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Touched by a Waitress


Today I went to a local restaurant that has decent food but always has pretty awful service. There's always something weird going on with the service too, everything seems confused. One time they totaled the bill wrong and we had to go through it ourselves. But today was a new standard in weirdness, and it made me wonder, is it OK for a wait-staff to touch the diners? Repeatedly? She started out doing some touching like we were bonding. Later the touching was apologetic, "I'm so sorry it's taking so long" (shoulder touch). The only places she touched were my clothed back and shoulder but it made me very very uncomfortable. I don't really like being touched that much, I'm not a hugger, etc. So is it ever OK? Or is this a bridge too far?

  1. Too far. I would consider it creepy.

    1. For a person who defines weird service with an example of a mis-added bill, I expect you find alot of weirdness. I think you just came across an excessive touchy-feely person who just happened to be your server. You adding that it was an expression of weirdness on the restaurant's part was just an expression of your own weirdness perhaps.
      I also do not in general like to be touched and like to maintain my personal space. Some people I know consider this to be weird.

      Is all this weirdness with the place worth the only decent food for you? Time to move one perhaps?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        I mentioned the mis-added bill as one example of many weridnesses. There's always something a bit off about the service. Once it was a misadded bill. Today it was very slow service, another time it was the order in which things were brought. I resent the statement that it is "an expression of [my] own weirdness."

        1. re: AliceS

          Maybe the owner is weird...and hires all their weird friends :)

        2. <is it OK for a wait-staff to touch the diners? Repeatedly?>

          No. I don't mind a tap to get my attention, if other methods have been tried and have failed, but I don't want strangers petting me. I instinctively pull away, and then I feel like a jerk, which makes it worse.

          2 Replies
          1. re: small h

            A tap on the shoulder, the person coming from behind? or not quite in my peripheral vision - I would jump sky high and probably yell!

            1. re: Rella

              I am trained in tactical weapons, my reactions are a bit scarier. :-)

          2. I hate that type of over familiarity. If I don't know you then don't touch me and even if I do, be appropriate...i.e. no kissing on the lips unless you are my husband etc. I find it particularly off putting in a situation such as a restaurant or other type of public establishment..

            Given the fact that you have had other issues at this place, I would go elsewhere in the future.

            1. If you're looking for a hand count, then I say it's perfectly nice and friendly. People do that to me, and I do that to others on a frequent basis.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Steve

                Huh. I can appreciate how you may perceive this as "nice and friendly" but I would err on the side of assuming people don't want to be touched-- especially as the potential offence of not touching is significantly less than that of touching. That is, I'm happy to know you don't have a sense of personal space that you feel is invaded by unwanted touch. Others of us don't feel the same way, and uninvited touches can inspire less than positive interactions. (Just recently, a man attempting to be kind, took hold of my arm to gesture I should move ahead him. As instinctive response, I flinched and then asked him to please not touch me. I know he meant well, but now he felt bad for making me flinch. and I felt bad for making him feel bad. Had it been an "after you" it would have done differently.
                And lest there is an effort to psychoanalyse, etc. my question would be this: Why must I defend my desire not to be touched by strangers?

                1. re: Lizard

                  "Why must I defend my desire not to be touched by strangers?"

                  You don't have to defend yourself. However you feel is up to you. Just don't expect the world to conform to how you feel. I was simply stating a fact: that others do that to me, and I have done it as well.

                  1. re: Steve

                    No, I don't expect the world to conform to how I feel. It is sad, however, that you stand by your desire to disrespect the very real possibility that someone does not wish to be touched or handled by you.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Steve: Uh, yeah it IS up to me. I have autonomous control over my body, my boundaries, and over who is permitted to cross those boundaries, how, and when. I am disturbed you feel entitled to cross those boundaries according to your whim, with no regard or respect for the rights of others.

                      1. re: Leonardo

                        It is very common in my neck of the woods, so maybe it is not so common with you. As I said, it happens to me all the time, I'm just stating a fact.

                        Maybe if you were sandwiched in the metro on your way to work where everyone is packed into a subway car as tight as possible, your defenses would wear down as well.

                        1. re: Steve

                          That is not at all the context of this topic. When one enters a crowded train, there is the implied understanding one is entering close quarters. Not analogous at all to a server choosing to invade my space.

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            A server, or anyone.

                            The fact is, situations like crowded vehicles or spaces are unavoidable circumstances. (Steve makes many assumptions about where others have lived, I see.) People reaching out to give 'kindly' pats and unwanted touch, less so.

                            I appreciate that there is the genuine will to be nice, but I really wonder about how this aim to be nice works with an 'I don't have to conform to what makes you comfortable' mentality.But can one really be entitled to touch others not wishing to be touched?

                            (It might surprise Steve to learn that because of my upbringing, I am also ok with the cheek-kissing greeting, even of those I just meet. However, I do not bring that to where those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the custom)

                            1. re: Lizard

                              The only assumption I make is that, if people react in shock to a friendly pat, then they do not see what I see on a daily basis.

                            2. re: Leonardo

                              I didn't use it as an analogy. I simply stated that if you had that happen to you day in an day, out, maybe your defenses against a server touching you would not be as acute.

                              Again, I am just adding my perspective to the mix. It is just as valid as yours. I am not putting you down. You absolutely have the right to feel the way you do.

                              1. re: Steve

                                I'm sorry, but I have to disagree- and it does happen to me day in and day out as I live/work in DC/NOVA and take the metro regularly, like you. I do not react the same to repeated, intentional touches as I do to inadvertant ones on the train. I think it's a mistake to assume exposure to the one (crowded train commute) should de-sensitize you to the other (unwanted intentional touches by a stranger). I'll also note that I commonly experience people (yes, mostly men), stand too close and instigate similar "accidental" touches on the metro even when it's not jam-packed. And I now refuse to grin and bare it. People do that sort of thing because they're betting that your social graces/norms/whatever prevent you from being "rude" and asking them not to. I have no problem asking someone to step away from me, and I don't feel guilty about it.

                                I would have the same perspective for a waiter touching too much. I wouldn't let "politeness" or not wanting to embarrass them prevent me from stopping an uncomfortable situation. It's unfortunate that that may make them feel uncomfortable, but in the end it's probably better than stewed, unspoken resentment.

                    2. re: Steve

                      Steve, I admire that kind of openness and friendliness and wish the world was more open to it.
                      I'm not a particularly touchy feely person but I am generally not offended by the touch of a stranger. We're all human beings - I'm ok, you're ok... all that.

                    3. I don't like being touched, or touching strangers. However, as an ex-bartender and server sometimes a shoulder tap or nudge is the only way to get a response (ie a noisy environment or if there is a large group). So is it EVER appropriate, certainly, but just as certainly it can be over done. To be clear I am against touching to create a more personal bond between server and customer.

                      1. I don't always like it but touching on clothed back and shoulder is OK, IMO.

                        1. It can work both ways...
                          My weekly golf club is made up mostly of old retired guys and they're always hugging and snuggling the waitress that takes care of our group. I'm 20 years younger than these guys and don't do the hugging routine with the waitress.
                          Maybe it's an old guy thing.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: monku

                            "My weekly golf club is made up mostly of old retired guys and they're always hugging and snuggling the waitress that takes care of our group"

                            I absolutely hate that, it is nothing short of sexual harasment. The waitress may laugh but secretly she hates it, sadly the guys are in command - she needs the tip!

                            They don't do it down at the bank or or the shopping mall, why is it ok in a bar or restaurant?

                            1. re: davidne1

                              I absolutely hate that, it is nothing short of sexual harasment.
                              You might be on to something...I don't notice them doing it with Jorge the waiter.

                              1. re: davidne1

                                As a female, I wouldn't be offended by that behaviour from your weekly golf club, as long as the waitress was fine with it. Basically because I assume that your group are regulars and therefore they and the waitress are more familiar with each other than if they were occassional customers. If the waitress is uncomfortable with it she should maybe stand further away from the table or get another waitress to attend to the group. In an ideal world, she should be able to say to the group that she feels uncomfortable but I know what you mean about needing the tip. Maybe you could mention it to the group as a general thing, without mentioning the waitress?

                                In reply to the OP, I would hate to be constantly touched by a wait-staff unless it was one I knew well but even then repeated touching seems completely OTT. Maybe it's because I come from a country (New Zealand) where people tend to have quite a large area of personal space? OMG when I first lived in Toronto (where people are very touchy-feely, in a completely lovely way) the reduced personal space took some getting used to.

                                1. re: Billy33

                                  Oooh, we live in NZ for 4 months! Kia Ora! Also, I don't remember being touched by servers there either.

                                2. re: davidne1

                                  david.... don't get in a queue in Italy; there the little ladies will elbow you into submission!!!!!l
                                  lol. Actually, I have found most Italians, except in Sicily, to be very touchy feely, especially men to women, either casually known or not.

                                  1. re: davidne1

                                    because waitresses are manifestations of the Goddess, of course.

                                3. It's certainly not the norm but I think it just comes down to the individual personality of the waiter. If the intention is good (just trying to be friendly), then there is no harm, no foul as far as I'm concerned. I'm not a touchy feely person, but the way I look at it, we're all just people trying to make a living and get on with our lives, just go with the flow.

                                  1. Never acceptable, in my opinion.

                                    1. Overall, no. There should be no contact unless the guest initiates it (like a thank you hand shake at the end or you're a regular and want to greet someone).

                                      1. Industry survey some years back said the two best ways to increase your tip as a server were to touch the patron on the back and shoulder and to take the order from a position lower than the patron. Do not endorse, just what l have read, source forgotten.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          I've seen similar data supporting the theory. I've also seen it blow up in practice. . . .

                                          Several years ago, before the Mrs. was the Mrs., she decided it was her night to treat. We were living together, making plenty of money, and loved to try the better restaurants we came across. One night in Philly, a waitress persisted in placing her hand on my shoulder throughout the evening. She compounded the problem by calling me "Sweetheart" once or twice. I think she realized the spot she was in when, upon handing me the check, I slid it across the table to my "date."

                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            Hee hee, MGZ, maybe she just fancied you! Great story.

                                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            Last week the female server sat down on my seat and chatted with us - she did it twice. Both times I was still eating!

                                            Previous to sitting beside me , she had squatted down at the end of the table.
                                            Actually, I've always wondered why they do this.

                                          3. To clarify: if she had touched me once, I would have been OK. Maybe even twice. But every single time she talked to us, which was often because they were overwhelmed and so she kept having to come and apologize, she touched me.

                                            1. Heavens! Sue, you were assaulted!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: beevod

                                                Was a lawsuit implied? I just found it very uncomfortable. I'm not sure a lawsuit would go very far, but maybe you know better than I do.

                                              2. Well, you might be weird, but so am I. I would have hated that. And of course, people who complain or draw back from such touching are always the ones to look like jerks, even though it's the touchers who are out of line. I'm with the others. Unless this place is really convenient and the only place around for those nights you don't want to cook, find somewhere else to eat.

                                                1. I see no problem with it at all, but then I'm one of those people who has a tendency to touch people. I doubt it was sinister or because she read a book about how to get a bigger tip, I bet she's just someone who does it without thinking.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    I don't think it was sinister, just very uncomfortable for the "victim." I don't usually attribute wrong motives to people who like to touch, but I don't want them to touch me unless they're good friends.

                                                  2. I got a big hug from the owner/hostess of La Ciccia in San Francisco once. Being a big, old, dumb country boy, I liked it. I try to eat there when I’m in “The City”, but that outstanding restaurant is so popular now, I am often turned away.

                                                    1. Alice, better being the touchee than the toucher,(in legal/criminal terms),.....I think it is time to find a new regular place, where after time a "Welcome hug" is always welcomed!!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                        There is one restaurant I know where it is known that the owner/server, I'm not sure which, calls everyone "Amigo" or "Friend." After a few times, it becomes meaningless.

                                                      2. Absolutely unprofessional for waitstaff to touch diners.
                                                        Recently, a waiter at the Yale Club in NYC approached our table from behind and placed his hand on my back, where he left it it for several seconds. Later in the meal he repeated the gesture. Everyone at our table was stunned by his bizarre behavior

                                                        1. I thought you mean the service was so good you were deeply touched.

                                                          1. I've heard that there are studies that show that touching actually increases tips, it's supposed to make the customer feel all warm and fuzzy towards the server. I find it phony, as others have said already, if it's once quickly to get my attention, that's okay, but more than once is wrong.

                                                            1. The waitress can touch me a n y t I m e ....the waiter? then we'll have a problem! Yeah it is a bit odd

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                That sums it up for me too. As a matter of fact while we were having lunch out yesterday I briefly thought about this thread, since we had a young and attractive waitress.

                                                                1. re: junescook

                                                                  Because she touched you--or you wished she would? ;) STOP IT! I'm touchy/feely (who knew I owed this to my Italian heritage, HA HA), but don't recall touching people when I waited tables or tended bar. Then again, I do it without thinking--and with those I feel comfortable with. I can assure you, as someone who is an equal opportunity toucher (men/women), unless you are my sweetheart, it's not a sexual thing! ;)

                                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                    I actually do have a degree in social work so touching can be comforting in so many ways. (But how did that make you feel?)

                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  Yeah, I think that's called something else...

                                                                2. i don't think it's okay in most cases. it's really unprofessional. if it happens just once and is obviously awkward (like the server apologizing for something and just sort of patting dh on the shoulder last week)-- and it just sort of happens, i just kind of shake my head and feel a bit bad for everyone, and let it go. repeated touching would at some point start to skeeve me out. a quick tap on shoulder or arm in a very busy loud place, purely to get someone's attention, accompanied by "excuse me," or "your table is ready now," or "is that your child climbing over the balcony rail?" is also okay, but if there is no reason for a server to touch a customer, i'd say there is no reason for her/him to touch the customer. or, for the customer to think it's okay to touch the server-- while we're at it, not okay at all.

                                                                  otoh i'm totally on a (mutual) hugs, hand shaking, touchy-feely, kiss-cheek level at a couple of places where we're regulars and very friendly toward staff--obviously there are stages of this pda and i just don't walk up and kiss people i've never met before. when i've just really enjoyed a meal at a new place and i want to "meet" the person who's served our table formally, or the chef, or host, or whomever, i'll happily introduce myself by name and hold out my hand for a proper handshake so we'll kind of be acquainted the next time we visit, but i consider this no different from shaking anyone's hand whom you're meeting.

                                                                  1. Awful service, something always weird. So this is not unexpected behavior, no?

                                                                    1. I've read through all the replies so far and note there are several people who prefer not to be touched. I'm kind of sort of in that group but it all depends on the circumstances. My husband and I make a joke about how long it will take servers at any restaurant to touch me (on the shoulder), which they don't do to him. I'm a rather imposing figure so we both find it odd. As far as drawing a line in the sand to say what's too far, I have to chime in and say the line is very personal. If you're uncomfortable, you're uncomfortable and you must express it appropriately.

                                                                      I've gotten used to it in restaurants, kind of, but need to ask this......since this is really an intangible dislike and not something others can tell just by seeing you (unless you walk around in a bubble), how can one communicate they don't like to be touched without saying anything? Seems like that's the common thread here. Either you speak up and let it be known you're bothered by the touching or suffer in silence; those appear to be your only choices.

                                                                      I have found it necessary to mention to servers that I find their constant touching of me rather unsettling and ask they please desist but it can come across as elitist, depending on the situation. Anybody have suggestions to share?

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Dee S

                                                                        Something short of saying with the server's hearing, "Wow! I can't believe how many bedbugs were there! I am SO glad we got out and just wanta nice meal."

                                                                        1. re: Dee S

                                                                          <how can one communicate they don't like to be touched without saying anything?>

                                                                          A fine question. The only moderately successful strategy I have is to jump a bit, as if I've received a mild electric shock (which isn't really a strategy at all, it's just what I do). Kinda like what Angela Merkel did when W suddenly grabbed her shoulders.


                                                                        2. The now obsolete experiences at the Bacchanal restos at Caesars Palace in LV and AC included wonderful neck massages. It was a nice "touch".

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                            Gross. I've been to seminars/conferences where the speaker has us all get up, do a stretch, and give a shoulder rub to the person next to us. I always step out of the group. I'll go to my LMT or my girlfriend if I want that kind of "touch", thank you very much.

                                                                            1. re: Leonardo

                                                                              Ah yes, Leo, back to the days of Dr. Rolf and his training. BTW Rolfing is still around!!

                                                                              1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                No, those were trainings on financial issues and real estate. No Rolfing.

                                                                              2. re: Leonardo

                                                                                Oh yeah, Rah Rah teamwork or new corporate "direction" training. I hated those. They always occurred right before another round of layoffs where I used to work.

                                                                            2. I can count on one hand the times I remember being touched by a waiter., where as it sounds like it happens frequently to those of you who don't like it. Maybe it's analogous to having cats always trying to get onto the laps of people who don't like cats. Some think it's because they can sense that person doesn't like them, but it's generally because cats are more likely to go to those people who don't look at them. I wonder if the same thing holds true with people and their servers? I really don't intentionally "invade peoples' spaces" I'm just friendly and that's one of the ways I express it. Now the whole sweetie thing that annoys me because it didn't start until I hit 60.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Plano Rose

                                                                                  OMG, that's so funny, but yes, it is "dear" and the truly horrifying "m'am." Been there.

                                                                                  1. re: Plano Rose

                                                                                    Dear and Ma'am are OK; it's when one is totally ignored....

                                                                                2. Another thing I generally don't notice that seems to be a big issue for some people.

                                                                                  Sometimes waiters of either gender will put their hand on my back or my shoulder, and it has never once occurred to me to be offended by it. The last time I had dinner out, it was at a place where I usually eat lunch, by myself, and where I'm friendly enough with the staff that we know each other's names. When my best friend took me out for dinner there recently, the staff were able to be more attentive than at lunch, which is something of a madhouse.

                                                                                  Anyway, at the end of the dinner, our server (female) gave me a great big hug, which was delightful. It would not have occurred to me even to mention it until I read this thread, having done which, I'm still okay with the hug.

                                                                                  Not creepy. I'm with Steve.

                                                                                  1. There's an old saying that I'm fond of: "YOU CAN TELL A LOT ABOUT A PERSON BY WHAT MAKES THEM LAUGH OR WHAT MAKES THEM ANGRY." 'Nuff said.

                                                                                    1. I think it was as much the frequency of the touching as the fact of it. It sort of feels like any nice intention is lost on the 50th time.
                                                                                      I retrospect, I probably should have been a little more clear about being uncomfortable to the server herself. A sharp intake of breath next time perhaps.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: AliceS

                                                                                        Really you think she touched you 50 times or more? Wow, not *that* would be weird. Off with her head!

                                                                                        1. re: Quine

                                                                                          That was either a long meal or she never left your table.

                                                                                          1. re: escondido123

                                                                                            Or fell down a very deep rabbit hole *chortle*

                                                                                      2. I would definitely have felt uncomfortable. Granted, there is a restaurant I frequent where I get a hug from a waitress and the co-owner if she's around.

                                                                                        And as for getting used to it, when I lived in Coastal Ecuador, there was no concept of personal space. One family even offered to send a couple of kids over to sleep with me so I'd feel comfortable - Ummmm, I declined that one. One time I was in a very empty bus station, and someone still managed to bump into me.

                                                                                        1. Might be due to a generational thing.

                                                                                          1. I do respect that some can be touch-sensitive (not an issue for moi). But this thread made me curious, so I really did try to think through how many waiter-Duchess interactions typically happen at a three-course meal:

                                                                                            Hi, I'll be your waiter. Drinks?

                                                                                            Here's your Flaming Zombie with three extra shots of rum. Appetizer?

                                                                                            Here's your Spinach-Artichoke Dip with extra ballpark-nacho sauce and a side of ranch. Decided on dinner yet?

                                                                                            How's the appetizer? Here's more water. Need anything?

                                                                                            Here's your low-carb gluten-free organic locally-sourced Hot Dog made solely from the shoulders of free-range daily-massaged spoon-fed Golden Hamsters. Enjoy! Need another Zombie?

                                                                                            Here's that Zombie. How's the Hot Dog?

                                                                                            May I take your plate? Another Zombie? Dessert menu?

                                                                                            Here's your Zombie. Decided on dessert? Coffee with that?

                                                                                            Here's your Mountain O'Chocolate Brulee with Durian Sauce and coffee. Need anything right now?

                                                                                            How's that dessert? Need more coffee?

                                                                                            May I take your plate? More coffee? Is there anything else I can get you? Sure, I'll bring the bill.

                                                                                            (presents bill) Thank you, have a great night.

                                                                                            The Duchess is rather low-maintenance nobility, and usually orders appetizer and dinner together. Plus she often gets dessert to take away, and asks for the check with the dessert order. So technically, even less than 12 visits with the waitstaff (not accounting for nods and smiles as waiter passes by).

                                                                                            If I were the type to get upset about these things, after the second unwanted touch, I'd probably have said, "Oh, sorry, I'm very ticklish, you understand of course." Would save face for everyone and likely stop the problem.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                                              Biscuitboy is curious if the golden hamster hotdog is a regular menu item, or made special for the Duchess

                                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                                Golden Hamster Gourmet Hot dog....Tuesday's Special...............

                                                                                            2. Folks, this thread has gotten very personal and unfriendly, and we're going to lock it now.