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Give Them An Inch And They’ll Take Everything You Have

, , , | Right | CREDIT: A**hole_Catharsis | July 31, 2022

It’s your typical, busy weekend night at our restaurant, and a party of twelve shows up to celebrate a birthday. They’re down with whatever’s first available, so we give them a forty-five- to sixty-minute estimate. This family consists of large, loud, boisterous people, and they don’t hesitate to start ordering drinks at the bar. I’m pretty sure they pre-gamed before arriving, but they’re in fun, festive spirits. Everything’s going smoothly, and some patio tables open up that we push together and get them sat in good time.

A few minutes later, the eldest son comes back in and tells the hosts:

Son: “Outside won’t do. Our nana’s too cold. We need to sit inside.”

The offer of turning on more heat lamps won’t do, and they scoff at the idea of splitting tables across the dining room so we can seat them faster.

The host comes up to me, pretty anxious, and asks me when a couple of tables in my section are opening up.

Me: “I just put in that table’s food, so it could be anywhere from thirty to forty minutes… maybe?”

She doesn’t look happy. I look over at the host stand and this large, imposing family is just hovering at the entrance. She asks me for help since they’re being pretty aggressive toward her. Handling awkward situations and difficult people is in my wheelhouse, so it’s no bother to me.

I walk up and introduce myself. I exchange a firm handshake with the eldest son and explain I’ll be taking care of them and that they’ll be in my section. I walk him over and break it down.

Me: “I’m waiting for this table to be bussed, that table’s almost on the check, and once one of these two other tables gets up, we can push the tables and get all twelve of you together.”

He doesn’t seem impressed.

Son: “We were told under an hour.”

Me: “Well, yeah, we had a table ready for you outs—”

Son: “Yeah, and it was still sunny and warm an hour ago! And it’s too cold now!”

I don’t feel there is a point in arguing.

Me: “Look, I can’t give you an exact time. Just hang tight and we’ll try to get these tables opened up for you.”

He starts bargaining.

Son: “Look, my nana’s old, and it would be great if she had someplace to sit. Instead of having her stand, can we get her a table?”

This is where I mess up.

Me: “…sure. Let me get this first table bussed, and she can have a seat while we wait for the other tables to open up.”

Restaurant/common-sense policy is you don’t sit anyone at a table until it’s ready, for the sake of staff, guests, kitchen, and other patrons, but I am stupid enough to think we can work around this exception.

We get the table bussed and ready, and I’m imagining this old, frail woman with a walker trundling along. Nope. She’s just some regular, fit seventy-year-old in mom jeans and sunglasses. She slides into the booth, and what follows? Eleven other family members. A couple more sit themselves, and the rest are just hovering around the table holding their drinks, taking up most of the dining room.

I grab the eldest son.

Me: “Hey, I thought it was just your grandma that needed a seat. We can get the rest of you guys going once the other tables empty out.”

He points at the two neighboring tables and says loudly:

Son: “We’re just waiting on these tables to get up, right?”

S***.

Son: “It’s all good, bro, some of us are going back to the bar to get another round!”

One table took the hint and handed me their credit card, and the other table was looking pretty uncomfortable as the family had already helped themselves to empty chairs. Some of the family started emerging with plates and boxes of to-go food that they had ordered through the bar. They said, “We’re hungry and couldn’t wait.” They were going around me like I was some traffic cone.

They took turns dipping out to the parking lot to sip drinks and smoke, and most of my time was spent making sure the other tables in the dining room weren’t overly annoyed.

In total, I only had one bill for $80. The only “power” I had left was adding gratuity, and when they asked for birthday singers, I dropped off the slice of cake and slinked off while they bellowed out.

The bartender had two unpaid tabs at the end of the night, which he insisted I accept the transfer for.

I took a huge loss that night, but I learned a valuable lesson about standing my ground.

I think back to times when I’ve been overly surly or aggressive with guests that push boundaries. And it’s not necessarily you. It’s just that we’ve been burned, and the new instinct is one of self-defense.

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