Treat Waitstaff Poorly? That’s a Firing.

Surely everyone has heard the story of someone who comes in for a job interview, treats the receptionist poorly, and doesn’t get the job.

That’s how it should be. Everyone deserves politeness and respect–especially when you haven’t met them before. (I’ll allow you to not respect people who have earned a lack of respect through their repeated bad behavior.)

However, when someone has already been hired, do you fire them for the same bad behavior? In an attempt to avoid work, I was scrolling through Reddit and came upon this AITA post.

Right now im working on a travel project where i’m a surveyor. Our assignment right now is 100 percent travel so were staying in hotels, going out to eat alot more than normal. My current partner is Sam. We share a company car at the location for now and she is a nice woman who is good at her job and generally pleasant to be around.

However, whenever we go out to eat she turns into a mega karen and can be really obtuse towards waiters/staff. I’ve gone out to eat with her many times over the past few weeks, and every single time there has been a problem with her meal/drink. She always sends stuff back for no reason, or for the dumbest reasons. Is always demanding a discount at the end because she had to send stuff back or demanding additonal items. If the server refuses she always demands a manager and gets very curt and direct. I always just stare at my plate because im kinda embaressed. And no joke, this happens at every meal when we go out to eat.

I told her i wouldn’t be joining her for dinner anymore and she asked why, i avoided it but she wanted an answer and i told her that her behaviour was embaressing. She got really mad and our work relationship is now strained. AITA?

Not only is the OP NTA she needs to report this to their boss.

Sam’s behavior is 100 percent unacceptable.

Look, we’ve all had bad service or mistakes in restaurants. I hate mayonnaise, and sometimes it is very difficult to convince waitstaff that I really, really, really do not want mayo on my burger. But I’m always polite, and if it’s in a country where I don’t speak the language, I just suffer.

But if you find a problem every time and are rude, and demand discounts and want to speak with the manager, you’re the problem. And I don’t want you working for me or with me.

Anyone who behaves in such a manner–even if they are perfectly nice to coworkers and clients–needs to go. At a minimum, this would be a final warning situation.

Yes, you can argue that she’s not on the clock and that what she does on her own time is her own business. And maybe in Colorado, where it’s illegal to punish an employee for legal behavior off the clock, she could argue against termination. But I’d risk it.

Being a total jerk to service providers is not a protected class. Everywhere but Montana has at-will employment.

Am I too harsh? What would you do about Sam?

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17 thoughts on “Treat Waitstaff Poorly? That’s a Firing.

  1. In France it would be legal anathema to fire someone for his behavior “off the clock” in almost any circumstances, including his incarceration for misdeeds committed after work (unless in this latter case the company can show they need a permanent replacement). However, the bigger issue I see here is that Sam is allowing a personal beef (for which if the story is accurate she appears to be 100% responsible) to affect her professional interactions with her colleague.

    If this pairing arrangement is nearing its end (<1 month) and the OP is going to be working with someone else afterwards, I would just let it go. If it's expected to continue, I would alert my supervisor, keeping the focus on documentable facts that have affected the working relationship and mentioning the restaurant issue only in passing.

    I should add this sort of situation is one major reason why I very rarely get drinks or meals with co-workers. There are some things I do not want to know.

    1. The company is likely paying for the meals for the two employees while they’re traveling. And if the servers figure out what company these travelers work for, that will reflect badly on the company.

      Tangentially, I didn’t as a general rule spend my evenings with colleagues while traveling. I worked a long day; I needed down time, alone.

  2. I would definitely tell the supervisor because assuming that they are using a company credit card, this reflects poorly on the business not just the individual.

  3. Sam would receive a final warning immediately and would be terminated the next time someone sees it happen. There is zero excuse to abuse waitstaff or any other person for that matter. In the age of cell phones, this person is likely to cause your company embarrassment at some time in the future. Nip it now.

  4. I agree with you one-hundred percent. People who treat wait staff poorly -despite their otherwise genial personality-are showing you who they really are. Bullying those whom you feel superior to simply reveals character flaws that will ultimately show up in the work place.

    Sam needs to go!

  5. If the story is accurate, Sam character like a ‘smoke’ will give her away at work sooner or later. Character can’t be masked for too long.

  6. The nasty side of me would be inclined to warn the server up front that the person I’m with will likely complain about nothing to try to con them into a discount on a meal she’s not even paying for. Sam would very likely complain the our mutual boss about it, but that means she’s the one bringing her bad behavior to the attention of those who can discipline her. (It would also be helpful to have thoroughly documented her behavior at previous places, including names and contact info for servers and managers.)

    Give Sam enough rope, and she’ll solve the problem – herself- for you.

  7. I wonder if this ever happens when she lunches with clients.
    Regardless, they’re traveling for work and she’s with a coworker, so at the bare minimum, Sam should be acting like she’s in the office break room, not Queen Karen sitting on her throne. And I definitely think OP should let their boss know this is happening.

  8. The writer should not call anyone a “karen.” Doing so turns someone’s name into a vulgar epithet. There’s a thesaurus full of real, alternative words. I wish you, my wonderful Evil HR Lady, had noticed and edited the Reddit question appropriately.

    (signed) Mother-in-law of the best Karen ever

  9. Such a variety of responses to a key issue—unsuitable derogatory behavior to service personnel. The person describing the behavior didn’t mention how this person behaves in interactions with other types of service personnel just the dining out situation but just from the description of the behavior, this specific individual doesn’t perceive their behavior offensive and probably thinks they are entitled to be served without any complaint from the service personnel. ( that doesn’t excuse their behavior).
    Unless the company requires the two traveling partners to eat together for billing purposes, it shouldn’t be a problem to separate dinner arrangements, especially since they can’t find an appropriate way to address this person and tell them directly that their constant complaints about their food has made them uncomfortable when eating. ( not only spoiling their appetite but enjoyment of the food). I would think that would have been the first approach especially since this individual has been a long term travel partner, this behavior would have been noticeable for quite a while, so why make it an HR problem unless the behavior is seen in all interactions with personnel in lower level positions. Since these two individuals are a team—there’s no I behavior allowed that reflects on the team. Nitpicking about the food preparation should not be a major factor in dining out.

  10. AITA: Am I the Asshole? It is a Reddit group, and where people post their stories (like this one) and ask readers if they are in the right or not — Am I the Asshole (or is the other person)?

    NTA: Not the Asshole is the response from readers when they feel the OP (original poster) is in the right — that the original poster is Not the Asshole.

  11. Wow, jerk or not, this wouldn’t rise to even discipline with my company. Someone rude to staff on their own time? No one would care. I guess my jurisdiction only has for-cause terminations, or lay-offs, and this wouldn’t be either.

    Assuming Sam was asked what was up, I think she would say… “I’m not being rude; I’m being direct.” Then where are you as a manager investigating discipline?

  12. What people do in their own time is their own business. And even if the meal is reimbursed by the company, that doesn’t make it the company’s responsibility. If she stayed up all night binge watching Game of Thrones instead of getting a good night’s rest should that be reported to the company too because they paid for the hotel? Are our employers our parents now too? As for the idea that it makes the company look bad, that’s silly. In any large enough company there will be people, some of whom are probably people you work with, get along with and that unbeknownst to you, send food back for “dumb reasons”. They shouldn’t all be unemployable.

  13. Some companies have a “No A**hole” Rule, requiring all employees to behave civilly and not be jerks. Whether or not the offender should be fired, someone should, at least, let her know the effect of her behavior on her relationship with her coworker. One of the things we’ve learned from the Working From Home phenomenon is the beneficial value of informal, “water cooler” type interactions between employees. By making mealtimes so unpleasant, this rude individual is depriving herself, her coworkers, and the company, of that collateral benefit. It’s hard to imagine that her overly-entitled mindset isn’t have detrimental effects in other aspects of her life, and work, too.

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