Not all restaurants have the best customer service. These diners reveal the most off-putting things they were told by servers that made them vow never to return. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
“I Love To Watch You Eat”
“For a while, my route home from work took me past this pretty nice Japanese Izakaya (bar) called, ‘Shigezo’ in downtown Portland. I really enjoyed their happy hour, and since my metabolism is pretty fast, I could eat a lot. I would generally down several plates of sushi, some ramen, and a couple of other dishes like takoyaki.
I don’t have an issue eating by myself and typically read while eating, especially if I’m at the bar. I had the same waiter a couple of visits in a row and while I noticed he would watch me, the service was quick and friendly and I figured it was because the restaurant wasn’t busy yet. At my fourth visit, however, the waiter finally spoke up when I was halfway through my ramen, and it wasn’t our typical friendly chit-chat, ‘I love to watch you eat. You’re SO hungry.’
He wandered back to his position by the front door and stared at me again, smiling. His tone had been a little suggestive, and he had gotten a little too close for comfort – closer than he needed to be to put nigiri next to me. I couldn’t finish eating after I realized, now that he’d said something, how closely he was watching me; I didn’t see him blink. I got my check and didn’t go back for a year, at which point I wasn’t alone and he was no longer working there.”
They Should’ve Gone To McDonald’s
“Well, yes, we normally avoided chain restaurants, but we’d been driving for 11 hours. We’d checked into the hotel and this place was just a walk across the parking lot. Our instinct — go find a nice place and I knew of several in this small city. But we were dead tired and I just didn’t feel like driving anymore.
As it turns out, one cook had evidently been fired the day before. The other two decided to ‘no show’ when asked to come in. To make matters worse, one of the servers was the girlfriend of the fired cook. She and a couple other servers evidently went on a sympathy strike.
Then we were told they fired the manager that very morning. So, the brand new Assistant Manager in charge had been a server at their other restaurant across town just the day before. Now she was field promoted and put in charge of an evolving disaster.
The only server who reported was an older woman. And was clearly only waiting on long-time customers she knew. She was ignoring the rest of us, not that she could have gotten to us all anyway.
So the new Acting Assistant Manager told us that she’d just promoted the busboy to cook, but he didn’t know much English and she knew zero Spanish. It was not going well.
To boot, she ‘really should have listened growing up when her mom tried to teach her how to cook. But as it was, she knew almost nothing about cooking. She could not help the busboy much even if there hadn’t been a language issue.’
Besides, she also had to act as the second server, staff the cash register, and of course supervise the kitchen as well as bus the tables.
My companion had a dinner salad. I asked for a tuna melt (brave me), but she came out and told me the busboy wasn’t understanding how to do that. I wrote out directions in the limited Spanish I knew. It more or less came out as something vaguely like a tuna melt.
In retrospect, we told ourselves, we should have walked out the minute we got the initial story. Yes, we should have and walked perhaps a one-quarter mile further down the road to McDonald’s.
Our confidence was shaken by being told that a 20-year-old manager who didn’t know how to cook was trying to train a 17-year-old busboy who didn’t speak English on how to do something she herself didn’t know how to do.
We were in that town a year later and no surprise, that place was closed.”
“I remember when we visited Wuxi, one of the southern cities in China on our trip to China in 2015. It was lunchtime and we were led to a restaurant about 200 meters away from the hotel. There were several big round tables for the dinners to use. The early arrivals were seated around a big circular table. My whole family sat together one by one.
We had to wait for other people to arrive so we could start. More and more people came and many were families. Somehow, our table had only two empty spots beside me and a mother with her two young children came in front of us. The lady seemed to particularly like to talk with my friend, ‘Joe’ since I often saw them talking with each other enthusiastically on the tour bus.
She stood beside me with her two kids. Her two kids were much younger than my two kids. They sat in that two empty spots.
Obviously, this lady wanted to occupy my seat. At this time, a waiter came. Looking at that two young kids, he asked me if I could go to another table and yield my spot to this lady.
I said, ‘No problem at all.’
I got up and sat at another table. During the meal, I saw Joe was extremely happy talking with this mother and her two kids. Although I was OK, I still felt a little uncomfortable with what the waiter did. He did not have the right to separate me from my kids. Who gave him this right to do that?”
Tipping In America
“For background, I was an Indian in California for the first time. Back then, companies gave you a limited amount of cash for miscellaneous expenses and would reimburse anything you spend on your card for taxis, food, etc. It was pretty much a bundle of cash, and I was a very messy person so I just stuffed a few 10 dollar bills in my pocket and headed out without my international card, as I was new to using it and was deathly afraid of losing it.
There was this post-Italian restaurant, with smooth jazz, and everything. I was a little intimidated but a friend recommended it to me so I tried it anyway.
Most people in America were overly friendly, not in a bad way most of the time, but the way my waitress was behaving was slightly creeping me out. She called me ‘cute’ and ‘sweetie’.
This would be unusual if a guy did it to me in India because while waitstaff are friendly top, but if you engage with them, they don’t flirt with you and ask for your business card and write their number behind it.
Anyway, I gave her an extremely weird look that melted the smile off her face, and then she got the check as I asked. In India, you usually ask for the bill after you’re done ordering, instead of after you’re done eating.
I was halfway through some kind of pasta where she kind of rudely dumped it on the table. I still didn’t understand the behavior then.
The total was around 36 dollars so I put down 40 dollars. She came back and gave me a dirty look. After a while, I told another waiter that I hadn’t received the change; four dollars is a lot of Indian rupees. You can have a whole day’s meal in that much.
So eventually, she came back and glared at me. As she put the money down, she murmured under her breath, ‘Freakin cheapskate.’
I have never felt that angry before.
Wasting food is a sin in our culture, but I was actually seeing red at that moment. I left half of the food on the table and simply walked out.
You don’t get to use offensive terms because someone isn’t familiar with American tipping ethics. Seriously though, the service industry sucks. Being paid less is no excuse to be a prick who doesn’t understand limits. If you don’t like your job, get qualified to do the job you want. She probably got fired and started a gofundme for rent.”
“Please Enjoy Your Meal, Sir”
“We sat down for a meal and we were discussing whatever, and ordered our drinks. My friend was telling a story about something stupid he’d done, and when the waitress came over with the drinks, he had got to a certain point in the story and called himself a’ freakin idiot.’ But the way he delivered the line was with a pause. So, ‘blah blah blah….’ pause… ‘freakin idiot!’
Unfortunately, the waitress hadn’t heard anything that had preceded this and only heard those two words, at the precise moment she arrived with the drinks. She obviously thought he had called her the idiot because she banged his glass down on the table and stormed off.
He later caught her attention and attempted to clarify and apologize.
‘When I said ‘idiot’, I was talking about myself, not you!’ He said, but she wasn’t buying it.
‘Whatever,’ she said, abruptly turning on her heel and walking off again.
Eventually, our food came and the waitress delivered it with an exaggerated smile.
She said, ‘Please enjoy your meal, sir’ with a tone that was sickly sweet and dripping with sarcasm.
He looked at his plate and was thinking the same as me.
‘She has so messed with your food!’ I said.
We would never be able to prove it, but to me, it would be the only explanation for her abrupt change in mood. He ate it anyway, tentatively, never quite sure if he was also consuming a dose of her saliva or worse.”
Bad Day? Or Bad Customer Service?
“A group of school principals, myself included, along with our deputy superintendent were sent to a series of reading training sessions in Portland, Oregon for a week. This was in the early 2000s when district budgets allowed long-distance training. We got to stay in a very nice hotel near the training site and all of our meals were either picked up by the training or the district.
‘Margaret’, not her real name, was a wonderful boss, very supportive and caring. I actually ended up following her to another district a few years later.
Midway through our training week, she invited all of us to dinner in the heart of downtown Portland. We decided we were in the mood for Chinese food. The restaurant she picked wasn’t very fancy but had good reviews.
We were excited to finally be able to explore a bit of Portland. We took the city’s public transportation system, which was quite an experience for us, Los Angeles folks.
We got to the restaurant in due time, ready for a delicious meal. We ordered drinks and settled in to decide our order. I noticed that our waiter was not too happy to see us. Perhaps he was having a hard day. Perhaps he heard we were educators and our reputation for being poor tippers preceded us. He also didn’t speak a lot of English.
As he took each of our orders, we heard a distinct, ‘Ha!’ as he took our menu. This alone made us feel very uncomfortable. Did he know something we didn’t?
Margaret was the last to order. She asked for a duck dish. The waiter looked at her and said,’I no think so.’
‘I beg your pardon?’ She said.
‘No duck for you! No good for you.’ He replied.
We all gasped and turned to Margaret. For a moment, we saw a look of hurt and anger cross her face. Then the deputy superintendent took over.
She smiled and said graciously, ‘Just bring me what you think I should eat.’
And he did. A green salad, no dressing, with a cup of soup, which she never finished. Nor for that matter did we have an appetite for our own meals.”
He Was Too Flirty For Her Comfort
“I was in a new Mexican restaurant (they started off as a Food Truck and they have excellent food) as a single diner. They are known for their ‘lengua tacos’ (beef tongue cooked until super tender).
Anyway, I sat down in the new restaurant and the waiter came up to me and slid some chips and salsa onto the table. He asked what I would like to order. I asked for three tacos — one chorizo, one steak, and one lengua.
He looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘Oh you like tongue?’
I sort of looked at him a little funny and said, ‘Yes, if it’s cooked properly.’
He smiled and walked away. The tacos came and were exquisite. The waiter came back and who I now realized was the owner and sat at my table. He started talking small-talk, which I didn’t mind. He asked things like how I found the restaurant, where I was from, how I heard about the restaurant, what I thought about the restaurant, etc. So I figured that maybe his tongue comment was purely innocent. He offered to bring me another taco because I had commented how great they were and I accepted. So I was pretty happy with my meal and extremely full.
I went up to the front counter to pay, and he said, ‘So when are you coming back so I can see you again?’
At that point, I decided to pay cash because I didn’t want him to see my name on my credit card. I gave him 20 bucks on my six-dollar check. He gave me my change, but in a weird way so that his hand caressed my hand as he put the change in my hand. And he did it slowly. He didn’t even care that I was wearing my wedding ring. No way was I going back there.
I’m fairly confident in my self-defense abilities, so I didn’t feel threatened, but geez, he could be a little more professional at his job. And I did call my husband, told him the whole story, and said that I still got it.”
She Ate Her Pasta With Extreme Caution
“Quite some time ago, I was catching up with some family at a nearby Uno’s Pizzeria. We were a large party, maybe 13 to 16 people, and half were under the age of 12 (including myself). We had appetizers, chatted, and ordered, and as time went by, everyone slowly started getting their plates except for me.
After some time, my grandmother called the waitress over to let her know that I may have been forgotten.
She looked at us and said, ‘Oh no! We haven’t forgotten, your pasta was in the oven when the light bulb suddenly exploded and glass was just everywhere! We are whipping you up a new one now, should be out shortly.’
She was so nonchalant about it too. A few other people at the table had pasta and just kind of stared at their plate for a moment, but I believe they kept eating after a bit. I did eventually get my pasta but as a youngin, at the time I could not bring myself to eat much and inspected the maybe three bites I decided to take quite thoroughly before I decided there was definitely glass in there.
They did comp my pasta and everyone had a good laugh about it but grandma did have to grab me a happy meal on the way home.”
“My Steak Was Really Bloody Rare”
“A couple of days ago, five of us went out to eat at a local chain steakhouse. Our order had multiple but simple options; the kind and size of the steak, heat (rare to well done), sauce, if any salad, dressing, two sides, and drinks. We were talking about the current lack of servers. We thanked our server for being there. She seemed to be unfamiliar with the sides, so I asked if she were new to this location, and she said she had worked there for 17 months. So I listened carefully as everyone ordered. I’m the grandmother of the bunch.
Sure enough, she brought out three of the entrees but didn’t know who ordered what. She said other servers were right behind her with the rest of the food. A minute later, two other servers did arrive with the other steaks, but with no sauce, no corn, beans, or bread. Then we noticed there were no lemons for the tea, no butter, no salad dressing for the very warm salads, and no dressing.
My steak was really bloody rare instead of medium-rare. I have a movement disorder and I asked my strong grandson to cut my steak since I wasn’t having success. He cut for a while and then said his knife must be dull. My son tried and blamed his knife too. Since we were still waiting on the sides, my husband finally saw our original waitress again and flagged her down. We told her all the items we were still missing.
She looked at the food on the table and said, ‘Oh, your food came out already. I didn’t realize.’
Remember, she brought the first tray out herself. Since my stroke, I can’t think and speak up to return items, and I was not able to eat that bloody tough steak. We all managed to eat enough, without drink refills, but we didn’t order dessert. My husband tipped at 20 percent, but we didn’t take leftovers home and we will be wary of returning there.”
Waiter’s Joke Went Too Far
“I was vacationing with a friend in Hawaii in 1987. We’d gone to a nice restaurant on Maui—a somewhat pricey place. I was serving myself from the salad bar when our waiter came up to me and actually started to take my plate away, as he chastised me for ‘taking too much salad.’ I was so stunned, I started to give him the plate.
He handed it back to me, saying, ‘I was just kidding, you’re not taking too much salad.’
He laughed embarrassedly, seeing he’d gone too far.
At that time I was very uncomfortable with my weight on this trip. Beaches, swimsuits, you know. So, I was already sensitive about my weight. When this guy made his ‘joke,’ I was utterly crushed. There were people seated right next to the salad bar who heard what he said.
Somehow, I made it back to our table. I couldn’t eat the salad. All I could do was cry. I told my friend what happened. I think she offered to get the manager, but I was too mortified to let her. I saw our waiter talking quietly to another waiter. The second waiter showed up to check on us. I never saw our waiter again.
Somehow I managed to get through the meal and did eat the entree. But the entire time I was horrified that I was such a spectacle that even a waiter—someone whom I was presumably paying—felt compelled to make fun of me.
I felt very bad about myself back then and would handle things quite differently if that happened today. Now, I would ask to speak to the manager, tell him my meal was ruined and I expected them to make it right (e.g., comp the meal).
But back then, poor me couldn’t do anything and I even left a tip.”
Bad Manager On Duty
“I was was at a McDonald’s in Cheboygan, Michigan. Yup, I will say exactly where it was because it was so gross to me.
My daughter talked me into stopping. We went in to order our food. I ordered a fry and a caramel frappe. Well, it was taking longer than usual to make the frappe because the kid was cleaning the machine. A thing I was delighted to see. I mean hey they are cleaning.
Well, a manager came up and started chewing the kid out. She told him they didn’t clean those machines during the day, no matter what. It was a Sunday evening. I was so grossed out by that behavior that I refused to go back. I also demanded my money back.
I told the kid, ‘Thank you for caring about our health, but your manager should be ashamed.'”
He Ignored Her Concerns
“My spouse and I entered a restaurant and the host offered us a table in which we’d have to sit side by side. I have a history of chronic neck pain, so I explained that due to my neck flare-up, we would want to sit opposite each other so that I did not have to keep turning my head. The host pulled a tv show-style move and feigned throwing the menu at me from the side in order to solicit a sudden head turn from me, which more or less had the desired effect.
Then he said, ‘I guess it doesn’t really hurt that bad, huh?’
His move had exacerbated my condition and embarrassed me. I was livid, but my spouse was really looking forward to the meal so we stayed. That was the last time we ate there.”
Did He Really Expect More From Taco Bell?
“Years ago, I made the quick stop to the nearest Taco Bell. I went into the Taco Bell in North Beach at around lunchtime and went to the restroom to wash my hands. It stank badly, and the toilet started to flush. A few seconds later, the stall door unlatched, and an employee exited, fastening his belt.
He didn’t even look at the sink, just hurried through the door, with me behind him. And he went straight into the kitchen.
In a loud voice, I announced, ‘Hey, everybody, that prick that just went into the kitchen took a dump in the bathroom and didn’t wash his hands! You couldn’t pay me to eat here!’
Then, I left. If I’d already ordered, I’d have demanded my money back.”
“Just recently my boyfriend and I were eating dinner at one of our favorite seafood restaurants in Coronado, California. It’s got a magnificent setting on the San Diego harbor. The service that night was horrible and we ended up being there almost three hours. We had a couple of drinks and shared an appetizer before ordering our meal. We had to wait to order each item and wait even longer to be served.
When our entrées were finally served, the server apologized saying, ‘I’m sorry the service has been so slow but I’m just recovering from covid.”