There is a social contract implied when you dine in a restaurant in this country. The social contract is pretty simple: "Don't be an ass." It shouldn't need to be said, really, but apparently restaurants are special places where manners aren't needed and you can act however you like.
Anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant–hell, anyone who's ever eaten in a restaurant–knows there are people who have apparently just arrived from Planet Putz and don't know the rules.
It's an epidemic, and we're starting to export it–I heard someone in France trying to put together a dish from assorted menu ingredients while the server stood there with a stormy look on his face. This will not do.
So here are five sub-genres of their kind who need to be deleted from the reservation books before they step over the threshold. Blacklist them!
1. The Bad Tipper
"Well, my salmon was undercooked, so that's a dollar deducted, and they didn't refill my iced tea after bringing the bill, so that's another dollar deducted, oh yeah, and there wasn't pepper on the table but I forgot to ask about it, so that's a dollar off, and…"
There are a limited number of ways to say this: tipping is not optional, regardless of the consensus on your "I Got Mine, Sorry About Yours" Internet message board. It is technically optional in that you will not be arrested for larceny if you don't leave a tip, but it is not largesse for you to distribute as though you're the Queen of Newport Beach. A tip is a service charge; if you got service, you need to pay it. Also, blaming your server for things you didn't like but didn't ask to have changed, or for things that come out of the kitchen, is just plain douchebaggery.
Don't like it? Write your legislators and tell them to change the laws. Until then, stay the hell out of restaurants. If you aren't going to tip, don't interact with servers. Walk into the kitchen and order your own food.
2. The Attention Whore
"I have a bunch of questions about the provenance of the duck breast. Is it from the east pen or west pen at Maple Leaf Farms? Could the chef come out and tell me? I prefer the west pen because it's closer to the baseball field and it's more American that way."
No. No, the chef does not need to come out and talk to you. The chef is in the kitchen, either cooking or expediting, depending on the restaurant, and is understandably a little bit buried in orders at 7:30 at night. Save your persnickety questions until after, then send them via e-mail. And if you're doing it just to show your companions that you are the kind of person who can ask for the chef, you need to go home and be fed on Kraft Dinner for a month.
3. The Flake
"I made reservations at Broadway, Stonehill Tavern, Five Crowns and SOL Cucina, because I couldn't figure out what I wanted to eat."
This person, who never, ever remembers to call and cancel the reservations he or she isn't going to use, is the arrogant reason why more and more restaurants are requiring a reservation hold on a credit card, and why it's impossible to get a dinnertime reservation in large chunks of Southern California. Pick one restaurant and suck up your decision, you over-entitled jackass. Be grateful you can afford to go to restaurants that require reservations, make one reservation, and if you don't like it, trash it on Yelp so we can make fun of you.
4. The Menu Editor
"I'd like the chopped salad, please, but hold the cheese and add double chickpeas. Also, can you ask if it's fennel salami? If it is, I don't want it unless it's Molinari. Oh, and can you let the dressing settle and then pour off part of the oil?"
It's one thing to ask for menu changes because you will quite literally be ill if you eat something. It's even okay, assuming there's not a Playground DTSA-like prohibition against it, to ask for one ingredient to be left out because you don't like it (but you have to not be a jerk if they say no). You are not, however, allowed to pillage the menu for ingredients you like and expect a slammed kitchen to be psychic and put them together in some way you can't articulate. If you want that, go to a salad bar or a Mongolian barbecue.
The Bill Divider
"Well, I had the salmon, which was $19.95, and Eric had the veal, which was $23.95, so I should pay less than he did. Also, I wanted to order the house wine, but we ended up with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. I feel like I shouldn't have to pay for that."
If you're sitting in a large group calculating your bill as you look at the menu, you need to get out and only dine by yourself. Nothing is more excruciating at the end of a long, populous dinner than watching people on the empty side of several bottles of wine try to calculate individual checks instead of dividing by the number of people paying.
Asking the restaurant to do it for you is not any better; you're taking away from other diners' experience as your server stands in the back trying to match the bill with his or her bill pad. If you go out in a large group, don't overspend, and don't try to catch a break by only ordering an appetizer. If you want revenge, wait until it's your birthday, then go out with a large group.
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