Some Like It Hot

May 7, 2010

in Food & Drink Stories

I’m a server who’s been working in Chinese restaurants for years, even though I’m not Chinese.

I had a group of four customers who’re older who used to come in at least once a week — and commence immediately telling me and anyone who’d listen that every single thing they got was “ice cold.”

Except perhaps for the steam that comes out of an espresso machine, I defy you to find a restaurant that does a better job of serving piping hot tea, soups and sauces than a Chinese restaurant.

One day I’d had it. I’d made them their lemon-waters (with straws, and one of them “ice-on the side”) and then the ring-leader, a self-important older gentleman who thought his snide comments were funny, ordered “iced tea all around… ’cause you can never get it right when we ask for it hot.” The other three let this guy get away with his outlandish behavior and at times cheered him on. The man had a mean streak that he tried to cover-up with bad, Borscht-belt type jokes.

I made four iced teas, freshly brewed and garnished delightfully. When I brought them to the table he announced that he was just kidding and that I should “get your ass back to the kitchen and boil some water for tea.”

By that time another server had brought them all their soup, (brought at a just barely boiling temperature) which the kitchen put in hot bowls. All but one soup was sent back… you know why.

I was so angry I was trembling. I went into the kitchen and heated up some teacups, which I brought out on saucers. Then, I took the metal handle of the teapot and held it in a stovetop fire until it was almost red hot. When I poured the tea into the pot it boiled up and out of the top. I finally got enough tea in the prepared pot and gingerly placed it on a large plate, atop a carefully folded napkin. I presented the prepared plate and teapot to Mr. Ring-leader and walked away quickly. I could hear his screams across the dining room.

To my surprise, the foursome continued to return to the restaurant (they were cheap, too, and we were one of the cheapest places in town to get a meal). But I guarantee you they never again complained about anything being cold.

– Xiao Gou

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

liz May 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm

instead of being a vindictive asshole, i would have gone to the manager and let them know exactly what the douchebag and his group of douches was saying and doing to you. intentionally injuring someone by being that vindictive is insane. the manager would have done a lot better at remedying the situation, by kicking the douches out and letting them know to NOT come back.

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yudelnoodle June 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm

If a patron constantly complains that their food and beverages are too cold or not hot enough and ask you to remake them, while they may try to sue they asked for a hotter item. However if it were me, while I am all about customer service I do not tolerate habitual disrespect, especially if a patron told one of my staff to "get their ass back to the kitchen". I am very patient but that sort of behavior is inexcusable.

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Karl May 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm

You were wrong! Remember that old spinster suing McDonald's spilling hot coffee on her lap? I would have sat down with the manager and explain the situation about those four. I am sure he would go over there and tell them they are not welcome anymore.

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James March 28, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Suit would have been difficult — McDonalds lost not because of the single incident, but because they had repeated incidents and did not act.

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Clare May 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I understand your frustration with these asshole customers, but did you ever stop to think that people like this who complain about everything are also the type to sue someone at the drop of a hat? The guy who got burned could have easily sued you and the restaurant for burning him.

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Xiao Gou May 8, 2010 at 6:56 am

It didn't occur to me at the time that if a customer were injured there may be legal repercussions. The guy didn't sue (perhaps, again, because we were the cheapest place in town to have a sit-down dinner and he didn't want to have to pay extra to someone else if we 86'ed him 'cause he was a litigant). At the time, I was the "assistant manager" — but I had to serve customers as well. The owner wouldn't have given me the option of throwing them out and asking them never to come back; she was amazing when it came to rude, demanding customers — putting up with personalized insults and no end of abuse. For her, it was all about getting the customer's money (whether they left a gratuity for us or not). She even welcomed the roughest scrappers back a day or two after they'd broken a goodly amount of glass in the bar, is how bad it was…

As a value-priced location, we had to put up with all sorts of morons who exist at the low end of the dining spectrum. I've done white tablecloth and I can tell you that even though those customers are paying far more, they're far less needy.

Re: legal exposure: Currently I'm G.M. at an Asian-Fusion place and can tell you that we pay a fortune in insurance premiums because it seems like every other month someone slips and falls in our (newly-paved and brightly lit) parking lot, or on the no-slip tiles in the restrooms, or hurts themselves somehow with one of our dishes served on a sterno warmer (or even the fire in the little hibachi in the center of a Puu-Puu platter). There's a huge concentration of lawyers in our state and our area of the state, and they go chasing after what they can.

Silliest (and frivolous) lawsuit? The trash that got rich by suing everyone and everybody who came in the restaurant (we found out her litigious history after the fact) and harped and complained that we couldn't seat her exactly at her reservation time. Three weeks later: lawsuit for "emotional suffering and embarassment." That one was tossed out of court pronto — and her lawyer was given a slap on the hand by the State Bar Association.

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Xiao Gou May 8, 2010 at 11:00 am

By the way, to commenter Liz, I ask you who was the *real* asshole in this situation? Me for solving something I couldn’t solve by the usual route — tossing ’em out; or the customer, who literally said to me “get your ass back in the kitchen and boil some water for tea”? My behavior was vindictive, yes; but it *changed* their behavior — and we ended up coexisting without the enormous games and animosity that existed before I did this.

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@KravVegan April 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Still you. You physically injured another person – wtf is wrong with you?

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yudelnoodle June 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm

he wanted it hotter, you made it hotter. i've had people complain that their coffee is too hot, too cold, too strong, too weak… i don't blame you one bit. you did what he asked.

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Billy May 10, 2010 at 3:07 am

Question: Is Xiao Gou a name or does it mean something in Chinese?

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LRKRMLN March 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm

"Xiao Gou" means "small dog" in Chinese.

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First Man May 10, 2010 at 7:06 am

Nice one Xiao Gou!! That was totally awsome!!!

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og May 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

pretty funny. but tell us…if you've been doing this for years wouldn't you make better tips at a place that's not one of the cheapest chinese joints in town?

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Jack May 10, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Not if you are a lousy, mean spirited, sour waitress, who should be working in a Blockbuster or something. What good restaurant would hire you?

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anon May 11, 2010 at 7:55 am

right on Jack!

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Xiao Gou May 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I don’t work at this place anymore. I was doing the family a favor (my wife’s sister owned the place). Currently I manage and bartend at a much more upscale Chinese place. And perhaps I come off as being lousy and mean-spirited but these days I’m making 25% of sales in tips at least at my bartending gig. So I guess I’m not all that bad…

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Jack May 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Purposely burning a patron puts you in the "bad" category in my book. If someone at the bar you work at now ticks you off, what are you going to do, put broken glass in his highball?

Seek help!

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anon May 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

you said it jack! this guy needs some serious help if he thinks it's ok to purposely injure a patron, no matter how much of an asshole they are. the customer should have called the police

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Xiao Gou May 13, 2010 at 6:48 am

Gentlemen, gentlemen!

The customer wasn't hurt seriously at all. It was his ego that was bruised more than anything else. He snatched his hand away from the offending teapot because it was so extremely hot he couldn't have possibly picked it all the way up; nor could he have done serious damage. The noise he uttered, which was indeed heard throughout the restaurant, was more like a combination of surprise and the admission of defeat on his part.

You guys are making it sound like I scarred him with a hot fireplace poker!

Who should get help here… me or the entitled idiot who, with a straight face and after causing me no end of trouble, told me to "get my ass back to the kitchen…" in front of mixed company?

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Nick May 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm

You should get help. That behavior is totally inappropriate. What if he would have tried to pick up the teapot and spilled the boiling water all over himself because it was too hot to handle? Then you are talking about potentially serious burns all over a person's legs, genitals, etc. Does that seem like appropriate behavior because he hurt your feelings? As a waiter, I understand that demanding and unreasonable customers are not pleasant to deal with, but responding with planned physical violence is wholly inappropriate and realistically you should be facing criminal charges.

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Xiao Gou May 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Hey, Nick!

"Coulda, woulda, shoulda." The customer didn't get hurt and in fact he realized he was wrong. End of story.

Nobody called the cops. That seems to upset you. Why don't you? You haven't anything else to do with your time. Call your local police department and tell them that there's this guy on the internet who burned an old man (who was asking for it) in 1995. Perhaps they'll get a detective on the case. Perhaps, even, since I've described it on a public website you can call in the F.B.I.

This guy didn't just "hurt my feelings." He played tricks with me and my fellow servers as if we were trained animals (in fact, trained animals wouldn't have gone back-and-forth as much as we did, absent a reward).

You tell me that my response was "wholly inappropriate." What about the idiot who was playing games with myself and my staff? How inappropriate is that?

Actions, my friend, have consequences. No matter how "unfair" you or "inappropriate" you may think the results, actions have consequences. Can I safely assume that you've called the police to your aid each and every time a bar-room argument erupts, or perhaps even when someone cuts you off while driving?

I'd hazard a guess that the reason you're so scared is because you've finally encountered a server who'll actually question your own abominable behavior in restaurants; and you feel that your safety's at risk, now. Good. The police won't be there for you at every turn. Grow up.

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Nick May 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

I would draw your attention to the fact that you are the one sharing these stories and are soliciting opinions regarding your behavior. Your post to which I initially replied questioned "Who should get help here…?". Now, because my opinion of the situation doesn't support your alarming self-justification for your actions, you want to launch into comments regarding my reaction to situations. As silly as the conclusions you attempt to reach are, my reactions are not what is being discussed here.

The fact in this situation is the customer made requests of you and other servers that you considered unreasonable and that he did so in an unpleasant manner. He did not physically assault you or put you or anyone else in physical danger. Yet, you somehow think that putting him in physical danger was not only acceptable, but justified. The appropriate response to a customer making unreasonable requests is to bring said requests to the attention of management. An inappropriate response would be to dispatch vigilante justice by attempting to injure the customer.

Again, as you are the one soliciting opinions regarding your behavior, I would encourage you to take note of the fact that the vast majority of responses to your blog feel you acted inappropriately in this situation. If you are not mature enough to accept the consensus opinion regarding your inappropriate behavior, perhaps you should reconsider sharing these situations in a setting where feedback is given.

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Jack May 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

Well said Nick!

However I think we are all being had. Mr. Xiao Gou's stories seem far fetched. I think he is writing fiction to gain attention. I doubt he has had as successful a career in the restaurant business as he depicts. His actions and his philosophy of management are outrageous to the extreme. I've worked in restaurants, retail, and sales, and have been eating in restaurants for many years, and I've never encountered the openly racist, insane, and rude customers he describes. Me thinks they are but figments of his rather warped imagination.

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Lizzi May 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Ya know Jack, I agree with you. After reading these stories and another one he put in a comment on Stuck Serving, I think he's just looking for attention and is seriously warped and insane

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GiGi May 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I take exception to you Lizzi. I think that Xiao Gou is the Jack Bauer (or for those who remember him, Billy Jack) of servers!

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Jack May 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I think it's rather amusing, that you find this guy amusing.

Jack Bauer? Are you kidding me? Billy Jack? Oh please!

At Your Service May 21, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Ahhh, F these haters Xiao Gou! They've obviously never waited tables. Right on for getting back at those dinosaurs for their badgering. I have to deal with that bull on a regular basis as well. I once had a table of 6 seniors who sent their vegetables back FOUR times because the broccoli wasn't "tender" enough for their teeth. By the time they considered it edible, the broccoli was all brown and mushy and barely discernible from the sauce it was in. Go superglue your dentures in, seniors… then come back to eat. It's annoying! We should be able to complain about it!

This IS a rant site. Why don't we let the haters on here, the ones who just like to stalk out stories and pounce on them like they were a piece of meat, tearing them to shreds with their criticism… why don't we let THEM post some stories on here from now on??? Because it's funny… for all they complain, I can't seem to find many stories written by these "judges" on this website.

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Tony May 29, 2010 at 5:40 am

Never Happened!

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Draek June 20, 2010 at 8:53 pm

For all of you who say that the waiter/waitress was wrong in this situation, I would like to point out that the customers were complaining about their items being "too cold"

Can you really release a lawsuit over getting exactly what you wanted: something hot, when boiling just isn't enough?

Anyway, as for the McDonald's lawsuit, I recall that the case was eventually thrown out because, as later noted, the cups DO have a little warning that says "Caution: HOT!" Besides, common sense dictates: "Coffee is served hot. Hot stuff burns. Therefore, Coffee = hot = burns." wouldn't you have figured that the LAST place you wanted to put a steaming hot cup of coffee is on your lap? Cupholders exist for a reason, use them.

Anyway, I was getting a little off track. I will say that perhaps the OP did overdo it a little bit… but, you know, there is a small policy most businesses have, granting them (the business) to reserve the right to refuse service. That's the only suggestion I could give for the future, should they have worked at that job.

Besides, I actually find this little trick creative. Nothing like giving the customer EXACTLY what they wanted (something really, really hot.)

(Disclaimer: This is my opinion, which I hope many of you will respect. No, not agree, I don't expect that. I just want you guys to understand that, if you give a basic respect of my opinion, I will return the favor. If, your arguement is logical, fitting, and not an insult, then I will treat it with the utmost respect, and admit defeat if I am wrong. If, however, you use propaganda, unrelated incidents, and verbal attacks without some kind of evidence (backbone, as I call it.), then I will ignore your posts, or nitpick your arguement to death. Anyway, sorry for taking up so much room about this, but I've noticed too many insults based off another person's opinion.)

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Jack June 23, 2010 at 12:39 pm

This isn't about the customer wanting his food hot, it's about a vengeful waiter deliberately burning a human being. There's not much defense for that. As I've said before Xiao Gou should be in a different business, one that doesn't involve dealing with customers.

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W January 2, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Wonderful 🙂 They should have never treated you in such a disrespectful manner, especially calling you names. That is not acceptable under any circumstance. But the story is finished and the incident long gone, thank you for sharing 🙂

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MuffinBunny May 8, 2011 at 5:15 am

Their treatment of you is no excuse. There is no justifiable reason for purposely injuring a fellow human being except to save yourself, i.e. if you are in danger and they are causing it.
You are right in the fact that they deserved to deal with the consequences of their actions, but it is not your job to dole them out. Karma will get you just as much as it will them, one day.
A quick aside to Jack: all else aside, those terrible customers really do exist. Maybe not in this case, but they pop up everywhere.

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