14 reasons your waitperson hates you

My nearly 15 years of working in restaurants and bars up and down the East Coast has taken me from major cities to podunk towns to everything in between. I have worked in fine dining, pizza places, celebrity hangouts (I messed up Jerry Seinfeld's omelette order once, he didn't complain and still gave me a hefty tip), and was even a singing waitress on a cruise ship in Boston Harbor.

My years as a server and bartender helped pay my way through college, supported me while I ran from audition to audition in NYC, financed a backpacking trip through Europe, and gave me some of the best friends and times I have ever had. And at as many different types of establishments that I hung my hat and various locales that I slung coffee and dishes of chicken Parmesan, I have learned that one truth is universal. Sometimes, people just suck. Think your servers normally hate you? I will bet you can find the reason why right here.

Taking too long to order/staying too long

Hey, if you would like to order a round of cocktails before ordering your meal, trust me, we got you. But if you want to ignore our attempts at getting any semblance of an order for you, while you have a half hour conversation without even picking up your menus? Not cool, man. Not cool.

Same with a party that lingers at a table an hour after they've taken their last sip or bite. That table is valuable real estate to a server. The amount of times we can turn it during our shift has an enormous affect on how much money we are walking out with that night. If you are going to overstay your welcome, at least have the decency to leave a hefty tip.

Acting like any issue is our fault

One of my first waitressing jobs was at a Pizza Hut in Alpharetta, Georgia. I wasn't old enough to serve alcohol yet, so I spent that summer serving personal pan pizzas to a rushed lunch crowd. A family came in one day, and though they didn't want to pay for the salad bar, proceeded to pile a plate from it for finger foods to feed their toddler. They were quite miffed when they couldn't find the saltine crackers, and I explained that the shipment hadn't come in that day as expected. The father replied "well, there goes your tip." And he meant it. Blaming a server for something they have zero control over, or that was obviously the fault of someone else at the restaurant, is just about the lowest-class move you can pull as a patron. I have never messed with a person's food myself, but that's likely the kind of thing that would trigger the wrong server. Say it with me: "always be nice to the folks handling your food."

Being cheap

I am actually not talking about the gratuity here. I am talking about the people who have no business eating at a particular establishment, and attempt to nickel and dime their way through a meal. This would include the people who ask if they can order from the kids menu (no, you can't), order little food but ask for multiple baskets of bread, or the ones who request copious piles of lemon and sugar packets to make their own lemonade (this happens more often than you would imagine). Other winners? The people who expect you to make a menu price lower if they leave something off the plate, as in "if I get the steak and mushroom special without the mushrooms, are you going to give me a break on the price?" And my personal favorite, the woman who was frustrated that I wouldn't sell her a half of a baked potato.

Your cranky kids

As a mom myself, it always shocks me when people don't seem to realize that their kids are the ones being a problem in a restaurant. Sure, there are lots of well-behaved, well-mannered kids out there, but all kids have a bad day sometimes. If it's your kid's bad day, leave. I was dining once in Franny's in Brooklyn, an upscale and hip pizza joint, when a table with three children was causing a huge disturbance. The waitstaff swooped in on the table with to-go boxes, and started boxing the family's food for them while they handed them the check. People literally cheered.

Other things we hate about your precious angels? When you allow them to wander around the restaurant (whose fault will it be when we fall over them with a tray of glasses?), when you permit them to use the condiments and sugar caddies as toys, when ordering becomes a half hour affair because you are encouraging Johnny to order for himself and he clearly has social issues, or when you watch your children talk down to us and act like it's funny (it never is).

Too many substitutions

First of all, you've got to understand that when you wait tables, you are at the mercy and whim of whoever is head chef, or even just cheffing that day. We, as servers, want to say yes to you — we know that making you happy directly affects our tip. But we also know that there are some things a chef is going to say no to. I worked at a place once where the chef refused to leave arugula off a flatbread pizza because it would ruin the integrity of his dish. Seriously.

Beyond that, however, you've got the people who want to change the entire menu around to suit their tastes. Sauce on the side (manageable), different side item or topping (totally depends on the chef), every item of an entree must be on a separate plate (ok, now we are starting to hate you.) Even more annoying are the people who want completely unreasonable substitutions. Like the guy who asked me if instead of vegetables, could he just have extra chicken? Another thing — we have almost zero control over upcharges. You want the sweet potato fries instead of chips? Yeah, that's gonna be two bucks extra, and no, there is nothing we can do about it.

Asking us to prepare food you brought with you

This one was really the worst when the prepared-foods diet craze was taking the nation by storm. It went something like this — you approach a table, do your standard cheerful greeting, prepare to recite the specials, and have one of the guests inform you that they are on a special diet, and would you please microwave this foil pouch for them and transfer it to a plate. I really never understood how anyone could not realize that this was the same thing as just bringing food in from a different restaurant. Establishments, thankfully, initiated policies prohibiting this, but that didn't help with the awkward moment at the table, when two minutes in and you are already having to decline a guest's request. Those days aren't over either, a server friend of mine recently told me that at her restaurant, people bring gluten-free breads and rolls from home to have their sandwiches prepared on.

Ordering stuff not on the menu

If you need something because of dietary needs or allergies, and it's reasonably made from what we already offer, say, a plain chicken breast with rice, yes, we can usually get that done. It is still a pain if we are busy, because it involves a few extra steps of communicating with a busy kitchen, but it's not going to make us hate you. What WILL make us hate you is you insisting the chef make you a dish that we took off the menu two years ago, or acting perplexed when we don't have a particular food item on hand that you are craving, or asking us to make you something from our brunch menu in the middle of a busy Saturday night dinner rush.

Acting like you know the owner when you don't

I have worked at a few large, chain-style restaurants, but mostly, I have worked in smaller, family-owned restaurants where the owner and/or chef is frequently available to schmooze and greet guests (the great ones might even run food for you when you were in the weeds). One particular place was called Miss Elle's Homesick Bar and Grille, on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Elle, the owner, was a former Playboy Bunny from the days of the original Bunny Club, and a really charming woman. Elle, though it would seem like her name was pronounced "El", actually pronounced her name "Ell-ie". People naturally mispronounced it, and we would kindly correct them. Except for the guy who couldn't get a table one night, as he'd neglected to make a reservation, and was told it would be a 45-minute wait. All of a sudden, he was one of "El's" best, life-long friends, and he was outraged that he wouldn't be given preferential treatment. Telling him he wasn't pronouncing his "life-long friend's" name correctly was one of the highlights of my waitressing career.

Expecting discounts or freebies

Do you know what a "buyback" is? In old school bars, a regular patron gets every third or fourth drink on the house. It's a custom that's been done away with at chains and franchises, but many older places still honor the unspoken code. When do we start to hate you? When we are bartending, and you make a big, loud show of holding us to the buyback policy (which is always at the discretion of the owner or bartender), within earshot of other patrons who we maybe don't want to do this for. Just because we have given you a discount or a freebie in the past, doesn't mean we are obligated to do it each time we see you. Our kindness toward you may be much different on a rainy Tuesday night than a packed Friday night. Another way to make your bartender hate you? Asking that we make your drink "really strong" (we have zero power over this at chain restaurants, that use measured pours), or asking for a ridiculously complicated, off-the-menu drink when we are really busy. And for the record, a dollar per drink is a MINIMUM tip at a bar. If I am muddling limes or busting out the blender, tip appropriately.

Clueless diners

We want you to be happy. We want you to love your experience, and leave a huge tip. If you get your meal, and there is something wrong with it, yes, we really do want you to tell us so we can correct it. That includes improperly cooked meats, a mistake in what you were served, something tasting off, and in general, an error having been made with your dish. When do we hate you? When you are clueless about what you ordered, and decide to take a chance on short ribs, only to decide they weren't what you "expected." This would also include assuming a dish is going to taste exactly the same as it does at another restaurant, or just pretending to know more about food than you actually do.

I worked at a place that served very authentic, and delicious, Caesar salads. A woman nastily sent hers back, and said it tasted "fishy." I explained that authentic Caesar salad dressing does indeed have anchovies in it, so that's the way it tastes normally. She was outraged, because she eats it all the time at TGI Friday's for lunch, and it never tastes like that. This was the same restaurant where two women sent back their very lovely rose wines because "the fizz had gone out", and wanted me to open a fresh bottle. The bartender squirted some sprite in it, and they were happy.

Walking in 5 minutes before we close

Yes, technically we are still open, and we do still have to serve you. But we already hate you a little bit for making us have to stay what we assume is going to be at least another hour. The busboys hate you now too, because they can't break the room down until you leave. The cooks? They hate you the most, because they probably have completely scrubbed the kitchen down and wrapped everything up at this point. What can you do to mitigate all this hate from multiple people handling your food? Order promptly. Better yet, ask your server which dishes come out quickly, or are easiest to get out at this late hour. If you are only a couple of people, ask to sit at the bar, which may be open an additional hour or so.

Hitting on us

Look, I am sure this happens to the fellas too, but being a woman in your 20s in the service industry means you've been hit on quite a bit. Is it ever not annoying? If it's done respectfully, and it's more of a flirtation, we learn our ways of acting flattered and making a joke of it all, particularly when it's the seniors there for the Early Bird special (those guys can get feely!). But when it turns crude, or aggressive, or, God forbid, you put your hands on me? Yes, we hate you, and we are thinking that now we have to say goodbye to our tip, and just get you the heck out of there.

I have seen plenty of guys thrown out of bars for laying hands on a cocktail waitress. If you are really feeling like you have just found the person of your dreams? Wait until after your check is paid, and your friends are not present, and either leave her a note on the table, or if she's not busy, ask for her number. And then politely accept the response. Do I really have to tell you this?

Splitting the bill

Computer systems in restaurants make it pretty easy to split up credit cards. Want me to split that bill 5 ways evenly on 5 cards? No sweat. Want me to put $30 on the Visa and $23 on the Mastercard? That's slightly more annoying, but sure, we can do that. Want me to bust out my calculator and figure out the exact amount you personally owe for your 2 gin and tonics, bruschetta appetizer, and half of that chicken dish you shared? Nope, not happening. Unless this is an Applebee's, or you make it crystal clear to your server at the beginning of the meal that you want things split this way (and even then we can say no), just bust out your phone and figure it out yourselves.

Not knowing how to tip

Yes, our ultimate hatred — people who don't know how to tip. Where to begin?

The bane of every server's existence — the "A Tip For You" cards some guests leave in lieu of a tip. Ever seen one of these things? They are small pamphlets with biblical verses about enriching your soul. All they inspire in us is a deep desire to follow you out to the parking lot and cram your pamphlet down your throat while kicking you in the shins.

The "leave a note" crew. No doubt you've seen some of these on social media by now. The people who leave charmingly racist or homophobic messages on their bill as an explanation of why they didn't leave a gratuity. What doesn't get as much coverage are the people who leave more innocuous notes. The "I give Jesus 10 percent every Sunday, why should I give you more?" is a popular one that no doubt every server has seen. Others I have seen are "We don't believe in tipping" or "Didn't like the food."

Other under-tipping atrocities? Visitors from foreign lands who act like their guide books didn't clearly tell them what gratuity is expected in America. People who think they are making a grand point, or worse, being funny, by leaving a penny for a tip. Guests who believe 10 percent is appropriate (it's not). Folks who think they should tip on the "pre-tax" amount (you suck.) Couponers who tip on the discounted amount (you suck the most). We don't get a paycheck, guys. What we take home in tips that night is paying for our rent, our food, our kids' babysitters, the electric bill. It's our livelihood, and the government taxes us according to what they assume you are tipping us. Not to mention that we need to give money at the end of our shift to the buspeople, bartenders, and maybe even food runners. Bottom line if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out.