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Servers Who Smoke

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nosh Apr 25, 2009 10:10 PM

A recent post by Servorg mentioned a big peeve I have in some restaurants -- servers who disappear for a few minutes and then return reeking of smoke. Look, I understand that the job can be stressful, and I know many in the profession have the habit. But if I'm needing a refill of my water or something else and you are nowhere to be found, and then return a few minutes later and I can smell the disgusting evidence that you weren't taken away doing anything productive, be aware that it can and should reduce your tip. If you need that hit in the middle of my service, at least wash your hands and carry mints or gum.

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    macadam RE: nosh Apr 25, 2009 10:56 PM

    Observing people dressed in black/whites, aprons of any kind, chef jackets outside of restaurants or back doors take note: dine elsewhere. Mom still smokes and I love her, but I won't dine in her house, either.

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    1. hotoynoodle RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 05:58 AM

      i don't let servers smoke during service. if they can't go 4 or 5 hours without a smoke, too bad. i agree, the evidence afterward is disgusting, especially now that restaurants are non-smoking.

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      1. jfood RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 06:03 AM

        Jfood on board. Nothing worse than the server returning and speaking in smoke-induced tongue.

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        1. rockandroller1 RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 08:27 AM

          I'm on board with this too, and I am both a former server and former smoker. Smoke when your shift is over. Of course, I feel the same way about all the people who take 15 smoke breaks per day in my office too, but they aren't breathing in my face except if I unfortunately encounter them in the hallway or elevator.

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            Cathy RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 09:10 AM

            If I can tell the server is a smoker ( I am in California and since we have had no smoking for such a long time now, it is so obvious to smell smoke on or near someone) I don't bother to ask them how something tastes/if it is good; I know their taste buds are skewed.

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              KTinNYC RE: Cathy Apr 26, 2009 10:36 AM

              You better go in the kitchen to check if the cooks smoke as well because there is a pretty good chance they do.

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              1. re: KTinNYC
                BostonZest RE: KTinNYC Apr 26, 2009 11:21 AM

                You can usually tell that by the oversalting of the food.

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                  KTinNYC RE: BostonZest Apr 26, 2009 11:23 AM

                  That is a pretty broad statement.

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                    Cathy RE: KTinNYC Apr 26, 2009 01:19 PM

                    It's true. When the food is overly salted/over garlicy/way wrong, I send it back asking if the chef is a smoker. 100% of the time, he/she is a smoker. I then ask for something completely non-seasoned.

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                    1. re: Cathy
                      thew RE: Cathy Apr 26, 2009 04:20 PM

                      that statistic is kinda meaningless unless you also ask how often the person who perfectly seasoned your food is a smoker or not

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                        Blueicus RE: thew Apr 27, 2009 05:22 AM

                        Expecting the average diner to understand the subtleties of statistics is as meaningless as asking most cooks to stop smoking.

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            2. Beach Chick RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 09:40 AM

              What I hate is when you are going to a nice restaurant and you see half the staff and chefs out smoking in view of the entrance and then having that same smoker waiter waiting on you with the stench of stale smoke...and yes, the other thing that pisses me off is when they go out for a smoke break and no one is keeping an eye on your table and it seems that is when you need water, your check, another drink and being a big tipper, it does cut into their tip!

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                bibi rose RE: Beach Chick Apr 26, 2009 10:10 AM

                Someone coming into your space smelling of smoke while you are eating is a major turn-off. Any server who does that is doing a lousy job. However, some people can smoke without reeking of it. I have a co-worker who smokes, and I would have no idea if I didn't see him go off on cigarette breaks. It is possible to manage the smoke so it doesn't pollute your clothes and hair, and then you wash up carefully. I have also seen the chef at one of my favorite restaurants smoking, but when he comes to our table, e.g. to decant wine, I never catch a whiff of smoke from him.

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                Sal Vanilla RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 12:21 PM

                Original poster and pilers on - are you reducing tip because you do not care for their smell or because a reduction in service? I mean if the waiter assured your constant loving and solicitous care before stepping outside for a puff and you detected a slight odor of smoke are you still marking the mental demerit list?

                I do not want my waiter reeking of anything... smoke, perfume, BO, bad breath.

                Maybe you are just wanting common courtesy and basic hygiene. Or... maybe it is something else all together that you are wanting.

                No, I do not smoke.

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                  nosh RE: Sal Vanilla Apr 26, 2009 12:43 PM

                  When it comes to my considering reducing the tip and commenting to the server or the manager, I was careful to specify that the smoke break in the middle of service led to a disappearing server which in turn inconvenienced me, with an unfilled drink or other unmet need. That said, I really don't want to be accosted by the stench of smoke in any event, thus the mention of a handwashing and a mint. But I'll temper this with an acknowledgement of the place -- I'll forgive the hardworking waiter at my local Chinese lunch joint more than I'll excuse the would-be actor dressed in fashionable black at my upper-level eatery.

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                  1. re: nosh
                    hotoynoodle RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 01:44 PM

                    why would a would-be actor working in fine dining not be a hard worker?

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                    1. re: nosh
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                      nkeane RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 01:44 PM

                      why would/do you expect less from one person than another? And why do you assume one person is so much harder working than another? seems like a sizable pile of hyperbolic nonsense to judge in this manner. I personally expect the same professionalism at a deli that I do at Chez Hoyty-toyty.

                      as far as the smoking waiter goes, I couldnt care less, with two conditions: dont reek of cigarettes or disappear during service. Outside of that, I dont really care if your doing blow in the walkin, sucking the Nitrous out of whipped cream cartridges, selling pot out the back door, or smoking by the dumpster. Just dont let me be affected by it.

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                      1. re: nkeane
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                        Kagey RE: nkeane Apr 27, 2009 09:57 AM

                        Amen. That's one of the best posts I've read all year.

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                          yuyu RE: nkeane Apr 27, 2009 02:03 PM

                          coincidentally all of this behaviours are pretty industry standard..it's how we deal with people everyday of our lives with a smile on our face...haha...anybody read anthony bourdain?

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                            nkeane RE: yuyu Apr 28, 2009 05:04 PM

                            I know all too well that these, and far far worse, behaviors are the norm in the industry.

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                          2. re: nkeane
                            coastie RE: nkeane Apr 28, 2009 01:04 PM

                            well said. Assume all of the above is happening - and yes just don't let me be affected by it.

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                          3. re: nosh
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                            Sal Vanilla RE: nosh Apr 28, 2009 11:03 AM

                            So the smoking is really irrelevant in your tale? Hmmm.

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                          4. re: Sal Vanilla
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                            Orchid64 RE: Sal Vanilla Apr 28, 2009 06:26 AM

                            I think the issue is that the smell of smoke diminishes the enjoyment of the dining experience. If the waiter is the one causing it, the tip is reduced to reflect that he or she is responsible for making you enjoy the meal less.

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                          5. Paula76 RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 03:55 PM

                            I am a little bit uneasy about some of the opinions expressed on this thread. I'd heard that smokers in the US were regarded as an underclass and it certainly seems like it by reading this. I don't know what sort of restaurants most posters tend to visit but it seems to me that expecting such pristine behaviour from your waiting staff is something I would associate with fancy, pricey establishments and not neighbourhood haunts (like the ones I frequent). I live in the UK and I am from Argentina where a lot of people smoke (I used to) so it's normal to see waiters doing so during their break and nobody bats an eyelid. Would you object if they took 5 minutes to make a phone call or have a bite?

                            I couldn't care less (and I don't believe I should have the right to do so) what they choose to do during their break as long as their service is good and I don't care if their breath is smoky as long as they don't blow smoke in my face. It's hard enough being on your feet, running up and down for hours on end...they are human after all and deserve to have a cigarette if they so wish to without being judged for it.

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                              pollymerase RE: Paula76 Apr 26, 2009 06:29 PM

                              As to your first paragraph, I'm guessing most of the people in this thread would have just as much of a problem if their server disappeared to make a phone call/txt/grab a bite and neglected the customer. I think it is much easier to tell someone is smoking versus taking a call because you can often smell it on them.

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                              1. re: pollymerase
                                thew RE: pollymerase Apr 26, 2009 06:31 PM

                                agreed. i will not abide bad service. bad habits? i have far too many to penalize someone else's

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                              2. re: Paula76
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                                nkeane RE: Paula76 Apr 26, 2009 06:34 PM

                                they have the right, yes. But judged they will be......

                                The Whole PC thing of not judging people is ridiculous. People judge others every second of every day. Smoking in the year 2009 says something about you that isnt flattering. I personally am judging my server on their performance and if smoking hurts their performance then thats just one more example of that cigarette costing them even more money than they thought.

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                                  Sharuf RE: nkeane Apr 28, 2009 06:59 AM

                                  "Smoking in the year 2009 says something about you that isn't flattering." --- yes, and being an anti-smoking activist in the year 2009 says something worse.

                                  The anti-smoking movement achieved all their reasonable demands around 1995 by my reckoning. After that, they proceeded to push things Too Far --guess they were having so much fun they couldn't bear to let it go -- and have became royal PITAs. I still see the occasional news item about yet another far-fetched target for the anti-smokers fury and legislation efforts.

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                                    pollymerase RE: Sharuf Apr 28, 2009 07:03 AM

                                    "yes, and being an anti-smoking activist in the year 2009 says something worse."

                                    When did it become a negative thing to want to be healthy?

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                                    1. re: pollymerase
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                                      KTinNYC RE: pollymerase Apr 28, 2009 07:05 AM

                                      Can we not have health police? After all this is a food board where people extol the virtues of all types of "unhealthy" eating.

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                                      1. re: KTinNYC
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                                        Sal Vanilla RE: KTinNYC Apr 28, 2009 11:09 AM

                                        What is funny, is that the people who castigate the Middle American bland taste bud and unwillingness to try new things or the go to say, Viet Nam and eat yak balls and declare them all the rage are the same lovelies proclaiming their olfactories irretrievably injured when a waiter has the taint of smoke.

                                        Give me Middle America.

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                                      2. re: pollymerase
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                                        Sharuf RE: pollymerase Apr 29, 2009 03:12 AM

                                        We're not talking about healthy habits here, we're talking about out-of-control activism.

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                                        1. re: Sharuf
                                          jfood RE: Sharuf Apr 29, 2009 04:14 AM

                                          Nah...

                                          Jfood believes smoking should be limited to the confines of the home, and he cannot wait for a disgruntled child who contracted lung cancer from second hand smoke has his parents charged with attempted murder. "Law and Order" will have a great show on that one.

                                          Jfood is sitting outside having some gnocchi last night and he gets a faceful of smoke from the next table...blech. Likewise if that same gross smell hits him from the server's mouth...blech.

                                          No smoking restrictions should be expanded to include ALL areas of the restaurant, inside and outside.

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                                          1. re: jfood
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                                            lagatta RE: jfood May 3, 2009 04:17 PM

                                            Jfood, my dad died of smoking, and I'm sure it has adversely affected my bronchii (though air pollution from cars is probably a greater factor still). Still, despite my aversion to smoking, I'd rather live in a country where one might encounter a nasty whiff of nicotine than the Ayatollan regime you are advocating.

                                            I think it is important for restaurant personnel to be respected as workers, as long as they do their job properly, and not viewed as some kind of underlings. Can they demand that patrons not drink alcoholic beverages or eat garlicky food because it is disagreeable to them?

                                            And that despite the fact that I have never smoked cigarettes, nor driven a car.

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                                            1. re: lagatta
                                              hala RE: lagatta Jul 15, 2010 11:26 AM

                                              How did you go from what jfood said to ayatollah regime? cigarette smoke is a harmful substance and we have every right to insist that we not be exposed to it when we go out to eat or when we stand at the bus stop or in any other countless situations where we do not have the luxury to get up and leave.

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                                                bookhound RE: hala Jul 15, 2010 03:14 PM

                                                Car exhaust is a harmful substance as well do we have a right to insist that we not be exposed to that as well?

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                                      3. re: Sharuf
                                        John Manzo RE: Sharuf Apr 28, 2009 12:54 PM

                                        Wow. You're reckoning must have been limited to, what, San Francisco and Vancouver? "Smoke free" workspaces were as rare as hen's teeth in 1995. There are still restaurants in my mom's town (that's Griffith, Indiana) were BABIES can be seated in smoking areas. And in the economy there, many people choose to work in smoking environments because the choice is between that and welfare.

                                        Smoking laws have a LONG way to go. The poster above from Argentina lived in a country where until 2007 it was legal to smoke virtually everywhere and she claims that it's SMOKERS who are victims here. There is still so, so much work to be done.

                                        You want to smoke? Do it at home.

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                                        1. re: John Manzo
                                          jgg13 RE: John Manzo Apr 28, 2009 01:52 PM

                                          Looks like the health police are going to take the "do it at home" possibility now as well:
                                          http://www.boston.com/news/local/mass...

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                                          1. re: John Manzo
                                            Paula76 RE: John Manzo Apr 28, 2009 04:47 PM

                                            Nobody is even disputing the absolute necessity of having smoke-free restaurants and to prevent passive smoking at all levels...as far as I'm concerned, we were talking about cigarette breath which, to my knowledge, is not known to cause cancer or any other illness. You can't ban people from having a cigarette in the open air now, can you? And I don't see why my 'food experience' would be affected in any way by a whiff of cigarette breath lasting maybe 20 seconds maximum...I know the customer is meant to always be right but this is going a little too far for my liking.

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                                            1. re: Paula76
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                                              Sal Vanilla RE: Paula76 Apr 28, 2009 07:35 PM

                                              If there is a bar in the restaurant I am not going to object to their smoking there.

                                              I am, though, relieved to have smoke free dining rooms.

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                                              1. re: Paula76
                                                pikawicca RE: Paula76 May 3, 2009 09:42 AM

                                                Read this eye-popper.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/03/hea...

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                                              2. re: John Manzo
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                                                Sharuf RE: John Manzo Apr 29, 2009 03:07 AM

                                                <"Smoke free" workspaces were as rare as hen's teeth in 1995. >

                                                Au contraire JM, they were universal in the Bay Area. In 1995 in the large-ish office building where I worked, the company created a smoking lounge, with its own ventilating system and a double-door airlock entry. That, apparently, was not good enough for the activists, because less than a year later they had to close the lounge and smokers retreated outside to the parking lot.

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                                          2. re: Paula76
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                                            Sal Vanilla RE: Paula76 Apr 28, 2009 11:05 AM

                                            We are all about being fussy and judgmental here.

                                            I wish my tongue were more firmly planted in my cheek.

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                                          3. Scrapironchef RE: nosh Apr 26, 2009 09:48 PM

                                            Wifey andI were dining in one of the newer places in Vancouver last year when a server brought out one of our apps. He reeked of smoke so badly I actually started to cough. It semed that his uniform hadn't been cleaned in days. It changed our view of the meal as the smell seemed to get worse each time he came back.

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                                            1. Veggo RE: nosh Apr 27, 2009 02:45 AM

                                              Nobody scores points when they smell like a smouldering landfill.

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                                                Harters RE: nosh Apr 27, 2009 05:48 AM

                                                Doesnt bother me at all. It's getting on for 10 years sicne I stopped smoking - I still love the smell. Great shame that so many countries now ban smoking in restaurants. Used to be one of my great pleasures in life savouring a coffee, calvados and cigarette.

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                                                1. Paula76 RE: nosh Apr 27, 2009 06:59 AM

                                                  I think there is a difference between 'reeking' of smoke due to lack of hygiene and having a cigarette breath which is the norm for smokers. I very rarely get so close to the waiting staff as to be annoyed by their breath and I certainly believe it is discriminatory to judge someone on whether they smoke or not. Most workers arfe entitled to a break unless they are being exploited (which, unfortunately, too many people in large parts of the world still are) and what they do with their time is entirely up to them.

                                                  We all know smoking is bad for you but so is junk food and many other things that are ultimately an individual choice. Your body is yours to take care of or abuse as you please and it's nobody's business to judge your work or personality on the basis of what you choose to put in it.

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                                                  1. re: Paula76
                                                    NellyNel RE: Paula76 Apr 27, 2009 08:38 AM

                                                    Bravo Paula -
                                                    I totally agree

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                                                    1. re: Paula76
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                                                      Orchid64 RE: Paula76 Apr 28, 2009 06:57 AM

                                                      The problem is, and I'm sure you know this, Paula, is that smoking directly and immediately affects others. It's a habit that harms bystanders as much or more than the person who possesses it. People who eat junk food don't harden your arteries by doing so. Yes, it is your body to damage. As long as you aren't hurting anyone else, then it's not an issue. The same can be said of alcohol consumption. We don't allow drunk driving because that is the point at which it stops being your right to abuse your body and you start endangering others with your habits.

                                                      If people could smoke with a bubble around their heads which contained the secondhand smoke, I'd have no problems with smokers.

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                                                      1. re: Orchid64
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                                                        planetjess RE: Orchid64 Apr 28, 2009 11:07 AM

                                                        I definitely agree that if a waiter exhaled his smoke so close to me that I, the diner, inhaled his second hand smoke, I would reduce the tip by at least 5% immediately! And I'm a smoker!

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                                                        1. re: Orchid64
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                                                          Sal Vanilla RE: Orchid64 Apr 28, 2009 11:12 AM

                                                          The waiter was blowing smoke in your face? we are going to get cancer from the the odor however slight?

                                                          I vote getting rid of those who are miserable crybabies. I can think of nothing more cancer inducing or life unaffirming than they.

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                                                          1. re: Orchid64
                                                            jgg13 RE: Orchid64 Apr 28, 2009 01:53 PM

                                                            While I don't really like servers taking smoke breaks when they're supposed to be serving me, you do realize that the evidence behind health affects of secondhand smoke are arguable at best, right?

                                                            the anti-smoking lobby don't ever seem to mention that in their marketing though.

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                                                          2. re: Paula76
                                                            John Manzo RE: Paula76 Apr 28, 2009 01:00 PM

                                                            Nonsense. Smoking is a volitional behaviour. This is precisely the sort of thing that one CAN "discriminate" for. Being a smoker isn't like being black, female or gay, and I'll "discriminate" against and "judge" smokers until and unless they change their behaviours.

                                                            And Paula, there is no such thing as second hand EATING. Bringing up spurious examples of "junk food" as if there is some equivalency between it (which keeps you alive, remember) and a disgusting and dangerous habit that affects everyone in your physical proximity is only convincing to those whose brains are similarly addled by an addiction.

                                                            Junk food also doesn't burn down apartment buildings and kill innocent people.

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                                                            1. re: John Manzo
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                                                              planetjess RE: John Manzo Apr 28, 2009 01:44 PM

                                                              All of this judgment is stressing me out, and I'm not even a server who needs to worry whether you and my other six tables are "re-fill my drink automatically" people or "don't look me directly in the eye while I'm ordering" people or "check back with me every five minutes/never" people for the next four hectic hours. I'm going to go have a cigarette.

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                                                              1. re: John Manzo
                                                                jgg13 RE: John Manzo Apr 28, 2009 01:55 PM

                                                                The city I live in passed a smoking ban in bars several years ago. At the time the argument was that it was okay, because second hand smoke hurts people - but they wouldn't ever bother to go after things like junk food and other stuff ... that's all stuff that only hurts the person doing it. Don't worry about it bro!

                                                                Ya know what? Now we have a trans fat ban, people make noise about junk food taxes, and all sorts of other stuff. We gave an inch, and the health police are taking a mile.

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                                                                1. re: John Manzo
                                                                  Paula76 RE: John Manzo Apr 28, 2009 04:57 PM

                                                                  I do not agree that it is ok to discriminate smokers. I am sure you are aware that it is an addiction and as such, it is very hard to give up and as long as laws and regulations are in place to prevent passive smoking, I don't think smokers are doing any harm but only to themselves, exactly the same that morbidly obese and chronically unhealthy people do with their eating habits. You could also argue that bad eating habits are passed down generations which could be called second hand eating and teherefore considered pernicious, right?

                                                                  Again...you cannot inhale any cigarette smoke through smelling someone's breath so yes, it might not be the most pleasant smell but surely it's not worthy of being treated as a pariah.

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                                                                  1. re: Paula76
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                                                                    Sal Vanilla RE: Paula76 Apr 28, 2009 07:38 PM

                                                                    Logic and calm demeanor have zero effect on the militant.

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                                                                  2. re: John Manzo
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                                                                    link_930 RE: John Manzo May 16, 2009 06:13 PM

                                                                    Junk food = fat = health problems = (through many ways) higher taxes. No burning buildings or death, but an effect nonetheless.

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                                                                  3. re: Paula76
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                                                                    nkeane RE: Paula76 Apr 28, 2009 05:12 PM

                                                                    of course its judgmental and discriminatory, thats the intended outcome....and perfectly legal by the way. I discriminate and judge based on all sorts of behaviors......open mouth chewing, bad hygene, rude language, bad tipping, etc. Smoking is yet another data point in which I form an opinion of a person.

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                                                                    1. re: nkeane
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                                                                      planetjess RE: nkeane Apr 28, 2009 07:14 PM

                                                                      I'm sure they will endeavor to endure your disapprobation.

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                                                                        Sal Vanilla RE: planetjess Apr 28, 2009 07:38 PM

                                                                        : )

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                                                                    bostoneight RE: nosh Apr 27, 2009 08:39 AM

                                                                    I've never waited tables but I'd imagine that it must be pretty stressful to be waiting on a table that feels entitled to 100% of your time.
                                                                    I think that smokers often smoke when they feel stressed; try lightening up a bit and maybe you will encounter this problem less frequently....

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                                                                    1. re: bostoneight
                                                                      hotoynoodle RE: bostoneight Apr 27, 2009 09:08 AM

                                                                      i was a server for many years, and the guest was paying for 100% of my time. the guests paid my mortgage -- certainly not the $2.63 an hour my boss was paying me.

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                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
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                                                                        Sal Vanilla RE: hotoynoodle Apr 28, 2009 11:13 AM

                                                                        So no pee breaks? How about asking another server to mind the fort?

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                                                                      2. re: bostoneight
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                                                                        mr99203 RE: bostoneight Apr 27, 2009 09:08 AM

                                                                        So, off topic a bit, but this thread has raised a question for me that maybe some of you restaurant owners or servers could answer. I know employment laws in the U.S. "require" workers to have breaks -- do servers actually get them, and does the restaurant try to cover the active tables during them?

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                                                                        1. re: mr99203
                                                                          hotoynoodle RE: mr99203 Apr 27, 2009 09:20 AM

                                                                          employees are entitled to a break after 6 hours. it's rare that a restaurant service shift is actually that long. if it is, by that time, servers are getting cut and the staff is going home anyway.

                                                                          if people are working doubles or it's a crazy day, then yes, people cover other people's tables or you don't seat their section so they can get a break.

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                                                                          1. re: mr99203
                                                                            hannaone RE: mr99203 Apr 27, 2009 09:37 AM

                                                                            That depends on local labor laws. Washington State requires 10 minutes for each 4 hours worked, and one 30 minute meal break per 5 hours worked.

                                                                            http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights...

                                                                            Do servers actually get their breaks? Depends on how their break is defined, if there are several down periods during the shift where the server does no work, these periods can be considered "mini" breaks as long as they add up to 10 minutes per four hours.
                                                                            A well managed restaurant will cover the breaks.

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                                                                            1. re: hannaone
                                                                              hotoynoodle RE: hannaone Apr 27, 2009 09:52 AM

                                                                              my apologies. the 6 hours rule is massachusetts. but here, "mini-breaks" cannot be considered to add up to the 10 minutes. i've worked in places where you get them and places you don't.

                                                                              a friend worked in cyprus his first job out of hospitality school. smoke breaks were the law there. everyone switched to smoking extra-longs because your break lasted only as long as your cigarette! lol.

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                                                                            2. re: mr99203
                                                                              rockandroller1 RE: mr99203 Apr 27, 2009 09:58 AM

                                                                              It depends on the state and whether you are considered PT or FT. Most servers are given just enough hours that they are considered PT so they aren't eligible for much of anything, including benefits if the company offers them, and certain breaks.

                                                                              Whether or not you get to take a break depends on the restaurant. But NO restaurant I have ever worked at found it acceptable for you take a 2 or 5 minute break in the middle of servicing a table to sneak out for a smoke. If there is nothing else to do, there are always things to do like clean, stock things, roll silverware, prep salads, clean your station, do sidework, whatever. If you get an actual BREAK, you have to clock out and usually leave the restaurant, at least in my experience; they won't even let you eat at the bar. So you could get takeout from the restaurant and go eat in your car, or run out and try to grab something, or if there is a place for employees to sit that is not out on the floor, like an upstairs or downstairs room, you can go there for your break. But generally, as someone else pointed out, you don't have time to take the break unless you a working a double and then it's a full hour and you have to clock out and leave. You can't leave for your break til your last table has gone; if they are camping, you can try to get someone to take over cashing them out but that can be complicated in the computer system so it's easier just to wait.

                                                                              If it's just a 15 minute break, that could be added up each time you went to the bathroom or took a second to drink a coke or water by the fountain in the back. If there is so much free time that many servers and cooks have time to stand out back and smoke, they cut people and send them home.

                                                                              IMO there is no excuse to cutting out in the middle of serving a table, even in the grungiest, greasiest spoon, to grab a smoke and come back.

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                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                                kubasd RE: rockandroller1 May 8, 2009 05:04 PM

                                                                                I never had official breaks as a server, more if all my tables had just been served, I'd duck out back for a quick smoke (I no longer smoke), but I'd make sure some other server was keeping an eye on my tables....

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                                                                            3. re: bostoneight
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                                                                              pollymerase RE: bostoneight Apr 27, 2009 09:40 AM

                                                                              Clearly most people don't want their server standing right next to them 100% of their meal, but if I drop my fork or something else is wrong I also don't want to wait 5 or 10 minutes while my server is smoking, or eating, or chatting on the phone.

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                                                                              1. re: bostoneight
                                                                                John Manzo RE: bostoneight Apr 28, 2009 01:03 PM

                                                                                Hey, you know who DOESN'T smoke to handle stress? NONSMOKERS. Hire them instead.

                                                                                This whole "I need to smoke when I'm stressed" should be a call for help but instead it only serves to enhance smokers' notions of entitlement. Incredibly disordered behaviour.

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                                                                                  ginael RE: John Manzo Apr 28, 2009 07:56 PM

                                                                                  John: you make a good point. How about a server who needs to swill liquor or snort a line of you-know-what, to handle stress? It's amazing how some people will defend such a nasty, deadly habit as smoking.

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                                                                                  1. re: ginael
                                                                                    thew RE: ginael Apr 29, 2009 04:57 AM

                                                                                    i think it's a pretty nasty habit, and i will defend one's right to do to their own body what they wish to my last breath. As long as they still do their job, what do i care if they have a drink or snort some you-kn... cocaine or anything else? The question is who owns your body, you or the state? Personally I do not support state-sponsored slavery, and do not see what right anyone has to control your body but yourself, as long as you are not hurting anyone else.

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                                                                              2. chowser RE: nosh Apr 28, 2009 05:49 AM

                                                                                I think there are two issues here and neither of them are really about smoking. They are:

                                                                                1) Servers disappearing for long periods of time--wrong, whether they're making personal phone calls, smoking, or just chatting, and

                                                                                2) smells. I am in the service industry--body odors, whether from smoking, too much garlic, bad breath, too much perfume, etc. are a turn off. I work in a gym but could not keep clients if I smelled of BO.

                                                                                The smoker who does it on his/her own time and doesn't smell isn't an issue. The above are, whether the person is smoking or not.

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                                                                                1. re: chowser
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                                                                                  hsk RE: chowser Apr 28, 2009 07:39 PM

                                                                                  Absolutely. I don't smoke and I do notice when a server smells like smoke but if they were there when I needed something I would never reduce the tip. If they'd disappeared for an unacceptably long period when I did, I probably would, but for poor service, not for smoking.

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                                                                                2. PeterL RE: nosh Apr 28, 2009 01:18 PM

                                                                                  Plus plus plus. Of course that's just a part of general hygiene. Clean and clipped nails, combed hair, clean breath, deodorant, etc.

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                                                                                  1. Veggo RE: nosh Apr 29, 2009 07:41 AM

                                                                                    I'm starting to sympathize with the servers. They get bashed here for smoking, overpouring, underpouring, elsewhere for overdoing it with piercings and tattoos. Next we'll be chaining them to the dungeon wall, and there will be nothing but self-serve buffets. We need to get along and tolerate a few foibles.

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                                                                                      Sal Vanilla RE: Veggo Apr 29, 2009 09:06 AM

                                                                                      It is good to sympathize. I feel for anyone in the service industry. But having done it for so many years, I cannot stop the evil bad service thoughts that creep into my head when I am a victim of it.

                                                                                      harshest critic, greatest sympathizer. An enigma... well maybe enigma lite.

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                                                                                      bakinggirl RE: nosh Apr 29, 2009 08:56 AM

                                                                                      Chowser, thanks for bringing up the more general "smells" issue.
                                                                                      I have asthma and am sensitive to smells, smoke and perfume being the largest (and some perfumes are a migraine trigger). Either of these smells reduces my ability to enjoy my meal; if I end up with a migraine, my meal will be painfully cut short. This has happened to me in the past with servers wearing too much perfume. If I can smell you instead of my food it's NOT okay.
                                                                                      What I'm trying to say is that if you're in the business of serving other people, it's necessary to place your personal habits on a back burner. I work in a professional office, and I make sure I cover my tattoos - not because it's required, but because it presents a better front with our clientele.
                                                                                      And I agree with the OP - while you're working, your job is 100% of your focus. If my meal came out incorrectly and my server is away for any reason, I'm going to deduct from the tip. (And asking "How is everything?" before I've even had a bite is not an excuse to run away for 10 minutes!)

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                                                                                        planetjess RE: bakinggirl Apr 29, 2009 10:15 AM

                                                                                        When I am on a break, my break is 100% of my focus, otherwise it's not a break. Work becomes my focus when I return to work. When I do so, I should be prepared to work. I agree that waitpersons generally should not reek of anything--cologne, alcohol or any other odor, pleasant or unpleasant (with the exception of bbq--if a waitperson works in a bbq restaurant, there is no help for it, he's going to smell like bbq). The waiter should also not be strung out or drunk, in that such conditions are likely to affect service in a number of ways. A nicotine buzz will not. If there is an ashtray-scented aura surronding the waiter when he returns from break as though he were Pigpen, that is one thing. Otherwise, it's none of the customer's business how the waitperson chooses to spend his break (timing and coverage of breaks being a wholly separate matter that has little to do with whether or not the waiter has been smoking while gone). I have special needs of my own, but if you are a super-smeller or otherwise have non-standard smell triggers, I believe it is unreasonable for you to expect that servers will conduct their lives around your particular sensitivities. Luckily, there is a way for a server to observe whether his particular stench is bothersome to the many or only to the few--if his tips go down generally, he may be moved to assess whether it is his loathsome odor that is causing the drop, and choose whether to adjust his smoking habits. If it is only the sensitive few that have a problem, I would guess that one-off reductions in tips will not be sufficient to prompt a change in behavior, and next time you may request another server. Both of you get to make that choice.

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                                                                                      2. roxlet RE: nosh Apr 29, 2009 10:31 AM

                                                                                        I really think that smokers are not aware of how overwhelming and pervasive the smell of smoke can be. I should know -- I was once a smoker and I thought that chewing a mint or spritzing on a little cologne would do the trick. Wrong! I have a family member who smokes and is married to a heavy smoker and everything that comes from their house -- a gift, a card, anything -- smells of smoke. I am sure that she is unaware of it, as I am sure that smokers who pop outside to have a quick smoke are unaware of how strongly they smell of smoke when they return. And there is no way to sensitize them to it, unless they stop smoking and realize how horrible it smells, and how much the odor sticks to everything.

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                                                                                        1. re: roxlet
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                                                                                          planetjess RE: roxlet Apr 29, 2009 10:42 AM

                                                                                          As someone who is a smoker but has also been a non-smoker for long stretches, I do know how it smells. I also know that there is a difference between (i) the odor that may accompany something that comes out of a home where it is constantly absorbing smoke from enclosed rooms, (ii) the odor that may linger on someone who stands over the ashtray out back in a group of several smokers blowing smoke at eachother and (iii) the odor that may linger on someone who smokes into a breeze, pops a mint and washes his hands before returning to work (which should happen in any case). All smokers know these things, so I assume so do you. Many servers smoke on their breaks and apparently not enough of them are coming back stinking strongly enough that it is affecting their livelihoods, or they'd stop--there are even more waiters who are rational economic actors than there are waiters that smoke.

                                                                                          As for the smoke smell that gets into stuff coming out of smokers' homes--this is definitely true, and I anticipate will become the next argument that waiters who are really committed to customer service should not smoke in their own homes due to the one or two customers who will believe that the tinge of "smoker's house" on a waitperson's uniform has singlehandedly destroyed the enjoyment of their meal.

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                                                                                          1. re: planetjess
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                                                                                            Blueicus RE: planetjess May 1, 2009 07:02 AM

                                                                                            That's why servers should be housed in a contained environment with special controlled conditions that help make them the perfect smelling/sounding/looking service units they're meant to be while they're not on duty... I'm thinking a plain white box with a shower and odour-free sanitizing agents, also there should be music piped into the box with subliminal messages that help ingrain into the server's mind what customers demand of them ("Thou shalt not clear the plates before everybody is finished", etc.).

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                                                                                            1. re: Blueicus
                                                                                              Paula76 RE: Blueicus May 1, 2009 07:19 AM

                                                                                              In fact, they should keep Guantánamo open as a training ground for servers who have the nerve to disrespect their masters, uh, I mean, customers by daring to have a personal life which involves their own choices. What has the world come to? :-)

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                                                                                              1. re: Blueicus
                                                                                                jfood RE: Blueicus May 1, 2009 02:09 PM

                                                                                                Absolutely correct.

                                                                                                Jfood thinks its called hygiene and performing your job properly. He does it all the time. Works pretty nicely.

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                                                                                              2. re: planetjess
                                                                                                Veggo RE: planetjess May 2, 2009 07:51 AM

                                                                                                planetjess, an increasing number of employers will not hire smokers, or insist that employees who smoke either quit or be fired, because of the measurable additional actuarial expense to self-insured or third-party health care plans. There is interesting case law on this topic.

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                                                                                                1. re: Veggo
                                                                                                  Boccone Dolce RE: Veggo May 3, 2009 06:19 AM

                                                                                                  Yearly we are given the option to reduce our insurance premium by about 1/2 by participation in 'Blue Print for Wellness' - they take blood, measurements, you fill out a survey and are then graded on your health. Each and every one of the smokers, while seemingly 'fit' scored miserably. Unclear what our company plans to do with the information- no one has seen a smoker/obesity tax or whatever, yet. The CEO is in love with the program which he claims saves lives...
                                                                                                  If you opt out, you pay close to double what everyone else pays.

                                                                                                  Anyway- if my server comes back to the table reeking of smoke, sweat, any kind of funk- I do have a hard time recovering. But I'm not going to start reducing my tip! That's a bit wacky for me to comprehend. It's happened before, and yeah, it makes you feel sick-especially when they linger at the next table and it's a toxic cloud over you and your dish-blah!!

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                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo
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                                                                                                    planetjess RE: Veggo May 3, 2009 08:10 AM

                                                                                                    I'm aware of this. And before 'hounds whose entire meals are ruined by a few ten second interactions with servers who smoke applaud this too loudly, I'd mention that the overweight are the next to be targeted (openly, as opposed to the less-spoken discrimination that already exists). And before 'hounds dig in to their next bahn mi and think "I'm only an appreciator of food--I'm not obese, no worries," they should remember that they won't be the ones deciding where the lines are drawn. Funny thing about personal freedoms--when you're only interested in protecting your own, you're halfway to losing them.

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                                                                                                    1. re: planetjess
                                                                                                      Veggo RE: planetjess May 3, 2009 08:53 AM

                                                                                                      Not next, now. Health care costs and rates of absenteeism for the overweight are in their own zip code. And why would I hire someone to manage my business, if they lack the ability to manage something far more precious to them; their body. In this economic environment, anyone who needs or wants to keep a job has extra incentives to get their life in order. Not a bad thing.

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                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo
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                                                                                                        planetjess RE: Veggo May 3, 2009 10:07 AM

                                                                                                        Those who manage their businesses based on preconceptions and assumptions about what one aspect of a person's life (as opposed to their experience or performance) means about his or her ability to do their job will get the employees that they deserve. However those of us currently without horses measuring more than sixteen hands, by then inured to the micro-management of our personal choices, may be less than sympathetic when the list of unacceptable behaviors broadens to include things that, *gasp*, even you think is none of your employer's business.

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                                                                                                        1. re: planetjess
                                                                                                          Veggo RE: planetjess May 3, 2009 11:26 AM

                                                                                                          The case law I referenced above that involves employers setting conditions for employees' after hour behavior is new and interesting. Basically, employers claim it IS their business if it costs them extra money for the health care they pay for as an employee benefit.

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                                                                                                          1. re: planetjess
                                                                                                            jfood RE: planetjess May 3, 2009 11:30 AM

                                                                                                            There is a tremendous amount of data that supports veggo's post about size and health care costs to everyone in the company.

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                                                                                                        2. re: planetjess
                                                                                                          jfood RE: planetjess May 3, 2009 09:30 AM

                                                                                                          sounds like a win-win to jfood.

                                                                                                          It helps extend their lives and increase the quality of life whilst keeping the cost of heath care down for everyone.

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                                                                                                            planetjess RE: jfood May 3, 2009 10:11 AM

                                                                                                            The chowhounds who might cavil at the effect of the butter, foie, pork belly, steak and sugar bans may eventually disagree with that win-win calculation. Looking forward to the day when we can all join hands over our government-mandated lo-cal steamed vegetable platters and every chowhound thread is required to include nutritional information and disclaimers regarding the potential minimum and maximum sentence per black market cupcake...

                                                                                                            But no worries--when our non-smoking servers tell anyone over a size 6 or 32 waist that they can no longer be served anything labeled "unhealthy, disappointed diners can just reflect their dissatisfaction in their tips, right?

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                                                                                                            1. re: planetjess
                                                                                                              jfood RE: planetjess May 3, 2009 11:27 AM

                                                                                                              Love the word "cavil"...thanks, will need to use in the future and jfood is being completely honest on that.

                                                                                                              Jfood appreciates your taking the arguments to an extreme as he does often in his professional life when he negotiates. But where did jfood mention bans on any of his favorite foods you mentioned. Moderation is the key.

                                                                                                              And to your point above "Funny thing about personal freedoms--when you're only interested in protecting your own, you're halfway to losing them" And it was the PETA-selfrighteousness contingent that fostered the ban of Foie Gras and the masses rallied and it was overturned.

                                                                                                              Noone is stopping people from smoking or eating a triple big Mac. But when their personal choices infringe on the customer's enjoyment then there is where the rub occurs. If the server's personal appearance (and use a very broad brush here) detracts from the eating experience then that is a problem. Whether any of the senses are disturbed, it is an unpleasant situation. And if that customer decides on a lower tip, jfood is not saying that is correct, but it sure sounds like an efficient market to him.

                                                                                                              And if jfood remembers wasn't there a person over the lastyear or so that sued either McD or BK for their health issues? Probably Alan Barnes has the data.

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                                                                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                chowser RE: jfood May 3, 2009 04:01 PM

                                                                                                                "Noone is stopping people from smoking or eating a triple big Mac. But when their personal choices infringe on the customer's enjoyment then there is where the rub occurs. If the server's personal appearance (and use a very broad brush here) detracts from the eating experience then that is a problem. "

                                                                                                                Exactly. I had a server who was eating while she worked and came out every time chewing food and talking w/ food in her mouth. There is much more to being a server than just taking an order and getting it out to the customers and those who do know it do better with tips. For those who take it to an exreme, I'm not advocating the servers never eat, even in the privacy of their own homes.

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                                                                                                                1. re: jfood
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                                                                                                                  yuyu RE: jfood May 9, 2009 01:11 AM

                                                                                                                  sometimes I have to serve people who smell, or have eating habits so disgusting that it makes me want to throw up the dinner I have not had a chance to eat because I'm too busy catering to said pigs every whim...should I be allowed not to serve them??

                                                                                                                  give me a break

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                                                                                                                    jfood RE: yuyu May 9, 2009 05:04 AM

                                                                                                                    Two points:

                                                                                                                    - "I have not had a chance to eat because I'm too busy catering to said pigs every whim". You should eat before you go to work, jfood does this every day, not a hard personal model to adhere to.
                                                                                                                    - You absolutely have the ability not to serve someone, or lower the standards of your service. And your boss can address that and your customers can respond as they see fit.

                                                                                                                    Hope that helps adjust the view. And if you need a break, you should check with the MOD and see if it's possible to have someone cover your tables while you grab your 15 minutes of relief.

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                                                                                                                    1. re: yuyu
                                                                                                                      chowser RE: yuyu May 9, 2009 09:30 AM

                                                                                                                      Being in food service (or most customer services jobs) can be a pain. Some people do it graciously and are excellent at it. They seem to take everything in stride and still delivery great service without being resentful. If you're not one of those people, and end up resenting people, it might be time to move on. I did. From the sounds of your posts, it might be time.

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                                                                                                                        yuyu RE: chowser May 10, 2009 12:24 AM

                                                                                                                        hey for the most part I love my job and my guests..its only the pompous ....who think that those in the service industry deserve less than any other normal human being

                                                                                                                        and im sorry jfood, sometimes when one eats at 330 (before my shift) they inevitably get hungry before 12 am (after their shift) go figure

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                                                                                                                        1. re: yuyu
                                                                                                                          jfood RE: yuyu May 10, 2009 04:46 AM

                                                                                                                          Happens in all lines of work. Jfood keeps Granola Bars in his office for such eventualities.

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                                                                                                                            bakinggirl RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:08 AM

                                                                                                                            Ditto!

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                                                                                                                              planetjess RE: bakinggirl May 11, 2009 06:25 AM

                                                                                                                              I would hope very much that, in your lines of work, there is a time (commonly falling during the middle of the day) when it is accepted by your employer that you will take time (even, say, 10 minutes) to eat. If not, I hope for your sakes that both a) your jobs are not as physically demanding as those of waitpersons and b) your eating of a granola bar in the middle of your workplace would not result in a protracted internet discussion similar to that which would appear on Chowhound on the appropriate tip reduction for a server who dares to take five minutes in the middle of dinner rush to scarf a snack.

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                                                                                                                              1. re: planetjess
                                                                                                                                Veggo RE: planetjess May 11, 2009 07:11 AM

                                                                                                                                I bussed tables at an elegant french restaurant in Philadelphia when I was in college. The owner (a woman) as policy always had the kitchen crew prepare wonderful food for the service staff to eat, on the fly. A 10 minute break was unthinkable when there were service needs every 2 minutes. But we were fed very well on the run. And the only times I experienced really high end reds back then was when a table would inexplicably leave a few inches in a bottle.

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                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo
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                                                                                                                                  gryphonskeeper RE: Veggo May 12, 2009 06:07 PM

                                                                                                                                  Oh Veggo, those were such GREAT tips weren't they!!

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                                                                                                                      2. re: yuyu
                                                                                                                        pikawicca RE: yuyu May 25, 2009 05:10 PM

                                                                                                                        I think you need to find another job. You should not be waiting tables.

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                                                                                                          gryphonskeeper RE: nosh May 3, 2009 03:58 PM

                                                                                                          I do not care if the server smokes, so long as he/she washes her hands after a nik fit, and does not vanish for 15 minutes when I just was served my entree, and there is a problem that I need solved.

                                                                                                          That being said, I also hope they wash their hands after using the restroom! I am more concerned about them putting their hands on a stinky butt from the backside, than a sticky butt from front!

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                                                                                                            AngelSanctuary RE: nosh May 25, 2009 04:40 PM

                                                                                                            Meh, if he does it on a break or something, it's his break I don't care. But I guess you're saying he wasn't on a break...well I guess that's kinda rude.

                                                                                                            But there's a lot of hostility in the comments, and where are you people living in? Most of the places in my city is smoke free...

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                                                                                                              slidinginsocks RE: nosh Jul 10, 2010 12:42 AM

                                                                                                              what about weed? then you could ask the server to share.....the food will taste yummier. : )

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                                                                                                                lagatta RE: slidinginsocks Jul 10, 2010 06:06 PM

                                                                                                                Well, better weed than chewing gum - now that's a smell that makes me want to retch.

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                                                                                                                1. re: lagatta
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                                                                                                                  ospreycove RE: lagatta Jul 15, 2010 08:36 AM

                                                                                                                  Actually next to the construction industry, hospitality classification ranks #2 in drug abuse. The facts are, many restaurant workers use coke; especially in the fast paced high profile establishments. It is just how it goes. For fact checking go to any state's "Workers compensation insurance" statistics. In Florida and other states the "Drug Free Workplace" is an insurance premium reduction program that through random unannounced drug testing, the program's aim is to make drug users not qualified for workers comp, thus not employable.

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                                                                                                                  1. re: ospreycove
                                                                                                                    thew RE: ospreycove Jul 15, 2010 09:03 AM

                                                                                                                    use is not abuse. that's why we have 2 different words.

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                                                                                                                      ospreycove RE: thew Jul 15, 2010 09:30 AM

                                                                                                                      Ehh, coke user vs. abuser who makes that call?

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                                                                                                                      1. re: ospreycove
                                                                                                                        jgg13 RE: ospreycove Jul 15, 2010 11:24 AM

                                                                                                                        If they can function in society normally they're a user, not an abuser. Unless you want to believe Nancy Reagan, not all drug use is some horrible blight on our universe.

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                                                                                                                        1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                                          o
                                                                                                                          ospreycove RE: jgg13 Jul 15, 2010 11:29 AM

                                                                                                                          Hey I am not providing moral guidance; rather commenting on how it was a slick move for the Workers' Comp insurers to slash any and all drug users.....abusers...whatever, from the employee rolls. Also if let go for failing the "pee test" you are not eligible for unemployment compensation.

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                                                                                                                    2. re: ospreycove
                                                                                                                      Sooeygun RE: ospreycove Jul 15, 2010 11:48 AM

                                                                                                                      Where did coke come from? slidinginsocks and lagatta were talking about weed.

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                                                                                                                      1. re: Sooeygun
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                                                                                                                        ospreycove RE: Sooeygun Jul 15, 2010 01:27 PM

                                                                                                                        Sooey,

                                                                                                                        Referencing the preferred drug of the hospitality industry and its consequences. Drug testing for "Drug Free Workplace" also tests for THC ("weed"). Current testing can be up to 10 screens. Any positive will put the employee on the street, and the potential hire will not be considered.

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