Top 10 Complaints Heard in Restaurants and the Reason They Aren't as Bad as You Think

The point of this list is not to apologize for bad service, bad servers, or a poorly run restaurant. I am not a restaurant apologist. Far from it. I hope I can bring come clarity for you, the restaurant consumer, to situations that might seem unreasonable or inexplicable. At the very minimum, I hope to help you focus your anger in the proper direction when you encounter the situations listed in this top ten list I’ve complied over my seven plus years of waiting tables in a corporate chain restaurant.

Number 10 Complaint: “You need my I.D.? Why? I’m like 34?!!!”

Lets start with a question: How many jobs do you know of that, in the course of normal day, can land you in prison? You might be minding your own business, doing the job as you’ve been trained to do it, and then, with one mistake in judgment, go to jail? As in JAIL. I know one! It’s called waiting tables. Why? Because you didn’t ask the right question to the wrong customer.

At the restaurant I worked in, it was not uncommon to have undercover police officers “sting” our establishment once a month. A “sting” involved the police employing an underage person (usually girl) to order an alcoholic beverage from a bartender or server. If the underage girl wasn’t asked for proof of age the server was arrested, slapped with a large fine (thousands of dollars), and fired from the restaurant. As an added bonus, the guilty party would have extreme difficulty finding another serving job in any restaurant. A very good friend of mine had this happen to him one night. He was one of the hardest workers in the restaurant and made one mistake. He left the restaurant in cuffs. Nice huh? Thank god that’s not the case in your job eh?

These types of operations are common in the business. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t intelligently argue if this type of police action constitutes entrapment. I do have a problem with police intentionally promoting illicit, illegal activities to catch someone committing a crime they weren’t really attempting to commit in the first place. The legality of this action is irrelevant to my top ten list however. As a result, of these practices, there is a significant chilling effect throughout the restaurant industry. I’m here to tell you, there is NO WAY I am going to jail. I card ANYONE who orders an alcoholic beverage. I’ve carded 60 year old women. I’m not kidding. I don’t know why States don’t just mandate that you need a drivers license to drink in public. It would save a whole lot of trouble for everyone involved.

At any rate, producing proof of age is almost never a problem for most people. Most people, who have proof of age, are flattered by the request. It makes them feel younger. However, things get interesting when I card someone who doesn’t have the “card”. In other words, they left their drivers license at home. This happens more often than you might think. The conversation usually goes like this:

Me: What can I get you to drink?

Customer: I’ll have a beer.

Me: Great. Can I see your I.D.?

Customer: Oh, I forgot it in the car…..

Me: I’m sorry. Can I bring you a soda?

Customer: I don’t look 21?!!

Me: Yeah, well I’m sorry. I can’t serve you without I.D….

This is usually where it could go one of two ways. About 50% of the time, people are disappointed but they understand and order a non-alcoholic drink. Typically, it will affect my tips by about 5% but I can live with that. It’s better than jail.

The other 50% of the time is not so pleasant. I’ve had people become irate, ask for my manager, demand I be fired, leave the restaurant, and in the extreme cases, threaten violence if I didn’t produce their beer. On one occasion one “gentleman” did all of the above. The manager eventually caved and forced me serve him his beer. It was awful. This is a classic example of how to get your food spit in. I want to go on record, if that individual is reading this, that I did not spit in their food. But, by all practical judgments, I was entitled.

We don’t ask for your I.D. because we are jerks, hate you, want to make your life miserable, or don’t want you to get drunk. We know you are probably 21. We really do. We also wish we didn’t need to card you at all. But think about it for a moment…. what would you do? We can go to JAIL if we GUESS wrong about your age. That’s really what it amounts too if you don’t have your proof of age. That’s no fun. I won’t do it and that why, if you are in my section, you need your I.D. to drink.

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