Some of the hardest workers around!
Some of the hardest workers around!
Flickr user Photocapy

The Customer Effect, Or: How This Restaurant Worker Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Getting Treated Like An Asshole

By Ryan Cady

Just a little respect would be nice
Just a little respect would be nice
Flickr user Phanatic

I spent the last five years of my life working in a restaurant. It was a nice place--sort of a family sports bar, and while I was there, I did pretty much everything.

Cashier, server, dishwasher, arcade attendant, custodian--and for the last two years, I was a cook. Other employees came and went, our menu items changed, we got new food suppliers; but in five years of employment, there was only one constant:

Customers are dicks.

Before you get your bees in a goddamn bonnet, just think for a second about all of the urban legends you hear about restaurants. In every single one, the employees are always at fault. Human finger in a cheeseburger? Staff's fault. The bill is overcharged? Staff's fault. Rude to the staff, they'll spit in your food.

Now, all of those myths are either total bullshit, or just one-time occurrences out of the literally billions of instances in which someone has bought food (the other 999,999,999 burgers were pretty much totally devoid human finger parts, by the way). But let's focus on the last one: if you're rude to the staff, they'll spit in your food. Now, in my five years, I've never once seen staff do anything intentionally fucked-up to anyone's meal, and moreso, I've not only never seen anyone spit in anyone's food - I've never even heard of it.

Yeah, yeah, bring out your stories about your brother's friend's nephew who supposedly took a piss on somebody's steak once maybe--super credible. We've all seen Ryan Reynolds making an absolute ass of himself in Waiting--yuk yuk yuk, but it's just a movie. It's fictional. The reasons those myths are so prevalent is because customers are terrified, needy cattle just as likely to kick the staffer as to be complacent.

I understand, sort of. You, the customer, have a right to be a little cagey about an eating establishment; what you eat can literally kill you. But in that case, shouldn't you be treating the people making your food almost with reverence?

In my five years, as I said, I've never seen anyone fuck with food...but I have seen customers do some horrible things. I've seen them sneak in little dogs, little bottles of booze, little packets of every manner of drug possible--legal or otherwise. I've seen them walk in the door with their children and spend the entire evening drinking piss beer and ignoring their kids, who wreak absolute havoc on the staff and furnishings (these aren't just people on the Child Protective Service watch list, either - plenty of nice, PTA-type parents have ditched their kids and gotten absolutely hammered).

I won't talk about how those parents treat the poor arcade attendants who have attempted to instill a little order on their demonic unattended children -- hell hath no fury like a drunk, entitled mom or dad. And I definitely won't talk about the things I've seen in restaurant bathrooms...but man, I've seen some things.

Some of the hardest workers around!
Some of the hardest workers around!
Flickr user Photocapy

And the way customers treat the staff! At their politest, they condescending--"Oh, you poor dumb cashier, you probably barely speak English, I'll speak slowly for you"--and at their worst...oh man. Something just changes in you people when you walk through the door of an eatery. I call it "The Customer Effect."

The Customer Effect takes a pretty swell person and transforms them into the most demanding, spoiled, angry asshole you'll ever encounter. The sort of person who has a serious panic attack if it takes more than 20 minutes to get their food on a busy night. The sort of person who eats half of a pizza and asks for their money back because "they didn't like it." The sort of person who--yes, I'm being serious, this really happened--breaks the handle off of a beer tap trying to steal Coors Light and then lies about it, even after we show them the camera footage. And that's just the Saturday evening crowd...don't even get me started on the Sunday football bunch.

If it were up to me, Daniel Tosh's word would be law and everyone would have to work a year of customer service before they turned 18, but I'll settle for just asking you to watch. All of the negative myths about food service exist because people are terrified of what they eat and can't cope with their own negative behavior, so I'm asking you, next time you go into a restaurant, to check yourself. Watch the other customers. Watch the staff. Examine your behavior.

'Cause really, who's the asshole here?

Follow Ryan Cady on Twitter @rycady! Also, follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!


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