June 26, 2013

Industry Standard: Insider info for those who dine out

Treat your servers well

In my previous column, I wrote about the bizzaro owners of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Ariz. — a couple so weirdly paranoid and self-absorbed, so invested in their own bad behavior, they have totally skewed the spectrum of guest abuse forever. And then I was introduced via the Internet to the creature that is Taylor Chapman.

Taylor Chapman is a “person,” I guess. She lives in Florida and has been, on occasion, a patron of Dunkin’ Donuts. DD famously has a policy wherein it is written that if they forget to provide you with a receipt, your order is free. What the point is, I’m not sure, because as comic Mitch Hedberg once said: “I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would need to prove that I bought a doughnut. Some skeptical friend? ‘Don’t even act like I didn’t buy a doughnut, I’ve got the documentation right here.’”

Chapman, claiming to have purchased food in the drive-thru the previous evening, actually films herself accosting the employees of her local DD the following day, alleging she didn’t get a receipt. She berates, she harangues. She embarrasses her fellow customers. She yells about having contacted an attorney (over a doughnut receipt?). She brags about her “degree in business.” She threatens — nay, promises! — to post the video footage she’s filming to Facebook, which she eventually did.

Epic fail at being a human being? Check. And the fellow who had to field her ridiculous behavior — a guy making maybe minimum wage or a little more? Unfailingly polite. Accommodating in every way; even past the point where her rant becomes egregiously racist. Don’t take my word for it; you can Google “Taylor Chapman Dunkin’ Donuts” for yourself. Cringe-worthy extra takeaway: She claims to be from Kentucky, where “we don’t play this shit.”

What is it, I wonder, that makes some folks feel it’s acceptable to abuse the folks who serve their food? And I don’t mean just stiffing a server for a tip or being annoyingly needy or exacting. Sadly, those sins are fairly everyday and humdrum to a certain degree. I’m talking about good old-fashioned asshole-ism. I’m talking about folks who throw food and dishes at servers; about people who pull guns on fast-food workers and point them through the drive-thru window for a forgotten slice of cheese, or because service wasn’t snappy enough.

In my only 10 years or so of working food service, I’ve thankfully been a back-of-the-house employee. I rarely had to deal directly with guests, and when I did, it was usually to field a compliment or answer an honest question about ingredients or preparation.

But servers? They are on the frontline and unfortunately in the path of any random crazy person who can keep their neuroses hidden long enough to be seated or place their order. After that, all bets are off. Once someone’s officially a patron, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them until they are ready to go unless they damage property or physically assault an employee.

Verbal (ranting) abuse is the majority sin. From the hostess to the busser, front-of-the-house troops bear the brunt of this behavior. And it happens more than you would ever believe. And yet, in all my years of service, I never once observed any reciprocally bad behavior behind the kitchen doors. I’m sure it happens, but I personally never saw any server adulterate anyone’s food or ask that a cook do so. Most of us in the business have too much pride in what we do to ever compromise our principles that way.

But these jerks don’t know that. You have to grudgingly admire the cojones of a rage-aholic like Chapman, who violates a well-known social contract before her food is in hand. If you can stick with the video long enough, you’ll find out why: She openly conjectures that her order will be spat in or worse, admits she isn’t going to eat it herself, but will instead give it to her fiancée. Nice future wife you’ve got there, Mr. Chapman-to-be.

Food service workers are human beings. They have goals and aspirations, daily struggles and dreams, just like everyone else. If you see someone being hateful to a server without apparent cause, be even kinder to that server than you normally would. Restore someone’s faith in humanity. It’ll make their day — and yours.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro and Café Lou Lou.

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