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The Hungry Drama Queens Were Roaring….Don’t Feed The Drama Queens

I was eating by myself at a chain Italian restaurant. It was about 7pm on a Saturday night so the restaurant is packed and the servers are running hard to make sure everyone has what they need.

Shortly after I was seated, a family of six were seated at a table next to mine.
It looked like a pair of grandparents, a pair of parents, and two middle school aged kids.

Since we’re in the same section, we have the same server.
From the start this family was running the poor server ragged.

Server: “Welcome to Italian Place. My name is Server. Can I start you off with a sample of…”

Father: “Coke!”

And the rest of them chime in with their drink orders without ever looking up or acknowledging the server as a human being.

The server brought their drinks and started taking their orders. All six of them ordered an appetizer and an entrée each. And by the time the server was done taking their orders the dad had finished his coke and demanded “Where’s my refill?”

This family complained the entire time.

“There aren’t enough olives in the salad!”

“I want more dressing!”

“Where’s the marinara and alfredo dipping sauce for the breadsticks??!!!??!!” (Side note: they hadn’t ordered any dipping sauces for the breadsticks. Which explains why none had been brought.)
“We need more cheese on this salad!”

“More breadsticks!”

And every time the server went dashing off to get a new item for them, one of them would suck down their drink and complain when the server brought them what they asked for.

“How hard is it to keep our drinks topped off? This is terrible service!”

The server ended up bringing them two drinks each to try and reduce the number of times he had to run back and forth.

The sever offered to get his manager for them multiple times and the dad always declined with a “I don’t want to see the manager, I want you to do your job!”

They had complaints about every one of their entrees.

“This chicken alfredo is dry. Why are they so stingy with the sauce! I want more sauce!”

“I need more cheese on mine!”

“This looks sloppy! Why did they plate it so sloppy?”

For all of their complaints, they demolished all of the appetizers and all of the entrees.

Then each of them ordered their own dessert.

Side note: As a Fatty McFatterson myself, I am NOT judging them for the amount of food they consumed. People should be able to eat as much or as little as they choose without comment or judgment. Mostly I’m making note of this for two reasons:

1) How expensive the bill must have been

2) The fact that in spite of all their complaints about how horrible the food was they ate every bit of it. I don’t know about you, but if my chicken parmesan actually tasted “like cat food” I don’t think I’d be able to eat every single bite of it and wipe up all the sauce with even more breadsticks.

The server drops off all their desserts. Again with complaints:

“This looks smaller than I remember! Why is this slice so small?”

“Where’s my coffee? How am I supposed to eat cake without a cup of coffee?” (Side note: she didn’t order any coffee when she ordered the dessert. And she’d been drinking soda all night so it wasn’t like her normal drink was empty.)

“This cheesecake seems really cold. Has it been defrosted? I’m not eating frozen cheesecake!”

The server rushes off to do their bidding again, at this point the poor kid has probably completed a marathon just in the steps he’s taken between this table and the kitchen and back.

The manager has finally made it over to this part of the dining room doing her normal “How’d everything going tonight” check.

She makes it to this six top and the dad lets loose a tirade:

“Terrible! This is the worst experience we’ve ever had in a restaurant! The food was inedible! Our waiter keeps disappearing! None of us can get a refill of our drink! He refused to fix what was wrong with our food! He refused to get a manager when we asked for one! Our night out has been ruined!”

And here, dear EHell readers, is where I may have stepped over the line.

I have been a server before.

And I watched this server run around like a dog for these people. I watched him give truly outstanding service to a table that made it clear from the beginning that there would be no appeasing them. Then I watched this dad lie to the manager’s face about it.

So I opened my mouth and piped up with, “That’s not true. The server has brought them extra of everything they asked for and he’s been running back and forth bringing them refills all night. He also offered to get them manager for them several times and was told they don’t want a manager.”

The dad leapt up from his seat, knocking his chair over, and unleashed a profanity filled screed like I’ve never heard before. “Shut up you fat b-word! You don’t know what you’re f-word-ing talking about!… (Lots of incoherent whirlgarble, lots of curse words, more screaming…) Get your stuff! We’re leaving! I’ve never been so disrespected in my life!”

This guy’s family all grabs their stuff and heads off. The manager steps in front of the dad. She says “Sir, you haven’t paid your bill. If you leave now I’ll be forced to call the police.”

The dad grabs his wallet, pulls out a single dollar bill, throws it on the table with, “That’s all this meal was worth! There you go!”,  stomps around the other side of the table slamming the chairs in so he can squeeze by, and stomps out of the restaurant.

The server starts apologizing to the manager. The manager tells him not to worry about it.

I apologized to the manager for opening my big mouth, since that’s what set this guy off into full blown tantrum mode. And I try to explain that I just couldn’t stand seeing the sever get in trouble after he worked so hard trying to make the table happy.

The manager told me not to worry about it.

So, I’m asking you guys. Where is the line between polite spine and busybody?
I fear I might have crossed it here. I was just a bystander. It wasn’t my place to stand up for the server.
And by saying something I escalated the situation from unpleasant to full blown scene.
Should I have just kept my mouth shut? 1228-17

I would have waited until the family left the restaurant and then spoken with the manager about what I witnessed.   The red flags were already waving that this family were entitled narcissists.   People like this purposely create drama as a manipulative tool to avoid either paying for what they received or to get what they want.   That level of drama is proven tactic that exploits people’s desire to not have conflict.   Dad  created that much drama banking on the manager not wanting any MORE drama of calling police.   In other words, it likely was a scam to avoid paying for the meal.

{ 77 comments }

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  • SS February 6, 2018, 12:31 am

    I absolutely would not have spoken up. I would not have waited until the people left because they should not be rewarded for their behavior by getting free food. The manager should have left after them and gotten their license plate number and called the police for a dine-and-dash.

    • Kate 2 February 6, 2018, 12:07 pm

      But if OP hadn’t spoken up, they would have gotten free food *anyway* based on their complaints. It would have been server’s word against theirs, so manager would have had to comp their food.

      • staceyizme February 7, 2018, 10:58 am

        I think that your point is well made and would apply in many situations. However, the physical reality of their VERY many, VERY empty plates would be hard to controvert. Police call it is, then….

  • SS February 6, 2018, 12:32 am

    Ack! typo… I absolutely WOULD HAVE spoken up.

    • K February 6, 2018, 10:50 am

      Agreed… the dine-and-dash was the plan from the beginning. If OP hadn’t spoken up, Dad would have found some other excuse to blow up and leave. The entire drama was calculated to get free food.

      So no, I don’t think OP “caused” anything by speaking up. It was going to happen one way or the other, and standing up for the server was the right thing to do.

    • Kate 2 February 6, 2018, 12:07 pm

      Oops, didn’t see your edit. I agree about speaking up being the right thing to do.

  • NostalgicGal February 6, 2018, 12:57 am

    If I was that manager, I would have pressed the charges. You don’t engage the crazy though. That table I would have let the manager know about them if I was the server well before they got to dessert.

    As the next door diner, I would have stayed out of it, though maybe used my phone to record a bit and record the end for the restaurant to be able to press the charges. I agree totally the father was trying to scam for a comped meal!

    • staceyizme February 6, 2018, 12:22 pm

      Great idea about the phone! It does clarify the problem of how to establish what happened.

      • NostalgicGal February 8, 2018, 12:25 pm

        Just about everyone has a phone capable of recording video now… it’s hard if there’s a video to prove things, for someone like that to get away with it.

  • Rebecca February 6, 2018, 1:17 am

    Wow, amazing the whole family was in on this – ie the grandparents were complicit, and this is also how they are teaching their children to behave in a restaurant.

    • Anne February 6, 2018, 7:00 am

      My xSIL’s parents would take her and her sibs skiing to one of the local ski resorts and buy tickets only for the parents. The tow rope was free when buying a lift ticket. The kids would then sneak on the lifts (this is 30 years ago) until they were caught and sent down to the lodge to wait for the parents to come back. All of them knew that they were scamming and this was just one of many things, even now I don’t trust her an inch.

  • Saucygirl February 6, 2018, 6:16 am

    As a former server, I would have felt need to say something too. But I would have done it privately to the manager, before she ever even got to the table, as a kind of “heads up on this table and your server is awesome” type of thing. Then the manager goes in prepared to the table and it hopefully stays sane. Although since I agree this families end game was probably always to not pay, it’s doubtful it would have stayed sane. The joys of being a server!

    • CW February 6, 2018, 6:27 pm

      I was thinking the same thing. Flag the manager before they even get to that point and let him/her know that table will most likely complain to get comped.

      • phdeath February 7, 2018, 11:19 am

        Spot on. My husband used to be a server at a restaurant that had a reputation in our area for comping meals at the least complaint. Word got around, and they were flooded with guests who would rack up their bill, go on a tirade to management, get sycophantic apologies from management, and go on their merry way (leaving the server who devoted, often, at least two hours of service to them stiffed on a tip and reprimanded).

  • lkb February 6, 2018, 6:39 am

    Thank you, OP, for defending the server. If you think about it, the father — and by extension — the rest of the family — slandered and defamed the server who was trying his best to serve them. Everyone has the right to his/her own good name and this family was putting the server’s job at risk if the manager somehow had believed them.
    It took courage for the OP to speak up — kudos to you. If it had been me, I don’t know that I would have been so brave — though I like to think I would have tipped the server a bit extra, if possible, to make up for him being shorted by the family in question.
    I also think the Manager should have called police — the family committed theft.

    • NostalgicGal February 6, 2018, 10:20 am

      One place I worked at the police would have been called even though bringing the police in tended to make people shy away from coming in while they were there. Dad could scream all he wants. The fact they ate everything means it’s flat theft. One night late, I had six college age guys come in, order a lot and sneak out while one guy was in the bathroom. He had to pay for six meals or get turned over to the police and he could only pay for his own. The police took him away. I felt sorry for the guy but. I bet that dad didn’t have enough to pay for it on him, either.

      • Margo February 7, 2018, 10:26 am

        Do you know whether he refused to give the police the names of the other guys? I’m surprised that they would have arrested him if he paid for his own meal and provided them with the details of the guys who ran out on him.

      • staceyizme February 7, 2018, 11:01 am

        I think that’s sad, if he wasn’t really guilty of the “dash” part of dine and dash. The question would hinge on whether or not they asked the server for separate checks, in my view. If not, then yes, he’s on the hook for the whole table. If they DID ask for separate checks, then he’s only responsible for his portion (but the police may have let him off if he cooperated fully in disclosing the names of his table mates).

        • NostalgicGal February 8, 2018, 12:29 pm

          They ordered on one check. The guy went to the bathroom, the others peeled out and left, he came out and seen the others were gone and went back into the bathroom… he had to finally come out. I hope he gave over the names of the others. However he was the one left of the party and he couldn’t pay the tab so the police took him away. If I was that guy all of those others would have been permanent ex-friends.

  • Charliesmum February 6, 2018, 7:29 am

    I think not being in the heat of the moment it probably would have been wise to wait, but I think I’d have spoken up too, if I heard someone so blatantly lying like that. Also, had you waited, there probably would have been demands to be comped their meal, and the manager may well have given in. And then he’d be REALLY annoyed when he found out later they were scamming. So I think you did the right thing in the moment.

    I sure hope they have cctv or something so they can make sure that family doesn’t come back.

    • cleosia February 6, 2018, 9:10 am

      Oh, I think they’ll remember them!

    • Harry's Mom February 6, 2018, 2:00 pm

      This right here. Not being in the moment, it’s easy to armchair speculate, but bless OP’s heart for actually standing up in an uncomfortable situation and doing the right thing. That doesn’t happen much anymore, probably out of fear of retaliation, cell phones and social media posts, but I applaud OP and their courage to stand up in the face of evil.

  • Sammy February 6, 2018, 8:29 am

    You could not help the timing of the manager’s arrival, but you came to the defense of the server. It seems like this family has done this trick before. Otherwise, surely one of the other adults in that group would have felt obligated to pay their bill.

    Personally, I would have asked for the manager during the meal just to make a complaint against them for disturbing my meal (and abusing the server). If you were getting the same level of service, their audible complaints would have been justified. However, most dinners would have asked for a manager at some point if the service/food was that bad. Most dinners would also take into account how busy the restaurant is and if their server at least made a good effort. These people were just scammers.

  • Huh February 6, 2018, 8:46 am

    They were always going to make a scene, the fact that they all ordered an appetizer, main dish and dessert and complained loudly confirms that. I think they used you as their “reason” but it could have easily been anything the manager said, they were looking for a reason.

    Myself, I think I would have called the manager aside and told him what was going on and not said anything in front of the crazies.

  • Yet Another Laura February 6, 2018, 8:53 am

    Thank you for speaking up in the moment. The diner crossed the line over rude and into getting an innocent person into trouble. Instead of just being obnoxious to the server, he exploded all over the restaurant leaving witnesses for when the manager does call the police.

    For the record, I’d have opened my mouth, too, and at that time. Let the children of that horrible family see someone standing up for the put-upon, and learn that there are consequences for actions. Too many times, we are told to shut up, smile, and be nice when the bullies rampage around us. I’m old enough to be done with that nonsense. And I have spoken up in the moment before in a different situation.

  • ErindV February 6, 2018, 9:06 am

    This family was clearly prepared to cause a scene to get their food for free, whether the OP said anything or not. The way the OP handled the situation the family was at least called out on it to their faces which might give them a teensy bit of pause next time they attempt this gambit. If every time they try this some neighbouring patron speaks up eventually you’d think they stop doing this (or get arrested for theft). If nobody ever says anything to them they’ll just continue merrily along their way, scamming every restaurant in their path and getting every server without a good manager in trouble. Jerk customers are not unlike toddlers: giving in to keep them quiet only emboldens them.

  • Wildwind February 6, 2018, 9:19 am

    it is clear that the family never had any plans to pay for the foos, all their behavior was due to theirplans to scm the restaurant.

  • Lauren February 6, 2018, 9:53 am

    I’m glad you spoke up. I guess it would have been more prudent (like a lot of people commented) to wait and speak after they left, but I am getting older, and lately I have come to appreciate the social justice warriors who are willing to call these people out.

    Not only are these people inconveniencing the restaurant staff, but everyone around them. We all suffer when people are unable to behave in public. Personally, loud people like this make me tense, and there’s no way I would have enjoyed my meal listening to their idiocy.

  • Barbara Foster February 6, 2018, 9:54 am

    Yeah. This whole thing reeks of “we can eat out constantly, because we never actually pay for the food.”

    In a do-over, you might ask the waiter to bring the manager to your table to tell him confidentially what was going on, rather than confronting them directly. However, it’s hard to think up the best plan on the spot, so you did the best you could. And now, at least, the manager should be able to ban the family from a repeat episode, as well as keep him from thinking the server was really at fault.

    Unfortunately, people like this are so entitled that they actually do feel they’re in the right. It’s fortunate the incident didn’t escalate, because to them, you were trying to “steal” their free meal.

  • Yuchin Robb February 6, 2018, 10:01 am

    I agree with the admin that the OP should have waited until the family left the restaurant. I suspect the whole fit throwing plot was to get out of check scheme. Those patrons were over eating hoodlums.
    OP stepped up for the restaurant only to fall for the scam. My burning wish, I hope the manager could manage to get the family to pay the bill.
    My husband and I used to dine out with a couple, who almost always sent entrees back and made unfavorable comments on the food when asked by the servers.
    We were embarrassed and stopped dining out with them.
    However I would not voice my disagreement, just quietly increase our portion of the tip to the servers.

    • Yuchin Robb February 6, 2018, 10:10 am

      ETA:
      After discussing DH, who used to own a restaurant, about the situation and my burning question, DH doesn’t find OP at any fault for stepping up for the server, instead it is the manager’s fault to let the freeloaders of 6 left without getting the full bill cleared or calling the police to report or getting the license plate number to report afterwards.
      DH also thinks that those freeloaders must have done the same trick quite often to get out free dinners.

      • at work February 7, 2018, 5:42 pm

        After doing a little googling, I found that parties who run a server ragged with drink refills, order lots of appetizers, entrees and desserts and complain about it but eat it all, then claim the food and service were terrible and try to leave without paying are the number-one most frequent dine-and-dash offenders (as opposed to just sneaking out, say). They know what they’re doing and they have done it before, probably often! I also read that these parties usually include children. Gah!

        • Yuchin Robb February 8, 2018, 7:34 am

          That’s horrible. Can’t imagine how the children will feel to get involved. Personally, I will be embarrassed to be associated with the dashers, let alone being used as the props to further the scam.

  • Goldie February 6, 2018, 10:18 am

    Team scam here! Must be nice for a family of six to enjoy a dinner out for one dollar. I suspect that had been the plan all along.

    OP, I think you did the right thing by speaking up. Who knows, what if the server had gotten into trouble if it was not for you? Although I think the advice to have done it privately is good too, not even just for the etiquette reasons, but because this father could’ve decided to wait for you in the parking lot to continue the argument. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

  • Pame February 6, 2018, 10:26 am

    I probably would have waited for the manager to finish talking with the customer and then asked her to come my table for a moment and shared my insight privately. The manager would not have immediately comp the meal so you’d be able to provide her information that she could then determine how she wanted to handle the situation.

    It’s very obvious the family was scamming for a free meal.

  • DGS February 6, 2018, 10:30 am

    I probably would have been caught up in the moment and spoken up, but the right thing to do was to have spoken to the manager quietly, while the antics kept going on, rather than at the end of the meal. I empathize with the OP – I would have probably been caught up in a wave of anger and revulsion and would have wanted to take up for the poor beleaguered server, too. I agree that this was probably, a giant scam to try to get out of paying the bill. If I was the manager, I would have followed the family out to the parking lot and would have called their license in to the police for a dine-and-dash, although I can also see how the manager probably did not want to stir the pot further and create more drama.

  • Anon February 6, 2018, 10:35 am

    I highly doubt this would have ended with them paying even if OP didn’t speak up. The result would have been the same either, storming out (which I’m sorry, catch the license plate or something and send the police on them then) or the manager probably not realizing what was going on going “oh no I’m so sorry please let me comp this meal!” Sort of thing. It’s truly disgusting, and even more disgusting that they are teaching the kids to do this too.

    My only hope is that the kids get into a situation with their friends, and they do the same thing, and the friends don’t back them up on it and the kids from this family actually realize that it’s a terrible thing to do.

    I probably wouldn’t have spoken up (okay I probably would have, but quietly), but don’t feel bad OP for doing so. The family would have gotten out of paying one way or another, even without your intervention.

  • Livvy17 February 6, 2018, 10:39 am

    This is why tipping annoys me….because that poor server not only worked his tush off, but didn’t get a penny for doing so. Worse, depending on how the restaurant handles billing, he might actually wind up PAYING to serve them, if his tax calculations are based on billed amounts, as many restaurants’ payrolls are set up to do. Totally unfair.

    To the main point, I think OP was very brave to stand up to the bully in the hear of the moment. While it may have escalated the scene, letting these people get away with their behavior with ease would only ensure they continue to do it over and over again. I would hope that if more people called them out on their behavior, they might consider NOT committing theft via bullying. Maybe not etiquette, but perhaps a bit of justice?

  • at work February 6, 2018, 10:46 am

    I would have spoken up. Definitely. I’ve regretted not speaking up too many times and I’m too old to keep piling on new regrets. Mankind is my business (to quote Marley and Dickens, sort of)!

  • pennywit February 6, 2018, 10:48 am

    I would have gone a little more passive-aggressive. Unless the blowhard were out-and-out abusing the server, I’d probably have a quick word with the manager later, and maybe talk to the server and leave a generous tip.

    Part of the problem here is that if you step in here in a public way, there’s a very good chance (as we saw here) that you’ll simply escalate the situation.

  • JD February 6, 2018, 11:09 am

    I’m not confrontational, so I think I would have asked the server quietly if I could speak with the manager and let the manager know what was up. I think it was a scam, too, but this scam threatens the poor waiter’s job and gives him or her a horrible night; the manager definitely needed to hear from an eye/ear witness.
    And I’d have tipped that waiter really well.

  • Dyan February 6, 2018, 11:15 am

    GOOD for you for standing up for the server, trust me I have worked in retail for MANY years and would LOVE if someone would have stuck up for me..
    AND good you said it to the family..they should know they are horrible!!!

  • Melissa Wilcox February 6, 2018, 11:40 am

    As a former server, I definitely would have spoken up. I had a few groups like this, and I always gave my manager a “heads-up”. He was great about going to the table and letting them know that he was watching, and he always backed us up. These people obviously do this often. I would have called the cops. Thanks to the OP for defending the server. Many people just don’t want to get involved.

  • essie February 6, 2018, 11:47 am

    I would not have said it in front of the crazies, but I would let the manager know, probably by leaving my table and catching the manager out of earshot, or possibly calling the manager over to my table.

    My 20/20 hindsight says that, next time, it would seek out the manager earlier and say “the server (Kim) is working hard, they’re giving Kim a hard time, Kim’s offered to let them speak to you, but they keep declining, I’ve been a server and I think Kim needs help or relief.”

  • Devil's Advocate February 6, 2018, 11:56 am

    I would have spoken up. It would have galled me had the manager believed the dad and as a result comped their service or the like. I would have been tempted to record it, but I can’t imagine not standing up for the server in the moment. Doing otherwise seems cowardly. There is still hope for the kids—maybe this level of embarrassment and humiliation will snap them out of thinking behavior like this is okay.

  • staceyizme February 6, 2018, 12:19 pm

    This isn’t a case of etiquette so much as criminal conduct. Verbally harassing the waiter, being aggressive and intimidating, followed by leaving without paying the bill is all criminal conduct. I hope that the manager got the license plate and did, in fact, call the police. They stole from the restaurant, as evidenced by the fact that they ordered everything they could have wanted and ate every bit of it. Discounting the bill is always at the discretion of the establishment, NOT at the discretion of the consumer. (Especially if the consumer demolished their plate and subsequently complained.) And no, OP, I don’t think you went over the line at all. If I were the manager, I’d have DEFINITELY followed up with the police (and I might have stepped in dad’s space to see if meeting his aggression with confidence would make the bully back down. No guarantee that it would work out well, but if dad is dumb enough to swing, guess who is going to jail? Not the manager.) Finally, I do think that the manager failed to do their job. He (or she) should have been keeping an eye on things. The waiter should have alerted the manager to the complaints immediately because, for a restaurant, complaints can mean lost revenue. Having someone size up the situation sooner and intervene decisively might have mitigated or even prevented the outcome. OP could also have summoned the manager to complain of an unpleasant ambiance due to the utter incivility of the neighboring table, which is a discreet way of alerting the manager to the problem, as well. Sorry to be lengthy, but intervening at the earliest opportunity, decisively, confidently and with clarity is best for all parties.

  • Kay_L February 6, 2018, 1:28 pm

    I don’t think the OP escalated anything! Any normal person would have been shamed into silence. She simply provided the atmosphere for the people’s true nature to be revealed.

    As far as etiquette is concerned, I don’t know that it always obligates us to silence. If they were spouting racial epithets all night, no one would have put up with that and it would not have been as directly abusive to any human being as what they were doing.

    Having been unmasked, I would expect that they would never be allowed to dine there again, thus saving other patrons and in particular, the wait staff from ever having to deal with them in the future.

  • sandisadie February 6, 2018, 2:26 pm

    I would have spoken to the manager after the family left so that the server wouldn’t be held responsible for giving bad service. I’m sure that managers deal with this kind of thing more then you think. As one who had a family member marry into a family that committed crimes left and right because they believed that everything was theirs to take if it wasn’t nailed down, I’m not surprised these people got away with their crime. It’s a way of life for people like that.

  • kgg February 6, 2018, 2:58 pm

    It seems like the guy was depending on someone else interrupting so he could leave in a flourish without paying. It sounds like a scam.

    That said, there are some people who 100% refuse to be pleased with anything and will turn every. single. situation negative. Even if there’s no motivation to do so (like skipping out on a bill). I will never understand those people.

  • Purpose February 6, 2018, 3:01 pm

    If you have to ask yourself – and others – if you crossed the line, you did. You should have kept out of it, and spoken up after. What good did it serve, you getting into it? You speak disparagingly of yourself by calling yourself a ‘Fatty McFatterson’, thereby insinuating that they were also so? The way you apparently hung on every word and every action made at the table next time you, and the way you’ve relayed this story in such a dramatic way says you like a bit of drama yourself. I suspect you might have a general issue with staying out of things that aren’t your concern?

    • BugGurl February 7, 2018, 11:18 am

      Assume much? I don’t think that she insinuated that the food thieves were overweight; she merely pointed out that they ordered a ton of food, and that she wasn’t judging…many overweight people are silently (and not so silently) judged every time they put something in their mouths that’s not a rice cake, and she wanted to make it clear that the amount of food was relevant to the events that were unfolding and had nothing to do with physical appearance of the food thieves.

      From the activity going on at the table, which was *directly beside* the OP, it would be hard to imagine that she couldn’t see and hear everything that was going on, especially since she had the same server and was not having any of the “issues” that the food thieves were complaining about to the immediate vicinity.

      I suspect that you like to offer contrary opinions just for the sake of being contrary, based on the way you’ve stated your comment.

    • Nialla February 8, 2018, 1:51 am

      Well Purpose, it would be just as easy to say I suspect you’re the type of person who also scams restaurants and treats servers badly, considering how you’re defending these cretins. Bu that would be making wild assumptions, wouldn’t it?

  • Amberly February 6, 2018, 4:40 pm

    This was clearly a ploy to get a free meal for 6, complete with appetizers, desserts, and gallons of free drinks. OP, hats off to you. I think you were right to speak up, but you always run the risk of putting yourself in danger, because people are crazy these days. Sounds like the jerk still got away with free meals. I really wish the manager would have called the police.

  • mark February 6, 2018, 5:00 pm

    They were planning a scam the whole time. The OP just got in the middle of it. And the OP bears no blame for the egregious behavior of this family.

    Honestly the server should have long involved the manager on this. The restaurant could have already taken measures to be prepared to deal with this.

  • Shalamar February 6, 2018, 5:25 pm

    I’m guessing that the poor server was about to cry from having to deal with those jerks all night, not to mention being accused of refusing to get a manager. Therefore, I would have spoken up too, just to defend him.

  • Cat2 February 6, 2018, 5:39 pm

    Frankly, OP, drama was going to happen either way. Your way at least the poor server who could have ended up far worse off was defended in the moment when it probably actually mattered in terms of their employment.

    When asked who the hell I was, I hope I would have had the presence of mind to say “I’m the person who watched you eat every last bit of the food you ordered and the waiter answer ALL of your multiple demands.”

    Sometimes, having a bystander speak up is a powerful thing even if it is not quite “etiquette” correct.

  • Mames February 6, 2018, 6:16 pm

    I honestly don’t understand how people can act like that in public. Probably for a free or discounted meal.
    My husband and I were at a seafood restaurant once. There was a hair baked into my hushpuppy. I very quietly pointed it out to the server. She took it away and came back to tell us the whole meal, around $50-$60 was comped. I was embarrassed, and tried to argue that the rest of the food was amazing, it was just that one puppy. They insisted. I spent the whole meal apologizing and explaining I wasn’t trying to get free food.
    I was a waitress when I was a teenager, I hope I never have to do that again.

  • Jared Bascomb February 6, 2018, 8:53 pm

    As others have said, I think the family intended to scam the restaurant from the moment they decided to dine there, and have probably done the same at other restaurants. Regardless of what OP did or didn’t do, they were trying to get a huge meal for free. (An arrest for theft would be nice, but extremely unlikely.)

    So I’m going to come down on the OP’s side: OP was correct in speaking up at the time, to support the server and their version of events. Too bad other nearby diners didn’t chime in (or record the altercation), but it sounds like the manager:
    A) Accepted the server’s/OP’s version of the events;
    B) Realized what [your term] the family was; and
    C) Wrote it off — both socially and fiscally — as “one of those events”

  • Lara February 6, 2018, 10:29 pm

    I worked for a year in that same Italian restaurant, and I have to admit I saw a lot of clientele who behaved in ways not far off of that. I too have been stiffed on a tip from demanding customers who refused to be pleased. I too have had people walk out without paying, or ask to have their food comped over some imaginary complaint. I once had a lady come in, ask if they could make her a dish that hadn’t been on the menu in five years (which apparently her restaurant at home did), and when the manager said they didn’t have the ingredients, told me she was “agitated.” I was so nervous waiting on them, knowing that any mistake at all would lose me any hope of a tip. I remember saying that the time that serving tables was the only job where you were required to work for people who weren’t required to pay you (the miniscule wage you received from the restaurant wouldn’t even cover your health insurance, if you got it). And those neverending breadsticks and salad… always more work, without any increase in tip for your trouble. I really feel for that server. It’s too bad they didn’t have any way of reporting the family to the police. That was theft, straight-up.

  • DancerDiva February 6, 2018, 10:55 pm

    Kudos to you OP! Something like that would’ve pushed me over the edge, and I most likely would’ve spoken up in the moment as well. That was a family of scammers, and I’m glad that the manager didn’t buy their story and punish the server.

  • kingsrings February 7, 2018, 12:56 am

    I remember encountering this from family customers occassionally when I worked at restaurants years ago. It was always more troubling when there were kids involved because their parents were doing such a bad job raising them. I have an impossible time not speaking up when I see service people being disrespected by customers. I can’t stand for it because it’s so wrong.

  • Girlie February 7, 2018, 9:09 am

    My heart goes out the first set of parents who has a child befriend one of those kids and then takes them out for a meal – those two kids obviously aren’t receiving a proper upbringing, and it’s going to ruin friendships and relationships for them for YEARS to come unless and until they wise up.

  • NB February 7, 2018, 11:03 am

    So, I have been thinking about this, and I think there are generally two approaches to this. First, OP (or anyone in this situation) could quietly and discreetly alert the manager during the meal. Given these people’s egregious behavior, I think a scene could be anticipated, and this way the manager could arrive earlier and more prepared for the scene that played out (have security or back up with them or simply say “Sir, that is not what others are saying of this situation.”) This approach would also provide relief to the server earlier.

    The alternate is what OP did, which if you are in a group as well could really be effective, too. While confrontation could escalate, there is safety in numbers and confrontation could throw the dad off his game. At the very least, it could as another commenter pointed out, show the kids that such behavior is not acceptable

  • staceyizme February 7, 2018, 11:17 am

    Reading over the comments and thinking about the incident OP posted did make me wonder how businesses can best deal with criminal conduct. (Let’s be honest, this was planned theft, pure and simple, and disguising it as a customer service issue or an etiquette issue just doesn’t work in this case.) There is a trend where businesses are mobbed and property is stolen or destroyed, other patrons and staff are assaulted, and the sheer number of perpetrators makes it difficult to respond correctly, well and effectively. I wonder if some countermeasures can be taken before the possible encounter that might discourage those who contemplate the performance of bad acts from targeting a particular business, school, charity or home? For example, the public is often advised to pay careful attention to their surroundings on city streets in order to be able to anticipate and avoid problems. We are all advised to pay careful attention when driving and to observe reduced speeds or use special tires or driving gears in adverse weather, on curvy roads or in low visibility. In retail, they have loss prevention. But what to do in order to truly discourage being targeted and how to respond if an establishment IS targeted? CCTV and good security seem like a good initial response, but it seems to me that staff in service oriented businesses or institutions servicing the public have to think somewhat more like flight attendants, airport staff, transit authority staff etc… The first duty for all staff should be to safeguard the place where they work. It’s physical space, equipment, amenities, goods, staff and patrons. THEN the issues of quality customer service can be addressed. But- good customer service comes from empowered staff who know their jobs and are backed by management with clear policies that are consistently implemented and tracked (with frequent revision and review). Let’s face it, you can’t lock up goods or services in many contexts. But many environmental and systemic controls can be an effective deterrent to all kinds of mischief. In OP’s story, had the server been a tad less eager to please, taken a moment to alert management sooner, used his posture and tone to convey measured disapproval of some remarks while confronting others directly, and had the manager been a visible and effective presence on the floor that night, it might have been harder for the dine-and-dash crew to pull of their food caper.

    • Devin February 7, 2018, 7:28 pm

      I like your thoughts on this, but the problem is in the US the guest pay the bulk of a servers salary, not the restaurant. the server has to walk a tight line between minimizing complaints to keep their job and cowtowing to ridiculous demands to earn their tips. If servers policed their tables on top of serving them, they would lose a lot of tips. In this case the server probably knew they weren’t getting a dime either way, but just maybe if they kept at it they might get a meager tip in the end. If they had involved management earlier, their chance for anything wiuld have been gone. If servers got a reasonable pay with benefits like flight attendants then your model would work wonders to stop these kinds of people.

  • Devin February 7, 2018, 12:47 pm

    The large corporate restaurants are usually the target of these scammers because the oversight and management is so far removed. The servers are often just one or two complaints away from being let go, as are the managers. If you want to really see these scammers at work go to a large restaurant chain social media page. People will post the most unjustified complaints, which they obviously did not raise during their visit, and demand free vouchers. If the restaurant was so bad, why would you want to return?!? Right, cause it’s a scam.

    Good for you OP on standing up for the server!

  • kayakwriter February 7, 2018, 1:42 pm

    Years back, I was on a car ferry that made a two-hour crossing. There were two restaurants on board: one a cafeteria, the other an all-you-can-eat buffet. Understandably, the policy for the buffet room was no admittance for those who hadn’t paid the buffet charge. Ahead of me in the buffet register line were a mother, her roughly 6 year old son, and another adult woman. Mom was arguing with the cashier that only the two adults would be eating, so she shouldn’t have to pay even the half price for children fee. The staff member was politely repeating the policy, but mom eventually succeeded in bullying her way in “Because we have no one to babysit him while we eat.”

    I wound up seated at the next table to this charming trio. And there’s mom, nonchalantly feeding junior off the side of her plate. While I was debating whether to say anything to anyone, the cashier happened by on her way to restock the buffet. She stopped and started to politely ask mom to pay for her child. Mom instantly went into full raging hosebeast mode, accusing the cashier of “being rude” etc. etc. Mom demanded to see the cashier’s manager. On the ferry, that’s the ship’s purser. He appeared and mother Cersei went into a litany of lies about the cashier’s conduct, and flat out denied that her precious had been eating anything.

    I’d had more than enough. I stepped over, handed the purser my business card, and looked mom full in the eye. I told her she knew full well the kid had been eating, that she should be ashamed of herself for lying about the cashier who had tried to cut her a break, and that if her son ever lied to her or stole anything she’d know where he learned that. Mom flushed a satisfying purple red – not from shame as far as I could tell – but from rage a mere peasant dared call the Queen out on her behaviour.

    The Purser carefully pocketed my card poker-player style so that hellmom couldn’t see my info (wise man). He then informed her that since he now had a witness that little Joffrey had been eating, she could either pay his buffet fee or be greeted by the cops when the ferry docked. It’s a bit difficult to pull a dine-and-dash in a restaurant that’s surrounded by a very wide moat, so mom did pay up, with all the bad grace she could muster.

    (The purser contacted me later to thank me. Apparently that cashier had been reduced to tears by mom’s false accusations and having someone on her side helped. So please, do speak up when you see bullies “punching down” on those they think can’t fight back. And not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also because the cost of restaurant scammers is baked into the prices that honest diners pay, the same way that honest store customers involuntarily subsidize shoplifters. )

    • Barbara Foster February 8, 2018, 12:28 pm

      Good job, kayakwriter! You’re correct that these aren’t “victimless crimes.” They usually only succeed because people bully hardworking servers to the breaking point.

  • jessiebird February 7, 2018, 2:07 pm

    When I was younger, I wouldn’t have spoken up. But now that I am in the middle of my life and finally realizing how much anguish was caused in my life by narcissists and jerks, I would have said something, quite elegantly, I daresay.

    First, I would have called the server over (he was serving both tables, correct)? I would have requested to speak to the manager right in front of the family. Then I would have discreetly complained to the manager and warned her. However, I worry that the serve didn’t let his manager know up front because she was the kind to bow down to customers no matter what…? Don’t know.

    Definitely getting license plates. And I might have surreptitiously filmed the whole event, or at least parts of it, though that is a violation of privacy. Then again, is there privacy when people are being abused? I would say not. I wonder if the restaurant should have just refused to serve them, since they were so clearly unhappy….

    We say “it takes a village” about raising children. But our social mores and values are reinforced by the approbration of those around us. It is how we “control” social behavior and force it into comporting with our values and expectations. Granted, there is certainly a dark side to this, one that Americans uniquely resist–our freedoms and liberty are paramount without as much discussion about the responsibilities that go with them, and which should, by any measure, increase in weight in direction proproportion to the liberties granted.

    People get away with this because fundamentally, the social values and expectations are less privileged than the commerce or financial transaction. As long as that is the case, we will always get people who violate social norms for their own gain. Arguably, this family knew they could play the customer is always right card and the “I’ll give a bad review” card. But for their one bad review, if there were 20 other customers congratulating the restaurant for upholding decorum and the ostensible social contract of the other diners (e.g., to dine in peace, etc), the bad review would fall very flat.

    Anyway, part of the problem, which this site addresses all the time, is the desire of people to serve their own lust for “freedom” and “rights” while expecting others to adhere to whatever social contract is at play in the situation (e.g., being a guest, being at a restaurant, being a host of a wedding, gift recipients…).

    It’s maddening. I’m so sorry for the server and give kudos to the OP for saying something. It’s hard to know what’s best in a situation, but with my background with narcissistics, I’ve learned the very hard way NEVER TO CONFRONT DIRECTLY, especially in public. You will bring untold wrath upon you.

    Anyway….sigh

    • KenderJ February 9, 2018, 12:42 am

      I agree with you. However, this part caught my attention:

      “And I might have surreptitiously filmed the whole event, or at least parts of it, though that is a violation of privacy.”

      Filming the family’s antics is not a violation of their privacy. Several courts have ruled that there is no expectation of privacy in public. While it would be weird, and possibly considered rude, to film random people eating in a restaurant, it is good evidence if you see a situation shaping up near you.

  • HelenB February 7, 2018, 5:11 pm

    My mom has a friend whose family does this. Complain the whole time, eat absolutely everything, and then complain to the manager to get a discount. My dad eventually refused to go out with them anymore, wondering why they kept going back to these places with the horrible food and terrible service.

    The last time I was out with them (my mom insisted) I called them out each time they tried to start up the complaints.
    “Why didn’t she bring me a large orange juice?” “Because you ordered the regular. I heard you.” “Why didn’t I get xxxx sauce with this?” “Because the menu doesn’t say it comes with it, and you didn’t ask for it”.
    “This yyyy is terrible!” “Mine tastes great!”

    My husband got in on it with me, praising the food and the server, contradicting them when they started in on something the server did “wrong”.

    First time I’d ever enjoyed myself while out with them. For some reason, also the last time I was out with them.

  • Anonymous February 7, 2018, 9:14 pm

    How could the food have been “inedible” if the family ate all of it?

  • Sylvie February 10, 2018, 7:35 pm

    You did not overstep at all! Clearly these guys were looking for a free meal. They probably go to chain restaurants a lot, complain to corporate, and get lots of freebies. This is how they roll, and it sucks