Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Would You Do This at a Restaurant?

     I saw an article recently, and it made me wonder . . .

     A piece called Definitive Proof that People Lie About Food Allergies was posted on July 17 at the website The Bitchy Waiter. The waiter criticized a self-important restaurant guru for recommending that people claim they are allergic to a food, when they really just don't like it. But the server knows that diners are lying when they claim they're allergic to something -- gluten for example -- and then they order a piece of cake for dessert. "It’s annoying and it does a disservice to those who are actually allergic to something because it makes servers think that allergies aren’t really that big of a deal."
     Many people want to eat healthy when they eat out. And so some of them, it seems, just lie to the server about allergies in order to get what they want. Someone doesn't want butter on their food, for example, so they tell the server they're allergic to butter. In other words, they lie, and then the server wastes their time typing in all the modifications into the order which then "goes to the chef to alert the kitchen so they can make sure to not cross-contaminate any of the pans. The kitchen will go through all the trouble to make sure no butter gets near your precious digestive system." But, later on, when the server sees the diner putting butter on a roll, the server will know they made it up. They lied.

     Then, when someone comes in to the restaurant who has a true severe allergy, maybe the waiter won’t take it as seriously because they saw the other diner lying about their butter allergy. "Allergies are a big deal," the server went on to say. "But you know what isn’t a big deal? Not liking something. It only becomes a big deal when you don’t like something and then you tell your server you’re allergic to it when you’re not."

     Other ways to annoy the waiter and waste their time and hold up everyone else in the restaurant:  Insist on no iceberg lettuce in your salad; ask to see an ingredient list for the soup; mix and match various items from different entrees, ordering the cod, but asking the kitchen to prepare it the way they prepare the tuna and plate it with the vegetables from the chicken dish; or just ask the chef to create something special for you that's not on the menu.

     Some people may not like the bitchy waiter. The waiter's job is to serve the customer; so they should just shut up and do the job.

     But I'm with the bitchy waiter. Let them do the job, without harassing them. You want something that the restaurant doesn't have on its menu? Then go to a different restaurant. You want to eat healthy? Don't go to a restaurant at all. Eat at home. It's always healthier to eat at home.

     We used to go out to breakfast with a certain couple that were friends of ours. They would bring their own bottle of real Vermont maple syrup, making sure to tell everyone how horrible the restaurant syrup was -- just liquid sugar with food coloring. Yuck! How could anyone stomach that stuff?

     Okay, at least this couple didn't cause any extra trouble in the kitchen. But, I mean, come on. They were insulting people who worked there as well as other diners within earshot who were happily slurping up their pancakes with restaurant syrup. Why be an obnoxious food snob? It seems to me that people have plenty of opportunities to eat their own real Vermont maple syrup at home. Loosen up a little bit.

     But maybe I'm wrong. The only thing I ever ask at a restaurant is whether there's blue cheese in the salad. I can't stand the taste of blue cheese. But I never claim I have an allergy.

     I saw another item, from the New York Times over the weekend, called Hundreds in Detroit Protest Over Move to Shut Off Water. The piece reported that the city of Detroit, in an effort to save money, decided to turn off water to customers who were overdue on their bill (while also offering assistance for customers with "demonstrated financial need."). In March, when about half the city's customers had outstanding balances amounting to $118 million, the department interrupted service to 15,200 customers. More than half of those who were cut off paid their bills within 24 hours, and their service was restored.

    Maybe I'm stretching it, but doesn't it seem that the half of the people who paid their bills as soon as the water got turned off are kind of like diners who claim they have a food allergy when they don't? In each case, they are taking advantage of a situation, taking advantage of other people.

     The people who didn't pay their bills really could pay -- they just didn't. But the other half, those who still didn't pay their bills, probably have real financial difficulty. They are like the real allergy sufferers who get in real trouble because of the fake allergy sufferers. After all, they're now the ones without water.

     At least, that's the way I read it. But maybe you see it differently.



Linda Myers said...

These days when I go to a restaurant I ask the waiter if there are any items on the menu without sugar. I can always find something. And then I DO NOT order dessert!

Tabor said...

I had never heard of people claiming they have an allergy when they don't. Seems pretty childish to me. And, I agree, that many picky eaters should just stay home or only eat the things on their plate that they like and not talk about it.

Anonymous said...

You'd never like to be with my husband in a restaurant. He gives special, specific orders to everyone, including McDonalds. No salad can come with croutons, bacon or cheese and all dressings must be on the side. Most dishes can not have salt or butter. No dishes can come with french fries, sugar, or anything else HE deems is fattening. He will special order the McDonalds wrap, but only with a plain grilled piece of chicken, so sauces, mayo, cheese, bacon etc. etc. It takes the staff at McDonalds a while to get his order done. And yes! He watches them. He's also been known to walk through a kitchen before he will order (plus the bathroom) And don't worry about inviting him over for dinner, because he will NOT eat your food. Ditto at parties.
Yup. It's a cross I have to bear. And lastly, do NOT, I repeat: do NOT ever place your fork anywhere near his plate or try to attempt to taste his food. You've been warned.
PSS: he will however, taste your food AND he will take half your dessert. (my kids learned to eat super fast when DH was at the table)

Douglas said...

Upon reading this post, I was reminded of a guy who thoroughly annoyed the folks at my favorite eatery across from where I worked in downtown West Palm Beach. He claimed to be a Vegan and he wanted a vegetarian hoagie (this was a hoagie shop, after all). But he got upset because they would not use cleaned utensils in making the sandwich. Extremely upset. Loudly upset. Eventually, the owner simply refused to serve him and told him to get out.

But it was entertaining and we all seemed to agree with the owner.

I am not a picky eater and I do not have any food allergies but I do not like onions (and my stomach doesn't tolerate them well). So I often ask if the item I am ordering comes with onions and, if so, ask the waiter/waitress to put "NO ONIONS" on the order. I am amazed at the number of sandwiches which come with onions but that is not mentioned on the menu. I have had onions served on fish sandwiches and on chicken sandwiches, each without mention on the menu. I have never thought to lie about a food allergy.

Olga Hebert said...

I am with you on this one. (Well, of course, with the exception of the VT maple syrup).
Right now it seems to be a fad to be allergic to or intolerant of gluten. If most of the trendy gluten-free crowd actually knew someone with celiac disease they would want to eat wheat bread simply because they could. It is a terrible burden to have that disease.
I am thinking that many of the people who suddenly were able to pay the water bill also grumbled about those who would get some kind of assistance, not seeing their own role in the disaster at all.

DJan said...

I don't eat out much, because I watch my diet and it's really hard to eat just the right amount when you're at a restaurant. I see those people you are talking about at other tables, but I am not with them. It would be very annoying to be their server, for sure! I enjoyed this post, Tom, but I almost always enjoy everything you write. :-)

Tom Sightings said...

Thanks DJan! I know we eat out too much ... I can tell by the spare tire I wear around my middle. Anyway, I can understand why someone doesn't want fellow diners eating off their plate. B and I do it all the time; but it doesn't bother me when someone else doesn't want to share. That being said, half the reason I decided to have kids was because I knew they would never eat all their food, and I'd be getting extra helpings for the next 20 years!

Olga, I suppose I should admit my bias -- and I hope I don't offend you -- but I am not a big fan of maple syrup. However, I DO like VT cheddar cheese!

Stephen Hayes said...

You make an excellent point. I have a good friend and he's allergic to melons and several types of nuts. I've been present when he asked a waitress if nuts were in something and was told "no." We ended up in the emergency room. So yes, people shouldn't play around with fake allergies.

Anonymous said...

I use to be a server and saw what happened in the kitchen, not the sweetest things, if you annoy a server to the point of frustration you are gonna get some instant Karma in the food you eat..I always tip well and when I have a request for something I do when I order and it ain't a lot..If something comes out not exactly the way I like it I ignore it, most servers are working that job and another just to provide food, housing, hydration and clothing for their kids cause they never get child support..Not only that I am an excellent cook and we don't go out much at all, my hubs is a great cook too, so when we do go out we behave ourselves it is a tough tough job plain and simple and doesn't pay much and people in the northwest part of the country just don't tip at all!

Janette said...

don't tip at all? Heck- 20% was added to my last family gathering outside of Seattle.

I really despise the threats that I hear from waiters that they will spit in your food or other disgusting things if you do not like what they present to you. They have no idea how much I will tip- which is rarely under 20% and more if the tab is small. What other profession would tolerate spitting in the customer's stuff? Waiters in the places I go make more money then most professionals. Quit with the poor me stuff. I wish we would go to paying a wage and forgetting tipping all together.

My son in law is allergic to cinnamon. We get the rolled eyes when he orders. On the two occasions his plea was ignored we ended up with epi shots and a trip to the ER. You would be surprised how many sauces have cinnamon in them!

Pam said...

Tom, what a great post! Once in awhile, when I dine out alone, I find it fascinating to observe the patrons and wait staff, both. You never know what you'll see. Sometimes it's kindness and gratitude, but oftentimes, people are simply thoughtless. It doesn't matter whether you're at a fast food or fine dining, either. It's symbolic of the world we live in. Wish we could find a way of enforcing the Golden Rule. Once again, thanks for this thought provoking post. It's a reminder that each of us can make a difference (let's hop it's a positive one).

Anonymous said...

I used to hate olive oil, but now I like it. I don't have any food allergies, and if I did, I just wouldn't eat at a restaurant.

Kirk said...

There are lots of high-maintenance types around, and clearly they don't modify their behavior at restaurants.

My daughter is working a part-time job at McDo while school is out, and had this gem to report. A customer in the drive-through lane stated that he wanted his order to go. That was a "doh!" moment.

On the other side of the coin was a lady in the drive-through who ordered 30 kids meals. Very inconsiderate of people in line behind her as well as the window staff.

#1Nana said...

I am a picky eater. When I eat I want food the way I like it. I don't want mayo or pickles. If I get it, after requesting it be eliminated, I will send it back. It is not a criticism of the restaurant menu. I just want it the way I like it. If I can't be accommodated, I'll go elsewhere. I don't think that's unreasonable. It's only food...

Gabbygeezer said...

"Honesty is the best policy" comes to mind. And, being considerate of others isn't a bad idea either. Good topic, which I haven't seen elsewhere.

Rita said...

I have a lot of allergies, food and other, but fortunately most of my food allergies aren't life-threatening.

I agree it's a bad idea to lie about allergies at a restaurant.

You need to be truthful and kind to the waiters. That's how you want them to act.

The only thing I ask for is a substitution for the French fries.