Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'd like water with two lemons, unsqueezed, on the side, with no ice, and a straw.

So in my entry below, someone commented that he/she doesn't understand why certain requests annoy servers. I figure most people reading here will probably be servers, but I thought I'd post this for those who aren't. As far as the ranch, lemons, etc. goes, we know you're not asking specifically to annoy us. And it's more about the individual person's attitude that anything.

For example, I wasn't annoyed with the people yesterday who ordered water with four limes and water with four lemons--I was just commenting that karma was already kicking me in the ass by giving me customers who were going to have a low check. Generally, water orders make us groan because it means the total bill will be less, and therefore our tip probably will be too. Of course there are exceptions sometimes.

However, when I ask someone if they would like an iced tea or something else to drink, and they respond "NO! I don't drink! I just want WATER!", I know they're going to be a pain. Likewise with people who start shaking their head as soon as I start offering a drink, and who sort of smirk at me and cut me off with "just water". And specifying "I'd like water, with two lemons, with a straw, with little ice" gives us the impression of a picky person who's going to make our job harder. I know I'm probably in for an order full of modifications, and all I can do after I input it is hope that the kitchen gets it all right, because of course I'm going to suffer if they forget to slice the sandwich diagonally.

Timing also plays a role. For example, if somebody orders a side of ranch when they order their meal, that's absolutely fine. If they ask for it when I deliver their food, okay. However, if when I come back with that ranch they ask me for another one, and then when I come back with that they ask me for more lemons, and then when I come back with lemons they ask me for more ranch ... then I start to get pissed off. I once had a table of four require eighteen trips to their table--and they all arrived and ordered at once, and didn't have dessert--for a five dollar tip (5%, in thise case). That's about ten more trips than the average table would require. People like this often will ask for sides of things, one at a time ... and then not even touch them.

One thing that I think annoys everyone, everywhere, is the dreaded hot tea. There are a couple of reasons for this; one is that past experience has taught me that hot tea drinkers generally linger for a long time and leave exceedingly average tips. But mostly, it's because it's a super pain in the ass to set up. The setup for my restaurant is to put a lemon, spoon, packet of honey, and tea bag on a small plate surrounding a small metal pot of water, and also to take a coffee mug full of hot water. It doesn't sound that complicated; but consider the following:
1) If I'm being a good waitress, I have to list all the flavors of tea we have--seven--and 99% of people ask me to repeat them at least once.
2) The side plates are on the expo line, across from the drink station, and I have to dodge the expo guy and anybody else walking through the kitchen to retrieve it.
3) The spoon and honey are right next to each other, but the honey packets are always sticky and stuck together.
4) The lemons are in the same general area, but usually require waiting in line to get the tongs to retrieve one.
5) The tea bags are several feet down, stored on top of the soda fountain--so not only do I have to wait for people to get done pouring sodas, half the time I can't reach the particular flavor of tea bag because I'm short. And sometimes the boxes fall behind the soda fountain, so then I have to retrieve the box, or go to the back, find the step ladder, climb up, get the right flavor out of the new box, and go back.
6) To get the hot water, I usually have to pour it out of the little hot water spigots on the coffee machines--which are very slow. Sometimes we'll have a pot of hot water sitting on a burner, it just depends on if anybody else has had tea that day.
If I'm unlucky, all of this can take five minutes, but even without any glitches it takes three times as long as pouring a fountain drink. And if people want milk or cream for their coffee, I have to go harass the bartender for it. Plus, even if it's a table of only two, I now have to use a drink tray, because there's no safe way to carry a regular glass, a hot coffee cup, and a plate with a hot metal kettle on it.

What it really boils down to is peoples' attitudes about requesting these things. Anyone who's been serving long enough can predict their tip with fair accuracy based on the way their customers speak to them, and their body language. Not everyone who has some french fries with their six buckets of ranch is a bad tipper, but if the same person doesn't make eye contact with us when asking for things, it's a bad sign.


Steven Nicolle said...

Well explained and I relate with the tea service.It is too time consuming and the water is never hot enough either so you have to microwave it.

purplegirl said...

Yeah, that was a problem at my old restaurant. Here it's nice and hot, but sometimes I still want to microwave it to just this side of boiling--the longer the tea is too hot to drink, the less chance I'll have to bring them more hot water, another tea bag, oh can I get some more milk, etc. :)

Bev Rage said...

As a tea drinking Scot, I am extremely picky about my tea..water must be BOILING, teapot warmed first, etc etc. Therefore, I don't order it at restaurants unless they specialize in tea! And like me, most tea drinkers are picky, which is why I dislike serving them..It's never hot enough, they want the bag in, they want the bag out. If I bring milk they want lemon, if I bring lemon, they want milk. I've tried bringing BOTH to save time...and had idiots use both the lemon AND the milk at the same time, and then complain that it curdled!!! ARRRGGGHHHH. And try getting the full teapot out of a crowded service area without another waiter jostling you and spilling hot water all over your hand.

Masquerade said...

One thing I've noticed that really bugs me recently is somebody saying 'I'll JUST have water'.

in my mind it's STILL a drink. I STILL have to fill a glass with ice and I STILL have to press a button on the soda fountain and I STILL have to bring you a straw. So water is no less work for me; if anything it's MORE because we use different glasses for water than we do for soda and the water glasses are almost always spotted and gross-looking, so you have to paw through the rack to find a clean one and blahblahblah.

Please. It's not JUST water. It's still a drink.

Anonymous said...

Deal with it or a get a real job.

Anonymous said...

I frequently order water when eating out, but I also know that my husband will typically have several beers or soda. I also ask for ranch when I order mozz sticks because I only like marinara on pasta and pizza. Of course, I tend to tip between 20 - 30 percent -- and I've never been a server.

Can I just say that from the customer perspective, I HATE HATE HATE not getting asked if I want a refill or being automatically brought a refill just because I'm drinking water. I deal with this frequently...my husband and/or brother (if I am eating out it is with either just my husband or both) will get constant refills while I'm eating ice cubes because I'm thirsty. Should I be penalized because I happen to like water? No.

Just a reminder, two sides to the coin. Nothing I've read makes me think you're one of these servers, though. And aren't you glad you aren't any type of server now?