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Jul 29, 2008 10:09 AM

"Waiters can and do spit in people's food ..."


The writer of the blog Waiter Rant has been revealed, and there was an article about it.

I got upset with Lesson No. 1 -- "Waiters can and do spit in people's food ..."

There was a discussion on the boards over the weekend that got deleted where one of the posters said that if you don't tip well, expect the waitstaff to spit in your food. I think what got a lot of people incensed was that the poster's handle implied that he/she is in the service industry. And judging from the link that was on his/her My Chow (not a smart move), he/she used to be a server who's been "scarred for life". It probably got deleted because it was getting pretty heated, and I wouldn't be surprised if the poster got a few pieces of hate mail over the weekend. So I'm hoping that the mods don't delete this as I'm not naming any names, and I'm hoping the other posters would also refrain from mentioning his/her name and try to keep this discussion civil. I think this is a topic that is worthy of discussion.

It really bothered me that some people would have the gall to engage in this type of behavior. Will it increase their tips? No, as customers are not aware that this is being done. It fails to accomplish anything but only to make the immature server temporarily feel better. And then I started to think about the other behaviors servers can engage in such as stepping on the food, urinating on the food (it's happened recently), etc. This behavior could be potentially harmful to those that are immune-compromised. It's unethical, irresponsible and downright criminal. And please don't respond with tipping 10% is unethical as well -- it's not the same, and we all know it.

I'm sure a lot of people have had this paranoid thought in the back of his/her minds at one point. We then read tons of stories about how that it's just a myth and it just doesn't happen. And then we read posts from the poster that I've mentioned earlier and the article that I liked to above and my wheels start turning. As I don't undertip, I'm pretty sure that the waitstaff won't spit in my food for that reason. But then I start wondering if you've got people who would spit in my food because of various other reasons like they don't like Asians, they don't like what I'm wearing, I send back food because it's not cooked properly, etc. Didn't an employee at KFC spit and urinate in somebody's food because he was a cop? The kicker is that the food was also served to his wife and kids. The kids were the ones who got sick from the food.

Before I receive the onslaught of responses from people in the service industry that say that this rarely happens, I understand that this behavior is probably the minority of servers. But I'm still not happy reading about these stories. I hope those who engage in this behavior rethink their actions, and I hope those of you who are customers that undertip rethink your actions as well.

  1. He's shown pouring Metamucil in food? Is this an incentive to buy his book?

    Um. Not.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dolores

      Have you read any of his blog? He's a terrific writer. And about the spitting on or doing anything else gross to people's food? Having waited tables for 8+ years, I saw it occasionally. Definitely.

      1. re: southernitalian

        I have read the Waiter Rant blog off and on for awhile now and I agree that the author is often a funny and perceptive author. I was thinking about ordering his book on but a couple of concerns have made me reconsider. First, is the book new material or is it simply a regurgitation of the blog entries? Second, the photo in the nypost story linked above really bothered me. I know its the post, and I also realize that the photographer or writer or some publicist or publishing honk may have suggested the picture. But I find it offensive. If the point of the blog and the book is to elevate the discussion of the server-patron relationship, that photo is a definite sellout to sensationalism.

        I guess I'll delay my purchase until the seconds are selling on amazon partner sites for 99 cents plus shipping. And in the meantime, once again I will recommend "Waiting" by Debra Ginsberg.

        1. re: nosh

          I totally agree with you. As much as I love his writing, there's no point in buying the book if it's just a compilation of his blog. And it is a stupid photo.

    2. pardon me for sounding dumb, but you don't know how much someone tips until AFTER they have eaten, so it sounds like that statement must only apply to people who have been at a particular establishment for a long time and in which the establishment has a cadre of "regulars" or else how would this work?

      2 Replies
      1. re: rockandroller1

        Yes, this is in reference to people who come back to an establishment the second time.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          Unfortunately I've been out with friends who didn't tip well and have ended up slipping my servers twenties on one of my trips 'to the ladies room'... hopefully that helps avoid future extra ingredients in our meals! Geez, after reading this thread I'm beginning to think that we should go back to tipping before being served like in the olden days T.I.P.S. = To Insure Prompt Service!

        2. I have been in the service industry over twenty years and I have never seen anyone do this. Plus, it makes no sense, how can you spit in someone's food after you get the tip? Unless they come back, they are done with their meal and leaving by the time you see what the tip is. Most servers (if they know someone is a poor tipper from previous visits) just give minimal service for a minimal tip (and I am talking 12% or below not 15)

          11 Replies
          1. re: Missmoo

            While the amount of tip is not known until after the dining experience. there is a myriad of behaviors that can really piss a waiter off, even before they are seated at a table.( ie. Get the owner, I am a personal friend of his, I want THAT table in the window, I don't have a reservation and I want to be seated now, etc....)

            1. re: MattInNJ

              That's why I personally *never* send anything back no matter how much I don't like the food.

              1. re: jgg13

                Yes- I've heard other people say that too and then add on "because you don't know what the server could do to your food!" It's like people are held hostage in fear of the server spitting or doing something else unmentionable to the food, and I find it unacceptable. I've had several server friends who admitted to spitting/licking/dropping food, so I don't doubt that it happens. These people did generally work in chain establishments where employees were typically students who didn't tend to stay on very long, but it was a disturbing trend. I worked at a high-end resort and you wouldn't believe what happened to some of that room service food. I've never ordered room service since!

                1. re: queencru

                  Kind of like how servers are held hostage w/ the threat of getting stiffed. I suppose it levels the playing field in a twisted sort of way.

                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Depends on what level you're operating.

                    1. re: lynnlato

                      Servers sign onto that possibility. A customer shouldn't have to sign on for getting his food spit in just because he goes to a chain restaurant and sends his steak back for being overdone.

                      1. re: queencru

                        I agree that no one should fear getting their food spit in - that's barbaric and foul and in most states a crime.

                        I also don't condone the behavior of a server OR a diner who would use threats and intimidation (implied or spoken) to get their way. I don't think servers should expect to be stiffed - that's just wrong too.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          Thank you for writing what I would have so I don't have to, lynnlato.

                          1. re: diablo

                            Ditto. Why hasn't jfood chimed in to this?

                2. re: MattInNJ

                  Exactly! You must be a Topflight a**hole if you piss off your server that bad before the tip is even given.

                3. re: Missmoo

                  i too have never seen this in my 18 years & counting, i work only at indies where everyone has some pride in the food. i have heard of this happening in chain restos, but never, ever for poor tipping. this kind of horrendous revenge-type stuff (which i believe happens, but very, very, very rarely) only makes sense in situations where a customer totally and completely power-trips and humiliates a server who is expected to take abuse and possibly a cheap grope from a sleazy customer with a smile. hooters etc type places-- and spit in the food is not anything that anybody but the absolute worst jerks on the planet would have to worry about. apart from the most jaded chain resto drones (and an *extremely* tiny percentage of *them*), pretty much everyone else has some pride and doesn't need to stoop to such disgusting behavior. i agree with Missmoo that servers who are aware of a poor tipper tend to merely expend the minimum energy on that person's service, not engage in losing their cool over it and messing around with the person's food. they put their energy into serving their good customers, not being negative, as being negative has a huge (negative) impact on their overall tips.

                4. I got a dirty cup once as a teenage when we were being dumb at a steakhouse. I know it was dirty because there was still lipstick on it. Who knows what else they did to my steak. Now I rarely dine out because I don't trust any place where the food is not prepared in front of me.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: The_Whistler

                    Lipstick is notorious for being difficult to remove. It may have been missed after it came out of the dishwasher.

                    1. re: Missmoo

                      yeah--glasses often come out of the dishwasher with lipstick marks still on them. service staff should look at them closely, but sometimes they don't. doesn't mean they weren't washed.

                        1. re: mrbozo

                          What, you've never had that happen on a coffee cup run through the dishwasher at home? All of my travel mugs are permanently stained due to lipstick, so much so that my husband has divided up the mugs into "his" and "hers".

                          1. re: Suzy Q

                            I certainly wouldn't serve coffee in those cups to guests, especially ones who are paying.

                            1. re: mrbozo

                              Right, but the point is that they don't intentionally use them. A restaurant can easily go through 1000+ pieces of glassware a night. It's impossible to catch every smudge of lipstick every time. It's been sanitized by both heat and chemicals.

                              1. re: pollymerase

                                Sheer coincident that I got one of those cups I suppose.

                                1. re: pollymerase

                                  They can intentionally make sure they don't use them. Allowing such glassware to arrive at a table hardly makes a good impression.

                                  There is such a thing as quality control and the better restaurants (any type of business) practice it. Dining out is not just about the food but also ambience, service and spotless dishes and cutlery. Unless of course the establishment just doesn't care ...

                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                    Even the restaurants of the highest caliber with the happiest, most efficient and most professional employees make a mistake every once in a blue moon, whether through negligence or otherwise. Unless you are willing to admit that they should be placed in an impossibly high standard or that you yourself are the very model of perfection then it is somewhat unrealistic...

                                    One lipstick-stained glass does not a horrible restaurant make.

                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                      What's wrong with high standards? If anything, standards are too low (and not just vis-a-vis spotless glassware). As the venerable American philosopher John Lee Hooker said, "Now for the best. Later for the garbage."

                                      One lipstick stained glass can nip a business deal in the bud or derail a date with a desired mate.

                                      1. re: mrbozo

                                        There's one thing to have expectations and to do one's best to meet or exceed them and another to crucify somebody or have it destroy your life when those expectations aren't quite met.

                                        You could say there are many things in life in which one's standards should go up.

                                        1. re: Blueicus

                                          And I do. It's the kind of guy I am. Denny Crane.

                          2. re: nc213

                            Lipstick is horrible to remove. All of my wine glasses are done by hand, after a meal. I always soak the first wine course glasses by 200%, an scrub like heck, to remove the lipstick. Yes, it looks nice on the ladies, but it's heck on the beverage containers.

                            To me, it's a whisper to the server, and a fresh cup/glass/whatever, is always brought. It is never a big deal, and I have yet to be refused. Still, what happens behind the kitchen doors, is up to them.

                            On that respect, I had the opportunity to dine with the head of Ritz Carlton, just after they won their first Malcom Baldridge Award for quality service. He left me with one sentence on how his organization won this award (I think they now have five), "We look upon ourselves as ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen." I have never forgotten his words. I only hope that more restauranteurs (and inn keepers) heed those words. It makes for a much better situation.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              That catches the spirit of what I've been saying better than I've said it. Thanks.

                              1. re: mrbozo

                                I only wish that I had said it. However, the impression was left, and I have borrowed on it, in many phases of my business and in my life. I wish I could give full attribution, to the CEO, but this was decades ago, and my grey-matter is not what it once was. Still, I recalled the words, and the setting, and the gentleman's position in that corporation. The best I can do now.


                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                >>We look upon ourselves as ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen."

                                Bill Hunt, good adage.

                                Hmmm, let's see.

                                I said: or as I noted, treat others as you want to be treated.

                                And yet there are dining patrons and restaurant managers and servers who don't live by this adage.

                                1. re: dolores


                                  All too many, in my humble opinion and on both sides of the dining table.

                                  That is why, if I have a problem, I work up the chain of command, and try not to put anyone in the middle. If the server cannot handle my problem, we move upwards and quietly. My situation, whatever it is, should not be known to the other diners, even at my table. It is between me, and whomever I need to speak with. Ninety percent of my problems are handled at the first level. The rest are still done in private with the next level, and so on, and so on. I have yet to have a dining problem, that could not be resolved and most often in a totally equitible way for both, the diner and the establishment. I expect a great deal, am ready to pay for it, and anticipate that the establishment can agree with me on this.

                                  Yes, a good server "might" have spotted something amiss, but if they cannot correct it, then I talk to the chef, or the manager. Some establishments empower their staff, more than others.

                                  Back to the Ritz Carlton episode. Another comment, made to me at that diner was that all employees were empowered to fix any guest's problem - without question. I try to ascribe to that philosophy, as well. Matter of fact, my wife took those words to heart, as well, and she's over 5,000 employees in the healthcare field. She learned that any problem needs to be addressed, and quickly. If the employee cannot do so, they are free to move the problem up to the next level and get it handled.

                                  Some restaurants are micro-managed, and it shows. Train the entire staff, and make them feel responsible for the enjoyment of all patrons.

                                  OTOH, too many patrons do feel a sense of "entitlement," as mentioned in other replies. That is just not a good attitude. I hope that no server, busser, chef, GM, etc., ever feels that I have that attitude. Yes, it's about my enjoyment, but one needs to conduct themselves with comportment, at all times - except maybe when dealing with government bureaucrats , but that is another story, and not fit for CH.


                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                  My DH used to sell dishwasher systems to restaurants, so if we got a cup with lipstick, or spotty flatware, he would ask them to bring us replacements, and then go the next day or so to either check their machines (if it was one his company had provided) or to get them to upgrade to a better system. That really is an equipment malfunction. Should not happen if the machine is in good working order.

                                  1. re: danhole

                                    Man, what a great rep for that company, and probably a great salesman, should the equipment NOT be his.

                                    Very interesting - thanks for sharing that,


                                3. re: nc213

                                  As a bartender I was trained ALWAYS wipe every glass to remove lipstick stains the minute you open teh dishwasher,especially wine glasses.

                                  Lipstick has a petroleum base, which makes it near impossible to remove with just a dishwashing... you need elbow grease.

                            2. I worked in the industry for a while, and I do think that these stories are incredibly rare, maybe dramatized, and generally isolated to places like KFC/Roadhouse/etc (just generalizing that these places have high turnover, tend to hire people who have little to no experience in the industry, pay them very little, and are therefore more at risk of having these types of incidents).

                              I also would like to say that, as MattinNJ points out, it's not so much the lack of tipping that causes waitstaff to be angered and curse a patron's food (more common) or spit on it (less common) - it's the patron's treatment of waitstaff. While the majority of customers are polite and courteous, there are some who act outrageously rude. I have had customers at a high-end restaurant make lewd sexual comments (even before their drinks were served!), rudely and loudly demand to have something (food sent back, food taken off their bill, be re-seated numerous times...), yell "girl - come here" (or some variation) across a crowded dining room, allow their children to smear food on the tablecloth and chairs and then demand I clean it up and change it before the next course, and on and on...

                              Now, I have no problem doing any of these things (well...the sexual comments are never acceptable) if a customer asks politely. It's REALLY not that hard to say "You know what...this steak is overcooked. Could you ask the kitchen to make another?", and that's no big deal. But when someone says "Girl. This is terrible. How can this be served here? You've totally overcooked it. Get me another one and make sure it's medium-rare. That's M-E-D-I-U-M R-A-R-E - get it right this time" it really makes me want to step on their steak. Not that I ever did, but makes you think evil thoughts to be treated that way.

                              Obviously, I could vent about this for hours. But what I'm really saying is just be decent. If you are a customer, take the time to understand that waitstaff typically work hard and deserve to be treated politely. And if you do this, you probably won't be subjected to anyone spitting in your food, or even cursing you behind kitchen doors.