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Servers Holding My Glass By the Rim: Yuck!

Last night my partner and I dined in a highly-respected though not formal restaurant in San Diego. I noticed that our server held our red wine glasses by the top as she brought them over. I am a bit of a germaphobe but even my super laid back significant other was grossed out to see her hands touching our glasses like that. We didn't say anything. Not sure how I'll handle this in the future. But that is either a rookie mistake or a lapse in judgment.

How common is this in your neck of the woods? If grossed out by it, would you ignore or politely say something?

And please no "liife is filled with germs, lighten up" responses. I am wondering how to handle this.

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  1. I'd never paid much attention to it until a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn't sure if I really saw it right that the waitress set the water glasses down by holding the rim. It was one of those "did I see that?" moments. I did resolve to pay a bit more attention to it when I go out now. I'm going out to dinner with the folks tomorrow night, possibly the same place, so I'll keep an eye out this time.

    1. I have observed this sort of action often. Usually I politely ask whether or not I could please have a glass which the person has not touched the rim. My request has never been refused, and I usually watch the server while s/he returns to the side station for a fresh glass.

      1 Reply
      1. re: KarenDW

        Thank you for offering a diplomatic request. Next time, I will do that.

      2. germs completely aside -- it's just a ham-handed, boorish way to handle a wine glass, and it would make me seriously ponder the calibre of their training and of the wine list.

        If they can't teach their servers to handle wine glasses by the stems, they're not teaching them anything about the wine list, pairings, or how to open and pour, either.

        handling a water/soda glass by the rim is boorish, too.

        11 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          Ha! Yes I forgot to even mention how she should have handled the red wine glass by the stem.

          She was also touching cash which makes the idea even grosser.

          Kind of sidenote: At a cafe, a cook was spotted, wearing latex gloves, talking on his cell phone. REALLY?

          Ahhh feels good to vent.


          1. re: globocity

            I saw a sample lady who was wearing gloves sneeze into her right gloved hand about a month ago. I looked around to find my husband and there he was snagging a sample from her. I screamed over the dairy case for him to drop that sample - and had every man around me give me the hairy eyeball and "shrewy b*tch" look. Like I was trying to control his fat intake and deprive him of sample pleasures. I just did not want him to get sick.

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              I've seen many posts referring to how people prepping food should always wear gloves to protect the customers. I've always tried to point out that it only protects the person wearing the gloves because who knows where that gloved hand has been.

              1. re: bobbert

                I agree! Why don't more people realize this? People put the gloved hand every place that they would put an ungloved hand!!!!

                1. re: sandylc

                  Even worse. Because the gloved hand is protected they're more likely to put it in places where they wouldn't put an unprotected hand.

                  1. re: bobbert

                    I think you are right. Sneeze into your nude hand and you notice the snot. With a glove, nope. Bleck. It is a stupid rule for them to have to wear them.

                2. re: bobbert

                  Ah yes, the magic gloves that stop all bugs & viruses. I've seen workers throw out the garbage and then set the table, all with the same magic gloves.

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    That doesn't mean that gloves are a bad idea, only that the proper protocol must be followed for them to be effective.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        I think I would prefer they simply wash their hands after a good nose picking or rear scratching. People do that ya know. Even the people that cook your food that you do not see.

                        I eat at home. : )

                  2. re: Sal Vanilla

                    I'm sorry but that made me really LOL. It's totally something I would do and I could see me getting the same eyeball.

              2. Talk to the manager on your way out the door, or leave a pointed note written on the back of the receipt. And make sure they understand you'll never be a customer again. That's what I do. You don't need to cause a scene, but you need to make whoever is in charge aware. It's beyond poor service. It's nauseating and dangerous to your health. Also against the law in any country where most people have shoes, electricity and flush toilets.

                10 Replies
                1. re: emu48

                  It's certainly not "dangerous to your health". And I'm guessing the likely response to such a note would be the server rolling their eyes, deciding you're a nutcase, and celebrating your promise not to return.

                  1. re: Exy00

                    Customers are not likely to drop dead from it, but it certainly is a way to spread viruses, and an avoidable one. Of course, a server with a communicable disease should be taking the day off, but you can't rely on that.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      ". . . Not drop dead from it." Let's avoid hyperbole. The nanovirus and flu virus are rampant. Have you had the former? It feels like you are on the brink of death. Sure we come into contact with germs e erywhere. But we should be smart about hygiene. And I certainly did not act smart by drinking out of that glass she touched.

                      1. re: globocity

                        (clears throat gently) nobody's had nanovirus, but plenty of people have had norovirus.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Damn! Just realized my error. Ha! Thank you.
                          Norovirus sucks. Nanovirus is what you get from an Apple device.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Haha, I was going to point that out.

                            The mechanism by which norovirus spreads is such that the most careful possible conveyance of glassware is not going to make any difference (it is highly, highly contagious via the production of huge quantities of aerosolized virus in the air).

                            Giving a customer a wineglass by the rim is poor service, to be sure, but it's not necessary to invent imaginary health risks.

                            1. re: Exy00

                              I respectfully disagree that it is just poor service.

                              Someone who handles money is transferring germs, quite egregiously and unnecessarily, by also placing their hands on customer's drinking glasses.

                              1. re: globocity

                                but I'll believe it as a statistically significant source of contamination when I see numbers actually linking wine-glass handling to illness. That wineglass isn't any more contaminated than any other hard surface you'll find in public.

                                In the meantime, it's just icky -- as well as bad manners and poor service.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  The rim of the glass gets touched by my mouth. I do not eat off a public table nor do I use silverware that touches a table. Yep, I am a germaphobe.

                          2. re: globocity

                            You are picking on the wrong person, I think. I am on the side of expecting servers to follow sanitary protocols in the handling of items brought to the table.

                      1. I generally do not like to complain in restaurants for fear of retaliation, but in this specific situation, I would ask for new glasses and not think twice about it....but to address the problem for yourself, consider a slightly different approach. I've worked in the restaurant industry for a very long time and sometimes the workers can be very cruel and spiteful.....now I don't mean to insulting, but rather just to point out bad things can happen. If it were a fork, you could say you dropped it on the floor...but a glass.....I would just wipe it off with the napkin..... You could also ask for a cup of hot water and some extra paper napkins to do so and clean your utensils at the same time.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: fourunder

                          Yes the retaliation in some restaurant kitchens is really eye-opening. I'd seen precious little of it in my career, but when I talk with other restaurant people, I freak-out when I hear what their co-workers put in people's food as retaliation for complaints lodged.

                          Any attempt by a restaurant employee to compromise a customer's health and/or safety is tantamount to assault (where's my buddy the attorney when I need him?!) and ought to be prosecuted as such -- but it doesn't.

                          1. re: shaogo

                            That's why I said complain on your way out the door, and never eat there again. I've worked in restaurants, too.

                            1. re: shaogo

                              HA....HA HHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.........CCCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

                              1. re: shaogo

                                I believe that nearly all the so-called retaliation (aka bio-terrorism) that is said to go on in kitchens is greatly exaggerated and mostly the stuff of urban legend. It's a crime, assault and battery, a felony that could land someone in prison and close down a business.

                            2. Every regional health department has at their disposal printed (or internet-based) documents about how servers and other employees are supposed to handle glassware, plates, cutlery and cooking implements to avoid contamination.

                              I find it astounding what servers do to their customers that they'd never tolerate if it were done to them. Remember, unless they have a bus-person, they're handling many other diners' soiled place-settings, so the OP's concern is indeed genuine, and complaints about this sort of thing are, in my opinion, validly made at the moment -- so that clean dishware/glasses can be brought out.

                              Do you really want to share germs with the guy with the wheezing-hacking-cough who just had his salad plate and wine glass removed by the same fingers (unwashed) that're serving you?

                              I think Chowhounders would be surprised how many people actually order the glass of hot water and napkins -- to clean their cutlery -- as described hereinabove. Half of this group of people, however, do this "cleaning" ritual as part of a passive-aggressive behavior due to extremely low self-esteem. But I digress. Cornell did the research on that.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: shaogo

                                Probably I am more watchful during flu/cold season BUT I have started noticing how most of our favorite diners and dives have servers clearing dirty dishes and silverware without a tiny break between setting the table and picking up orders and helping with plating. I guess it's just the way things are done now but I remember when tables were bussed with a cart that held the dirty dishes and a thing of soapy water to wipe down the tables. I know servers who don't want to share their tips with a bus 'boy' and would rather multi task but is it sanitary?
                                Maybe I should just get over it?

                              2. A rookie mistake? I would say lack of training. I was taught how to hold and serve water glasses at the outset when I worked as a bus boy many, many years ago.

                                1. If I wasn't too freaked out by the whole thing and liked the restaurant and planned on returning I would, at a minimum, email the place and politely let them know. I'd probably do it anonymously so they don't feel I'm fishing for a comp (whole other topic). If it really is a good place that cares they will certainly bring it up to their staff and fix the problem.
                                  Talking dirty silverware, I always bring up my story of a late night diner in a college town (read: drunk kids) where my fork had some kind of "crud" on it that the dishwasher failed to clean. Pointing this out to the waitress, she apologized, picked up the fork, scrapped the crud off with a fingernail and placed it back in front of me. As drunk as I'm sure I was I remember it quite vividly and 35 years later I still have chills thinking about it. And no, I did not use the fork.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: bobbert

                                    I like the idea of emailing the manager. Thank you!

                                  2. The server wasn't trained properly or doesn't care. Ask for another glass. If they do it again take the glasses into the washroom and wash them to your satisfaction.
                                    Whatever you do DO NOT say anything to the server until after you have finished your meal. NEVER piss off or embarrass a sever who is handling your food. You have NO idea what they can do to your food. I'm serious. On the way out speak to who's ever in charge. Tell them what happened. It's toss up whether whoever is in charge cares less about you or your business. (That's one of the reasons so many restaurants fail). The owner may but shift managers? Who knows. There are a lot of restaurants out there. Choose a different one next time. Personally I'd never go back. If the same server clues in it was you who complained to the management good luck to you .

                                    1. That is a little ick. BUT, I suggest you not ponder to hard all the things your servers and cooks might do. Seriously. It would keep you eating at home if you knew.

                                      1. Growing up my mother grossed me out by carrying our milk-filled glasses to the table with the forefingers of her hands IN THE MILK. This grossed me out to no end.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          But I bet the skin on her fingers were as smooth as a baby's behind:-)

                                          1. re: bobbert

                                            Putting a baby's behind on the drinking glasses? Now you've gone too far!

                                        2. Something slightly tangential: If you are spooked by a finger on the rim of your glass, I suggest you ask to load your own food in the transporting container. And also ask that your butter and sour cream for potatoes also be left to your application. Shall I go on? I could.

                                          27 Replies
                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                            No, you should not go on. Minimizing the transmission of viruses is a serious subject and sarcasm is not helpful.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              I was not being sarcastic. There are many many many many ways, opportunities (etc.) for bacteria and virus to reach and pass your lips when you leave the cooking and serving of your food to others. Period. Is that serious enough to qualify as helpful? I am not trying to upset you and do not wish to anger you further. It is a discussion, not a war.

                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                You are right - which makes the gloves silly. Actually, I have wondered if people might develop bacterial or fungal problems on their hands by always wearing sweaty plastic on them. I think hand-washing and clean practices, as trained and monitored by managment, are much better.

                                                EDIT: I was reading Lucky Peach the other day and a chef said that when anyone at his restaurant is new/young, he checks to see if their hands are moist from beinng washed when they exit the restroom.

                                                Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant or watching any food TV knows that their food is touched repeatedly in the kitchen before it is sent out.

                                                It is true that our immune systems need challenges in order to be strong. Studies show that children who grow up from babyhood crawling around on the floor where pet dogs also hang out have stronger immune systems and fewer allergies.

                                                As for hands on the rims of the beverage glasses, it's just plain rude and unprofessional.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  You have an incorrect understanding of the meaning of a "strong" immune system, although this is not the place to address it.

                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                    I am neither upset nor angry. Yes, going to a restaurant where strangers cook and serve your food provides many opportunities for spreading communicable disease which do not exist when you eat at home. Nevertheless, many people choose to dine out rather than eat every meal at home. There are well-established procedures for minimizing the spread of pathogens, and restaurants should be expected to adhere to them. Those who are uncomfortable with ordinary standards of sanitation in restaurants can stay away from them, but those of us who like to eat out have a reasonable expectation that sanitary protocols will be followed by restaurant staff.

                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                      I agree with that. People SHOULD. People DON'T. Not only that some think they do, but don't and if there is a chink the armor like a busboy that handles dirty plates and those bar and table rags (that are the most vile things ever) and then pours water or assists at the window or sets the table... or the dishwasher who touches dirty plates to put them in the dishwasher and then unloads those plates with the same bacteria laden hands. Did he empty the garbage after loading the dishes? Maybe. There you are. Then there is the person licking the dressing or batter off their finger without thinking. Touching themselves in some unsanitary place and then touching your steak to test for doneness... It goes on but I won't. I do try to sanitize it for you though. One can pretend or one can be told a sampling of the truth and decide what they will do given the info.


                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                          I have to laugh at this. You are spot on. It is best not to think too hard about sanitation when eating out -or being in public in general.

                                                          Of course, we have a good chance of infecting ourselves when eating out (as much as the waitstaff does). Touching the parking meter, door handles, the chair, table, menu, etc...then buttering our roll and sticking it in our mouth with those same germ loaded fingers. Lol.

                                                          I think it is just easier to get squicked out by germs on others fingers, more than our own...but really....germs are germs.

                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                            "Germs are germs"? What is that supposed to mean? Most bacteria and viruses are benign, but some are pathogens. Some pathogens are extremely dangerous. It all depends.

                                                            1. re: GH1618

                                                              Germs are also invisible. Yes, some are dangerous, but is that not the risk you take by going out in public? Everyone has different levels of caution, but I do find it strange when people have no problem using public handrails, or doorknobs but then will get very skittish about some other random possible germ opportunity. I guess I fall into the catgeory of either live in a bubble or accept that you're encountering germs all the time and in normal everyday circumstances it's best not to spend your day worrying about it.

                                                              1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                I don't spend my day worrying about it, either. But when I see a server holding my glass by the brim (rarely), I recognize it as improper and object to it. You are persisting in the notion that if one cannot be perfectly protected, then one should do nothing. That is not a reasonable way to look at issues of sanitation. Still, people do (ignore sanitary protocols) and get away with it, because there are more diligent people behind the scenes trying to keep the most dangerous pathogens out of our food supply. Usually, they do.

                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                  Your last point is interesting and I'd like clarification. Who are the more dilligent people behind the scenes?

                                                                2. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                  I won't touch my OWN glass that way with my OWN fingers. How could I possibly find it OK that a server would do that to my glass?

                                                                  1. re: Leonardo

                                                                    What do you do with your fingers that you are so worried about that?

                                                                    1. re: Exy00

                                                                      I could give a rat's patootie about my germs on my glass in my house -- but I don't pick up a wine glass by the rim because you don't pick up a wine glass by the rim.

                                                                      Kind of like picking up a 10" chef's knife by the blade...you COULD, but that's now how you do it.

                                                                3. re: GH1618

                                                                  "I think it is just easier to get squicked out by germs on others fingers, more than our own...but really....germs are germs........"

                                                                  What I mean is that there is no objective reason that the "germs" (of any kind) on your servers hands are statistically any different ...or more dangerous... or more "icky".... than what is on your own hands. I think we just tend to think about it differently and maybe *notice* the opportunity for infection more when it presents itself on others fingers and not our own. We are constantly delivering all kinds of germs into our system by way of our own fingers...... all day long.

                                                                  I agree that there is no benefit to not following sanitary practices when it is easy to. I want to see my server holding my glass by the stem as well. But,it is not because I am "grossed out" it is because they are not thinking or caring about what they are doing.

                                                                  The OP asked who would be grossed out by it. My answer is "not me" and I probably wouldn't even notice. If I did notice, I probably wouldn't say anything because I wouldn't give it enough thought or importance in my day. If I dwell on the microscopic ick of public life- I wouldn't go out anymore :)

                                                                  1. re: sedimental

                                                                    How can you surmise the low statistical significance? I am curious what you base this on. She touched money. Then our glasses. I had washed my hands as I always do when about to eat. My educated guess? Her hands were carrying enough germs to show a discernable difference co pared to mine.

                                                                    1. re: globocity

                                                                      You are correct. If you are a germophobe or even have OCD, wear gloves, continually use hand sanitizer, gets up from the table to wash hands, etc. your hands may very well be less "germy" than the average persons hands because that is not typical behavior. I was basing my statement on an average person that doesn't do any or all of that.

                                                                      I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen dinner companions of mine- excuse themselves at a restaurant (before the food comes) to specifically go to the restroom to specifically wash their hands. It is not typical. I have washed my hands at a restaurant before my food arrives, only when I have been doing something "out of the ordinary germy". Otherwise, I don't see the point, but I don't have a phobia of germs either. If I did have a phobia about it, I would probably feel the same way you do.

                                                              2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                A gorgeous, artistically-composed plate of food was presented to the late, great Julia Child. She looked at the plate and looked mischievously at the presenter and said: " It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it."

                                                                1. re: shaogo

                                                                  Not completely on topic but have you watched an old Julia vid lately? Handles the chicken then touches every other thing in the kitchen then slaps the chicken around, gives it a kiss and then back to more unsanitary things. Gah. My mom is the same. How in the world did we all make it out of momma's kitchen alive.

                                                                  Someone gave me their cooties. Now I can't swallow. I think it was someone touching the dang rim of my wine glass. Curses!

                                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                    Ha! Next we have to wonder about all of the sitcom stars and comedians who have put raw turkeys on their heads....!

                                                          2. re: GH1618

                                                            Couldn't have written it better myself. Thank you.
                                                            My post wasn't for the "don't worry about it" naysayers. I was, and still am, convinced that her touching the rim that I'd drink off of was pretty gross. Shame on me for not doing something about it. Luke making my partner say something!

                                                            1. re: globocity

                                                              It really doesn't make any difference what anyone else thinks - this bothered you, the diner, and so you need to speak up then. Make them bring you another glass. If you are too squicked out to transfer the wine to a clean glass and then drink it, get them to bring you another glass of wine. And tell them why you are bothered. Maybe the server will learn something.

                                                        2. If it bugged me that much, I wouldn't order drinks when out. Since we are strictly talking about germophobe issues. But, having worked in restaurants, my immediate thought was all the handling a glass gets before the server even brings it to you.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: rasputina

                                                            I worked in a restaurant also, many years ago, starting as a dishwasher. The dishwashers hands were probably the cleanest in the restaurant, being exposed to soapy hot water much of the time. The glasses, like everything else, were rinsed at 160 ºF after washing, stored in racks without being touched, then handled by the bottom and sides to remove from the rack, fill with water, and serve. As a bus boy, one of the first things I learned was how to serve four glasses of water without touching the glass near the rim. I guess I worked in a classier place than you.

                                                          2. There's a timely news item from the SF Bay Area today. An infected employee in a deli transmitted Norovirus to 50 people, sickening them, causing the place to be shut down for a day to sanitize it. This was a business that was passing its health inspections regularly.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: GH1618

                                                              It is entirely possible to carry and transmit a virus while remaining asymptomatic.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                Yes, which is why sanitary protocols should be followed at all times.

                                                            2. This is just absolutely 100% a matter of poor service. Completely unacceptable. There's the squick factor, and it's just.bad.form. I don't care if she'd just boiled her hands in scalding bleach; it's something I'd speak up about immediately. I'm no germophobe, but this is just plain common sense, in ANY setting, from the greasiest spoon on up.

                                                              1. Never seen that done, and have only heard about it from this thread. Really skeeves me out -- echhhhhh.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                  doesn't faze me from a germ standpoint, because somebody has touched everything that will be in contact with me and/or my food -- that's how restaurants work.

                                                                  But it makes me wonder if the server and whomever trained them was raised by wolves.