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Jul 2, 2009 05:27 PM

What to do when a server hurts your feelings.


I was at a restaurant today with my son, who is mildly autistic and has some issues with social situations, but is incredibly well behaved. The problem was my son "stimming" himself by taking his napkin, and ripping off pieces of it, and putting them in his bread plate.

The server came over, and rolled his eyes and walked away whispering an incredibly mean remark under his breath, but not so soft I could not hear it, and I know my son did, because he dropped his napkin and lowered his head.

I felt my heart sink in my chest, and immediately decided to leave, and only pay for what we already consumed, (our drinks) I slapped the exact amount for the drinks plus tax on the table. We left and went across the street, because my son was hungry and we were near the beach and wanted to stay and enjoy it.

i wanted so bad to stand up and demand an apology from the server, but I did not want to make a scene in front of my son.

I am still angry....

  1. I certainly understand how you must fee. Why not write a letter to the owner, pointing out the insensitivity and rudeness of the server. At the very least, it will probably make you feel a little better.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bob Brooks

      as a former restaurant owner, I am incensed at the outrageous conduct of some servers.
      You should have gotten up, gone over to the cashier, ask for the manager, and ask him to call the server in question. Then, in front of the manager, read that servers beads.
      It's obvious to me that server didn't know your son was autistic, and I am guessing he doesn't even know the definition of the condition.
      The manager, if at all conscious (some are not) would have insisted that you sit at another table, and given you a free meal.
      Your son deserved better. In California our servers are trained for every condition and allergy that customers have. My profit only comes from the best service we can give our customers. If a mistake is made, we try to correct it. Unfortunately, some customers just leave without saying anything.
      good luck in the future.

    2. If you don't know the server's name, I'd go back (not to buy, just to spy) until you see him and find out his name. (Of course, you will have left your child at home.) I would then get the owner/manager and the server together and I'd rip him a new you-know-what. So unexcuseable I find myself mentally stammering. What a d**khead.

      1 Reply
      1. re: c oliver

        "d**khead" is putting it nicely. def. contact the manager. it's called the hospitality industry for a reason, and that's not it.

        autistic or not, as long as one isn't interfering with the enjoyment of others - who really cares. I've seen far worse from adults without an identifiable (what is the right word, situation? condition?)

      2. I think that going back and speaking to the server and the manager together is the right thing to do. The server needs to be made to feel uncomfortable and embarassed, just as your son was. Sometimes people can't understand until they're in the same position.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Jetgirly

          That is a good idea ONLY if it will make you feel better. If it only adds to your pain like - prolongs your anger - I would let it go.

          We live in a hateful and callous world sometimes.

          If you want to get it off your chest but not make a fuss, write a note to the manager to tell him what happened and how it made you feel about his place. Short and to the point.

          Meanwhile, stiff upper lip, loving warm smile and loving pets for your boy when he gets an ugly earful.

          Gosh that makes me mad. If I heard that I might have been tempted to tell him he was a supreme arse.

          1. re: Sal Vanilla

            Sal, while I agree a personal confrontation isn't necessary, addressing it is a good idea for the sake of others who may be subjected to the server's contempt and ultimately the server will be better able to maintain a job. (although I'm ready to jump on any bandwagon that's willing to speculate the server has deeper and wider issues than a bit of table mess and a fundamental misunderstanding of the business).

            1. re: hill food

              I agree with Sal. These things have a way of eating up the person who was affronted. It was a horrible thing that happened, no question. Sometimes things are so infuriating, its better to not address it and move on for your own peace of mind. Going to the resto will most certainly create more anger and frustration b/c you can rest assured things aren't going to shake down the way you would hope they would.

              To the OP, for your own piece of mind, move on and free yourself from it. JMHO.

              1. re: lynnlato

                Each person is different (and WOW I sure do love that about us!) It would eat me up if I DIDN'T confront the person. To each his own.

            2. re: Sal Vanilla

              I speak as a Special Education teacher who works mainly with later literacy students (kids in their teens who can't read) but also with students on the autism spectrum. Special Ed teachers are often asked to put themselves in situations where they are out of their comfort zone, have a learning disadvantage, etc. to better empathize with the students. I strongly feel that an adult who embarasses an autistic child would benefit from experiencing feelings similar to those felt by that embarassed child. It has got to be articulated, though. "I know you feel uncomfortable standing here and talking about this with your boss and I, but that feeling of discomfort is the same one that Little Bobby felt when you made those comments." This server is going to be out there, working with all different types of people, and would benefit from a reality check about the diverse population he is serving. In the long run, you're doing him a favour.

              1. re: Jetgirly

                Again, I'm not trying to defend the waiter but do we know he knew the OP's son was autistic? You can't tell someone is autistic just by looking at them, right? I don't think I could identify and autistic child just by appearance and maybe the waiter could not either. If my suspicion is correct then I would have been just best to explain to the waiter the situation and educate him in the behavior.

                I know it's not easy to be rational when someone insults your child but I believe the waiter made his remark out of ignorance not out of a sense of spite or to be mean. Explaining the situation would have done much to prevent him from saying something similar in the future.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  I think there are completely different issues going on here. I think you are right in that the waiter most likely did not know this child was autistic. That said there is no excuse for any patron ANY PATRON to have to endure that turd as a waiter. So. She can do several things. She can talk to the manager about the decidedly rank behavior or his waiter. She can educate the waiter about autism. She can humiliate him by telling him by letting him know that her child heard his crap comments and he, a child who has to endure a lot of hardship in life should be allowed to go to a restaurant with his mom and not be harangued by a snotty, inconsiderate boob. OR... she can ignore it, put on a nice face for her kid and move on or maybe use this as a learning lesson for her child "that man is stupid, ignorant and pathetic. We would never act like that toward anyone right?" I am not sure how autistic he is, but my half-brother (who is mildly autistic) benefited from constantly being given examples of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior by the shock of how bad bad behavior feels (just like we all benefit BTW).

                  Anyway, just saying.

                  Also, calling out someone who acts like that as an adult rarely changes them. It might make you feel better to do it though.

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    Whether or not the child is autistic is not the point. The fact that the server was rude is. No server worth their salt should EVER make a disparaging remark about a patron anywhere near where it might be overheard. Unprofessional, unfeeling, and stupid. The fact that this patron was autistic just magnifies the server's insensitivity.

                    As an owner/manager of a restaurant, or any other business that serves the public, I would certainly want to know if I had an employee who thought this type of behavior in the workplace was appropriate.

                  2. re: Jetgirly

                    The reality is that some people really don't care one way or another, and while this approach probably works with special ed teachers, I'm not really sure it would work with someone like the OP's server. A person who is so disrespectful/cruel as to make an offensive remark in earshot of a child, whether he appears disabled or not, is probably not going to be embarrassed by being called out in public.

                    I'm also not the type who thinks that the server needs to be educated better. The reality of the matter is that you can't really tell which patron has special needs, and a server should show respect to ALL patrons. I don't think parents with special needs children should have to go up to a server each time they go to a restaurant to explain that the child has special needs and may have some slight behavioral issues. I would have written a letter to the manager, who would have known the server well enough to discern whether he was just a complete jerk or clueless and address the problem in an appropriate manner.

                    1. re: queencru

                      I totally agree with you. You can call the waiter out on his behavior, but you can't make him empathize or even feel embarassed.

                      And it shouldn't matter whether the waiter knew the boy was autistic. In fact, even if the boy wasn't autistic, the waiter has no business making mean remarks to or about patrons within earshot.

              2. jfood is actually shaking with anger. HOW DARE HE?

                It is rare that jfood preaches scorched earth, but here is the one case where the server's total and complete disregard deserves only one thing...dismissal.

                This may not be popular, but jfood would find the manager, demand a meeting with the owner and demand immediate dismissal of mr yutz.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jfood

                  y'know, while this behavior is piss-off-worthy, I can't help but think the first step is education about manners, tolerance and understanding. an outright boot (while tempting and justifiable IMHO) would only address the immediate situation and not change the jerk's behavior. I once supervised a person with some similar issues and while it was a learning (and sometimes frustrating) experience on my part, he remains one of my favorite coworkers ever.

                  then they should can the asshat if it happens again.

                  a far better response would have been for the server to ask if an additional bread plate would be appreciated.

                  but maybe all would be better off this person worked in another industry.


                  1. re: jfood

                    Thank you for that jfood. This child is the most well behaved child you would ever meet. He has never lied, or said a swear,

                    he may not be able to tie his shoes, or ride a bike, or write (but he can type) But he is the sweetest kid you ever met.

                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                      and is always welcome to break bread w jfood.

                  2. Fortunately, I have never been in a similar situation, at least not that I can recall.

                    Now, there have been a few sommeiliers, who wanted to go "head-to-head," but I have brought them to their knees in a hurry. In a few of these instances, it stared out quietly in whispered tones, until they escalated the event to include my guests. At that point, I played to "the back of the house," as I can do. In these few instances, we just took our business elsewhere. In one, we had two more candidate dinners scheduled, and the tab for the first of the three was about US$4000, including food, wine and gratuities. That restaurant lost about US$8K in a big hurry.

                    In another instance, a local restaurant lost an upcoming board dinner. The tab at another restaurant was US$8.5K. It took a direct apology from the owner and a plea to return, before we'd even consider it.

                    Now, some servers and maybe a few sommeliers might say things in the "back," but few ever make note of their feelings in my presence. Should they, it'd better be in hushed tones and in my ear, so none of my guests are privy to any of it.

                    I am so sorry for your experience. Just because I cannot personnaly relate to it, does not mean that I don't feel your pain. No patron should be made to feel bad, or feel badly about anything, like you describe.

                    Vote with your wallet, and also with your presence on CH. Diners need to know the good guys from the bad guys.

                    So sorry,