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The Sunday Rant

Well, I name a lot of new things — like “Friday Bullshit!” What I’ve found is that I need to name a lot of things and come up with lots of ideas, most of which will fall by the wayside.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to surprise you with Bullshit! on a Friday.

But for right now, how about a random rant, finished off with some Led Zep?

Do you wanna know what I hate, right now? I Hate American styled customer non-service. We gotta be the worst in the world. Hell, I just sat through a totally boring rendition on non-service via AT&T as concerns my parents’ desire to ADD a TV to their existing “Uverse” install (I’ll save you the details: took more than a week of dealing with fucking idiots).

But my personal peeve, which I guard & cherish so I can fucking hate it, is restaurant servers. I always preserve special wrath. I eat out quite a lot and I think servers have gotta be the touchstone for what I’m talking about.

I should make this short: You know what, fuckers, servers? This isn’t about YOU. I don’t need you coming to my table every two minutes to assure yourself that you’re doing just fine, or even better, because I don’t give a runny shit. Chances are, you have little to do with it anyway, and moreover, are we not here to eat a meal? Or, is our purpose merely to affirm a decent meal, a decent service and you’re all set? Leave me the Fuck alone because if something isn’t right — so common as that is — I’m gonna let you know.

I was annoyed about it for years but Beatrice is the one who brought this to my attention, four years ago in our three week tour of Europe, and then again a month ago, affirmed.

Servers NEVER come to your table to ask you how everything is. Never happens, ever. Can you guess why?

And now, Led Zeppelin, Over The Hills and Far Away. Live.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

30 Comments

  1. James M on August 22, 2010 at 22:50

    Before working as a manager in the hospitality industry (never as a server though), I always wondered the same as to why the servers went to the tables so often. Now, I think I know why.
    One thing on their mind is building up the final bill a bit (meaning, hopefully, more of a tip) by getting you to drink more alcohol, a dessert, etc.
    A big thing in hospitality/customer service is “putting out a fire right away.” If a customer is upset, the sooner they tell you, the quicker you can resolve it. This is why we hate being put on hold with a call centre rep, or being bounced around from person to person – we want our issue resolved ASAP.
    All that being said, I think the real reason is a lack of confidence in the cooking staff to prepare a meal properly. When a server comes to my table often, my hospitality instincts kick in to tell me that they’ve had issues with a certain meal or a cook that is working at the time. For comparison, they rarely ask you how your drinks taste, because they either made them or are confident in the bartender.

    I don’t enjoy getting interrupted during my meals either, by the way.

  2. Jen C on August 22, 2010 at 23:20

    Best Zeppelin tune ever, thanks for that!
    And yes, good service is invisible service. Service does not exist for it’s own sake…bad servers are those that need to “check in.” If you’re good, you’ll notice when your table needs something and fill the need, often wordlessly. Perhaps a part of the problem is overworked staff with too many tables to really be able to survey a room successfully–or even take a breath long enough to remember “what the f**k was I supposed to be getting for Table 103???”…(can you tell I used to be a server? Years ago…hated it, so got behind the bar 🙂

  3. Elizabeth on August 22, 2010 at 23:39

    Is it because it’s not customary to tip the servers in Europe?

  4. Flying Burrito on August 22, 2010 at 23:57

    That’s funny, by coincidence, we were kind of hounded tonight also. I generally give waiters and waitresses the benefit of the doubt and a wide berth (I was in the industry for seven years so I know how it goes)…but tonight I was out at a sushi joint with the most beautiful, fine, paleo-loving woman on the planet and it was like our waiter was almost ready to curl-up in bed with us and never leave us alone he was so ingratiating…hovering, cracking wise, and bandying-about with these incredibly detailed snippets and shticks about his life in the restaurant when it was so patently clear that she and I only had goo-goo eyes for each other, the sake, and please bring the rest of the sashimi at your earliest convenience, if you don’t mind [and leave us alone]! He was a really nice guy but c’mon! At one point, I swear he was going to start hand-feeding us our food he was so in our territorial imperative faces. Liberally scattered in between all of this, the rest of the staff also came and went to see how we were doing…two other waitresses and one other waiter. Reluctantly, I eventually pulled my eyes off my date and rubbernecked the room to see if maybe the place had emptied out and the joint was shutting-down or if the Grand-Poobah of the Tokugawa Shogunate himself had just arrived but it was merely just your ordinary, every day healthy, Sunday-go-to-meetin’ crowd of fish lovers all around just like us…the place was busy and it was at least an hour before closing time.. It was surreal how much the wait staff all floated around us…finally my lovely friend slipped into the booth, next to me [and to my great pleasure], kissed me overly long and they all finally left us alone. This is a generally a very good place with great, intuitive service but it was off the hook tonight with the hovering…I’m still pretty baffled by it and it was annoying…especially when everything about us radiated the desire for intimacy. And although I am kind of bashful about PDAs, that did turn out to be our saving grace, in more ways than one.

  5. Flying Burrito on August 23, 2010 at 00:11

    And thanks for Plant and the lads, completely saved this time around by Page’s totally killin’ voodoo licks! It was so tragic that Plant lost both his beautiful son and his otherworldly vocal range all in one full swoop the day of that horrible accident.

  6. Marcus on August 23, 2010 at 00:48

    I seem to remember that Max’s Opera Cafe bragged about how there servers never ask you if “everything is alright”…

    I know there is a sign on the door delacring “Critics are not welcome”.

  7. Janice H on August 23, 2010 at 03:20

    We said the same exact thing after our trip to France. We loved that your meal there was never rushed, the wait staff was never hovering and overall a meal was the event not to eat something quick before dashing off to something else.
    My guess is here in the US this is partly because not only do they think the wait staff could talk you into something else to get your bill higher, it’s also because they need to turn those tables over several times so they want you out if you aren’t ordering anything else. In France if you went there to eat we always ate later and were there 2-3 hours.
    I also think that as Americans we usually don’t look at our dinner out as an event. It’s alot of times squeezed in before a movie, a concert or after something. Partly that is our fault for not truly enjoying the experience. We learned so much from our travels to other countries about the joy of a meal.
    My son is a waiter/bartender and I know he likes to watch for signals before going over as he knows how annoying that can be. But with that said, he has gotten chewed out several times for not coming over more and falling over people.

  8. Neill on August 23, 2010 at 04:21

    I think it has to do with the tipping culture in the US.

    I often here from Americans that they find European hospitality staff rude, whereas we tend to think of them as just acting normal. On the other hand when Europeans visit the US 50% comment on how nice everyone is and the other 50% feel that it’s all an act in order to get more tips.

  9. J.S. on August 23, 2010 at 04:38

    Paris would be at the opposite end of the spectrum then, I guess.

  10. Nicole on August 23, 2010 at 04:38

    It drives me batty that they interrupt a freaking conversation to ask if everything is OK.

    It was until you showed up!

  11. restaurant on August 23, 2010 at 04:43

    Rich,
    your rant is misplaced. Servers are trained to be all over the customer.
    It’s management that you should blame.

  12. Marc on August 23, 2010 at 07:22

    My gripe is waiters that are all over you through the meal but then after they drop the check they are no where to be found for 15 minutes.
    My meal is over, I want to pay and leave. Why do you pick the moment right before I decide how much tip to leave to abandon me?

  13. David Csonka on August 23, 2010 at 07:26

    American serving staff make less hourly than migrant field workers picking tomatos. They make all of their money off of tips – and the customer knows this. So often I see customers taking advantage of servers for things they have no control over, and then leave no tip or pennies. Having known many waitresses over the years through college and whatnot, I understand their plight.

    They have to suck up and try to do everything they can to make sure they customer is happy, and they still might get the shaft. How do you know if a customer prefers to be checked on frequently, or would rather be left alone?

    Can you blame them for taking the safe route and just checking up on their tables? Heck, that’s probably what their managers tell them to do anyway.

    For every customer who complains about being interrupted to be “checked on” there are probably 10 who would complain that their water wasn’t refilled every 2 minutes.

    • Flying Burrito on August 23, 2010 at 08:17

      David, I think I’d have to agree with you…I don’t know if you read my post but maybe the owner of the restaurant was in town making the staff paranoid (thus the hovering), you never know.



  14. Supersellen on August 23, 2010 at 08:48

    Having been a server myself for too many years, I can tell you that annoying a customer by not visiting the table enough earns a much smaller tip than annoying the table by being there too often. Personally I tried to find a happy medium that pleases most people. Just because I am refilling your water, it does not mean I need to speak to you.

  15. Hannah on August 23, 2010 at 09:38

    As a long time food service slave, I agree with David. I would feel confident saying the #1 complaint of customers in restaurants is they think they’re being ignored. If you’ve never been a server you have no idea how high maintenance most customers are. We’re talkin sometimes seven or eight odd requests per meal “my wife needs three fresh napkins, does the kitchen have any fresh chervil? Would you mind cutting my fingernail?” You wish I wasn’t serious about the fingernail… And yes, servers are usually trained to check up on customers a thousand times during their meal. Unfortunately, many people think that’s what good service is. I’ve actually been yelled at by a manager for passing a table without checking on them, did they need anything? Nope. Still pissed off the manager. I know it really sucks when a server is overbearing, but please don’t think they are actually enjoying it or doing it to spite you, they don’t know any better. Since we’re comparing service in Europe vs U.S.A, I have to propose that on the flip side, complaining about service seems to be a favorite American past time. Every aspect of the dining experience is picked apart, maybe we all need to just chill out a little? I also think it would be perfectly reasonable to tell a server that you don’t like being checked up on more than once while you’re eating. It’s not ideal to have to tell someone how to do their job, but if its a recurring problem it may be one solution.

    • Welsey on August 23, 2010 at 11:04

      Well, having been a server in the USA, serving here requires these services minimally to manage a meal:

      -Initial menu dropoff and drink orders.
      -Get the actual order
      -Check in on the order just in case something is wrong — underdone steak, whatever to immediately fix it.
      -Refill of drinks — should be completely unnoticed unless cocktails.
      -Drop off the check/clean the dining area.
      -Accept the payment most important to be timely in this.

      Now doing this well is an art and I would find that the best places the servers know how to time this out in such a way that you don’t even know they are there. Bad servers make up for their ineptness by trying to overcompensate by checking in too often or introducitng their personality; I absolutely hate that.

      Now which of these should be cut out?



    • Richard Nikoley on August 23, 2010 at 11:39

      Lots of good comments. By the way, I should mention that there are a lot of excellent servers out there too. I especially like the ones who know the menu top to bottom, have sampled all the dishes and can make recommendations according to either what they particularly like or, better yet, their sense of what other diners have really liked.

      On the issue of tipping, I’m a good tipper. If service is good that’s usually around 20% but if service is exceptional, 25, even 30% is doable.

      Excellent list from Welsey. I particularly like: “Check in on the order just in case something is wrong — underdone steak, whatever to immediately fix it.” Yes, I get that something can be wrong at the outset (I need a knife, any mustard? some butter for my veggies, whatever). Emphasis on immediately, especially when something is wrong. I really hate it when they take forever to get back to me.

      Also, when dropping off the check there ought to be a brief pause, just in case the patron wishes to tender cash or card on the spot. So often a server will drop the check and run and it takes 10 minutes trying to flag them down to take your card.



  16. Barbara Lee on August 23, 2010 at 10:29

    As one who has spent several weeks in Europe annually, for the past 40 years, I beg to differ. Yes, they leave you alone while dining there, but if you have dropped your fork on the floor, or want more water, that’s not necessarily an advantage. I enjoy foreign travel for many reasons including the quality of the food, but for service from restaurateurs and hotel staff there’s nothing like the USA, where the mildest complaint or request gets immediate attention.

  17. D.S. on August 23, 2010 at 11:11

    You know what I hate? People who dislike a bunch of shit in life and always want others to know what it is they happen to dislike. Get the fuck over yourselves. Going to a restaurant is not about YOU anymore than it’s about the staff or the other guests. As human beings, every situation in life is about EVERYONE who’s involved. For chrissakes, it’s not your damned birthday or your wedding…it’s a fucking meal!

    I hate pricks who are so inflexible they cannot adjust easily & quickly to varying situations in life. So what if the wait staff in America is different than those in France. When in America go with the flow and when in France, guess what? Go with the fucking flow assholes! Why does everything have to be just so, in order for your easily-offended selves to be happy? Isn’t one important aspect of maturity having the ability to be supremely flexible, enjoying almost anything life throws at you while still maintaining your focus, composure & perspective?

    Keep the main thing the main thing…and keep the small shit small. How hard is that? Pricks.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 23, 2010 at 11:40

      Ha, that’s funny, D.S.

      Excellent rant about a rant.



    • gallier2 on August 23, 2010 at 12:20

      Can I up-vote that rant. Exactly what I would have liked to say, if I had been able to come up with. Adapting to the situations before pushing people around, that’s the right attitude. That applies to all sides of life.



    • Richard Nikoley on August 23, 2010 at 13:06

      I like the rant, but disagree entirely with the sentiment. I’m a “the customer is always right” kinda guy and those doing business in providing a good or service in trade for dollars out to get out of business if they can’t take the demands of varied customers.

      Just like anything else, there’s a proper way to conduct restaurant service and those doing it wrong deserve to have that pointed out.



  18. Gabe on August 23, 2010 at 11:49

    Richard, as a San Jose guy, have you ever been to Original Joe’s? At least the last time I went there, the service was incredible – totally unobtrusive, old-school, ninja-like silence and efficiency. I finished my water, and within seconds the waiter literally glided over, refilled it without a word, and was gone from sight before I could even say thank you.

    As a classic Italian restaurant they might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think Primal-friendly eateries, but they serve calf’s liver with bacon and onions, which demands respect.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 23, 2010 at 12:55

      OJ’s is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. In fact we were just there week before last with a friend so we took a table. Bea & I love to go down there, sit at the counter and watch those pro cooks in action. The service staff are all consummate pros. No one passing through just to have a job. Average age of the waiters (95% men) is probably 50. And they wear black tux with bow ties. Very old school.

      We’re actually within walking distance, about 15 minutes. If you search the blog there’s at least one pic somewhere of an enormous OJs bone in ribsteak. I think they clock in at about 25 oz.



  19. Nate on August 23, 2010 at 14:56

    When I first read your rant…I was furious. How could someone I held in such high regard (I went paleo a year ago very successfully and owe a lot to you Richard) attack my profession?!!

    Well, after reading the comments…I calmed down a bit. I’ve been a server for 20 years and have worked for the past 7 in a fine dining establishment in San Francisco.

    It sounds to me almost like your walking into restaurants with a chip on your shoulder. Ready to be furious if some waiter (who is probably instructed by some micro-managing manager to check on tables at least 2 times) has the audacity to ask if everything is OK with your meal….the nerve!

    I will say this…depending on what price level of restaurant you’re in or type: TGIF vs Gary Danko…the servers are going to have various levels of experience.

    The first and most important thing a server will learn is the ability to read a table within the first minute of saying hello. A seasoned server should be able to tell immediately if the guests want to be entertained, want a tour guide, are foodies and want to talk about it, or just want to be left alone with minimal server presence.

    Every guest is different….the couple that sat down before you complained to the manager because the server never came to check on them…possibly. The couple that sat after you wanted to know all about where the server is from and his/her hobbies. The next couple wants to review the restaurant for yelp and want to ask all kinds of questions because they have become self proclaimed restaurant critics thanks to the internet.
    Now I’m ranting. oops.

    Relax Richard…I think if you go to the higher end restaurants you won’t have this problem. If your at a revolving door server type restaurant…be prepared to be asked how your meal is…oh god maybe twice!!! RAGE!!! They’ve been instructed to do this…talk to the manager if you have a problem with it. The servers aren’t doing it because they are greedy for tips. Most every server I’ve EVER worked with genuinely cares about the guest experience and aren’t acting any particular way to try and coax a tip out of you.

    …and as for the 90% of European fucks who sit there with their San Francisco tourist guidebooks that clearly states the tipping practices of the United States and leave 0-10% for flawless service and pretend that they don’t know…Fuck you.

  20. D on August 23, 2010 at 15:00

    I work as a server. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been complained about for not going over to the table ENOUGH.

    I hate hover. I hate to interrupt. I hate it when people tell the front that they “did not see me enough” and I did not smile enough.

    I think US servers act this way because US customers are a bunch of big fat babies that want your constant attention and you there to refill their sodas 15 times. In fact, on the average, most of my customers make me sick.

  21. Richard Nikoley on August 23, 2010 at 15:08

    Good points on the quality of the average American restaurant goer. Just LOOK at them.

  22. Dan on August 23, 2010 at 15:36

    Let me tell you that this seems to be a very North American thing. I never had this problem in New Zealand or Australia. But when I moved to the USA for a year all of a sudden the waiters kept bugging me and asking me if everything was all ok. Like you I just wanted them to fuck off.

  23. Liza K on August 24, 2010 at 19:49

    Why doesn’t someone teach them how to make change? I just had a $27 check, paid with 2 twenties, and got back a ten and 3 ones. They should bring change so that you can leave 15, 20 or 25%.

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