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Servers Who Smoke

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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.

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

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

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Cathy

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

              1. re: KTinNYC

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

                1. re: BostonZest

                  That is a pretty broad statement.

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    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.

                    1. re: Cathy

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

                      1. re: thew

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

            2. 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!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Beach Chick

                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.

              2. 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.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                  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.

                  1. re: nosh

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

                    1. re: nosh

                      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.

                      1. re: nkeane

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

                        1. re: nkeane

                          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?

                          1. re: yuyu

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

                          2. re: nkeane

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

                          3. re: nosh

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

                          4. re: Sal Vanilla

                            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.

                          5. 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.

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: Paula76

                              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.

                              1. re: pollymerase

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

                              2. re: Paula76

                                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.

                                1. re: nkeane

                                  "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.

                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                    "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?

                                    1. re: pollymerase

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

                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                        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.

                                      2. re: pollymerase

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

                                        1. re: Sharuf


                                          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.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            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.

                                            1. re: lagatta

                                              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.

                                              1. re: hala

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

                                      3. re: Sharuf

                                        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.

                                        1. re: John Manzo

                                          Looks like the health police are going to take the "do it at home" possibility now as well:

                                          1. re: John Manzo

                                            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.

                                            1. re: Paula76

                                              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.

                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                <"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.

                                          2. re: Paula76

                                            We are all about being fussy and judgmental here.

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

                                          3. 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.

                                            1. Nobody scores points when they smell like a smouldering landfill.

                                              1. 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.

                                                1. 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.

                                                  14 Replies
                                                  1. re: Paula76

                                                    Bravo Paula -
                                                    I totally agree

                                                    1. re: Paula76

                                                      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.

                                                      1. re: Orchid64

                                                        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!

                                                        1. re: Orchid64

                                                          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.

                                                          1. re: Orchid64

                                                            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.

                                                          2. re: Paula76

                                                            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.

                                                            1. re: John Manzo

                                                              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.

                                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                                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.

                                                                1. re: John Manzo

                                                                  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.

                                                                  1. re: Paula76

                                                                    Logic and calm demeanor have zero effect on the militant.

                                                                  2. re: John Manzo

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

                                                                  3. re: Paula76

                                                                    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.

                                                                    1. re: nkeane

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

                                                                  4. 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....

                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                    1. re: bostoneight

                                                                      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.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

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

                                                                      2. re: bostoneight

                                                                        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?

                                                                        1. re: mr99203

                                                                          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.

                                                                          1. re: mr99203

                                                                            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.


                                                                            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.

                                                                            1. re: hannaone

                                                                              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.

                                                                            2. re: mr99203

                                                                              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.

                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                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....

                                                                            3. re: bostoneight

                                                                              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.

                                                                              1. re: bostoneight

                                                                                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.

                                                                                1. re: John Manzo

                                                                                  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.

                                                                                  1. re: ginael

                                                                                    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.

                                                                              2. 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.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  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.

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

                                                                                  1. 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.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                      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.

                                                                                    2. 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!)

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: bakinggirl

                                                                                        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.

                                                                                      2. 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.

                                                                                        25 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                                          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.

                                                                                          1. re: planetjess

                                                                                            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.).

                                                                                            1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                              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? :-)

                                                                                              1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                Absolutely correct.

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

                                                                                              2. re: planetjess

                                                                                                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.

                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                  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!!

                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                    1. re: planetjess

                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                        1. re: planetjess

                                                                                                          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.

                                                                                                          1. re: planetjess

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

                                                                                                        2. re: planetjess

                                                                                                          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.

                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                            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?

                                                                                                            1. re: planetjess

                                                                                                              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.

                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                "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.

                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                  1. re: yuyu

                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                    1. re: yuyu

                                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                        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

                                                                                                                        1. re: yuyu

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

                                                                                                                            1. re: bakinggirl

                                                                                                                              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.

                                                                                                                              1. re: planetjess

                                                                                                                                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.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

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

                                                                                                                      2. re: yuyu

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

                                                                                                        3. 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!

                                                                                                          1. 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...

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

                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: slidinginsocks

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

                                                                                                                1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                  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.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ospreycove

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

                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

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

                                                                                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                          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.

                                                                                                                    2. re: ospreycove

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

                                                                                                                      1. re: Sooeygun


                                                                                                                        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.