I'm the person you sometimes use, abuse and treat like crap when you go out to eat. I'm your waitress, as you like to call me and my co-workers, though we prefer the term "server."
The moment we're out of your hearing range, we laugh, joke and talk about all the dumb things you do, say, ask or wear; the hell you put us and other customers through; the lame pickup lines you throw around—all of it. We also praise those of y'all who deserve it. But when we're back on, we have to smile—as we'd rather not risk getting fired. Thank God OC Weekly gave us a platform to tell our stories!
The following tales were collected from servers working at all types of OC restaurants: coastal, South County, North County. Dive, resort, buzzy. American, Mexican, Asian. Enjoy!
GET A ROOM
It was almost closing when a couple came in, sat at one of the high-tops, and ordered cocktails and calamari. As I was making their drinks, I looked over, and they were basically sucking each other's faces off, just going at it. They had enough decency to stop when I dropped off their drinks. I then went to check on my other tables. "Are you gonna stop that?" one table asked, pointing to the couple. The guy had rotated his chair so that the lady was straddling him, and her pants were pulled down with his hand all the way down in there. You could see her thong and almost her whole butt as her eyes rolled back in her head.
I got my manager immediately. He approached the table and told them he was happy they were having a good time, but they were making the other guests uncomfortable. They got the check and left, without waiting for their appetizer. I just thought, "Why did they even come here if they wanted to fuck so bad?"
I'M BETTER WITH MY HANDS
My first table was a party of 10 that ordered a round of waters. As I started to hand the first one out, I tipped my hand too much, and all the waters landed on one guy. My first thought was someone else needed to take care of them. I was mortified and didn't know what to do. My managers intervened and gave him a restaurant sweat shirt. He seemed fine, but I couldn't really tell.
So I realized I only had one option because no one else could take the table: I had to hope they had a sense of humor. I went back to pass out new waters, and when I got close to someone else, I started wobbling my hand on purpose. "Anyone else want a free sweat shirt?" I asked. They all started laughing, so I continued to make jokes like that the entire time. In the end, they loved me, and the dude was really nice about it. Fortunately, they were receptive to my humor, and they still left me a 25 percent tip. After that, I felt more confident because I knew I could fuck everything up and still recover.
I FEEL YA, BROTHA
"So you're not voting for Trump, right?" a guest asked me, his black server. "How do you feel about Trump?"
"Well, he hates minorities, and I'm a minority, so I feel like I'm not allowed to vote for him," I said.
"Oh, yeah, that makes sense," the white guest said, as though he had any idea what it's like to be black. He didn't leave a good tip, either.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM
A woman in a party of eight sent her salmon entrée back to the kitchen. She said it was almost raw and very bland. In a few minutes, the second attempt came out. She claimed it to be the same fish, just cooked a little more and asked that we remake the fish a third time. At this point, the other guests were almost done with their food.
When the third one came, she complained it was overcooked and how could we recook the same piece three times, which was not the case.
I sent my manager over, who tried to calm her down. Instead, the lady caused a scene and started sobbing. He tried to offer her another meal, but she was crying so hard she could barely talk. She declined the meal, but my manager was like, "You have to eat something." So he offered vegetables and salad, all of which she turned down. Some people refuse to let you fix things, so she left with red eyes and a runny nose.
A BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY MORNING
Three guys were holding up the men's bathroom. When my manager opened the door, there was one guy sucking off another while the third was recording. "What the fuck are you guys doing?" my manager asked.
Without missing a beat, the one recording said, "We're making a porno."
GOD BLESS WHITE CHICKS
It was the wedding of a well-known designer's daughter. Everything was over-the-top and had to be perfect. We're talking gowns and red carpets, huge bouquets of flowers, the whole works. When it was time to serve the main course of Kobe steak imported from Japan and lobster tails, the father of the bride interrupted the event and told the guests if anyone would rather have a burger, two In-N-Out trucks had arrived and were outside. More than half of the guests went for a burger over the expensive surf and turf. Cool thing was I got to eat one of the entrées—it was fabulous.
"You know we Latinos and blacks won't pass up steak and lobster!" I told the dad.
"Leave it to the white girls," he said.
I WILL JUDGE NO MORE
This guy legitimately looked homeless. He sat down and ordered a shot of Patrón and tipped me $2,500. He came back later that day. After my thanks and hearing I'm a single mother, he told me it wasn't enough and added another $2,500 to the credit-card tip. Everything cleared the bank!
WHAT WASN'T I THINKING?
In a hotel restaurant, a loaded couple drank like fish every day, but one night, they got especially hammered. I gave the man a courtesy walk to his room. He thanked me and tried to give me his gold Rolex as a tip, told me it was something I could tell my kids about. It was probably a $35,000 Rolex. Like an idiot, I didn't take it.
We had a menu that changed every week. This guy didn't tell me he had a shellfish allergy, so when he ordered a dish that had risotto, I didn't know they had changed the menu. It wasn't listed as having shrimp in the ingredients. He took a couple of bites and within seconds was gasping. "Is there something in this risotto?"
I double-checked with the kitchen, and yes, there was shrimp in it. "Okay, I have to go get my EpiPen from the car," he said, gasping. He came back 20 minutes later saying that he caught it just in time and not to worry about it. I was freaking out. We took care of their bill, and I apologized repeatedly. He still tipped me 25 percent of what the bill would've been, even though I almost killed him.
This guy talking with his hands knocked over two of three shots. His friends were giving him shit for it when he told them not to worry—he's got it. He took the dirty bar towel from the counter, wiped up the shots and wrung the towel out into a pint glass. He snorted a line of salt, squeezed lime in his eye and took the shot of now-green tequila. Didn't flinch.
This guy I used to work with was barhopping with his buddies. By the time he got to my restaurant, he was completely hammered. His friends left him there, so I sat him in a chair and kept an eye on him, hoping his friends would come back. Of course they didn't, so when I was closing up, I had to take him into the office as I counted out the cash drops. I was sitting at my desk, and in his drunken stupor, he came up behind me with his pants down and dropped his fully erect penis on my left shoulder!
I froze. "Hell, no, get that off me!" I said. He begged a bit until he realized I was gonna slap the shit out of him, so he backed off.
DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE
I was making drinks when I felt things hit the side of my head. I expected to look over and see a friend being a jerk on purpose, and I was gonna laugh. Nope. It was a lady demanding I stop in the middle of making servers their table's drinks so she could pay her bill right that second. I ignored her to finish up the drinks, but this woman threw the napkin holder at my head, so I told her to get the fuck out.
"Nobody talks to my wife like that," her husband said.
"Well, tell your wife to stop throwing shit at my head," I said. To defuse the situation, I got their check and closed them out. He threw the presenter [on which servers place the check], and it hit me in the face. I gave him the crazy eye, and he swung, but I dodged his punch, cocked back and open-hand slapped him on the side of his head. Stopped him cold.
YOU COULD'VE SAID, "PLEASE"
I cut off a lady at my table for being too drunk, so she tried to order directly from the bar. After getting another no, she grabbed the mat that had tons of glassware on it and flung it. Glass went flying at my manager and me, slitting my wrist. The male manager lunged over the bar, punched her in the face and tossed her on the street. She never returned.
SHE FORGOT HER TINFOIL HAT
These two quiet dudes in their sixties were just eating dinner when a lady walked up and slammed her hand on the table. "Fuck this!" she screamed. "You guys have been so annoying; I'm tired of listening to your bullshit!" Then she walked out without paying her bill.
Everyone was just staring, and the guys were looking at me like, "What just happened?"
"I don't know," I said.
"Where did she even come from?"
"I'm guessing it was a crack house," one of them laughed. Nice dudes!
IT'S NOT WHO YOU THINK IT IS
One Friday night at a restaurant, we were told to expect a VIP. It wasn't until the superstar walked through the back door that we knew who she was. She requested our executive table, which was right in the middle of the restaurant. About 30 minutes later, a little girl walked by and recognized her. "Oh, my God!" she screamed, announcing her name. At that moment, the restaurant turned into complete chaos. Everyone ran up, pushing and shoving to try to get photos and autographs. It was so out of control the safety alarms went off and we had to close the restaurant immediately. Almost all of the guests left without paying, and the others got their food for free. All I could think was, "What the fuck? This crazy bitch wasn't worth losing my Friday-night tips."
RUNNING OF THE GUESTS
Tourists like to sit for hours with the oceanfront view after eating, but they don't like to tip. I got $5 on a $200 check once. When they asked for coffee refills, I added Ex-Lax and felt satisfaction as they, one by one, searched for the bathroom and left the table for good.
SOMEONE HAS TO WEAR THE PANTS
By the end of the night, these couples were messed up, but I could tell this was a nightly thing for them. They asked to be on split checks, but one kept buying rounds for the other. I made sure he wanted those drinks on his tab before ordering them. The bill came to almost $500 for the couple buying everyone rounds. The woman took one look at the bill. "This isn't right," she said. "There is no way I drank this much, or I'd be wasted right now." Umm, you are, I thought. So I went over the bill with her, explaining the price of dinner and drinks, etc.
"No, no, I didn't drink that much," she slurred. "I only had three drinks." I tried to explain the process, but she wasn't listening, and the owner had to get involved. Thank God her husband came back from the bathroom.
"What the fuck are you doing?" he yelled at his wife. I explained what happened.
"That's not what I was doing," she said.
"I'm so sorry—she does this every time we go out," he said, looking at the bill. "All this looks right." He gave me a $100 tip and apologized about the confusion. The lady continued to claim she only had three drinks and should drive. "We're taking an Uber," the husband said to her. "Shut up before I leave you here."
AT LEAST HE WASN'T CALLED "MCSTINKY"
"Oh, man, guess what I had for lunch today—you're gonna be so jealous," a guest excitedly said to me, the only black server. "I had chicken, waffles and some Kool-Aid."
DON'T FUCK WITH MY MONEY
When the expensive restaurant closed, a metal-bar door lowered as extra security. My last table of the night was four women who were taking forever to eat and leave. They were really needy, with several soda refills each and wanting something every two seconds. They split the check four ways and stiffed me across the board: zero tip.
One of the ladies had what looked like a championship belt. I had to go to the bathroom, and I was so irritated at them that I put her belt in the urinal and peed all over it. A few minutes later, she showed up looking for it. I handed it to her through the gate and thanked her again. I was about 10 feet away before she started yanking on the gate and yelling, "What did you do to my belt—smells like fucking piss!"
WEST COAST, BEST COAST
This chick ordered a skinny margarita, which we don't have, so I offered her half margarita mix, half soda water. "Okay, yeah, yeah, that's fine," she said. She then tasted it. "This isn't a fucking skinny margarita," she barked. I told her again we couldn't make that, so she ordered a Cosmo. "I don't like this," she said.
"Ma'am, I'll make you something special, just give me a little bit," I told her. I brought her a cocktail made just for her.
She stood up and got in my face. "If you don't bring me a fucking skinny margarita right now, I'm gonna beat yo' ass," she yelled. "I'm from Jersey. You don't tell me you can't bring me a skinny margarita."
"You gotta be kidding me—we don't have skinny margarita mix!" I yelled, then walked away. My manager escorted her out in front of everyone. Don't know about in Jersey, but here, that's embarrassing.
This guy sat down with a girl, and it was an obvious date—I could tell it was a little awkward. They ordered appetizers, and the guy ordered a beer. She ordered a vodka drink, then got up to go to the bathroom. "I don't care what she orders for the rest of the night. I'm paying the bill, and I tip fat—make 'em triples," he said.
I looked at him with a stone face and said, "Oh, yeah, bro, I get it. . . . So you want me to be an accomplice to your date rape tonight?"
"What?" he asked.
"Yeah, right, is that what you want?" I asked. "Here's the deal: I figure she's probably got about three more minutes in the bathroom, right? When she gets back, you can tell her to her face, or you can be gone, and I can let her know you had a family emergency." He took the bill, and I kicked him out. The guy thought I was gonna be his bro date-rape bartender—nah.
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BONUS: SECRETS FROM YOUR SERVERS!
You're a dick if you . . .
• Talk about tips in front of us, i.e., "We'll just take that out of your tip," "Oh, there goes your tip" or "We'll take care of you; you'll get a big tip."
• Ask, "Working hard, or hardly working?"
• Leave less than 20 percent for good service.
• Ignore us when we approach the table—we're not invisible.
• Stay long after you eat or after we close.
• Yelp your visit and think it matters.
P.S.: Servers hardly ever wash their hands.
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A QUICK NOTE FROM A CUSTOMER
Quite a few of the servers quoted on these pages act like entitled shitheels. Part of working in the service industry is to provide service. And while everyone has run into a difficult customer from time to time, calling them out to their face or treating them like shit not only is a bad reflection on you as a person, but also reflects poorly on the restaurant. If you don't want to risk being fired, maybe you should work in an industry that doesn't pride itself on caring what its customers think—maybe an alt-weekly such as this one. If you can't handle that, you should eat a dick and pound sand. The level of entitlement in the service industry is, quite frankly, appalling. It's not your restaurant, and you aren't in charge. Talk shit on your own time. While you, as a server, may not give two shits about bad reviews, the restaurant probably does. Suck up your bad day and close out your shift and be thankful you get any tips at all. You want a good tip? Well, here's one: Customers can usually tell which servers are decent and which ones can fuck right off.