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Wait staff and hand washing

Dd and I were out to dinner this past week at a casual sit-down Mexican. We had finished some shopping and were hungry, so we wanted a "quick" bite, but don't eat "fast" food (this is our compromise). This place is usually quick and the food isn't bad. It isn't a favorite, but we like it enough to be repeat customers for the speed/quality factor. Perhaps no longer, though.

Since we'd been shopping, we went into the restroom to wash our hands before sitting down to eat. Dd went first (so we didn't have to lug our purses in there). Then I went in and was washing at one of the two sinks, when I hear a flush and a server walks out of one of the stalls. She walked right on by, opened the door and left without even a glance in the direction of the soap or water. I followed her out (not touching the door handle, btw) and she went straight to a table to tend to her duties. I kept my eye on her for a couple of minutes and (thankfully) she did not end up being our server. I saw her carry several food items from the window to different tables before dd and I got involved with our conversation and I lost track of her.

We were finished eating and on our way home and I was still trying to figure out if there was anything I should have or could have said. It kind of disgusted me, and we're not germophobes at all. I'm still wondering if I should have talked to management or if it was a moot point... I'm sure it happens all the time, but until this past week I was happily ignorant of it in actuality. I don't know if I can bring myself to dine there again.

How would you have handled it?

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  1. Yes, I relate. That is disgusting. I try not to think about those things when I eat out. You really have no control or no knowledge of unsanitary practices most of the time. It likely won't kill you- but it is soooo disgusting to witness it- nonetheless!

    I was at a drive through and as I was pulling up to the window- the employee put his finger up his nose, got something out of it, rolled it up and tossed it aside. Then put my fries in the bag with same hand. I was too stunned at the time, in a hurry, and didn't say anything. Just threw out my food. I called later and asked for a refund due to "sheer grossness". I got the refund, but I still struggle to not think about all the "yuk" that comes with having other people touch your food.

    1. Are you sure you were not witnessing an episode of Seinfeld?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssktVp...

      1. I work in food service. I'd like to say that the vast majority of servers and cooks are very conscientious about these kinds of sanitary issues, but I think most of them are too young to even think about it. I am not the most sanitary person in the world, but I have learned, over time, the kinds of things that really ARE sanitary issues in restaurants. I would strongly suggest that you write a letter/email to management asking them to educate/train their crew about sanitation. While I agree with sedimental below that it likely won't hurt you; in a public setting such as a restaurant, anyone i contact with food really needs to know the potential consequences of not washing hands after using the rest room.

        Having said that - if you are in any way a germaphobe, I would recommend never eating out again. I'm not saying cooks or waiters mess with your food, but kitchens, any kitchens, are far from sterile environments. They are clean, but definitely not sterile.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hilltowner

          Read my post again. I'm not a germaphobe. I think 99.9% of the population, though, would be at least a little disturbed by such an audacious unsanitary practice.

        2. I witnessed something similar a few years ago in a perfectly beautiful establishment in either Paris or Lyon -- have repressed the details, but I think one of those fabulous French takeout places. I didn't trust my French to express my utter indignation, so I just left. Had it happened where I am more confident in the local idiom, I hope I would have protested immediately or reported the fact to the management.

          Another incident, eons ago, occurred at my corner store. The son of the owner sneezed messily, blew his nose in a tissue, and took my bread, a bare loaf, to bag it. I protested and he protested back at me, saying that gloves were not required for bread bagging or something. I know if his parents or aunt had been on duty, he'd have behaved better, but they lost my business anyway. (I did get clean bread, though.)

          Now two good items: yesterday we had lunch in Anzio (I live in Italy), high-end small staff, mostly family place. The small rest room had a sign posted with details on all the ways you're supposed to keep yourself germ free before handling food, including being careful with wounds, etc. And a few months ago we had dinner at a very high-end place in Copenhagen and could see the kitchen from our table. One cooked copped a very quick ear scratch with nobody looking and, still with nobody looking (but me, of course), immediately wiped his hands.

          1. I would like to think that I would have immediately informed the manager before the idiot made someone sick. Is it Hepatitis A or B that is spread that way? Unfortunately, I probably would have reacted the same way you did, either not wanting to cause a scene or in shock or both.

            If I were you, I would call the manager and report this. You would be doing them a huge favor. Determining which waitress it was may not be possible, but they surely would be prompted to give their entire staff the handwashing lecture.

            6 Replies
            1. re: MrsJonesey

              "...they surely would be prompted to give their entire staff the hand washing lecture"

              Not necessarily. Now, if you could contact the owner and threaten with the local Health Department....that might work.
              Managers, many of them, aren't always the go-to-get-things-done people we all assume they are.
              A local market where I shop has a salad bar/deli area where people can dish themselves up or pack to-go. Several complaints, by several different people who've watched people taste the food/put it back, sneeze into the food, etc. fell on deaf ears. It wasn't until a customer called the Health Department and had them investigate that things changed.

              1. re: latindancer

                I saw a brazen rat at a fast food place--not human-shy at all, so got the feeling he'd been there awhile. Told the manager, who seemed laissez faire about it. Called the Health Department, who said, "ah, we know that place well." I didn't go back, so don't know about the current rat population.

                1. re: pine time

                  "ah, we know that place well"

                  Yeah...it's very eye-opening to hear an agency respond with that kind of statement.
                  Wouldn't you think they'd close the place down and not allow it to open until things were changed with constant oversight? Proper hand washing is the least of some of these places and their problems..

              2. re: MrsJonesey

                " Is it Hepatitis A or B that is spread that way?"

                Not to mention dysentery

                1. re: almond tree

                  Hep A.

                  It can be prevented with a vaccine. Most children, unless their parents decide not to inoculate their children, are now given the vaccine, automatically. Many people I know, in the LA area are now receiving the vaccine so it's not a worry.

                  1. re: almond tree

                    I worked with two people that got Hep A that was transmitted via unwashed hands. There was an outbreak in the Allentown area years ago and it was traced back to an employee at a mexican restaurant.

                    My husband has seen servers not wash their hands in the restroom and has spoken up about it, both to the offender and management.

                2. Not just restaurants, but retail and office environments are breeding grounds for all kinds of stuff. Money is truly gross. But if we really worried about every door handle and desk/counter surface encountered, we'd all end up living in bubbles!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mojoeater

                    So true. Touching money then touching food is just as bad as not washing your hands after going to the restroom!

                  2. This is where you extend the late, great Sam's belief about a magic house to include every place you've ever eaten.

                    It's not very true, but it's far less anxiety-prone than really thinking about everyone who's touched every bit of food you eat.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Sunshine, you're spot-on. Thank you.

                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          +1.

                          I was thinking and wondering how he'd respond, although I think I know already, to a thread about leaving Beef Stroganoff out, for a few hours, that contains dairy products.
                          What a remarkable impact he's left behind.

                          1. re: latindancer

                            I wasn't posting in his day, but I've had such fun reading his old posts, and I've stolen his "magic house" words over and over again.

                      1. You definitely should have said something to the server while they were still in the bathroom, as not to embarrass them. I have a friend who used to do this (worked as a bartender). One time he blew me off, so I walked out and in front of a packed bar, I said "can I either have the check or can you wash your hands?" He washed his hands and nothing else was said.

                        I call out anyone who doesn't wash their hands and if someone blows me off, I tell the manager. I don't feel like getting hepatitis A and you shouldn't either. It's disgusting

                        1. our DD used to not only wash her hands after restroom breaks but would grab lemon wedges and rub them over her hands too. she's her dads daughter, loves lemon scent.

                            1. I think I might have said something to the server while still in the ladies' room.

                              Years ago, I was at one of those assembly line lunch counters, when a food preparer sneezed into her gloved hands and then reached for the bread to make someone's sandwich. This was followed by a chorus of "Change your gloves!" from the people in line and one of the other counter workers. I just left and went somewhere else, probably to a place whose nasty practices I didn't witness!

                              1. A few years ago, DH and I were having dinner at a local, somewhat upscale Italian restaurant. We always enjoyed sitting at the counter overlooking the prep and salad stations - this place had a closed kitchen, but we could watch the grill and rotisserie. The young man making the salads would plate each salad by hand, then take the last piece of lettuce and pop it into his mouth before dropping the salad bowl into the cleaning station. We also saw him take off his chef hat and stick it under his arm, push his hands through his sweaty hair, replace his hat and go back to making salads.

                                We called the manager over and told him what we'd seen. He went into the kitchen, and a moment later the head chef came out and beckoned to the salad maker. He was back in a few minutes, looking as obviously having been reprimanded. The rest of the evening, he was meticulous. I just hope he learned his lesson there and then.

                                1. I don't have phobias about germs but when I have witnessed this type of thing I talk with the manager if possible. No clue if it makes a difference.
                                  If the behavior is really bad I tell the manager and cross that place off my list.
                                  At one new local pizzeria restaurant no one wears gloves. The manager said: "The heat kills the germs." We don't go there any more.