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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dirty Table? Sure, Sit There!

Like the lure of the Sirens that drew sailors towards the shore of their rocky island coast, so goes the lone dirty table in the restaurant crying out to the customer to "sit here, sit here." It matters not how many clean tables may be in the restaurant, for if there is but one table that has not been wiped down and set with silverware, that is the one the customer will want to seat themselves at.

One of the restaurants I work in is very small with only fourteen tables. On a particularly slow night recently, we have one table occupied with one table that is dirty because the two-top had just left. This leaves twelve tables that are blissfully clean with glasses, silverware and napkins. At precisely that moment, another two-top comes in and stands at the front of the restaurant waiting to be seated. I am standing behind the bar washing my hands.

"Hi folks, how are you tonight? Table for two?" I ask.

They nod their heads which I take to mean "We are doing fine, thank you for asking. How are you? And yes, we would like a table for two."

"Sit anywhere you like and I will be right there with menus and water."

They again nod their heads which I take to mean "Thank you very much for acknowledging us, you're very kind and your hair is really pretty."

I watch them as they walk towards the dining room. They pass the one booth in the restaurant that has people at it. They then pass the second booth that is perfectly ready to have people sit at it. Then they approach the third booth that has two dirty napkins on it and some spilled water along with a few crumbs. They sit there.

What is it about that table makes them want to sit at it? The booth right next to it is identical and then there are two other booths in the back of the restaurant. There are a total of twelve other tables these people can sit down at, but they choose the one table that practically has a sign on it that says "Do Not Sit Here."

Is there a big golden magnet underneath the table that pulls these people to it? Is that table emitting some silent song like those of the Sirens that customers find so lovely that they have to get as close to it as possible? Do they do it on purpose just so they can get a bird's-eye view of their waiter cleaning a table.

I grab my spray bottle and a paper towel and head over to the dirty table.

"Let me wipe this down for you folks since it looks like it's still dirty from the last customer."

I ball up the napkins and spray the table with soapy water. I wipe it down being careful to not let the crumbs fall into the laps of the customers.

"I'll be right back with silverware and glasses, folks."

They nod which I take to mean "Oh, we're so sorry we sat here. I guess we weren't paying attention but thank you for not making us feel uncomfortable."

I return to set the table.

"Now, I'll be right back with those menus I promised you."

The rest of our time together went as usual. Was it a big deal that they sat at the one dirty table? No, it wasn't that big of a deal but I find it incredibly irritating that people will sit at the one goddamn dirty table in the whole restaurant and not think twice about. Note to those who are seating themselves in restaurants: if you see a bunch of tables that are set with silverware and glasses and you see one that is dirty, don't sit at the dirty table. We don't like that.

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Rogue Wino said...

People can't be trusted to seat themselves :P

Anonymous said...

I hated hostessing. Sat a party of two at a table and the lady says, um, excuse me, we need that booth over there. I never sit at a table. Um, really bitchy lady? You have a booth at your house? I wish I could have said that! Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I've gone so far as to ask people, "Just out of curiousity, what made you choose the table that's dirty over all these nice clean ones?" No one ever has an answer. Ever. I think it's something in the subconscious telling them people had fun here before. I'd really like to know if someone's done a study on this.

Maegan Bledsoe said...

Maybe they liked the view from the dirty table? I sometimes try to sit in particular locations for various reasons. I don't want to be too near the bathroom, but close enough that I can send my older child if she needs to go (b/c I don't take her in there myself, I feel like she's old enough to piss alone). I don't want my squirmy younger child to bother people around us (so being in a corner or at the end of a row is helpful...I can put her on the side of the table with the least amount of people). If I've been in the restaurant before and know the heat or air blows from a certain vent...or the door lets in air from the outside that is uncomfortable (it never fails, my husband seats us too close to the front of one restaurant & current conditions mean there is a siberian wind blasting over my plate).

I don't mind waiting for a table to be cleaned if it means I have a "good" seat. I'll probably tip more b/c the person had to make the effort to clean it for me, too. ;)

Workingdan said...

I've never willingly seated myself at a dirty table but I have been seated at one. The nerve of those people!

Practical Parsimony said...

I pick out my table by where I want to sit, not according to whether it is clean or not. Like Maegan, I have my reasons--not near kitchen, door, cold windows, sun blazing through windows, kids, guys that smell smoky, light with glare, not enough light.

Sometimes, I just don't sit at that dirty table that I like and move on to the next table. When there is a row of dirty tables in the area where I want to eat, I just sit down at the best place. I don't mean to be a pain.

At other times, I shun the dirty table for a clean one. It's complicated.

Practical Parsimony said...

Look at this blog:

It is springs1. Look at her personal profile. She obviously starts a new blog when she has a problem, posts once and no more. She has many blogs, so I did not check them all.


Anonymous said...

Does my head in. But I did catch a TV show once that hypothesised that we each have a "heatprint" like a footprint that we leave behind us, and others are drawn to it (as opposed to our 'personal space' which is about keeping distance from strangers). They put a camera on a bus for about 8 hours, and found that there was a pattern: in the beginning seats were taken alternately (personal space) but then newcomers would sit in a seat that had just been vacated rather than one that had never been sat. It was really odd!

Anonymous said...

PS Springs1's blog is terrifying.

anne marie in philly said...

WTF would a person sit at a dirty table? I wouldn't.

springs1 probably would and bitch about it the entire time.

Anonymous said...

Oh..... My...... God. Meagan and Practical I hope you NEVER sit in my section!

Anonymous said...

Springs1 is a sociopath and I am now praying for the helpless servers at her local chilli's

Unknown said...

I am a server/bartender with 34 years of experience, and this very conundrum has plagued me for 33 of those (exhausting yet lucrative) years!
Grad student(s): PLEASE do a study on this annoying recurrence!
It's quite annoying to try and wipe up a toddler's spilled... everything, while Grandma is adjusting her purse hook and trying to placate Aunt Jen. SERIOUSLY, people, sit at a clean table! Your hands are touching germs until I get there to sanitize the damn table.

Anonymous said...

Trying to understand people in the general public will only drive you crazy. Who the hell knows wtf is going on in their heads. People are a-holes, through and through. Especially people whose name rhymes with "sings fun." (I wanna slap her parents and sterilize her, her ilk make this world so much worse than it needs to be.)

Anonymous said...

springs1 is the worst kind of psycho and if you say anything about her or it, it will stalk you and ruin your blog. I am serious.

As for dirty tables, sitting at one is a great way to get ignored during a rush. Maybe they want it that way so they have a reason to be a horrid bitch. Like Springs 1.

maxi said...

Not only do people sit themselves on our terrace without asking t be seated (annoying as we don't know they're there straight away) but they ALWAYS choose the dirty table then bitch at us cos it's dirty! Gaaaaaaahhh!!!!!!

Maegan Bledsoe said...

Practical...I am glad I am not alone in my weird table preferences! I will try not to take the ONE dirty table...but if there are a few on one side of the restaurant and I just happen to prefer that side of the restaurant...I will sit...and not mind that the table is dirty and let the staff wipe it off. If there was gross food on plates, I probably wouldn't sit there...but in my experience that hasn't happened yet. I'm in Germany...seating yourself is a given in most restaurants unless you come during the dinner service, where you've got a reservation.

Anonymous said...

While I'm sure sometimes people may have a good reason to sit at a dirty table, as pointed out above, that is def not the case a lot of the time. For example, in my restaurant, 3 window tables, all 4 tops, all same type of seats, same view, none any nearer/closer to a door, etc., and if all 3 are empty and 1 is dirty, yup, the dirty one is the 1 that gets sat. I don't care if someone wants a particular table, just ask me first. I don't mind cleaning it off, I'd just rather do it BEFORE you sit there.It's less awkward for eeryone, and plus, if I'm busy, I can tell you to just give me a minute instead of either A0leaving you to sit at a dirty table until I get a chance, or B) dropping everything I'm trying to do to hurry and clean it up for you after you sat your dumb butt at a dirty table.

allerictostupid said...

Wow. I've always been curious about why people are so psychotic about where they sit. By a window, where the music isn't so loud, not by the kitchen, not by the bathroom, NEVER a table, only booths, not the one with the microscopic rip in the seat. It's too cold here, it's too hot here. Seriously people? Even before I was a server, I never cared where I was sat as long as someone would bring me food there. And I would never have had the self-absorption to demand a "good" table for all of my royal quirks. People are amazing. If you're that picky about your seat, I just can't wait to take your order! Which is exactly why I prefer the section that most people want to move from. The people who do sit there are usually polite and chill, not just about seating, but about everything. And the two posters above who "understand" people who just HAVE to sit in a certain place, the employees at the restaurants you frequent roll their eyes when you come in and fight over who is going to have to deal with your picky asses this time. Unless you're a seriously outrageously good tipper, whatever you are leaving them is not worth dealing with a picky, pain-in-the-ass customer.

Practical Parsimony said...

When there is a hostess to seat me, I resent having to sit where she wants me to sit. I really don't care if that section is not the one she needs to seat someone in. If I cannot sit where I want, then the restaurant can serve me a free meal because the snorting of the hostess and stomping around sort of ruins the meal for me. The free meal would cheer me up.

I seem to remember a time when the hostess would ask where I wanted to sit.

When I am truly a pain, I know it and apologize profusely and with good humor. However, sitting next to the doorway between two rooms where there is barely room for my chair against the wall next to the door with a window on the other side of me is not my idea of comfortable place to eat. Yet, the hostess thought she could make me sit there. The fact I was eating alone made all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Practical Parsimony..

You sound completely insufferable.
Also the host can probably tell this a mile off which is why you get seated in the shittiest place in the whole joint.

here's a little trip. Try being nice, you'll get a lot better service out of it and your server's soul won't die a little inside every time they have to serve someone like you :)

Practical Parsimony said...

Thanks. So, seating me in an undesirable place when there are only three people in the whole restaurant is a deliberate act. Hopefully, you are an anomaly.

When I limp in or use a cane or walker, it will make me feel soooo much better to know I am a laughable target. I do tip over 15%. Yes, I am a pain. But, I suppose that is because the waiter decided to make my life miserable as soon as I walked in the door by never bringing the whole dish, no utensils, clearing my half-eaten plate when I just go to the restroom and bf is at salad bar, never bringing me a refill on tea.

You make servers sound like cruel, vindicative, plotting bitches, which I am sure is not true of everyone else. I really did not expect to be attacked by such a sterling group of people.

With my disabilities I don't expect to be seated in a place where I have to move chairs and crawl over things when the section is empty, much less when the section is full of people.

You should be ashamed of your attitude and the inability to post nastiness without posting your name.

If you expect the worst out of a customer and treat the customer accordingly, no wonder people get under your skin. Thankfully, I don't meet many servers like you.

I was a waitress a long time ago, and some of the nicest people were servers from other places.

I allowed people to change tables and worked with a smile. People are really appreciative of a server who just ignores their quirks. BW is funny. You are not.

Thankfully, I don't have many problems in restaurants, but when I do, the problems with disappearing servers, no tea refills, incomplete or wrong food all happens with one incompetent server. Then, I can go for months without one single problem.

Anonymous said...

Is Practical Parsimony related to Springs1?

DMT said...

To be honest I find it to be a tad insulting when someone sits at the only dirty table in the place it's like they're saying "You know what? You're hear to serve me! I'll make sure I get my money's worth by making you work the little bit harder"

Fool Critic said...

"I resent having to sit where she wants me to sit."

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of it. Customers don't like losing one iota of control.

Practical Parsimony, nobody is denying that you may have had bad service or had to deal with physical difficulties - possibly discrimination. But expecting a free meal because you wanted to sit at a different table is utterly ridiculous.

The fact that you take everything as a personal attack on you (both in public and on this blog) might indicate that maybe your hostesses/servers aren't the ones with the problem - you are.

Also, unless your parents actually christened you "Practical Parsimony", you can stop shaming other commenters for using aliases.

Jaseki said...

This is just weird, why would someone sit at a dirty table when there are many others available? Is it to ensure their table is "freshly" cleaned in front of them and to make sure they get "fresh" dishes and cutlery or something? So they can inspect the cleaning process? Truly bizarre. I'm a psych nurse and would love to do a study on this.

I'm thinking the people in the BW's scenario just didn't want to sit next to other people.

Anonymous said...

Jesus. I think maybe you'd better just eat at home.

Anonymous said...

Let's pretend there are four servers working. The hostess seats server #1 a 4 top, then #2 gets a 2 top, then #3 a 10 top. Now server #3 is pretty busy, but that's ok, because she knows the next 3 tables to walk in the door will not be seated in her section. A few seconds later, you come into the restaurant and the hostess leads you into server #4's section. Server #4 will be the most adequate to serve you at that particular time, seeing as it is her turn on the rotation to get a table. However, you don't like that table and insist on choosing some other table despite the hostess looking at you like "Umm what do you think you're doing?". So you sit yourself down in server #3's section, where unbeknownst to you, you're probably about to get shitty service because she is going to be much more focused on the 10 top she just got. The hostess knew that, which is why she hand picked a place for you to sit where you'd be taken care of promptly. And now that you're getting slow service, you probably want a free meal, don't you...

Practical Parsimony said...

i was just kidding about the free meal. The point was that if I am going to pay for a meal, I should be able to eat it in comfort. No, I don't take everything personally. I was just expressing myself like all the servers were. Servers seem to have their own pet peeves, just as customers do. You all were speaking your mind and wondering what goes on in the head of customers. I was just enlightening you. It seems I am not welcome here anymore.

BW shreds customers with such high humor, never going for the jugular without making the victim laugh. I can laugh at myself when he nails me.

Fool Critic said...

I didn’t realise you were joking about the free meal (even now when I read over it, it’s very unclear) so sorry about the jab – however you are on a forum where hospitality workers make up the majority of the audience. Didn’t you think that making derogatory comments about hostesses might upset people? We get insulted enough during work hours.

Nobody said you are not welcome; they disagreed with you, and stated why. Big difference. The thing about expressing your opinion is that other people have the right to do so as well. Just because others don't agree with you doesn't mean your rights are being violated or you're being kicked out. We’ve had plenty of customers comment here, and as long as the discussion is civilised (and that includes being able to take criticism) there’s never a problem, and everyone is welcome.

Except for Springs1, obviously.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you patiently stand *beside* the dirty table in a self-seating area, you're going to get helped a lot faster. The staff will (hopefully) appreciate the fact that you are NOT sitting at a dirty table, plus if you're standing, you're most likely in the way, so we're gonna be inclined to get the table cleaned up for you faster.

Practical Parsimony said...

Fool Critic,
I suppose I was being so wryly sarcastic that no one realized I was saying--"you want me to not be comfortable, who is paying for eating here?" If I cannot sit at the booth without pain, why do I want to actually pay for food and struggle with pain because of where a server wants me to sit.

I was called insufferable and compared to the most horrible person you all know--springs1. That sound like an attack to me.

I don't believe I have insulted anyone on hereI never even criticized any of the servers on this blog.

I never, ever in my wildest dreams would think it insulting to a server for a customer to sit at a dirty table. I cannot stand by a table long enough for a server to clean it. Beside, standing at the table makes me look impatient. I will sit and then get up when the server can clean it. You know, I am not sitting there making a face or looking disgusted because no one is cleaning the table.

Most of the time, I really avoid a dirty table. Sometimes, I sit at a table that I don't realize has not been completely cleaned--dishes are bussed but table not wiped/cleaned.

I have eaten with people whom I think are abusive to the waiters. I am embarressed and apologize and usually sneak another tip to the server.

In my opinion, sitting at a dirty table does not reflect on the server's ability. If I want to sit at a table that hppens to be dirty, I will stand for it to be cleaned rather than plop myself down as it is being cleaned.

mismatchme said...

I understand where you are coming from in regard to preference in seating as a host and a customer. BUT as a host and someone with a little knowledge of how a restaurant will work, if you have a preference for where you want to sit CALL AHEAD AND MAKE A RESERVATION AND TELL THE PERSON ON THE PHONE.

Chances are, you'll get the table you want if you're not a douchebag about it. But if you walk into a restaurant that isn't seat yourself, you sit where you can fit in. I hate when people play musical tables when I'm working on a busy night. We've had people come in who begged us to seat them wherever possible when there was a long wait, sometimes we are able to make a little room but it's going to be uncomfortable. But when I tell you that this is the only seat in the house or that we've got tables reserved for people who you know...made a reservation, don't ask your server, busboy or the kitchen if you can move to "that table over there."

Your comfort is important, but not at the expense of every other guest.

Anonymous said...

Mismatchme.. I completely agree! I get customers in my restaurant that have even memorised the table numbers so they can book ahead and request a specific table!
If a customer wants to sit on a specific table, the best thing to do is just ASK first. It's a lot easier to clean a table without people at it. And, chances are the table is dirty cause the sever didn't have time to clean it yet, so if you sit in that servers section you probably won't get the best quality service as you would if you were sitting in a less busy section...

The problem tne servers have is with the people who just waltz in like they own the place and plop themselves down in the dirtiest table - the clean table next to it isn't THAT different.

And practical parsimony, what did you expect when you made a comment like that on a blog post COMPLAINING about customers sitting on a dirty table?? Or maybe you are just trolling for a reaction. Obviously the host/server is going to try to get you the seat you want but if you do it with a good attitude (hopefully you are a lot nicer than you sound on here!) the servers are probably going to be a lot nicer to you as well sweet heart :)

On another note, it's so funny in a quiet period telling people to go ahead and sit any where they like. People always look a little bit lost without direction hehe bless them.

Tspiper said...

Oh my, you might be that person.

Anonymous said...

What's almost as annoying as a customer sitting at a dirty table, is a hostess seating a customer at a dirty table. I literally had to tell a hostess to stop doing that two weekends ago. I had to explain that I pre buss/buss tables but may not get around to wiping them. Instead of just checking the tables first(what a concept), she's just going to wipe them regardless if they are clean or dirty. Common sense is certainly not common.

Anonymous said...

I like it when the fat guy wedges himself in the only seat that will block me from walking around the table or my direct route to the server station.

Anonymous said...

i had a crazy customer the other day.. two IDENTICAL tables.. one set up ready to go, one dirty. The customer was just headed over to the dirty one when I caught her and said "Hey theres a lovely table right there all ready to go for you" and she replied "oh we didn't want to sit on a table thats all set up already" I literally don't know what goes through these peoples head, the table is set up FOR YOU sweet heart, if you sit in the dirty one I just have to clean it and set it up anyways... ugh.

Anonymous said...

Well said Anonymous that wrote than on January 18 of 2013 at 1:48 AM


Anonymous said...

I feel the same way ! Why, oh why, must they sit at a dirty table ? I might understand it better if it's insanely busy, no time to clean, ok, sit down, get out of the way, whatever....but in an empty restaurant, 11 clean tables staring you in the face and they zombie-walk right towards the dirty one.....
I once told a customer, while cleaning the dirty table, "let me get these dirty dishes out of your way, I don't understand how anyone can sit in another person's mess, it's so unsanitary" !
Their response...."oh, take your time, we're in no rush"...
Sometimes you just can't win ! ;)

Anonymous said...

Right??? What is with ppl?? God! I didn't understand it! I pay the barista during my shift to clean and bus my tables since she's so fast at it. And ppl still go directly to the tablethat has dirty dishes stacked to the hilt! I don't think Jesus would've say at the tale where they had the last supper if it was dirty! That is one thing about the service industry that makes me cringe!

Katie D. said...

I like to believe that, like you mentioned, it is a subconscious draw to a place that someone else enjoyed. My husband however, also a server, thinks it is because they like to assert their dominance by making you do something for them immediately... He might have been doing this for too long.

Rebecca said...

Thats not fair. Kids change a lot of things. Especially if you are the considerate type who knows the server doesn't want or get paid enough to have to deal other customers complaining about our kids. They can't eat mcd's all the time

Pupuk Bawang Merah said...

it's my first time reading it, I really love your writing style