By Marie Beachdale
Saturday, July 22, 2012, Surfside Beach - Customer complaints are something every server has to learn to deal with, but some diners are a little too over-the-top in voicing their distaste, earning them placement in the Big Meaner category.
Recently, I have found myself dealing with an influx of Big Meaners of all ages. The first of them was a child whose chocolate milk didn’t contain the correct milk to Hershey’s syrup ratio. My conversation with this little Big Meaner went something like this:
“HEY,” he shouted at me from across the dining room.
“What’s up, darlin’?” I tried to say cheerfully, though I could tell by his scrunched up face that something had angered him.
“You gave me the WORST chocolate milk ever. It needs MORE chocolate, it’s not even brown, come on.”
He slid the cup across the table, spilling the milk everywhere. I noticed his mom shoot him an evil eye, the kind of motherly look that says “You’re in big trouble when we get to the car.”
“Good,” he said, defiantly looking at the spilled drink, then at me. “Maybe the next cup will be good.”
I took my time making the next glass of milk, and made sure to deliver it in an obnoxious kiddy-cup…with a lid. I am willing to bet he will grow up to be just like the next Big Meaner I dealt with that day.
A few hours after the chocolate milk fiasco, a diner at one of my tables called me over to speak with him. He instantly shoved his plate in my face.
“This is terrible, and practically inedible,” he barked.
I offered to get him something else, but he wasn’t having it. Instead, he decided to shout at me about the quality of his lunch.
“What kind of people do you have cooking here? You need to hire better help. Have they ever seen a kitchen? My five-year-old could make something better than this. I’m going to be honest, this is a miserable excuse for a restaurant and I will NEVER be back.”
I held my tongue and fought the urge to tell him to go back home and let his miniature chef prodigy offspring make his lunch. Instead, I let him know his lunch was on the house, and apologized profusely for his bad experience.
Usually, once a diner is made aware that their meal will be comped, they lighten up and don’t hold a grudge. This isn’t the case with Big Meaners, as this angry diner confirmed. He was complaining under his breath until the moment he walked out the door, when he added, “You will never see me in here again!” one last time, for dramatic effect.
In addition to the Big Meaner who is downright crabby, there is a separate type of diner who can also be categorized as a Big Meaner-- the diner who, regardless of what they do for a living, is convinced they can run a restaurant better than the people you work for.
Sure, almost every diner tends to come off as a know-it-all, but this category of Big Meaners takes it ever further.
I was called over to one of my tables not too long ago, and was given a stern look from an older woman wearing bright red glasses and a French beret.
“Here is what I need you to do…” she started.
“First, you need to knock out those tables by the window. They take up too much space, and look terrible. Second, get rid of that over there, because it’s ugly as sin,” she said, pointing to a decoration kept in the restaurant.
“Last, put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, because this isn’t cutting it,” she told me, shaking her head as she tapped her long, boney finger on the wall.
What was I supposed to say to that? Sure lady, let me just call my construction and design team, they’ll get right on it…?
Instead, I told her I would pass her information along to the owner, and that it was apparent she had a knack for interior design.
“I know, design is my forte. I’ve worked as a dental assistant for years, but I know how to fix design problems when I see them. Trust me, my advice is going to help this restaurant out,” she finished.
Sure, this lady was annoying, but she wasn’t as bad as a man I waited on who acted as though he had been appointed to general manager of the restaurant for the day.
The man called me over to his table and said, “I have a few concerns I want to address to you.”
He pointed to one of my coworkers, an experienced and energetic young server who, in my opinion, is one of the best.
“Shouldn’t her hair be pulled back? I’d hate for a customer to find her hair in their food.”
Seriously? This was his first concern?
“Actually,” I explained, “as long as a server’s hair doesn’t fall below her shoulders, she isn’t required to pull it back.”
“Ahh, I see. You might want to tell her to pull it back anyway, just as a precaution,” he said.
“Also, I wanted to talk to you about how to properly make slaw. It’s a little dry here, and I wrote down a great recipe that I’ve been making for years. Take this back to the kitchen and tell them to try it out tomorrow-- I bet it will get great reviews.”
He handed me a piece of paper with his slaw recipe. I was hoping that would be the last of his “concerns,” but he continued.
“I’ve noticed you only have one other server taking tables right now. You really need to hire more help, as you all look a little overworked.”
Okay, was this guy for real? I considered handing him an application for management, but instead explained to him that yes, while we looked busy, we were certainly not overworked, and enjoyed the opportunity to split the tables and make money.
I thought my explanation would be enough for him, but he scowled and said, “It’s obvious my concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Do you have a phone number or email address for someone higher up I can contact?”
I gave him an email address and said a silent prayer that I would never see him again.
Sure, Big Meaners are hard to deal with, and can sometimes ruin a good day… but you know what I’ve learned? The best way to handle them is to forget about them as soon as they leave.
While in the restaurant, the customer is always right… but once they’ve walked out the door you can take a deep breath and remind yourself that some people just suck, and luckily, you aren’t one of them.
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