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Ageist service problems -- paranoia or shared experience?

So, my SO and I are 24 and 23 years old, respectively. We like to go out for meals every week or two, and we dress nicely for the occasion. Not rabble rousers, we don't go into places and make a scene or drink excessively. We were both raised well with more than adequate instruction in table manners and proper tipping . . .

Despite our friendly manner and best intentions (we aren't the types to get in a snit and treat our servers with anything but patience and smiles), we often seem to get apathetic, disappearing-act-style, or even ill-tempered service. Recent example in my review of Imperial Tea House on the SF Bay Area board.

I'm just wondering if anybody else has this experience. So, 20-something Chowhounders, or those who experienced this phenomenon while my age, please speak up if you can commiserate!

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  1. I have four years on you and unfortunately completely relate to your experience. I have to constantly fight the urge to over-tip just to "prove myself to them" - whatever that means...This has prompted me to search for more ethnic restaurants. I have discovered wonderful food, and less pretentous people so the net gain is still in my favor :)

    1. Not just in restaurants, we have walked out of car dealerships and jewelry stores when they bypassed us to wait on older customers who came in after us. Then I developed two silver streaks in my otherwise brown hair - problem solved! (note - I am still only 30; we go grey early on my mom's side...)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Cowprintrabbit

        I don't know if it is an age thing or just rotten attitude by clerks and wait staff. We are in our 60's, and there have been times we have had to almost cause a scene just to get waited on, get our bill, whatever. We have tried to order and given up and left because of awful service.

        Some days you get good service and some days you don't. I think when we were in our 20's service was better. It was a different time, things were more formal, the dining experience was just different, I am talking about upscale restuarants. Waiters did not introduce themselves and chat, they were there for you to have a lovely meal. They did their job amd you felt pampered.

        If they are ignoring you for seniors, they are dumber than a red brick. You are working and probably have a nice income. At least it is a steady income. Lots of seniors have lost most of their retirements from the crazy stock market.

        1. re: Janet

          FWIW, people in their 50's have the highest income and have accumulated the most wealth. Do you people think you get better service than other age groups? Just wondering.

          When I was 19, eating at a nice place but not exactly fine dining, the host brought my Visa charge form. Unsolicited, he instructed me as to where I need to sign. Not so bad yet. Guess what he did next? He pointed out another line and said "And this is where you put the tip!" I told him on the spot he's lucky he's not my waiter, because were he so, he'd be getting nada.

          1. re: Leonardo

            I've gotten bad service in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. I think it depends on the server.

            I've gotten bad service because I'm a woman, and some waitresses will only be nice to men (because generally men tip better when the waitress is wearing a tight low-cut outfit). But then, I've had great service from such waitresses, too, so I think generalizing doesn't work.

      2. I've had this problem - especially out with my husband - too many times to count. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy for servers - treat us poorly expecting a bad tip and you are going to get what you expect. We tip well and are courteous, but we know that this just won't change some.

        1. Operagirl, I have one big suggestion that I have learned from my parents that has helped over the years: Always make a reservation. And when calling, get the person's name who answers and note it. Even if it is a place that doesn't take reservations, make a call, tell them when you are thinking of coming and how crowded it probably will be, and get a name. Having a reservation, and mentioning the name (which often is the host or hostess who will be greeting and seating you, or obviously an employee who recognizes the coworker), gives you instant cache and credibility.

          5 Replies
          1. re: nosh

            I think that MAY help, but at my restaurant, for example, the girl taking reservations is just that- the reservationist. She has no clout, isn't even there at night and is basically a secretary. So in this case, if you bring up speaking to so-and-so, you'd just look like you were trying to name-drop. We all know how silly people who do that look.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              Agreed, or even worse--it may get the person who you talked to in trouble if you make it sound as if they told you they may be able to get you in more quickly. If a place doesn't take reservations, leave it at that. It will make you look foolish and entitled if you push the subject.

              1. re: pollymerase

                Oh, come on... I never suggested that anyone, much less a young diner, act snooty and behave haughtily. I merely proposed that any diner will usually be treated better if they take the trouble to make a reservation rather than just walk in, even if they call on their cell on their way to the restaurant. And I never advocated lying about being promised favors.

                When one demonstrates some forethought and commitment by calling first rather than simply walking in, I think it is probable that he or she will be treated better. When one shows some consideration and respect by having a quick conversation and remembering a name, it is likely that he or she will cultivate a more positive interaction.

                The servers who post on this board often comment about being able to size up customers from first glance. I invite their comments about patrons making reservations and treating employees with dignity.

                1. re: nosh

                  I understand that you aren't advocating that people should act snotty, I'm simply say that these actions, even with perfectly good intentions, could be mistaken for arrogant behavior. Name-droppers (regardless of the location, business, or profession) are usually only respected by fellow name-droppers. If you made arrangements for a special menu or event, then by all means you should notify the front desk, but to name names makes it appear that you think you are better than the other 10 tables waiting to eat.

                  I also never said you advocated lying to make it appear that you were promised a favor--and that is my exact point. Simply by saying, 'I called earlier and spoke to Jessica, I'd like to put my name on the list', could very well sound to a manager or another employee that Jessica indicated you could move to the top of the list or provide you some other favor. You obviously had only good intentions, but it could very well be interpreted quite differently from management.

                  Don't get me wrong, I'm not discouraging anyone from building a rapport with their favorite restaurants, but you need to go about it in a non-obtrusive way.

                  1. re: pollymerase

                    Getting the name of the person you speak with when making a reservation has been a good thing more than once over the years when somehow my name can't be "found" on the list. At that point whomever I am talking to will say "Who did you speak with?" and when I come up with a name that they recognize, they now know I am most likely not trying to "game" the system by claiming a reservation I did not make.

          2. I'm 25 now...last year i had a horrible service experience at Bacchus in Milwaukee. It did seem like most of the other diners were older and getting better service. It was probably the only time i've really felt like i was treated differently from the people around me in a restaurant. At least the food was good, though...they can't discriminate by age with that!