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Nov 5, 2009 05:26 PM

"One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 2)"

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  1. COMPLETELY agree with #88. Don't ask me if I need change...say "I'll be right back with your change" and then I can either say "thank you" or "I'm good". If I'm asked if I need change, I say "yes" even if I intended to tip that amount. It's just tacky.

    22 Replies
    1. re: coney with everything

      Aww, I call foul. Of course, there are some fine-dining settings where it's best if the server refrain from asking. But in most situations, if it's a close call between a reasonable tip amount and the amount of the customer's change, it doesn't hurt to ask.

      The reason is this: restaurant servers, in a busy setting, must have an efficiency of movement. Asking if a customer needs change is a question that helps a server plan logistics: should the server just set aside the check and payment, processing it with the cashier at a later (presumably less busy) time, or should the server visit the cashier right away to secure change for a table.

      Of all the restaurant server's sins, I think asking about change is a very, very minor one.

      1. re: shaogo

        While I agree that knowing whether you have to return to the table or not is logistically important, "I'll be back with your change." accomplishes the same thing and sounds classier.

        1. re: shaogo

          I completely disagree. Making the rule and following all the time is the only way to run the business. Otherwise the server may assume the amount left is intended to be tip when it isn't, and the efficiency lost just isn't worth that risk.

          at a bar in Jack London Square (Oakland) a few years ago, I had one drink (cost about $7. I put down a twenty. Server asked, "Do you need change?" Not even sure the server thought about the fact that she was implying that would be a tip of more than 100%. She was probably just doing what she always does, but either way, I will never go back to that bar.

          1. re: susancinsf

            I think we've all been victimized by a dim-witted waiter or bartender who, when handed funds substantially greater than the bill (and perhaps don't bother to look first) utter "do you need change?"

            To those clueless individuals, I'll merely say "yes indeed, I need change for $(what I gave) against a $(check amount) bill." It points out to them how silly asking the question is in that circumstance. I then give thanks for my common sense, and think to myself "there but for the Grace of God go I."

            In all other cases, it's just a simple matter of answering a question that's been posed innocently enough. For me, it ain't a problem.

            1. re: shaogo

              It is not my job to educate a clueless server, and I don't want the discomfort of feeling that I need to do so. I'd rather just not go back. The rule is a good one IMO.

          2. re: shaogo

            I disagree. I don't care if it's a matter of saving the server some steps. Bring me the change and let me decide how much to leave you for a tip. If i want you to keep the change I will certainly tell you up front.

          3. re: coney with everything

            as ive said here a million times before - 99.9% of the time the server has not looked at how much money is sitting there before ze asks, so ze does not know if ze is asking for about a 5% or a 50% tip. The question does not bother me at all, as the effort of answering with either a 2 or 3 letter word (and hopefully followed by the word "please") takes way less effort than getting upset about complete nonsense. Servers are on their feet all day, cashing out is sometimes a pain, especially on a busy night. let them save a few steps on my account. i seriously don't mind

            1. re: thew

              agreed. it's a simple, logistical question. no need to give it a second thought. if i respond to the server's innocent question in the affirmative, s/he must "bump" the task of getting my change for me above other tasks like getting other diners' food and beverage, since it's a monetary transaction, and i'm waiting for my change in order to leave the establishment. if i reply in the negative, well then, i can relax until i leave, the other diners can be taken care of first-- and my table's check can be cashed out during a lull in the action, when the staff is not busy. sometimes i'll say "yes, i need change, please, but there is no rush," when i'm fine with hanging out for a few minutes. since many restaurant and service tasks are time-sensitive this is often really helpful for everyone to get smooth service.

              the server asks this question in order to be able to route her/his trajectory and order her/his task queue. some diners insist that the question is rude because it has to do with money, an attitude i don't really comprehend. people go to a restaurant establishment to buy a meal, receive service, eat, drink, relax, and at the end, pay for what they have received. a brief verbal exchange about the monetary transaction-- what's the problem?

              these folks' hangups result in pointless runaround for the server and perfectly avoidable delays for their fellow diners. i can't imagine willfully power-tripping on the server (who is working while the diner is relaxing) in a way that makes the servers' job more difficult and frustrating, but is also most rude imo toward the other diners who expect smooth service-- really ungracious, uncivil behavior imo. otoh these folks usually seem to feel that they are more important than anyone else, and are often looking for a reason to ding the server's tip at the end of a perfectly fine meal, so perhaps they do understand what they are doing, and they simply don't care.

              1. re: soupkitten

                So what's the difference in their task load between "I'll be right back with your change" and "Do you need change"?

                IF I want them to keep the change, THEN I can say "that's OK, we're good"
                ELSE IF I were going to want change anyway, THEN I can say OK.

                I think it's a more gracious way for the server to pose the issue. "Do you want change" sounds too much like "Do you want fries with that".

                Not the end of the world, certainly, but it really would be no more effort for the server.

                1. re: coney with everything

                  Having waited tables for years, I can tell you that at least 80-85% of the time, when you say "I'll be right back with your change," people either say nothing, or say "OK." Then when they leave and you open the book and realize they've left you all the change you went out of your way to make, stopping to line up at the register to close the check, keeping other diner's waiting so that you can get this table their change, and you realize they didn't NEED the change after all, you feel like running after them screaming, "WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST SAY KEEP THE CHANGE!"

                  In theory, saying I'll be right back with your change will result in the "that's ok, we're good" response when it is intended, but in practice, that's not the way it works. After you've done this like 100 times, it's very hard not to just ask, "would you like change?" Agreed with the PP who said it's done without looking at what's proffered, and is NOT an angling to get a bigger tip or whtaever. It's to save time, which is probably a server's #1 priority, as it affects the tip most of all. How quickly you can respond to requests or how promptly you can refill drinks, bring the check, bring food, etc is one fo the most important factors in making the night run smoothly for ALL your guests. This is why you visit all your tables every time you come out onto the floor instead of just one, then get their requested item, then the other, then get the requested item, etc. (waiter pinball as we call it).

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    I just re-visited this thread. rockandroller, your points are excellent, as were soupkitten's.

                    rockandroller's third paragraph highlights a major trouble spot for servers: the customer who thinks that a server's every utterance or behavior is done so because the server is "angling for a bigger tip." There are a lot of people on these boards, however, who seem to be looking for any excuse, whether logical or not, to reduce the server's tip.

                    1. re: shaogo

                      I can't wait to see these sorts of comments posted: "The server was very helpful, but I knew it was because he wanted a bigger tip... When I realized that I was very insulted and left a penny on the bill"

                    2. re: rockandroller1

                      rockandroller1, I see your points about change, and how it gets annoying to continually ask if the guest wants change. See this from a diners perspective, I was dining alone once with about a $22 bill after tax, and I left two twentys and was hit with the do you want change. It looked as if, right or wrong, that the server was looking for an $18 tip on a $22 dollar tab. It left a sour taste in my mouth after a nice meal.

                      1. re: James Cristinian

                        Then perhaps you may simply change your perception of the comment based on the circumstances. It's not like they called you a name or something

                        1. re: Blueicus

                          No, they didn't call me a name, but here are the circumstances. I was alone. I went at a slow time, say 3 in the afternoon. The waiter knew what I had, but I'm supposed to tip him 18 bucks for three trips to the table. As someone above posted, I have not been back. Look, I work in retail, and my Thanksgiving is ruined by the sales, working 'til 12 mindnight Wednesday, back at 2 am Friday, but you know what, I deal with it, because it's what I do. Obviously, the change thing is an issue for people, not all, but many. Just deal with it or alienate some of your paying public.

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            This would be weird if your server looked at the two twenties and then asked, but totally normal as per rockandroller1, if they just picked up the bill thingy with the money and check inside without looking: the server knew what you had, but did they know how much money you included?

                            Anyway, I think you overreacted. What server in their right mind expects or asks for a 22 dollar tip on an 18 dollar meal?

                            1. re: StheJ

                              The two twenties were plainly visible, and not in a thingy, I should have mentioned that earlier. You just made my point, what server expects a tip like that. Another thing I failed to mention was the upselling that incurred on a simple order. He dropped of the menu, and when he came back I was ready to order, as in I'll have the a, b and c, he then countered with what about d, e and f. I may have overreacted, but the whole thing struck me as wrong, that he was trying to do a bit of a number on me. Oh, by the way, he only got 15 percent, instead of the 20 plus I usaually give for any kind of reasonable service.

                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                Well... Then I don't think that you overreacted.

                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                  to me it sounds like you were happy to drop 5% from the tip for the most ridiculous of reasons. The waiter most likely asked out of habit, as that is the phrase s/he probably utters every time s/he picks up the check, and not with the nefarious intent of suckering a 90% tip out of you. the actual service you got was fine up until that point, right? so those 4 or 5 words hardly make the service less than reasonable.

                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                    Servers are REQUIRED to upsell. If a manager walks by and doesn't hear you upselling, you can actually be fired, or at least written up. Servers are "shopped" to test whether or not they are offering the specific upsell at each instance where there is a possibility to do so, and get in trouble if they are not doing it.

                                    I bet you about 8 million dollars the server did not have any recollection of how much your bill totaled or that what you were leaving was like twice as much as the bill so "obviously" you wanted change. I promise you, they do not memorize how much each table ordered and keep it in their brains so that when they pick up the check, they could automatically "know" if someone wants change or not. They just pick up the bill and the money and ask if you want change. They're not examining it, or angling for an $18 tip. If that's what you think, and you plan on shorting servers for a) doing their required job (e.g. upselling) or b) not memorizing your bill total, and c) examining the bill at the table, and what cash was left and then "knowing" that you would want change, I would stop dining in places with servers.

                                    At every restaurant I have worked at, you are trained as to exactly what and when to upsell at each point in the ordering process and each point in the dining process. It's REQUIRED. Maybe if you understood a little better about how servers have to do their jobs, you wouldn't think they're all out to get you.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      1. I disagree. To me it seems that the poster has a legitimate point: "...the whole thing struck me as wrong, that he was trying to do a bit of a number on me." and we need to take him at his word. He felt that the whole situation was off and I personally think that it's fine for him to leave a smaller tip than he would have normally. Frankly, if I got a similarly bad vibe the tip would be 10% or lower.

                                      2. I think that when the restaurant is slow and there is no one else there, it's completely acceptable to expect your server to recall what you had. Plus, since it was slow, this kind of negates all the business about trying to save time so that the server can service other tables and be efficient.

                                      3. Upselling: As a customer, this is annoying beyond belief if not done in the right way and, you're right it's the fault of the restaurant. If I ask the server for suggestions and they've been told to push the salmon, then I guess this is ok, but not really because when I ask the server for a recommendation, I'm not saying "Hey what did your boss tell you to get rid of or what is the restaurant going to make the most money on?" I'm asking you what in your experience of sampling the food/being in the kitchen is the tastiest...

                                      Unfortunately, the server in this case is the face of the restaurant and if the whole upselling thing pisses me off, then there's really no where else to go. I mean I can't knock the price of my appetizer or entree down because the server annoyed me with constant upselling can I?

                                      Honestly, we must frequent different restaurants because I really can't recall the last time I was subject to upselling. But if I was and it pissed me off, I'd probably say something like: I appreciate your input, but it's not appreciated. Then maybe the server can go back to the manager and say: "Hey... all this upselling is annoying our customers (at least that one) maybe it's not worth it. Or maybe I should talk to the manager about it, but I suspect that the managers know that it annoys people and don't care, mostly because they probably know that it's the servers who are going to suffer from lower tips and don't care.

                                      1. re: StheJ

                                        "Then maybe the server can go back to the manager and say: "Hey... all this upselling is annoying our customers (at least that one) maybe it's not worth it. Or maybe I should talk to the manager about it, but I suspect that the managers know that it annoys people and don't care..."

                                        Believe me, the servers have played this card again and again. And you talking to the manager does nothing, as the manager answers to the owner. If the owner is a corporate america chain, or an indie that is RUN like a corporate chain, then you will be upsold at every opportunity, and the manager doesn't care if you like it or not; their income is not affected, unless people suddenly stop going to restaurants that participate in upselling in droves, which doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon.

                                        Write to the owner or to corporate if it is a chain. But given that they cite study after study incidating that upselling does reflect in profit, for both the restaurant and the server (since their sales are then higher), nobody is likely to quit doing it anytime soon.

                2. Now I've read 'em all.

                  I find it peculiar that the guy who forbids a server to ask the guest about change, *must,* according to rule No. 84, ask if the diner would like more coffee. If a diner doesn't want any more coffee, he/she will put their hand over the top of the coffee cup (or keep the cup from being taken away to be refilled).

                  One of my biggest frustrations has occurred even in some very, very expensive restaurants: the first cup of coffee comes to the table and it's delicious. But because I have my dessert in front of me, the server's only concern is re-filling my coffee. Which they don't do. For an eternity. Then, when coffee's finally re-filled, there isn't enough cream for the second cup. Ack!

                  Finally, No. 91 "if someone complains about the music, do something about it (without upsetting the ambience)..." is just plain silly. Certainly, if many customers in the dining room are upset with the volume, it should certainly be turned down. However, if one person chooses to complain, *any* adjustment of the music is indeed going to change the ambience for all the others seated in the restaurant. This question is a management question, not a server question.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: shaogo

                    And what about those of us who like sugar and milk in our coffee and don't want to have to try and figure it out ten times because someone thinks that great service means compulsively keeping the coffee at the rim?

                    Also, the hand over the cup thing just... no. All it takes is one time where you're a little bit too late and you get coffee poured on your hand.

                  2. 84. Do not refill a coffee cup compulsively. Ask if the guest desires a refill.

                    Huge pet peeve. I hate it when they ruin the molarity of my coffee or tea.

                    61. Do not stand behind someone who is ordering. Make eye contact. Thank him or her.

                    Huge problem for chains, the waiters/waitresses don't like to move for some reason.

                    68. Do not reach across one guest to serve another.

                    Another pet peeve. The words:"Pardon my reach" makes me go ballistic. Unless it is a very small space and there is no room to maneuver, I am ready for that, but if the restaurant isof a reasonable size and the tables are properly spaced, get your fat butt around so that you can serve it properly.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      "I hate it when they ruin the molarity of my coffee or tea."

                      BEST USE OF "MOLARITY" EVER!

                      I love No. 53: "Do not let guests double-order unintentionally." At a Peruvian place I love, I once had a delicious mixed-seafood starter that I could have eaten more of. Which was a good thing, because I'd inadvertently ordered almost the exact same dish as my entree -- same seafood, some of the same sauce, only this time with a few more adornments. I so wish the server had alerted me, because when I made a remark about it, she said, "I wondered about that, but didn't want to seem like I was telling you what to get." I wasn't angry in the least, but wouldn't have minded her saying something in the least.

                      This one could be taken several ways: "Refrain from touching the wet spots on the guest."

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        I'm not a scientist but I figured out what "molarity" means.

                        I dine occasionally with a doctor friend who's going to love it when I start discussing the molarity of my coffee.

                        And I'm just as fussy as you, Phaedrus, about the amount of sugar/cream in my coffee. So I'm going to remember that.

                        The places I usually go to, my cup's empty long before they have the presence of mind to "warm" it.

                        1. re: shaogo

                          and warming it not only reduces molarity, but it reduces the heat of the coffee that is poured into the "refreshed" coffee.

                          i want to drink one cup, and then get another pour. (i used to have a client that would ask if the coffee was "fresh" before she ordered her coffee. she has a point in some places, but it is embarrassing in finer places).

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I agree on the topping up angle - and want to finish a glassof wine before more is poured - so I can know how much I'm drinking.

                      2. The only one I truly disagree with is #85 - "Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it." I prefer that the server drop the check and say "I'll take that when you're ready," or whatever. I don't like having to ask for the check; it makes the end of the meal feel too suspenseful.

                        And I'll add one: If the credit card used to pay the tab has a woman's name on it, do not return with the check and place it in front of a man. Take a moment to consider who will be leaving the tip. She may be thin-skinned, petty and vengeful (in other words, she may be me).

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: small h

                          Americans expect the check to be dropped off at the appropriate end of the meal.

                          Europeans always ask for the check.

                          I'm not sure that one is better than the other; it's just what you are accustomed to.

                          1. re: chicgail

                            And Vietnamese make you go up to the counter and get the bill. :)

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              <And Vietnamese make you go up to the counter and get the bill. :)>

                              Which would be fine with me. As long as I get to control the pace of the meal's end, I am happy. chicgail is right, also. On my first trip to Paris, at age 20, I sat miserably for what seemed like decades in Chez Wadja, desperately trying to remember the French phrase for "check, please" so I could get the hell out of there. Eventually "L'addition, s'il vous plaît" popped into my head. The other patrons actually applauded. Obviously, I can never go back (even if it were still open, which I don't think it is).

                              1. re: small h

                                The last time I was in Paris I was having breakfast in a café and I'd actually sat down to take my time... there was a group of American college-age kids at a nearby table who were trying their hardest with a phrasebook and just failing utterly (they called the waiter "garçon", which is just the kiss of death for any service you might want to have).

                                They went back to the US knowing at least one sentence in French—"Pardon, monsieur, l'addition, s'il vous plaît."

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  "Garçon" is not a good way to get service in France but imagine what happened to the American tourists who in their confusion called out "Gendarme!" instead

                          2. re: small h

                            That always really irritates me--I hand them the credit card, it's got a woman's name on it, and they often return it to my husband. The smarter ones put it in a neutral place between us.

                            1. re: small h

                              i disagree with you completely. i HATE when a place brings an unasked for check. In my younger, snarkier days that alone would guarantee the order of a cup of tea from me after the check was dropped off.

                              1. re: thew

                                I'm sure lots of people disagree with me, or it wouldn't be common practice. I also can't stand staring at my empty plate and would like it cleared, even if other people at the table are still eating. Obviously, there's no system that works for everyone.

                                Since there are no longer smoking sections in Manhattan restaurants (sigh), maybe there could be no-need-to-ask-for-the-check sections instead.

                                1. re: small h

                                  Oh gosh, I HATE when they bring the check unasked for. Often I'm thinking about another drink, or maybe some coffee for my husband or something. And I also disagree about the plates. Until everyone at the table is finished plates should not be removed.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    I'll tell you what. I'll toss my empty plate over to your table, and you can keep it company until everybody's done eating. In exchange, I'll hang onto to your check for you, so you don't feel rushed.

                                    There is no "should" here (the title of the post notwithstanding). These are matters of opinion.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        Awesome! Another problem solved. Now let's you & me get started on this health care thing.

                            2. The original comment has been removed