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The Blabby Waiter

I took my mother out to a local chain restaurant tonight. We both like the food and we’ve been there before and never had any issues with the service. So this story is not about our waiter but the waiter at the booth behind us. He’s apparently a talker and likes to share personal stories with his customers. Not a problem, a lot of people like the personal touch. I personally don’t need to know my waiters’ life story, I only care about courteous service and getting what I order.  However, this gentleman was a sharer, as I mentioned. He was also loud, which is how I can relate the following.

He was telling his new customers stories about his children before they ordered. One of them got steak so when he delivered the food he began to tell a story about how he had one customer who ordered a steak done in a particular way that apparently he thought was incorrect, so when he delivered that customers’ steak he made a joke about their preference. That customer did not think it was funny, so he bragged that when the customer brandished their steak knife at him he went back into the kitchen and told the restaurant owner that he had an upset customer. The restaurant owner talked to the customer and then told the waiter that the customer was getting a free meal. The owner also had another waiter take over that table and told this waiter to stay in the kitchen until the customer left.

This waiters’ current customers apparently responded that they didn’t understand what was so upsetting about the joke he told. Encouraged, he went on to tell another story about another customer that he did basically the same thing to, including the owner having to give that customer a free meal as well. Then he went on to say that his personal philosophy was that he didn’t like stupidity or people with no sense of humor so his preferred method was to mock that person so that the other people seated with that person laughed at them.

My mother and I were shocked and appalled at this point and left. All the way home my mother talked about how inappropriate that behavior was. I only marvel that the waiter is still employed. How many free meals does the owner have to give out on that waiters’ behalf before he tells the waiter that he shouldn’t talk to customers like that? And the whole time he was talking his current customers were eating and being forced to listen when they should have been able to talk to each other. I wonder if they tipped him? 0411-11

I really dislike waitstaff who interact with me, the customer, in what I describe as a faux  friendly intimacy.  It tends to lubricate their mouths excessively and I am sometimes placed in an awkward situation where my food is staring at me invitingly but I have to pretend to listen to a chatty waiter who won’t leave me in peace to eat it.  I nod and don’t look directly at him or her while concentrating on the food before me in order  to send those lovely non-verbal signals that any normal person would understand to mean, “I’m busy.  Go away.”

And just a hint to other blabby waitstaff, if I and my husband are eating and leaning into each other across the table to talk with each other, that is a certain non-verbal clue that we really don’t want you interjecting into the conversation every 3 minutes asking us how the food is or telling me some story about your life.

{ 70 comments… add one }
  • Lynne April 11, 2011, 11:12 pm


    You may not be a morning person, and you may be a shy person, but I have to agree that it’s rude to never verbally acknowledge someone who sees and greets you every day, in their professional capacity. You don’t have to stop and chit chat, but a simple “hello” to the person who staffs the desk where you sign in every day, is a basic human courtesy — not a “personal preference” — which you, as a professional, should be able to muster.

    It does sound like the manner in which he chose to bring this to your attention was invasive and inappropriate, though.

  • Zhoen April 11, 2011, 11:41 pm

    I stand by mostly instead of perfectly. If the meat has been mishandled, contaminated with salmonella for instance, raw is certainly not ‘perfectly’ safe.

    As for BSE, “The disease may be most easily transmitted to human beings by eating food contaminated with the brain or spinal cord or digestive tract of infected carcasses. However, it should also be noted that the infectious agent, although most highly concentrated in nervous tissue, can be found in virtually all tissues throughout the body, including blood.”

    Admittedly from Wikipedia, but this was my understanding when I offered the “mostly” instead of the “perfectly.” Know that it is a risk, even if you consider it an acceptable one.

  • Claire April 12, 2011, 3:20 am

    What a rude waiter!

    It’s so different here in England as tips are optional and waiting staff get a reasonable (ish) wage up front. “Optional Service charge” of 10% or 15% may be added into the final bill before presenting to the customer if its a large dining party. Of course then you have the risk that the staff don’t *have* to be as pleasant, as it takes considerable nerve to remove the service charges……
    I have visited the US on a number of occasions and have always felt the level of “customer service” there is excessive and doesn’t ring true, as the end result is more money for the person offering better service…. I prefer a simple and polite “May I help you?” then to be left alone if the answer is in the negative. Sadly the style of excessive attention is seeping into service over here too and its overwhelming to a person who prefers to shop or eat in peace!

    Incidentally I adore rare steak, and even steak tartare, as do most of my friends however my mother and most of her generation prefer it well done, it seems to be an older generation preference. The Op doesn’t state but I would assume that ordering well done steak would be more likely to cause question than rare.

  • Claire April 12, 2011, 3:32 am

    and I should add, I truly sympathise with the waiting staff who are forced into “false friendships” at the direction of their management or to actually have some income left after the taxman calls. Just that the style of service doesn’t suit me and I am glad it isn’t so prevalent here (yet).

  • Enna April 12, 2011, 3:50 am

    Surely the waiter/ess has other people to servce as well? It’s one thing if the waitstaff knows you and you know them having a little 30 second chat but this man is a bit odd. I’m a Type One Diabetic so have to inject before meals, – people don’t notice that I’m doing it in a restuant because I do it in my tummy and I use my handbag/coat for discression (just in case anyone is needle phobic). One waiter was putting my meal infront of me, saw me inject and said “I’ve got one of those!” I was suprised but it didn’t bother me – if I had a problem with my blood sugars they’d be able to help me.

  • Bint April 12, 2011, 3:59 am

    “We’d like to just enjoy our meal, thanks.” Or “We’d like to enjoy our meal in peace, thanks.” Failing that, “please could you leave us alone.”

    I don’t want a chatty waiter. It isn’t good service when I clearly don’t like it, and it’s going to reduce the tip. I’ve had a chatty waiter and just found it obnoxious. Please do your job and know your boundaries. And I’ve been a waitress myself, so I know the job can be hard etc (although frankly, I’ve had far, far harder jobs than that that paid worse).

    Frankly if I had a negative comment from the waiter on my food choices I’d tell him I wasn’t interested in his personal opinion.

    Good service = John Lewis. I love that place.

  • Anonymous April 12, 2011, 6:45 am

    This is why I don’t really like to eat out, at least not at sit-down restaurants. Why? Because, I’d rather eat in the comfort of my own home, where no one’s going to judge me for my “weird” food preferences–for example, I put tons of pepper on pretty much everything, with the obvious exception of sweet foods. If I went to a restaurant, people would comment on that. At home, when it’s my food, my pepper, and my hands doing the cooking, nobody says a word. Places like Subway/Pita Pit/sushi/kebab stands/veggie dogs from a cart/anything that’s “grab and go” are fine too, because I can get my food, pay, and that’s that–no more interaction necessary. I know I must sound like a horribly rude or socially stunted person, but I’m not–I’m capable of negotiating a sit-down restaurant, I just enjoy my food more when I’m in control of my dining experience, and not some stranger.

  • Maryann April 12, 2011, 7:39 am

    Had a weird experience recently that reminds me a bit of this one. I was in a fast food joint and one of the senior employees, possibly a manager or supervisor, began a *very* loud and lengthy conversation with another patron (who was in the booth right in front of me), in which he complained about everything from the price of gas to politics. He and the patron happened to have politics with which I do not agree, which lead me to wonder, why would anyone have a conversation like this in their restaurant? The volume was truly obnoxious and the content increasingly alienating to me. If I’m in there and he does this again, I believe I’ll have to ask him to keep his conversation more private.

  • ferretrick April 12, 2011, 7:44 am

    @Maitri-It’s pretty pathetic that you can’t muster the civility to return a simple greeting. You don’t have to engage in conversation, but you can muster “hi” or “I’m well, thanks, how are you?” Two minutes of your time to acknowledge the existence of another human being. Not hard. I have no doubt your attitude impedes you in your career. No doubt the security guard concluded you think you are too good to talk to the help, and he’s probably not the only one.

  • samihami April 12, 2011, 8:09 am

    Maitri, there is a huge difference between and intrusive waiter and a common courtesy. Saying good morning is a simple common courtesy, and I don’t understand why you take issue with it.

  • Cat April 12, 2011, 9:52 am

    Reminds me of a restaurant a friend and I patronized. Wait staff was fine but the owner came over every five minutes to ask if the food was all right. He did it so often that we began to wonder if we should ask what he thought might be wrong with it. We didn’t. We were afraid he’d tell us.

    There is a famous restaurant in West Palm Beach where, many years ago, the owner would visit tables. He wore a sterling silver fork on a chain about his neck. He’d come over and use his fork to take a bite of your food. If it did not meet his standards, (never mind if you liked it) he would take your plate back to the kitchen and have it redone so that he was satisfied. I wish I could have seen that!

  • Asharah April 12, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Anyone taking a bite of my dinner without my express permission and trying to take it back to the kitchen to be redone might regret their actions. Especially if I’m in starving wolf mode.

  • RP April 12, 2011, 3:03 pm

    @Maitri – I hope you don’t have screaming security guards at your current job. If you still worked there I’d advise you to bring it up with HR. He has no business trying to blow out someone’s ear drums just because you aren’t cheery and vocal in the morning.

    Of course, you could always just start telling people how crappy your morning commute is and how it puts you in a bad mood if they insist on you saying something. If they don’t want to hear it then they’ll stop asking.

  • acr April 12, 2011, 4:58 pm

    A group of friends and I (we were all female, and I wondered if that had anything to do with it) were served by a VERY chatty waiter at a Chinese restaurant. Donald Trump had recently been in the news for something, and this guy kept going on about how in China, a guy who declared bankruptcy would have no money, but somehow Donald Trump still had lots of money. We’re being minimally polite, nodding and mumbling and trying to eat. Every time we interacted with him, it was a conversation – when we ordered, when we got out food, when he refilled our drinks. I called the restaurant on the way home and complained about it. The lady I talked to said that he did that all the time, and that I should just tell him to be quiet.

    My cousin is one of those people who LOVES to chat with waiters, especially if they are from another country. I once told her I was NEVER eating sushi with her again, b/c I just wanted to eat my food and not listen to her grill the waiter. I do not care about the waiter’s name, hometown or family.

  • Library Diva April 14, 2011, 12:35 pm

    Worst server experience I ever had was when the Rainforest Cafe first opened at Disneyworld. We went there for lunch. It took us close to 20 minutes for our party of four to order. Why? Because our waitress would not. stop. TALKING. she got us with the simple “have you been here before?” When we admitted we had not, she had to tell us what she thought was good in great detail, what she ordered when she came there on her day off, what her friends ordered. She talked my mother out of what she’d initially ordered by making her think it was going to be too garlicky and into a dish that my mother didn’t actually enjoy. I avoid that place when I go to Disney because of that one experience.

    It’s nice when the servers are friendly. At a now-closed IHOP where my boyfriend and I were regulars, we got to know several of them, they’d chat with us a lot, they’d start putting our order in the minute they saw us. Occasionally, they would even ‘forget’ to charge us for various items because we were always nice and always tipped well at an hour when it was mostly belligerant drunks. The place has been closed for almost a year now, and I still think about those guys, and hope they are well.

  • D April 17, 2011, 4:17 pm

    After reading this I’m glad I’m not a waitress, it seems like you can never please anyone

  • Anne April 21, 2011, 12:42 am

    The waiter in the OP reminds me so much of the tall tale tellers my family seems to attract! We ask ourselves, how can a waiter keep his job if he costs the restaurant free meals? Probably because he never actually did. His poor audience listens agog as he tell of his friendly joke taken wrong, the angry patron, the “well-deserved” put-down, the outraged customer, and the happy ending with the grand gesture of a free meal. Even those who unwillingly overhear his harrowing tale hang onto every detail and pass it on to their friends. He likes to talk, and knows he is making a big impression.

  • J May 3, 2011, 4:07 am

    I’ve only been subjected to servers who went beyond the norm twice. Once, I was dining out at a Cheddar’s with my uncle. My uncle is in his early 50’s, but can easily pass for 30: no gray at all, not a single wrinkle, and dashing good looks. I am in my late 20’s. This uncle helped my mother raise me after my parents divorced, and I consider him like a father. However, I look nothing like him (he is olive-complected with black hair, I am fairly pale with dark blonde-to-light brown hair) and many people in public assume we are dating or married. On this day, our waitress (about 25, busty, bubbly) came up to the table, looked at my uncle, looked me up and down and said, “well, you certainly must feel fortunate.” It didn’t occur to us what she meant at the time. Through the whole meal she kept leaning further and further into my uncle’s side of the booth when she spoke. I also noticed about halfway through the meal that she had undone more buttons on her blouse and it was nearly indecent. Toward the end, she spoke only to him and gave me the back of her head. She asked only him if his food was all right and refilled only his drink. I had to ask another passing server to refill my glass. When we had finished eating, my uncle had cleaned his plate and I had eaten everything but the skin of my baked potato. The waitress excitedly reached out and gripped my uncle’s upper arm with both hands exclaiming, “oh! You have a happy plate!” My uncle, very uncomfortable and trying to distract the waitress and dislodge his arm, pointed to me and said, “yes, we were both hungry.” The waitress turned to me, scowled, and said, “you don’t have a happy plate. Just as well, you really don’t need all of those carbs.” She finally wandered off and we paid and got the heck out of dodge. The strangest and most discomforting dinner I can ever remember.

    Another time I was at an Olive Garden with my mother. If you’ve been to this particular restaurant, you know it is sectioned off into 4 or 5 areas and one is difficult to see from another. I actually worked as a hostess in a restaurant with a similar layout, and we were advised to never give a server two tables in two different sections. Anyway, our waiter approached the table and was polite, if subdued. While bringing our drinks and taking our order he seemed very quiet and disheartened. When he brought our meals it was obvious from his red-rimmed eyes and tear tracks that he had been crying. I gently asked if he was all right and if we could help him. He was embarrassed that we could tell he was upset and apologized profusely. He confessed that he had been given tables in two different sections, making it impossible for him to watch both at once. One of his tables had dined-and-dashed and the manager had informed him that the rather large tab would be taken out of his paycheck. From that point on, he made an obvious effort to be more upbeat, and was simply a very nice guy who gave very good service. My mom and I made a point to each have an appetizer, entree, dessert, and I had two glasses of one of the more expensive wines. We paid in cash left on the table, tipping him 100% and leaving a note on a paper drink napkin that we hoped it helped at least a bit.

    Two stories of “sharing” servers with completely different outcomes!

  • Lucy May 11, 2011, 2:53 pm

    One of the worst violators is Old Country Buffet where waiters will sit at your table and force their friendship on you. If you don’t like it, they will bully you and make you a mark until they get you thrown out of the restaurant. It’s so incredibly bad. They have nothing to do but clear your plates in a self-serving buffet arrangement, so they try to drum up tips by becoming your friend.

    I refuse to dine in an establishment with chatty waiters. Recently a waiter at an upscale establishment began to ask me intrusive questions and got overly familiar since he recognized my space. I told that I wished he would respect my privacy. Incredible. The next time, he went out of his way to be courteous, gracious, and professional.

    I can just imagine a similar exchange at OCB — and the waiter, most of whom are retards there or otherwise have some social dysfunction, would burst out crying or plot his revenge for being “rejected.”

    Good waiters should be professional, efficient, and responsive — and should be able to judge whether an effusive interaction is welcomed or not and act accordingly. To avoid chatty wait staff, frequent upscale restaurants, who are better trained and paid and understand what it means to be professional.

  • Calli Arcale May 18, 2011, 3:26 pm

    Lucy – in my part of the country, waiters at Old Country Buffet do not generally receive tips, because in this part of the country, the custom is that if you pay up front (and at OCB you do, at least around here), there is no real expectation of tipping. (You can still tip, but it’s not expected.) This may be why when I’ve gone to OCB, the staff have been courteous but not ingratiating — they have nothing to gain by spending extra time with me. I have never met any who were developmentally delayed or had a social dysfunction, other than some of them having less fluent English than others. (Buffets are frequent places of employment for immigrants around here, as verbal interaction is minimal at such places around here, beyond the cashier, who generally speaks fluent English so as to answer questions and things.) So this may be a regional thing. I know it’s completely different from my experience here in Minnesota.

    I agree wholeheartedly that a good waiter is professional, efficient, responsive, and can judge when to be intrusive and when not. An overly intrusive one will not get much of a tip from me. They should have an uncanny gift for refilling glasses *just* before you ask for a refill, and be able to sense just what sort of interaction the customer is comfortable with and be able to meet it. This is not easy, and I greatly admire the ones who do it. Waiting tables is a very hard job, and to do it right is as much of an art as working the kitchen is. The best ones I’ve ever seen were at the hotel where I had my wedding reception. They performed absolutely flawlessly. It may have been because it was a Sofitel which is used as a sort of training hotel by the chain — most of the staff were actually French citizens doing rotations there to improve their skills and get a bit of English immersion, which implies a significant dedication to the career.

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