[Ed. note: Sir Jables' column is a day late this week because I dropped the fucking ball. Won't happen again.]
I wait tables at a casual-dining restaurant. A woman and her husband came in yesterday and she ordered a burger with a side salad (which is served on the same plate in our restaurant). She complained that the salad was on the same plate as the burger, so I had the items re-plated separately, which took all of 1 minute to do. When I returned she complained that I had taken so long that now her burger was cold. After asking the kitchen to “correct” this, I once again returned her meal and asked if there was anything else I could get for her. She asked for dijon mustard, which we keep in the walk-in cooler. I retrieved this for her, and when I dropped it off, she once again claimed that I had taken so long that her burger was cold. She asked to speak to a manager, who ended up giving her a $25-off coupon for all of the troubles caused. What else could I have done?
That’s a fairly open-ended question. There are any number of things you could’ve done. You opted for the classic “try-to-make-a-freebie-seeking-customer-happy” approach. That’s like trying to fetch water with a sieve. You’re always going to come up empty that way. She got what she was after all along. And if I know my cheap-ass customers (and I do), I’m guessing you didn’t even get so much as a tip for all of your troubles trying to satisfy the wretch. Still, it could be worse for you. You could’ve been the husband.
To make matters worse even still, apparently you work in a restaurant that rewards this type of bad customer behavior. So my best advice for you is to quit. Find a restaurant where management has enough balls to send the Yelp Queen on her way, because I can tell you this much: she got her coupon, so she’ll be back. And the burgers will always be cold. As well as free. At your expense.
So not really free. Just like they’re not really cold.
But if you’re going to stay at this job (and I have to proceed with my answer as if you are, since like most people, you want to know how to treat merely the symptoms of your problem rather than the source), then I’ll have to get creative to wiggle out of this corner you’ve wedged me into.
First off, I’d tell you to “read” the husband. There are two types of men who end up with women who can’t be pleased: men who likewise can’t be pleased, and men who are masochistic pleasers.
As far as the men who match their wife’s level of bottomless dissatisfaction, you’re still going to be up shit’s creek. This type of man most likely met his wife while sitting on a bench on a beautiful spring day, scouring a lovely park with unbridled discontent, until his scowl met a furrowed brow whose disdainful scrunch paralleled his own. And the rest… was misery.
While neither in the relationship is pleased with the other, the relationship still persists because they both validate and even latch on to and feed from the other’s displeasure. This creates a double-whammy situation for the server. If you appear to be dealing with this type of situation (and you’ll know right away because the husband will claim his burger is cold as well), then skip ahead because you won’t be able to employ use of the husband as a solution.
However, Mr. Masochistic Pleaser, you can definitely use him (in fact, that’s his whole schtick). This cuck gains some sort of sick satisfaction from never being good enough and never being able to provide his wife with what she wants. Oh he’ll try, in vain, for the rest of his life, which he’ll hang around for, because he gets something out of the whole shameful mess.
Catch this guy on his way to the restroom, when she’s no longer within earshot, and berate him harshly. Demand that the worm tip you handsomely for the privilege of having even sat in your section, much less having made his problem yours. Don’t be timid. He’s a piece of shit and he knows it. Make sure he knows he has to pay for it too. Do this well enough and you may have a return customer (i.e. reliable income source), unrelated to your job at the restaurant.
Assuming this was not an option, you’re really only left with working the crazy angle, which is going to require the skill of acting. It’s simple enough really, but you will to have to totally commit to the part. Next time the woman asks to speak to the manager, lean in real close, where only she can hear you, and whisper: “Sure, I’ll get the manager for you. But first I’m going to shut you up by shoving that burger down your throat, during which I’ll shove my tongue down your husband’s throat (note: you don’t actually have to want to do this; it’s a shaming mechanism) while we both flash a thumbs-up and watch you choke to death on that dead cow. Then I’ll come to your wake and whisper into your corpse’s ear, ‘Told you, bitch’, and leave a cold burger on your casket in place of the roses I’ll steal before complaining to the funeral home manager that your body wasn’t the right temperature, and that’s why I felt entitled to the flowers”… or, you know… something to that effect.
At this point, she’s going to freak out. That’s ok. This is desired. This is when you have to click back into normal mode. Just stay calm, and let the whole scene play itself out. She’s already demonstrated what kind of person she is through her ridiculous expectations of the restaurant up to this point, so this will just seem like another ploy to get free food. She won’t be taken seriously (at best, she’ll still get her $25-off coupon), and when you’re taken aside and asked about it by management, just roll your eyes and claim that she’s obviously unhinged. If you have a good reputation as an employee, management will have no reason to disbelieve you. It’ll be her word against yours, and you’re an asset to the company; she’s a hinderance to profit.
So you’re golden.
This is important: Don’t forget to wink at her as she leaves the restaurant. It’ll be far more satisfying than any tip would’ve been.
Sir Jables' vast wealth of knowledge can be tapped at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be contacted by Morse code eye-blinking, intentionality in astral projection, or through his Ouija username: hailsatan.