“Servers Are Not Entitled To An Opinion”

…and other phrases that will get you permanently banned from a restaurant.

Disclaimer: This is not my story. This happened to a coworker of mine on shift yesterday. He surely handled it with more poise and grace than I would have.

Follow along with me as I go through the steps to recreate yesterday’s 86ing (banning) of a couple at the white table cloth steakhouse I work at:

Step 1 – Enjoy a delicious meal prepared by professionals and get to know your server.
Step 2 – Assume your server shares your prejudices based on his seeming comfort level in telling you little bits and pieces about his happily married life and his awesome wife.
Step 3 – Pay your tab and set up camp, hanging out at your table long passed when your meal was finished.
Step 4 – While your server quietly refills your water, insist he ask the next table over to buy you a round of drinks.
Step 5 – When he refuses and expresses discomfort at the homophobic slur you used to describe said people ONE TABLE OVER, proceed to get louder and louder, voiced powered by what I can only assume is the hatred you like to pretend isn’t spawned from your own failures.
Step 6 – Make half the restaurant uncomfortable at both your noise level and your condescending attitude.
Helpful Hint: Use phrases such as ‘Servers are not entitled to an opinion’ and ‘Their kind should be used to it’.
Step 7 – Ask to speak to a manager.
Step 8 – Repeat honest account of the events that just transpired. Include more homophobic slurs at a volume usually reserved for concert halls.
Step 9 – Leave, as you have now been banned permanently from the premises.

There’s quite a bit to address with the story above isn’t there? Can people be rightfully barred from a restaurant for language? Well. Clearly yes. Servers, for all our apparent lack of entitlement to opinions, do have a right to refuse service for any number of reasons. Personally, I’ve only invoked it once and it is kind of an awkward situation to be in. (I refused service to a pregnant woman who wanted to order a 42oz margarita at the Mexican restaurant I used to work at. All others at the table were underage, so she definitely had no intention of sharing. My manager had to step in as no other server would serve her either.)
Then there’s the language itself. How often do people forget the childhood motto of: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. How hard is that? Apparently very. And honestly, sometimes I get it. Serving can be stressful and the service industry is almost as well known for our crude language as our high rates of alcoholism, BUT there’s a huge difference between the malicious, aggressive way this couple kept referring to other guests, and the near goofy way one of my fellow servers refers to himself as ‘Glam Chowder’ while being especially flamboyant. He’s also gay, so there’s that as well. Intent matters almost as much as content.

I wish I could say I would have stood up to the couple as my coworker and manager did. I’m not sure I would have, at least not without pulling the ‘Christian upbringing card’. You see, it is easier to let homophobic and racist and sexist and every other discriminatory behavior slide when you know the users of such are paying your bills. And even if you do say something? Oftentimes you have to translate your discomfort into something palatable to the guest. It’s not enough that their racist remark is insulting and awful, no, I have to mention that Jesus taught me as a little kid to treat others as I would like to be treated and to love my fellow man.
You know… I have no idea where I was going with any of this. It was just terrible and made me brood, so I wanted to write it down. And then in writing it down, I decided to share it. With you lucky folks. What do you think? Did we, as a restaurant, overreact? Should people be allowed to say whatever they want, where ever they want? Questions, I have them.

Jessie Gutierrez

PS: This is only the second time I’ve written about my day job and both times I’ve been upset. Probably not a bad percentage given all my writing now on this site. If you’re curious about the first you can find it here.

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