Service Industry

Don’t Call Me Honey

We’re back to lists of rules. People love rules. I’m not sure if they love following them, or just knowing what they are so they can laugh in your face and then break them, but they love them.

During my time working in the service industry, I have had an incredible number and variety of experiences in which the people I am bringing food to manage to be ignorant and condescending at the same time. Now I truly don’t believe that you all are in a vast conspiracy to try and make your servers’ lives worse. What I think is, mostly you’re confused or uncomfortable with having someone serve you stuff–particularly when some of that stuff is stuff you don’t really recognize, like that fancy cocktail you dismally failed at pronouncing the name of. That’s ok. I will try not to be condescending back. Unless my blood-sugar is low, then no promises.

Anyway, here are a few easy things you can do that will make my (and therefore, unequivocally, your) experience a better one.

1. If You Don’t Understand Something, Ask

If I don’t know the answer to your question, I can get it in a matter of minutes. But you’re only going to make the whole situation worse if I say, “do you want the regular manhattan or the featured single barrel [read: high-end] manhattan?” and you say, “yeah.” and then I say, “sorry, which one?” and you say, “I’ll just have that regular barrel manhattan.”

I’m sorry, what? Your words did not form coherent ideas. After an interaction like that, I say, “sure, ok,” and walk away, and get you the cheap one because I don’t want to risk you yelling at me later for getting you something expensive. It’s clear to me that you’re embarrassed that you don’t know the difference between these two drinks in front of your (clearly first) date, but I promise that if you just ask the question, with confidence, I will answer, pleasantly, and we can all just go on with our lives.

2. If You Don’t Like Something, Tell Me

I know you don’t like it when it sits on your table for an hour and the level of the liquid in the glass doesn’t go down. If I ask you about it and you say it’s fine, I have to take you at your word–but if you had just told me the truth, chances are we could have replaced it with something you loved, instead. Now you’re miserable, and I feel bad for you. Just tell the damn truth!

3. Don’t Be Sarcastic. Don’t Try to Be Funny.

This place sucks, haha! I hate these drinks, haha!

You’re ugly. Ha. Ha.

Look, I understand that you’re a funny guy, and you have a better time out when you have a good rapport with your server. I have a better time when that happens, too! But the fact is, we’re not friends. I just met you seven and a half minutes ago. I don’t understand your sense of humor, and I’m currently at work–I’m trying to focus on doing a good job. If you say something is bad, or I’ve been rude, or you’re having a bad time, my first reaction is not ever going to be–“oh, that guy must be joking around with me!” It’s going to be, “Oh no, I’m so sorry you’re having a bad time, what can I do to help you have a better time?” And then you’re going to feel bad that you made me feel bad.

A better way to try to create a rapport with your server is to be friendly and conversational. Once we’ve talked for a few minutes, it will be much easier for me to gauge if you’re joking, and we’ll all have a nicer time.

4. Speak Clearly

Bars are loud! SO LOUD. And you don’t really want to talk to me. I get that. You want to talk to your cute date. But waving your hand in my face while staring at the table to get me to leave is not going to be effective. Whispering is also not–I will just lean in and ask you to repeat yourself until I get your order right. The other thing that doesn’t really work, is saying random, vague words.

For instance, “we’re all set.” This phrase can mean any number of things, but in general, servers take it to mean two things: 1) at the beginning of the night when you’ve just sat down and looked at your menus, it means that you are ready to order, and 2) at the end of the night when I’ve been back to your table three or four times to see if you want anything else, it means you are now done drinking and would like the bill. What it does NOT mean at the end of the night is that you’re fine for now but may order more things later. Nor does it mean that you are done with one of your food items but would like to keep the other. You are confusing me; just tell me what you want!

The other commonly used vague phrase is “for now.” I don’t understand this at all, but customers seem to like to attach the phrase, “for now” to the ends of sentences liberally, throughout the night, for no reason. What I generally interpret “we’re good for now” to mean is  that you would not like anything further at the moment, however you will be ordering more at some point today. However, the number of people who have been annoyed at me for not bringing the bill after this statement is about equal to the number of people who have been annoyed at me for bringing the bill after this statement. WHAT DO YOU WANT? If you want the bill, ask for it. If you are going to drink more, say “I am going to get more in a while.”

Basically, speak complete sentences in an audible tone to me while looking at me and I will be yours forever.

5. Don’t Call Me Honey

I’m not your sister, your daughter, or your girlfriend. I am not even your potential girlfriend. I am not even a girl who is going to become your friend. If we are not good friends, pet names are condescending. Period. I call you sir, ma’am, or miss, because that is respectful. I have a name–you can ask that, and call me by it, or you can return the favor of being polite and call me miss right back.


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