Waiter Confidential: Ringmaster BOB

In principle, I get that whole "the customer's always right" thing. In practice, of course, it doesn't always hold up.

Consider the barfly I once tended to, who, after asking me for an empty beer mug, proceeded to seal it over her mouth and puke in it. Then, as though it was a gift of some warm, chunky chowder she'd cooked up specially for me, she handed the mess back over with a simply slurred, "Here you go, dude." Somehow, I managed to wretch my way out to the dumpster without calling the bar crowd's attention to the matter. It's what I do.

Obviously, that customer, for one, really wasn't right. Still, I don't consider her too exaggerated an example of who I refer to as a "BOB" in my world. From a self-righteous delegation of the dining public, BOBs expect worker bees like me to not only Bend Over Backwards for them, but to bend over in general, taking their jabs and gibes till it hurts, just to make a buck.

On any given restaurant visit, BOBs can be expected to complain about at least three of the following: reservation issues, table selection, ambient temperature, lighting, music and/or television programming, pour levels, portions, and -- although seldom in so many words -- prices.

For sport, they angle for freebies. They bait steak orders with fine-line cooking specifications such as medium-rare-"plus," and throw anything back to the kitchen even the slightest bit under or overdone, thereby setting the hook for conversations with management which are likely to snag the desired discount or "comp."

Those BOBs are the smart ones. The less evolved resort to simple snarling tactics come feeding time. They swipe at us for attention as we stroll the aisles, barking needs and calling us condescending pet names like "Ace," "Sport," and "Sweetie."

Whenever things get hairy in my station, I think back to some great advice the longtime owner of a South Scottsdale seafood institution gave me one night while I was "in the weeds."

"Waiting tables is a circus," he said. "There's an act going on in every corner of your station, and everyone in it is watching how you handle your part of the show. The trick is working the whip and chair with a smile. If you can learn to do that, you'll keep the crowds on your side and the bears at bay."

And that's as true a thing as I've ever learned in this business. -- Anonymous

Anonymous has seen it all in 25 years of waiting tables and tending bar at some of the Valley's most beloved restaurants.


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