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Jul 20, 2012 05:50 AM

How do you like to be addressed by your server?


I eat out alone alot. I'm a middle aged male. The waiters have over time addressed me by various nicknames: "Sir", "Boss", "Buddy" etc. I don't really like any of these particular nicknames.

Do you ever tell them to just call you by your first name? I never have because it just seems unimportant/inappropriate somehow.

But on the other hand, being addressed as "Boss", I don't know.....

  1. guess i'm old fashioned enough to think that "sir" and "ma'am" are just fine. Nothing else though ("buddy"? That's what I call my teen-aged son. And our cat.)

    1. I'm also a middle aged man. Sir, works for me. Don't prefer familiar waiters.

      1. Way I see it, if a person introduces themselves and tells me there name. They intend for me to use it. I also think that it's appropriate to tell them mine and thereby invite them to do the same. I will also introduce my wife in such a situation. I see no reason that the same sort of personal etiquette should not apply in a restaurant situation.

        On the other hand, I refer to anyone I don't know by name as "Sir" or "Ma'am" until I am told their name. This applies to servers who do not introduce themselves as well as pretty much anyone I come into contact with in a commercial setting. Respect should always be reciprocated.

        Edit - Since the OP brought it up, I'm in my early 40s.

        1. I'm a middle aged woman and hate, hate hate it when I'm addressed as "young lady." It's always done by young male waiters. What are they thinking? It's just rude and disrespectful. Ma'am works for me.

          33 Replies
          1. re: mommystar

            I can't STAND being called ma'am. That is just the worst; it runs right up my back and makes me feel 300 years old. Especially when customer service people on the phone use it two or three times per sentence.

            I don't like to be addressed as anything by a server. I see no reason for any form of address. Just talk to me!

            1. re: woodleyparkhound

              I'm in my early 30's and much prefer Ma'am to Miss. Miss is my 4 year old daughter, thanks. Although if I'm out without the kids, I'll gladly accept a Miss and may even smile and blush. ;)

              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                +1 on hating ma'am. Especially at the grocery store or in restaurants. I don't look older than mid-30s. The server is usually just a few years younger than me. Why make me feel old?

                1. re: Kitchen Imp

                  +100 on hating ma'am- I'm 21, why are you calling me ma'am??? I'm also not a fan of Ms. even though I understand that it exists so that people don't have to make assumptions about one's marriage status. The words just sound ugly to me. I like Miss right now but I suppose I'll have to get used to the others when I get older/married.

                  1. re: Kitchen Imp

                    Funny how some people react to ma'am. In some parts of the country, let alone the world, ma'am doesn't imply any age. It's simply polite. Same with sir.

                  2. re: woodleyparkhound

                    Well, among little boys, it was DRILLED into us to call any unfamiliar woman "ma'am," as a term of respect. This was intended by both my parents to be a lifelong habit--and it stuck. It wasn't until I was watching "The West Wing" a few years ago, and one of the characters quipped about being "ma'amed" that I discovered that some--maybe most--women do not like to be "ma'amed." So what should I call a 73 year old woman--"Miss"? The poor waiter just wants to be repectful.

                    1. re: gfr1111

                      As Kitchen Imp said below, ""I don't understand what is wrong with a simple "you," as in, "and what can I get for you?" Why throw in "ma'am"?""

                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                        "Sir" and Ma'am" are how an adult customer - or indeed any adult stranger - is correctly addressed. Them's the rules. I'm 71 years old and I address women in their twenties as Ma'am. That's how I was brought up, and fat chance I'll change it now.

                        Perhaps the best part of good manners is respecting those of others, instead of taking offense at anything unfamiliar or anything you personally would not do. Manners are supposed to be a lubricant, not an irritant, and it's dreadful manners to choose to be offended when they're employed. Lighten up.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              I was waiting for someone to pop up with a "lighten up" response. Thanks for not disappointing. Your saying "lighten up" isn't going to change the way it strikes me. It's the tone that frequently comes with it that grates, and if you aren't female you likely haven't heard it used with that tone. It isn't at all unfamiliar to me. I grew up with it and say it myself when I'm in my hometown where it's accepted and when speaking to someone significantly older and/or someone for whom there is some context for respect. A server in a restaurant or a customer service rep on the phone doesn't provide that context for me. I prefer "you".

                              And when someone says it to me, I never call them on it. I just wince inwardly. This thread has given me a chance to vent about it.

                              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                <It's the tone that frequently comes with it that grates, and if you aren't female you likely haven't heard it used with that tone.>

                                I'm a few years younger than Will Owen and I've yet, in all these years, heard 'that tone' you're talking about. What is it you're referring to? I've heard ma'am used along with the utmost respect from both males and females, from all walks of life.
                                It never once occurred to me that someone was disrespecting me....quite the opposite. Very recently a teacher, a gentleman, in a very prolific area of LA, that has historically received attention for being highly crime ridden, had his class refer to me as Mrs. They continued, throughout the day, calling me ma'am. I was touched and honored by these little people.They were being taught such impeccable manners and felt they were respecting me with their manners and the words they used. They would never have understood someone correcting them and asking them not to use the word ma'am. I don't either.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  I've never had "that tone" either, but then I'm a product of the South, where all women are "ma'am".

                                  I believe that Emily Post and Miss Manners and the tenets of proper English usage all dictate using "ma'am" to address a woman with whom one is not acquainted. (They also sometimes recommend "madame"....that one makes me wince, just because of the societal implications it has undeservedly taken on over the years.)

                                  For those who know I live in France....Madame bothers me when uttered by an anglophone...but I think nothing of the address in my daily life, because there are no alternatives, and addressing someone respectfully is as necessary as breathing here.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    The southern component is key to not hearing "that tone" nor finding it objectionable. It doesn't bother me nearly as much when it comes from someone obviously southern, but it still makes me feel ancient. "That tone" comes from people who pepper their conversation with it, using it every few seconds for no reason at all - especially customer service.

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  Thanks Will. Never heard it said better.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    So well put. Just wanted to see this again:

                                    "Manners are supposed to be a lubricant, not an irritant, and it's dreadful manners to choose to be offended when they're employed. Lighten up."

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      "Manners are supposed to be a lubricant, not an irritant, and it's dreadful manners to choose to be offended when they're employed. Lighten up."

                                      I like the cut of your jib, young man.

                                2. re: woodleyparkhound

                                  I agree. I don't see any reason for any form of address. What's worse than Miss or Ma'am is definitely Dear and Hon - now those bother the heck out of me!

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        You make "bitch" sound like a bad thing instead of the badge of honor it is. ;-)

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          You're right, some folks earn it.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              Other than applying to my girl-dogs, I am not sure that I am following along.

                                              Maybe a "gender thing?"


                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            Luckily (at least I think so), that has never been any form of salutation used toward me. Somehow, I feel that I would be horribly offended, should that term be used. Same, if applied to my young, and very lovely "trophy wife."


                                        1. re: mommystar

                                          I agree. "Young Lady" is disrespectful for a woman past forty because it's saying the opposite of what the speaker sees in front of him and tips us off that what he is really thinking is "Old Lady". But even less do I appreciate being called "Mama" which seems to be the going thing for Caribbean and African servers to call a woman along in years. What ever happened to "Ma'am"?

                                          1. re: Querencia

                                            That Mama thing is hard to get used to, I've had chefs in a professional setting call me Mama constantly and I get weirded out. I think they're hitting on me or something. But don't think they are really. Guess it's just a cultural thing, but that IS my worst way to be addressed at this point. Until I figure out the real implications.

                                            1. re: Querencia

                                              I agree. I'm 51 and if someone called me "young lady," I'd laugh at the obvious ridiculousness of the statement. Other than that, I'm not terribly sensitive about how I'm addressed. I'm not sure any honorific is needed. What is wrong with "good evening, welcome to XYZ....can I get you something to drink as you peruse the menu?"

                                            2. re: mommystar

                                              I think "young lady" and "miss" are incredibly patronizing. Clearly, I am middle-aged. I don't need to have my ego stroked by someone pretending I look younger than I do. There are worse things than years, people!.

                                              If "Ma'am" is good enough for the queen of England, it's good enough for me.

                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                <<If "Ma'am" is good enough for the queen of England, it's good enough for me.>>

                                                I am glad to hear that, as I use "ma'am" most often, whether the "young lady" IS younger, or older than I am. Just a habit of mine, with no offense intended.


                                            3. Ma'am or Madam works for me but I really prefer Your Majesty...

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Gio

                                                That was my initial thought too!

                                                  1. re: gfr1111

                                                    Screw that. I fully expect to be called "Goddess Above All" by anyone who meets me. :D

                                                    /okay, I can deal with "ma'am"