Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guest post: The Ultimate Threat

This week's guest post comes from K at The Eternal Carry-Out Girl. Check out her blog!

Dear Petulant Customers,

“I’m never coming back.”

“Well, you just lost my business forever.”

“We won’t be visiting here again.”

In your minds, this is the ultimate threat. It supposedly means loss of revenue to the restaurant, loss of a tip to the server, and, hopefully, loss of employment to the offending employee. However, I thought you should know that, at best, this threat is an ineffectual scare tactic that only gets under the skin of the uninitiated. To the more experienced, your threats mean absolutely nothing.

Would you like to know why?

First: we only ever hear “I’m not coming back” or one of its variations during a temper tantrum. You want something comped, or you weren’t seated where you wanted to sit, or the server forgot something, or you’re just having a bad day and you want to take it out on someone. In other words, you’re an entitlement junkie or just a bitch, you act like a child, and therefore nobody in possession of a spine is ever going to take you seriously.

Second: people who are truly upset almost never make a scene the way you do. If they say anything, it will be quietly to a manager. Most simply finish their meals and leave, the poor or absent tip the only clue to their displeasure.

Third: the people who leave quietly, they truly never come back. You, on the other hand, almost always do. And you almost always find something new to bitch about the next time you’re in. In a pinch, you’ll bitch about what happened the last time you were here. We’re not going to take an empty threat seriously.

We had one of you lovely people come into The Restaurant last night. A beady-eyed woman carrying some shitty hardback novel, who ignored my friendly greeting and instead immediately asked “Do you have any booths?”

We have four booths. We only have four booths. They are immediately visible from the door. All were quite clearly full. No, we don’t have any fucking booths.

“I’m sorry, no, they’re all full. Would you like a table?” I asked her, gesturing at the completely empty table section.

“Ugh, I hate those tables. I really want a booth.” She looked at me as if she expected me to perhaps draw back an invisible curtain revealing the fifth booth that we maliciously hide from customers. Or perhaps she wanted me to tell one of the groups to leave so she could plop her solo ass down for an hour or two at a table that seats four.

“Well, I’m sorry,” I was desperately hiding my exasperation by now. “I don’t have any booths. I could give you the table in the far corner, it’s like a booth.” It also seats three people, but never mind.

“I hate having random strangers sit next to me,” she snapped, and then sat herself at the counter. With her back to me, I just rolled my eyes, got her a water, and went to find the counter waitress so I could warn her of the incoming blowhard.

Shortly after I had seated this bitch, one of the booths left. As our busboy for the evening–a fellow I’ll call The Comedian–passed by her to clean it off, she stopped him and declared, “I’m going to sit there.”

Now, as the name implies, The Comedian is quite the jokester, and he’s also probably my favorite of all our new staff. He’s fun to work with and he does his job well. But like most comedians, sometimes he doesn’t know where to draw the line. His reply to Crazy Lady’s declaration? “They’d rather you didn’t,” said with a big, stupid grin.

Unsurprisingly, she didn’t quite get the joke. And the first words that came out of her mouth were, of course, “Fine, then I’m never coming back here again.”

Astonished, The Comedian tried to placate her, telling her that it was only a joke and of course she could move to the booth. Alas, a joke is never funny if you have to explain it. He walked back into the kitchen, eyes wide and much of the color drained from his face. “I am so fired,” he moaned. I bet that’s what Crazy Lady thought, too, especially after she bitched to the manager for about ten minutes. A victory for the Petulant Customer, right?

No, wrong. One, while the joke was inappropriate (we sure thought it was funny, though), Crazy Lady blew it way out of proportion and was therefore not taken seriously. Two, this woman has threatened never to come back multiple times, and yet she always does. Three, The Comedian is one of our best bussers and The Restaurant’s resident clown. In other words, a valuable employee.

What happened to him? Oh, he was taken aside and told not to joke with the customers anymore. He might lose some hours for a little while; we’ll see what happens. But he’s not going to be fired. You see, we like him. And we don’t like you, Petulant Customers. We would all be much happier if you actually made good on your threats and never graced us with your presence again.



If you'd like to be my next guest blogger, please drop me a line at slightlycranky at -- be it a new post or one from your archives, I'd love to share it!


Anonymous said...

I'm not in the business, but one of the reasons I enjoy reading this blog is because my wife is, and I can certainly relate to a lot of the stories I see here based on what she shares with me. I also enjoy reading it because, having worked in customer service, I realize so many people are just plain asses and it's good to get a laugh when I see it's not something that just happens to me.

But I've gotta say that this post is chock full of an ignorant attitude on behalf of the server. Granted, the woman in the example seems to be a real piece of work, but for the server to broadly dismiss the threat of "I'm never coming back" demonstrates to me that she puts very little value on the customer's satisfaction (who, after all, is paying the bills) and seems to think permanently alientating them isn't so bad.

I know firsthand that this can be an empty threat. But when I use it, and I have, it's not a threat. I'm not looking for something to be comped or for amends to be made. When I say "I'm never coming back," I MEAN IT. I don't say it often, but when I do it's with good reason. And then I make sure that everyone I know knows why I won't come back. I don't make a scene. I let both the server and the manager know. There's simply no reason for me to ever again spend my money in a place that has so poorly provided a service that I'm driven to say something like that.

So just keep that in mind if you find yourself hearing a lot of customers saying that. I'm sure it's a ploy for a lot of them, but if you're working somewhere it's heard time and time again, even if it's not necessarily your fault, you may want to consider there's something on the restaurant's end that may need some fixing rather than just chalking it up to a pain-in-the-ass customer.

Aunty Pol said...

" I don't like having random strangers sitting next to me "



Keep your sorry ass at home.


Steven Nicolle said...

That is one funny busboy!Lol

purplegirl said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you fit in to the second category K mentioned--the people who don't make a scene, but who do seriously mean it. You're the kind of customer that we would take seriously when you said you weren't coming back--and the one we would regret losing.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who use it specifically as a threat, and a way to get what they want, however ridiculous. After a certain amount of time, we can tell which category people fall in to 99% of the time. That why when customers like K's threaten to never come back over were they're sat, we roll our eyes.

brit said...

hahah i love that. "the ULTIMATE threat!"

eternalcarryoutgirl said...

Re: Anonymous

First of all, I want to clarify that I'm not a server. I'm a carryout girl, and sometimes a host.

My post was inspired by this particular woman's completely disproportionate reaction to the situation. Perhaps I should have made this clear: this particular lady is practically a regular. Every time she comes in, she finds something to complain about, always threatening to "never come back."

The only problems with her service that night were that she could not initially sit at a booth (something that was out of my control, since she didn't want to wait) and Comedian's admittedly inappropriate joke, which he apologized profusely for after realizing he had seriously overstepped his bounds.

I do not ascribe the label "Petulant Customer" to every customer with a complaint; rather, I take all legitimate complaints quite seriously. However, I have run into a few people who apparently believe they can get out of their responsibilities as customers and decent human beings by threatening servers and support staff. These are the people I was referring to in this post--not people like you, the good customers, who make up the bulk of the people I see from day to day, but frequently don't write about because sunshine is a lot less interesting than a tornado.

Kim said...

I agree that the silent person is the most dangerous. I'd received really bad service from a supposedly 5* hotel which I'd asked them to recitfy. On discovering that they'd charged me for the recitification I decided not to argue, but rather go to the internet and do a write-up of my experience. In the long-term that will do FAR more damage...

chef's kitchen rant said...

What a great post, love it.

The comments are good too, quote 'but frequently don't write about because sunshine is a lot less interesting than a tornado'. How true! P.s don't you just hate the Anonymous comments!! quote, 'But I've gotta say that this post is chock full of an ignorant attitude on behalf of the server'. WTF didn't she see that the booths were taken!! How many times do we get this from customers, wanting a different table that is not available or sits 6 NOT 2. Enjoy your night out and remember to book next time, you might be surprised at what you get!!!

FrontDeskGIrl said...

So I know this is a really old post, but I've been reading your entire blog from my very boring job at a hotel front desk, and we say the same thing! When we have a bitchy customer, as we did this weekend, we hope they don't come back. This hag complained about a bug in her room, the fridge not working, various other things, and got one of her two nights comped. Then, she comes down the next morning, complaining that her TV wasn't working (we have satellite and there was a massive storm, it was out for a half-hour) and there wasn't anything left for breakfast (because she came down in the last 15 minutes). She then asked if we were comping anyway for the HUGE inconvenience of no TV. NO ONE ELSE HAD COMPLAINED.

My manager was standing there while she was complaining. He didn't tell her he was the manager, because he didn't want to deal with her trying to get him to comp the room, but as soon as she left we started laughing about her. He goes "I hope she doesn't come back, we don't need to deal with people like that!" AND, he tells me our hotel chain keeps records of who gets comped rooms, to see if anyone has a history of frequent complaints. Ha!