Why Your Cocktail Waitress Hates You

By Sarah Ventre

published: May 06, 2010

My name is Sarah and I am a cocktail waitress. For two years, I've been slinging drinks at a popular Phoenix music venue/bar that shall remain nameless.

Armed with only a cork-topped plastic tray, I encounter the best and worst people on Earth. Every night. I've seen people who are otherwise pleasant, upstanding members of our society let alcohol activate the most wicked parts of their personalities. I've seen people turn loving or hateful at the drop of a hat. Like my sisters in the trade, I'm left to deal with the effects of unrestrained, uninhibited alter ego.

In preparation for this article, I carried a piece of paper in my back pocket for weeks as I was worked, reporting on real-life situations whence I grew to hate my customers.

Then, I had a meeting of the minds with my co-workers — over drinks, of course. In this meeting they not only confirmed my scribblings but added to the discourse. Everything you read below is based on first- or secondhand accounts of stupid shit done in Phoenix bars. I do not wish to sound harsh, dear reader; I merely speak the truth of my reality.

Tricky McPlastic: When asked whether he'll be paying with cash, this customer says yes. But when I come back with a tray full of drinks, the customer will hand me a credit card and say, "Is this okay?" Well, it would have been okay if you had told me five minutes ago. Now, it's actually a huge pain in the ass. You may not know this, but I already paid the bar — in cash — for your drink. See, I'm allotted money at the beginning of the night with which I buy drinks from the bar, getting reimbursed by you. But I can't tell you that because then I look like the difficult one. You just wasted five minutes of my life, asshole.

The Well Waller: The United States has a 99 percent literacy rate. Therefore, 99 percent of the people who come into a bar should be able to read the sign in front of a waitress well that says, "Do not stand in front of the well." Still, countless people, in varying states of intoxication, stand, wait, dance, flirt, order drinks, and look annoyed in the one place that the waitress needs to be. Let's play role-reversal: This would be like the waitress coming into your cubicle, sitting at your desk, making a phone call, and then getting annoyed when you ask her to move.

The Relay Team: If you enjoy running, that's fine. But don't assume your waitress enjoys it too. When she asks you if you want anything to drink, you should actually tell her anything and everything you'd like to drink. Don't send your waitress off to the bar to get you a gin and tonic, only to mention when she returns that your friend wants a rum and Coke. Then, when she brings the rum and Coke, don't tell her that each of you needs a glass of water. Believe it or not, you're not the only thirsty customers in the bar.

Stubborn Burro: Some customers are stubborn, refusing to move when asked. Where I work, it's often too loud to ask people more than once (without shredding your vocal chords) to move. If you, the customer, do not move when asked, it is totally appropriate for the cocktail waitress to tap you on the back or shoulder with her free hand or kick you in the shin or calf if she doesn't have a free hand. Please do us both a favor and move. Otherwise when that tray comes crashing down, it will likely fall on you. Not pleasant, trust me.

The Ass(umer): Cocktail waitresses are stigmatized. Common assumptions about waitresses that aren't usually true: They're stupid, uneducated, slutty, flirtatious, or all of the above. I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me, "So what is it that you really want to do?" or been surprised when I said something remotely witty or intelligent. Once, I was waiting on a customer from France, and began a pleasant conversation with him in his native tongue. After a few minutes, an intoxicated and obnoxious woman loudly asked one of her friends, "How does the waitress know French?!?" I know it's tough to believe, but we're not all bimbos.

Grabby Paws: Though a waitress is there to serve you, she's not there for your amusement. In what universe do people think it's acceptable to grab, grope, tickle, fondle, or touch your server in any way? Such acts are sexist, insulting, condescending, degrading, and simply so very wrong. In addition to the ever-popular ass-grab, I've had at least one customer attempt to tickle my armpit as I've held a full tray over my head. Really, buddy? Oddly, touching is something considered appropriate by far too many people. Given that server has been, historically, a woman's job, the notion that it's okay to reinforce antiquated gender roles is not cool.

A Wanna-Be John: The only thing worse than touching your waitress? Trying to buy your way out of it. It's the most insulting move ever. There's nothing lower than a scumbag who realizes his waitress is upset that he touched her and tries to give her a crumpled-up $5 bill for compensation. News flash: I'm not a prostitute (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Ms. Mute: When someone — even a lowly waitress! — looks at you and asks you a question, the polite thing to do is answer. Sometimes, when a waitress asks a couple whether they want a drink, one person (usually the woman) won't answer. Not only will Ms. Mute not answer, she won't even look her waitress in the eye. Ms. Mute will usually tell the person she's with what she wants to drink. That person (usually the boyfriend or husband) will relay the information to the waitress. The worst? When there's a factual question to be answered by the waitress.

Waitress: Hi, there! Can I get you two anything to drink?

Woman (to man): Do they have margaritas?

Man (to waitress): Do you have margaritas?

Waitress: Yes.

Woman (to man): I'll have a margarita then.

Man (to waitress): She'll have a margarita.

Annoyed waitress (to Woman): Do you want salt on it?

Woman (without making eye contact) nods without saying anything.

I've actually had similar exchanges. On multiple occasions. Despite the bad rep that waitresses get, we're not all like the ones who wait on George Clooney or Tiger Woods. We're not checking out your guy. We're not flirting with him. We're just trying to do our job and be friendly. Sometimes that requires smiling. So sorry.

The Flagger: These people are always trying to flag down the waitress in an obnoxious way. They'll yell, they'll call out "waitress" (tip: No waitress likes that), and they'll flail their arms as though they were signaling a 747. Your server will get there. Promise. But being The Flagger won't get her there any more quickly.

Reluctant Table Captains: When the waitress walks up to a group of people, looks one of them dead in the eye and asks whether they need anything, the person at whom she looks automatically becomes the designated "table captain." By default. That's just how it works, sorry. So, yeah, put your hand on the tray and swear yourself in, because at this point, you are responsible for managing the affairs of the table. Please try to keep all your drunk friends from speaking at once.

Stalkers: If a waitress asks you whether you want a drink, it means you're in her section and she's your waitress. Sorry, that's it. Furthermore, "What would you like to drink?" is a pretty simple question. It deserves a direct answer. An appropriate response would be something like, "A sloe gin fizz, please." An inappropriate response would be asking an unrelated question without acknowledging what the waitress just said. For example, "Where's the tall waitress?" Guess where she's not: Here. Look around — do you see her? No. That's why I'm waiting on you. Sorry that I'm not your first choice. Do you want a drink or not? 'Cause if you don't answer this time, I'm not coming back. You can wait another half-hour for "the tall girl" to come in, you can suck it up and order from me — the awful, short waitress — or can just go to the bar for your drink.

Harry Houdini: When you order a drink from me, please stay in the general vicinity. Nothing is a bigger time-suck than trying, beer in hand, to track you down for 20 minutes, only to eventually find you at the bar with a fresh beer. "You never came back so I got one from the bar," you say. No, asshole, I looked for you for ages, you weren't where you said you were going to be, and so I had to give up.

Max T. Out: If you're drinking, you should be sufficiently confident in your ability to pay up. I know these are tough economic times. But don't hand me a credit card that will be declined.

A Surprise Party: I used to find it quaint and charming when a customer would say, "Surprise me," when asked for his order. Not anymore. I've had one too many idiots who didn't like what I brought them. Rule: If you're not prepared to drink whatever I bring you — which could include anything from a can of PBR to a glass of Courvoisier to a sloe gin fizz to a cosmopolitan — do us both a favor and order a damned drink. If not, take whatever you're handed with a smile and refrain from complaining it's too fruity, too expensive, too trashy, or not the way you like it.

Shitters/Pukers: This should not require an explanation. If you can't control your own bodily functions, you shouldn't be in my bar.

Mr. Money Bags: The industry standard for tipping is about $1 per drink, or 18 percent to 20 percent on a credit card tab. Now, if you're ordering $1.50 cans of PBR, we don't always expect $1. If you're ordering top-shelf liquor, we might expect a little more. When your drink costs $3.75 and you hand the waitress $4 and tell her to keep the change, that is not an appropriate tip. Usually, we can tell when a bad tip is coming. For example, when a drink is delivered, and you say something like, "I'll take care of you at the end of the night," that is a signal that I will not be taken care of at the end of the night. Sorry, you are longer a priority. I know that trick, guys.

(Note: It takes just as much effort for us to bring you a glass of water as it does for us to bring you a bottle of beer. Please keep that in mind when ordering and tipping. If you're at a bar, make sure you have enough money not only to drink, but also to tip. We can't afford to work for free either.)

The Cheater: If I've served you at least once, there's no reason (unless I'm not doing my job) that you should get up and to order a drink at the bar. That's like cheating on your girlfriend. And she will find out.

Ice Queens (and Kings): Some customers make a point to ask specifically for a cold beer. Thankfully, we're not in a country where serving warm beer is culturally acceptable or desirable. The fridge where we keep the beer is not spotty. If I pull it from one place rather than another, it won't be at a different temperature. They're all at the same temperature. If you want it colder, I'm sorry, but I don't know what to tell you.

The Good Ol' Boy: Some people try to justify their stupidity with, "I'm out having a good time." You know, with "the buddies." But "having a good time" does not mean ignoring societal norms. The Good Ol' Boy is usually approaching middle age and doesn't go out much anymore. But when he does, he feels the need to get as drunk as possible, be as loud as possible, stand in the way as often as possible, and flirt with as many women as possible. Sorry, dude, but we have other crises to manage.

(See above.)