As anyone who has worked a customer-service job can tell you, it’s not the easiest line of work. The pay is often pitiful, and certain customers can make your life a living nightmare.
Bartending, waiting tables and taking orders at the busy uptown Athens restaurants and bars can be a challenging job, especially when the town swells with parents and other visitors on big Ohio University weekends.
Wait times at restaurants can stretch to an hour or longer, and tempers can fray while customers await their food, especially when alcohol is involved.
Move-out weekend in Athens is the final huge weekend of the school year for these businesses and their employees before they settle into the doldrums of summer. The West End Ciderhouse hosted a “School’s Out Industry Night” party on Monday evening to thank the hard-working, long-suffering customer-service employees who call Athens home.
As our own tribute, we’ve collected some local service-industry workers’ horror stories – some funny, some awful, some a combination of both – to provide a window into what kinds of things these hardworking folks have had to deal with.
Ben Ziff, manager at Donkey Coffee on West Washington Street
“So I had a customer come downstairs and tell me that they thought someone was doing drugs in the upstairs bathroom. So I go upstairs and stand outside the bathroom door for a moment, and hear the unmistakable sound of a nitrous cartridge getting punctured…
“So I knock on the door and ask them to please open it. ‘Just a minute, I’m busy!’ says the guy. I tell him ‘no, you need to come out here.’ So he opens the door, and says ‘what?!’ I tell him I can hear him doing whippets, and he can’t do that in Donkey. He then starts telling me how his girlfriend cheated on him, and how his life just isn’t going well.
“I tell him ‘I understand man, I’ve been cheated on, it sucks. We all go through some sh** sometimes, but… but you can’t do whippets in my bathroom, dude. I’m sorry.’
“And he says, ‘I know... I’m sorry... I’ll go...’ and I walk with him downstairs, and put his tea in a to-go cup. Now, nobody in the shop knows what’s going on at this point. I’m trying to be discreet; I’m not trying to embarrass him. And we get into the main downstairs space, and he really loudly yells, ‘SORRY FOR DOING WHIPPETS IN THE BATHROOM!’ I still see him around town, and he comes in to Donkey (without whippets) pretty regularly these days. I don’t think he remembers me, or that incident at all.”
Chris Monday, bartender at Jackie O’s Taproom on Campbell Street
“I was working at a bar in uptown Athens some years back alone during happy hour, and there were probably like four or five people in there. This dude comes in, probably in his late 50s, early 60s. He seemed like a decent enough type, wasn’t talking much. He came in, ordered a beer, and was minding his own business. He went back to the bathroom… He was gone for a little while, another patron went back into the bathroom, and he was like, ‘hey man, the dude in there just sh** all over the wall; it’s everywhere.
“I was just like, ‘ohhh my god.’
“So I go back in there; he’s standing there by the sink just smearing his poop into the wall with a paper towel, like, trying to clean it up, putting effort into it. I can tell that something was not quite right with him. So I didn’t even get mad; I was just like ‘dude, you should just go.’ He was like, ‘I’ll clean it, I’ll clean it,’ but I was like, ‘no, no, just go; I’ll clean it.’
“He left; he was just like, ‘sorry sorry.’ Then another bartender came in not to work – (and I asked him) just like, ‘hey man, can you take the bar for like 10 minutes?’ I went back and did the deed, and I ended up getting a $15 bonus on the next check.”
Bianka Ferreira, former waitress at The Pigskin on North Court Street
“I had a table of eight people scream at me/tip me a combined 10 cents when I was training as a server because we didn’t have the beer they wanted in our computer yet, and I rang them in as a different one, which was 25 cents more expensive. I hadn’t even run their cards yet, and it was an easy fix.”
Another story: “I had a guy standing in the girl’s bathroom during Mill Fest at 2 p.m. one year because his girlfriend was puking in the trash can. When I went up to him to tell him he had to get out of the girls bathroom, he turned around and told me to, ‘f**k off and shut up.’ I went and got a bouncer to kick them both out, and he threatened to punch our bouncer in the face.”
Anonymous, a current waitress at an uptown Athens restaurant
“It was Parents Weekend and the wait was very long as it is in every restaurant in Athens on Parents Weekend. There was a table of five that came in. Most of our tables easily seat four, and sometimes we can put a chair on the end, but we can’t put chairs on the end back to back on two across-the-aisle tables, because it blocks the aisle. (This is) because of fire code, our servers need to walk through, etc.
“This table of five in particular was technically up next for a table of five. Well, a table of four came up, and they said, ‘that’s our table, right?’ I said, ‘no, because this (other) table has a chair on end, and we can’t put a chair on the end of this table as a result. So that’s not your table; you’re going to have to wait for one that we can accommodate five people.’
“So they said, ‘we’ll just take this one anyways.’
“I said, ‘okay, but under no circumstances can we put a chair on the end. If you want to squish three people on this side of the booth that’s fine with me, if you don’t want to wait for a table that will fit you comfortably.
“So I sat them, walked away, walked back, and, guess what? They had grabbed a chair and put it on the end… but no one was sitting in it yet. The daughter had seen someone else in the dining room she knew and was saying hi to them. So I began to move the chair, and then she walked over and put her foot on the chair and she said, ‘you’re not taking this chair.’
“I said, ‘look, I’m really sorry but as I explained, you can wait for a table that will more comfortably accommodate five or you can squish five into this but you cannot put a chair on the end.’
“She said, ‘you’re not going to take this chair.’ So, I walked away… and got some backup, and I walked over and said, ‘we’re going to have to ask you to leave.’ And the daughter picked up her cup of pink lemonade, poured it all over the table, and threw it down. And they all started making a scene. They start getting in my face, and they were like, ‘bring me my check,’ and I was like, ‘OK, yeah, gladly!’
“At this point other customers had turned to see, and most of them were backing us up. Because it was insane all night, it was Parents Weekend, we were working our butts off… people were just like, ‘go, man, go!’
“And then finally we get out to the waiting area, the dad was yelling at me… One of our regular customers walked up to him… and was like ‘why don’t you just get out of here, man?’ That guy forever… was my favorite customer ever because he stood up for us little guys. Because it is terrible sometimes. The wait can be long, people can be impatient, and people want to drink… and we’re trying our best… We really are.”