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Blanket Statement Monday: Stop Hitting On The Waitress.

Or the barista.  Or the checkout person.  Or the bartender. Or the pharmacist.

See that cute person behind the counter who smiles at you every day as you buy your (lottery ticket/breakfast/liquor/condoms/razors/newspaper/coffee)?

That person HAS to be there and HAS to be nice to you.  It doesn’t mean anything.  You don’t have a deeper connection.  Your daily transactions are not meaningful.

Fortunately, there is a way to show your appreciation for the person who brings you your meal or fixes your drink.  It’s called tipping.  And there is a word for entitled customers who try to use the inherent power imbalance to bully customer service people into unwanted personal interactions, and that word is “douchebag.”

Yes, servers are humans and statistically they do date people sometimes.  But if something is meant to happen between the two of you, the other person will do the awkward thing, cross the weird service/power imbalance/transactional lines, and let you know. Or you’ll run into them at a place that is not their job because you naturally have similar interests and lives that intersect. Don’t take advantage of their professionally mandated niceness and the fact that they are trapped behind a counter in order to chitchat, okay? Do not ask them what time their shift ends.  Do not wait for them by their cars (!).  Do not lurk, skulk, or Firth.  Do not hand them your phone number along with your money.

Just be cool, like Fonzie, eat your food, drink your drink, scratch your scratch ticket, pay for your weird wart medicine, and get the hell out of there.

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32 comments
  1. I was hit on by a guy during my month-long debacle of a casher-ing career and I actually found it rather flattering and kind of hilarious.

    Him: I just wanted to say you were pretty, even though you probably won’t like me.
    Me: Why?
    Him: I keep accidentally hitting on lesbians.

  2. Shayna said:

    Light hearted flirting is fine, any sort of pressure and/or physical contact (in my five years as a server, I have had six separate creepy men in their fifties grab and KISS my hand) is not.

    Worst of all are the ones who make you exceedingly uncomfortable with their inappropriate behavior/comments and then leave you like 8%.

    Amen to the sentiment that you should show all appreciation for my service, cuteness, personality, and/or directions to the best bar within walking distance with a gratuity around 20%! And if it matters, it will increase your chances for next time, since being a bad tipper is a deal breaker for me (and most other servers I know) when I go out on dates.

  3. Kathleen said:

    Colin Firth is amazingly hot and I object to him being associated with skeevy behavior. ;)

    • JenniferP said:

      He is handsome, and a great actor, but his Mr. Darcy is BEYOND CREEPY AND INAPPROPRIATE.

  4. So maybe it should be called Darcying?

    I want to add that there is nothing more annoying than guys who think it’s OK to touch waitresses as they would a friend, putting a hand on her arm while making a lame joke, etc. Waitresses do not like to be touched by customers. If she touches you, great! She feels at ease around you. Don’t touch her. It’s not OK.

    • JenniferP said:

      JUST LET IT BE “FIRTHING.” Other people have played Darcy without that same disturbing glare.

      Also, yes, NE TOUCHE PAS! No touchy!

      • Have you seen him in VALMONT? Now THERE’S a creeper. A hot creeper, but wow.

  5. k said:

    Can I say a thing to servers? I’ve run the gauntlet of cashier, coffee shop and bar jobs, and I actually love them. But one thing you have to remember is just because you’re supposed to be smiley and nice and pleasing, doesn’t mean you have to continue doing that if someone is creeping you out or pissing you off. The regular life rule of “if you say no and someone continues to talk to you, it isn’t cool” still applies. If someone crosses a line, you are totally allowed to break the smiley happy server illusion and remind them that you are a person with a brain and with boundaries.

    So, feel free to use phrases such as “That was over the line” or “Whoa, did you just grab my hand? Not OK” or “I think you should go back to your friends now” or “Oh, did you think I was flirting with you? Sorry.” Or even just “Dude, what?”

    Basically, shoot these guys down. Do it gently and in a friendly way, but do it. If they get nasty about it, call your manager over. And if your managers have an issue with employees asserting their right not to be pestered, touched or harassed, quit your job and find a new one as soon as you can possibly swing it. Cool managers exist, and you can find them.

    End of public service (worker) announcement!

    • “Quit your job and find a new one” Isn’t very helpful advice for someone who REALLY NEEDS to keep that money coming in. Cool managers exist, but not everyone has the luxury of being able to find one.

      Thankfully, the only time I had a creepy customer hitting on me, I actually DID have a cool boss to back me up.

      • k said:

        True, which is why what I said is “as soon as you can possibly swing it”, but like half the point of service jobs is that they’re easier to find. I’ve had much, much more trouble with stupid group dynamics in professional contexts, where it can take months or years to find something new.

        I admit this advice is probably WAY more relevant if you live in a big city; someplace is always hiring, so you can make the leap without losing too much income.

  6. Lucy Looseleaf said:

    OMG I just returned to my desk after a student’s dad creepily rubbed my back in the lobby. I work in a college admissions office. The only appropriate touching in this scenario is a handshake (or potentially a high-five upon learning you’ve been admitted). Yeah, sure, I gave your 17 year old son good advice. Don’t touch me.

    • Copcher said:

      Wow. So not cool. I hope the son is moving away for school, meaning his dad won’t be in the same city as you.

  7. Elizabeth said:

    I have never acted inappropriately with a server – I am friendly and pleasant, but not a creep. Now, tell me what to say to the bagel guy who used to ask me out regularly while he was putting cream cheese on my bagel, even after I told him that I was married.

    • JenniferP said:

      “Yeah, that was hilarious the last seven times you asked me, too.”

      Or, my default is a really mean, sharp “Really.”

      • E said:

        This reminds me of the creeper at the Dunkin’ Donuts who flirts by way of offering me freebies, despite my best efforts to brandish my wedding ring. I always say no, but sometimes I open my bag to find that he has snuck in unwanted hashbrowns or a weird sandwich. Extra Dunkin’ Donuts fare is not a valid flirting technique. Unless it’s coffee. But still, not okay.

        • This is a staple of weird creeps, even if they aren’t exactly flirting. I had a creepy acquaintance who used to always give me free double meat on my sandwich at the sandwich shop, despite the fact I never ordered it.

          It made me wonder – did he think I wasn’t ordering double meat because I couldn’t afford it?

          • JenniferP said:

            Ha, and it’s not like you can ask the guy to take the weird, extra meat off your sandwich without deepening your “relationship.”

          • PollyQ said:

            It’s a man thing — “Look! Me provider! Me hunt wily cold cuts, put food on table!”

  8. Kathleen said:

    And a sort of a followup – there was a woman at my local coffee shop used to sit at the counter implying all the things she’d like to do to the guy running the cappuccino machine, who stood 5 feet away. I don’t think it occurred to her that he could hear her every word, and it clearly made him uncomfortable.

    • JenniferP said:

      Ha, yes, your server can probably HEAR YOU TALKING.

  9. Lucy Looseleaf said:

    One of my (many) crackpot theories about how the world should work is that we should have a mandatory service requirement in the U.S. But, unlike other countries where it is mandatory military service, we should require customer service. I hereby decree: everyone must work one year in a service job before the age of 18. Imagine! We would all know how crappy it is to get an 8% tip! We would all understand that waitstaff are people too! We would all realize that there is NO SUCH THING AS A CAPPUCCINO EMERGENCY!

    • pikaomega said:

      I wholeheartedly concur, with one caveat. I say three months working the night shift at Denny’s (loud, obnoxious drunks who leave you an 88 cent tip in dimes, nickels and pennies-yes, that happened) and three months in a big box, department or toy store at Christmas time.

      That is, if you ever want to shop or dine out again.

  10. Johnny_B said:

    Hiya, first-time commenter. As someone who’s worked in the service industry, I can sympathize, although I’ve never really felt threatened or anything, mostly because I’m a dude and I’m pretty big. Weirdest request I ever got was from a guy who wanted to get together and read the Bible sometime. Told him I wasn’t religious and he kept asking why. That was a memorable day…

    Anyway, I agree that touching or putting unwanted pressure on someone who’s working are a big faux-pas. But what should one do, hypothetically, in case one is interested? For example, there’s a cute girl who works at my local bank where I go every week or so. We always talk a bit when I go there, she asks me about my day, etc etc. I could be wrong, but at the same time I feel like it could be a bit more than just default politeness. Is there anything I could possibly do, aside from waiting for her to make the first move (doesn’t seem likely) or hoping to run into her by chance, somewhere outside work?

    • JenniferP said:

      What’s wrong with waiting for her to make the move? Where is it written that Dudes Do The Asking Out, Women Wait To Be Asked Out (okay, to be fair, that’s in every issue of every women’s magazine ever, but it’s stupid).

      If you wanted to feel her out a little bit, you could pay some compliments, of the “It’s always so great to talk with you” or “you look great today” variety and see how they land – if she accepts them readily and throws some back you might escalate to “Look, I don’t want to be The Weird Guy Who Hits On The Bank Teller, but I always feel really great when I talk with you and am wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee sometime? Because you seem really awesome.”

      Let me clarify: If she responds to your compliments enthusiastically, by actively saying “That’s so flattering, I always think the same about you and look forward to you dropping by! Our secret nickname for you here is ‘THE HOT GUY’, like, ‘I think THE HOT GUY gets paid today!'” then perhaps you may proceed to the next level. If she just says “Well thank you!” and goes back to counting your money, take off your Glasses of Wishful Thinking and stop creeping on your bank teller, ok?

      If she says no, you can immediately say “Look, I’m sorry – the last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable. Let’s never speak of this again, have a great day.”

  11. Johnny_B said:

    What’s wrong with waiting for her to make the move? Where is it written that Dudes Do The Asking Out, Women Wait To Be Asked Out

    You’re right, and I’d love it if things worked that way. I should have mentioned though that I live in a central European country where ‘traditional’ values are still pretty much the norm, and for a woman to ask a man out would be considered quite unusual and ‘inappropriate’. This is why I said that her making the first move doesn’t seem likely, even if she was interested.

    I like your idea of complimenting her and watching for her reaction. But at the same time I thought your response was a bit hostile. I haven’t done anything so far and yet you use words like ‘creeping’? Believe me, the last thing I want to do is be that guy who is considered ‘creepy’. This is why I asked for advice on what I could do. Thanks anyway, I guess.

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t think you’re creepy! Theoretical future-you would be creepy if you did not see polite demurral for what it was, aka “Thank you for the nice compliment, I am trapped here at work and have to be nice to you in return” and I’m also pretty much on the side of “When in doubt, don’t ask out your bank teller.”

      And I’ve also lived in Central Europe, so yeah, I hear you on the Traditional Gender Roles Forever crap. Hopefully your compliments will get you some clear signals either way.

  12. lpl said:

    “Do not hand them your phone number along with your money.”

    Really? This seems ok to me, since it puts things entirely in their hands. Maybe you’re saying that handing it with the money implies some sort of “this is your tip IF YOU CALL ME LATER” contract or something? I feel most servers/etc. wouldn’t take it that way.

  13. @lpl
    (A bit late…)
    But probably you won’t be the only person doing this? And because they are going to work there for a while and can’t “escape” their costumers like people can you asked out on the street. So they can expect that 30 people who visit their store -or whatever- regularly are waiting for them to call them back? I don’t think this is nice.

  14. NAC said:

    “But if something is meant to happen between the two of you, the other person will do the awkward thing, cross the weird service/power imbalance/transactional lines, and let you know.”

    The trouble is, its just as awkward and scary and weird the other way around. I’m a guy, I work as a Barista at a little independent coffee shop frequented primarily by students. Lots of our regulars are very attractive women, and I do flirt with them, because its fun and also actually seems to get me better tips. A few times I’ve considered crossing that weird power imbalance line and slipping a customermy number (once I even went so far as to write it on a cup in preparation), but I’ve always decided against it on the grounds that this woman came in here looking for a cup of coffee and doesn’t want to be hit on, and if I make her feel uncomfortable I might lose us a regular. I’m also pretty sure my bosses/ managers would not be cool with this for that very reason.

    Maybe its just because I’m a guy, but I feel like just because the power imbalance is reversed, that wouldn’t make me any less creepy. I’d love to hear thoughts on this.

    • JenniferP said:

      Don’t do the “slipping the number thing” and don’t look at it as a numbers game.

      If there is a regular customer who you see and flirt with regularly, and it seems like your flirting turns into conversations, like, you know her name and what she’s studying and there is some kind of actual human connection, like, she volunteers information and asks you questions about yourself….AND it is a really slow day and there is no line….I don’t know, just ask her? “I always love talking to you when you come in here, would you ever want to hang out sometime (doing a thing you have mutually said you like)?” and see what she says.

      If she says no, say “I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable, you always seem so cool, I had to ask.” And then let it drop.

  15. The Grand Master said:

    Just a question here.
    I have become a regular at a certain restaurant. The first time I dined there, this waitress waited on me and she was very nice and attentive. I get it that she was only doing her job. The next time I came in, one of her co workers said “Jane’s not working today.” I was thinking to myself OK, not that I was waiting to talk to her or anything. I didn’t even know her name but he told me. I go when this restaurant is slow so I can get better service. So the next time I go, Jane is there and asks “your usual table?” I say OK. So I order and everything is fine. She is a very good waitress. So she packs up my leftovers and I ask if I can leave the bag there while I run to the store next door. She says “sure, I’ll leave it at the bar.” So I come back, pick up my order and leave. The next time I go, the same waiter says something to me where he mentions Jane’s name. So I didn’t think too much about it. The next time I go Jane doesn’t ask me if I would like my usual table but sits me away from where I usually sit. So I am thinking she is just putting me in her section because I tip well. So about half way through my meal Jane comes up to me and says out of the blue “what’s your name?” And I tell her. She says my name’s Jane pulls out her hand to shake mine and says “nice to meet you.” She doesn;t know that I already knew her name (I think). so it was Halloween and after we were introduced I said jokingly “where’s your costume?” She looks at me a little like a deer in the headlights and then says “I’ll bring it right out to you.” I was like you don’t have to go to all that trouble, I’m just kiddin’. So she brings out these Groucho glasses and she says her name is Enrique. So I kid around with her and call her Enrique. So now I’m thinking it’s a bit unusual. She out of the blue asks my name and shakes my hand. She kids around a bit. So I’m thinking she might like me. I consider myself a good customer in that I always stack my plates at the table to make it easier on the server. I don’t ask for stuff that isn’t on the menu, etc. Then the next time I come in , that waiter is working and he is taking my order. I tell him the order and then he said “Jane said you don’t like any cheese on your food.” So now I am thinking these two are friends and she must be talking to him about me. Every time I go there and Jane isn’t there, he finds a way to mention her name. So I;m thinking she is talking to him about me because she likes me. But the funny thing is she doesn’t seem to be working that shift anymore. So I am left to wonder…What is all that about? Him mentioning her name, her introducing herself, acting all nice? Any help here would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • JenniferP said:

      It’s possible she likes you.

      Question: Do you like her?

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