Archive | January, 2012

The Waiter Rule

18 Jan

What impression do you want to leave people with? Maybe it is of certainty, of power. Or perhaps it’s as humble. Whatever it may be, most likely you choose positive attributes. But there are a certain few people whose negative personas show through and leave a lasting mark. And those character flaws are most blatantly obvious in this situation: Going out to dinner.
In a USA Today article, it was described as “the Waiter Rule.” That you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats a waiter.
Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson first wrote about the idea in a book called “Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management,” — 33 of his leadership observations.
He said “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person.”
“Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with. Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.”
I can vouch for that.
While out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory recently, a friend and I were seated quite close to a middle-aged couple (a little too close for comfort, I might add.)
At first, I thought nothing of the duo, other than they were dressed nice. Talking about their children, their jobs — you know, commonplace talk. But after awhile, my table was quite absorbed with the two, because of their manners or lack thereof. We didn’t even make much conversation due to our astonishment.
First, the couple made the waiter repeat all of the specials at least three times. Which is fine, maybe they were hard of hearing. But then the woman asked about the tea selection. The wine selection. The water selection. What?
After the waiter was gone, anytime another server (not their own) walked by, the husband snapped his fingers at them with a new demand. Not exaggerating on the snapping part. An absolute no-no in my book.
“I need a knife for this bread, did you think I couldn’t eat it without one?” (Always a non-subtle jab accompanying the request.)
And.
“I need a new knife this one isn’t clean enough.”
And.
“Did you think the last one was clean? This is worse.”
Finally after receiving a third knife, it was time for refills. Of his soda. Of his wife’s hot water for her tea. Twice. Before the appetizers.
A nervous waiter accidentally brought my table’s food to theirs. Which was mass hysteria. The horror! The rude male brought that to their and our attention. And when their fancy fish appetizers came, the table was too small for all of their food. Didn’t think we would ever hear the end of that one. The waiter had to apologize for the smallness of the furniture, even if it was the company’s design.
Ten minutes or so after their appetizers arrived, their food did as well. The husband sat and berated the two female servers for bringing the food out so early.
“Send it back, bring it in five minutes. It better be warm,” he said while shaking his finger at them. It was not a joke. They were shocked and my jaw stayed open at his unabashed remarks.
Our waiter (who wasn’t his) was avidly avoiding their table while trying to wait on ours. My companion and I tried to convey our apologies through eye language.
“We’re sooo sorry. We aren’t anything like this. Hope the rest of your night goes well.” (I hope he understood the eye movements and eyebrow raises as such. Otherwise, we just looked plain crazy.)
I even suggested that he didn’t need to get our cheesecake for us and that we would pick it up at the register and eat it at home, so as to not inconvenience him. (He smiled, and I think then understood that we were sending our sympathies.)
While we stood up to leave, the snapping by the gentleman (or non-gentleman) continued toward another poor unsuspecting waiter.
I wanted to turn around and tell him how rude he was — how he was making other people’s lives miserable while trying to assert his dominance. Was he lacking in something and trying to compensate for it? Or has he just always been allowed to behave in such a way? But I just shook my head, hoping he’d see my disregard for his behavior. If he did see it, I am sure he wouldn’t have gotten it.
All I knew is that he was a jerk. And all the waiters, servers and bartenders knew it. The people sitting around the couple knew it.
People like that want others to know they are above them. When, yes, maybe they have more money or a more prestigious job, but that’s it. Maybe they hope that others will talk about them, in jealousy — but for us, we just talked of the couple’s notoriety. Not the same thing.
I believe what Swanson says about people who are rude to those they feel are beneath them. Completely.
And I also believe that some waiters will spit in your food if you aren’t careful. Just saying.

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