I wish this were a joke. Unfortunately, it's a true story that happened to me at work tonight.
Tonight started off to be a rather slow and uneventful night. I had a few people sit at the bar and order drinks before they left for their tables to eat dinner. I had a few couples in for cocktails. No one was eating dinner at the bar. I ran out of sidework and things to clean behind the bar. It got to the point where I was checking the time every two minutes. My night was dragging by.
That all changed when the crackhead walked into the bar. Now let me back up. I am not one to quickly judge a customer. I give everyone who comes into the bar the benefit of the doubt. I like to give people a chance to settle in, have a few cocktails and enjoy themselves. I wait until they do something really awesome or really awful before I label them a particular type of customer (good or bad). I could tell from the moment this woman walked in the bar that she was going to be bad news. I just had a feeling. I guess I wanted my feeling to be wrong so I pushed the thoughts aside and gave her my best customer service.
She sucked every ounce of energy out of me. Here is what went down:
As soon as this woman stepped into the bar, she had an excuse for everything. She was apologizing to the hostess profusely for her raspy voice, claiming that she had been a part of the Bay to Breakers festivities the day before. But anyone who was here in San Francisco yesterday during the day knows that it was hot out. If you were a part of Bay to Breakers yesterday, you spent the day out in the sun and got some color on your skin. Most people (like me) even got a mild sunburn. This woman was pale as a ghost. This woman was also very skinny, reeked of cigarettes and was missing a few teeth. She did have long, freshly manicured nails which she pointed out to anyone who would listen and look at them (AKA me, my manager and a couple of the servers).
When she took a seat at my bar, the first words out of her mouth were telling me about how she had tried to get dinner at a restaurant down the street and they kicked her out. I felt sorry for her. Especially when she told me that she had money and gave me her credit card. My thought at that point was to take extra good care of this woman. She had obviously been having a hard night. Maybe she was just a little off? Everyone deserves respect. I wanted to give her some. Besides, I was slow so I had some extra time to give her some extra attention.
I took the time to go through the menu with her, answering questions she had about certain items and giving her my opinion of what I thought was good to order, depending on her own hunger level. That was the weird thing though. I asked her how hungry she was and she couldn't tell me. First, she was hungry. Then she wasn't. At this point, I still refused to judge her. So we decided that she would try the soup and a potato while she nibbled on some bread. Easy enough. Hey, just the night before I had a guy come in and just wanted a side of mushrooms. I didn't judge him, so I wasn't going to judge her.
Once her food came, she started to unravel a bit. She kept repeating herself to me and progressively got louder, to the point where the other customers sitting at the bar were starting to take notice. I was getting worried that she was going to scare off my other customers. In between her bites, she named me "Girl" and we got to talking about how I loved living in the Tenderloin. She couldn't quite grasp that someone would choose to live there and like it so I could tell she was intrigued. She excused herself from the bar to take a couple of smoke breaks. During the times she was gone, I could feel myself recharging, dreading her return. I hated that feeling. I just didn't know what to expect next from this lady.
After her second smoke break, the lady asked me if I could do her a favor. She told me that her cellphone battery was running low and asked if she could use my cellphone. I told her that my battery was almost dead too (it really was). Then she asked if she could use the house phone or if I knew where the nearest pay phone was. I had no idea where the nearest payphone was. I told her I would ask my manager. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my manager right away and had other customers at the bar to tend to. She took that as me ignoring her request. That is when things turned for the worse.
Anytime a server came up to the bar or the hostess would talk to someone like thanking a customer as they left the building, this woman took it as if people were talking about her. Talk about paranoid. I repeatedly tried to console her and told her that no one was talking about her. It was the phone thing though that seemed to really push her over the edge. She kept asking me over and over again to use the house phone. I told her over and over again that I had to ask my manager first. She told me that she would pay me ten or twenty dollars to use the phone. Then she asked if I thought she was a drug dealer. Then she called me a bitch.
Luckily at this point, one of my servers was standing right there and told me to close out her check and ask her to leave. There was nothing else we could do for her. So I packaged up her food, closed out her check and gave it to her. She continued to raise her voice at me getting pretty mean, pretty quick. It was almost like she was looking to pick a fight with me. The only response I could give her was "You know what? I have been really nice to you all night." I couldn't think of anything more clever to say. Besides, I didn't want to set this woman off anymore than she already was.
Eventually, I got my manager involved. Once I get him involved, than it's time for that person to go. Period. Her time had come. I stopped talking to her and let my manager take over the situation. He was kind enough to grab the house phone and dial the phone number she gave him, even after she had made such a scene. He then offered to call her a cab. There was no helping this lady. At this point, anything anyone said to her or any help they offered her, she would take it as an insult. She just kept getting louder and ruder by the minute, even after she made her phone call.
My manager had a hell of a time getting her out of the restaurant. She continued to get rowdy with him and throw a little temper tantrum. I could see why she had gotten kicked out of the previous restaurant she had been in. It took a minute, but she finally left.
I think it's safe to say that this woman is now permanently 86ed from our bar and for good reason, I think.
And to add insult to injury, I had a group of four sitting at the bar who had just flown in from a European country that day. They watched the whole transaction that I had with this woman go down. They saw how I went out of my way to be nice and patient with her to her going off on me and my manager. These bastards ended up stiffing me on the tip. In fact, when they were paying, I heard them break out change on the bar. CHANGE! I guess they didn't have enough change because they paid with a fifty and then they took every cent of their change. I guess nothing says welcome to San Francisco like watching a crackhead go postal at the bar you are trying to drink your first American beer at.
On the flip side, my last group of customers at the bar were also from a European country. We got on to the topic of tipping and they told me how they always over tip because people always assume that they are going to stiff them just because they are foreigners. Turns out, even though they had thick accents and spoke a whole other language, they had all lived in the US for the past five years and were very well versed in our tipping culture. We had a good laugh and I thanked them profusely for helping me end my note on a good note.