MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: Stereotypes at work

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To modify an old saying, 99% of restaurant servers will tell you they stereotype customers; the other 1% are lying. They do it by every protected status you can think of: age, race, gender, national origin, and ethnicity, to name a few. But they also judge people by the way they look, dress, talk, and interact. A server will generally suffer these diners silently, until their tip is assured. Only then they let loose with their vicious stereotypes.

Check this one out from www.bitterwaitressconfessions.tumblr.com: “Am I wrong to feel belittled when a pretentious group of hipsters needs to split a $45 check on five different credit cards, only to have one of them shamelessly leave zero for a tip because he knows his friends won’t notice?”

Or from www.thebitterwaiter.com: “A group of white, uptight, pony tail soccer moms and their well-trained vegan children descended upon my section recently for lunch.”

And another: “Bob, an evenly average, boring, cold man with less-than-average social skills, brought his girlfriend, Linda, into the restaurant to celebrate their one-year anniversary.” (Bob was redeemed when he “… unexpectedly slipped me $20. It might be a small amount to you but it's the difference between buying vodka or putting gas in the car vs. buying vodka and putting gas in the car).”

Even though I am a former server myself, I cringe at the – well, bitterness – of these posts. People go out to eat to give themselves a break. Maybe they have a hard life, or just a bad day. But no matter what, they don’t deserve to be spoken of like this on Veterans’ Day:

“I'd had some really rude customers - and I don't mean veterans, I mean people coming in demanding they get a free meal because their son was in Iraq, or their husband died in Korea, or whatever.” (www.slightlycrankywaitress.blogspot.com)

WHATEVER. I once waited on a group of men and one of them was inexplicably rude to me. I was frustrated but remained respectful. At the end of the meal, one of his companions came to me apologetically. This is what I remember, and from the context, it was quite clear to me that he was being serious: “I would like to apologize for my friend’s behavior. He was just diagnosed with a brain tumor and he’s really having a tough time of it.” The man left me a good tip.

I remembered the old quote of uncertain origin, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Servers and customers aren’t the only ones who need to remember this.
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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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