The Wait List

I have a few complaints about waiters and waitresses. Having held my share of service jobs, I know how hardworking and caring most people in the industry are. Several things they do or say, however, drive me up the wall.

1. The overly familiar greeting. “Hi! My name is Mike, and I’ll be your server today.” Really? It’s not necessary that we all get on a first-name basis, is it?

2. The elaborate intake interview. “Have you dined here before?” Some waitstaff just can’t wait to tell you about the singular way the menu works or the unique serving style. Please, do us all a
favor: Allow that we’re intelligent enough to read the menu without remedial help.

3. The withheld price. The flip side of the above is when servers tell you too little. They’ll tantalize you with specials but neglect to say what the dishes cost. I have a friend who was invited to try a Kobe beef appetizer, the special of the day. He ordered it only to find that the charge for that dish alone was a jaw-dropping $250!

4. The never-ending customer satisfaction survey. When food arrives, some waiters will ask if everything’s OK — even before you’ve started eating. Some will circle back several more times, as if monitoring your progress. It’s enough to put you off your feed. A variation is “does everything taste OK?” That’s an odd way to put it. Are we guinea pigs on whom they’re trying this dish for the first time?

5. The off-putting rejoinder. If one makes a request, such as “can you do something about the fly in my soup?” most diners would prefer not to hear “no problem” in reply. A simple yes will do nicely.

6. Rampant table clearing. Please, don’t try to take my plate away when I’m only half done. And speaking of overeagerness to clear the table, I find it more disturbing when accompanied by an “Are you still working on that?” On the rare occasions that I dine out, I’d like to think that I’m there to enjoy a meal rather than “work” on it.

7. The tipping point. When you leave cash for a meal, you frequently get the question “do you want change?” I humbly request that the waiter make the change and bring it to me. If a diner wants to leave all of it or some of it (or none of it!) that’s his business.