10 Ways to Be the Perfect Customer

By Paul Michael on 9 March 2016 1 comment

We drink and eat at bars and restaurants. We stay in hotel rooms, get our hair cut, and take flights. But how many of us actually stop and consider what kind of patrons we're being? Are we good customers? Are we making things easier on ourselves, or harder? Here's how you can make your life as a customer a whole lot better.

1. Tip Your Bartender With Cash Early On

Your bartender is relying on tips to make ends meet. However, if you open up a tab immediately with a credit card, he or she will have no idea how generous you are going to be. And bartenders are not in the habit of just giving away free drinks, or long pours, to just anyone. So, start the evening with cash. Order a drink, hand over a $20, and you will undoubtedly get a bunch of $1s in the change. Drop a couple of those on the bar for your first few drinks, then open up a tab. Your bartender will now be way more open to giving you the occasional double for the price of single, free drinks, and even free apps.

2. Don't Snap Your Fingers or Wave

It may seem like a natural way to get someone's attention, but in a bar, pub, or restaurant, it's actually quite rude. Unlike friends or coworkers, your server or bartender knows that their number one priority is to take care of you. That means they keep an eye on you. They look for small signals, they pay attention to how much of your drink is left, or what's on your plate. They may be very busy, but they will get to you. It's their job. So, clicking, waving, shouting, snapping — these are all unnecessary, and actually have a negative effect. No one likes to be summoned like a dog. (See also: 12 Lessons in Manners From Around the World)

3. The Customer (You) Is Not Always Right

It's something that is ingrained in American culture, and it has become a very difficult point for establishments to live up to. Whether you're in a restaurant, a hotel, a plane, or even the gym, you may feel very strongly about something, but it doesn't mean you are in the right. So, before making a scene (which, most of us don't do), make sure you have all your facts straight. It could be that the restaurant does not have to honor the coupon you have, which happens often with franchises. It could be that the hotel really is full, and there are no "special" rooms available for friends or famous people. Just be sure. And if you are right, argue your point politely and with respect. It will get you much further.

4. Never Give a Hard Time to People Who Handle Your Food

Or your drink, for that matter. This one is just common sense. After talking with bartenders, servers, and even flight attendants, the dumbest move you can ever make is to treat these people with little-to-no respect. If you do, they have ample time and plenty of motivation to do something unsavory. From spitting in your salad, to wiping the steak around the rim of a toilet bowl (this one was caught on camera), it's never a good idea to be mean to people who are alone with your meal. If you know someone who's been a real bully, and later complained of an upset stomach, you can guess what happened.

5. Give Compliments to the Staff

My nine-year-old daughter was eating her food and told me she loved it. Like, really loved it. I told her she should say something to the server, and she was shy, but agreed to. Not only did she get a big smile and a thank you, but a few minutes later, all the kids at the table got a free scoop of ice cream. So if you're having a great time, eating awesome food, or just love your server's attitude, say something. It will absolutely make their day, and sometimes, you get thanked in the nicest way.

6. Tip Your Server at Least 20%

Unless the service was exceptionally bad, you should tip at least 20% of the final bill. Servers require this amount to make a living wage. The 20% amount is a good place to start, because the servers are making less than minimum wage without this. In fact, most servers earn less than $5 an hour, with $2-$3 per hour being quite the norm. When servers get tipped 20%, it brings their hourly wage up past the $10 mark, hopefully to $15-$20 per hour or more. For the amount of work, running around, memorization, and stress, that's a fair wage to say the least. So please, tip 20%, or more if you can afford it. And if you tip less than 15%, or not at all, try and remember that you are getting cheaper food and drink because of the miserly wage the servers get.

7. Know What You Want to Eat and Drink

When you get to your seat, the server will give you some time to settle in, look at the menus, and feel comfortable. The first time they come back, they're going to ask you what you'd like to drink, and perhaps if you want an appetizer. If you need a little more time, that's fine, but don't keep delaying, making "uuuummmmm" sounds, and changing your mind. The server will have a lot of tables to tend, and it's unfair to keep them hanging. Also, restaurants want to "turn" tables in a timely manner. They are not expecting you to take 20 minutes to figure out what you want to eat. Most restaurants and bars these days have menus on their websites, so if you are someone that has a hard time deciding on a meal quickly, look it up beforehand.

8. Remember Names and Make Small Talk

"Excuse me" is fine, but if you say, "Excuse me, John," you are instantly in a much better place with your server. It may not seem like a big deal, but people like to be treated with respect, and using their first name is a great start. It means you made the effort to ask for it, and remember it, and it will be appreciated. It's also a friendly way to talk, and the more friendly you are, the better you'll be treated. Even better, ask how their day is going. Are they watching the big game that weekend? Do they have any plans for the holiday? Showing an interest in your server or bartender will ensure a better experience for you.

9. Stack Dishes and Glasses if You Can

"Hey, that's not my job, why should I do that?" Well, you really don't have to. You're right, it's not your job. However, it can take a few seconds for everyone at the table to just pitch in and stack the empty dishes. It takes longer for one person, the server or busser, to do it. And if you ease their burden a little, you can expect quicker, friendlier service. On the many occasions I have done this, I have sometimes received a free dessert to say thank you. It obviously doesn't happen every time, but the staff really does appreciate the help.

10. Don't Send Your Drink Back at the Bar

If you're at the bar and you receive a drink that isn't really to your liking, you have three options. One: You can send it back, saying it's not good. Two: You can suck it up, drink it, and order something slightly different next time. Three: You can have a friend drink it, and order something else. Most of the time, if you choose option one, you are guaranteeing a night of poor customer service. Bartenders I talked to agreed that unless the drink was just completely wrong, they really don't care for your opinion on the way a drink was mixed. If it's a busy Friday or Saturday night, and they are working up a sweat, remixing a drink is making their life hell. And next time you want service, you will become invisible. Just be nice.

Do you have any tips that we all, as patrons, could benefit from? Share them in the comments!

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Eagle Eye

An etiquette pointer on #9: stacking plates at fine dining places is a no-no. It looks gross and leftover food can squirt out and fall on to diners. Servers can handle multiple trips to clear a table properly - plus this is an integral of service.

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Monie Linker

I've also worked as a server so when I'm dining out I'll treat them the way I love being treated whn I'm working.