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Instead of complaining after the fact, I'd have asked if it might be possible, please to seat us elsewhere upon approaching whichever undesireable table.

I do have to say that we were quite put off when being entertained by a visiting British friend and his associate at a very elite Newport Beach club. We were given a lovely table and after we had just begun our first courses, another couple arrived and were seated directly next to us. We were the only two parties in the room.  :blink: We didn't say anything--it really should have been up to the newer party, but we haven't been back since.

I just had to come back and add this:

The four in our party were rather loud--catching up on old times, laughing, etc. The couple seated next to us "appeared" to be on a date. I'd thought "they" would be the really uncomfortable party, but perhaps it was a blind date and one or the other asked to not be seated in one of the dark recesses. :wink:

Deb

Liberty, MO

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It just doesn't make any sense to seat two parties directly next to each other in a nearly-empty restaurant. It's weird and slightly creepy, like the person who sits directly next to you in the otherwise-empty movie theater.

I guess I might be considered a whiny, self-entitled diner. I don't have a lot of disposable income, I spend a disproportionate amount of it on eating out, and I expect to be treated well ... WITHIN THE PARAMETERS OF THE RESTAURANT. I don't ask for substitutions or special off-the-menu items, I don't send things back unless they are patently not what I ordered, I don't hold waiters responsible for mistakes in the kitchen or vice versa. I'm pretty low-maintenance unless the restaurant displays blatant rudeness or incompetence, and even then I try to deal with it as politely as possible.

I agree that the letter to Sietsema was ridiculous, but I don't like the whiff of "shut up and suck it up" I'm getting from some of the posts in this thread. It's not unusual to pay upwards of $100 per person for a meal in a nice restaurant these days. At that level, I don't think there's a darn thing wrong with expecting to be coddled and treated as if your enjoyment matters more than the restaurant's convenience.

[Edited because I somehow mangled the word "disproportionate" beyond recognition. That's what I get for posting before I've had 3 cups of coffee.]

Edited by docbrite (log)
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It just doesn't make any sense to seat two parties directly next to each other in a nearly-empty restaurant. It's weird and slightly creepy, like the person who sits directly next to you in the otherwise-empty movie theater.

If I may be so bold as to somewhat expand the parameter of the conversation to encompass another unusual aspect of restaurant seating .... :unsure:

Restaurants are second only to the statutorily privileged confines of law offices as the preferred venue for conducting meetings related to illicit business deals. (Restaurants are, of course, a lawyer's first choice, since it affords them a meal at somebody else's expense.) Although a bustling public space might seem unsuitable for discussion of illegal matters, it's actually quite the opposite, for several reasons.

First, a busy dining room is the closest thing to a purely chaotic area that you could devise. This works to the advantage of those wishing to be visible but not closely observed. Law enforcement agents prefer clearly delineated spaces and predictable, controllable circumstances.

(Conversely, despite what you might see in the movies, meetings in a dark alley, an abandoned warehouse, or in remote rural locations are inherently suspicious, and thus usually work to the law's advantage.)

Next, unlike other crowded public places, patrons in restaurants voluntarily segregate themselves into groups already having a common focal point, (ie: eating and talking with friends/associates), so they're unlikely to be interested in what's happening around them. Any group trying disguise their interest in the happenings at another table would be conspicuous by their unusual behavior.

(Although, as mentioned in a previous post, I prefer to sit with my back to a wall at a corner table near an exit, my ideal occupants of adjoining tables would be: grandmothers showing baby pictures, young couple(s) obviously dating, used car salesmen talking shop, and a family with young children. With these "neighbors" you could openly discuss the assassination of world leaders without fear of arousing suspicion.)

(In the opposite case, harkening back to docbrite's post, the purposeful seating of two neatly dressed men, the older cleanly shaven and the younger sporting a neat mustache, within the proximity of your table would immediately trigger a "Caution!" alarm, especially if they're wearing shiny boots, but I digress ....)

Another fairly well known aspect of the bar and restaurant business is that criminal elements quite often have either direct investments in, or at lease good relationships with the owners and managers. This gives them sort of a home field advantage, in that the management and staff can alert them to any "suspicious legal activity", (to misappropriate a phrase).

(Enough years ago that the Statute of Limitations has long since expired, I benefitted from just such a realtionship. A friend of my then-girlfriend worked as a waitress in her family's pizzeria. Her older brother happened to be the local Chief of Police, and one afternoon as she waited on the table where he was meeting with two strangers on apparent police business she overheard my name being mentioned several times. She got word to me, and although I subsequently did meet with the men, who turned out to be from the US Treasury BATF, I was well prepared, and the meeting took place on my terms, on a remote rural road.)

So, although it's not exactly on-topic with the original post, I hope this story gives you something to think about the next time you're in a crowded restaurant rumored to be frequented by shady characters.

(See if you can seperate the "good guys" from the "bad guys"?)

SB (current honest law-abiding citizen) :wink:

Edited by srhcb (log)
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Where's the logic in seating people directly next to each other unless you are in a pack restaurant.

I've given this some thought since everyone seems to be asking the same question.

I'm just going by logic here but if the restaurant in question is going through a slow period, there may only be one area of the restaurant in service, meaning only one waitstaff working. While this doesn't excuse the host person from seating the two separate parties side by side in an empty restaurant, you could assume that they seem to be positioning the clientele together for maximum serving efficiency. In other words, they're thinking of the waitstaff instead of the customer.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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not sure if anyone has mentioned it yet, but usually restaurants are devided into sections that a particular server is responsible for. servers "in times" are also staggered to control costs. so, 2 tables of early diners are very likely to be seated together for this reason - no one (servers) wants to be running accross the dining room to wait on 2 different tables. and another server may not be coming on shift for 15 minutes or so...

so, next time you have an early reservation, let the reservationist know if you prefer to sit away from other diners. otherwise, don't be surprised when this happens.

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I've also come across places which, when near-empty, like to seat everyone near the windows so the restaurant looks a little fuller and more appealing. One would imagine that this would backfire if the parties concerned are unhappy with the seating arrangements... (Not just when this involves being seated close together, but also when it means being right in the draft from the door).

However, when it happened to me I just asked for another table. Simple but effective.

Caroline

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What I don't understand is why people have suddenly gotten SO PICKY about their damn table in a restaurant.

I think part of it is because other people aren't as polite as they could be. I really don't want to sit next to a table of loud, obnoxious types. I don't mind babies or children, as long as they're taken out if they become disruptive.

As someone else mentioned, it's expensive to eat in a good restaurant, and I'd like it to be a nice occasion. I don't care to sit right next to anyone if it can be helped. If the restaurant is crowded, I just live with it. But I'm somewhat claustrophobic and it makes me really uncomfortable to be packed in. I only eat at a really good place four or five times a year, and if I can enjoy myself without making life hard for my waiter, I should be able to.

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Each week, in a sidebar to his main review, Tom Sietsema of the Washington post answers a question from a reader, that, one supposes, illuminates one of the many intricacies or mysteries of fine dining. 

This one caught my eye.

"Halfway through the main course...another couple was seated directly next to us," even though there were "several empty tables"... his "intimate dinner was ruined."

What if there was only ONE remaining empty table in the restaurant ? and the waitstaff had the temerity to seat the "other couple" at that table? Would the "intimate dinner" of the complainer still have been ruined? If the intimacy was so fragile, why eat out in a restaurant which might be SO busy that there were "other couples" at ALL the adjacent tables?.

Some people need to get a life.

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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I've had a genuine seating issue at restaurants twice in my life: once at a busy TGI Friday's (not packed, just busy), and once at a local place that was empty aside from one other party.

At Fridays, my (then) boyfriend and I were seated next to an 8 seater round table that was full of customers. Many of the other tables in the area were full as well. The 8 seater table was so loud that we could not hear each other talk without screaming. Many of the surrounding tables were near silent, or in the same positon of having to scream to be heard over the 8 seat table. We finally caught our server and asked if we could be moved since we couldn't talk. They had space in other areas, so they were able to accomodate us, and they gave us a free desert, which I thought was entirely unecessary.

At the local place, my partner and I went in for dinner after he finished work. The staff immediately seated us right next to the bar, where a group of 5 was talking loudly. The restaurant was entirely empty except for these two parties. Again, we couldn't hear each other speak without shouting. Our waiter was the invisible man. He appeared to take our order, and was not seen again until we had get up to ask him for the bill. The server who actually got us our meals vanished almost instantly. We were not checked on at any point during the meal. We left no tip and will not go back to that restaurant.

In the first case, the meal was not ruined. I was able to communicate the problem to the staff, and they really didn't need to do anything except move us. In the second case, the meal was edible, but it did not resemble having dinner with my partner as we were entirely unable to talk to each other. I wouldn't call it ruined, but it was unpleasant. Since their dining room was arranged in a very sensible fashion, they could have avoided the whole thing by seating us a bit further from the bar. An extra table's worth of distance would have reduced the effect of the noise, and would not have put unneeded strain on the waitstaff.

On the other hand, I've had many very pleasant experiences, even at very busy restaurants. Far too many to count where they accomodated a large-ish party without a reservation, or went above and beyond the call of duty without being asked. A restaurant near my parents' home will regularly take reservations for their Mother's Day brunch a few hours in advance, and they have a lot of unusual or hard to get items for it :).

Emily

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Bitter Waitress and The Stained Apron are a couple of websites that let you know what can happen if you want to messt with the mind of a cook or waitress who's already on the edge. Bitter Waitress also is the home of the Shitty Tipper Database. Search for the names of your friends, elected officials, and various entertainers....

I'm of a mixed mind about this; I cooked professionally (line demon) for 12 years, took some time off and now I'm ready to start to think about beginning to plan to maybe proceed to open a restaurant. I wouldn't countenance servers or cooks tainting food. But neither do I want my employees to have to deal with some tremendously unpleasant person treating the menu like it's a grocery list and they can assemble their own custom meals, and the floorstaff like they own their indentures. Can't have that either. My culinary vessel will already be navigating perilous waters, with shoals of lawsuits beneath and on either beam; and the wrecks of other failed ventures reminding me that The Customer Is Always Right.

Even if he is a j3rk0ff.

Edited by Reefpimp (log)

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Hey, Rp! Welcome!! I LOVE BitterWaitress, but hadn't heard of the Stained Apron site...will try that one. There's also a thread or two every day in Etiquette Hell re: restaurants, mostly from the customer's POV, and a hilarious site called Customers Suck. Vinegar Boy is on his way to Urban Legend status.

Anyway, loved your well-worded post; looking forward to many more.

rachel

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Hey, Rp!   Welcome!!  I LOVE BitterWaitress, but hadn't heard of the Stained Apron site...will try that one.   There's also a thread or two every day in Etiquette Hell re: restaurants, mostly from the customer's POV, and a hilarious site called Customers Suck.  Vinegar Boy is on his way to Urban Legend status.

Anyway, loved your well-worded post; looking forward to many more.

rachel

I am a friend of the man who wrote and posted the Vinegar Boy story on CS. What you see on the site currently is destilled down for clarity, but I can tell you that the tale is 100% true. Even years later I can't see a bottle of malt vinegar without thinking about Aaron. Aaron to this day remains a hero to many on the site and his tale is a testament to just how stupid people can be.

Edited by Gigi4808 (log)
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bitter (who runs the BW site) is a good friend... its a great & funny site!

Then please tell her to add my "open letter from the cooks" I sent her like a week or two ago.

Kthnxbye.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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bitter (who runs the BW site) is a good friend... its a great & funny site!

Then please tell her to add my "open letter from the cooks" I sent her like a week or two ago.

Kthnxbye.

i'll tell him :wink:

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  • 4 months later...
Reading the STD on Bitter Waitress was illuminating. Has there been a thread in the past about the tipping culture in USA and how it came to be?

"Vinegar Boy" is one of my favorite tales, ever.

If someone could illuminate me on why so many churchy people don't tip, I'd appreciate it.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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If someone could illuminate me on why so many churchy people don't tip, I'd appreciate it.

You want illumination, I’ve got some illumination for 'ya :biggrin: ……

Bitter Waitress is saving me from insanity today, so happy to find this thread......pulling an all-night, all-day shift at work and we’re in permanent hurry up and wait mode......

So the following rant is way, way longer than I originally intended.......

As for the churchgoers being the worst tippers.......I’ll do what I can to shed some light on this issue (this is seriously the fourth time in the past week this has come up in conversation....so it has been on my mind a LOT). I’m biased, but during my diatribe I’ll try not to wonder aloud how well Haggard tipped his “masseuse”.....I’ll really try. I grew up in the “real deal” evangelical world (Assemblies of God in Kansas……top that), where I remained into my early 20’s. There was always the division in the church over whether or not it was okay to eat at a restaurant that served alcohol, which fed into a million issues related to class, dedication, salvation, etc. While that may not have a lot to do with the tipping issue, it just makes sense to at least mention it. Anyway, in the interest of time I’m going to stick to Sunday night post-service dining. Sunday MORNING/AFTERNOON post-service dining is a completely different animal, it’s way more complicated and worthy of attention at a later date.

In my experience, Sunday night dining fit into one of three categories……

1) Shoney’s- cheap, easy, fast, usually the destination when a really large group was going and money and/or refusal of the majority to eat anywhere that serves alcohol was an issue.

2) Applebee’s- dining destination of choice. Where the “inner circle” (core clique of leadership and members) would usually have dinner. Funny thing to mention….since Applebee’s served booze, that left a lot of people out in the cold when we’d eat there, but to break the insanity down even further……..once we arrived there were always two smaller factions that would disagree over whether or not they’d let the hostess seat them in the bar area. Booze in the restaurant was okay as long as long as you sat as far away from it as possible.

3) Houlihan’s- crazy, mac-daddy DELUXE dining destination…… When money was no object………this was THE PLACE TO BE. This dining choice really thinned the herd, leaving the truly bad tippers in the dust. They generally didn’t go, but it’s still worth mentioning because you have to know what a decadent TREAT it was to go score some of those stuffed mushroom caps and death by chocolate. And the super, ultimate, pseudo-sinful thing to do………..ORDERING A FANCY ICE CREAM DRINK WITHOUT THE ALCOHOL!!!!! DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE CARNAL PLEASURES FOUND IN A VIRGIN DAQUIRI OR PINA COLADA!!!!

Okay, on to some general thoughts on why these people are such a handful. I honestly don’t recall tipping being that big of a problem for me, but that’s just because my parents gave us kind of a “secular” upbringing when it came to dining out. Did I hog tables for an insane amount of time after we were done eating? Absolutely, we drank refill after refill of water or iced tea until all matters concerning the lord or general gossip ran their course.

The Annoyance Factor- I know every church doesn’t have a weekly swingin’ from the rafters hoedown like mine usually did, but when a group of pumped up, spirit filled people are seated in your section on an otherwise slow Sunday night……how do you NOT want to shoot them? Every little thing they do is going to filter down into your general opinion, and put you on guard for the next group.

General Ignorance- There were a lot of people who just didn’t have much restaurant experience outside of Sundays with their fellow parishioners, and peer pressure is a bitch. After a rootin’ tootin’ church service, who wants to be left out in the cold when everyone is amped up and heading down to Applebee’s? The reasons for them arriving in droves and hassling the staff for ice water with a ton of lemon wedges and extra sugar isn’t usually out of malice or a contempt for the staff. My church was in the inner-city, so a lot of people who could not afford to go out went anyway. Too many of them stayed for too long, drinking ice water and asking for eight plates for one appetizer. Some of them felt self conscious about it, some of them didn’t know there was anything weird about it. Throw one or two true assholes (described below) into the mix, and you have servers wanting to kill themselves pretty quickly. Return on investment in that situation is zero…..they’re going to suck your time without reciprocating.

General Cheapness- I guess that some of this can be attributed to general ignorance, but other than that I can’t fully explain this one. I’ve had a million meals with a million people, and when I remember the church days I have to say the cheapskate ratio was definitely much higher with the church crowd. I’m not just saying that to be spiteful. It’s not like I’m rich now or have rich friends, but in recent years I can’t remember having to throw down extra money due to someone leaving such a crappy tip…definitely not like I did back then. Maybe it’s post-collection plate syndrome and they just don’t feel like they can afford to eat out AND tip, making the evangelical dollar more precious than the secular dollar. Or maybe since they are “servants” they feel some kinship with the waitstaff, and some twisted logic makes them think they don’t owe as much in tips. My best guess, if I HAD to say what I thought was at the very core of the issue (and remember, we’re talking Assemblies of God in Kansas in my tiny corner of the world)……I’d point to run of the mill conservativism and a tendency to tip based on a warped sense of whether or not the server “earned” their tip….”Well I’ve worked a whole lot harder for a whole lot less”, you know what I mean. Some people besides Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs really do believe that tipping is optional since servers already get a wage. Of course, this all goes well beyond the confines of the church crowd, just last year I watched as two well dressed couples at Danko loudly re-calculated their tip to leave out tax and drinks when they saw the amount of their bill. The food and service was stellar until they remembered “ooops, did we all have two martinis apiece AND wine with dinner?”.

The True Assholes- this last piece deals with a very small minority of the people I knew, but unfortunately it only takes one or two of them to push anybody over the cliff into straight out prejudice and dread. They were the real assholes, the stereotype that comes to mind when you think of someone who can’t connect the dots between the gospel message and the way that they treat the “unsaved”. The people who leave a gospel tract in place of a tip really do exist. When I saw anyone do it they did usually put money WITH the tract, but I had more than one meal with someone who didn’t like something minor about the service and laughed about stiffing the server and leaving them one of THESE. What infraction would warrant this rebuke? Something pretty simple like not topping off their iced tea quickly enough, or here was a biggie…….having the nerve to ask if anyone at the table would like a cocktail (you’re basically telling them they aren’t spiritual ENOUGH to stick out from the masses). A big portion of their role in this world is defined by what they DON’T do, be it smoking, drinking, cussing, etc. With that comes hyper-sensitivity to being a Christian in a secular world, and many are quick to feel they are being disrespected based solely on their faith. What’s the best way to get even? No tip for you, sucka! That’ll teach you to get your ass to church! Again, it’s a very small minority I’m talking about here, but I grew up with the “super angry fire and brimstone” punishing God, and some people extrapolate that out into society and in some weird way think that treating people like crap will somehow win them over (and if it DOESN’T win them over.....well they had their chance).

Anyway, that's what I've been discussing with people for the past week. This has been a hot topic for some reason, and after lots of therapy I'm so happy to be able to approach the subject without exhibiting target behavior ! :biggrin:

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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I always chalked up the post- church crowd to generally be an "amateur crowd". Depending on where I was working at the time. Holidays now tend to bring out the amateurs. The ones who gasp at the prices, cannot believe they have to PAY FOR SODA REFILLS and that gratuity is automatic. Oh and they never have credit cards, which are a requirement for a reservation.

And then, on the occasion that they do book the reservations, they call 500 times, lost about 35 miles away because they didn't listen to your directions in the first place, and ignore you when you reiterate them for the 4th time.

Nahhhh I'm not bitter! :blink:

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I don't know what cracks me up more, Jerry's thoughts or "stiffing!" LOL!

Full disclosure: My ILs are churchy types, with plenty of funds, and they are the world's worst tippers. I learned years ago to leave something in the restaurant so I can beef up the tip. (It's not only servers; they also stiff porters, dive boat operators who've catered to and fed 20 family members, etc. etc.; it's also not only on Sunday dinners.) I always assumed they either felt that, since they don't drink alcohol or order desserts at the restaurant, EVER, they should leave a nominal tip.

They're nice people and polite and all, but still. And no, they don't like to eat out in Europe because of the service charges!

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Yeh, the guy might be a whiny twit, but I am going to have to agree with him.. It would not have ruined my dinner but, this has happened to me in the past.. And I chalk this up to stupid hostesses who think that they are the worlds gift to mankind.. Most likely she is some attractive young space cadet whose job it is to answer a phone, take down reservations and seat people at a table.. But for some reason one or any of these three things is too damn difficult for her.. I also would blame the couple being seated next to the whiny guy..Whiny guy is already sitting and eating.. It would be very uncomfortable to move all his things in the middle of there dinner.. The couple being seated next to whiny guy should have had the sense that Hostess didn't and speak up.. But instead everyone stayed quiet and no one was happy.. Except for clueless hostess who probably had the Beverly Hills 90210 theme song playing in her head. I am going to say that in the last year I asked not to be seated next to people, like directly next to people, in a table that is normally a four top that has been moved 6 inches from each other in an empty restaurant 3 times..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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