong food, rude waiters etc. I would fully endorse you in that and be right alongside with my own stories. However, this bitching about waiters for what is ENTIRELY OUT OF THEIR CONTROL is really rather prickish. I know that people's feelings towards dining out and the experiences they have can lead to strong feelings. Everyone has had horrible service at some point. Should you be able to complain about that? Absolutely, I see it as being a disservice to the server, the restaurant and your fellow diners not to complain because that means that that waiter is out there ruining other people's meals as well. But for all of you to nit pick about practices that the restaurant implements while failing to acknowledge the fact that these are out of the server's control makes you look really petty and arrogant and shows a real lack of understanding for what they have to go through. They don't want to be saying these things anymore than you want to hear them.
I have had just about any kind of job you could possibly imagine including manual labour. Bar none serving was the hardest. I once wore a pedometer during a shift to see how far I had to walk. Over the course of four hours I walked over 10 kilometers (6.5 miles) while balancing 10-15 pounds on a tray, not to mention the lifting of racks of glasses and stacks of plates that can be 30-40 pounds, often doing this for 10 hours straight without a single 5 minute break because the restaurant industry is the one which is not required to give its employees breaks. Some people that that's just what their job entails, and it is. But I'll say it again, these people work their asses off and next time you want to bitch think twice before lambasting them for trying to keep their jobs.
I want to apologize if I have offended anyone here, but this is always a topic that tends to irk me.