Throughout any shift there are multiple chances for a guest to speak up if something is unsatisfactory. They might have a problem with the service, the drinks, the food, etc. I’ve had guests who complain about where they have to park, the temperature in the restaurant, that I look like someone they don’t like (seriously, it was a losing battle from the start). In all reality, every shift is trying to navigate the inevitable of something going wrong at some point for someone. Most servers and bartenders that I know make it their job (oh, because it is) to ensure that everything is up to par, and all of the pieces of the dining out puzzle fit seamlessly.
Recently I had an encounter with a passive aggressive note on the credit card slip left by a guest. Stopping by tables after drinks have been dropped off to ensure that everyone is happy with their choices gives them a chance to let me know if their wine isn’t good, or they grossly miscalculated what a cocktail might taste like. If the guest doesn’t speak up, I am none the wiser.
After food arrives there are two simple steps I take to ensure all goes well: First, see what else the guest might want for sides. There is always the person that wants a side of ranch who forgets to order it with their meal. Checking to see if visually they are satisfied with the way that their meal looks. After a few bites, I double check that the meal is tasting as good as it looked. Every time I ask whether or not something is okay, the guest is given a fair shot at telling me if something is wrong. Refilling waters along the way and grabbing new cutlery when the hand-talker at the table flings theirs while telling a dramatic tale.
I can go through each and every one of these steps and have the guest tell me each time that things are great, grand, even wonderful. Once they pay I clean their table, only to find a passive aggressive note about how the tip would have been more (they left 10%) if I had paid more attention to their water glasses. Upon finding this note my blood started to boil. After running their credit card (and throughout their meal) I consistently filled their waters. Even after they had closed out (continuing service beyond what most would consider the end of the arrangement, which could be a forthcoming article as well) I made sure that they had full glasses.
The only thing that I could gather was that there was simply something that had to be wrong, and that they felt the need to justify their tip. So you are a 10%er? That’s great! So are a lot of people. So leave it at that. Leaving a false passive aggressive complaint on a credit card slip does nothing except make you look like an a**. If there were a legitimate complaint, and something had truly been wrong with the dining experience, then speak up! Because if you don’t, I’m calling your bluff.