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Is it OK to take silverware from nearby table [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]

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In a recent thread, the issue of waiting for a replacement knife was discussed. A number of posters said just to take the silverware from a nearby table if it was a casual place. It made me curious. While I would first ask my server to get me silverware, I would not think twice about exercising self-help and taking it from the table next door. No matter what restaurant I am in. Am I horribly uncouth or just practical?

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  1. Practical. I do try to let someone know that I took an item next time I see wait/bus staff. (This thread will probably be moved to Not About Food).

    1. Absolutely practical.

      Jfood has done this on many occasions from diners to high end restos.

      Anotherinteresting question is what happens when the server returns with that missing utensil and realizes its an "oops."

      jfood's experience is they sulk away 90% of the time, 5% of the time they apologize for taking so long and 5% they leave the extra utensil, and we'll call that clueless. In any event it's sorta a shrug in the meal for jfood.

      Wonder if anyone

      1 Reply
      1. re: jfood

        Oh yes, TT did this at a Thai place last week. In fact, we changed plates with the next table as well, as ours had the reminants of what appeard to be food on them :(

        But, as for cutlery, I think the rule is, if you drop it, then you really shouldn't grab another table's. But if the server takes it away after a course, or it's missing when you get there, then it's up to the wait staff to provide a replacement. Only if they don't can you swipe it from the next table (go walk to the serving station and help yourself).


      2. I have done it on several occasions, when the server was out of sight or earshot. But I always let them know as soon as I see them.

        1 Reply
        1. re: vvvindaloo

          I wish this were the only issue with restaurants that don't measure up!

          If I can't get a server or a busser (good advice from someone), I would happily swipe.

          Someone else mentioned reflecting the lack of utensils in the tip, but I don't agree on that.

        2. I have definitely done this, but only at casual places; all the nicer restos I've been to just haven't ever forgotten to place silverware at the table.

          Thinking about it, I don't take a silverware count until the meal actually arrives.. and when there's food in front of me but no utensils (and no waiter), I'm stealing from a table nearby!

          1. I'll hesitate to grab it from the table next to me, but if the wait staff isn't around to give me my own, or they somehow forget and bring me the food minus knife/fork, I'll look around for my own and snaffle it from the next table if need be (as long as it's empty) - I'm not going to sit there and let my food get cold while I wait fifteen minutes for the waiter to show up again and ask if I need anything!

            1. Unless its a utensil that neither I nor my wife have and that one of needs to eat the dish, I usually just let it slide and we'll share. Especially in the case of a butter knife or something similar. If it's a soup spoon we're missing...then I'll definitely move quickly to get a server or busser or whomever. If it's a place that puts silverware on the tables ahead of time and one is within reach, I'll certainly snag a necessary item and tell someone I did the next time they go by.

              1. Yes, although at higher end restaurants I've never needed to. But at casual/family places, yes. Not only flatware, but condiments as well, if needed. More than once when I've asked a server for ketchup (or whatever) that's exactly what they do--take it from a earby unoccupied table.

                1. i used to work in an upscale but casual french restaurant. on a not busy night i watched one of my customers reach over to the next table, grab a knife (a good quality silver-plated knife) and then reach down and shove the knife under the base of the table to level it so the table wouldn't wobble.

                  i was absolutely appalled.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: excuse me miss

                    Hmm...High end restaurant, wobbly table...

                  2. At our local Chinese buffet, you HAVE to wait for a utensil, because they keep the napkin-wrapped silverware hidden in some inscrutable place, so no one can just walk into the restaurant and start eating without a ticket. They give you one spoon and one fork, and it you lose the fork...you use the spoon or eat with your fingers. (Actually, they will bring you another fork, it just seems like they KNOW you dropped it and punish you by avoiding your gaze for 10 minutes.)
                    But if you ask them nicely, they'll bring you those prepared chopsticks with the rubber band and wadded paper napkin at the end, and you can pretend that you know how to eat with real chopsticks. I generally end up pinching myself with them.