HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Was I rude?

We went to dinner last night at a nice french bistro (tableclothes and everything!) with a moderately priced menu. Service was iffy throughout the meal but acceptable until . . . the waiter started to stack the dirty plates on top of my plate that was still in front of me. I said 'please don't do that' and he asked 'what' - 'stack the plates in front of me'. He seemed offended and ther person dining with me was embarrassed.

On a side note - ONE of my dining pet peeves is cleared dishes that get stacked on an arm. To me my dinner has just become garbage. I know it's weird but the better waiters don't do it.

Was I rude to my waiter last night? I still give him a better than average tip.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It would have bothered me too. I might not have said anything if I didn't plan on going back anyway but usually I tend to be kind of wimpy. I know exactly what you mean about dinner turning to garbage. I have this problem at home! One family member insists on getting up and starting to clean the table while I'm still eating. It bothers me for the same reason, dinner becomes garbage or leftovers. I'm pretty much doomed because when I get assertive and say something it interupts my enjoyment of my dinner too. When I went to his mother's house for dinner and she did the same thing I just kind of gave up. I do tend to eat somewhat slowly but not ridiculously so. Wow typing this has brought back a memory of the same mom trying to get up and leave an ice cream place that she had gone to with us for a treat. Never mind that I still had half a sundae left. She apologized and said airly "I guess when I'm done I think everyone else is." But I feel for you. Stacking them in your face like that is ridiculous. But people either get it or they don't. I'll be interested to see what others have to say.

    1. No, you weren't rude by any means. I would be disgusted to have someone else's congealing, picked over, cold food remains and utensils in my face also. You said "please", explained concisely when he asked why (which should have been obvious) and tipped him anyhow. In my opinion, well handled.

      1. He never, ever should have stacked all of the plates on your plate that remained in front of you. Either he picks up a single plate and puts other plates on top of that while he holds the original plate on the bottom or, even better, a service tray is brought to put the dirty dishes on that and they're removed that way.

        I think you handled it very well.

        1. I think you handled it very well. I would have spoken to management about this as well. They need to know their employees are acting like this. This goes along with "Are you still working on that?" which makes it sound like you are shoveling through a trough!

          1. It truly sounds like the waiter just wasn't in the know - not an excuse - just my opinion. I would definitely address this with mgmt via snailmail or email in a polite but concerned tone. I think you'd be doing the place a favor, especially if you like the place otherwise... You did also mention up front that service was iffy - I think good if not exceptional service is a requisite of certain cuisines like French. The focus and attention to details is part of the experience that I would think most do expect...

            1. you sound normal to me.

              1. No I feel the same way.

                As one of the other poster mentioned, I am also a slow eater, as I talk and savor each bite. My DH eats at a much faster paste although he doesn't shovel it. I dislike when they want to take his plate which leaves me eating alone feeling as though everyone is waiting on me to clear out the table. Now my family holds on to the forks or if they ask if there done, they say they are still working on it.

                One server notice that he was done and finally asked about it, I explained how I felt and she said she'd hadn't really thought about it. As she's only doing what management asks. She felt a few people wouldn't want to look at their dirty unfinished food but kind of understood my predicament.

                1. Where on earth were you dining? Do not go back!

                  1. If your concern really is, "was I rude?", then it would probably depend upon your tone, body language, etc. Since you're still concerned about it after the fact, it's probably safe to say you probably weren't rude.

                    But the bigger issue is, how do you deal with this type of situation in the future? You probably weren't rude, but you also probably didn't get your point across. Sounds to me like the server isn't aware that his actions might be perceived as being offensive, probably because of lack of training. If this kind of thing happens to me, I generally won't address it to the person doing the job but rather talk to management, stating something along the lines of, "the food was wonderful, but I thought you might like to know the server did XYZ. I think he's just not aware of how that might make a customer feel when he does that. Except for this XYZ, we really enjoyed our evening (or insert whatever compliment is appropriate and honest)." Say it in a matter-of-fact way, and it will be taken that way, and if the manager is a good manager, he will educate the server on the issue. That's his job, not yours. I own a service business (not food-related) and I would much rather have a client tell me with specificity about a problem with an employee so that I can address the situation openly and frankly with the employee so that they do better next time.

                    You say he "seemed offended." More likely he was confused and embarrassed, but covered it up with a bit of indignation (as we all do from time to time when called out). He doesn't understand why it bothered you (otherwise he wouldn't have done it), and I can bet he won't change his behaviour, he will just think you were a little neurotic (which you weren't). So unfortunately you missed an opportunity to help someone correct a problem and made yourself feel bad in the process. But don't fret over it. I guarantee he's already forgotten the incident.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: lisavf

                      If the person with you was embrassed it must have been your tone/demenor.

                      1. re: LaLa

                        I would not assume that. Some people are just afraid to speak up when they see ignorant behavior such as that displayed by the waiter.

                        I don't think the OP was rude at all and I would have said the same thing to this waiter.

                        1. re: NE_Elaine

                          my point was the worse part of the story was the dining companion was embarrassed, that is considered a bigger breech of etiquette thank stacking dishes IMO.

                          1. re: LaLa

                            I completely agree with you LaLa. Im the type of person that would probably have been embarrassed by this situation and I would hate to put another dining companion in an embarrassing situation. The fact that the waiter had to ask what he was doing wrong makes it seem as if the OP wasnt clear and perhaps was a bit rude (although I do not know the tone that was used). If it really really bothered me, I would have tried to word it differently perhaps, such as kindly asking "would you mind not stacking the dishes in front of me?" Or perhaps, pushing the plate away from you? (although I heard that thats another thread enitrely)

                    2. A

                      You get a 10 and the server a zero for that faux pas. He would have seen a reduced tip as well since the service was iffy before as well.

                      1. you weren't rude. the waiter was an idiot. how can one not know this would be offensive? how many dining scenes do people see on tv, in the movies? or they eat out themselves -- or see around them in the resto in which they are working?

                        intuitively (if nothing else) the waiter should have known the plate stack (on *your plate in front of you*, no less!) is like piling up dishes for the youngest in the family to start washing up! horrible.

                        then you felt guilty for calling him out and over-tipped. ;-(

                        talk to the manager, even now. tell us what happens. you may not be the only one with a problem with the dumbwaiter. (ha!)

                        1. The waiter was the one with no manners, IMO. There is no need to put a mess of plates in front of anyone -- ever. It is unsightly, and there is a small chance the plates can topple toward you. This is an inexperienced waiter, and your dining companion doesn't seem to be too experienced either. It doesn't matter if you are eating at a bistro. fine dining establishment or Applebee's. It is just not done that way, for esthetic reasons.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: RGC1982

                            I'd say you did him a big favor; now he knows and won't do it again. He'll ask around to see if he was right and you were wrong, most people will tell him you were absolutely right and he'll be grateful you intervened and remember you forever !!!!

                          2. So in your mind there is only one acceptable method of clearing a table? no stacking dishes on table, no stacking dishes in hand/arm.

                            I'm surprised so many find this so offensive. I assume your dining partner's plate when a foot from you during the meal was not offensive - what makes it so off-putting when it is closer for a second or two?

                            Apparently Cinnabon does not feel that the question that others find offensive "Still working on that?" is so bad as her family will make a point to say they are indeed "still working on it."

                            I feel the opposite of lisavf's argument "Since you're still concerned about it after the fact, it's probably safe to say you probably weren't rude"

                            I think if you are still wondering the next day if you were rude the day before, you probably were.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: FrankJBN

                              gosh, this waiter was way out of bounds. frank, how can you say this op was "rude" when he/she actually cares how he/she responded? and giving a nice tip after so-so service?

                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                This is just me, but the further I read, you lost me...? I totally get your first remark and even part of the second - I can agree to a certain extent depending on where and when, but after that...

                                1. re: FrankJBN

                                  It is a mature attitude, not an admission of guilt to think about things you have done in the past and see if they were done correctly.

                                  There are many ways to adequately clear dishes and several that are not acceptable. Piling dishes in front of a customer is definitely in the second bucket.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    jfood confuses indecision and lack of clarity of thought with maturity.

                                    When one has enough cause to still be questioning the 'whether or not' the next day, one must assume that one has indeed acted badly. Couple the simplicity of the unanswered question with a subsequent public announcment that 'I gave the potential aggrieved party some extra cash to compensate.' and it seems easy to read.

                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                      I disagree. A thinking person frequently re-examines her actions: Time and distance sometimes lend a different perspective. It's not necessarily a confession of guilt. A day after a really bad experience in a restaurant, I'll always ask myself if I was right to complain about "X." This is normal human behavior.

                                      1. re: FrankJBN

                                        Nah, can;'t agree in the least. Jfood question all the time oirdering dessert the night before and he always made the correct decision. Likewise questioning your own actions gives you pause to take a moment to reflect and therefore become a better person.

                                        If questioning your actions in hindsight is an admission of guilt than the term self appraisal will become meaningless.

                                        Sorry bro, but jfood and Frank will have to agree to disagree on this one. In fact jfood does not even see a gray in this discussion.

                                    2. re: FrankJBN

                                      I have to agree with Frank on the part where he is surprised so many people find this offensive.

                                      1. re: FrankJBN

                                        For me, the unpleasantness is just as much about the continued invasion of personal space as it is about looking at a lot of dirty plates. I am not the type of person who minds about stacking on an arm or elsewhere, but at a minimum there has to be some way to do it that doesn't involve coming within inches of me more than one time.

                                        However, it is possible that alwayscooking's response was not worded in the most diplomatic manner and took the server off guard. Either way, a discussion with the manager would be appropriate so he or she could let the server know what exactly the server did wrong. I have to imagine the server is new and clueless, because I can't imagine he'd do this without at least getting some disgusted/displeased glares from the diners.

                                        1. re: queencru

                                          "the continued invasion of personal space"

                                          When one invites service of food, doesn't one invite "invasion" of personal space, unless one is dining at the Chinese buffet?

                                          1. re: FrankJBN

                                            Not in that manner. There is etiquette.
                                            Last night we had dinner out. The server bumped against me and forced the plate of food into my space, unannounced. I was holding a wine glass in front of me, too. I barely got that out of the way. It was unconscionable behavior! No excuse me, no I'm sorry.

                                            1. re: Scargod

                                              I agree. It's sort of like housekeeping in a hotel. I see the dishes in front of me as being akin to a housekeeper barging in while I am still in the room and starting to clean. I know the housekeeper is going to come into the room and be in close contact with my personal belongings, but at the same time, it's proper for a housekeeper to knock and if I'm there, ask permission to come in.

                                              Similarly, a good server should try to do his/her job in a way that's as minimally intrusive as possible. If a glass is to far to reach comfortably, the server should polite ask the diner to hand it to her. If a server asks to take a plate, he should do just that, not place someone else's plate in front of me.

                                        2. re: FrankJBN

                                          I don't knopw about you, but the cold remains of my dining companion's plate are not appealing. I don't care how great it looked when they plopped it down in front of him or her. They have had quite a while to make a mess of it while eating, and at this point, we are no longer talking about an entree, but a dirty dish. So, that is what stacking is in my mind -- a stack of dirty dishes.

                                          I see no reason why they can't stack on their arm, if they can do it without spilling the plates on the floor or the diners. I object only to stacking on the table. That is bad manners, and risky.

                                        3. Unfortunately dishes need to be stacked on an arm as most places are too busy to take two plates away per trip.
                                          However, stacking the dishes on your plate on the table in front of you is bad service.
                                          You may be feeling bad because you know your delivery was a little sharp. But nothing wrong with asking him not to do that.

                                          1. No, you were not rude. I've never seen a server or busboy do that, thank goodness.

                                            1. They say the worst etiquette is pointing out other people's bad etiquette, but in this situation, you were somewhat doing him a favor.He really should know that it's a bad practice to pile dishes in front of people. Although, depending on your tone and language, he could've assumed that you were just a weird, particular person and this is some quirk of yours. So, maybe explaining it further or talking to the manager would be good.
                                              As for piling dishes on someone's arm, that's a pretty common practice. It shouldn't happen in a very nice restaurant, but fast-paced, busy restaurants encourage their staff to be as effective as possible.

                                              1. Someone else's dirty plate? Yuck. Even your own dirty plates , it's a big no no.

                                                1. He should not have been removing plates from your table while any of the diners was still eating. You were definitely NOT rude. He was. I'm afraid I might not have been as POLITE as you...

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                    No. You were not. Sticking somebody else's dirty plate in front of you is DEFINITELY unprofessional and probably unsanitary.

                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      I didn't even catch the part about the OP's companions still eating. Even more of a bad call for the busboy.

                                                    2. My husband does not have very high expectations when it comes to service. When I described this scenario to him he said "WTF?" That does it for me: If he finds the plate-stacking in front of a diner heinous, then it's a no-brainer.

                                                      1. I would have been shocked and apalled if a waiter did this at my table, and it's entirely possible that my "tone" would have been less than polite due to the shock. So were you rude? Perhaps, technically you may have been. But was it warranted? Absolutely. I say this as a self-appointed guardian angel of servers everywhere . . . but there are limits as to what a customer should have to put up with. A stack of dirty dishes at your place-setting is way over the line. This wouldn't be acceptable at even the most low-down Denny's.

                                                        It's entirely possible that the waiter was raised in a home where this was how things were done -- many folks will relax rules at home that they wouldn't accept as paying customers. But, c'mon - if you're being paid to be a server, you have to understand that this isn't your momma's breakfast nook.

                                                        Hey, it was an evening out with a friend, so I get not wanting to end it on a sour note. But (especially if you feel you were "rude" despite the provocation) you owe it to every other future patron of the place to let the owner/manager know that they've got a rogue employee who needs re-training BADLY!

                                                        You're a good person, AC. You tipped well even when you shouldn't have. Don't lose that. But don't be a doormat either. You've got good instincts. You're server was out of line -- that should be all you need to know.

                                                        1. I see it as an invasion of personal space, as well. Your tone or demeanor earlier (possibly about the "iffy service"), might have ticked off the waiter and this might have triggered his subconscious (?), negative behavior. I assume you are a woman and you said the waiter was a he.
                                                          Regardless, I think you did the right thing. Bravo.
                                                          It is not unusual for people to look in the mirror the next day and ask themselves whether they behaved properly or not. Doing that here, you have subjected yourself to any number opinions. Bravo again. Hopefully, we all learn by sharing.

                                                          1. Back in my hash-slingin' days, I attempted to clear a plate from an elderly woman. She literally poked her fork into my arm and said "I am NOT finished!!" Me: "I am so sorry, maam, it's just that you had your cutlery in the ' I am done' position, so I thought you were finished enjoying..." Her: " The 'I am done' position? What on earth are you talking about?" So I splain to her the 4:00 & 8:00 means 'I'm resting' while fork & knife together pointing diagonally at 10:00 and 4:00 yadda yadda" She gives me the icy stare of doom and says in a voice dripping with sarcasm and bile "THANK YOU... thank you SO-O-O much for educating me today. I never heard of that theory, but THANK YOU for en-LIGHT-ening me" Just a view from the other side of the table. I was as polite and solicitous as I could be and she was just a B.O.W.!!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: adamshoe

                                                              Not all people read the "I am done position" or even know it exists. It is just like how many people don't realize that they need to close their menus or put them down before most servers will assume that they are ready to order (Because, as the logic goes, if they are open, they must still be reading them.) These are generalizations, but not hard and fast rules.

                                                              The older woman you mentioned probably thought you were a smart-___ , and that is why you received the response you did. She obviously never heard of it, and was irritated that someone younger told her something she didn't already know. You were right to let it go.

                                                            2. You were NOT rude. This is not even a close question.

                                                              1. I've never had that happen to me. However, unless I'm dining at a small table, I tend to put my plate off to the side when I'm done. That way the server or busser knows I'm done. At a very small table, I put my silverware in the "I'm done" position.

                                                                1. Not only were you not rude, you did the right thing by saying something.

                                                                  Once I was at a nice restaurant and the person clearing tables actually put another party's dirty dishes on our table to free up his hands in order to help another customer!

                                                                  1. In fact, the waiter was rude. Even in more casual establishments with little or no busboy service, NO patron should have plates stacked in front of them! Each plate should be discreetly whisked away - and if any stacking is to occur - let it be on the waitperson's arm (still a bad idea) - but not your place setting. As it is a momentary unpleasantness, saying something as you did is optional, but absolutely correct if you are offended. The waitperson hopefully made a mental note that diners do not like that. As far as you being rude - I would not give it a second thought.

                                                                    1. This just happened to me for the first time last week. Not only did I have to look at dirty plates in front of my nose, both plates had a good bit of sauce on them. I was in fear for my white shirt! And, as someone mentioned, I did feel like my personal space had been seriously invaded.

                                                                      I was not bold enough to say something, but I was a bit put off.

                                                                      1. That was wrong, gosh, I don't think you were rude.