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Ignored While Teetotaling


Ericandblueboy
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Has anyone actually received terrible service because they don't drink? My wife almost never drinks, and I almost never order a whole bottle of wine, and I've never noticed a drop-off in service. On the other hand, we over-order food on a regular basis. But economic theory (i.e., self interest) suggests that waiters should spend more time catering to big spenders. At the end of the day, they rather earn 20% of $10x instead of 20% of $x. I understand why lower spenders want the same level of service but that's not going to happen in reality. You get better service in first class, you get better service at a Bentley dealer, and you're likely to get better service at a restaurant if you order lots of food and drink. I guess I don't doubt people getting the shaft when they don't order lots of food/drink but I can understand why.

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Has anyone actually received terrible service because they don't drink? My wife almost never drinks, and I almost never order a whole bottle of wine, and I've never noticed a drop-off in service. On the other hand, we over-order food on a regular basis. But economic theory (i.e., self interest) suggests that waiters should spend more time catering to big spenders. At the end of the day, they rather earn 20% of $10x instead of 20% of $x. I understand why lower spenders want the same level of service but that's not going to happen in reality. You get better service in first class, you get better service at a Bentley dealer, and you're likely to get better service at a restaurant if you order lots of food and drink. I guess I don't doubt people getting the shaft when they don't order lots of food/drink but I can understand why.

we don't drink and I've never had a problem. In fact most of the time we both drink water.

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Same here Ericandblueboy. I hate the thought that I will be viewed as a second-class citizen if I don't order alcohol, but I know I am likely to encounter it here and there. I often order sparkling water, or a club/seltzer and cranberry from the bar to make up for it, but really, I'd be fine with tap water most of the time.

I do find that without wine pours, dinner seems to get expedited a bit, which is a bummer as I'd like to just sit and linger between courses for a short time, wine or no wine. We're generally out in under an hour, even for 3 courses.

Anecdotally, I remember going to Tinto in Philly. Mr. MV and I were not sure if we wanted any wine with our dinner, so we started with water. Our server practically rolled his eyes as he took the wine glasses from the table. When he came back for our order, we each ordered a glass of wine and his attitude did a 180. I don't think it's right, but there it is.

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Another aspect of the same observation...when two women go out the servers often assume that you won't order alcohol, and you get that "can I serve you an iced tea or sparkling water?" question with a side of dismissiveness (ok, that's not a word but I'm working on a bad night's sleep). Frequently, we are asked if we are ready to order food at exactly the same time the "beverage" order is taken. Sometimes, even in high-end places, we don't get a wine list. We almost ALWAYS order wine. When we ask for a wine list, the server's attitude definitely changes. Everything becomes much more relaxed and customer-centric.

What I hate is the "will you be having something other than tap water?" question. Why not just ask, "Can I bring you something else to drink?" Or better, "Would you like to see a drink menu?" These days, many places have highly inventive non-alcoholic drinks but if I don't see the drink menu I don't know they're available.

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It's happened a few times to me when dining with another woman and we don't order alcohol. It's never happened when I've been with a man, though, and we're sticking to water or tea. And it's an obvious and instant attitude change, from helpful-charming to a near-snear.

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It's never happened to me, that I have noticed, but I remember when I was a host as a teen in Western Maryland they had Monday and Tuesday night specials and servers would complain about the blue hair crowd who never ordered drinks and never tipped well. I might one night order drinks at a place and the next night not. We have some friends that don't drink so we normally abstain when with them. And then my best friend is preggers, so if I am out with her I abstain too. I have never really noticed it too much.

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On a recent trip to London we ate at an Indian restaurant that had been highly recommended by a friend. The food was, indeed, excellent. The service was ludicrously bad. I believe, but cannot prove, that a significant part of the reason was that when I was offered a wine list I turned it down. It's not that we don't drink, we just tend to prefer beer with Indian food. Sadly, none was ever offered, and the possibility that we might want some other beverage other than water was apparently never considered.

Part of the poor service, on the other hand, was clearly due to simple incompetence.

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I bet that we all perceive that we are receiving lousy service a substantial fraction of the times that we go out. I know I do. And often enough, I perceive that the server is paying more attention to other tables than to mine. This could be accurate perception, or could be me being paranoid.

I order my fair share of alcohol, but not bottles of wine.

I say all this, not to say that I have some insight into whether non-drinkers actually get worse service at some places, many places, most places. I can't answer that question. I say it to say, I wonder why people (on Sietsema chat, here, elsewhere) spend much energy searching for explanations for WHY they are getting lousy service. Lousy service is lousy service. If it happens once, well that's life, and who knows why. If it happens to me repeatedly at the same place I won't be likely to go again, regardless of the underlying why. If (as has been suggested above) the lousy service for non-drinkers is economic rationality on the part of the server or restaurant, I see how that stinks from the perspective of the non-drinker. But if that's the correct hypothesis, then decrying it won't change it, will it?

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I bet that we all perceive that we are receiving lousy service a substantial fraction of the times that we go out. I know I do. And often enough, I perceive that the server is paying more attention to other tables than to mine. This could be accurate perception, or could be me being paranoid.

I order my fair share of alcohol, but not bottles of wine.

I say all this, not to say that I have some insight into whether non-drinkers actually get worse service at some places, many places, most places. I can't answer that question. I say it to say, I wonder why people (on Sietsema chat, here, elsewhere) spend much energy searching for explanations for WHY they are getting lousy service. Lousy service is lousy service. If it happens once, well that's life, and who knows why. If it happens to me repeatedly at the same place I won't be likely to go again, regardless of the underlying why. If (as has been suggested above) the lousy service for non-drinkers is economic rationality on the part of the server or restaurant, I see how that stinks from the perspective of the non-drinker. But if that's the correct hypothesis, then decrying it won't change it, will it?

I think some of us are saying "Is it me? Am am imagining this due to paranoia, or do others have a similar experience?"

I don't think we're merely spinning our wheels searching for something to make mountains from mole hills, but maybe we want a little validation.

I know usually, it's not them, it's me that thinks I stand out for not ordering alcohol, but I'll bet that's not the case. I pressure myself to order sparkling water or a mocktail sometimes, and other times, I say f*ck it, I'm fine with tap water and don't want the extra sugar calories from juice. :mellow:

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I think some of us are saying "Is it me? Am am imagining this due to paranoia, or do others have a similar experience?"

I don't think we're merely spinning our wheels searching for something to make mountains from mole hills, but maybe we want a little validation.

I know usually, it's not them, it's me that thinks I stand out for not ordering alcohol, but I'll bet that's not the case. I pressure myself to order sparkling water or a mocktail sometimes, and other times, I say f*ck it, I'm fine with tap water and don't want the extra sugar calories from juice. :mellow:

Good answer, thanks. I will also say that I am an odd enough duck, that I tend to feel a little bad - as though I am not keeping up my end of the fair deal - if I order "too" inexpensively at a restaurant. Ordering drinks does help me feel like I am paying fair rent for my table. Maybe I am actually confessing to a disguised fear that I would get bad service if I didn't.

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If (as has been suggested above) the lousy service for non-drinkers is economic rationality on the part of the server or restaurant, I see how that stinks from the perspective of the non-drinker. But if that's the correct hypothesis, then decrying it won't change it, will it?

I brought it up and I think it's valid in theory. If a server has several tables, he's going to pamper the tables that order more food and drinks since his tip is directly related to the size of the check. Put another way, the old adage you get what you paid for can apply in a restaurant. If you order $100 of food/drinks, then the server is going to provide $20 of service (based on the assumption that you're going to tip 20%). If you order $200 of food/drinks, the the server is going to provide $40 of service. It's freakonomics yo!

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I brought it up and I think it's valid in theory. If a server has several tables, he's going to pamper the tables that order more food and drinks since his tip is directly related to the size of the check. Put another way, the old adage you get what you paid for can apply in a restaurant. If you order $100 of food/drinks, then the server is going to provide $20 of service (based on the assumption that you're going to tip 20%). If you order $200 of food/drinks, the the server is going to provide $40 of service. It's freakonomics yo!

The best servers are like the best gamblers (or, if you will, investors) - they don't worry about individual ups or downs; only the grand total at the end of the day.

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The best servers are like the best gamblers (or, if you will, investors) - they don't worry about individual ups or downs; only the grand total at the end of the day.

Right, I hope they dollar cost average, not day trade. And, if you treat me well, you'll have my return business and come to realize I'm a good tipper. In the long run, it pays to treat me well.

Dog gone it!

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I'm sure today's servers are more enlightened than the cohort I served with in the mid-80s, but just in case old traditions die hard please note that both teetotalers and girls in groups were considered not only low check individuals, but mediocre-at-best tippers on top of their relatively modest checks -- two-time losers.

There was a certain self-fulfilling prophesy aspect to this but it is also true that people trying to stretch their dimes tend to cut back on optional expenses: dessert, drinks and tips.

Also disliked: tourists. And, virtually every time I ever had a table take me side to tell me how delightful my service was, I got a shitty tip.

I would like to get a bunch of servers drunk and have them anonymously vent on the ordering, tipping and behavioral patterns of various demographic groups.

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There was a certain self-fulfilling prophesy aspect to this but it is also true that people trying to stretch their dimes tend to cut back on optional expenses: dessert, drinks and tips.

And it's almost always assumed to be a money-saving measure, and not due to health, pregnancy, medication, etc.

Maybe it should be noted when one makes a reservation... "I am unable to consume alcohol or sweets because of ______, not because I'm cheap. I promise to leave a good tip so please don't ignore me"

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And it's almost always assumed to be a money-saving measure, and not due to health, pregnancy, medication, etc.

Maybe it should be noted when one makes a reservation... "I am unable to consume alcohol or sweets because of ______, not because I'm cheap. I promise to leave a good tip so please don't ignore me"

Amen to that. At home, I drink water with my meals, why do I have to drink something other at a restaurant just for the sake of spending more money? Water is healthy, it's calorie-free and I care about superfluous calories from drinks. Health, medication and religious beliefs, not to mention alcoholism, should be considered before servers pass judgement. I won't even go into the mark-up as I know that'll draw some ire :mellow:

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Another interesting point is that for what I spend on a glass or two of wine, a non-drinker might easily spend on dessert and coffee. I am not a dessert person. I don't much care for sweets and even decaf at night makes me jittery. Does anyone get attitude for passing on dessert? I haven't experienced that.

The wine decision is made early in the meal, while the dessert/coffee decision is made much later. So being snarky or dismissive to a non-drinker might be shooting yourself in the foot, if that diner decides to forego dessert in light of snotty service. A server just shouldn't decide at the start of service that any particular table will or won't generate good income unless that server has repeated experience with the patrons at that table.

This entire discussion really highlights why we like to eat at the bar of many of the restaurants we frequent. The expectations of the bar staff seem far more accommodating and there's seldom bad service because of what you do (or don't) order.

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Another interesting point is that for what I spend on a glass or two of wine, a non-drinker might easily spend on dessert and coffee. I am not a dessert person. I don't much care for sweets and even decaf at night makes me jittery. Does anyone get attitude for passing on dessert? I haven't experienced that.

The wine decision is made early in the meal, while the dessert/coffee decision is made much later. So being snarky or dismissive to a non-drinker might be shooting yourself in the foot, if that diner decides to forego dessert in light of snotty service. A server just shouldn't decide at the start of service that any particular table will or won't generate good income unless that server has repeated experience with the patrons at that table.

This entire discussion really highlights why we like to eat at the bar of many of the restaurants we frequent. The expectations of the bar staff seem far more accommodating and there's seldom bad service because of what you do (or don't) order.

I don't think there's any correlation between not drinking wine and then spending the money on dessert. Besides, early in the evening the server would rather turn the table than served dessert (owners like desserts, servers don't) and late in the evening they'd rather do their sidework and go home.

Do people eat at the bar and not order a drink? I mean, aside from weekday lunches?

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I don't think there's any correlation between not drinking wine and then spending the money on dessert. Besides, early in the evening the server would rather turn the table than served dessert (owners like desserts, servers don't) and late in the evening they'd rather do their sidework and go home.

Do people eat at the bar and not order a drink? I mean, aside from weekday lunches?

Sure, I do. I feel just fine ordering a soft drink or seltzer drink at the bar. Sometimes the bar is the best option for service and food, and it's fun.

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I don't doubt the veracity of anyone's experience, but for all the dining out that Steve and I do, I'm not sure we've ever experienced this. And if anyone should, it would be us. We typically get tap water, an iced tea for him, maybe a glass of wine or a half pint of beer (when available) for me, and we'll often do something like each get an appetizer, share a main course, and each get a dessert, or each of us gets two appetizers, the second being our main courses. We do this for weight control reasons (not that it should make a difference to anyone why we do it). We also tip generously to compensate for ordering so little (not that a waiter would know that at the start).

It may be we get good service because we always smile, make eye contact, say please and thank you (even with the bussers and runners - it's odd how often they're ignored), and just generally comport ourselves as if we have every right to be there and order as we will (without being arrogant about it). On the other hand, what I like is a waiter who greets me, takes my order, delivers my food, then leaves me the heck alone until I do something obvious like try to make eye contact with him; and therefore my conception of good service is another's conception of being snubbed. Or maybe we just eat at the right restaurants.

Or maybe I'm just naïve.

(...thinking about it a little more, I wonder if direct eye contact has anything to do with it. I think I'd find it hard to make faces at anyone who was looking right into my eyes.)

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I don't doubt the veracity of anyone's experience, but for all the dining out that Steve and I do,....

This is something that I'm noticing within the discussion (not just porcupine's post, it's simply the most recent ), and that I have noticed myself when dining with women friends and teetotaling v. dining with a man and teetotaling -- I never get the diss when I'm dining with a male companion. It only happens if I'm dining with a woman or women. So, is it less about drinksism and more about sexism? Do waiters see me with my oft-times dining companion, a crunchy granola type gal, and figure we must be a lesbian couple and therefore tip poorly? Obviously our figures give a clue that we are both extremely fond of food even to our detriment, so that can't be the reason.

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I dine out with a group of girls that it pains me to go out with because a couple girls in the group are so tight they make the whole experience miserable. I bet they tip lousy. Luckily I normally way over-tip. But I also really try to be very, very polite, so I think that helps my service. And I try to suggest that we go places where it won't be as much of an issue. But they are miserable.

But I have another group of girls I go out with and we all tip very well (of course we are all lawyers).

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As a practicing waitron unit I'll offer some thoughts:

A former co-worker loved giving the hard-sell to people, especially on wine. When they declined (or were offended) he switched to basic diner service mode. He got a few complaints and was fired. In that way, ignoring the teetotalers doesn't make much economic sense.

If there is a reaction on the server's part he/she may be anticipating the seven iced teas or diet cokes some people need to get through meals.

Porcupine's comments are spot on in my experience. Eye contact and general amity can go a long way.

Lesbians are great tippers. Please send them my way.

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Do people eat at the bar and not order a drink? I mean, aside from weekday lunches?

Ummm, hello? Have we met?

If I'm dining alone I sit at the bar. Would they rather me take up a two top? I tip based on service. Give me crappy service because I don't drink, you get a smaller tip. Treat me like any other customer, I give a generous tip because I know you think you are losing money on me.

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I don't drink, so obviously never buy alcohol at restaurants. I always chalked up any bad/indifferent/negligent service I had to just a bad waiter (therefore, not a great tip and possible talk with manager if situation is severe enough, which it usually isn't) or me being a solo diner during a non-busy time.

But surprisingly, I've gotten great service 9 times out of 10 in restaurants. Honestly can't remember the last time I had service bad enough for me to even notice. Maybe I'm just not that observant.

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