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Your Next Stop: The Gaslight Zone!

, , , , , | Right | CREDIT: ZeldLurr | May 6, 2023

I work in a restaurant. Yesterday, two people sat themselves in my section at a dirty table; the tablecloth hadn’t even been changed. The people weren’t RUDE exactly. While we reseated the two, they asked:

Customers: “Where’re our menus?”

This was while the busser, hosts, and I were trying to move around them, clearing glasses and plates. They acted confused if anything, like, how DARE this table not be ready for us at a reservation-based fine-dining restaurant?

I got water for them and tried to do my spiel — the whole “These are our chef specials, etc.” thing — and they interrupted me.

Customer #1: “If I order a glass of wine, do I pay for it?”

I thought I misheard.

Me: “What do you mean?”

Customer #1: “If I order a glass of wine do I pay for it?”

Me: *Very professionally* “Yes, it will be on your bill at the end of the dining experience.”

Customer #1: *Disappointed and confused* “Oh…” *Pauses* “Do I want the burger or the salmon?”

Me: “Hmm, are you in the mood for red meat or seafood? The burger is garnished with [items] and sits between a baked in-house [bread] bun, and it has rich, savory flavors, while the salmon comes with [vegetables] and a brightly flavored [flavor] glaze.”

I received a stare of confusion.

Me: “I can give you a moment if you would like to review the menu further.”

Customer #1: “No, we’re ready now.”

Me: “Okay, what would you like?”

Customer #1: “I don’t know.”

I was just wondering, “What the f*** is happening?” There was no language barrier. There didn’t seem to be a culture barrier. They weren’t acting rude or upset, just confused. They were well-dressed and at least forty; they HAD to have gone to a restaurant before to know how this works.

Customer #2: “She’s asking you what to order.”

Okay, all right. She wanted me to decide for her. That’s actually pretty common; you just need to explicitly say that.

Me: “All right, I suggest the salmon, then.” *To [Customer #2]* “And for you?”

Customer #2: “I’ll have the [filet], well done — absolutely no pink.”

I repeated the order back, they agreed, I thought I was in the clear, and I was about to walk away.

Customer #1: “Will you bring us appetizers?”

Me: “Of course, what would you like?”

They responded without even opening the menu.

Customer #1: “Chicken wings.”

Me: “I apologize, we don’t have chicken wings. Might I suggest [appetizer #1] or [appetizer #2]? We also have [chicken entree], which would be the closest thing to chicken wings and is an excellent sharing option.”

Blank stare.

Customer #2: “She just wants something fast.”

I explained our from-scratch kitchen and how all of our appetizers took as long or longer than the entrees. (Yes, even a well-done steak.)

I offered to bring extra bread, and I repeated their order again. They decided on entrees only and extra bread.

I brought two portions of bread.

Me: “Here you are, our [Restaurant] freshly-baked bread and whipped butter.”

Our bread looks like bread. There is no mistaking for anything else.

The table looked at me aghast and confused like I had messed something up.

Customer #1: “This is bread?”

Me: “Yes.”

Customer #2: “So, this is bread?”

Me: “Yes, it is our baked-in-house bread.”

Customer #1: “At [Popular Restaurant] they have [bread], and it’s served with oil. Why is this your bread? It’s not [bread].”

Me: “You are right; it is different bread. I would be happy to bring you olive oil for dipping. Would you like olive oil?”

Customer #1: “No… Are you sure you don’t have [Popular Restaurant]’s bread?”

Okay, if you want their bread, maybe go there?

Me: “Yes, I am sure I don’t. I apologize. Is there anything else I can bring for you at the moment?”

Customer #1: *Filled with disappointment and confusion again* “No…”

Thirty or forty minutes later, a food runner found me with a [filet] in hand.

Food Runner: “Table [number] said they didn’t order this.”

I went up to the table.

Me: “You ordered the [filet], cooked well done, correct?”

Customer #2: “Yes, I want the [filet].”

Me: “Okay. Here is your [filet].”

Customer #2: “No, no, no, that is not the [filet]. It doesn’t have the…”

She then described a completely different steak with other garnishes and sides — sides that we don’t carry.

Me: “I see. I apologize that the [filet] was not what you envisioned; however, this restaurant does not have the meal you described. Would you like to enjoy this meal, or order something else from our menu?”

Customer #2: “Yes. I want the [filet].”

My brain was melting. I felt like I was losing my grip on reality. Was I not communicating properly? Why were this table and I not living in the same reality? What was happening?

Me: “This is the [filet].”

I gestured to the plate in front of her.

Customer #2: “Oh, no… it’s not.”

After a few back-and-forths, she decided she did not want the [filet] or to order anything else. She sat and watched her friend eat her dinner in record time. Chicken wing lady was really hungry.

I dropped off the check and processed the card, easy. When I saw that one of them had finished signing the check, I went back to the table.

Me: “I can take the check presenter if you are all set with it.”

She then handed me her untouched, still folded cloth napkin. To her credit, both were black and rectangular, but there was definitely a texture, weight, and material difference you would immediately notice.

Me: “I can clear this napkin for you, but may I have the check presenter?”

Customer #1: “I just gave it to you.”

She had no malice or anger in her voice. I double-checked, and nope, it was a napkin.

I eventually got the check, and they tipped 15%, which was honestly better than I’d hoped. They left their jacket, and no surprises here, the tags were still on. OF COURSE, they were the type of people who wear things and return them.

The whole thing just left me exasperated and bewildered. It completely drained my social and emotional battery. I felt like Kate McKinnon in the “Saturday Night Live” skit where they reenact “Gaslight”; Will Forte is like, “This is a steak,” and she’s like, “Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s a pineapple.”

Question of the Week

What is the absolute most stupid thing you’ve heard a customer say?

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