Is it really a red flag if your date is mean to the waiters?
April 25, 2018 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Many of us have heard that if a date is mean to the waiter at dinner that is a huge red flag... but is it really?

Or is it just a thing people say?

My sister is newly dating a man who was invited to a catered dinner event. 6 of us were sitting at the same table. I couldn't help, but notice how he treated the waiter. I should say that he wasn't necessarily wrong about the things he complained about. The temperature in the room was a little chilly (and it was fixed) and The fish was slightly overdone (He did get the 4 of us who ordered it new plates that were cooked better). But it was HOW he barked and complained to the waiter that bothered me. He never thanked the waiter either for his compliance so my sister would do that on his behalf instead; and whenever the server came by to ask if he could refill his wine glass (which happened about 2 or 3 times in the night) he would snap at him. One time he literally barked at him "NOT JUST YET!" in such a way that the waiter zipped out of there in mid sentence and it seems that the anger that welled up in my sister's boyfriend literally jarred him away from his train of thought because he forgot what he was telling us at the time and the table and him just went silent.

My sister says it was the first time they had ordered dinner out together so she's never seen that side of him before. I believe her because she genuinely looked shocked by his behavior at the table and looked like she was trying to pretend she didn't notice it. She says that they usually eat at home because he's very particular about his food so that's probably what brought it out with the server.

He also seemed like a very nice guy whenever the family has had him over our homes. However after witnessing this I am a little worried about what my sister has gotten into. But when I question myself on that- It's probably only because I've heard so often in the past that how one treats their waiters is a bad sign- but who knows how true that actually is. So many of us in our family waited tables ourselves in High School and College that we may simply have more empathy for servers. On the other hand- He did bring up issues that the rest of us probably wouldn't have brought up ourselves because we didn't find them that intolerable. So we did end up probably enjoying the dinner better.

Can it be that he is just this way around people serving food like my sister is surmising or is it a sign of more?
posted by fantasticness to Human Relations (96 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sign of more.
posted by Melismata at 8:59 AM on April 25, 2018 [112 favorites]


tl;dr Do you really want to date an asshole? Ask yourself, what would my friends think?
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:00 AM on April 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


The way you treat people that you perceive yourself to have power or advantage over reveals a lot.
posted by machinecraig at 9:02 AM on April 25, 2018 [201 favorites]


100% a sign of more. This man has anger issues, and it's only a matter of time before he takes them out on your sister.
posted by peacheater at 9:03 AM on April 25, 2018 [61 favorites]


Sign of more.

Waiters are not magical creatures who are grown out of moonlight and forest. They're people, as anyone who's worked in food service knows. He's barking at a person and treating them poorly. This is not a good sign, and yes, I would judge him strongly for this.
posted by kalimac at 9:03 AM on April 25, 2018 [106 favorites]


In my experience, people who are shitty to people they have power over will not hesitate to behave that way the minute they think they have more power over *you*. Good manners and treating people with respect are not things that should be reserved only for people who are peers or more.
posted by rtha at 9:04 AM on April 25, 2018 [82 favorites]


Imbalance of power + hot temper.

First it is a waiter.

Then perhaps a pet.

Then your sister.

Run away and zig zag as she goes
posted by Ginesthoi at 9:04 AM on April 25, 2018 [59 favorites]


In my experience it is a complete red flag.

You can be picky about your food and your surroundings without being a jerk...but more to the point, if your natural/basic response is to be ungrateful and jerk-like, that's probably how you are when you're not putting in any effort to the contrary. She doesn't see it in other contexts because he's in the early dating stage...which will end.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:05 AM on April 25, 2018 [35 favorites]


Sign of more.
posted by bilabial at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


I think this is a negative sign for sure. Generally, not just with wait staff it is good to observe how potential SOs or even friends treat others to really see what kind of person they are. They are most likely putting on their best face for the person they want to date.

Granted, I get frustrated with service folk sometimes myself, but try my best to be friendly overall and to give them the benefit of the doubt and at least be polite if something isn't going the best. It sounds like in this case though there were really minor issues/no issue and he was just rude. I actually had this same criticism of a guy a friend was dating recently and he did in fact turn out to be a jerk overall with some emotional issues. She ultimately dumped him.
posted by knownfossils at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Being "particular about your food" is a reason to be nicer to servers, not nasty. Anyone could have gotten the same "improved service" you did at this meal by being polite to the servers (and probably without the increased chance of having said meal spit into or worse). Giant red flag.
posted by camyram at 9:07 AM on April 25, 2018 [71 favorites]


> He also seemed like a very nice guy whenever the family has had him over our homes.

I will just say, almost everyone seems like a nice person when you first meet them or when they are a guest in your house. These are circumstances where people are on your best behavior, so I am not sure it actually indicates whether he's a nice guy or not.

I have no anecdotal evidence on the whole notion of it being a red flag if a date treats waiters badly. There are surely charmers who can schmooze waiters and then be monsters behind closed doors. But I do think it seems like if they can treat waiters like they are sub-human so easily, then it doesn't take much for them to treat fellow humans badly. I think this guy might be an asshole. I mean, is this how he will treat your sister if she makes dinner the wrong way? And when there isn't an audience, will he be even worse?

I will add, I've gotten mad and frustrated and complained to wait staff. I think everyone has. But I usually say, "Look, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be a jerk, but my order is wrong" or whatever it is. I know it's usually not their fault, and if it is, I just don't give them a good tip and then I don't come back.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:07 AM on April 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


Can it be that he is just this way around people serving food like my sister is surmising or is it a sign of more?

If he's just like that around people serving him food then it's already intolerable and inexcusable. And it is always a sign of more, always.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:08 AM on April 25, 2018 [36 favorites]


He did bring up issues that the rest of us probably wouldn't have brought up ourselves
There is assertive and there is being an asshole. Asking for something is not wrong. Being an asshole about it is wrong, and he certainly sounds like he was being an asshole.
posted by soelo at 9:08 AM on April 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


To me it wouldn't even matter if it was a sign of more (though I suspect it is); just being that mean to anyone is a red flag.
posted by ferret branca at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2018 [43 favorites]


I'm fussy about food and I'm *incredibly nice* to servers. Like over the top. Because I want their help solving the problem; and I have no interest in making their day worse, although I know my requests might be adding to the work load.

What you're describing is a bully, not someone indulging food fussiness. Yes, it is a major red flag.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2018 [32 favorites]


For what it's worth, everyone that I've known to be this way (that I continued to be in contact with for whatever reason) has turned out to be a jerk in other ways.

It's never been like, 'oh they're totally rude to servers but they're a GEM in every other aspect of life'
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2018 [35 favorites]


If you mean is it a red flag for whether he's going to be violent with your sister, I don't know, and I doubt there's any actual research on it. But is it a red flag that the guy is a dick who likes to abuse power and abuse people he knows can't come back at him? Fucking A. So the question is really whether your sister wants to date someone who treats others as inferiors.

Anecdata: my cousin had a boyfriend who was so abusive to a waiter once that my husband and I approached the waiter separately to apologize; unsurprisingly, the guy eventually started being verbally abusive with my cousin and she dumped him quickly. (He was also nasty to other people, not incidentally.)
posted by holborne at 9:13 AM on April 25, 2018 [13 favorites]


The best possible spin to put on this was "something was going on with him - he was in pain or suffering from some attack of social anxiety due to the [edited - catered event, not wedding] - and he can't handle pain or anxiety without snapping at people".

If this were me and I had a good bond with the guy and I had reason to believe that he'd been battling a migraine or freaking out inside, I would try having a conversation with him - even a very short one - to express that snapping at waiters is not something I tolerate but that I would 100% support him in opting out of events if he felt too sick to go. If he said, "you're right, I was rude, I was using all my energy being social and just felt overwhelmed, I should probably have [gotten migraine meds/stayed home/left early]", I'd give things another try.

Otherwise, this is really heading into dealbreaker territory. I've known people who are rude and demanding in ways that I found unappealing, but they at least thanked the waiters for meeting their demands. Also, life is too short to be embarrassed every time you go out to eat together.
posted by Frowner at 9:14 AM on April 25, 2018 [21 favorites]


I would also be concerned that if he now feels comfortable enough in this relationship to behave like this in public, he might also step up, or at least stop hiding, any abusive behaviors in private.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:18 AM on April 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


So many of us in our family waited tables ourselves in High School and College that we may simply have more empathy for servers. On the other hand- He did bring up issues that the rest of us probably wouldn't have brought up ourselves because we didn't find them that intolerable. So we did end up probably enjoying the dinner better.

Let's separate two things - one, it is not a sign of more to expect good food, drink and service at a restaurant. They should replace fish that is cooked badly. Lots of us who are servers do this all the time. Noticing and correcting issues is totally normally behavior.

However - it is a sign of more how you go about it. His lack of tact, gratitude, and his snappiness is absolutely a sign of how he's going to react when things get difficult in his life. That would worry me.

To put this into context - I bartended and served for about 7 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times someone acted in this way. This kind of night would be a memorable one for me.
posted by notorious medium at 9:18 AM on April 25, 2018 [21 favorites]


I've never had a server job. And yet, even when I have a migraine, I thank my servers. On the rare occasions I have been in so much pain that thanking people who are helping me was almost impossible, I was on my way out of the establishment and on my way home and not dickering about the doneness of my fish dinner. (In fact, the very idea of drinking wine or eating fish would be impossible.)

There's nothing here to indicate that a guy who had a ton of energy to care about the level of his wine glass or the temperature of the room or the exact doneness of fish had physical or mental issues that were causing this boorish behavior.

From my experience, people who are ill-mannered boors in public will soon reveal themselves to be ill-mannered boors in private as well.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:19 AM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Definite red flag, mostly because, you know, waiters are people! And if you are a dick to people, you are ... a dick. I think it's completely fine to ask for things/complain about problems/etc. -- that is the waiter's job, after all! But it is totally possible to do that in a polite manner, without being rude. Sounds like he was in the rude category.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:21 AM on April 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


If this were a person dealing with food allergies or a doctor-specified diet, I could see a little testiness about keeping the meal according to his health issues. And some people are downright rude about it, because they would rather have the chocolate cake like everyone else, too. Childish, but understandable.
This does not seem to be that.

So I wouldn't give his a pass on being a dick in front of company. That can't translate well in private, either.
A situation where someone feels obligated to apologize for another adult is just wrong.
posted by TrishaU at 9:21 AM on April 25, 2018


I would immediately break up with someone like this. It has nothing to do with whether he would end up being abusive to your sister. This is just unacceptable shitty behavior to a person who is required by a job to be nice to you. Honestly, if he's like Gandhi in every single other aspect of his life, if he gives all of his money to charity and spends his spare time reading to children with cancer and rescuing homeless dogs, I would not stay with him.

I dumped a friend for exactly this, by the way.

Of course, it is your sister's decision, not yours.
posted by FencingGal at 9:24 AM on April 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


It is a sign that he is comfortable being rude and dismissive to people he feels are lower in status than him or are serving him. I would wonder what he's like when the checker is slow at the grocery store, or when he has to wait in line at the DMV. When I was an administrator, I would often answer the phones and see how people talked to me when they thought I was a receptionist. This says a lot about a person and who they really are...how we treat people we feel superior to is the closest thing to how we act when we are alone.
posted by assenav at 9:28 AM on April 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


> [...]waiters are people! And if you are a dick to people, you are ... a dick.

You're not wrong. But: Being a dick to waiters also has a "punching down" aspect to it; you're being a dick to someone who, by the nature of their employment, isn't free to call you on it. If that's how he acts toward someone who is (situationally) less powerful... DTMFA. There are lots of better options out there.
posted by sourcequench at 9:35 AM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Watching how someone interacts with people that many in society consider "lesser" (children, waitstaff, cleaning crew, admin staff, animals) is something I definitely do, and I would have a hard time having any kind of relationship with someone who regularly treated those individuals poorly. As a one-time thing I might let it go, but if this is the first impression he's giving, I wouldn't want to spend time with him.

(I've sent food back before that was poorly prepared or which contained an ingredient I'd specifically asked about beforehand. It's 100% possible to enable the waitstaff to do their jobs without belittling them; I think the rudest I've been was to ask the person to please be more careful in the future, in case someone had a more serious allergy, before tipping them extra for the hassle.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:37 AM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I would never see this person again, for several reasons.

One, which has been covered many times in the comments, is that how you treat someone over whom you have power (social status, emotional, situational, whatever) is a clear indicator of how you think about the world and your place in it.

Two, which I think is sort of more important, is that he directed all of his anger (disproportionate, also, to take into account) at a person who had nothing to do with what he was angry about. The waiter did not cook the food. The waiter did not set the initial temperature of the room. The waiter's job is to make sure everyone at their tables has everything they need, including more wine--the waiter was doing their job, and the boyfriend snapped at them for it.

When someone points all of their anger at one person, because they can, regardless of whether that one person had anything to do with why they are angry, that's a cut-and-run situation, because there is a non-zero chance that you are going to be that one person one day. You are going to be the only person around when Mr. Furious is, for example, in the middle of Hour Three of trying to get his taxes done, and everything about it is frustrating and money is a stressor, and you're in the house. Guess who's getting The Anger Show taken out on them?

That would be you.
posted by tzikeh at 9:39 AM on April 25, 2018 [37 favorites]


the question as posed is already distorting the essential issue. is it really a red flag? well, only if you're a person who respects others and is uncomfortable around disrespectful people. Not all women are such people, so it wouldn't be a red flag to a woman who's also rude to waiters, or who enjoys watching other people be mistreated. The reason it's a saying and a cliche is not because it's a rule for timid and confused women about who they are permitted to date; it's just an unmistakable illustration of the kind of person a man is. Whether you like or tolerate that kind of person is a personal question that cannot be determined for you(r sister). it is entirely up to her whether she can like and respect a person who behaves that way.

Does it matter whether a man who's domineering and insulting to waiters will behave the same way or worse towards other people, including his date? It matters if you don't care what happens to waitstaff, only to yourself. and the answer to the question is usually, but not always, yes. but if the answer has to be yes for it to be a problem, the jerk's date has problems of her own.

everybody has a bad day when they snap at people who don't deserve it. nobody needs to be dumped for being short with a taxi driver the day their parents die or for tipping the minimum when someone forgot their order. but you can tell when there's an excuse, because the person doing the snapping will excuse himself. if he doesn't, it's because he doesn't think he did anything bad.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:39 AM on April 25, 2018 [16 favorites]


He was vicious to the waiter over events that the waiter has no control over - the temperature, the quality of the food, asking about refilling his glass. (Waiters are required to do this, and they're not mind-readers; they don't know if someone wants more or not unless they ask. Refilling without asking is rude; ignoring the table until the glasses are empty is rude; walking by and asking is their job.)

It doesn't matter that the place was cold and the food was undercooked - these are not the waiter's fault; there is no reason to be nasty to the waiter over them. The polite version is, "I'd like to speak to a manager about..." Getting angry at the manager for the temperature is not great, but at least is blaming the right person.

This is a sign of much more. This is a guy who takes out his anger on whoever's closest who can't hit back.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:43 AM on April 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


"It's probably only because I've heard so often in the past that how one treats their waiters is a bad sign- but who knows how true that actually is."

I mean, obviously it's true. It's always a "bad sign" when you find out that someone is an asshole. I think people place emphasis on the being-rude-to-waiters thing in particular because when someone is rude to a waiter (and I mean RUDE, we have all gotten frustrated, but this guy sounds like he was just plain rude and nasty), they are essentially showing that when they are in a position where someone is being paid to wait on them and probably aren't very empowered to stand up for themselves, their inclination is to be abusive. It's kind of one of the most classic ways to evaluate someone's character.
posted by cakelite at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2018 [12 favorites]


While it is not always and absolutely a red flag when someone is rude to waitstaff, in this particular case, it appears to be a number of red flags, especially considering the anger displayed at asking if he wanted a glass of wine refilled.
posted by kellyblah at 9:46 AM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Absolutely a sign of more. It's quite possible to send food back, request a temperature change, or decline a refill without being a dick. It's how normal people behave at every meal.

When they eat at home, who do you think is serving him his food? I mean, it's possible that he cooks (I cook for my wife), but in most relationships (especially relationships with disrespectful assholes), that's still a "female" role. So even if he "just this way around people serving food", pretty soon the person serving him food is likely to be your sister.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:47 AM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


and doing this in front of other people means one of two things: he's even worse and more abusive when people aren't watching OR he's normal when he's alone but thinks this is the way to swagger and act like a big shot. like there are guys who think making waiters try harder impresses their companions; they don't lose their temper for real, they're putting on a show.

don't know which is worse, they're both real bad options.

edit: or the boring third option, he just thinks it's ok to treat working people like insult containers and thinks it's what everybody else does too, nothing special. that one's also real bad.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:50 AM on April 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


There’s no flag here.
He’s an angry asshole.
posted by chococat at 9:50 AM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I got to:

"Many of us have heard that if a date is mean to the waiter at dinner that is a huge red flag... but is it really?"

and at that point I knew my answer would be "Yes." I mean I read the rest of the post out of idle curiosity to see if somehow this would be the one outlier to challenge a long-held belief, but it was not.
posted by komara at 9:51 AM on April 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


He may just have been having a bad day. Is he always like this, or was it just this one time?
posted by w0mbat at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I knew someone with ridiculous road rage a bunch of years ago. I was like "that's not cool" a couple times, he never did it again. I never saw it crop up elsewhere. But he was like 20. The exception proves the rule.
posted by aniola at 9:58 AM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sign of more.

His behavior would make me never want to see him again. He's abusing a non responsible party for his own enjoyment, because he can, because he has all the power in this situation. That's a terrible quality in a person.
posted by French Fry at 9:59 AM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is a big red flag and is a potential warning of him being an abuser. She should RUN, and be careful when she does.

If you google "rude waiter abuse red flag" a TON of stuff comes up. This is a fairly common thing.
posted by Slinga at 10:02 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


If this is the only time he's ever acted like that, maybe he just had a shitty day, you never know what's going on with someone else's life, etc. (And to be clear, that doesn't excuse the behavior, but shit happens, all humans act like assholes sometimes.)

That said, sample size of one, it certainly sounds like he's an asshole and speaks poorly of him generally.

It's fine to be picky at a restaurant, but you can be picky and a decent human being at the same time. "Please" and "thank you" coming out of your mouth shouldn't elicit physical pain.
posted by so fucking future at 10:07 AM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


she says that they usually eat at home because he is fussy about his food

TBH this, combined with his totally inappropriate raging at the servers, is what worries me. What else is he privately so "fussy" about that he cannot control his temper? And who is going to get the brunt of that "fussiness" if it's usually kept secret...er, I mean private?

I don't think being rude to service people is always a red flag. Everyone is rude sometimes or has a bad day or whatever. I have had days where I Just Can't With People, and am curt or cold or short with service folks. (At my best-worst, I also apologise). Sometimes everyone sucks.

But this level of rudeness sounds like it borders on agressive and is totally beyond acceptable. Screaming at the waiter for doing his job? Dude. Not ok. I would not be ok with this.
posted by windykites at 10:14 AM on April 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


Pretty much no matter what his extenuating circumstances may or may not be, whether he was just wanting the best fish for his beautiful date (aww) or having a bad day, or whatever, this is an indication of how your sister will get treated when they are having relationship issues, or after the "honeymoon" or when he's having a bad day, or when she accidentally hits his pet peeve, or whatever. Make as many excuses as you want, but there's nothing that prevents your sister playing the role of "waiter" in a future re-enactment of this scenario.
posted by aimedwander at 10:21 AM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Abraham Lincoln said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

Basically, it's a question of how someone treats others when they know they have the upper hand, socially speaking--that is the truth of the common-sense wisdom you reference. In the restaurant frame, the patron has quite a bit of power over the wait staff, and this guy has given a troubling indication of how he is likely to habitually use that power; he's nice to your family at your family home since the same power dynamic does not obtain in that setting.

The concern is that should he ever find himself with the upper hand in your sister's relationship with him, how's he gonna act then?
posted by obliterati at 10:25 AM on April 25, 2018 [15 favorites]


I have no idea if this means he might be abusive but why, oh why, would anyone want to date a rude asshole? It's not even a red flag, it's who he is.
posted by lydhre at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


I should say that he wasn't necessarily wrong about the things he complained about. The temperature in the room was a little chilly (and it was fixed) and The fish was slightly overdone (He did get the 4 of us who ordered it new plates that were cooked better). But it was HOW he barked and complained to the waiter that bothered me.

As it should.

Look, there are ways to speak to the waiter about the temperature in the restaurant and about the quality of the fish which are not abusive. You don't NEED to speak to a waiter clearing away your table by saying "NOT JUST YET!" You can say "I'm actually still working on this, if you don't mind?" or something.

And if he blows his stack over something that minor....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on April 25, 2018


The WAY he spoke (yelling, barking, rudeness) is indeed the main and most obvious and biggest problem. He should, and could easily, have been polite. He was not. That's totally a red flag.

But I want to also note the fact that he seems incredibly high maintenance and plain spoiled. Seems like he really needs every little thing to be done his own way, even if that means asking other people to behave differently for his sake many, many, many times over. Even if he had been totally polite in the restaurant, this is weird as fuck and is a definite red flag on its own, imo.

I mean, the wine glass wasn't actively overflowing, right? There was no reason why he should tell the waiter THREE TIMES - even if he said it politely - to wait for the exact right moment to refill the wine glass. Especially after he has already made other bigger demands and been accommodated for them! Most people understand that if you've already had the temperature in the restaurant reset, and four plates of fish redone to your satisfaction, you should probably let a slightly mistimed wine refill go without comment - or, I daresay, with good humor even.

But this man could not tolerate it. He can't let it go. He didn't apologize for his fussiness, either, which shows a lack of self awareness. There seems to be no diagnosis of OCD that he's working on treating, yeah? I can only conclude that he thinks the world should revolve around his wants and preferences. The sense of entitlement is staggering when you think about it.
posted by MiraK at 10:36 AM on April 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


It's a red flag. Also, think what it says about one's personal values: "it's okay to treat others poorly, rudely, be mean". Accepting this behavior by continuing to date this person, it will also be a reflection on your sister's values.

Then, consider what she will be looking forward to every time she goes out to dinner with him, or every time you join them for dinner - a shocking display of anger, ingratitude, and other terrible behavior. That would spoil my appetite real quick.

Even if it doesn't escalate, this man hardly sounds very attractive as a partner based on this alone, and he's provided a useful indicator of how he will behave in other contexts and with other individuals.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 10:40 AM on April 25, 2018


Personal life long experience?

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. YES.

She needs to dump him. The way you get her to do this on the sly is to ask her to start being mindful of his behavior. She should never ever challenge him on his behavior, just watch it as an exercise. She should keep in mind what it might be like to have him as a father, even if she doesn't want children.

He's got more problems than are worth dealing with in a committed relationship. Again, first hand experience. It definitely only gets worse.
posted by jbenben at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


It is possible to be wildly picky (by inclination or necessity) and even have related anxiety disorders and still be unfailingly kind and apologetic and tipful to servers.

This is one of the easiest flags there is. Being decent to people is like Level 1 Humaning, and if he can't do that think about all the other things he can't do either.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:46 AM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Piling on to agree, yeah, treating other people like shit is a red flag.

Even the most generous explanation - maybe he's having a bad day, maybe there's something else going on - can explain snapping at someone. BUT it doesn't explain failing to apologize for it afterwards.

"Hey waiter, I'm sorry, I snapped at you a minute ago, but I found out this morning that my dog died and I'm having trouble processing it."

This sounds like he was just being an asshole, and treating people of a lower status (at least in the moment) like they're not people.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Being rude signals that you’re weak and can’t garner respect by being clear, honest and resolute.

Also, anyone with a backbone punches up.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:51 AM on April 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


100% yes. This is squarely in Dump The Mutherfukker Already territory. It is only a matter of time (usually a longer time, enough to boil a frog) until your sister is the recipient of that treatment.

I would have enjoyed that dinner much, much less because of how other humans were treated around me, and that includes you -- you were an unwilling participant in a dominance contest. The fact that you (likely begrudgingly) admit that the things he complained about improved -- that's your unwilling participation in his mind games. Be aware of that, yourself. Better-cooked fish can be ... even more poisonous.
posted by Dashy at 10:52 AM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Why even take the time to wonder about his future actions with others, or 'red flags'? He is literally a bad person. This is his character: a person who would act like this. A non-empathetic person. I would never align myself/my life with someone like this, period. I wouldn't be worrying about myself or my future role as his punching bag (though that is obviously the likely case.) It would be done in half a second, because... I mean, what am I missing here? This is not a good empathetic person, and don't people want to be surrounded by good empathetic people, and partner with good empathetic people, and see the people they are with partnered with good people who are kind to those around them? That is the most basic bar of entry, and if someone fails that, what more is there to say?
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Even if it were not a red flag of abusive dickishness (and it is), just reading this story had me CRINGING all the way down into my boots. I cannot even FATHOM how actively uncomfortable I would be if I had actually borne witness to the scene you described.

I have politely but pointedly called dear family members of mine the EFF out for being only a tiny fraction as rude to a server as this dude was. This would be a dealbreaker for me if only because I could not personally handle the full body cringe that would come with witnessing someone else's bad behavior and having it reflect, even indirectly, on me.

But for the record: there are MANY reasons why this behavior is a dealbreaker. (See basically every other post above and below this one.)
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:00 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is one of the very few pieces of conventional wisdom around relationships that is true without exception.
posted by PMdixon at 11:18 AM on April 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


Would you say, "it's okay, he only kicks Labrador retrievers, he never kicks MY dog"? Of course not, that's ridiculous. Waitstaff are people too; it doesn't matter if he's nice to everyone else on earth.
posted by AFABulous at 11:20 AM on April 25, 2018 [30 favorites]


Like others say, yes, yes, yes, this is bad in and of itself, regardless of what it may or may not signify about his future actions with your sister, and I'm really confused by the idea that "who knows how true that actually is." I mean, I guess? If you're a person who really doesn't care how a person treats others, particularly others who are more powerless? It's kind of like saying "I saw my boyfriend kick a dog and people say that's a red flag but who knows how true that is." It's bad because it's bad--it doesn't require further justification. But hey, if you're down with dog kicking, knock yourselves out. (Do not really do this. I do not mean to encourage dog kicking, or even waiter abuse for that matter.)

on preview, posting the dog analogy the same time as AFABulous but I think the point deserves reinforcement
posted by tiger tiger at 11:22 AM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I agree with everyone else: sign of more. Mind you, your sister may well push back and say he's really nice, it was just the one time, etc. etc., so you should be prepared to support her when she finally figures out what he's really like, hopefully sooner rather than later.
posted by languagehat at 11:25 AM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


It's a huge red flag and I'd certainly be having an uncomfortable discussion with my partner if something like that happened. The only reasonable explanation (which doesn't excuse it) is if there was something big and dramatic elsewhere in their life causing their anxiety to bubble over and they took it out on someone else. It's not good to do that but the fact is a lot of people do it every now and then.
posted by Candleman at 11:31 AM on April 25, 2018


Two words: poop milkshake.
posted by amf at 12:04 PM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Chiming in to agree with everyone who is saying it is a huge red flag and a sign of more to come. Definitely.

Also, I think that fussy eating is a bad sign too. I really dislike adults who are fussy eaters. Both my husband and I will eat and appreciate almost anything, and it definitely makes dining out more fun.
posted by thereader at 12:04 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think that fussy eating is a bad sign too. I really dislike adults who are fussy eaters.

I'll go to go to bat for fussy eaters but I still think this guy is having some sort of issue whether it's temporary (as Frowner suggests is possible) or permanent (he is a jerk) and the way to really determine that is to ask him ( you or your sister) and see what he says. If he realizes that how he acted was a real problem, vows to do better and DOES BETTER then it's something that can be worked on. If he's defensive or otherwise "I don't see what the big deal is" then he is the problem. Obviously you can't make your sister do anything and you should see your role as someone supportive to whatever her path is, but you can also set your own boundaries "Your guy seems like a jerk and I'm not going to other events he's at"
posted by jessamyn at 12:12 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


is it really?

Yes it is. People who are habitually rude to those less powerful than them and obsequious to those more powerful are simply too much trouble to bother associating with. Leave them to their own miserable lives. And they will be miserable, as will those of anybody forced to remain within their orbit.
posted by flabdablet at 12:43 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


And yes, it is completely possible to be a fussy eater while still remaining fully capable of using your words to explain what your issue is instead of carrying on like a pork chop.
posted by flabdablet at 12:44 PM on April 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


Does she really, on reflection, want to hang to find out if that's how he'll treat their kids? Because that's how he'll treat their kids.

Also I would like to point out that my partner has food aversions typical of a super taster also on the ASD spectrum and still manages to hold his shit together in a way that doesn't control or limit what other people can eat. Being a snowflake does not necessitate being a dickwad.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:10 PM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


He was not embarrassed at all to behave that way in public.

You said "He never thanked the waiter either for his compliance so my sister would do that on his behalf instead"

and

"I believe her because she genuinely looked shocked by his behavior at the table and looked like she was trying to pretend she didn't notice it."

Clearly your sister was embarrassed by his behavior. She should ask herself why she would want to spend time with someone who embarrasses her.

Protip: If he's willing to embarrass her in public, he's willing to humiliate her in private.
posted by vignettist at 1:20 PM on April 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


Pointing out that his bullying the waiter infront of you was also a good way of testing your family‘s backbone and beginning to assert dominance over you. He now knows that he can rely on you all to be too polite and full of self doubt to call him out on it when he chooses to abuse others - or one of you.

It is also an excellent source of sowing discord between your sister and her family, should you warn her that he‘s not a good person and if she decides not to listen to you. It‘s a thing that is easy for him to twist into everyone else being unreasonable and him being the victim.

It‘s an excellent set up for future domestic abuse.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:23 PM on April 25, 2018 [18 favorites]


If it was me, I'd be inclined to find out afterwards if something awful had happened and if he realized he'd been very rude. Perhaps everyone else here is angelic in this respect, but, though I try to be respectful, I wouldn't like to be judged forever based on, say, my top three worst interactions with support staff/servicepeople. The question is whether he realized afterwards he'd been a jerk and felt bad about it (and not just in a "okay, okay, I'll be nicer next time, geez, get off my back!" kind of way). If he brushes it off, yes, giant red flag, do not stick around to see that behavior aimed at you.
posted by praemunire at 1:24 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is an absolute deal breaker for me. People who mistreat others who they perceive to be beneath them are people I do not want in my life. I don't care how nice they may be to me if they're not able to treat others with dignity and respect.
posted by Ruki at 1:25 PM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


All the picky eaters I know are warm to the staff, they help make sure you get what you want. And I've been out with my husband when he got a migraine and we had to scram right after getting our food. He didn't snap at the waiter to get our bill, he apologized for the eat and run and asked for the bill when he got a chance. The waiter looked very concerned that something was wrong despite our assurances otherwise, so my husband *noticing that someone was uncomfortable* left a slightly larger tip and a note that everything was great. Being miserable doesn't render one incapable of being both polite and cognizant of how others are reacting.

So yeah, it could have been a bad day for the guy. But he was making people uncomfortable all night and didn't pick up on that. Not saying he's doomed to be an asshole forever, but it does not look good. It'd be interesting to see how he'd react if someone asked him what was wrong that night. If his reaction is one of confusion followed by significant retroactive embarrassment, not just for the one night, but the likely many night of jerkiness, maybe there's hope? But I wouldn't count on it. And even then it's at best a sign that he can be decent if someone explains the rules to him, which sounds exhausting.
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:35 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is it always? No. Is it in this case? Yes. For example:
I have a friend who is a food service professional. As in, it is his chosen career. While we were out at dinner once, he went off on the waitstaff and at first I was a little taken aback. Then I realized that it had actually been a slow burn starting from when we first arrived. They tried to seat us outside in the cold. When we realized that they didn't have a windbreak or a heater, we asked to be seated inside. The place was basically empty, but the server seemed reluctant anyway. We were seated at a fairly large table inside and given beverages. It took close to half an hour to have our orders taken. Then, before our food could be delivered but well after we needed drink refills, our server came back to ask us to move tables so that other guests could have our table. That is when he blew up. He was so offended by the level of service in that place. Should he have gotten mad? No. But I realized while listening to him listing everything wrong with the service that he had been holding it in until the dam burst. We moved and let the other guests have our table. We still left a tip.
posted by domo at 1:38 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


What's more and in addition to his deplorable treatment of the waiter is that he didn't have enough consideration and respect for his dining companions. Acting shitty and making others be unwilling parties to it is not acceptable. He displayed little care for the people around him.

We've all probably been witness to public meltdowns where a person absolutely loses their damn mind and the sensible members of the crowd recognize that is not okay behavior. There's a pretty firm line that separates both so it should reinforce on which side we'd like to stay. Apparently there is no line for this guy, or he chooses poorly.
posted by loquat at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Even if there isn’t “more”.....this is enough.

Barking at waitstaff is unacceptable even if he’s sweet as pie to everyone else.

(There is more, though.)
posted by kapers at 2:27 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Can it be that he is just this way around people serving food like my sister is surmising or is it a sign of more?

It doesn't automatically mean that he's about to hit your sister, but it does mean that he thinks is fully acceptable to just openly take out his personal frustrations on people who are delivering a service to him.

Does he like it when people at his workplace are unreasonably demanding, snappish assholes?

I would deduce that he considers waiters to be beneath the threshold of basic respect. Which is pretty fucking weird, really.
posted by desuetude at 2:29 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I definitely won't date someone mean to wait staff.

On a side note, what exactly is Sign of more? Google doesn't give me any good hits.
posted by TrinsicWS at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2018


I'm also going to note that the suggestion above that picky eaters are assholes is just weird. I'm a pretty picky eater and I would never treat a server in a restaurant badly, because, you know, people who do that are rude jackasses. If you "dislike adults who are fussy eaters" that's fine, whatever, you do you. But writing them off as jerks who are perforce rude to servers in restaurants is actually pretty damn offensive.
posted by holborne at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


On a side note, what exactly is Sign of more? Google doesn't give me any good hits.

The last sentence of OP's post is "Can it be that he is just this way around people serving food like my sister is surmising or is it a sign of more?", i.e. is it a sign he will behave like this in more types of situations?
posted by capricorn at 2:35 PM on April 25, 2018


This dish sounds unappetizing. I would send it back.
posted by The Deej at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2018 [13 favorites]


He was so offended by the level of service in that place. Should he have gotten mad? No. But I realized while listening to him listing everything wrong with the service that he had been holding it in until the dam burst.

He was also going off on the waitstaff over their performance, not because they happened to be the face in front of him when someone else had screwed up. He blew up at the server because they were doing the job badly, not because the chef did his job badly.

Whether it's ever "okay" to yell at employees in public is a different issue from whether it's okay to yell at them because you're unhappy instead of anything related to their ability to do their job.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:35 PM on April 25, 2018


I took it as shorthand for sign of more to come, ie, will he be an arsehole in other situations. To which the answer is definitely yes.

He's been nice to you all so far as he currently perceives you as on his level. I would not want your sister to ever be his wife, he'd probably then see her as subservient and, like a waiter who wants to keep their job, a new mother not in paid employment is pretty vulnerable to an arsehole who acts like he's boss of the world. Your sister should run. Many women who date abusers say they were perfectly charming and nice in the early days.

He's done everyone a favour being a jerk so openly. I mean, wait staff are people and we should not be arseholes to people so to do so in public...what would he do behind closed doors?
posted by kitten magic at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ugh.

You and your sister are trying to come up with a reason that his behavior isn't so bad, because the conclusion that this guy is an asshole is uncomfortable and inconvenient. You don't want him to be an asshole. That's natural.

But you can't explain away someone being shitty to waitstaff. Being stressed about your food isn't a reason to be shitty to someone. Being disappointed in the service you've received isn't a reason to be shitty to someone, either - you can handle it politely. (And empathetically, because you rarely know what's going on back of house. It might not be the fault of the person in front of you.)

Waitstaff are people. You witnessed this guy being shitty to people. Now you're asking if that means he might be shitty to other people, i.e. your sister. Um, yes? Good chance.

The reason why people think how you treat waitstaff is an indicator of your true colors is because (a) it ties very closely in to how entitled and superior you feel, especially towards people who are of a lower status of you, and (b) there are usually no consequences, because people in a service position can't fire back or they'll lose their jobs.

That tells you a lot about what they'll do in other situations where they feel entitled and like they can get away with it. And you can't leave gender out of that.

As a side note, his behavior would have mortified me so much I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the dinner at all, regardless of whether the actual quality of the food was better.

If I were your sister, I would dump him and tell him why. But at the very least I'd never go out with him to eat at any place with service again. Just fast food kiosks, forever.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Anedata:
My sister-in-law married a guy like this, and things just get worse and worse for her. Not only is her own life less than pleasant, they now have 2 daughters and the impact on them appears to be unfortunate.

If I were your sister, I wouldn't say anything to this guy, (i.e. tip him off about my concerns) but would go out for a similar dinner again soon and see how he is. If it happened again, I would be gone.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 5:12 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


You say this was a catered event— in my experience, that means like a work party or benefit or awards banquet or someone’s wedding, usually that someone else paid a ton of money for, or that someone is throwing for fundraising reasons. It’s not a restaurant (not that it’s appropriate to bark at waiters at restaurants either.)

In that case you stfu and eat what they bring out unless it’s egegious. Slightly overcooked fish that the rest of you didn’t find actionable is not even close to egregious. That’s super obnoxious regardless of the “fussy eater” issue. And if you’re going to be a dick and complain at a catered event, you make damn sure you’re not damaging the host’s reputation by being rude about it.

This person is not nice to others and doesn’t even know basic food etiquette, as food-snobby as he fancies himself.
posted by kapers at 5:29 PM on April 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


I waited tables for many years in a really uppity place filled with rich, powerful people, who could on occasion be demanding and particular. I was never once treated with a fraction of the rude behavior you described. This guy is an epic loser and sister needs to up her standards if she didn’t dump him on the spot.
posted by murrey at 5:35 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


“Newly dating”? Like, less than 3 months? Easy-peasy. Block his number, change your locks, get out now.
posted by matildaben at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2018


I've dumped people for far less churlish behavior towards wait staff. In my experience, people who treat waiters like shit will eventually be shitty to their intimates.

There are multiple aphorisms which reflect the idea that character is defined by how we treat those who are vulnerable and less powerful. It's trite because it's true.
posted by bunderful at 8:25 PM on April 25, 2018


Also, it's an indication that they think the best way to get what they want is to be an asshole. Not to be persuasive or polite or communicate well. And that makes me concerned about how they will act when they want something from their partner, or when the relationship goes through a rough patch.
posted by bunderful at 8:34 PM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I've been at dinners with people fussy enough about wine that they didn't want unaerated wine poured on top of the aerated wine in their glasses and when the waiter attempted to do so, they were SUPER DEFERENTIAL and apologetic about explaining why they wanted to wait until their glasses were totally empty before having more wine. It is absolutely possible to be simultaneously fussy and polite. If I were dating this man, I would stop dating this man due to this behavior. How someone treats waitstaff is not some magical omen, but someone who treats other people, regardless of who they are, badly is not a good person.
posted by lazuli at 9:04 PM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


It might not indicate he's mean to service workers in general. Maybe he was having a bad day.

It does mean that on those bad days, when he's stressed out and grouchy, he has difficulty controlling his emotions and behavior.

Lots of people have this problem. We call them "teenagers," and we don't let them have any responsibility or power.

Major red flag.
posted by miyabo at 9:53 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is my father. Encourage your sister to run, or I suspect she'll eventually spend her life being treated as he treated that server.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 9:58 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


There are two other maxims about character which relate to the one you’re asking about here:
A. Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.
B. Character is how we treat people who are of no use to us.
I’ll offer a third which integrates both:
C. Our character is how we behave when we think no one important is looking.
Consider for a moment the following archetypes:
  • A catcaller who only harasses women when men aren’t there to witness it;
  • A caregiver who dotes on children in front of their parents, but abuses them when the parents are away;
  • A police officer who racially profiles the civilians he’s supposed to protect — but only when he’s working alone.
There are some people who might think, as long as they aren’t part of the demographic being mistreated, what’s the big deal? “He’s never done any harm to me.”

Sometimes it’s quite seductive to a certain kind of person. “Well, he only mistreats people he considers inferior, so I guess I’m one of the cool people!” But again, the bully misbehaves only when no one important is looking. Bystanders may feel superior to the victim, but if the bully really valued their opinion, he would behave better out of respect to them.

I believe, or at least I hope, that this kind of phony disrespect is incompatible your/your sister’s value system. If it is, though, I offer this less-ethically-focused maxim instead:
D. Truly well-off people have their own staff at home. They don’t have to go to restaurants to bully the waiters there. That’s something middle-class, faux-nouveaux-riches types do, because they saw a rich person do it on TV and they think it makes them look “fancy.”
posted by armeowda at 10:14 PM on April 25, 2018


Reading your description, he doesn't just come off as rude, but as performatively rude. He seems to think that type of behavior makes him seem powerful and maybe even caring (getting the heat turned on, ordering new fish for everyone, managing the tempo). I think your sister should tell him how she felt about it, and then see what happens. If he continues to behave that way, it's a sign of more. If he mends his ways, he is just an uneducated brat who can and will change. But never give him a second chance, please.
I have two anecdotes to support this theory: one is that according to family lore, my dad was like that when my stepmother met him. She called him on it, changed his ways and has always been a gentle and nice person since.
Another relative of mine was always a jerk at restaurants. They clearly enjoyed the drama and attention and disregarded the rest of us cringing. And yes, they are also not someone I'd want to be in a relationship with. It has begun to change, though. Someone my kids' know worked at a restaurant our relative attends often, and told my daughter what the waitstaff thought of that relative. My daughter told it to the relative, who was earnestly surprised. They had thought their horrible behavior was normal, and also that the waitstaff respected them. This is hardly redeeming — how can anyone be that narcissistic? But there is a change.
posted by mumimor at 2:08 AM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Definitely suggests she ought to get out of the relationship ASAP.
posted by stormyteal at 7:14 PM on April 27, 2018


I should say that he wasn't necessarily wrong about the things he complained about.

When people talk about paying attention to how people treat waiters, they don't mean you shouldn't speak up if there is something you would like or something isn't right with the food. It's possible to ask for or refuse things without being rude.

So we did end up probably enjoying the dinner better.


You did!? With this jerk as company!? Really now.

Can it be that he is just this way around people serving food like my sister is surmising or is it a sign of more?

He's just this way around anyone he feels has less power than him or is less important than him.

If your sister keeps dating him, and feels attached to him once it's past the early phases of dating, he'll feel she's less important than she is now and start treating her this way -- that's WHY people say to pay attention to how someone treats waiters.

Also, people tend to be aware that in early dating others will view how they treat waiters as a window into their behavior -- so that even if they would otherwise be disposed to treat waiters badly, they know they have to pretend they don't feel that way so as to leave a good impression. This guy either doesn't know this or this IS how he goes about about making a good impression not only with his date but with his date's family. Wonder how he acts if he's not trying to make a good impression... probably even worse.
posted by yohko at 10:16 AM on April 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


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