How Not To Be A Dick To Montreal Servers: 7 Things Staff Want You To Stop Doing Immediately

These (bar)tendencies deserve to be eradicated.

Staff Writer
An empty Montreal restaurant, as photographed from the street.

An empty Montreal restaurant, as photographed from the street.

Most everyone has taken up some server's time with a complicated request, a HUGE group, a late addition to the party, or simply a shit tip after decent service. But are we being our best selves in those moments? Perhaps not.

We can't forget that to fully enjoy a meal or a drink in a place of business is to outsource the annoying parts of eating and drinking: as customers, we don't do food prep or cooking or mixing or cleaning up. So, really, it's the least we can do to treat servers with a little extra love and patience, even when we're starving and hangry.

There's a fundamental imbalance of power between servers and customers, one that puts the public at an advantage: we control the quality of each server's day, and even — in the unfortunate economic system we find ourselves in — the amount of money these people, strangers to us, take home at the end of their shift. To be rude, dismissive, or otherwise dickish to your servers is to ignore that making you happy is just one part of their JOB, not their ENTIRE BEING.

At MTL Blog's request, a cast of brave service workers have shared some of their biggest annoyances, perhaps in the hopes that someone would finally listen.

Each pet peeve has been ethically sourced from former and current service industry workers, each of whom is a dazzling gem for sharing their experiences with this advice columnist. All quotes come from someone who has spent some time bartending, waiting tables or otherwise serving the general public.

Treating them like robots here only to feed you

Several servers reported being bothered "when a customer doesn't even say hello and just starts ordering, no please or thank you, [or] when a customer stays on their phone the whole time while ordering."

Servers are paid to bring you food and to do so with a smile, but they aren't machines. This is a deceptively simple statement, one that is too easily forgotten in the face of hunger, tiredness or frustration. It may be a brief interaction for you, but the way you treat a service worker can stick with them for far longer than your order takes to come out.

Instead of hitting a server's "Hey, how are you!!" with a brusque "I want a...," remembering to be polite and efficient can go a long way toward making them not hate your guts.

Making weird, unreasonable requests

Starbucks came up a lot in the process of gathering anecdotes, and for good reason. Workers in those hallowed green halls seem to face some of the most rampant unreasonable requests out of any service job, including — and yes, this is real — someone requesting that a Starbucks worker "put a cake pop in the blender."

That's obviously a little extreme, but who among us hasn't asked for a hyper-complicated coffee-adjacent beverage at least once in our lives? You don't need to go overboard and tailor your order to be as easy as possible, but consider your barista's long and arduous shift when you're thinking about asking them to do something objectively ridiculous.

Asking for modifications that don't add up

Similarly, bartenders often face "people who order things but modify it so it's not possible," according to several mixologists. Asking for a sour with no egg whites or a mocktail version of an alcohol-only cocktail is very tedious and rather tiring for your overworked service professionals.

Think about what you're ordering in advance, and consider whether it makes sense. If you don't know, asking what the server recommends is a perfectly socially acceptable way to avoid sounding really silly when you ask for a bramble with no gin.

Being obstinate in the face of mild language differences

"You've never had to suffer till dealing with a franco[phone] customer who treats you like shit because you're anglo[phone]," one server submitted. "Even when you're speaking in clear and understandable French."

If you're speaking French and someone replies in French, it is nice and courteous to continue the conversation in French, regardless of your personal opinions on your interlocutor's fluency. As the server in question so rightfully put it, being rude due to a language barrier is just a way of being "condescending and look[ing] down on you because of the role you're in."

The bottom line in many of these situations is to remember the other person is a whole, complex human being with their own insecurities and motives. You don't need to make a worker (who is doing their job) feel unnecessarily bad because you don't like the way they pronounced the word "croissant," I promise. The French language will survive.

Taking servers being nice very, VERY personally

One bartender shared that they dislike when "people I met once at the bar running into me irl and seeming hurt that I'm not as interested/flirtatious as I was at work! or people that expect that in general if we met at the bar."

"Emotional labour" is a term frequently misused, but what it actually means is a crucial element of service work. To perform emotional labour is to be required, as part of your job, to act happier, friendlier, nicer and even more flirtatious than you necessarily would express on your own. Service workers, especially bartenders, end up doing huge amounts of emotional labour that customers sometimes confuse for earnest feelings.

This isn't to say that you're a bad person or a fool for thinking that bartender was actually into you, but it's best practice to assume that anyone who is actively doing their job during your interaction with them is probably not waiting for you to sweep them off their feet.

Not cleaning up after yourself

At the end of a meal, it's a good idea to put your dirty napkins and other trash on your plate, to avoid making your servers touch your nasty food waste. It might be a part of their job, but it's one you can help them avoid by being just a little extra kind.

Once you've gotten over your brief crush on the bar staff and your meal is over, consolidating your dirty dishes is a nice gesture that doesn't take much work — and your server might appreciate it more than you know.

Pushing your luck to save a buck (ha ha ha)

When it's time to pay, it's time to pay, and "asking for free stuff/discounts, [or] asking why the menu or restaurant is a certain way or why it's so expensive" is both annoying and also not likely to lead anywhere. Servers aren't there to give you a discount, they're there to serve you food that you are choosing to pay for. Give them your money, add a little more on top, and go your merry way knowing that you're, in the words of everyone's favourite subreddit, Not The Asshole.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog, often found covering weird and wonderful real estate and local politics from her home base in Montreal.
Recommended For You