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Bathroom Attendants in Restaurants


KatyM
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Egulleters,

I'm working on a story for the Wall Street Journal about bathroom attendants in restaurants. I would love to hear from people who have encountered them and have feelings--positive or negative--about them. I'd especially like to hear about specific bathroom attendant encounters. Would be grateful to open up this issue as a topic.

If you post thoughts and if I need to contact you for the story, would you email me or let me email you so that we can talk further? I'm working on the story over the next two days. Thanks a lot.

Edited by KatyM (log)
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Great topic, Katy. One near and dear to my heart.

Call me prudish, but I really do find bathroom attendants intrusive. I wouldn't do well in a military latrine, either, where all the toilets are in plain view of one another.

Not to mention, I often don't have any one-dollar-bills on me.

I loved the Saturday Night Live sketch where Kevin Nealon -- I think it was him -- plays a truly overbearing bathroom attendant.

And wasn't it in one of the Adam Sandler movies that his father is portrayed as a wise old bathroom attendant?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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According to this Web site the scene was with Kevin Nealon and Harvey Keitel, in the 1/16/93 episode of the show. The musical guest was Madonna.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Are you focused soley on attendants here in the States -- I can tell you stories on my experiences abroad  :wink: .. let me know

Ooooh. Tell us anyway. Evil foreign restaurant bathroom attendants are always interesting.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I used to feel kind of sorry for them. After all, how would YOU like to stand around in the loo all day, waiting to hand somebody who can afford to eat in such a place a towel, or zip up her disheveled dress, or clean up after she went all bulimic.

Then I realized, they probably hear the latest on-dits, all sorts of Page Six-worthy dialogue, stock tips, and other juicy information blurted out by people who think them invisible (and therefore deaf and/or just plain stupid). There's good money in what they hear.

And they probably make more in tips in a week than I make in a year.

Where can I apply?

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My question is: what exactly needs to be attended to?.

I think from a restaurant's perspective (and this also goes for hotels, bars, clubs, etc.), it's a security issue as well as one of cleanliness. It's probably also good economics. Does a bathroom attendant even get paid? I always assumed they just work for tips, or minimum wage plus tips, or even minimum wage minus tips -- whatever it is, I'm sure it's a pittance, and in return for that the establishment gets a full-time person on hand to keep the bathroom clean and safe. Nobody is going to use drugs, have sex in the stalls, etc., while the bathroom is attended.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I love having some stranger/pervert watch me take care of business, then turn on the water in the sink for me so I don't forget to wash my hands, then hand me towels to dry my hands so I don't wipe my hands on my pants and then I have to stick my not so dry hands in my pocket for a bill.

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Our last trip to Chicago we went to Carmine's on Rush for a family Italian dinner. They have attendants. It's a fairly small restroom in a giant restaurant, extremely busy. The poor woman hardly had a place to stand and her "tip thank you" selection of gum, candy, kleenex packs, band-aids and the like took up most of the spot that I would have liked to set my purse down in while I washed my hands. I hate to sound ungrateful, she was a pleasant person, but it just didn't seem to enhance my dining experience.

My brother cracked me up though when he returned from the men's room with a flourish and a tootsie pop for me. Somehow a lollipop from the men's room lacked appeal. :laugh:

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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Correction: it was not Adam Sandler. It was Rob Schneider in Deuce Bigalow Male Gigalo whose father (played by Richard Riehle) worked as a bathroom attendant.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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At Ducasse's new place, Mix, they have sort of an unusual half-attendant situation. The bathrooms themselves are individual closed rooms with toilet and sink (very cool toilets, by the way, with ceiling-mounted chains as the flushing mechanism) but there's an attendant outside those rooms who directs you to an empty one when you approach the bathroom area. I don't mind her, and she doesn't seem to get or expect tips.

One place where I found the presence of a bathroom attendant to be a major surprise was Junior's in Brooklyn. I just didn't figure it for a bathroom-attendant kind of place. It's basically a big diner-meets-deli sort of operation.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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At the NC State Fair of all places, one of the large exhibit halls had an attendant in the men's room. He had a big sign out requesting tips, but seeing he was impeding the traffic flow, particularly for those of us with several children in tow, I sure as hell wasn't going to tip him. He offered absolutely zero service and just got in the way.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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One of the strangest bathroom attendant incidents happend to me at a symphony concert rather than a restaurant. The restroom (mens) was pretty full during the intermission so the drill sergeant-like attendent was shouting "Each man stand behind the gentleman you'll be replacing." We all dutifully lined up three deep in front of the urinals.

When it was my turn to step up, the crowd had died down a little so the attendant went back to his "duties," which apparently included dusting each man's jacket with an aged whisk broom. I'm standing there just starting to urinate when what feels like a deranged crow attacks my back. I whipped my head around and there's the attendant whisking my shoulders. I was so startled by the whole thing that I got "stage fright" and couldn't go. :sad: I had to pretend to pee, zip up, wash my hands, tip the guy and exit before I could sneak back in and use the bathroom while he was occupied with another whisk victim.

And it wasn't even a very good concert.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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According to this Web site the scene was with Kevin Nealon and Harvey Keitel, in the 1/16/93 episode of the show. The musical guest was Madonna.

That was a hilarious skit. Tiny bathroom with just one toilet. Nealon hovered over Keitel as he was sitting on the can. A few moments into it Nealon directs Keitel's attention to the array of air fresheners available to him like a waiter showing the dessert tray. He even prepares neatly folded sections of toilet paper for Keitel's use.

I think Keitel ended up requesting a newspaper which he then used as a tent over his head just to get a little privacy.

Don't forget Cosmo Kramer's mom from Seinfeld. What was her name?

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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For the most part these guys irritate the hell out of me, particularly when they get territorial.

some of them legitimately spend a decent amount of money on toiletries, and if you use any, you should definitely tip these guys a buck.

But what really ticks me off is when you go into the men's room to use the toilet or urinal, and then you go to the sink to wash your hands, and after you take your hands out of the sink they shove a towel at you. And since you want to get the hell out of there, you don't think first and you use that towel, and then you're obligated to tip. Or at least they THINK you are obligated to tip.

The worst ones are of course the bathrooms where you've ALREADY tipped the guy, but you come back for a return visit (say you've been drinking a lot of liquids...) and they want you to tip them AGAIN for no reason whatsoever. One particular restaurant in Manhattan, Red Eye Grill, used to have attendents that do that (maybe they still do?) and its one of the reasons why I don't want to go back there.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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another surprise, in my opinion, is the oyster bar in grand central terminal. you go to the bar in the back and they have an attendant. i almost never bring my purse/wallet to the bathroom when i'm dining/drinking, so i always feel guilty when i don't have any money for them. it's a pretty crappy :hmmm: job at any rate.

i just think the one at grand central is so casual, it doesn't warrant an attendant...

why can't there be a warning or some sort of sign that there are attended bathrooms? as it isn't a common practice anymore, you're more likely to be unprepared with a tip. unless of course you don't ever tip...ugh, too many things to think about when all you want to do is take a leak.

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I'm usually freaked out by bathroom attendants, mainly because they usually seem to be freaks.

However, there's one nightclub I go to occasionally here in San Francisco where the same guy has been there for years (I think he's still there -- it's been a while), and is very friendly without being fawning, and just seems like an all-round nice guy. The setup there is better than most, too, because he hangs out in a completely separate ante-room from the quite private stalls and urinals.

The part of me that does like the idea is the germ-phobe in me. I don't have to touch faucet or door handles after I wash my hands. Of course, this is rendered useless if I have to handle money afterwards. Then I figured out to just tip him on my way in, and my hands are pristine all the way back to the table.

Edited for egregious typos.

Edited by Squeat Mungry (log)
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Maybe I don't eat at enough swanky joints -- the only attendant I've ever encountered was (surprisingly) at the House of Blues in Hollywood. There, I imagine, it was to keep people from doing or selling drugs. There was an interesting selection of items available (hairspray, gum, and usual do-dads as well as oddities that I can't recall). It just surprised me and because I went in to do my duty and did't bring my purse along, I felt guilty that I did't have tip money on me.

I always imagine attendants from the movies like Three Faces of Eve or Doris Day movies when going out to a club involved dressing up... I think attendants are now a dying breed along with elevator operators.

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Hate them. Gives me the same feeling as when waiters clear my companion's plate before I'm done with mine.--someone, in this case the attendant, is waiting on me so I'd better finish up what I'm doing quickly so as to inconvenience them as little as possible. I hate feeling rushed when trying to reapply my lipstick!

I suppose I would be better about attendants if I grew up with servants.

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One particular restaurant in Manhattan, Red Eye Grill, used to have attendents that do that (maybe they still do?) and its one of the reasons why I don't want to go back there.

i did a search, and that's the one i've brought up twice on this issue. seems that we have had the same experience there. and the place is mediocre ta boot. Tao comes to mind as well, although the guy there isn't as annoying for some reason. but don't get me wrong, he's still annoying.

fat guy mentions that some places don't seem like they should have one. i recall fondly the many nights spent at the Limelight (a club in NYC) in the 80's and early 90's. i'm sure an attendant fit right in with some of the events they had there, but during a Dead Milkmen show, it just didn't seem appropriate.

the blow seems a little softer when they've got a nice spread. i usually grab a cigarette and some gum or mints.

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My most memorable and least pleasant bathroom attendant experiences took place in the Czech Republic (and in Hungary to a lesser degree) where more than a few attendants were actually dispensing toilet paper and other necessities on the way in to the bathroom. Needless to say, this configuration required a level of interaction that was notably uncomfortable. It wasn't just at restaurants either--also at museums and other "attraction" type venues. If you didn't drop a coin or two on the platter as you entered, you could really find yourself in a pickle. Luckily, we were traveling with some well-seasoned friends who coached us through it in advance...otherwise it could have gotten very ugly. :shock:

=R=

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