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US waiters' worst conduct

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by kennethpollock, Apr 24, 2006.

  1. tiger02

    tiger02 Senior member

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    Mr Pollock
    I don't always agree with your "Diners' Bill of Rights" and derivatives, but I respect that you take evenings out seriously. It might help us all to understand where you are coming from if you reveal the name of the establishment. I would expect exactly that level of service at the Olive Garden but would also be upset about an unrequested check at Mosconi.
    Tom
     
  2. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    As a general rule, I do not go to sit-down restaurants unless I am outside of the United States. The American manner is difficult enough to take when food is not involved.
     
  3. aybojs

    aybojs Senior member

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    Kennethpollock, on another note, you may be interested in eGullet, a forum dedicated to culinary discussion. The consensus there seems to sway more your (our) way.

    Perhaps I'm misreading you, and I apologize if so, but it seems like you're dismissing a lot of the legitimate critiques about Mr. Pollock's very particular sensibilities as the product of inexperienced/uninformed attitudes about dining, which I find problematic if so. I'm no expert, but I do have serious interest in working in the industry and read the forums there myself (I don't post, as I find the whole "write an essay" thing a little silly, but the point is that I, and I'm sure others here are not ignorant of how restaurants work), and I'd be willing to bet that your average reader there would be just as intolerant of some of his more petty opinions. If you want to post a thread of your own there to test this theory out, please do so.

    I mean, seriously, what sane person interprets someone using a perfectly normal colloquial word as a classist insult and gets offended by the notion that someone might consider him a commoner (guess what, this is America, we don't deal with silly titles of nobility... we are all commoners here)? I do agree that it's a bit hasty for some to assume that his dining behavior and tipping practices are reproachable just because he experiences these annoyances, but his post does give off a condescending attitude that is totally unnecessary whether you're on the customer or service side of the coin.
     
  4. JBZ

    JBZ Senior member

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    or otherwise employing the straw man argument.


    Well, heavens to betsy, I certainly would hate to be found guilty of utilizing this paradigm.
     
  5. Nantucket Red

    Nantucket Red Senior member

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    In order:
    (a) My name is Bruce and I'll be taking care of you tonight (who cares what his name is and his purpose is obvious)


    Actually, I do want to know his name and I make a point of remembering it. Calling him by name will pretty much guarantee you excellent service.

    (b) you guys (when some of the guests are ladies)

    This has simply never happened.

    (c) folks (i.e., commoners)

    Again, never happened.

    (d) Do you have any questions about the menu? (an insult; I can read English
    and am an experienced diner)


    You obviously have no allergies or dietary restrictions. You are goddamned lucky. You should complain less.

    (e) Let me get this out of your way (as he snatches away a plate that really
    was not in my way)


    Again, never happened. "May I take this for you?" or "Are you finished with that?" are fairly standard. But I suppose you have some objection to this.

    (f) my favorite dishes are ----- (who cares?)

    Once again, never happened. "The crab-stuffed fillet of sole is quite popular" or "May I recommend the poached salmon?"

    (g) tonight's specials are --- (as he reels off 8-10 dishes; mind-boggling;
    why can't they print it, as the specials are the same nearly every night)


    Restaurants usually offer 4-5 specials that run for short periods, especially if the ingredients are seasonal. No wait staff would be expected to memorize 8-10 specials. It's also not their problem if you have ADD.

    (h) plopping down the bill before it is requested

    You must eat in diners a lot.

    (i) placing the cork on the table, or even worse, holding it near my nose

    That would be annoying! Fortunately, it's never happened to me. It bothers me when a waitron brings a glass of wine holding it by the bowl.

    (j) tying a napkin around the neck of the wine bottle

    You've acutally witnessed this? Repeatedly? We obviously frequent different establishments.

    (k) what "temperature" do you want your steak? (I usually say "hot")

    Again, never heard this. I don't eat steak, but dine with people who do. Most of them want it just slightly warmer than thawed in the middle. The only way I've ever heard the question asked is, "How would you like your steak cooked?"

    If this really bothers you and you hear it as frequently as you suggest, you should learn the exact temperature you prefer your steak. Add a decimal place for good measure.
     
  6. Kent Wang

    Kent Wang Senior member Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    Perhaps I'm misreading you, and I apologize if so, but it seems like you're dismissing a lot of the legitimate critiques about Mr. Pollock's very particular sensibilities as the product of inexperienced/uninformed attitudes about dining, which I find problematic if so.
    I am only suggesting that in my reading of the consensus on that forum I find that eGullet members are more inclined to agree with KP's peeves. My hypothesis as to why this is the case is that more experienced diners tend to share these peeves and more likely to sympathize with KP. This is subtly different from your reading as I am not dismissing anyone's arguments on the grounds of dining inexperience -- rather, I am dismissing them as they are employing the straw man argument -- only alleging that experienced diners are more likely to be sympathetic to KP's peeves.
     
  7. kennethpollock

    kennethpollock Senior member

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    Thanks for the referral to eGullet. I will be reading it.
    To take up some comments:
    Generally, I like the service in lots of restaurants. I have never had any European waiter do any of these things which I dislike (and I did forget the "still working on that" misbehavior) in 28 trips there.
    "Dislike" is accurate; these things do not completely ruin my meal; it's just that I do not care for this behavior. I find it artificial and "corporate;" designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
    Furthermore, except for an occasional "do you have any questions about the menu," neither of Atlanta's two best restaurants, nor any of the top 20-30 I have been to in NY, do these things. In fact, none of this behavior went on, anywhere, when I started eating regularly in nice places in the early 1960's. The first name introduction behavior came from California, I believe in the early 1970s.
    Atlanta's leading restaurant group, the Buckhead Life Group (Pano & Paul, Chops, Pricci, Vini Vidi Vici, Nava, etc.) where dinner runs about $75-80 a person, makes their waiters do most of these things. A waiter once told me that he would be fired if he did not tell me his first name.
    Specifics:
    In order:
    (a) My name is Bruce and I'll be taking care of you tonight (who cares what his name is and his purpose is obvious)

    In France, people do not call each other by their first names until they know each other fairly well. I find this polite and not overly familar. I would have no problem if the waiter introduced himself as "Mr. Jones."

    (b) you guys (when some of the guests are ladies)
    This is not very old either. "Youse guys" has been common-place Brooklynese for decades, but calling females "guys" only became commonplace about 15 years ago. It is "hip."

    (c) folks (i.e., commoners)
    I think the meaning is the "common people of a country" and derives from the German word "volk." When Hitler asked Dr. Porsche to develop a car for the common man, it was called the Volkswagen. The use of this term to diners startled and shocked my three German lawyer-interns more than anything else about America. I am a commoner; not aristocratic (with my last name?). I just do not like being reminded of it.

    (d) Do you have any questions about the menu? (an insult; I can read English and am an experienced diner)
    Why do they need to ask me? I do not need their permission to inquire. If I have a question, I will ask it. It is like I am being tested.

    (e) Let me get this out of your way (as he snatches away a plate that really was not in my way)
    Why not just ask "Finished?" It seems they do not want to wait for an answer. The goal is to get you out ASAP, so they inquire (?) as they snatch.

    (f) my favorite dishes are ----- (who cares?)
    It is unnecessary chatter and to increase the tip. I am not there to make a [phony] friend. I just want polite service.

    (g) tonight's specials are --- (as he reels off 8-10 dishes; mind-boggling; why can't they print it, as the specials are the same nearly every night)
    Common-place and like having to be at work. I want to relax, not to test my memory.

    (h) plopping down the bill before it is requested
    At Joe's Stone crab in Miami, they are trying so hard to turn the tables 4-5 times a meal, the management calls it "CDC," meaning bring the customers the check, dessert and coffee simultaneously. This is relaxation?

    (i) placing the cork on the table, or even worse, holding it near my nose
    The cork on the table routine is done at every Atlanta restaurant except for the top two.

    (j) tying a napkin around the neck of the wine bottle
    A more common custom 2-3 years ago than now.

    (k) what "temperature" do you want your steak? (I usually say "hot")
    This is "hip." I did not know that medium is 135-140 degrees and I'll bet that most of them do not either. Why not just ask: "How do you want your steak?"
     
  8. aybojs

    aybojs Senior member

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    I am only suggesting that in my reading of the consensus on that forum I find that eGullet members are more inclined to agree with KP's peeves. My hypothesis as to why this is the case is that more experienced diners tend to share these peeves and more likely to sympathize with KP. This is subtly different from your reading as I am not dismissing anyone's arguments on the grounds of dining inexperience -- rather, I am dismissing them as they are employing the straw man argument -- only alleging that experienced diners are more likely to be sympathetic to KP's peeves.
    Can you state your reasoning for said hypothesis, as I don't really see anything expressed beyond your intuition alone? Why are any of these minor complaints eregiously bad, and why should someone become more prone to espouse them upon gaining more experience dining? I really don't see what makes you think that way. For instance, when I read reviews by Robb Walsh (to use a Texas/EG reference), he never gets pissy about the service having the gall to refer to him as a commoner (since he actually tries to dine out anonymously to avoid getting preferential treatment). A lot of arguments that are sound regardless of the issue of a diner's experience have been put forth here, and I'd be more inclined to understand where you're coming from if you'd rebut them.
     
  9. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    I avoid dining in restaurants in the US, and when I do, I have been known to give instructions beforehand. It usually means less footwork on the wait staff's part. I don't frequent $300 menu places often in this country, so I wouldn't know if you are left reasonnably in peace in most of those establishments. All I have to say is, between the overall poor quality of dishes served, freezing temperatures inside and pesky waiters, I start stressing if I know I'm going to a restaurant.
     
  10. tangerine

    tangerine Senior member

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    San Francisco CA
    I do not think there is any correlation between being an "experienced diner" and enjoying a rapport with restaurant staff.

    I grew up in New Orleans where many restaurants, from low to high, were and are run by families. They were, and are friendly folk. I find that being on friendly terms with the staff at a restaurant greatly enhances all aspects of the dining experience.

    If you enjoy yourself more when a cool distance is maintained, that is your loss, IMO, but it is also your right. There are many restaurants to choose from and no doubt many that meet the "silent servitude" criteria.

    notes to Horace: Interesting point about calling the waiter sir, but it is usually not advisable if your waitperson is female. What do you do in this (frequent) instance?

    Saying you guys, or ya'll, or folks is merely considered friendly in many parts of the US. The classist undertones are not necessarily there, although they can be.
     
  11. jay allen

    jay allen Well-Known Member

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    It just strikes me how fortunate most of are. So fortunate that we can seriously discuss a topic like this. I mean geeeez.....You're at a nice restaurant (not cooking your own food), have the money to go to said restaurant (doing well financially), probably dining with friends or loved ones, and yet still find something to bitch about. Not to say that bad service isn't a pain in the ass.....but nothing on that list strikes me as "BAD" service. Maybe a bit too canned, or scripted, but certainly not bad.

    I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a piece about a guy that had a Ph.D on the art of Jackson Pollock. He had a very good paying job (assuming 100K+) at MOMA I believe. Again, I was struck by.....what an amazing country we live in.......there is such excess in our economy that it will support a guy getting a freakin' Ph.D on ONE dead artist, and allow him to spend the rest of his life studying, and writting about him. All the while making a very nice salary.

    Just a couple semi related thoughts from a guy high in ink fumes.
     
  12. Vintage Gent

    Vintage Gent Senior member

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    As one the SF members with kids, I've frequented a fair number of restaurants where this kind of service is the norm. Call me crazy, troglodytic or uncouth, but:

    I like being one of "you folks."

    I like knowing my waiter's name.

    I like being told to save room for dessert.

    I like it when a waiter says "Let me get this out of your way."

    Maybe it's that I hail from middle American stock, but I find these things comfortable and endearing; I'm fond of a "save your fork, there's pie" kind of place. But I'm probably the kind of focus group moron who makes these sorts of things the norm, so you can blame me if your delicate sensibilities are offended.

    Cut the waiters and waitresses of the world some slack. They're working hard for you.
     
  13. mbc

    mbc Senior member

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    For those of you who will not dine in American restaurants... can you tell me how the weather is, up there? I am wondering if I should pack a sweater (scottish wool, of course, not any of that cheap italian merino) for the day when I too will have a broom handle lodged deep within my rectum.
     
  14. j

    j Senior member Admin

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    I don't like being collectively referred to as "you guys", especially repeatedly, most especially with a lady present. She is not a "guy".

    I have waiter complaints as well, but they are pretty sporadic. I excuse a lot of things as "human behavior" and don't get my nose out of joint about it. There is really not enough time on the Earth to waste on thinking about this kind of thing for long. I could list them, but it's not going to change anything.
     
  15. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    For those of you who will not dine in American restaurants... can you tell me how the weather is, up there? I am wondering if I should pack a sweater (scottish wool, of course, not any of that cheap italian merino) for the day when I too will have a broom handle lodged deep within my rectum.

    be the broom
     
  16. Get Smart

    Get Smart Senior member

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    I rarely have any problems with waitstaff as my patience/tolerance level is near infinite

    The rare exceptions all occur at the same local Japanese restaurant "chain" where, regardless of location, I get the worst service.....from not getting my miso soup before my meal (it arrives in time for dessert) to my food coming out 40 min after my gf's food to not getting steamed rice 30 min after my food comes out to the waitress 'dropping' our plates about 1" off the table surface etc etc....all different waitstaff at different locations, but the same restaurant. Needless to say it's been on my banned list for many years now.
     
  17. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    For those of you who will not dine in American restaurants... can you tell me how the weather is, up there? I am wondering if I should pack a sweater (scottish wool, of course, not any of that cheap italian merino) for the day when I too will have a broom handle lodged deep within my rectum.

    Hey, look at the bright side. This makes me a very cheap date: I'll take a walk in a park instead of a dinner any day. [​IMG]
     
  18. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    pretty much the only thing that wait staff can do is to make me wait for things that I need in a certain time frame - the last time I got upset at a waiter was a couple of years ago, in a chain place, when after telling my son he would bring him a balloon, he kept forgetting, leaving me with a son who kept asking about the balloon. before that, when somebody in my party was served icecream without a spoon, and I had to ask 3 or 4 times for a spoon, while the ice cream melted.

    I like famly type places, and ethnic places. I very very seldon go out without my son, when I am not out for business. some of the best dinning expereinces I have had have included relativly poor service, or staff that didn't speak english. I had a french waiter ask me 3 times if I knew that steak tartar was not cooked - I found it amusing, not something to get steamed up over.
     
  19. sho'nuff

    sho'nuff Senior member

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    In order:
    (a) My name is Bruce and I'll be taking care of you tonight (who cares what his name is and his purpose is obvious)
    (b) you guys (when some of the guests are ladies)
    (c) folks (i.e., commoners)
    (d) Do you have any questions about the menu? (an insult; I can read English
    and am an experienced diner)
    (e) Let me get this out of your way (as he snatches away a plate that really
    was not in my way)
    (f) my favorite dishes are ----- (who cares?)
    (g) tonight's specials are --- (as he reels off 8-10 dishes; mind-boggling;
    why can't they print it, as the specials are the same nearly every night)
    (h) plopping down the bill before it is requested
    (i) placing the cork on the table, or even worse, holding it near my nose
    (j) tying a napkin around the neck of the wine bottle
    (k) what "temperature" do you want your steak? (I usually say "hot")


    lol, just too funny! a,d, and f are just great. if i were a waiter cant imagine how anyone would find that i am a fellow human as well.
    i bet your abrasive,snobby self attitude and outlook carries to other aspects of your interpersonal relations in life![​IMG]
     
  20. sho'nuff

    sho'nuff Senior member

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    I have waiter complaints as well, but they are pretty sporadic. I excuse a lot of things as "human behavior" and don't get my nose out of joint about it. There is really not enough time on the Earth to waste on thinking about this kind of thing for long. I could list them, but it's not going to change anything.


    oh yeah, i didnt read all of the responses, but i see that im alot like most fellow gentlemen here, just rise above it and live life getting along with others. love is a blanket. have a big heart. i totally agree with J
     

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