I recently shared a photo I had found on social media, a sandwich board sign outside of a dining establishment that read:
“Small Coffee” $5
“Small Coffee, please.” $3
“Hello, one small coffee please.” $1.75
This post got mostly positive comments, about how to treat wait staff. However, my caption questioned, “Easier said than done?” No one admitted to being anything but kind to wait staff. But I’ve been guilty of it myself – not thinking, in a rush, irritated over some small infraction I perceived on their part – and more recently I had also heard from many pals in the service industry that kindness had sort of dropped off the customer’s radar even more since Covid.
Though my focus is on how we treat staff at wineries, bars and restaurants, this thoughtlessness – and downright rude behavior – has only worsened over the different mandates businesses have had to enforce. Personally I’m fine with the mask and social distancing, so it mystifies me as to why some customers take their irritation out on wait staff. The restaurant owners I have spoken to say that they have been threatened by closure if they don’t enforce the policies, putting them on the front line of disgruntled people.
My message here isn’t political. (If you know me you know that I never share my own politics.) It also isn’t structured by reviewing all of the ever-changing CDC standards. It is, however, just a reminder to people to be kind to those in the service industry that are just trying to do their jobs – and simply be able to remain open without the threat of being shut down if they don’t follow current mandates.
Now, rant over, here are some examples of what you may not be doing even if you think you are polite enough:
When staff greets you, greet them back. If they ask how you are, respond, and ask how they are. I’ve even gone as far as giving them my name, and the names of the people at the table with me, when they give me theirs. I loved the shocked, yet appreciative, looks that I get every time I do this and that just solidifies that it is the right thing to do.
If your server is in a rush or not as friendly as you like, try to understand what the cause may be. They aren’t purposely being rude to you; but just like you, they are human beings with things going on you may not be aware of. They could very well have someone ill, or recently passed away, in their own family. So slow down with your criticism, inward and outward.
Any service worker is stuck. A customer can yell at them but they can’t yell back. They are getting cursed at, eye rolls and shorted on tips. But if they ever were to treat a customer in any of these ways they would be in jeopardy of losing their job, no matter how warranted it may be. Honestly, I always see it as a sign of weakness on the part of the customer that does this, as we are all well aware that the employee rarely feels safe in responding in kind. Don’t be that customer.
With the pandemic you should also be already aware of staff and food shortages. This is in no way the fault of the business owner or employees, so you shouldn’t let your frustrations out on them. Their own frustration is twofold, obviously, as they can’t maximize profits with less staff and product.
Your tip, at what should be 20%, is not about the food, it’s about the service. If your server in a winery was outstanding, add in a cash tip even if there isn’t a little line for it on your receipt. (Anytime you can tip in cash it also helps your server.)
If a member of the staff has their nose peeking out of a mask, and this bothers you, dine and drink elsewhere. Same goes for if you feel crowded, or unsafe for any reason.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.