I was working as a waitress at a hotel restaurant. It was my first job so I didn’t have much experience and the restaurant was always woefully understaffed. People would just call in 5 minutes before their shift started and cancel or simply not turn up – and for some reason the managers never fired them! So the service was always pretty shoddy – with the best will in the world, one waitress can’t cover an entire restaurant. It was the only restaurant in the area; I think that’s pretty much the only reason people came – it was very expensive and the portions were pretty small!
The other problem was – I was 17 at the time, and unable to serve alcohol (in England you have to be 18). So every time a customer wanted wine or beer… I’d have to search out one of the elusive managers to serve them. It didn’t make for speedy service and I could completely understand the customer’s frustration.
There was a lovely older gentleman who frequently came in for lunch, Bill. He didn’t get annoyed when each drink took a lifetime to arrive. He didn’t even get annoyed when the food arrived burnt; he’d ask me very politely to send it back. That in itself was a miracle – most people don’t seem to understand that the waitress serves the food, but doesn’t make it, and so they become the target of their anger. Burnt meal aside, things were going okay (well, by that restaurant’s standards anyway) until dessert/coffee. I served Bill coffee… and accidentally spilled some on his leg. Burning him with scalding coffee is bad enough, burning a customer who is eating something so he begins to choke – far worse. Not having learned first aid at that point, my only solution was to thump him on the back, at which point my manager arrived and asked me what happened. Bill, bless him, said nothing, but I explained everything that happened and got very publicly yelled at and banished to the kitchen (with Bill looking incredibly awkward… we were right next to his table!!). At this point I had burst into tears and apologised many times and then went to the kitchen as ordered.
This lovely man not only left me a big tip, but was very concerned about *me* the next time he came in, and took the time to say he understood it was an accident and I wasn’t a bad waitress!! What a sweetheart.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised to know that the hotel closed around a year after that incident. People got fed up. And after that I stuck to working in a shop – less possibility of burning the customers. I still feel guilty about all the customers I know who had a dinner from hell experience there!