A Novel Complaint

“Table one wants to see a manager.”

As a restaurant manager, my lap is a proverbial dumping ground where servers regularly invite grumpy and entitled customers to sit. In the prevailing I don’t get paid enough to deal with this shit culture which permeates the service staffs in most eateries, the feces usually rises to the top – and most days I just happen to find myself occupying the highest rung on the crapometer ladder.

“What am I walking into,” I ask so I know which one of my standard I really don’t care about your petty bullshit but I’m getting paid to fake it so let’s get this over with responses I need to dust off.

“Something about not being happy with the Salmon Oscar.” And with that he scurried off to prevent the world from entering cataclysmic chaos by refilling countless half-full iced teas while simultaneously making sure there was enough artery-clogging butter to slather every bread morsel in sight.

Now before any panties inevitably get bundled, let me explain. Complaints are as unavoidable in the service industry as homophobia is at a Southern Baptist convention, and every restaurant manager understands and accepts this – at least the complaint part. But just as there are different degrees of socially-sanctioned discrimination based on religion, so too are there acceptable degrees of bitching when it comes to your food. If, as a restauranteur, we screw up for whatever reason and it’s entirely our fault that your expectations weren’t met then I will be the first person in line with puckered lips ready to kiss your ass and make things right regardless of how chapped your butt cheeks have to be to get there. That’s how good businesses operate, and any successful manager knows that. If, however, you’re a charter member of the 95 percent of unreasonable and entitled individuals who complain in restaurants whose primary goal in life is to be entitled and unreasonable – then I’ll sniff you out and escort your gift-card-seeking ass on its merry way, because you are more of an opportunist than a customer. Businesses don’t remain open very long by catering to opportunists, and it’s my job as a manager to be both a caretaker for the company that employs me as well as to the employees whose livelihoods I’m responsible for.

I approached table one with all the enthusiasm of a South Carolinian being forced to watch the dismantling of a Civil War statue. And there I found them: A woman sporting what I assumed was her normal upside down smile accompanied by her two teenage fuck trophies. I could immediately sense that the cloud of disappointment that hung over them was about as welcome as raindrops falling on the Daytona 500.

“I understand you requested to see a manager?”

She sighed as if she were exhaling her very soul while pointing at the empty plate that sat in front of her. “I eat here all the time, and I have to tell you this is the most disappointing experience I’ve ever had.”

I stood there anxiously counting the seconds until her next iambic pentameter, but was instead greeted with the sort of deafening silence that would make most monks envious. So I was forced to coax the next sonnet from her.

“Do tell.”

“Well, I always order the Salmon Oscar,” she confessed in her best Shakespearean impersonation. “But today it came out cold the first time.”

I again eagerly awaited her sequel with the kind of fervor usually reserved for a Star Wars enthusiast clamoring for the next overdue installment. But being the sort of reclusive storyteller that would make even J.D. Salinger seem like an over-exposed socialite, she forced me to prod her even further for the much anticipated follow-up edition.

“And did you inform your server about this?”

“I sure did,” she proudly announced. “He took it back to the kitchen and had the chef heat it up.”

Not unlike a well-crafted novel that just can’t be put down until every word has been voraciously consumed, I stood there anticipating the next episode in her saga the same way a pre-pubescent clings to every syllable regurgitated by J.K. Rowling.


“Well, he brought it back,” she confessed. “The plate was hot, but the salmon was still cold.”

Like a Michael Crichton thriller adventure leading its reader down unexpected twists and turns, I hung on for dear life as she continued to tease me with her rollercoaster of a yarn that had me buckled in for the long haul, not entirely sure what unexpected sensation awaited me around the next corner.

“And it appears that you ate the entire entrée.”

“Well, yes I did,” she divulged. “By then I was hungry and didn’t want to cause a scene by sending it back a third time. But I didn’t enjoy it at all.”

And it was then that I arrived at the final page of her script, only to find our heroine comfortably nestled in a pile of hubris while impatiently awaiting the offer of the complimentary meal which would assuredly right all the unjustified wrongs she had experienced in her life up to that point.

But I wasn’t buying – either her fairy tale or dinner.

You see, our chef doesn’t send out cold food. Ever. And every refire is required to be delivered by either a Sous Chef, a Manager, or the Chef himself – whoever is most available when the food is ready. And upon delivery of the entrée, we require the guest to sample the food in front of us and concur that it is indeed acceptable and up to his or her standards before we walk away – thus eliminating the possibility of the scenario I currently found myself in.

Game. Set. And match.

“Since you ate your entire meal there really isn’t much I can do for you about that,” I told her while acknowledging her empty plate for added emphasis. “However, as a consolation I’ll be happy to buy you a couple of desserts which all of you can enjoy after your children have finished their meals.”

After digesting my compromise, her frown grew a frown it could call its very own. To make matters worse for her, her loin fruit lit up at the thought of getting the dessert which apparently hadn’t been part of their mother’s original extortion game plan.

‘Well, I don’t think that will actually work for us,” she craftily countered with the sort of whine that makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound like an afternoon of Mozart in comparison. “You see, we’re in a hurry and don’t really have time to stay for dessert.”

“Oh, that won’t be a problem. I’ll tell your server to package them up so you can take them with you. Have a nice day now and we’ll look forward to seeing you again next time.”

The End.

Terry Everton is a cartoonist and “wage slave.” Read other articles by Terry, or visit Terry's website.