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Chatty Waiter

Last Friday I met two girlfriends at a local restaurant for a late dinner. It’s a small, rustic restaurant with high Zagat ratings and a stellar local reputation. The restaurant only seats about 25 people and the dining room is small, about the size of an average living area in a home.

One of my friends had let us know she’d be late, as she had gotten hung up at work. We informed our server that we were waiting for a friend (the restaurant was not busy; if people had been waiting for tables we’d have left until our friend could meet us). We drank tea and chatted. Our server checked in with us frequently, filling our tea glasses, asking if we wanted an appetizer or something while we waited. Eventually he began to joke with us that he was starting to wonder if our friend existed. When she finally was able to join us, he made the same joke to her. We laughed, settled in to order and enjoy our meal.

The station where servers wrapped silverware was directly behind our table. We had a great dinner and good conversation, except for one thing…our server kept joining in our conversation. He was wrapping silverware for the next day’s service (it was getting a bit late by this time) and he kept interjecting comments into our conversation.

I always felt that it was implicit that servers sort of pretend not to overhear the conversations of their customers, even though obviously they do. To have it so blatantly demonstrated that he was listening in to our conversation was a little disconcerting. Perhaps we were overly familiar earlier, before our third friend arrived, so he felt this was appropriate? I felt a little uncomfortable with it. My friends didn’t give any sign of minding, so I said nothing.

He was a good server in all other respects. I wonder now how I might have addressed this, or if I’m just overreacting. 0723-12


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rmmuir July 29, 2012, 6:10 pm

    Just pointing out a slight discrepancy with what you’ve advised. I hunk you said that the OP should have wrapped things up after an hour and a half, and then said that it was unfair to leave other patrons only an hour, hour and a half to eat their meals by the time they had left. Have I mis-read?

    We once had a waiter sit down at our table to take our order which I felt was a bit weird. But no harm done!

  • Angel July 30, 2012, 7:56 am

    I said they should start wrapping things up after an hour and a half, meaning eating their dessert, having coffee by that point. Which generally takes about 15-20 minutes–so about 2 hours. Leaving other patrons only about an hour or so to eat is not fair to them–what if they too wanted coffee or dessert?

    Even after the update I still stand by what I said. If one of your party members is half an hour late, it means that the meal will just be cut short for the late arriving member. It’s not even about turning the table so the server can make tip $, it has to do with common courtesy. The only place I would think that it’s acceptable to linger would be a coffee shop where you see people having coffee and eating pastry for a couple hours at a time. If one of my party members arrives late, we usually have dinner there and go to a Starbucks or something for dessert. This way you don’t feel so rushed. And also, if the OP was so offended that the waiter was listening in on her conversation, why didn’t they simply leave without having dessert? Hmmmm….

  • Enna July 30, 2012, 11:26 am

    @ Lori, you say the resturant wasn’t that busy and if it had been you would have come back later, maybe the waiter was a bit bored? ONe poster has already suggested that he might have bene hoping for someone’s number. Maybe he thought because you were chatty to him, he could be chatty back? Half an hour is a long time to wait and provided the resturant didn’t get busy whilst you were there maybe he just wanted to wrap things up after a long shift? I don’t think he was rude the way some servers can be but maybe on the verge of being rude but if you and your firends are firendly to him he may have misunderstood and was trying to be chatty back – he might have thought “these are nice p0lite customers, hope they come again.”

  • Sara E. August 7, 2012, 11:39 pm

    Rmmuir- I had a waiter do that at Applebee’s once. It was actually very pleasant, and he was very friendly and flirtatious. He got a good tip, if I recall.
    I don’t mind open and friendly waiters. I think I would only have a problem if he was saying something inappropriate. When you’re in a public place, do not expect privacy.

  • Timelady August 18, 2012, 6:05 pm

    @green123 – I’m British too, and have been a waitress for numerous years on-and-off. We get basic, minimum wage, which (unless you’re lucky enough to have a large amount of hours) really isn’t “living wage” when you factor in tax, NI and all that delightful malarky. Also, I was always taught that a 10% tip is polite, and any more is up to you and how you felt your service was.

    Personally, I don’t think the waiter in this case was overstepping – if the OP and her friends had been chatty and friendly with him initially, it’s likely he just assumed that it was all fine and dandy to continue the theme. I’m in agreement with those who think a lighthearted “girl talk now!” sort of response would be appropriate if OP should find herself in a similar situation.

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