HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


She didn't see anything wrong with this, but I did

We have a locally-owned breakfast place that we enjoy a couple times a month. 99% of the time we have a great experience and the wait staff are really on the ball. However we had something happen that was really so bizarre that I can't seem to wrap my head around it.

Our server was pretty abysmal. No refills on coffee and water. Our food took forever to get to us, then it was cold. Also, our orders were messed up, but not horribly. Dh got an extra egg. No biggie. I did not order bacon and mine came with bacon on top of the eggs and hashbrowns. I told the server, "I didn't order bacon."

Before I could say another word she said, "OK" and proceeds to grab the bacon off of my plate with both of her hands and put it on the serving tray.

I was stunned. I said, "I can't believe you just did that. I can't believe you just touched my food with your hands." She was flabbergasted that I was flabbergasted. She said, "I just touched the bacon." I said it again, "I can't believe you did that." She grabs at my plate and says "I'll have them re-do it." We had already been waiting much longer than usual for our food. It was pretty obvious that she had let it sit in the window, as everything was lukewarm at best. We had things to do, and didn't have the time (she probably would have forgotten it again, anyway). I pulled the plate away from her grubby little hands and said, "No, I'll eat it. Leave it alone." She then said, "I didn't do anything wrong." and left the table. We had to ask another server for refills (both before and after the incident) and to have her bring our check.

Am I off-base here to think that grabbing my bacon off of my plate (whether her hands actually touched any other food or not) was really rude and totally out of line? She could have offered a plate or napkin for me to remove it myself.

For only the second time in my life, I did not leave a tip. But I also did not say anything to management. We are regulars at this place and I can always go back and talk to them. I will continue to eat here, but will always make sure I request a server other than "Carol". Next time I'm in there, should I say anything or just let it go?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I would have said something. The server should have never touch your food with her hands ever! I wouldn't have even eaten if a server did that to my plate.

    3 Replies
    1. re: vttp926

      This^ ....and the management needs to know that they have a server who is totally clueless to what service is.
      Your status as a Regular gives you more clout. Be not afraid, just straight-forward and matter-of-fact.

      Yeah...that server needs to go work at a non-service job.

      1. re: Michelly

        Absolutely. She's clueless at hygiene and equally bad, clueless at social signals. The fact that she could say "I didn't do anything wrong" after your (rightful) shock at her touching your food bare-handed is very bad.

        1. re: pinehurst

          I should tidy up my priorities.

          Recently, I spent some time in Cairo, a paragon of good hygiene. How does the average food service worker - that's an awfully generous title - handle an order? Let's take one of my daily ful sandwiches. There's no meat involved, so those pathogens get the day off. However, bare hands make up for it, whereas everything, say the vegetables, the fries, the money, passes by the same palm. Yet, I continued to eat, as did the locals, and they will continue to eat that way.

          Of course, that one scenario could just as easily be happening across thousands of kitchens (this might be where "ignorance is bliss" shines). But if it played out for me in the same setting that it did for the OP, I'd get quite upset.

          I guess the point is about taking responsibility?

    2. Depends on how you're still feeling next time you go. If still peeved (and rightly so), then speak to management. They will appreciate it - locally owned places are dependent on repeat business and they cannot afford to have servers acting inappropriately and pissing off loyal customers. That said, maybe next time you go, you'll hear she's already been sacked (rightly so, if acts like you experienced have been repeated).

      11 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        In a local breakfast place, we waited and waited and waited for coffee refills (we need our a.m. caffeine, badly). No waitress around, anywhere. I finally got up, went behind the counter, got the pot and refilled our cups. Waitress appeared, said "you're not allowed back here" and took back the pot. We paid for our coffee, left, and didn't go back. The manager was standing at the register & heard the whole thing. The place closed about 2 months later.

        1. re: pine time

          Was the register not near the coffee? If so I would have brought my cups over to the manager and said "we've been waiting for refills for a while". But I've been at a local dive (bar by night, go back to feed your hangover by day, servers probably in worse shape than you are) when no one was getting their much-needed coffee. One group went to the service table and grabbed a pot - we all passed it around and had a good laugh. Server didn't notice and/or didn't care. That place is alive and well, although I don't know if they still do brunch.
          Nothing drives me more nuts than breakfast places that don't refill promptly, or worse yet, leave you sitting at your table after arrival with NO coffee for more than say 5 minutes (10 at the outside!). I can wait 30 minutes to order if you just BRING ME THE DAMN DRUG!

          1. re: julesrules

            A dumpy coffee shop, when we were in college, always gave each table its own carafe.. Always thought that was quite civilized. Haven't seen any place do that in decades.

            1. re: pine time

              Just went to a breakfast place last week that did that, and I was a solo diner. Hadn't been there in years and I'll go back again if possible.

                1. re: julesrules

                  Absolutely true story......about 10 years ago, 4 of us went to a diner in Adamstown PA for breakfast. After waiting WAY too long for our coffee, I got up from the table and walked over to a gathering of waitresses and gently informed them of our need. The response was, "our computer is down".

                  1. re: grampart

                    I'm caffeine-dependent, so this made me laugh out loud. A corollary: I asked for water, no ice. The waitress brought water with ice, said "all of the glasses already had ice in them."

                    1. re: pine time

                      HOOT!!!! how does that poor girl manage to get herself out of the house each day?

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Better yet, how does she manage to find her way to work?

                2. re: pine time

                  And this is the number one reason why I hate going out to breakfast. No one should be waited on at breakfast. I'd rather get my own coffee, thanks!

              1. the owner should be notified immediately, and the server reprimanded AND TRAINED. I'm sure the owner would want to know.

                She'll either change her attitude or change jobs soon - sounds like she's not cut out for this line of work.

                1. If you are a regular at this place and want to continue going there I would try to send an email to the manager or owner. I am sure that they would want the situation corrected.

                  1. As usual I like to chalk something like this up to a really good story. I was once at an upstate NY diner where the fork in my place setting had some "crud" stuck to it. I pointed this out to the waitress who proceeds to pick up the fork, scrape the crud off with a fingernail and then place it back in front of me. I win. Embrace the story.

                    Actually, in all honesty, it sounds like she may have been new, maybe even her first waitressing job. Hopefully she learned something or shared the story with a coworker who explained what was wrong with her actions. If I were a regular I might have mentioned it to the manager/owner phrasing the complaint in such a way that it was meant to educate rather than discipline the employee.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bobbert

                      +1. We had a lovely, but obviously new waitress one night at an Italian place. We told the manager nicely how much we enjoyed her service and attitude but... She brought the bread to our table under her arm (in a paper bag, but still) and hadn't been trained in the don't-pick-up-glasses-by-sticking-your-fingers-in-them art yet. The manager thanked us and said he'd make sure to train new employees in these little things better. Sometimes it's so obvious, but only once someone points it out.

                    2. I am a very easy going consumer, so my opinion will not represent most. If it was me, I probably would be stunned, but probably won't have said anything. Still, this waitress was wrong to just grab the food off your plate like that.

                      As for Carol, I don't know what happened to her.

                      As for saying something or not the next time, I think that is entirely up to you. I put it 50/50. It is entirely up to you.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        I would definitely say something. You are a regular and will go back but....if it happened to someone there for the first time they wouldn't go back AND they'd dis the place to anyone who asked.

                        1. re: Linda VH

                          Yeah, but maybe she had a very bad day. I would hate someone loses a job for one bad day.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            no, no...that's not a bad day. that's bad hygiene. yuck

                      2. That's just GROSS!! If she wasn't nasty about removing bacon... maybe just didn't know it was not the thing to do?? If the tiniest bit of attitude... another thing altogether. Either way, I'd wanna talk to somebody in charge.

                        1. IMO, you should have calmly complained about what happened to the manager. Surely he or she would want to know that this person is wrong for being a wait person. Sheesh!

                          1. ewww....gross and nasty on so many levels!! I would have pitched a fit , or at the very least asked to speak to a manager and informed of the issues and that there would be no way i was paying for the privilege of having my food mauled before I ate it. That's disgusting. I wouldn't go back, either. God knows what the hell goes on in the back.

                            1. I've recently just gone straight to the management when things like this occur.

                              The manager, when called, could have come over and discussed the situation with you. You're a regular and your business is very important to them.
                              At that point the manager could have made the call…and decided how she/he wanted to handle it.
                              Regardless, you were never in the wrong during the entire episode.
                              Carol needs to learn a thing or two about how to treat customers.

                              1. This reminds me of when I was in college, and I went with a group of friends to Friday's (hey, it was cheap!). One friend and I both ordered some kind of stir-fry thing but I asked for mine without peppers. When the waiter brought the food and placed mine in front of me, I said "is this one without peppers?". He says "let me check" and proceeded to stick his finger in the food to see if there were peppers! I lost it on him, but when he offered to have the kitchen make me another one, I declined because I could only think of what would have ended up in my food if it went back into the kitchen!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: valerie

                                  Lol I thoughts things like these only happen in movies.

                                  1. re: Monica

                                    LOL. That does remind me of one of my favorite awful movie scenes. Scary Movie 2... bound to offend someone with language, raunchiness, stereotypes, and just sheer gross-outery. I'm posting the link anyway but if anyone is delicate please step outside and gaze at a unicorn or something:


                                    1. re: DuchessNukem

                                      Wow, that clip was horrible. I had to stop halfway through...

                                  2. re: valerie

                                    Yuk, that is significantly more disgusting than picking bacon off the top (which I don't like either).

                                  3. Thanks for the replies. I wanted some reassurance that I was not over-reacting. Sounds like the consensus is that I under-reacted.

                                    I certainly don't want her to lose her job over this! And I didn't want them to comp our meal at all (which they would have had I said something) because I know these smaller, local places take a big blow to profits when they have to comp meals. I want this place to stay in business - it's a favorite of ours. Out of possibly 100s of visits we've had only a couple of less-than-stellar experiences. And the food is fresh from scratch, so I want to support them as a customer. However, I think that a word to the manager the next time we're in might not be off-base. A suggestion that they talk to Carol and explain to her why grabbing food off of a customer's plate is a no-no.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: gardencook

                                      With that kind of person, who IMO seems to be a bit unstable, you never know what she would 'get up to' with your food if she had brought you out a new meal.
                                      I have SEEN IT ALL folks and you DO NOT EVER want to know what some of you have ingested merely by asking to have your steak medium like you ordered it not well done. Remember every time a wait staff has to return something to back of house there is always the question about who is responsible. Good line cooks and Chefs do not take kindly to wait staff who aren't on the ball.
                                      "I passed the plate hot and you are telling me the guest didn't get it until the food was cold?"

                                      1. re: gardencook

                                        Since you want this place to stay in business, I think you should tell the manager this. They will lose business with wait staff like this person. And make sure to never get "Carol" as a wait person again.

                                        1. re: gardencook

                                          Yes, she clearly needs training. And they need to know because she could be losing them business. You are doing them a favour.

                                        2. I would politely call and speak to the manager. Years ago (in the late 1990's) my kids and I were at our favorite casual little place with great food...oyster tacos....fresh fish and chips.....freshly made black beans and salsa. My kids were late teens (18 and19) and we were regulars here. ....knew the owners etc. My son and I went back up to the order window and asked for more chips and salsa and the young female who was dealing with us started yelling about how there is a charge and we have to pay and just loud as can be...she was so sullen and rude we were absolutely mortified. We knew there was a charge we just wanted another order. We finished up and left. I called and spoke to the owner the next day about how rude she was and he said he would have a talk with her but we nixed that place. Never went back because of the way she treated us. You have a higher tolerance level than I do:)

                                          1. Well, she handled it (so to speak) badly, but she was clearly having a bad day. Not defending her, just pointing out that in a place where you were somewhat of a regular, and previously always received good service, this was obviously an exception. Im sure she knew it was wrong as soon as she did it. Leaving NO tip (instead of a lowered one) sent a message too.

                                            That said, please don't think that robots prepare your food - no matter where you eat, or what you order, someone, at some point, has touched it. Even if it is only to see if its hot enough (didn't someone complain about cold food?) or if the steak is done as ordered (chefs have a poke method that they use to determine "doneness") your food has been handled.

                                            If this is still bothering you, please discuss it with management and get it off your chest. If the server is lucky, she will only be re-trained.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                              You are correct to point out that chefs touch your food. I've noticed, however, that most places have the cooks were disposable gloves.......

                                              1. re: Cheflambo

                                                I think that those that are handling food, and not money, credit cards, dirty dishes, etc. are touching my food in a sanitary way. But when you take someone's dollar bills from the table, pass the credit card wallet back and forth, and lean over to pick up a napkin off the floor as you pass by... no, you do not need to have those same hands in contact with my food. The cook/chef is not in contact with anything but food in ideal situations. Nobody can keep them from running their hands through their hair or scratching their noses, but in general, back of house is not in contact with the public. There is a huge difference between that and front-of-house. She shouldn't have touched the food on my plate.

                                                As a side note... been there once and just requested that I not be seated in her place. I haven't said anything. I just don't want her to lose her job. She's still there, so maybe my reaction was "training" enough. If the owner is there when I go back (he wasn't there that day and not on this return visit) I will say something, but I want to make sure I word it so that it's not taken as a "fire-able" offense. I see what others are saying, though. It's to everyone's benefit to be honest about the experience. I made a mistake but not sure if I can remedy it now.

                                              2. That's not something you should have let go. I would have spoken to someone in management immediately. Being a regular customer, I'm sure they would have taken your comments seriously and dealt with the situation accordingly. The fact that you will continue to eat there says a lot about the restaurant and how it is run.

                                                As for the waitress taking the bacon off you plate, I'd have given her the entire plate back right then. Whether she was hung over, having a bad day or whatever, there is no excuse in a server treating guests that way. Perhaps "Carol" needed to take the rest of the day off...

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: goodeatsinadive

                                                  "Carol" most likely has not been trained properly. The typical mom and pop type place doesn't necessarily have the resources to have a formal training program. She may not have known that picking off the bacon is totally unacceptable. How could someone not know such a thing? She may never have been taught. In my house, we wouldn't have thought twice about touching the bacon with our hands however we were lucky enough to have experienced dining out in many different settings and learned the differences of eating at home, at someone else's home, and eating out in restaurants.

                                                  If this is Carol's MO and she still touches customers food and argues with them after having been taught otherwise then, sure, she should be given the day, or more, off. If she is new and these type of places are where many servers get their first jobs, she should receive proper training so as to not repeat the offense. Management should take care of the customer in an appropriate manner and the employee as well. Of course, if anything is going to be done to correct "Carols" serving practices, management needs to know about what transpired.

                                                2. WHOA. The server was rude and wrong wrong wrong. Yes, definitely say something to the manager and/or owner.

                                                  1. eesh.

                                                    if this was one of my regular hangs, i would NOT have eaten that dish and would have asked for the manager on the spot.

                                                    if it was my first visit? i would NOT have eaten that dish and would have left, never to return.

                                                    1. My instinct tells me if "Carol" treated your food this way, she probably has treated other people similarly. I'm in the camp that agrees you should have spoken to management right then. Walking away and then coming back later would not have been something I would do.

                                                      I also don't agree with emailing or calling; I would talk to them face to face. Too easy to ignore you the other way...

                                                      1. http://www.customerservicemanager.com...

                                                        Read the stats. Consider this: how much money would those 20 people (who have been told about a bad experience) spend? Per visit? Now consider all that lost revenue. From ONE unhappy customer, times 20, times all the people those 20 people told , "Don't eat there."

                                                        1. 2 wrongs don't make a right, neither do 3 !!

                                                          While the waitress was certainly wrong for what she did, you were equally wrong for not pointing it out to management. If you felt strong enough not to leave a tip, you certainly needed to justify that to the management.

                                                          I will be completely honest with you, since you claim to be a regular there if you left without pointing the problem out to the manager, and stiffed the waitress, you are going to be regarded as the person in the "wrong". By now the waitress has told everyone what a jerk you were as a customer and built up a sympathy case on being stiffed.

                                                          Stiffing a server is the mortal sin of a customer, if you go back now and complain if she waitress had a brain in her head she will have warned the manager to anticipate something from you and your argument will probably fall on deaf ears.

                                                          I feel your pain and completely understand your side of things, but if that happens you owe it to all parties to get management involved at the time, not after. Think of how many other people she might have "contaminated" by doing something equally egregious to by now.

                                                          1. Glad you're not writing the place off on the 1%...but I do think that if it was bad enough for you to not leave any tip whatsoever (and I agree with you that it seems this might be a case for it), then you really *must* bring it up with management while you're still on the same visit.

                                                            Grab a manager in the easiest way possible, hopefully one that knows you from your many prior visits, and explain *why* you're not leaving a tip. In the same way, if you have superior service on another visit, the same needs to be done: you need to pull aside a manager and let them know who your server was and why they did such a great job.

                                                            I'm not saying that you don't normally do this...you probably do. In the case of failure, though? It's pretty pertinent that you address the issue(s) during the same visit. Fair's fair.

                                                            1. Sad, but many new waitstaf are not trianed at all. Good service is very important to me when I dine out. At least you have had good experiences and will give them another shot. I think you should have informed management right then, but you should at least let them know at your earilest convenience.

                                                              As for me, I'm running out of places in my small town to eat. I'll drive 40 miles to the nearest large city most of the time I want to go out to eat. I have a few favoriates, where service is always great and the food is fantastic. And if they are full, I have a number of alternatives where I don't have to wait. The horror stories are many and it would take a book to tell them all. But someone up thread nailed it, when the refered to one person telling others of a bad experience and how that leads to more lost business. Anyplace with poor service will eventually pay the concequences, word just gets around.

                                                              1. I was in an Outback Steakhouse once and spied a server carrying the water pitcher around via a thumb in the spout. I couldn't finish my meal. I wrote a snotty note on my receipt, along with my name and phone number, explaining what I had seen, how nauseating I found it, and that I would never set foot in the restaurant again. Then I told everyone I knew why I would never go there again. Nowadays, I expect the right thing to do would be to put it online and use my SEO training to make sure lots of people would see it. There's no excuse for filthy practices like that. It's nothing but incompetent management.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: emu48

                                                                  My family and I were in Clear Lake, Ca. a couple of years ago visiting family. On our way out of the county to go home we found a nice little local steak house style restaurant and we all ordered and had really delicious meals. Then as we were leaving and walking to the car out back, the chef/cook came waddling out the back door for a cig. Very obese young man, greasy hair, and the front of his apron was filthy and stained with blood and whatever. We all just gagged in unison, the filthy longish hair, the filthy crusty apron, the smoking. Lesson learned...peek into the kitchen before you order it might just change your mind. Effin slobs!

                                                                2. Had the offending bacon been removed via silver tongs (only silver), then all would have been good.

                                                                  Otherwise, I would have sued for "emotional grief," and closed them down forever.


                                                                  1. You got extra stuff- if it doesn't show up on the bill, why say anything at all?

                                                                    1. That's gross and wrong. I would have spoken to the manager right away, not eaten my food and left without paying.

                                                                      I used to work as a mystery diner. I was at a local chain restaurant famous for their rotisserie chicken. One of the workers was a "special needs" young man. Nice that they would employ someone like that. However, he was working in the dining area and sneezed into his hand. He then wiped his hand on his pants and proceeded to fill the straw dispenser and napkin holders. Yeah, gross. I stopped eating and left. As an "undercover" diner I could not say anything at the time but it definitely went into my report. I never went back there so I have no idea what happened to that young man.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Jpan99

                                                                        Pretty sure the OP paid their bill, just left no tip.

                                                                      2. If you're still a regular I would see if "Carol" is still working there. If so, you may want to have a conversation with the manager stating how much you like going there, but you feel that he/she should know about a situation that occurred the last time you were there. In order for improvements to be made, mgmt needs to know what's going on. Management may thank you.

                                                                        1. this was completely wrong on the server's part . . . . no question for me.

                                                                          But I am surprised how completely grossed out some posters are about this. What did you think was going to happen in the kitchen if she took the plate away . . . someone was probably going to reach over, take the bacon off, and say "there you go". . . . . people do touch your food, it is how it is prepared . . . .