Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rude Customers Make Me Hate My Job

I'll begin this post with an example of something that happened quite recently.

I was hostessing one night with two other hostesses and this woman comes in and says that she has five people. One of us, I don't remember who, asks if she would mind having a chair at the end of a table because we were out of the six-top booths.
"To get bumped around? No. We'll wait." Came her reply in a snappy tone.
Okay then. One of the other hostesses got her name and wrote it down on the waitlist while I went to check on the six-tops to see if any of them would be getting up soon. Much to my dismay, and this woman's annoyance I'm sure, all the six-tops had food and only two of them looked as it they might be getting up sometime soon. I went back to the desk and told her that it was probably going to be around 20 to 30 minutes for a larger booth, and that was accounting for any chit-chat time that the tables might have after they finished eating. The woman didn't say anything to me, unless it was "fine", but she had an annoyed "whatever" look on her face.

About ten minutes into her wait, one of the servers (one of my favorites, she's such a sweetheart) asked the woman if she was waiting for anything (she was the only one waiting, mind you, we still had smaller tables open that we were seating).
"Yeah, a table." Came the retort, rather loudly.
I guess she wanted me to hear her and do something about it right then because she was being so cleaver.
The server came over to me and asked if I had a table for this woman.
"As soon as a six-top gets up and bussed it's hers." I said.
During all of this time, her kids are running all over the place looking at the different games we have to play. Once or twice they came over to ask her a question or say something to her, and she was short with them as well. I had the strong feeling that the kids were the reason she was mad now.

Another five minutes or so later, she comes up to me and demands to know if these (four six-tops along the wall to the right of the hostess desk) were all the big booths we had.
"No ma'am." I said, and pointed along the wall perpendicular to that. "We have three along that back wall there."
"Oh." She puffed under her breath, and sat back down.
Finally, she gets tired of seeing other people getting sat before her, and probably of waiting too, and says to me, very loudly without even getting up off the bench she was sitting on, "We'll take anything."
"Okay ma'am." I say, and I gather up five menus, including some crayons for the kids, five rolls of silverware and I set up a booth for them, complete with a chair at the end.
"You're table's all ready." I said and she finally got up.

When I got to their table and her kids started piling in, she must have lost it.
"This is rediculous!" She cried in an angry tone. "Next time you should tell someone that you just sat all the six-tops so we could have gone somewhere else!"
"I'm sorry ma'am, but what the hell did you think you were waiting for? Did you think I made you wait for my own personal amusement? Do you think that I wanted to have you yell at me? Do you think that just because I work at a restaurant, it gives you the right to treat me like crap? Do you think you really know better than me how the seating in a restaurant works? Did you think I was going to tell other customers to get up just because you didn't want to wait for 20 minutes? Do you think that I actually have any control over when people get up? Would you like it if I came up to your table while you were eating and said, 'I'm sorry, but I have a really impatient customer, you need to get up now so I can seat her at your table.'? I've been hostessing for almost two years, I know what the hell I'm doing and customers like you make my job more stressful than it needs to be. Customers like you make me want to walk out right now because I do not have to put up with your crap, not for the less-than-minimum-wage paycheck I get. Do you think I'm working here by choice? Do you think this is really what I want to be doing, dealing with customers like you? I have got car insurance, phone bills, and now college bills to pay for, I am here because I need to be, not because I enjoy it. Aw, boo-hoo, you had to wait for 20 mintues, that's your own damn fault lady. We offered you a solution that could have had you eating your dinner by now, but you didn't want to take it so shut the hell up. This is your own fault, not mine. Next time you want to say something to me in a nasty tone, you can do it when I'm off the clock and I can start cussing your ass out."
That was what I wanted to say.
"I'm sorry ma'am." Was all I said, because I knew better than to say what I was thinking.

One of these days, I hope somebody opens their own restaurant where, under circumstances such as this, employees are allowed to answer back to the customers and defend themselves. I would have soooo loved to chew this lady out, but because I was on the clock and value my job, I didn't, but I would have loved to. I wouldn't have cussed in front the kids, but I've been using cuss-alternatives for years and only cuss when I get really mad, so it wouldn't have been too hard to leave the cusses out. Some day though, I am going to open my own restaurant and employees can defend themselves to customers who are being especially difficult and smartassy (as long as someone else can confirm that the guest was truely being ignorant). So many customers are so difficult and they need to be told, but no one is allowed to tell them because "The Customer Is Always Right".

The thing with rude customers is that, no matter what, they don't realize how rude they're being and that they might not actually be right, they just think they are. Employees are not allowed to retaliate or defend themselves in any way or it will be their job. I think people are especially rude to employees of businesses because they know that the employees aren't going to do anything about it if they value their job. Just because someone cannot defend themselves, does not, in any way, give anyone leave to be rude. Employees are people just like you and me, and no one appriciates someone being rude to them. Nobody likes it and there are better ways to get your point across, or whatever it is you want, than being rude to employees.

I can see how it might be at a restaurant because people are generally hungry when they come into restaurants, and hungry people tend to be a little grouchier than they would normally be. After all, you're paying for this, possibly over-priced, meal, and you want it to come out exactly like you ordered it. But, please understand that mistakes happen, it's not anything personal against you. Someones, restaurant employees being human like everyone else, people just make a mistake. No one means for it to happen, it just does. Maybe a plate of food gets pushed aside and isn't noticed until the guest notices something is missing. Maybe one of the cooks is having a bad day and without even thinking, just automatically makes your dinner with the one thing that you asked them not to put in. Maybe your server is new to the job and still isn't quite sure what she's doing yet. Maybe the problem is you, the guest, and you are blaming someone other than yourself. Maybe you think that the restaurant does something "all wrong" and they should change it, and you vocalize this opinion, loudly. Yeah, please don't do that. Maybe you're criticizing your server for doing something that s/he has been trained to do because it's his/her job. Whatever went wrong, keep in mind that there is probably not just one factor in the mistake and it's nothing personal against you. The restaurant industry is not out to get you and they don't mess up your orders (even though the orders are ridiculously complicated sometimes) on purpose for their own sick humor.

One rude customer can totally ruin the rest of the shift for some people; potentially making even more customers unhappy with their experience than they normally would have been. I know some employees who just take it all personally again them when a customer is being rude that the rest of their day is ruined and they are "down in the dumps" for the rest of the shift. Do you know what it's like to work with upset people? For those of you that don't, it doesn't make anything any easier. If you do know what it's like, why would you cause that on purpose? To make someone else miserable because you are? That's not the way to do things, you will not get very far in life with that attitude and you most definitely will not enjoy it.

Bottom line: treat others as you would like to be treated. Restaurant employees are people just like you who haven't done anything to deserve your disrespect and rudeness.