Ways waiters get revenge on awful customers

From racist tirades, to sexist banter, to every kind of dehumanizing situation you can imagine, waiters and waitresses have to put up with the worst of the worst behavior, inflicted on them by the very people they're expected to give service with a smile to. For the most part, we can swallow our anger and put up with it … after all, its just one customer, and we're still going home with a pocketful of cash that day. Sometimes, however, even the best of us need to find a way to get our revenge.

Want to learn the ways waiters get revenge on awful customers? Read on to find out … and I hope you aren't one of them.

Table neighbors

You know that hostess you were already a huge jerk to when you walked in the door? Well, that person isn't only my co-worker, but she's also my friend. And she'd like to see you be miserable during your meal just as much as I would. So the two of us are going to make sure that the loudest, most obnoxious people are seated right next to you. They may be drunks, they may be teens, they may be a family with screaming toddlers and babies. Hope you don't mind dodging flying crayons.

Hope you brought cash...

There's nothing quite like the art of completely humiliating a person in front of their friends, or better yet, when they're on a date. If a rude customer is being a special brand of monster, one trick I've personally used myself once or twice is to tell them their credit card was declined. Chances are they're just going to give you another one to run anyway, or pony up the cash. Nothing quickly deflates a huge ego like suggesting to the person's friends that his finances are not in order.

A greasy hello

I worked with a guy who always talked a mean game about how he was going to get revenge on his most awful customers, but when push came to shove, he never followed through. That is, until one busy Saturday night shift, when the wrong guy pushed the wrong buttons, and my buddy declared he was going to employ an angry waiter classic — the butter trick. A group of us tried not to stare as my friend approached the table, leaned down to speak to the offending party, and placed his butter-filled hand squarely on the man's expensive-sports-coat-covered shoulder. I hope he had a really good dry cleaner.

C'mon, spit it out

I've worked in lots of restaurants, and I've heard some harsh talk in restaurant kitchens about intentionally placing hairs in sandwiches, urinating in coffee pots, and yes, spitting in gravy. It's enough to make you never want to send anything back in a restaurant. But is it all just talk? 

According to a study published in the journal Human Performance, it's not. Real Simple gives us the highlights of the study, in which 438 food service workers were asked to fess up about what they've actually done that they wouldn't exactly want caught on camera. While it wasn't a huge number, 6 percent did admit to hacking one into a customer's food. And depending on your gross-out quotient, this one may be even worse. One server told Women's Health, "I once had a nightmare customer: a lady who kept complaining about every single little thing. … I went back to the kitchen to get her a tiny dressing cup of minced garlic, and I put a booger in it."

Pro tip: We don't hate you just for sending food back. it's all about the way you send it back. Play nice.

The hockey puck

It always surprises me that people haven't learned to be polite to the staff that are handling their food. It would seem like common sense, but as long as diners have been abusive to waitstaff, some waitstaff have wanted to serve them floor food.

And it's not just the waitstaff you need to be concerned about. Back in the day, I worked at a popular pizza chain known for its pan pizzas and cheese-stuffed crusts. The kitchen staff there was regularly serving people floor food, even going so far as to touch the bread sticks to the ground before sprinkling on the fake-Parmesan cheese. They generally did this to customers they had some prior grievance with since they recognized the names on to-go orders. That particular location has since gone out of business, so I can only imagine where those kitchen guys ended up. I'm just hoping it isn't somewhere I eat.

If you can't take the heat...

I spoke to a waitress of a popular NYC metro area restaurant about a trick she personally witnessed her co-worker pull on a male customer who got a little too big for his britches during a recent dinner shift.

She says: "It was almost like [this guy] was showing off for his friends what a jerk he could be to a lowly waiter. We usually can handle people like that, but I guess my friend just thought enough was enough. The customer had ordered a shrimp entree that is meant to be spicy, and … this guy made a big deal of how he wanted it as spicy as they can make it. So when the order came up in the window, my friend grabbed it, brought it to the server station, and doused the shrimp with almost an entire bottle of Cholula hot sauce. He brought the guy his meal, and we all watched as he took the first bite. After a second, he slammed his fork down on the table, leaned forward a bit, and got really red and sweaty. He pounded his beer, ordered another, and never took another bite of his shrimp. Hope he enjoyed paying thirty bucks for it."

While I love any story that involves taking deserving customers down a peg or two, I still have to draw the line at tricks that could land a person in the emergency room.

Respect your elders

I learned this one after receiving a "tip" from a server at a popular national chain famous for its late-night half-priced appetizers. While I have never worked at a restaurant that offered this option, I have to admit the idea of it really made me chuckle.

The server told me, "Our location has some discount options that we can apply at the push of the screen. Typically we only use them when the customer presents ID or requests it, but once in a while we can use them to our advantage. If I get particularly rude customers, especially if it's a group of 40-something ladies who dress and act like they are a wanna-be cast of some version of Housewives, but are actually so cheap that they are coming to a place like this, I totally hit that seniors discount button before presenting their check. While they comb over the check because they just know I must have made errors, they see that I must have assumed they are in their 60s. I don't care about reducing the price of their check. … It's not like they were going to tip me much anyway."

Business meal

While I certainly cannot advise anyone try this one themselves (and certainly not in this age of caller ID being available on virtually any phone), I did know a guy who vowed revenge on a particularly boorish customer and came up with a pretty clever way to do it.

The man had made the mistake of paying for his meal with his corporate Amex, which clearly displayed the name of his employer. My friend spent the next three months harassing this guy at his desk with phony complaints against the company, fake credit collector calls, calls in gibberish languages, and calls from an enraged husband who swore the man was running around with his wife. My friend generally made these calls from the restaurant while it was slow, and we all would huddle around and laugh until we cried while he came up with new, inventive ways to phone-torture the guy.

Ah, the good old days.

Fast getaway

While most places nowadays have a fairly reliable security system filming every move in key areas of a restaurant, you can rely on the fact that there will always be restaurant owners or managers who are either too cheap or too lazy to keep those cameras running smoothly.

I got a "tip" recently from a waitress here in New Jersey who used her knowledge of this lack of camera surveillance at her place of business to bribe some willing busboys to TP her least favorite customer's car while he was dining. Some well-applied strips of duct tape meant he had to come back into the restaurant and borrow a steak knife to even open his doors. Since she had been present during his whole meal, he never had any reason to suspect her. The best part, she says, was how his friends had lots of ideas of who could have done this to him, and none of them suspected it was pulled by anyone at the restaurant. "It was so obvious that everyone hates this guy," she said, "even he was naming different people who might have done it. … Co-workers who knew where he eats, ex-girlfriends, some crazy neighbor. … I just stood there nodding and consoling him while we all tried not to laugh. Like, does it not even occur to this guy how much he sucks?"

So he was embarrassed, inconvenienced, and no real harm was done? Sounds pretty ingenious to me.

Lost and found

When a beyond-nasty customer is really making you start to question your life choices in the middle of a busy brunch shift, you start to hope and pray for some scenarios that restore your faith in the universe if they do actually go down. And the all-time classic? The nasty customer forgets something important and valuable at the table.

It could be their phone. Maybe it's their wallet. Maybe it's the credit card they used when they left you that generous 8 percent tip. Whatever it is, you can be sure that the last place it will end up is in the lost and found. Something to think about if you're in the habit of misplacing your $200 sunglasses.

The B*tchy Waiter talked to a few servers who admitted to doing this, including a server called Kezwick, who happened upon a forgotten wallet in her section. The customer had apparently called Kezwick a derogatory name right to her face, so all bets were off. "She paid her bill and left, and as I was clearing the table I notice a fake coach wallet/iPhone case (prob her prized possession). … No iPhone but packed with credit cards, cash, etc. … Walked down the street and threw [it] right in the corner trash can. Whoops!?!? Some hobo picking through the trash had an awesome day."

Speech!

Of course there are going to be those occasional times when a server has just had enough. They've been pushed to the point of breaking by the worst of the worst customers, and they just gotta tell that person how they feel … even if it means losing their job.

I have been tempted to do this many times in my waitressing and bartending career. Some were spared my wrath, but the guy who wasn't was the barfly who banged his drunken fists on the door of the bathroom I was using, screaming at me that the "help" shouldn't be able to use the bathroom on the main floor of the townhouse-style restaurant. I emerged from the bathroom, stormed to the bar, and unleashed a tirade on him that I wish to this day I had on video. Good thing the boss wasn't there that day.