20 Things restaurant servers want you to know (that their employers may not)

Mar 16, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. ET

I haven't waited tables in over a decade, but I still consider myself a server. It's a badge of honor that only other servers understand. To this day I have nightmares about some of the customers I've had. Today I'm going to tell you just a few of the things your server wishes you knew.

1. Restaurants pay us peanuts

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And those peanuts are metaphorical ($2.13 an hour before taxes, yielding a weekly paycheck of between $0 and $50). Writing "good job" on the check doesn't feed anyone.

2. Waiters are required to "tip out" to hostesses, bussers, bartenders and more

lil wayne making it rain

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... most of whom make more money hourly. Gotta make sure those hostesses can afford the iPhone apps they're playing with instead of seating you!

3. You're not that funny

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I've probably heard it before, and I have other tables who understand this is a business transaction.

4. They make us annoy you

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We aren't pimping expensive extras that line the owner's pockets because we're getting paid mad cash to do it (see No. 1). I don't want to piss you off, just stay employed.

5. We ain't your babysitter

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Keep your kids (safely) seated, make sure they don't get injured while hot food is being dropped off, keep them quiet to avoid bothering other guests (who'll take it out on us in the tip), and don't let them play with things that aren't toys (like the sugar caddy). That's what the crayons are for.

6. Servers, not servants

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Do not whistle, snap your fingers, bark orders or touch me or anything I'm wearing — ever. Especially that last one. Stripper rules apply. If your mouth is full, hand signals are fine.

7. Lie to me, please

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We both know you're not allergic to onions. But if you're not allergic, the kitchen won't remake it unless you send it back. Do us both a favor, and let me push that allergy button so I don't have to argue with the expediter.

8. That guy standing in the corner, playing with his BlackBerry, is the manager

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Or he's in the office with the door closed. Either way, that's why it's taking so long.

9. I don't work for Wells Fargo

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Congrats. You just sent me on a 20-minute wild goose chase for someone who can break a hundred.

10. I have other tables

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Patience is a virtue.

11. Waiters talk (even to waiters in other restaurants)

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If you get crap service almost everywhere you go, it's you, not them. Try tipping or not being a jerk.

12. God doesn't appreciate being used as an excuse to be a cheapskate

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I can't feed 5,000 people with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread or turn water into wine. As such, I require more money than you donate at church. Once watched a guy throw his cross necklace at his own preacher for writing "God only gets 10%, too" on the check.

13. Some food takes longer than other food

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If your well-done steak is served after the salad someone ordered after you, that's because salad doesn't cook for 12 minutes. If you're in a hurry, tell us before you order so we can advise you.

14. If you don't like it, tell me before you eat most of it (or don't ask to remove it from the check)

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If you leave a tip on it anyway, I won't care (though the manager will). But refusing to pay for something you actually used is stealing.

15. Time is money

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If you aren't ready to order, ask for more time. The more time I spend waiting on other tables (including those after you), the more money I make.

16. We have lives outside of work

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If the restaurant is slowing down, that's a good sign some people have been told they can go home. If you stay, our manager may not let us leave, even if you pay. Some waiters have kids, others have homework or even just have to be at another job in an hour. Seriously, when you're done, leave. Bars and coffeehouses are for chatting.

17. Your job title is irrelevant

I'm a doctor not a bricklayer from star trek

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Don't bother telling me you're a [insert spiffy title here]. It won't get you favoritism or better service. I'm not altruistic; I just know that dude wearing greasy overalls will tip me as well (if not better) and not make me grovel for it.

18. I can't guarantee that's decaf

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I didn't make it, and some people are just eff-ing lazy.

19. I won't spit in your food

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Giving you bad service is more effective if it keeps you from coming back.

20. Happy birthday (as long as it doesn't affect me)

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We're not performing monkeys, but we are busy servers. The dessert is free whether we sing or not.

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