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women and bad service

i replied to a thread on the boston board and that got deleted (like i knew it would) so i'll instead ask a question here.

often times women will claim they got ignored or received bad service "because they are women". i eat out frequently and sometimes will get haphazard, amateurish, disinterested, poor or occasionally even surly service. however, i never assume it's because of my gender. perhaps the kitchen is in melt-down, maybe the person is brand-new, maybe he's giving extra attention to regulars at my expense. i'm in the business and can drum up a gajillion other excuses.

i'm a sommelier, so usually order the wine, and more than once the server has presented the bottle to my male date. THAT'S gender-based. and stupid. but it always makes me chuckle.

anybody have actual proof, rather than the perceived slight, of being discriminated against as a diner because you're female?

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  1. If anything, I tend to get better service than average and I am female. But I am also very outgoing and friendly and engage the waitstaff, ask them about their day, what the recommend, etc. I think it's more about attitude than gender.
    My MIL always complains about poor service, but she looks down on anyone "serving" her and god forbid they are a person of color and sits there with her lips pursed, etc. She's also a lousy tipper and a general pain in the ass, but that's another thread for another day.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Janet from Richmond

      I would not say that I've ever been discriminated against in US restaurants because of gender. However, since moving to Thailand, it has become very apparent that my dining needs come second to those of my husband. My glass will sit empty until my husband's needs refilling, for example. Other female friends have noticed it too. It doesn't bother me though - its all part of the experience and the food more than makes up for any difference in service.

      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        Your MIL sounds like a lovely person. ;-)

        I agree that, in my experience, the attitude of the customer has a great deal to do with the kind of service they receive. Treating waitstaff like people and not some sort of sub human species can certainly go far in assuring your dining experience is a good one. :)

        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          Janet- I love your attitude. As they say in Australia, you are spot on.

        2. In general, when I try a new place, I usually get mediocre service. This can happen with my fiance there or not, but generally, if I come off as the stronger personality (ie, I ask the server to fix something wrong with my meal, or for more drinks for both of us) instead of him, I don't get as good of service as when he is more outgoing to our server. It can be a male or female server.

          1. My wife claims that it depends upon who is in the resto and perception. According to her, if a sizeable middle aged man in a suit is at the bar it is understandable why he my get more attention from the staff (because they assume that he will tip better than the female at the other end of the bar).

            5 Replies
            1. re: Chinon00

              chinon: even your wife claims this to be perception. the guy in the suit could just be high-maintenance.

              yumcha: define bad service.

              my suspicion is lots of women go into the meal defensive, expecting bad service, are curt or short, or making mountains out of mole hills, and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I thought there was another thread on bad service before, but for me it means:
                Being ignored by the server when asking for drinks/refills
                Getting huffy when I ask a question about something
                Getting noticeably different service than the rest of the customers

                However, I do not go to a meal expecting bad service. I go out expecting to have a good time and enjoy myself. I'm with you on the self-fulfilling prophecy. I HATE going out with other chicks who think so, and ding the server on every little thing that isn't even their fault.

                I am starting to think this is more of a location problem with all servers in my area, since I haven't had the female-bad-service thing happen anywhere else I've eaten, if that makes any sense :p

                1. re: yumcha

                  I took my mom and aunt out for dinner to a nice Philadelphia byob. My aunt ordered coffee. She drank most of it and after a time her remaining coffee got cold. She then asked the waiter for more coffee. He brought her over the coffee pot and poured her more coffee into her cup. My aunt was very disturbed by this because according to her he should have known to bring over a new cup of coffee rather than refilling the cup that she already had. That's being a diva IMHO.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    I've never seen someone get a new cup of coffee when it's a refill though. I wonder if she has received this service before. I order iced tea when I go out. Sometimes I will get a new glass, but I'm always happily surprised when that happens. Normally, I'm happy if they will remember to give me a piece of lemon or have ice in the refill! My coworkers, managers, and directors have all shaken their heads (in jest, not for real, although I don't know what they are really thinking) when I get my refill. "Oh no, she's going to ask for lemon/cup of ice!" Sometimes someone in the group will observe the situation and just order for me, "Could you bring her more lemon?!" :-) It's usually lunch paid by the company - guaranteed lots of tips.

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      agreed! are they supposed to be psychic or something? she could just as easily have asked them to warm up the remaining coffee. Communication is the key.

              2. I have always felt as a female I got better service. Perhaps I've just been lucky, but I have never had service issues when dining solo and have never felt secondary when dining with a man.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ArikaDawn

                  Here is the thread on service and gender to which folks may be referring. Interesting hypothesis!
                  Perceptions of dining/service issues: The John Fowles vs. Cyndi Lauper hypothesis

                2. I am not sure what you mean by proof. I don’t know how I would prove that. I frequently dine out alone because I travel for business and the following are based primarily on those experiences. I will start by saying I very seldom get bad service. But I do find that I often don’t get the same level of service as I do when I am dining out with others. I don’t know if the reason is that I am female, alone or middle aged. It could be one or a combination of two or three. Or it could be that by dining alone I am more attuned to service that is not up to par.

                  If find that when I am 15 to 20 years older than my server, I sometimes have less attentive service. Don’t know why. I sometimes get the less attentive service from women then men, again I don’t know why.

                  But I do know for a fact that I have seen servers get better over the course of a meal (pun intended). I believe the reason for the change in behavior is that I have turned out not to be the diner they believed me to be. I am friendly and low maintenance. I have received indifferent greetings from waiters and had them turn completely around when I engage them in conversation. I have had service that is inattentive at the beginning and more attentive at the end. It could be because the restaurant clears out, it could be that once they are interested in me as a person they become more attentive, or it could be that once they decide I am not going to be picky/demanding/condescending/insert your own adjective here they are more attentive.

                  You asked if women’s behavior at meal could be self-fulfilling. I think that maybe true but I also think that it is true for the server as well. If I let the indifferent greetings or the inattentive service get to me then I would tip less. I would rather try to turn the server’s ideas around so they give me and hopefully the next diner the same great service.

                  1. This reminds me of an article I read once where several of the waitstaff interviewed said that they prefer male to female customers because 1) women don't tip as well as men and 2) women are fussier than men. I have no "proof" of this--and until I read the article I never noticed whether I, a woman, got better or worse service than a man. However, I have to say from personal dining experiences that my male friends are less pickier about things than my female friends.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: gloriousfood

                      I would have to agree with the article regarding female customers possibly being more fussy than male diners. I dont know how many times I have been out to eat with a female companion who needed everything on the side, special requests, or tried to sub this item for that item. Myself, i eat the meal as the menu describes the dish, and if I dont like something about the item, I either dont order it in the first place, or eat around the item I may not be fond of.

                      1. re: gloriousfood

                        "women are fussier than men"

                        as women gain more and more control over their relationships, finances, careers and other things in their lives, there is less of a "syndrome" of the stereotypically female "fussy customer" who is impossible to please. you do run into this type of customer more frequently among older diners, in rural settings, and increasingly among men as well. interesting, isn't it, how people will seek to control their dressing portions and substitutions when they can't control anything else in their lives.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Yes, I generally agree with this. But I think there will always be some people (both women and men) who somehow don't feel they've gotten their money's worth unless they've run the waitstaff ragged. And I think that society is still just more accepting of demanding men than demanding women.

                          1. re: flourgirl

                            you are right-- sometimes people are very unreasonable and demanding, and some people sadistically enjoy mistreating or manipulating servers. it's a trip to deal with them. also a trip to deal with people that have never been told "no" in any context in their lives before-- in my experience, at this time, a male-only club.

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              i served a young celebrity and her mother once. the kid was just a doll but her mom sent her salad back twice (ended up not eating it) because the lettuce wasn't crunchy enough.

                              1. re: excuse me miss

                                Two days ago, I sent back my salad because every piece was wilted - it was iceberg in which the edges have all turned red. It was $17.95 for a seafood louie, so I figure I should at least get fresh lettuce, which cost... 50 cents? Hmm, not crunchy enough... I'll have to think about that the next time I eat salad! :-)

                      2. My experience has been decidedly mixed. Often I eat alone on business travel. On these occasions I must say that I have always felt comfortable and attended to. I am also fairly friendly to waitstaff and a pretty good tipper -- so maybe that has something to do with it?. Or maybe they feel sorry for the "poor woman" who has to eat alone? I have no idea the motivation.

                        However, I have noticed a difference when I go out to dinner with my H. Waitstaff, both male and female, will defer to him. And defer on a host of things -- though not as bad as the water-filling issue another poster mentioned. As another poster has experienced, I too always pick the wine (the H prefers, and is more knowledgeable about, beer). Yet, the server always presents the bottle to him. In addition, often I will put the meal on my credit card. The servers invariably put the credit slip to be signed in front of him. Can they not read? Do they not look? I have a pretty female-identifiable name. I mean C'MON!

                        In a mixed group, none of this seems to apply. In that case, I would agree with other posters that one's general attitude toward the servers plays a much bigger role. IMHO.

                        1. I travel alone a lot and no, I don't have proof that I am ever discriminated against because I'm a woman. If it is happening, I guess I'm oblivious to it. I don't feel like I'm a pain in the ass customer but on the other hand, I won't sit and suffer in silence if I need a drink refill or something of the sort. But that being said, it is a totally different story when the gals go out for lunch during the work week. We often wait a long time for service, the food is slow coming to the table, the server is nowhere to be found after the food has been delivered and so on. I can only assume that women in a group like that have a reputation of being difficult or bad tippers or both because I can pretty much see on the servers face that he or she would rather not be working our table.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Velma

                            That pattern doesn't surprise me. I can easily envision workers during the work week in a business lunch-type place attending to a group of businessmen in suits before taking care of a group of women, in suits or not, because they think the men will get angrier and more aggressive faster than the women. They may also have some outdated ideas about the men having to get back to work and the women having no place important to be.

                          2. interesting....I've done the ordering of the wine (as opposed to my bf), and have always been presented with the bottle. I think the pours and refills might sometimes be in my bf's favor though.

                            Other than that, no, I have not faced discrimination at a restaurant. Unless it was in my favor - say a male bartender comping me and girlfriends extra cocktails and apps at a bar. (I'm not complaining, of course)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kayonyc

                              Man, you're lucky! The only time I got a free drink from the bar was on my 21st! (and that was after buying a bunch too)

                            2. Maybe I'm not getting the point of this post - is it your assertion that gender discrimination never happens in restaurants? That seems like a tough (and odd) case to "prove." Your experience - and your chosen attitude about your experience - is that gender discrimination doesn't happen and that when it does it's something to laugh at. Clearly others have a different experience. What do you hope to gain by arguing that you are "right" about what both you and they are experiencing, while they are "wrong"?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: GDSwamp

                                Well said.

                                Short of asking a server "hey, is it because you don't like my parts" and them being honest about it, proof will be hard to come by.

                              2. I usually get good to excellent service, whether dining alone or with others. Like Janet From Richmond, I am friendly and make an effort to engage my server. As a result I frequently get free top-ups on my wine, "gifts" from the kitchen etc.

                                90% of the time the server will give my boyfriend the check, even though I cover our dining out budget. The other 10% of the time the server will just lay the check on the edge of the table. I've never been given a check unless I'm on my own.

                                1. Do you have actual proof, not just your own perception, that poor treatment you've received has *not* been because you are a woman? Not trying to be jerky, just pointing out that "proof" isn't always something one can hold in the hand and produce.

                                  I do not go looking for trouble and like to think that many people are beyond such prejudices but do not believe discrimination against women isn't real. And if I know that it exists, I must also realize it doesn't stop at the restaurant door. It can be found anywhere and while I'm glad for you that the gender-based occurrences you've acknowledged seemed benign enough to you that you could chuckle at them, I fear that is not the case for all women. For some the stakes are much higher, the consequences more severe. (not necessarily at a meal, but in general, I mean.) I think it's unfair to imply that gender bias is simply a perception of one predisposed to feeling victimized.

                                  If you believe our society affords women the same respect as men then I can see why you'd think the way you do. I do not happen to think so, however. We've come a long way, baby, but we're not there yet.

                                  It's interesting to think about though, and I certainly agree that people who are pills or cranky can bring on bad treatment, regardless of gender, but that's something else.

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: xena

                                      this thread was sparked by a female boston poster who felt slighted by bartenders at a particular place because of her gender. i've been to the same place many times. the bartenders seem merely lackadaisical and prone to chatting up regulars while others go in need of refills, butter, etc.

                                      so yes, it is perception and i prefer to think of it as mediocre service rather than prejudice.

                                      it's just dinner. i'm not going on a socio-political mining trip here, ok?

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        "so yes, it is perception and i prefer to think of it as mediocre service rather than prejudice.

                                        it's just dinner. i'm not going on a socio-political mining trip here, ok?"

                                        Permalink | Report | Reply
                                        hotoynoodle Jun 26, 2007 05:13PM

                                        Ah, well then I humbly beg your pardon. I must have completely misunderstood your post.

                                    2. I have had two very different experiences that might shed some light on the issue:

                                      1) When I worked as a server, I had a female customer scream at me because the kitchen had miscommunicated some info to me. Rather than believing me when I explained that there had been a mistake, she accused me of being sexist. She was in fact quite abusive. I believe she was feeling uncomfortable because of a nearby table of suits (who, in fact, I was not serving). The funny thing is, I'm a woman too. I just thought she was crazy.

                                      2) Nonetheless, as a female customer, I have received bad service. Such instances occur sometimes when I'm with my husband and the flirty waitress doesn't address me or even much acknowledge me as a customer. Obviously, that's reflected in her tip.

                                      1. Interesting post I'll pose the question to my female friends.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                          When I dine alone on business, I'm always treated very well. I've also been treated nicely when I'm out with my girlfriends.

                                          When I'm out with my husband, I often feel like we're discriminated against because of our age. I can't even count the times we haven't been told the specials while tables of older diners around us are informed almost immediately. We are also almost always carded for wine (we're 35.) Someone above noted how younger servers don't seem to care about older patrons, while I find the opposite to be true. And we're pretty laid back, good-tipping folks. It's frustrating sometimes.

                                        2. I've only had one experience where I was treated "differently" enough to question it. I was dining out at a pretty high end restaurant with about 10-15 men. I was the only female and they were all between 10 to 25 years older than me. Throughout dinner the server fauned over the men & made sure their every need was met while my glass rarely got refilled. At the end of the night I asked for the check & I thought she was going to have a heart attack. I could see that the night was flashing before her eyes b/c the bill was very hefty (lots of drinking) and they did not have an autogratuity system for large parties. Fortunately for her, I thought the look on her face more than made up for my empty glass. Plus, the guys she fauned all over were my customers & people in my organization that I wanted to have a great time. In the end I was happy & she got a great tip. Hopefully, though, it made her think about her service towards the "unexpected" bill payer in the crowd.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Merry113

                                            My best friend is in sales, so she wines and dines a lot of her customers in a male-dominated industry. I'll have to pose this question to her, because I'm guessing it's happened to her before. She travels to a lot of non-culturally diversed locations in the US and is a petite Asian woman.

                                            1. re: Merry113

                                              Thinking back on all the times I have hosted groups of clients (them: older white guys me: younger asian female) I can't remember a time when I wasn't treated as a host. Perhaps ordering the wine was a clue? I do make a point to establish myself as the host in such situations.

                                              I can't say that gender has anything to do with my treatment at restos -- how could I? I am always female.

                                              it does crack me up when the hubster & I go out for dinner as he always gets the check. totally not a reflection of our family income, but it's fun to thank him for dinner ;-)

                                              1. re: orangewasabi

                                                Usually I would have made sure they knew I was the "host" but one of the customers was a wine afficianado & I let them choose the wine. I thought it was more funny than anything else.

                                                1. re: Merry113

                                                  Yeah, you have to laugh about stuff like that, because that's sure not the worst thing you've ever encountered if you're doing that sort of hosting as part of your regular life / job

                                            2. I don't doubt for a moment women get bad or worse service due to the place, service model, the expectation that guy will be paying, societal dynamics, gender bias, etc. I'd have to dopey to think it doesn't happen.

                                              That said, sometimes the reverse is true as well - sometimes women get better service (even with the guy present). I've been to more then a few places where the waiter is more or less drooling on my date/GF and I'm just sort of there for the ride. No biggie really, although I've seen it work in other ways where date get a table at busy restaurant by asking coyly and the maitre 'd was gay. (How am I going to complain?)

                                              Yes the reverse happens where the waitress thinks there will be a bigger tip if she chats me up but that's easily diverted by asking your date what she thinks. Either way it's annoying and unprofessional...but what are you going to do? Nothing really unless the waiter hits on your date while you're in the restroom...in which case you stiff the bill (yes, I was young).

                                              Any way, my point...things go both ways.

                                              1. There's a difference between prejudice, stupidity, and out-datedness. For example, we were all taught in grammar school to use masculine by preference when referring to an individual of unspecified gender. These days, we use the he/she version in order to be PC. But it sure looks awkward in print. I think the same goes for some restaurant folks. We all were taught in the good ole' days that the check goes to the man. This is outdated, but just because someone still does it doesn't mean he/she/it is prejudiced against women.

                                                As a woman with many restaurant years under her belt, I can say that I get great service most of the time,often for the same reasons Janet mentioned in the first reply. I take no offense when the check land in front of SO when it's my card. I have been witness to a work situation that resulted in a coworker's harrassment suit, and take great offense when sexism is actually happening. I also take great offense when someone blames gender bias for something mundane and stupid.

                                                1. Many people have responded about the service they get when they are WITH men- but that's a different issue. I go out with women friends frequently- and the situation has changed a good deal over the past 20 years. it use to be axiomatic with servers (and many members of my family have been servers ) that women would tip less. Not so much anymore. 20 years ago I walked out of restaurants several times- once a woman friend of mine and I sat there with no one even offering a menu while the table of men next to us got 2 rounds of beer and their orders taken. On another occasion, I sat in a restaurant with my daughter for half an hour with no one coming near us.- Notice that these are not occasions on which we acted like divas- we didn't have a chance to!
                                                  But it's somewhat better now. I often take job applicants out for dinner and rarely have the check presented to them instead of me or the wine given to them to taste first.
                                                  BTW, my brother, who was in the hospitality industry for years, said that doctors at conferences were the worst tippers. But at a conference I go to, mostly women, we were once told by servers in Miami that they would be happy when we left because women only ordered salad at restaurants which cut into their tips!

                                                  1. I believe I have received better service because I am a female (more so when the waitstaff are male). My husband and my male friends constantly say that women get better treatment, free items, etc. I have to say that I agree with them somewhat. My sister and I have received free food at times (even though we try to say no) -- whether it's at restaurants, bakeries, fruit stands, etc.

                                                    I think this works both ways. My husband and I went up to the sole cashier at a drug store. She wasn't looking up as she was looking at something. I asked her she was open to ring up. She looked at me and my husband slowly and then said no. We both felt that if we were some good looking single guy(s) her answer would have been different.

                                                    1. I waited tables throughout high school and college. When 2 women who were clearly pals catching up got sat in my section, I would groan. They tended to eat less (peer pressure salads dressing on the side), not drink booze, and hijack my table all night long over iced tea.
                                                      All of these things are perfectly fine, and absolutely their right. But it meant a pay cut for me (tip on a $30 vs. tips on $100 checks at tables that turn). And I can't say my disappointment and sheer boredom didn't translate to my approach...
                                                      I also like gals that booze and eat bacon.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: anita_cocktail

                                                        I'm a gal that boozes and eats bacon! So are my friends when we do ladies' happy hour.

                                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                                          Ditto here. I love to eat and drink and never get dressing on the side and only have a salad as my meal if it's a true entree salad (which generally means it's probably not that healthy).

                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                            you bet baby, give me a cobb but hold the chicken, extra bacon and extra blue. Side of mac18 please

                                                      2. I sometimes feel I get discriminated against when I'm a solo diner (the expectation of a small tip for example)- I never thought it was because I'm a woman. (But more times than not I get good service)

                                                        1. The OP wants "actual proof" of discrimination against women in restaurants? What would you accept as proof? A training manual that suggests that men should receive better service than women and shows how to accomplish that? I mean, being slighted is also being discriminated against. It is discrimination based on sex, or sexism.

                                                          How about if I told you I was once a server who disliked waiting on women and would consciously give men better service than I gave women--but not so much that the women would notice much more than they had been slighted? Certainly not so much that they would have any evidence to use in a complaint about me to my boss. Would you call that proof of discrimination or sexism? Now how about if I told you I did the same to any African-American who sat in my section? Would you want proof still or would you just call it racism?

                                                          Look, I didn't do those things when I waited tables, but my point is that I believe that a lot of people do (whether consciously or unconsciously) because we live in a sexist, racist society. Restaurant workers are not free of those attitudes.

                                                          For what it's worth, I did hate to wait on tables of white, middle-aged men in business suits (especially if there were no women with them) who were too often more interested in how much they could expense for food and drink (but not tip, because less tip=more money for food/drink) and trying to hit on any female who had the misfortune of having to interact with them.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: tokyorosa

                                                            My brother, who worked in some high end hotels, claimed that the worst tippers were doctors at a medical convention! I think the stereotypes about who tips well and who doesn't are being shattered every day.
                                                            My new problem is that as a middle-aged woman, I seem to have become invisible. On planes, in restaurants, in stores- any one experience that?

                                                            1. re: Gypsyfish

                                                              I too have been invisible. I posted above about sometimes receiving inattentive service when alone and I noted that it might be due to my age as much as my gender. But definitely know what you mean.

                                                          2. jfood travels a ton and uses dinner to internally review the meetings of the day, plan the next day and relax. What he has found is that it's those first few moments of interaction with the server that sets the tone. Many times jfood is a solo-diner (usually at the bar but that thread is elsewhere) but let's keep this to table service.

                                                            Server approaches and jfood orders a sparkling water. usually this is a bottle of pellegrino. as jfood has mentioned before the body language of the server is a leading indicator of the evening. There is an extremely high correlation between the servers reaction to jfood's water order and the service for the rest of the evening. If the server acts like the air is out of the ballon then the service will be low and if a "my pleasure" reaction then good service is coming. This has a beta of about .95.

                                                            Likewise jfood has seen attractive women and men gussied over by servers of both sexes, have seen suits sucked up to, desperate housewives treated both badly and wonderfully and everything in between.

                                                            Let's carve out the server who treats everyone professional. to them jfood bows and thanks you for making many meals a wonderful and pleasant expereince. But like in all professions, some are not as professional as you. jfood fully believes that these less than professionals think they can size up the custo in the first few minutes and figure out what the tip might be and manages his/her time for whet they believe is the highest potential. Jfood's water order versus a martini sends some into the "ain;t big tip" camp and jfood receives not so great service and others understand that many do not drink liquor and move on with their professional delivery of a product.

                                                            So long story short that many servers size up the tip potential and give service accordingly but jfood does not believe this is a gendered based analysis.

                                                            1. Yes I, along with a female companion, have received blatantly different service from men who were sitting at the same table as us. She would come by, flirt and smile with the men, refill only their wine and water... and walk away. This was an exceptional circumstance of very flirtatious acquaintance/waitress and men who were encouraging it. But I really doubt we would have gotten great service frrom her as two women dining alone either. And we did not have a chance to purse our lips or scowl at her because she barely looked at us the entire meal.

                                                              Sometimes it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, sometimes it is not.

                                                              (FWIW I was more annoyed at our dining companions than the waitress, as our friend and boyfriend they had more of an obligation to make us comfortable than any waitress).

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                if the boyfriend was too busy flirting to notice his g/f being ignored, that's a whole other thread!