Servers Are Not Servants

23 Jun

I’m talking in particular to the two women next to me at the Cheesecake Factory last night.

Some people have a weird attitude toward servers, because of the word, I guess. A server is there to serve your meal to you – as in, ascertain what it is you’d like to eat and drink, and then bring it to you from various stations in the restaurant, and also to provide you with other items to facilitate your meal, things like silverware and napkins and mustard.

Some people, including my immediate neighbors at the Cheesecake Factory last night, have become slightly confused by the term. They appear to believe that servers are servants.

There is a pretty big difference.

For instance, a server is there to serve your meal to you. Your server is not there to generally serve you. That would be how it were if you were a queen or a duchess, and I realize, if you’re rocking into the Polaris Cheesecake Factory with a bunch of shopping bags, and your pal, then you might be under the impression that you are a queen or a duchess.

Even the staff at most restaurants is trained to treat you like that – competition is stiff. But they are still not really servants. For example, if you were to demand that your server drop to his or her knees and kiss your feet, your server would not be required to do so. That would be what a servant, or a slave, or a hump-backed manservant would be required to do.

And anyway, you know, just because you can get away with treating someone like a servant to some degree, that doesn’t mean you should do it. What if your grandmother could see you, talking to this human being like that?

Here’s what the two very charming women next to me did – and I’m not going to describe them, because I could probably be pretty scathing and mean, and their appearance had nothing to do with their behavior.

It’s just that they were pretty typical. If you know what Polaris Mall is, and you know what the Cheesecake factory is, and you just imagined two women walking in and treating the staff like servants, then there is a good chance that you have accurately pictured this pair.

I’ll bet, for instance, that about one year ago, they were sitting in that very Cheesecake Factory, sipping martinis and demanding to know “Where’s my bailout?”

Yes. Quite.

Anyway, when they came in, the first thing they did was discuss whether or not to sit in the only two bar stools available, which were right next to me.

They discussed this for a long enough time that I turned and made a big show of scooting my own stool down, leaving enough room for my pal Shawn and my brother Dave to sit down comfortably if they’d been there, and eat a plate of wings.

Eventually they decided – without acknowledging my presence or my actions or my words at all – that although the stools were not made of gold and did not have satin pillows upon them, they were going to have to suffice.

So they settled into them, and the bartender was right on top of it. She appeared and politely asked what she could get them, and then the two of them fired eighteen questions at her about vodka and martinis and their general ability to hold alcohol and enough other topics that I soon began to block them out.

My thinking was, you know, for a couple of apparently veteran shoppers and veteran happy hour patrons, you two sure don’t seem to have any idea what you’re doing.

This person is busy. And you two ladies are adults. If you don’t know what to drink, why not ask her to give you a moment.

You’re acting like you’ve never been in a bar before, and the thing is – I know you’re doing it for attention. You love the fact that this person has to serve you. So you’re going to savor the experience.

That’s fine. I was just over there typing – they kind of vaguely didn’t like the laptop, either, but couldn’t think of a way to phrase a complaint. I’ve been a bartender in the past, and this bartender could surely handle it.

So anyway, the bartender very, very politely filled their order. And then the ladies ordered an appetizer of chips and guacamole and salsa. The bartender asked them if they’d like the mild or the hot guacamole, and they said that the hot would be fine.

Are you sure, asked the bartender.

Oh, yeah, they assured her, waving her off – like a servant, one might say. Don’t even worry about it – we love the spicy stuff.

I wasn’t there very long, but I was there long enough to see their appetizer arrive, and to make brief eye contact with the bartender when one of the women immediately began barking about how the salsa was too hot.

“It wasn’t that hot the last time I ordered it,” she declared. Sitting in a chain restaurant, the problem wasn’t her memory, it was the appetizer. I mean, the bartender is here every day, and you two rock on in whenever you feel like it, so most likely, you’re the ones who are right about what’s normal, on the menu.

No problem, said the bartender. Let me take this off your bill and get the mild version out here.

So then instead a manager guy in a tie came out, looking tired. He took a deep breath and said, “We are out of avocados. That was the last guacamole we can make.”

Now I heard him the first time, and he wasn’t even talking to me. But of course these two charming ladies had to squawk about it for a bit.

“What?!” One of them demanded. You know, not the kind of word where you genuinely didn’t hear someone, but more like you’re telling them, you’d better change that answer this time, cause I’m going to have your head.

“You’re joking, right?” The other said – the dinner rush in full swing.

Sure, the manager is over here to crack jokes with you because you’re such a fun couple of gals.

So he told them again, and then got similar responses, and then he patiently told them again. Really keeping it together quite well, if you ask me.

“But that’s the only reason we came here!” One of them insisted, which she may or may not have known, had no effect on the lack of avocados in the building. The guy wasn’t bluffing.

And also, ladies, if I may – let me get this straight. You had a hankering for some chips and salsa and guacamole, so you headed for the Polaris Mall Cheesecake Factory? It would have been rude to lean over and knock on their heads and ask if McFly was home, but that’s what I almost did.

I left and scooted out to upload Future Tom, and I imagine everybody survived the appetizer incident. But it had me thinking all day about this need people have to treat people like servants, simply because they can get away with it.

It’s not good for anyone. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for the servers.

Bartenders and servers almost always like me instantly, and the reason is that – although I could no doubt get away with treating them like garbage – I refrain from it, and instead treat them like human beings who are being nice to me. As a result, I get along with them better.

I know, it hardly makes sense. Lots of people do it already. Some folks – like these two ladies – ought to go ahead and try it out.


Posted by on June 23, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag


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3 responses to “Servers Are Not Servants

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