The Difference Between Men and Women – Surly Waiter Edition

What do you do about surly service? I guess it depends on the type of restaurant, the occasion, the company, a whole host of factors. Or does it?

Two weekends ago, I met two women at Bread and Chocolate in Chevy Chase, a hectic, buzzing place filled with kids, couples and croissants. I was a few minutes late, so I’m not sure what had transpired before my arrival, but our server seemed overwhelmed and not the warmest. My companions seemed a bit exasperated. One was a fellow alumnae who I had seen a few times in DC and on campus at events. We were brunching with the newest member of our women’s leadership group, the third woman.

At the close of brunch, Courtney, the new member, offered to pay the bill and headed out to relieve her babysitter. Mary and I were a minute or two behind her, and we stood outside on Connecticut Avenue for a minute or two to catch up on vacation plans and recommendations. That’s when the drama started.

Our server ran out and interrupted us. What’s this, he asked, waving the check.

I was confused. Our friend paid, did she leave her card? Or not sign the check?

She left me $1 in tip.

Ugh. I grimaced. Both Mary and I laughed uncomfortably. It was certainly a direct move, and the short brunch with Courtney definitely indicated she was unvarnished.

I guess she wasn’t happy with the service, we said and turned to leave.

You must be joking he said. This is my salary, my tips.

That’s when liberal guilt kicked in. I mean it’s Bread & Chocolate, so … I think both Mary and I reached into our bags. I had a $5 so I gave it to him. On a $35 check, not exactly generous, but better than $1.

I was annoyed – at the waiter for accosting us. I’ll admit I was a little annoyed at Courtney for putting us in the situation, although I was impressed by her ballsiness.

Then I got home and recounted the story to my husband. His take, entirely different.

You should have gone to the manager and had him fired. He had no business chasing down customers and hassling them.

True. But really get him fired?

You should complain. That’s not okay. Then the kicker: You think he would have done that to 3 men?

Well, when you put it that way, no. Not that he threatened us. He was an older man, and I towered over him.

That doesn’t matter, said the hub. Think about it. He wouldn’t dare do that to 3 guys.

The irony, three women in a women’s leadership group who spent most of brunch spouting off about the current political situation … we were subjected to poor treatment? Or just aggressive follow up because we were “girls”? Not singled out, of course, but I doubt he would have come out to say anything had it been me with my husband. And let me tell you, he would have had none of that.

So that does cast the events in a slightly different, more uncomfortable light.

Should I have given him the $5? Probably not. But it’s $5 and it made him go away. Or I should say, it made the problem go away.

If we’d just left, would he have followed me to my car, or yelled at me or Mary as we left? And would I have gone to the manager then? Or just do what I’ve been told to do since childhood – keep yourself safe, get away from the situation (calmly, slowly) and move on?

It’s just $5, right?

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One Response to The Difference Between Men and Women – Surly Waiter Edition

  1. Deborah says:

    I also find it interesting/ironic that you had to hear about the injustice of it from Mike (to state the obvious, A GUY). I tend not to read these things with the lens of gender, but it is interesting to do so. I think the waiter was out of line, as Mike suggested. Nonetheless, I’d probably have done exactly what you did. Sigh.

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