Monday, February 27, 2006

Closing shifts and being punished for being good

There was a time at Red Lobster where to be a closer you had to be a very strong, competent server. This was because after all the other staff were cut and home in bed (or more likely two sheets to the wind down the street at the bar) you might get slammed. In fact, you even hoped you would get busy, as the only redeeming quality of closing was getting some extra tables and making some extra coin. Closing means extra work, and taking care of whatever wasn't previously done by your fellow servers. We have a system where we also have a side work checker, who is specifically responsible for checking out servers on their side work (think of a glorified baby sitter for servers who are too irresponsible to actually do their work without someone looking over thier shoulders), so on most nights the additional work takes 15-20 minutes at the end of the evening. Now, with the new 3 table limits, there is no benefit to being a closer. It is more work, for the same pay. To make things worse is the quality of table that comes in this time of night.

Every night, at about 9:00 PM, for some unknown reason the level of quality of our average customer goes from a "C" to a "D-/F" in a matter of minutes. It's like an alarm bell sounds in the ghetto and trailer parks reminding the very worst customers that it's time to make their way to Red Lobster. 7 nights a week we have these dirt bags roll in, and I mean roll in. The stench of the cheapest, most rotton weed rolls off of them like some poor imitation of a Cheech and Chong movie. 7 nights a week, we get 2-5 of these tables. They are stoned to the point they can barely read the menu. The are stoned to the point that you wonder how they managed to find the restuarant without getting into an accident. Had these people just rolled around in a pile of dog crap, they could not smell worse. We're talking contact high by taking thier order level of stoned. And what's worse, about half of these tables have children in tow, generally kids under the age of 10, and often times under the age of 5. These are the tables you know upon approaching that they are going to be high maintenence pains in the asses, who will not tip.

My version of this table Friday night came in at 9:45 PM, and thankfully did not bring any children. The woman orders a Shrimp Cocktail dinner, but it takes her 4 minutes to figure out her sides. Excuse me miss, I just repeated to you the sides 4 times. There's not that many options. You are not the only table in the restuarant. Then following the 4 minute process of choosing a baked potato, they are insolent because you haven't brought them their Hennesey yet. I'm sorry, but I've been standing here the whole time, when was it you thought I would order your drink and get to the bar to bring it back? So I bring out the Shrimp Cocktail meal, and the Ultimate feast her man orders. I slide the shrimp in front of her and she give me a dumb look. It's that look you dread as a waiter - the "my brain was shut off year ago" look, further worsed by the smog of ditch weed. She looks at me and says "what's this?" It's your meal I calmly reply while trying to hold my breath. "I didn't want this." Which part is not what you want? "I wanted fried shrimp with batter!" You ordered the Shrimp Cocktail, that means cold shrimp served without having been fried. "I know I ordered Shrimp Cocktail, I want them fried." I'm sorry, cocktail shrimp are not fried, but I'd be happy to order you our fried shrimp meal, would you like that? "Is it fried?" Yes, that is why it's called the fried shrimp meal. "Bring me that. Why didn't you bring me that the first time?" The meal you ordered is a cold, non-fried shrimp platter, I ordered what you asked for. "Ok, well I don't want this (which I think by this point we've established already)." That's fine mam, I'll order you the fried shrimp.

I swear I'm not making this up. So I walk to the other side of our dining room where the computer is and order the new meal. I have literally been away from the table now for 10 seconds, and I hear "Escuse Me! Yo! Hey, EScuse MEEE! HEY YOU!" in an increasingly loud male voice. I look up, it's my table, the table I just was at. I give the nod that I've heard him. "EXCUSE ME! HEY!!" Now the guy is loud enough the rest of the restaurant can hear him. So I look directly at him, and in a clear, and fairly loud voice, I say "Sir, I will be right with you." He looks somewhat shocked I would speak in such an assertive voice to him, but he shuts up, and I catch out of the corner of my eye a table thinking about applauding me for shutting him up. I finish entering her order (takes about 6 seconds to do this when a guest isn't yelling across the restaurant at you) and make my way back to the table.

What can I do for you sir? "She wants a drink." What would you like I say to her? "I want that (and she point's to a margarita picture). What flavor is it?" It's a margarita mam, it's sour with a the taste of tequilla. "That sounds good."

I walk away at this point, and order the drink. By the time I make it back to the kitchen my shrimp are ready (fried shrimp are done in a blink). I contemplate on whether I should bring them, or wait a minute for my drink to finish so I only have to go to the table once. In the mean time, my other two tables are probably wondering where I've went, as they were both in another section of the restaurant out of sight from this table.

Later that evening, as I'm saying goodbye to a table from another waiter's section, the man from this table leans into me and says "That guy was an ass. You handled yourself well. I would've dropped a tray of food on his head." I look at him, and I suspect he could read in my eyes that the thought had occured to me. I thank him for coming in and he leaves shaking his head. I still have to cash the table out. The final result was a check of $59.72. The man gives me $60, thanks me for the great service. "You're a good waiter" he says, while I contemplate how much damage I could do with a crab cracker before I'm peeled off of him. I take their money and calmly walk away.

I wish I could say this is a rare table, but it's not, it's a nightly occurance in our store, multiple times, to every server. These tables only come out after 9:00 PM it seems. I've been trying to convince our managers we need to lock the doors at 8:55 PM. They are beginning to agree with me, though we all know that will never happen.

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Anonymous said...

Don't you just LOVE when you walk away from a table after asking if there's anything else you can get for them and they proceed to yell at you from across the room as soon as you walk away, or WORSE, following you to the kitchen and tell you they "NEEDED" something else???

Rita said...

Why would your manager allow stoned/drunk people to enter your establishment, much less allow anyone to serve them. If they are already flying, even one drink is overserving them.

All it takes is one drunk/stoned idiot to leave Red Lobster and kills someone in a wreck, and there you go. Lawsuit.

I would think that if someone is visibly drunk, stoned, or smells strongly of alcohol or weed, that would be grounds to ask them to leave, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

Rita, getting our managers to take our side in any guest problem will NEVER happen.

I'm gonna go ahead and point out the white elephant in the room here. All these late night stoned bad tippers....theyre probably all black.

Lobster Boy said...

Anon: In our store, yes, that is the case in about 95% of the time. The thing is, they stiff the black servers, Asian/Indian/Latino/White staff as well. But they unfortunately create a very bad image/stereotype that many blacks have worked long and hard to dispell.

It drives me crazy when they come in with their children while stoned out of their minds. You know they drove to the store. You know with the smell that strong they just put the pipe down to walk in the store.

Lobster Boy

Anonymous said...

Oh we have younger guys come in, order their food (after they burst out laughing as soon as they see you), then take turns going out to the car to smoke some more. If our manager is in a particularly bad mood that day, he'll call the sheriff to come down and put a stop to it, but must of the time its just hell for me.

Ditto on the bad tips for everyone, but the ones that do tip well are an absolute pleasure to serve. I can usually tell by the way they talk to me (I'd like the..., Yes sir, No sir, Thanks) and the way they carry themselves (no flashy jewelry, no overly flamboyant suits) that it wont be too bad. The damage, however, has been done. Just about everyone except the most liberal of servers that I work with will go out of their way to avoid serving black people, even paying other servers to take their table.

Anonymous said...

I think that I love you.

I am a fellow RL employee, and last night I was taking an order for some similer stoners. The man ordered fried catfish with fries and a salad with extra ranch and cheese, and a lemonade. He then informed me that with his catfish he would like some hot sauce instead of the coleslaw that usually comes on the plate. I tried to clarify that coleslaw does not come with catfish, but he just argued,"the COLESLAW! you know, that buttery coleslaw that's kind of white and red...", so I thought for a minute and then replied, "Do you mean tartar sauce?" Sure enough, that's what he had meant. His "girl" had to send her food back, because although she was not allergic to the parsley on the chowder that she gobbled down, nor in the scampi, she WAS allergic to the parsley on top of her lobster tail. A little unusual, but hey, I'm sure it happens all the time : )

Lobster Boy said...

The late night stoners are the worst. We can have bad customers at any time, but it's almost a sure thing every night after 9:00PM.

Lobster Boy