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How do you nicely tell a server that they have severely bad breath?

gryphonskeeper Mar 5, 2013 04:48 PM

I went for lunch today, and when my server asked me if I was ready to order I nearly gagged at the way her breath smelled. This was at a diner, counter service so she was only a couple feet away, and it was horrible. I wanted to say to her, boy it sure is dry in here, I bet you would love a glass of ginger ale. *(it is a trick someone told me gets rid of bad breath) But i didn't say anything. But it was so horrible that every time she came by to ask if I needed anything I held my breath. IS there a polite way to say something to your server in a crowded situation where there is really no privacy?

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  1. sal_acid RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 5, 2013 04:52 PM


    1 Reply
    1. re: sal_acid
      gryphonskeeper RE: sal_acid Mar 5, 2013 04:59 PM

      I didn't think so, it was so uncomfortable, and I felt so sorry for her.

    2. jrvedivici RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 5, 2013 05:19 PM

      If I had it available I would have offered her a piece of gum or altoid. Just politely not in an offensive manner. Maybe she would accept it or get the hint.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jrvedivici
        gryphonskeeper RE: jrvedivici Mar 5, 2013 05:32 PM

        Trust me, I wish I had some mints or something. It was extremely bad, almost like the smell of an abscess.

      2. bagelman01 RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 05:12 AM

        You don't tell the server, you find the manager or owner and tell him/her. Management doesn't want customers offended.
        Last night, I was out in a neighborhood Italian restaurant and the waitress reeked of cigarette smoke. I excused myself from the table walked into the bar area and asked the barkeep to get me the owner. When the owner arrived, I sat down with him at a corner table and discussed the offensive odor from our waitress. I went back to our table and three minutes later a different waitress delivered our mains. The odorous waitress was not seen in our section the rest of our visit.

        Was she sent home, told to spray herself with cologne or just had her section switched? I don't know or care, but I wasn't going to have my family suffer and be unable to enjoy our meal because a waitress reeked.

        46 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01
          sunshine842 RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 05:32 AM

          No, for an issue as personal as this, you don't involve other people, especially not the boss...if the boss is a jerk she could end up being written up, short-scheduled, or full-out fired. And halitosis doesn't warrant any of those things.

          If I said anything at all (don't know if I would have) it would have been very quiet at very close range, or just a note passed subtly.

          Same with the smoker -- I agree it smells bad, but it's not worth someone else's livelihood.

          1. re: sunshine842
            bagelman01 RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 07:02 AM

            I absoluetly disagree with you.
            I have been a business owner, both retail, wholesale and in the food/hospitality business.
            I must know if my employees have offensive bodily odors/habits that are making my customers uncomfortable and may be driving them away.

            Better that I have the chance to discuss this with the employee, even if the employee does lose employment, then suffer enough loss of business that all emploees lose their jobs and the place closes.

            The OP wrote of this here, but who knows how much bad word of moputh could spread locally?

            1. re: bagelman01
              Bigjim68 RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 07:27 AM

              I agree. Handling the staff the job of management, including who gets their hours cut and/or who gets hired and fired, and if I did anything other than leave, I would discuss the matter with management. Acceptable solutions would be to be moved to another section of the restaurant, or providing me with a different server.

              I'm also offended by body odors, either too much perfume, smokers clothes, or other odors. Same solution.

              1. re: bagelman01
                Rick RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 07:43 AM

                I agree with Bagelman. A server with offensive odors hurts the owner's livelihood. Why is it ok for the owner to take a ding in revenue but not the employee?

                1. re: Rick
                  Bigjim68 RE: Rick Mar 6, 2013 08:25 AM

                  One point I have not seen here is that it is that if the offensive issue is so bad that the customers notice, it is difficult for me to believe that the owner/manager is not aware. If so, there is a larger problem.

                  Back in the day as they say, managers at good restaurants inspected the staff prior to shift, and the problems were corrected prior to meeting the public. I miss those days.

                  1. re: Bigjim68
                    latindancer RE: Bigjim68 Mar 6, 2013 08:58 AM

                    Managers still 'inspect' their staff, if they're good managers and are looking out for the welfare of the owner's business. I love a restaurant where there's 'hands-on', by either the management or owner, the entire time the business is operating. It makes a huge difference and those are the places I tend to take my business.
                    I agree with you, though, on the matter of the owner/manager not being aware. If the cigarette smoke, bad breath, too much perfume etc., is a problem, with even one mention of it by a customer, then there's definitely something else, larger, going on with management.

                  2. re: Rick
                    taos RE: Rick Mar 6, 2013 05:10 PM

                    It's true that lots of things, including smelly servers, hurt the owner's bottom line. This does not mean it is appropriate to tell the owner your opinion of every single thing that you think is hurting his business.

                  3. re: bagelman01
                    sunshine842 RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 08:59 AM

                    and what, exactly, would you do if it were because it was a medical condition (which is not uncommon)? Particularly if it were beyond her control (also not unheard of)?

                    As her employer, you have no business in her personal medical condition, and it would be a crying shame for you to punish her (write-up, short-schedule, or termination) for something that is beyond her control.

                    A subtle word from a customer is less threatening and offers at least a little dignity than being called into the office -- or unforgiveably, being called out for on the floor.

                    1. re: sunshine842
                      bagelman01 RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 10:01 AM

                      if it is a medical condition, then that employee has a 'defense' to employer sanction via provisions of the ADA.

                      I doubt that halitosis which can be masked by a breath mint is a qualifying medical condition.

                      And, employers have the right to know about any medical conditions that limit the ability of an employee to perform the job without accomodation.

                      1. re: bagelman01
                        sunshine842 RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 10:11 AM

                        how about sinus infections (including chronic), gastrointestinal issues...there are plenty of physical issues that are beyond someone's control -- particularly if the health insurance offered is stingy, or if she's a part-timer who doesn't qualify.

                        That's the point -- bad breath doesn't fall under ADA -- but it's still grossly unfair to sanction or terminate her, and it's none of your business.

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 10:16 AM


                          I understand your point of view and agree with it, for the most part.
                          Why is it an automatic jump to assume the employee's going to be terminated?
                          If a person's going to be working with the public then they should prepare themselves for it.
                          All the medical issues you've stated are something the patient is should be completely aware of, and the physical consequences that go along with it, and therefore work hard to make sure they're not offending anyone....
                          Especially in a place where people are eating.

                          1. re: latindancer
                            sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 10:35 AM

                            because reporting to the manager, by definition, marks it as a problem that affects this person's employment.

                            Not all managers are fair or caring individuals, and many don't need a very viable excuse to send someone packing.

                            1. re: sunshine842
                              latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 02:40 PM

                              But, ultimately, Sunshine, isn't it the employer who really is the ultimate decision maker?
                              It's the owner's business and if an employee isn't living up to the standards his/her employer is requesting then the owner should know.
                              A few years ago I was dining in a very upscale restaurant with a friend. The table next to us absolutely reeked from one of the woman's perfume. My friend said something to her thinking she might not know how offensive it was....perhaps go wash some of it off? The woman gave a look that could kill & proceeded to ignore my friend. We endured it and didn't bring it to the attention of the manager. In retrospect, we should have made a huge scene because of the woman's complete disrespect, in many ways, for my friend and me.
                              Telling a waitperson her/his breath is horrible, and thinking you're helping their situation, does *not* necessarily mean you're going to get the response you're expecting.

                              1. re: latindancer
                                sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 02:43 PM

                                I would far rather endure a server's wrath than to think that she got reprimanded or fired because I took a personal issue to the manager.

                                Please remember that I said "If I said anything at all (don't know if I would have)"

                                What is it that you think the manager should have done in your situation -- it certainly wasn't the manager's fault, and it certainly wasn't anything he had any control over.

                                Should he have kicked the other table out? In my eyes, a completely different situation -- a fellow customer who made the conscious choice to wear perfume. Not an employee who may or may not have any control over the issue.

                                1. re: sunshine842
                                  latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 02:49 PM

                                  Thankfully, I now dine in many restaurants where the chef/owner/manager make if perfectly clear there's no perfume allowed in their establishment.
                                  It's posted and if there's one waft of scent, including deodorants and bath gels, they're asked to leave.
                                  Anything that takes away from the ambience, aroma and taste of the food is offensive.

                                2. re: latindancer
                                  pinehurst RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 02:45 PM

                                  Yes, and I understand your point, but playing devil's advocate, that woman was a fellow diner whose livelihood wasn't threatened by you telling the manager.

                                  And you're right...telling the server may not solve the problem or get the desired response, but I do believe it's a better (and gentler) first step than going above the server's head to the manager.

                                  1. re: pinehurst
                                    sunshine842 RE: pinehurst Mar 6, 2013 02:46 PM

                                    we're thinking with one mind tonight, pinehurst.

                                    1. re: pinehurst
                                      latindancer RE: pinehurst Mar 6, 2013 03:04 PM

                                      Here's the thing I'm not understanding.

                                      I have worked with the public on many occasions....lecturing and educating which, at times, requires very close contact with people.
                                      If I *know* I'm going to be doing that I'll pay *special* attention to how I look, how my skin looks, if there's anything 'out of place', etc. My breath? I can honestly say that'd be foremost.
                                      If I need to...I'll ask a colleague to give me some feedback before I proceed. It's *that* important to me how I come across for many reasons.
                                      This server goes into the public eye without checking it? Sorry, but she's a reflection of the establishment. She should have checked it out before she started waiting tables unless she just doesn't care.

                                      1. re: latindancer
                                        sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 03:06 PM

                                        You normal is not that of anyone else. What you do, what I do, what Bagelman does before we go to work are all different.

                                        So let's go another way -- what if she was simply running late that day -- pick a reason - traffic jam, flat tire, overslept, sick kids, et.c, etc., etc. and she flew out of the house and forgot to brush her teeth this morning. The other 364 days of the year, she brushes her teeth fastidiously -- this morning it just didn't happen and she truly didn't realize how bad it was (we're all somewhat immune to our own smells....)

                                        Is it really, truly worth putting her job in jeopardy?

                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                          Bigjim68 RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 03:26 PM

                                          I disagree. You are not putting her job in jeopardy, she is.

                                          All the reasons given amount to excuses, and it is up to the manager, not the customer, to decide who gets fired, gets a break, or who gets hired.

                                          1. re: sunshine842
                                            dmjordan RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 03:32 PM

                                            Do you really think that someone would get fired for having bad breath ONE day?

                                            1. re: dmjordan
                                              sunshine842 RE: dmjordan Mar 6, 2013 03:34 PM

                                              Yup. See the example elsewhere about a server with what a customer judged was too much cologne.

                                              1. re: sunshine842
                                                Bigjim68 RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 04:05 PM

                                                The two are not the same issue. As I understand the issue with the cologne or perfume, it was a customer. But if it was a server, they should have never been allowed on the floor.

                                                The issue with objectionable customers is a separate issue. Frankly, there is little that the restaurant can do. I have encountered this issue and simply ask to be moved. If the answer is no, then I have a decision to make. Do I accept the terms or service, or do I settle up and go elsewhere. I am capable of making that decision.

                                          2. re: latindancer
                                            Bigjim68 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 03:21 PM

                                            Your position is my position. If you are in a position of serving the public, or more importantly in a business that serves the public, then it is not the job of the public to point out the mistakes. And you are not going to fix the problem as a customer.

                                            I said earlier, that a good manager would never allow a staff member with a problem to meet the public. You don't find unkempt, smelly, wildly tatooed counter help even in McDonalds. Much less so with more upscale restaurants.
                                            You get a spot of sketti sauce on your coat, you would not be allowed on the floor until you changed it.

                                            As I also stated, I would find it hard to believe that that management is not aware. If not, there is a larger problem.

                                            Just to clarify, I was addressing the post by latindancer. I've gotten my post out of context.

                                        2. re: latindancer
                                          LeoLioness RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 04:45 PM

                                          I'm curious, what would "a huge scene" have done except affect everyone else's dining experience?

                                          Just because you expect a certain reaction, doesn't mean you are entitled to it or that you are in the right.

                                          1. re: latindancer
                                            LeoLioness RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 04:45 PM

                                            I wouldn't say anything. I'd feel incredibly rude doing so.

                                        3. re: latindancer
                                          pinehurst RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 10:39 AM

                                          Adding, briefly, and it (telling the server, not the owner) eliminates an unnecessary party. If I ate there again and the problem wasn't rectified, I might consider telling the owner.

                                          Off topic, but I hope relevant....during high school, I worked in retail. A coworker was fired for wearing too much Polo cologne. Apparently, a regular customer was offended by the overkill of the scent (and it is a powerful scent), and told our store manager. That was it---one complaint of a regular customer sunk this kid. I am sure he would have appreciated a word from the customer first.

                                          As Sunshine said, if all managers were fair and balanced, that would be one thing, but I doubt if everyone is like bagelman, etc, or the majority of 'hounds.

                                        4. re: sunshine842
                                          bagelman01 RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 01:40 PM

                                          If you (the server) have a sinus infection I sure don't want you handling or serving my food.

                                          Health insurance is not the customer's concern, you are overreaching.

                                          I never said sanction or terminate, that's an owner's decision. BUT if I was losing customers because of an employee's bad breath, I'd want to know about it, have an opportunity to discuss it with the employee and come up with a plan of action.

                                          As to termination being grossly unfair, In the United States employees who do not have a employemnt contract or work under a labor agreement (union contract) can LEGALLY be terminated at will. That's why they are known as 'at will employees.' That's the law and the American way.

                                          Ever want to see really bad service, try dining in a Communist country where a worker has no incentive to produce and no fear of firing.

                                          For many years in the 1970s and 80s I traveled and did business in Eastern Europe and the only to get service was to bribe the employees.

                                          1. re: bagelman01
                                            sunshine842 RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 02:22 PM

                                            sinus infections aren't contagious -- they can also be nearly unnoticeable to anyone but the sufferer.

                                            I didn't say that health insurance was the customer's concern -- but if a restaurant offers no healthcare, only a lousy plan, or short-schedules servers so they'll never qualify for insurance, it's a valid reason why someone might not be receiving proper medical attention. All of these situations exist -- and your employees' medical concerns are none of your business unless they choose to include you in that topic.

                                            I've dined in a Communist country (Okay, Russia isn't technically communist anymore -- but I'm not sure it's really capitalist, either)and had wonderful service.

                                            And just because it's legal doesn't make it just or fair. And sometimes the American way isn't, either.

                                            1. re: sunshine842
                                              latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 02:46 PM

                                              <sinus infections aren't contagious>

                                              They most certainly can be. If a person is draining from the sinus and blowing their nose with an infection and serving food to people? I've been through enough of them, in my lifetime, with an ENT doc who's main concern, other than getting me well, was to alert me to how contagious I could be with it.

                                              1. re: latindancer
                                                sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 02:59 PM

                                                okay, if they're draining that badly and blowing their nose that often, they shouldn't be working in a restaurant that day.

                                                But sinus infections can often be undetectable to anyone outside the throbbing skull of the sufferer, says the voice of experience.

                                              2. re: sunshine842
                                                bagelman01 RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 02:46 PM

                                                I never made a claim that a sinus infection is contagious, I know it is not. However the symptons that can accompany a sinus infection, such as mucus discharge, runny watery eyes, impaired hearing are all things that make me NOT want someone with a sinus infection to handle my food.

                                                Russia is not a Communist country and hasn't been since the breakup of the USSR.
                                                Back in the 80s there were many restaurants in Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, etc where the only way to get waited on and receive any food was to bribe the Maitre D, waiter and kitchen staff. Romania was worse, we had to bring our own food and bribe them to cook and/or serve it. Meanwhile thay had 'jobs for life.'

                                                To quote my late father: 'nobody ever said life is fair' If you don't like the laws concerning employment at will, vote in legislators that agree with your thinking.

                                                If you've ever owned a business you are very glad employment at will is the law,

                                                Think back: ever had a terrible teacher or your kids have one (public school). You complain about it, but the principal can't do anything because the teacher has tenure and there's a union contract...
                                                That's one of the reason American schools and education are no longer world leaders.

                                                Stop making excuses for employees who don't perform. The OP posted about a server with bad breath. The OP never said the server had a medical condition.

                                                BTW>>>>I am a social liberal, but a fiscal conservative, a former retail and hospitality business owner and an attorney

                                                1. re: bagelman01
                                                  sunshine842 RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 03:02 PM

                                                  I didn't say the server had a medical condition, either -- none of us has seen the server in question, so none of us can make a diagnosis. But the possibility exists.

                                                  Nobody said the employee wasn't performing, either. The only thing we know about this entire visit was that the server had bad breath.

                                                  I have been involved in small family-run businesses my entire life, up to and including making hire/fire decisions. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ethical and doesn't mean it's right. The American way isn't always the best way.

                                                  I also didn't ask your politics, and they are irrelevant to the discussion. They're as much none of my business as your employees' personal lives.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                    latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 03:07 PM

                                                    <The American way isn't always the best way.>

                                                    Yes, true, but the American way is that the employer owns the business and the employee works for the business.
                                                    The employer, unless there's something illegal happening in his/her business, has the final say.

                                                    1. re: latindancer
                                                      sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                      and that's exactly why it shouldn't be escalated to the manager or the owner.

                                              3. re: bagelman01
                                                ratbuddy RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 04:16 PM

                                                "and the only (way) to get service was to bribe the employees"

                                                Almost sounds like tipping ;)

                                                1. re: bagelman01
                                                  lagatta RE: bagelman01 Mar 7, 2013 03:57 AM

                                                  Fortunately there are countries outside the former Soviet bloc where people have health coverage and workers have some rights...

                                                  As for the server, could a polite note to him or her be a solution? Lots of people really don't know they have a problem. It is like clean people who have bad body odour - happens for several reasons other than not bathing or changing one's clothing.

                                                2. re: sunshine842
                                                  Isolda RE: sunshine842 Mar 14, 2013 11:33 AM

                                                  I was going to point out the same thing. There are some health issues that aren't severe enough to cause disability, but can cause some mighty stinky breath. Even lactose intolerance, which is quite normal for much of the world's population, can cause rotten breath when someone with LI drinks milk or eats a food containing lactose. And sometimes, the condition is just temporary (for example, the server may have a had an absessed tooth or just had her tonsils removed) and will go away with time.

                                                  Rather than risk someone's job, I think I'd just hold my breath. Heck, I held my breath for 5 years when my mother in law lived near us, and just kept Lysol in every enclosed space, including my car, to air it out after she left.

                                            2. re: bagelman01
                                              gryphonskeeper RE: bagelman01 Mar 7, 2013 09:28 AM

                                              I would never want a person fired because they had bad breath, and I didn't say the name of the restaurant for that reason. Everyone has a bad breath day. or a B-O day, or just a stink foot day. I don't know if they just had an infected tooth or ate sardines, I just wanted to know if it happens again, how do you tell someone you don't know they smell like they brushed their teeth with a kitty box candy bar.

                                              1. re: gryphonskeeper
                                                bagelman01 RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 7, 2013 12:47 PM

                                                exactly, YOU DON"T TELL the server they have bad breath, you mention your concern/observation to the owner/manager and the owner/manager deals with it.
                                                The owner/manager of a restaurant is responsible for all health/cleanliness issues and this includes the staff.

                                                Last week I read in the New Haven independent that an establishment failed their inspection because an employee was assembling a sanwich while wearing fake nails. the nail came off in the latex glove while the employee was removing the glove, but it could have ended up in someone's food. Fake nails are verboten by the health code, just as dirty real fingernails.

                                                1. re: gryphonskeeper
                                                  latindancer RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 7, 2013 06:24 PM

                                                  <I would never want a person fired because they had bad breath>

                                                  i can't imagine anyone wanting that to happen, gryphonskeeper.
                                                  If I have ever gone to the manager with any concern, I have always prefaced the conversation by telling him/her that it was not my intention to get the person in trouble.
                                                  On the very rare occasion I *have* spoken to a manager about an employee, the employee was never fired. The problem was always rectified, from what I could see.

                                                  1. re: gryphonskeeper
                                                    Isolda RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 14, 2013 11:36 AM

                                                    The only way to gracefully handle this is to offer a breath mint or gum. Years ago, my mother told us children never to refuse a breath mint because if someone offered it, we needed it. I can only hope anyone I offer a mint to had a mother that told them the same thing!

                                              2. re: bagelman01
                                                jrvedivici RE: bagelman01 Mar 6, 2013 07:14 AM

                                                I actually find a difference between cigarette smoke/smell vs. bad breath.

                                                As someone pointed out the bad breath could be from a medical condition such as an abscess or some stomach disorders can contribute as well. Giving the waitress the benefit of the doubt assuming it's not just poor hygiene I would not bring a manager or anyone else into it.....as stated I would offer them a gum or mint and a subtle hint.

                                                Cigarette smoke/smell is another thing all together. If you are smoking you know 100% what you are doing and the potential smells associated with that. This is a choice your making which can lead to the discomfort of others around you. If you don't care enough about yourself, your customers or those around you to go to the bathroom and wash your face and hands after smoking (and a spritz of cologne) then your manager does need to know, in my opinion.

                                                1. re: jrvedivici
                                                  jlhinwa RE: jrvedivici Mar 6, 2013 09:45 AM

                                                  Completely agree--there is a difference between a choice to smoke and smell badly, versus something that may be medically caused. However, this is speculation...the server may just have really bad breath and not know, not care, have poor personal grooming practices, whatever. Not enough info to know for sure.

                                                  1. re: jlhinwa
                                                    latindancer RE: jlhinwa Mar 6, 2013 10:16 AM


                                                    1. re: jlhinwa
                                                      dmjordan RE: jlhinwa Mar 6, 2013 03:36 PM

                                                      I never knew how bad I smelled when I smoked until I quit smoking and smelled others.

                                                2. t
                                                  taos RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 06:58 AM

                                                  Don't say anything. It's always your option to leave.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: taos
                                                    globocity RE: taos Mar 8, 2013 06:13 PM

                                                    And this, of all the passionate arguments, seems to be the most logical.

                                                  2. h
                                                    HillJ RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 07:03 AM

                                                    My Uncle was on medication that affected his own breath, so in a restaurant whenever he came across this he would leave a stick of chewing gum with the tip.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: HillJ
                                                      gryphonskeeper RE: HillJ Mar 7, 2013 09:35 AM

                                                      I LOVE THIS REPLY! That is genius HiiiJ

                                                    2. Beach Chick RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 07:08 AM

                                                      Next time your at TJ's, I would get a small .99 cent tin of the small sealed altoids and leave it with her tip.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Beach Chick
                                                        PattiCakes RE: Beach Chick Mar 6, 2013 10:42 AM

                                                        I like the idea of leaving something with the tip, but only if you are sure the person who needs help will be the one picking it up. And what's to say you couldn't leave a note with it?

                                                      2. Firegoat RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                        How do you tell a customer they have horrible fetid breath?

                                                        1. k
                                                          kengk RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                          You could tell the server that you have "personal space issues" and to please stay at least six paces (or more if necessary) away.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: kengk
                                                            Rick RE: kengk Mar 6, 2013 07:47 AM

                                                            Really? He was sitting at the counter presumably with other patrons near by. Someone with personal space issues doesn't sit at the counter.

                                                            1. re: Rick
                                                              kengk RE: Rick Mar 6, 2013 08:00 AM

                                                              You are correct. I will try to do a better job reading in the future. I change my answer to monkeyrotica's below in that case.

                                                          2. pinehurst RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 08:03 AM

                                                            Miss Manners says that you should only mention things that can be correctly quickly/on the spot.

                                                            Thus it's okay to tell the server that she has a sesame seed on her chin, toilet paper on her shoe, or bad breath. Telling her that her forearm tattoo is grossing you out...no.

                                                            It's in the phrasing. You could say (in a whisper) "Please forgive me--you're busy, and doing a great job, but you really need a mint or ginger ale. I'm telling you what I'd want someone to tell me. I'm so sorry."

                                                            9 Replies
                                                            1. re: pinehurst
                                                              sunshine842 RE: pinehurst Mar 6, 2013 08:57 AM


                                                              For heaven's sake, leave the poor girl some dignity.

                                                              1. re: pinehurst
                                                                latindancer RE: pinehurst Mar 6, 2013 09:07 AM

                                                                Did Miss Manners also talk about how information like that is received differently from one person to the next?
                                                                It's not like the waiter is working in a library quietly putting books back on the shelf, having little to no contact with other people.
                                                                This is a waitperson, dealing with customers throughout the shift, who could easily take the phrasing, no matter how mannerly, to heart and end up mortified.
                                                                I'm not sure I'd handle it that way no matter what Miss Manners suggests.

                                                                1. re: latindancer
                                                                  pinehurst RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 09:16 AM

                                                                  I believe the intention is to save the person more social embarrassment/an encounter with someone who would put it less gently...and it's because the server is in such close contact with so many people that the sooner something is said, the better, perhaps.

                                                                  But of course there's an additional angle to this---the server's issue is affecting the OP's dining experience to the point where she had to hold her breath. That's not ideal.

                                                                  1. re: latindancer
                                                                    sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 09:16 AM

                                                                    use the mirror to evaluate it...

                                                                    If your breath was less than kissable (or your fly was open, or your blouse gaping open) wouldn't you far rather someone mention it to you quietly so you could fix it, rather than waiting until you go into the restroom (or, say, cover your mouth to shield a cough/sneeze/yawn) and end up mortified because you've been walking around *all day* with bad breath/gaping fly/gaping blouse?

                                                                    I'd be mortified for a minute, but grateful that someone saved me from greater exposure, so to speak.

                                                                    (crossed the stream with Pinehurst)

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                                      latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 09:54 AM

                                                                      <,use the mirror to evaluate it...>

                                                                      Of course that's a good way of putting it. Another way of putting it is... I do use a mirror, brush my teeth 3X/day (and would do it more if I was waiting tables), floss, wear deodorant, use a mouthwash, keep breath mints handy, keep my body clean, have manicures once a week, make sure when I'm leaving a restroom there's not a roll of toilet paper following me etc....

                                                                      If I was waiting tables? It wouldn't happen that someone would be offended by my breath. If I had a medical disorder that resulted in my breath being offensive? I'd make sure the disorder was in check, at all times, and have a friend that I worked with understand my dilemma & give me feedback about my breath for the entirety of my shift.

                                                                      1. re: latindancer
                                                                        sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 10:11 AM

                                                                        assuming you have health insurance and time to go to the doctor.

                                                                        Not all servers have either.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                                                          latindancer RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 10:20 AM


                                                                          So now you tell the person their breath is ugly, in a nice way.
                                                                          They thank you, perhaps, and then go on to tell you they can't go to the doctor because they can't afford it and they can't take the time and their breath is just the end result of all that.
                                                                          Then what?

                                                                          1. re: latindancer
                                                                            sunshine842 RE: latindancer Mar 6, 2013 10:39 AM

                                                                            I express my sincere condolences -- if I were in a position to offer assistance (advice, money, references..whatever), I would.

                                                                            It would be extremely uncomfortable, however, because this then crosses from being just a case of halitosis to unloading one's personal burdens onto a customer...and THAT becomes a problem.

                                                                            I was standing in the supermarket one night when the very young clerk apparently snapped and started telling me about a very traumatic event in her life the prior week. I felt truly horrible for her. On that one, I involved the manager, simply because the poor girl needed far more help than I could possibly give (or was qualified to give - playing with people's minds is touchy stuff), and she was so distraught she really wasn't even able to drive herself home.

                                                                        2. re: latindancer
                                                                          Isolda RE: latindancer Mar 14, 2013 11:40 AM

                                                                          Sometimes the bad breath can't be cured. Some people just have a body chemistry that reeks or they eat a food that sticks around for a couple of days and isn't easily covered by gum or cured by brushing.

                                                                  2. b
                                                                    beevod RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                                    Have some class -- say nothing.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: beevod
                                                                      globocity RE: beevod Mar 8, 2013 06:15 PM

                                                                      "Have some class", empathy, and adroit social skills.

                                                                    2. Beach Chick RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 09:09 AM

                                                                      Interesting article..


                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick
                                                                        sunshine842 RE: Beach Chick Mar 6, 2013 09:14 AM

                                                                        they now use a breath test to diagnose H. pylori infections, which frequently cause ulcers.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                                                          pinehurst RE: sunshine842 Mar 6, 2013 09:36 AM

                                                                          I had no idea about either Beach Chick's link or the breath test for H. pylori. Wow. I love that the latter is so non-invasive.

                                                                          1. re: pinehurst
                                                                            sunshine842 RE: pinehurst Mar 6, 2013 10:12 AM

                                                                            the H. Pylori test is about as benign a test as you can possibly undertake - you drink a small cup of liquid, go sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, then blow into a test tube.

                                                                            That's it.

                                                                      2. t
                                                                        treb RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 09:18 AM

                                                                        Maybe hint to the manager on duty but, insist that they do it in a polite manner.

                                                                        1. meatn3 RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 09:40 AM

                                                                          Oprah always said that if someone offers you a breath mint accept it!

                                                                          1. s
                                                                            sueatmo RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 11:07 AM

                                                                            I say leave this alone. Her breath prob should be addressed by a close friend or family member. It might be a symptom of severe dental probs, but this isn't your business.

                                                                            If you can, you can take a table in the diner. Or you can choose to eat in another place.

                                                                            Telling her about her bad breath in a public setting would be humiliating to her, and you might not feel you could ever go back.

                                                                            1. Bacchus101 RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 02:54 PM

                                                                              Ms. Manners and Pinehurst get my vote. Once you have decided their needs to be a communication of the breath (smoking) issue; if you do it yourself you have the most control of what is said and how. If you can get close enough to say it quietly all the better. Should that not work use the Carlin approach: " Anyone can have bad breath but you could knock a buzzard off a garbage truck".

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Bacchus101
                                                                                sueatmo RE: Bacchus101 Mar 6, 2013 03:47 PM

                                                                                You know, it isn't necessary to right this "wrong." Think of the consequences to the server. If her breath is truly awful someone in her life will point it out.

                                                                                Just because we are the customers, doesn't mean we have the license to go around telling others about the shortcomings of the waitstaff, unless service is the issue. If something about the server is terrible--grooming, horrible tattoos, body odor or bad breath--then vote with your feet. Chance are in six months the manager has dealt with this, and you can go back if you want to. But if he or she doesn't correct it, then that tells you something about the place too.

                                                                                1. re: sueatmo
                                                                                  HillJ RE: sueatmo Mar 6, 2013 03:56 PM

                                                                                  I'm not sure I follow this line of thinking with tattoos but otherwise I completely follow your calm, reasonable approach to encountering unpleasant odors during a dining experience.

                                                                                  I thought my Uncle was the ultimate diplomat. The medication he took for a personal issue did change his breath and he did whatever he could to deal with it but he also understood the problem whenever he came across it. Leaving a stick of gum was his way. He never said a word to the server. Tip/stick of gum...off he went.

                                                                                  I would not want to be the person who wound up causing new problems (like unemployment) for another person. I think this is a rare encounter generally speaking.

                                                                                  Whenever I come across a server issue I do one of two things I ask them directly if they're having a good night and does that mean I'm going to enjoy my evening. It would take my hair on fire to call over a Manager.

                                                                                  1. re: HillJ
                                                                                    sunshine842 RE: HillJ Mar 6, 2013 11:05 PM

                                                                                    which is all well and good, unless that server wasn't the one who picked up the tip -- a bus boy would understandably think "what the what?" and throw the gum away.

                                                                                    I'd also wonder about gum or mints left by a random customer - it would probably go in the garbage.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                      HillJ RE: sunshine842 Mar 7, 2013 04:17 AM

                                                                                      And over thinking every little thing to this degree kinda blows the whole idea of being kind away. It's far better than escalating a servers breath to the level of the unemployment line.

                                                                                      My Uncle wouldn't have cared who took the gum or if they threw it away. How often does this come up in a restaurant?

                                                                                      The gals and gents who can't tone down their own cologne I hope you are reading along. But, what the heck can I really do about the personal habits of others? Move my table, leave? No, I'm staying put and ordering my meal.

                                                                                      Generally, I can tolerate just about anything. Going out of my way to get a person I know nothing about fired is not my way of dealing with others.

                                                                              2. Cheese Boy RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 03:16 PM

                                                                                Google search bad breath poems.
                                                                                Print one up and use it for your next visit --> http://quizilla.teennick.com/poems/87...

                                                                                1. Bill Hunt RE: gryphonskeeper Mar 6, 2013 08:44 PM

                                                                                  I avert my face, and let it go.


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