4 Reasons Why Being A Waitress Bites
1. High Maintenance Customers
If there was one thing I dealt with on a daily basis as a waitress, it was customers who expected more from our restaurant than we could provide. We weren't five star, we were barely a hole in the wall in a small town, but we attracted clientele who thought they deserved heaven on a silver platter. Once, a man came in and asked for a steak, then proceeded to send it back three times because it wasn't made to his order. The first time it wasn't rare enough. The second time it wasn't big enough for the price he was paying. The third time it wasn't garnished the way his first two steaks were and he felt that the cooks were purposely trying to make him angry. He ended up calling the manager over and saying that I, as a waitress, should know the difference between rare and medium rare. I understand him wanting to have the meal he paid for, but I wasn't a cook. It wasn't in my job description to make sure the meat was the right shade of pink for him. I wasn't trained to make steak, I was trained to serve it.
That's not the only problem I faced, though food specification was definitely one of the biggest, there was also seat placement. If someone didn't like where they were sitting, they would ask to move. If it was feasible, if we weren't busy and other tables weren't taken, I would happily accommodate them. But there was always that group of people who didn't like that they were given a table instead of a booth and, while I went to get their drinks, would move all on their own. I'd come back to their table and look around dumbfounded because I had no idea where they went off to. Depending on where they moved, I either found them or not. We had a backroom that was sectioned off from the main room and once I had a table disappear into it, so when I couldn't find them I took their drinks back to the kitchen and disposed of them. Ten minutes later a person from that table came to find me and complained that they hadn't been served yet. I apologized, figured out where they were and brought them their drinks, but inside I was yelling at them, "That's why you don't move without asking!"
My favorite people were the ones who had personal grudges against someone because of race, gender or someone they knew at another table. One group of regulars came in and specifically requested to "not have the black server". There was also a table of two people who had that aforementioned server who, whenever she would come to their table, would make racist comments about her when she walked away. We also once got a church group with a woman who requested to move because they thought they were seated next to a couple of gay men. I may never understand why people are prejudice against others for the color of their skin or the company they keep.
2. The Hours Aren't Concrete
Our restaurant was open twenty four hours a day and because my husband and I shared a vehicle, I worked the graveyard shift. My hours were often slated to be 10 pm to 4 am, 6 am on Fridays and Saturdays. This was because I had to be off at a specific time, but it wasn't always true for other people. Their schedule was often 10 pm to volume. New people would come up and ask what volume was and I'd just have to tell them that they'd get off when the managers thought we weren't busy enough to need everyone. Once, on a Sunday night, I went home two hours after I got to work because we were dead. It was during Christmas time and considering we were a college town and everyone had gone home, I understood that. But at the same time I couldn't help but think, "I need the money, even if it's just minimum wage. Why can't I stay?" The managers, however, were required to send people home if paying the staff cost more in an hour than what we were making via the customers. So if the two waitress who wound up staying got busy at two when the bar rush hit, it sucked for them because no one else could be called in and expected to work.
This might not be true for all establishments, the hours not being concrete, but I know that in most you aren't allowed to leave if your section is full. We were supposed to have everything clean by the time we left, but if we're busy from 2 am bar rush to 6 am, we're staying despite the fact that we're scheduled to be off. If you walk out because, God forbid, you have a life outside your job, they fired you for leaving during your shift. If you want to be a waitress, you have to have flexible hours. I was lucky they needed graveyard servers or else I would have been replaced long before I quit.
3. Tips Aren't Reliable
Where I worked we made $2.13 an hour plus tips. However, what the managers failed to tell anyone was that if you didn't make minimum wage between what they were paying you and tips, they had to make up for that. It was illegal in that state to pay someone less than minimum wage, even if they were a waitress. So on slow nights, the people who didn't know about the minimum wage thing, would be sitting at an empty booth crying because they made $20 on an eight hour shift. A lot of them would quit based on that one night, thinking that they were wasting their time. It's true that everyone wants to make more than minimum wage, but in today's society that's better than nothing. I'm fairly optimistic though, there were plenty of people who came and went who weren't.
Tips in general aren't reliable. I don't care what any waiter or waitress will tell you, you are not promised a certain amount of money at the end of the night. There were times when I walked out after having made bank and other times when I was only ten bucks richer than when I entered the joint. The managers always said that the weekends were their big money makers, but I often made forty to fifty dollars more on a weeknight when less servers were working because I could take more tables. The least I ever walked out with was $2 and that was the Christmas break night that I was sent home after two hours. It was pathetic, I'm telling you, but it happens. While being a waitress can earn you a lot of money if you're good, it won't happen every day you work. At least once every couple weeks I had a bad night where I made less than twenty dollars. The reason most people become servers is because they walk home with cash in their pocket every night, when that's not happening, their reasoning for being there is non-existent.
4. Drunk Customers
Working graveyard meant that at 2 am, when the bars closed, anyone who didn't go to a fast food joint came to our restaurant. We served breakfast, lunch and dinner at all hours of the day, so we often got requests for pancakes. It was rumored that pancakes soak up the liquor and that's why we always got hit so hard, but I can't say that there's any truth to that. It wasn't necessarily the drunkeness of the people that bothered me, it was the people themselves.
Everyone knows liquor can loosen inhibitions, so imagine my surprise when I got hit on despite wearing my wedding ring. There were even times when I would openly tell a customer that I was married and they would just shrug and continue doing what they were doing. At the end of a busy bar rush one night a manager was helping clear off the tables and found a napkin on mine that said, "Will you be my baby mama?" It had the guy's name and number on it, which was probably a good idea considering I had no idea who he was. On multiple occasions drunk college boys would leave notes on their receipts or ask that I give them my number. I probably would have been flattered if I wasn't married, or if they took two seconds to tell me their name.
I think my all-time biggest pet peeve were the messes the drunk people made that they didn't tell us about. I have stories upon stories that could fill this category, but I'll only share a couple.
The first is about three couples that came in together, an easy, drunk six top who seemed to be staggering as they made their way to the table. They weren't even mine to take care of, but I helped their waitress because I wasn't busy. One of the guys disappeared into the bathroom and, within ten minutes, I kid you not when I say our entire lobby smelled like someone took a huge dump in it. Then, their waitress comes running from their table, grabs a trash can and runs back because someone in their party was throwing up. The guy in the bathroom leaves and one of his friends goes in and then comes out and says, "It's a little messy in there." Our manager, the only male working that night, goes to check out the situation and doesn't return for fifteen minutes. Turns out there was feces on the toilet seat, on the floor, on the sink and the wall. I don't even want to know how that all happened, but it was one of the most disgusting nights of my life.
The second followed a few days after that when a group got up from their table and started making their way out. Their waitress and I were friends, so I went to help her clean stuff up. They'd left a shirt at the table so I picked it up and followed them to the lobby where the men were waiting for their girlfriends to come out of the bathroom. I offer them the shirt and one of the guys laughs before saying, "We don't need it. It's got blood on it." I dropped the shirt in the middle of the lobby and headed straight for the bathroom to wash my hands; I open the door and the girls in their party were standing in front of the mirror in their bras doing God knows what. I just left, I didn't even know what to think after that.
I don't understand what possesses drunk people to do the things they do. There are some mellow drunks out there, but I got some crazy ones in my time working as a waitress. There were mornings when I would come home and sit on the couch with my husband and just ask him why people were so stupid. If I ever waitress again, believe me, it will not be on a graveyard shift again.