Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Customers From Hell

By Noah Masterson

OCTOBER 5, 1998:  We've all been there. Hardly anyone escapes serving time in the restaurant business. Some masochists even enjoy it. During my days in food service, we used to have a saying: "If it weren't for all the customers, this job wouldn't be so bad." Customers are the driving force behind any business, and most of the time they behave themselves. But sometimes customers are sniveling, petulant little monsters who make ridiculous demands and fly off the handle at the slightest perceived imperfections. Despite what you may have been led to believe, the customer is not always right. When Weekly Alibi approached a handful of local food service workers about customers from hell, all had tales to tell. For fear of losing their jobs, however, the juiciest stories were told strictly off the record. Still, with the help of a few beers and menacing glares, we weaseled enough information to compile the following. Enjoy, and respect your server.

Carrie N. Lossing, waitress,
Martini Grille

If you've ever bar-hopped Downtown Albuquerque, Carrie has probably served you a drink. She worked at Rio Bravo, Time Out and the Dingo Bar before arriving at her current stint at Martini Grille. In addition to the pet peeves she was kind enough to list, she related a great story that took place at the Dingo. The story involved 10 frat-type guys who arrived together and immediately got rowdy. The rowdiness turned into a fist fight, which moved outside onto Gold Street. The police arrived and cuffed all the brawlers. Soon thereafter they were all released. Turns out one of the brawlers was a cop. And now for Carrie N. Lossing's list o' pet peeves:

  • People who assume my name is "baby."
  • People who think a 20 percent tip applies only to the first beer.
  • Snapping fingers and whistling.
  • Cheesy pickup lines.
  • Trying to get one last drink after being cut off.
  • Telling me I'm tall. (Carrie is well over six feet, but doesn't need to be told.)

Megan Kimball, line cook,
Il Vicino

Megan Kimball prepares salads at Il Vicino and is full of gripes about customers. Like most of the participants in this survey, however, she didn't want to name names. Her horror stories run the gamut from the time she was accused of smelling a customer's food to customers who routinely request enough free extras (extra lettuce, extra dressing, extra croutons) to construct an entirely separate dish. Megan took a philosophical approach to customer service in a diatribe entitled "Postulates of an Inconsiderate Customer." It is as follows:

  1. One who over-assumes the boundaries of the idea that the customer is always right. When this concept becomes abused to the point that a customer deserves endless amounts of attention and specialization, the server/customer relationship is destroyed. Service is not slavery. End of story.

  2. Secondly, a poor customer is one who fails to realize servers to be human--equal. When a server is belittled or treated as a machine--or an idiot--the service relationship is once again compromised.

Ben Emerson and Patrick Kelly, chefs,
Gold Street Caffe

Ben Emerson and Patrick Kelly work mostly behind the scenes now (Ben still waits tables on special occasions), but both have served plenty of time in customer service hell. Ben's favorite hellish customer was a guy not unlike Jack Nicholson's obsessive/compulsive character in As Good As it Gets. On every visit this customer would send his coffee back, stating that he wanted it in a glass or, if it was served in a glass, that he wanted it in a mug. The process would continue through several rotations, but the guy always went with the mug in the end.

Patrick, who previously worked at Metropolitan Grill, chimed in with a tale of two "Frenchies," as he called them. "Never be nice to these guys," he said. "Be completely rude. Ignore them. Because they won't tip." In this particular circumstance, the two, um, French persons rang up a $120 ticket and left a paltry $4.20 tip. To make matters worse, state law requires that service workers be taxed on a percentage of what waiters should be tipped--14 percent is the figure used--not what they are actually tipped. Tip 20 percent next time, to make up for jerks like this.

Levi Wooley, waiter,
Souper Salad

As a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet, Souper Salad presents a unique set of problems to its staff. Levi Wooley is tired of customers who think that, just because they are serving themselves, they are entitled to be utter slobs. On more than one occasion, he has been forced to reprimand slovenly pigs who try to drink from the soup ladle, lick the butter spoon or use the same set of tongs for every item on the buffet. One regular customer spends the $4 fee and eats nothing but watermelon. But that's just kind of weird. In addition to being a waiter at Souper Salad, Levi is single and a Scorpio.

Jaime Dahms, counter server,
Fred's Bread & Bagel

Jaime doesn't have many complaints about Fred's. Most agree that, as food service jobs go, Fred's is a cool place to work. Of course, there are those open mic nights on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Those stoned-out folkies and kids reciting Cure lyrics could drive a rational person insane--but Jaime isn't one to bitch. Jaime used to work at the now-defunct Congress Rotisserie, however, and she can't get in trouble for complaining about her job there. Congress Rotisserie had a contract with the University of New Mexico. According to Jaime, on a regular basis, the entire Lobo basketball team would come in to eat, and UNM would foot the bill. Knowing that they were getting a free meal, those towering, gawkish athletes would gorge--requesting all kinds of extras that were not covered in the contract and never leaving a tip. Quite possibly, they ate the place out of business. Now Jaime works at Fred's, and she's much happier.

Krissy Conine, counter server,
Emack & Bolio

When the Beach Zone--a snowboard and skate shop--got ousted by the notorious Bataan Park Walgreens and relocated to its presents location, the clientele at Emack & Bolio changed. See, the new Beach Zone is only accessible through Emack & Bolio, so the little ice cream shop is always rife with skaters, snowboarders and others who, as was the hip slang 10 years ago, like to "shred." Krissy Conine insists that "most of the kids are really nice." Still, 13-year-old kids swearing like Dennis Hopper and doing skate tricks in front of the store have a habit of scaring off pedestrians who might otherwise stop in for an ice cream cone on a sunny day. Krissy's other gripe is about the customers who think they're in Baskin-Robbins. They stare at the buckets of ice cream, searching for the names of the flavors, while Krissy points frantically at the menu behind her. Then they ask for chocolate chip cookie dough, which ain't on the menu.

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