They can sometimes be the most annoying people in the world, but sometimes they can be incredibly entertaining. These are the pettiest diners when it comes to saving money on food. Content has been edited for clarity.
"Years ago, I opened my first restaurant to the public. It was a massive effort of six months of putting everything together to operate the best fish restaurant in town. My team was awesome and everybody was happy to work there. From the beginning, I had the blessing of having the professional, demented, loyal and responsible staff members that any could dream of. We were a family.
After about three tough months of hard work, our business was growing steadily and we were correcting procedures and policies to make the experience of the customers the best possible. That’s when we had their first visit.
A group of four women that came late in the lunch service, all dressed in gym attire and a very loud and fun attitude. All my waiters, even female staff, eyes wide open to the very attractive patrons.
They order salads to begin, followed by risotto. All of them choose the exact same dishes, easy ticket to fire in the kitchen.
I am unaware of what is going on, away in my office at that hour of low traffic of customers.
One of the waiters comes to the office with a concerned look on her face and says that we have a problem. In the kitchen, our chef stares at the four half-eaten risotto. It is the first time since opening someone has returned their food, and it's four dishes. The waitress explains that they sent the dishes back because there is something wrong with the seafood, that it doesn’t taste right.
Without hesitation the chef and I approach the table to apologize and ask if we can solve the inconvenience by making something else for them without any cost, but the offer is kindly turned away. They had enough. They even say 'we understand you are a new restaurant, this kind of mistake happens.' They even go as far as 'we are sure it won’t happen again, you have learned something new today...'
They leave the restaurant and the check is on us. I am doing everything possible to make as many clients we can by offering a respectful good service. We need the word of mouth out.
A week goes by and the group shows up, again late lunch service. They order four salads, and this time they order pasta (no seafood); they all choose the same.
Not long after, four half-eaten plates of pasta sit on the kitchen’s pass. The chef, our kitchen staff and the waiters stand in silence– it is the second time plates have been returned since we opened and it’s the same people.
Without hearing what the waitress wants to say, I go alone to talk to the four gym ladies. They all greet me profusely and I joke about them wanting to see me every time they come to the restaurant. This time the pasta is too salty and they can’t eat so much sodium, 'water retention' one mentions. Again, I offer if something else would make things better, but they reject kindly.
This time they get a check for the salads and the drinks, which is not so happily welcomed by the group.
Two more weeks go by and the group returns, the same story repeats. This time it's the half-eaten salmon they send back. I had enough of this charade, so I go to the table to offer half portions for future visits which they take as an offense. They claim the food is bad and every time they visit they have to send back food to the kitchen for poor quality. They refuse to pay a cent for what they’ve eaten this time and start making a big scene in front of my staff, the other customers and the curious passersby. Meanwhile, my manager calls the police. She wants them to pay the check and leave.
The police arrive and immediately recognize the group; this isn’t the first time these four have caused problems. Even worse, they have done the same thing in three other local restaurants.
The police made them pay the full check and they left never to come back again.
The strategy is simple: they would order whatever they really wanted to eat (salad, entrée, etc.) and then would order the same second dish that would be half-eaten and sent back to the kitchen with the excuse it was not properly cooked or the food was spoiled, not being charged for those dishes and repeat the process until the restaurant had enough of their garbage."
"I was speaking to a guy from a dating site for a couple of weeks before we went on a date. He seemed to be a stand up guy. We decided we'd go bowling then for a meal. I was really excited to meet him.
First of all, I didn't have a car, which he knew. He drove to the bowling alley, he would have had to take a 2-minute detour to pick me up, but he didn't. So I walked. I was never going to ask for a lift, but if I was him, I'd have offered for sure.
It was a 25-minute walk from my place to the bowling alley. We arranged to meet at 6:00 pm. He arrived 10 minutes early and called me to see where I am. I said I'll be there in 10. He said he'd pick me up, but he'd already paid for his parking ticket. Again, don't know why he didn't offer before but I let it slide.
I arrived on time. He didn't attempt to look smart. He wore jeans which had a paint stain on and a polo shirt. I wanted to see through the date as we'd seemed such a great match.
I ordered the bowling ticket and shoes and before the lady asked for payment he quickly said he was going to the toilet to put the shoes on. Which is weird, because I usually put the shoes on when I sit down at the alley. I paid. Now, I don't mind paying for the both of us, I just found it rude that he didn't offer to at least pay his half. He clearly ran off to the toilet on purpose.
At this point, I'd paid so I wanted to see the game through. I was thinking the whole time, he seemed such a good man for the past couple of weeks. I don't understand.
He was constantly making lewd remarks throughout the game. I like to be complimented, but he was constantly commenting on my butt. I was getting a little uncomfortable.
After the game, I was going to go home but he said he'd booked a table in a restaurant, so I thought, whatever, I'm hungry. I might as well eat. Maybe he's paying for the food as he's booked the restaurant and I've paid for bowling. Maybe this was why he didn't offer to pay his half of the bowling. I'll give him this chance. The restaurant was only a 5-minute walk away, so we walked.
Now, I wasn't just thinking about money. I was thinking about manners and respect. Not only that, he was in a pretty well paid job. He knew I was a single mom and not earning nearly the amount of money he was. Obviously, that's not his problem, but morally, he should at least pay half, right?
We got to the restaurant. He ordered steak, which was expensive. After we ate our food, he says 'I've left my wallet at home.'
WHAT?! I paid for the food, as I had no choice but to. I couldn't believe it. I spent the same amount of money that night as I would have spent on a weekly food shop for me and my child. He was well aware of my money situation before we met.
He offered to give me a lift home. I thought, that's the least he owes me. So I got in the car. I knew full well I'd never see him again, so I got him to drop me off a street away from my house as I didn't want him to know where I lived. He stopped the car and attempted to kiss me. I said no thank you. Then he asked if he could come in my house for some 'fun.'
I got out of the car, slammed the door and walked home.
I know that I should have refused to pay his half of the meal. I understand I should have at least attempted that. At the moment I didn't think to do that, but I wish I did. Also, as much as the money situation annoyed me– it's the principle behind it that matters. He had no respect for me."
"My grandfather thought that he was the most brilliant person in the world. He had a lot of money, but most people wouldn’t know that because he was extremely cheap. And proud of it. He called it 'sticking it to the man.'
One of his favorite pastimes was to steal condiments and saltine crackers from restaurants. He had a drawer full of them at his house, and would often make meals out of them. When he felt like he needed new silverware, he would steal forks, spoons, and knives. I once even spotted him stealing a small plate and a salt and pepper shaker.
However, his pettiest actions occurred at restaurant buffets.
My grandfather was a veteran of the Navy and enjoyed going to a restaurant called The Old Country Buffet because they served American food and he got a military discount. He knew everyone there by name and had a favorite booth that was often reserved for him. Not content to pay only for the food he ate at the buffet, he would also often steal small amounts of food in between plates. It was usually a meat product like roast beef or London broil, although he would also sometimes steal food that my brother and I liked, as a 'gift.'
He had a whole routine for this. It usually started as a furtive glance at the wait staff. Then, he would become quiet. When the coast was clear, he would place a cloth napkin over his plate, gather his food, fold it up neatly, and place it in his pocket. At other times, he would place them in my backpack, in order to avoid arousing suspicion, and get more food.
When we got home, he would take the contents of the napkins, put them in a Ziploc bag, and place them in the refrigerator or freezer. I always thought that my grandfather was extremely crafty and had gotten away with the stealing. However, after he died, his girlfriend visited the restaurant and spoke to the management. She confessed his penchant for stealing food from there. The manager laughed long and hard at this, then told her that everyone at the buffet had always known that he’d been stealing.
They’d just let him because he was there so often and was so nice to everyone that they didn’t mind letting him do it."
"Once, back in my waitressing days, I had an older couple accuse me of stealing!
They ordered and ate their food. Their behavior was a little rude, but nothing too far out of the ordinary (in customer service, rude patrons are par for the course).
At the end of the meal, I gave them their bill, which came to something like $28. They left $30 on the table. They both went to use the restroom, and then they left the restaurant.
I came by and found the $30 sitting on the table.
My thought was: 'Only a $2 tip? That’s less than 10 percent. Whatever…' So I cashed them out, and pocketed the two dollars.
About thirty minutes later, the couple returned to the restaurant looking frantic. I wondered if they had forgotten something, and asked them if everything was okay? It turned out, they had forgotten something…their $2 change.
They were furious! They said they had forgotten to grab their change on their way back from the restrooms. They were angry at me for not stopping them from leaving without reminding them that they had forgotten the $2. They seemed to think I was running some sort of scam where I tried to trick old people into forgetting their $2 change.
When I pulled the $2 out of my pocket and handed it over, they immediately accused me of stealing their money! They were both definitely American, so they should have been aware of the concept of tipping.
They tried to complain to my manager, but he had very little patience. He just told them there must have been a misunderstanding, but since they now had their $2, they should leave immediately. The other customers who could overhear them all looked appalled.
At the time, I was only 16 or 17 and I was very shaken by the experience. My manager felt bad that they had been so rude to me. He pulled $2 out of his own wallet and handed it over. He told me not to let it bother me too much, since they were clearly just bitter people. Some people are just going to be scumbags and there’s nothing you can do about it."
"There’s the standard petty things you see all the time.
Like the lady who orders a cup of hot water, then produces a teabag from her purse. The people who steal the sugar packs off the table (jellies if it’s breakfast). Even people who order a plain garden salad then bring their own dressing.
However, the one that has to be the winner for me is the challenger:
The guy who challenged every item on his bill, saying he didn’t order any of it, but ate it all.
He comes into the restaurant. Orders a steak dinner, a few highballs, dessert, and coffee. He gets the bill from the waiter. It’s about $75.
He then proceeds to tell the server, he didn’t eat anything. The server, unsure what to do, gets the owner from the back and relays this guy's message. The owner comes to talk with him. The guy is very agitated. The owner takes him into the lounge (to get him away from the main dining area). The owner says, if I can prove you actually ate the food you say you didn’t, you pay me, give my waiter a really good tip, then you never ever come back or else I get the police.
The owner takes out his phone and tells the guy that a few months back we had a problem in the restaurant that necessitated the installation of cameras and recording equipment. I can view remotely on my phone what goes on here. If I check the surveillance, am I going to see you eating food that you ordered?
At that, the guy shut up, paid his bill, gave the waiter a big tip, and never came back."
"When I was in graduate school working on my doctorate, I had a 'friend' who was as cheap and as greedy as a person could be.
She was one of those people who always begged for a bite, a piece, or a sip. Even if I had eaten half of my food, played around in it with my fork, or sat talking over it, she would tell the server clearing the table to leave my plate so she could eat the rest. She did this in an Indian restaurant once, and the server literally blanched and looked at me incredulously. I just shrugged as this woman proceeded to scarf down my half-eaten cucumber salad. Any time I didn’t eat everything on my plate, she’d ask if she could have it.
Well, the last time we ever went out to eat was when we went to a Chinese restaurant and she decided that she wasn’t really 'in the mood' for the teriyaki beef dish she had ordered and was really hankering for the shrimp fried rice I had ordered that came on a large platter with a serving spoon. Her eyes got really wide when our server brought out our food, and she saw all of that rice. She never offered to pay for half my meal even though she readily helped herself. Because I was taught that it is rude and petty to deny someone food who asks, I silently watched her heap her plate with fried rice and eat it. When the check came, she paid for her untouched meal and asked the server to wrap it up so that she could take it home and eat it at another time.
There were other incidents. There was the time she went into an ice cream shop to get us ice cream while I waited outside with my dog who could not go in for obvious reasons. Moments later she came running back out with only her cone because my cone cost 30 cents more than I had given her. But eating half of my dinner and never offering to pay was the last straw and the last time I ever went anywhere with this woman."
"Let me preface this by saying I truly enjoyed working in food service. I was quite liked by all of our regulars, and tended to get the most tips per shift despite working with much prettier girls. I’m not just a total snob, I promise.
'I’ll only have water. I’ll also take 12 slices of lemon and 6 packets of sugar,' delivered with an extremely smug expression. Yeah, lady, you’re really clever, and we are so impressed with you for figuring out a way to look like a complete pain to avoid paying $1.25 for a glass of lemonade. I started refusing after a while, with management support—the type of person who pulls this junk is not a good customer anyway, so we’re not exactly hurting to see the door hit your rear on the way out. They always took significant umbrage and almost inevitably would start threatening that my job was finished, I’d never work in this town again, just wait until I speak to your manager. I’d just tell them 'Sure, let me go get her number, and she can explain to you that we aren’t a citrus farm.' The funniest ones were the ones who kept coming back afterwards and looking sheepish. Good, I hope you learned not to be a punk in a restaurant.
'I’m going to run an errand, can you watch them?' says the mother of two unruly children under 6. This woman’s children would run around to other tables and try to grab food off of other peoples’ plates. They even almost took out a server carrying a huge tray of hot liquids and heavy flatware. If the mother wasn’t friends with the owner I would have 86'd them after the 17th or so incident. No, ma’am, you can hire a freaking babysitter and frankly I wish you and your ill-behaved spawn would never come back anyway (is what I wished I could say).
Who thinks a restaurant is a free babysitting service? (We had several parents who would bring their children in but with coloring books etc, the kids were delightful, and I was fine with keeping an eye on them for a few minutes if the parent had to go to the bathroom).
'Can I order [the cheapest sandwich on the menu], but also add prosciutto, and avocado, and 7 types of cheese, and roast beef, and an entire ham, and a Faberge egg?'
'Sure, but we will have to charge you for the extras' '
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE, I EXPECT GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.'
Do these people go to Home Depot and say 'I’d like to buy a screwdriver, but substitute the screwdriver for a riding mower?'
Oh, or the guy who our (very shy, very new) barista accidentally overcharged $0.30 (yes, cents) and decided screaming 'HOW STUPID ARE YOU?' was a good way to alert us to the issue. He was genuinely shocked when I told him to get the heck out and never come back. He’s lucky I didn’t throw the coins at his head.
People are weird. That having been said, the vast majority of our customers ranged from perfectly fine to actively cool people. If I could get the same salary and health benefits, I’d drop tech and go back to food service in a heartbeat."
"Getting to know a town where I would be working for two of three days a week for the next few months, I was checking out places to eat, drink and socialize when I saw a very pleasant and quite traditional looking pub. I thought I’d try it out. There was a long bar along the left wall and a number of tables in the front bar. Further back was a second bar area where there were two or three tables in the middle and some more tables in alcoves. A dark wood finish on the walls and a few food and drink related posters finished off the image of a quite ordinary but perfectly pleasant English pub.
It was about 2:00 pm and the place was fairly empty, but service was nonetheless slow. I was in no hurry, however, so I perused the drinks on offer and glanced through the food menu which was okay, but nothing special, and a little pricey. Finally, the landlord deigned to come over with no hint of a welcome or smile and with no apologies for keeping me waiting, and I ordered a drink. Receiving it, I made for a table at which point the landlord asked if I’d be eating.
Having had a look at the menu and not being particularly hungry I decided against.
'The tables are only for diners. If you just want to drink, you stay at the bar.'
Well, this was more of a pub than a restaurant as far as I could see, there were few other customers and plenty of space and being 2:00 pm I suspected there would not exactly be a rush on for a while yet. I had just gone in to the place for the first time, I had to wait to be served despite there being no other customers at the bar and, whilst I didn’t want to eat this time, there was always the possibility that I would do so on a subsequent visit. I might even bring friends of colleagues. But, if I’m alone in a pub and do not feel particularly sociable, I like to find a cozy corner to sit, enjoy my drink and read. What I do not like is being told I can only prop up the bar.
I turned back to the bar and put my drink down.
'The pub’s pretty much empty and I do like to sit at a table,' I explained.
'If you only want a drink, you have to stay at the bar,' he reiterated, sticking his chin out and folding his arms.
I looked at him.
'Okay, I tell you what. I did find your pub quite attractive. I’m new to the area and I might have become a regular customer and would quite likely have eaten here in the future, but I do like to sit at a table when I have a drink. Since that’s not possible I’ll leave my drink on the bar and find somewhere else where I can get both a table and a drink.'
I pushed my drink in his direction and made to leave.
'You want your money back?' he asked with a positive sneer.
'No. It’s fine. You can keep it.'
I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide who was being petty and cheap in this narrative.
Suffice to say, I found a nice pub up the road which was quite busy for 2:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, had friendly and attentive bar staff, and no restrictions on where a drinker could sit. They served food too and, whilst I had not been peckish on my arrival, I was feeling hungry two pints later and ordered fish and chips. I became a fairly regular customer at the second pub and can remember having some good times there. I never set foot in the first pub again."