When I was in college, I waited tables and tended bar and I can tell you that it’s grueling, exhausting work, even for young energetic people. I’d go home every night at the end of a long day absolutely exhausted, physically, and mentally. The problem is that not only is it grueling work, but it can be mentally and emotionally draining as well because there are always going to be difficult customers. The hardest part is that in the United States, we have what is very much a tip-driven culture, so a server’s income is largely determined by the graciousness of the people she or he serves. Even if they give good service, there’s always the possibility that a customer will “stiff them,” which means either not leave a tip or leave one so small that it’s almost insulting. We don’t know if the story below is true or if it’s a work of fiction, but it’s something everyone needs to read. If you go out to eat, treat the servers well. It’s not an easy job.
I am totally deaf in my left ear and partially deaf in my right. I wear a regular hearing aid in my right ear and have a cochlear implant in my left. I’m now 19, and working in a very posh restaurant. I’m serving a party of 10. There is a couple who comes in quite regularly who are the ‘hosts’ of this group. The husband is okay but the wife is really snobby and has caused us problems before. Me: “Good evening. Is everyone ready to order?” Wife: “Could you get the manager for me? Now!” Me: “Of course, madam. Is there anything I can do for you?” Wife: “No! Just get him.” (I go and get my boss but have no explanation why he is needed.) Boss: “Good evening, madam. How may I help you tonight?” Wife: “How dare you let your staff wear headphones? We spend a lot of money in here and we expect a certain type of service. This is most distressing.” (Most of the other guests look really uncomfortable as they realise she’s talking about me and it’s obvious that I have hearing aids.)
Boss: “Madam, I can assure you we do not allow that. If you could point out the server who is wearing them I’ll happily sort this out for you.” Wife: “For God’s sake! It’s the girl!” *she points to me as I’m still standing at the table* “We are in here all the time and I have never known such disregard for the customer.” Boss: “I’m really sorry. There’s no way you deserve to be treated this way.” Wife: “I should think so. I just—” Boss: “Not you. I was talking to my employee and friend. You—” *referring to the wife “—on the other hand are a despicable human being. How dare you come in here and talk to a member of my staff like that? It is massively, plainly obvious that she is wearing hearing aids. Everyone else at your table can see that. Now you have not only embarrassed yourself and the rest of your table but also my staff member. I’m very sorry but I have to ask you to leave, madam. The rest of your table may stay if they so wish but I simply cannot have my staff treated that way. Please leave. Now.”
Wife: “Well! I think you’ll find you’ve just made a very big mistake talking to me like that. You have lost a lot of business from us. My husband here is a solicitor and he will—” Husband: “That’s enough. I’m really sorry. We’ve been served by your waitress before and know she wears hearing aids, and I’m not a solicitor.” *to his wife* “I think you need to go home. I’m hungry; I would like to order, please.” (The wife looks about the table as the rest of the guests sit there in silence. She then gets up and flounces out. I take everyone’s order and the rest of the evening goes very smoothly. When the guests ask for the bill the husband calls me over.) Husband: “I’m really sorry about my wife. Do you know, I don’t work and neither does she. I won the money on the lottery. Before we were rich I was an accountant and she worked in a shoe shop. I really have no idea why she’s like that. I promise I’ll never bring her in here again.” (The meal itself cost over $400 and I made a massive tip as everyone at the table felt really badly. The husband still comes in with friends but never brings his wife. He asks for me to serve him and always tips really well but I share the tips now!)