"A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day"--Bill Watterson
"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength"--Eric Hoffer
I have never had any confrontation with a guest escalate into a physical event, but I know it is coming. I have, of course, had to throw people out of many places, sometimes physically. I have broken up fights between patrons and was once even involved in a grand mal brawl within these very walls that started with a discrepancy over who was buying whose drinks and ended up with eight people being arrested. Events like this aren't what I am referring to.
What I am talking about is far more dangerous. Several times recently,and once in the last week, enagements over [unjustified] complaints have come very close to erupting into actual violence--I would go so far as to say that if I was a physically smaller person than I am, these two confrontations would have definitely become physical. In the most recent instance, four gentlemen entered the restaurant without a reservation, were quoted a waiting time and headed to the bar. The party was seated five minutes earlier than originally estimated and their meals progessed without issue. I watched the server check on their meals while I was at a nearby table, and saw him receive positive feedback. I checked on their meals while pouring ice water and was also met with smiles. At the end of dinner their clean plates were cleared, they shared two desserts, and then asked for the check. After reviewing the check, one gentleman put his credit card in the book, handed it to the waiter, and said,"my steak was overcooked, take it off the bill." The incredulous server informed me of the demand and under my questioning confirmed that no one had mentioned any problem during dinner and that the entire steak in question had been consumed. Now while our beef [all USDA Prime] is ludicrously expensive, this particular steak is one of the few items on our menu that doesn't run a 50% food cost or higher--it's relatively low price made the cost of courtesy in this instance somewhat cheap. I informed the waiter to remove the steak from the check, to wait for me to finish speaking with the gentlemen, and then to deliver the prepared voucher to the table.
I approached the guests and apologized for the gentleman not enjoying his meal, to which I received a noncomittal grunt. I then lamented the fact that we were not informed of the trouble when either of us checked on the meals, to which the response was, "no problem--I ate the steak and now it's free". While this comment actually stupefied me, I remained composed and let the guests know that we had removed the steak from the check as a COURTESY, but that in the future we would hold to policy and that problems not announced to us upon discovery would not be addressed after the fact [basically, you eat it means you buy it]. I wished everyone a good evening and left the table.
Two minutes later one of my other servers lets me know that the table wanted to see me, and as I was making my way back one of the members of the party, heading for the door top-speed, briefly clasped my shoulder and said, "sorry"--not a good sign. The fellow with the "overcooked" steak and one other member of the party had apparently taken issue with my "lecture" regarding our policies,and wanted "satisfaction". As I think back on this exchange, it is too troubling still to write a blow by blow--suffice it to say the guy clearly couldn't believe that he had been challenged even in the slightest way after making his ridiculous demand. He wanted my boss, and was truly shocked to find I was the general manager. He pointed out that he had stiffed the waiter, "because he never should have told a manager, he should've just done what I told him and worried about it after we left". He became increasingly profane and started demanding additional recompense for being so terribly offended, and became even more agitated when I picked up his signed voucher [which he had been eyeing as it sat atop the table]and put it in my pocket so as to avoid it being destroyed by the "gentleman". Now, like 8-year-olds, these tools refused to leave--deciding that maybe making a scene was their path to success.
By now we are about five minutes in, and I am busy. Besides babysitting these asscracks I have another one hundred and fifty seated diners to worry about, and I am out of patience. When my third, "gentlemen, it is time to go" was met with the ever-original, "or what, you'll call the cops?" I was no longer acting in the role of genial host.
"No sir", I said while leaning forward, putting one hand on each guy's shoulder, and speaking very softly so as not to be overheard, "not the cops. I will however call the paramedics for you once you two are at the bottom of our front steps."
Now, I regretted the words as soon as I said them because they being uttered were proof that I had been "gotten to", but the effect was nearly mesmerizing. In an instant these guys realized that this wasn't a TV show or a Candid Camera gag, they saw that this was real and that they were two out-of-shape guys in their mid-50's who had just pushed a large restaurant manager too far. They saw in my eyes and heard in my conversational tone that I was deadly serious, and probably also saw that I was looking forward to "seeing" them down the stairs.
They made the 80 feet from their table to the front doors in about 6 seconds. Once they were gone I took a moment to apologize to the surrounding tables, all of whom were incredulous that I was able to keep my composure. The two guys at the nearest table wanted to know what I whispered to the idiots to make them leave, and I told them the truth--I told them that I had informed our unruly guests that the cops had already been called and would arrive in less than a minute.