We’ve all snapped at a busy bartender or gotten surly with a waiter for messing up an order. Many of us regret it and have apologized, moving on with our lives. But what about those on the other end of it?
After working in Boston’s restaurant industry for many years and listening to the stories from folks behind the scenes of instances like the ones above, Patrick Maguire, a manager at jm Curley, says a “proverbial light bulb” went off in his head.
“Instead of commiserating so often, I wanted to be proactive about bringing the stories to the general public, about what it’s like to be on the other side,” he says.
Although his background is in the restaurant business, Maguire knew that other people in the service industry had similar gripes about their experiences with customers. He distributed questionnaires, garnered over 200 responses and decided he was onto something here. Maguire hopes to turn his findings into a book, an anthropological look at human interaction in the service industry, if you will.
“It’s a significant project,” says Maguire. “People ask, ‘who’s your audience?’ It sounds far-reaching to say that everyone is, but it’s true.”
Everyone is the audience, because we all come face-to-face with service industry workers on a daily basis. From your MBTA bus driver to the Starbucks barista pouring your coffee, to the bank teller cashing your checks, or the bartender making your drinks after a long day, most of us don’t even realize how often we are “the customer” in a 24-hour period.
While Maguire collects data for his book, he has documented his findings on a blog, aptly titled, “I’m Your Server, Not Your Servant.” From service industry stories to tips and tricks for being a kind, respectful customer, the blog is an in-depth look at how to act like a human being.
Two of my favorite posts are 64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers and 64 Suggestions for Bar Customers, which detail how to act appropriately when you sit down to be served food and drinks. Many of these may seem like common sense, but there are some real jerks out there who don’t know how to behave like decent human beings when being waited on.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the posts:
- Don’t be rude when you’re trying to get the bartender’s attention. Eye contact, a raised finger, pushing your empty glass closer to the bartender, holding up a bill while standing, Excuse me, Pardon me, and, When you have a moment please, all work well. The following are off-limits; Yelling barkeep, barmaid, cheesy nicknames (Captain, Kid, Tiger, Chief, Big guy, Champ,Sport, etc.), Hey, Gimmee, Get me, followed by anything; rattling your empty glass on the bar or snapping your fingers. Flagging is for cabs and whistling is for dogs. Simple rules even cavemen should know…
- Respect the fact that restaurants and bars can’t accommodate every single request about room temperature, music, inventory of beers and liquor, special food orders, etc. (I witnessed a customer complaining to a manager about the cold air whenever guests went out an “emergency only” exit that had a sign on it asking guests to use the main door. After bitching her entire meal, she proceeded to use the same emergency exit when she left…)
- Never ask the dreaded, insulting questions, Is this your real job? or, What else do you do? Believe me, the job is real.
- Don’t leave a shitty tip because you’re from out of town and will, never see these people again.(Tipping will be covered in future posts.)
- Be reasonable and flexible. Dining out is a fluid, dynamic event involving imperfect human beings and several moving parts.
- Excuse me, Please and Thank you. It’s not that hard.
The cardinal rule? According to Maguire, “It all comes down to mutual respect and common courtesy. It’s not that hard.”
Something to remember when we head out on the town this weekend.
Image via vipdictionary.com