Food service workers are some of the unsung heroes of the modern era: they're often berated, get little recognition when they do their job well, and can even get paid below minimum wage under the assumption that people will tip them. It's an industry rife with stress, long hours, and resultant substance abuse, and most workers don't last long before they have to get out.
These people also have to do many tedious, thankless tasks that 99% of customers never see or are aware of, so it's especially despicable when you see customers treating food service workers like human garbage that are far beneath them. The only thing worse than outright mistreatment is when people try to con and scheme places into giving them a discount or free food, because more often than not some unlucky worker takes the blame and sometimes even has to pay for it. Here are some of Reddit's most groan-worthy stories from food service workers about times the customer has tried to game the system. Content edited for clarity
"I worked at a burger joint in Hamburg, Germany, while I was studying there. One day we were slammed at lunch with people backed out the door and this guy paid for his lunch with a $20 bill.
He waited 20 minutes, then came back in and demanded additional change, claiming he had given me a $50 note. I had no way to prove to the customer or my manager what he had paid with so I had to give him the $30 out of my drawer.
At the end of my shift, my till was $30 short. The same manager who made me give him the money docked my pay $30 and it took me six hours of work to earn that back."
"I used to work at a froyo place where you're charged by the ounce. I've had a lot of customers 'happen' to try to lift the scales while I'm weighing the cups. The craftier ones would try to push their bags next to it and cover their hands.
The thing is, the cups the customers typically get average about to $4 to $6, so when I suddenly see a whopping full cup (filled to the brim with peanut butter cups) ring up as $2, it was all too obvious."
"These three little highschoolers came into the pizza place I served at about a year ago. They were loud, obnoxious, and very keen to be noticed. This led to me watching them like a hawk to make sure they didn't damage anything. Well, come time to pay, the guy paying realized that he 'forgot his card in his car' so two of them went to retrieve the card while the third went to the bathroom. At the back of the store. Right next to the rear exit.
I'm not stupid, so I went to my manager and told him these punks were trying to pull one over and dine and dash. We both kept an eye out toward the back and you could see the third kid trying to find the right time to leave. He was hiding by the bathrooms, texting his friends, and starting to look really nervous because we weren't letting up. There weren't any other customers at that point so it wasn't like we had anything else to do. The kid left in the store eventually came back to his seat and mumbled something about not knowing where the heck his friends were. About 35 minutes after the time they left the store, the other two came back, looking ticked as heck, and actually paid. They said they parked far away."
"When I was a kid, I worked at this mom and pop deli and grocery store. It was a small town so I knew virtually everyone that walked through the door. One day, we were really busy and there was actually a line of customers.
The store was set up like a bodega, so the cash register was just in front of the store by the door - not like a supermarket check out line. Anyway, there were about six or seven people waiting to get stuff when in walked a teenager that I hadn't seen before. She was pretty attractive and very smiley.
She grabbed a pack of smokes and put it on the counter, very nonchalantly, while I was trying to get everyone settled. I started calling out prices to people for what they had in their hands, 'Bill - $4.75, Chris - $5, You (girl with the smokes) - I need to see your I.D.'
'Oh, I don't have any. I just need this pack though, is it okay if I don't show I.D this one time?'
'No, it's not okay.' I took back the smokes like a boss and told her to go get an I.D and come back.
Three days later, the owner came to me and thanked me, as she received a letter from the state licensing board stating that her cashier denied a minor from purchasing smokes and that the girl was part of a sting to try to catch stores violating the law. If I let her slide, it would have cost the store thousands in fines and possibly losing their license to sell smokes at all. The owner wound up giving me a raise instead."
"I worked at a grocery store a couple years back and one day this really old woman came to my line. She bought just a pack of Reese's peanut butter cups and paid with a $100 bill.
Before I could count her change and give it back to her, she snatched it out of my hand and walked out. A few minutes later, she came back in and claimed that I shorted her $80. Most of the cashiers in the evening were teenagers (including myself), so she probably assumed that they would not be smart enough to double check and would just give her the money.
But I called the manager over and asked him to count my cash drawer. Of course, the woman asked if she could go outside for a smoke in the meantime and didn't come back. She actually came in again a few months later and tried the same thing. That time when she grabbed for her change, I kept it out of her reach and slowly counted it back to her. She didn't come back in."
"Being a klutzy server, I once dropped a stack of oyster plates on my first day at a place. As I was laughing it off with them, we heard a shriek from a few rows of tables over. A woman insisted some rogue sharp piece had ricocheted over and cut her leg. I saw her pinching her cut to 'drain the blood.'
Her husband was elevating her leg onto a chair and she started breathing deeply. My manager rushed out with free drinks and to gauge the wound. The woman wasn't in my section, but when I went to check in on how she was feeling, she responded with wide eyes, 'I FEEL LIKE I'VE BEEN SHOT.'
Shortly after comping her meal and twenty minutes into over apologizing and babying her, my manager realized she was displaying a shard of glass as the culprit. The plates were ceramic."
"I was managing afternoon tea at a really nice hotel in my town. There was a table with two women (one of whom was employed as a manicurist in the spa) and a child around 5 years old playing on a Gameboy.
They enjoyed their tea and little baked sweets, but when we presented them with the bill, they started complaining that the Gameboy was stolen from their table when they went to the restroom. I explained that none of my staff had seen it nor had they taken it.
Fast forward 30 minutes and they were demanding that we comp their bill (around $30 per person) and replace the missing Gameboy. The whole time, the little girl was squirming and looking like she wanted to say something.
Next thing I knew, she looked at the lady making the fuss and said she was sitting on the Gameboy. Sure enough, everyone stopped talking and the woman had a look of defeat. She was sitting on the Gameboy the entire time and was fully aware that it was there. It was total bullcrap to say the least."
"This lady used to come into my job and order this HUGE breakfast all the time. Same one, every time. And every time, about a third of the way into it, she would say something was the matter with it, that it was inedible and she didn't want to pay for it. After personally seeing this happen a few times, I started to wonder how she got a bad breakfast every time. And WHY did she keep coming in and ordering it, considering the bad luck she was having?
I came to find out that a regular customer knew her. They told us she had gastric bypass surgery and could no longer eat very much. So this woman would come in, eat till she was full, which wasn't much, and then complain that it was bad. Being that she hardly ate, we always believed her and didn't make her pay.
So, the next time she came in, I refused her service and she FREAKED out. When I asked her why she continued to come in even though her meal was ALWAYS bad, her response was, 'I'm waiting to get a good meal.'"
"I used to work at a fast-food burger place and this particular night, I was handing out orders to the cars at the second window. This woman had ordered a couple of value meals and a happy meal. We got the happy meal done first and I handed it out. She looked in the bag, then looked up at me and very sweetly said, 'I'm so sorry, but they put fries in this bag, and I wanted apple dippers'.
So I apologized, took the bag, and replaced it. The manager on duty happened to be nearby and said to me, 'But the order said fries.'
I told her, 'I know, but she told me she wanted apple dippers'.
An hour later, the store got a call and said manager went to answer it. She came back sometime later and said, 'Remember that order where you replaced the fries with apple dippers? She just called and complained that she got apple dippers in her happy meal when she clearly ordered fries, which is what her receipt shows. And she is demanding a couple of free value meals to make her happy over this mess up.'
My jaw just dropped. I was only 17 at the time, and hadn't really seen just how messed up people could be yet. I said, 'I swear to you, she looked me in the eye and told me to replace the fries with apple dippers. I wouldn't have changed that if she hadn't.' Luckily I didn't get in trouble, she believed me, but I was so angry that there was this customer who seemed so nice when she was there in front of me, then called back with a completely different attitude and tried to get me in trouble. Just so she could get a $10 to $15 worth of free food."
"I manage a restaurant and deal with the slickest customers ever on a regular basis. Just a few hours ago, I had a large table with split checks that were really treating the server horribly, so we were glad to see them go. Instead of waiting at the table to pay for the multiple checks, they all stood around in a group at the front while we worked out the bills.
In the cluster of chaos they caused, one of them (a mother with a small child), casually walked out the front door without paying. We noticed that the bill was still unpaid as they all left, but the group assured me that she went to the bathroom. One minute later, after checking, the entire group was headed down the road. I confronted them and they told me that she wasn't with them and they didn't even know who she was. Ugh...where the heck is a cop when I need one."
"I used to work as a shift leader at a chocolate shop that served fondue. We'd serve bananas among other things to dip in the chocolate. One time we had gotten a batch of bananas that we had to throw away early because they went bad too fast. So we were telling customers that they could get extra of everything else, but we had no bananas.
Well, a lady came in and wanted a fondue, and we gave her the no banana speech and she was totally okay with it. As soon as we took the fondue out to her, she freaked out about not having bananas! Her son even said, 'They said they didn't have any!' and she just shushed him and continued yelling at me.
I don't know what happened but the next thing that came out of my mouth was, 'Well ma'am, I told you we had no bananas. If you want them so bad, we have some spoiled ones in the dumpster out back. Feel free to help yourself.'
My coworkers busted out laughing behind me, but the customer wasn't so happy. She ended up calling into our pushover manager and got a free fondue, not because of what I had said, but because there were no freaking bananas!"
"30 years ago, I worked for a pizza place as a delivery guy. At the time, if you didn't get your pizza 30 minutes after you placed the order, you could get the pizza for free. There was this one dude who was at the VERY limit of my delivery area. I mean, it took almost 25 minutes just to drive there.
So, he always would call and order a pizza one-half hour before we closed, like at 1:30 in the morning if we closed at 2:00. The first time I delivered pizza to him, I was late, and he got the pizza for free (you had to ask to borrow his phone and call for permission, which I did) and got no tip.
He ordered again. Again because of other deliveries and traffic, I was late. He got a free pizza and I got no tip. He ordered a third time. This time, I was ready. The car was warmed up and ready to go. I made sure his pizza was first in the oven, first to come out. His pizza was the only one in my car. I wasn't even taking the chance of trying to deliver anyone else's pizza on the same run.
I got it there on time. He then launched into the longest, hate-filled race rant I've ever experienced. In fact, the only one I ever experienced. I just stood there and took it, and then I left. From then on until the day I quit, I could always expect him to order at 1:30 am on a Friday night. And I would always be in a race to deliver the pizza to him on time. Most often I would be on time; sometimes I would be late, and he'd get a free pizza. When I was on time, I could expect to get yet another prejudiced rant or diatribe hurled my way.
I never lost my cool and I wish I could say it was because I was stronger than him, but it was because I'd grown up with an abusive father and knew how to take it. Well, in a way I was stronger because though I was silent, I still was thinking to myself how much an awful person he was (just like I did with my father)."
"When I worked at a burger stand years ago, the garbage we would get from people was amazing. I seriously couldn't be creative enough to make these stories up. I once had a customer bring in a shake that was days old, claiming that it was 'too runny' when they originally bought it, but that they 'just didn't have the time' to come back until now, so they managed to save the remnants of what used to be a milkshake from our stand for the entire time so they could bring it back later and get an exchange.
Same place, a different customer brought in a burger in a Ziploc bag, claiming that the burger was wrong when they bought it, but they didn't notice until they got home. Again, the item in question was days old, and they had just now brought it in, ABSOLUTELY EXPECTING an exchange. The manager of the stand at the time gave them whatever they wanted just to avoid dealing with them.
Years later, I worked at a ball cap store. I don't say hats because ball caps aren't hats, they're ball caps. Indiana Jones wears a hat, 50 Cent likes to wear ball caps. Anyway, I regularly got 50 Cent wannabes (of all ethnicities and races) in the store, buying our expensive (over $30) ball caps. You know the kind, the ones that are bought for style and not because they look like a pro baseball player's cap. These people did not leave the store without trying on the cap, making sure that it fit and that everything was just right before they made their purchase and left. Without fail, almost every single time, they'd be back within the next two days, wanting to return the cap, and usually for nonsense reasons like: 'It doesn't fit,' or 'It doesn't go with my wardrobe.'
You might be thinking: 'What the heck!? A customer wants to return something, you shut the heck up and do it! PRICK! HORRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE.' However, we had a policy regarding the 'custom' ball caps, which was if you buy it, you're done. The sale is final. Why? The policy stemmed from the fact that people just like the ones I described would buy a cap to look 'fly at the club,' then return it the next day because they really couldn't afford it in the first place.
This policy was on the receipt. 'Oh, but how about if it didn't fit?' My behind. We saw you try the thing on your head to make sure it did. It doesn't go with your wardrobe? I forgot where it was written that that is my concern in any way. You should've thought about that before you dropped $35 on a darn ball cap, for crying out loud."
"There was this woman who came to my register with a whole bunch of large cuts of meat. I went to scan them automatically, but when I grabbed the label, it moved. Thank God for slightly damp meat packages. She had taken the labels of old cuts of meat she bought and dug out of the trash. There were $20 cuts of meat with $7 labels! I called my manager over, we never directly accused her, but it was obvious it was her. She made up an odd excuse like, 'It's my birthday so I want my steak' and didn't want to pay the $20 per package but the $7. Tell me, if you picked out meat you thought was $7, would you pay $20 if you found out someone had tampered with the label?
Then there was another instance that actually got me. At the time, I was just starting on the register, so I was easily cowed. This evil witch of a woman, who has since been banned from our store for harassing cashiers and generally being unpleasant, angrily declared that the bag of pretzels rang up wrong. Now, I had a line, and my manager wasn't to be seen, and she was making a really big deal about it, so I fixed the price and shrugged it off. Then later, when I had a moment, I checked the price. Not a single pretzel bag was on sale. It was a small theft, but no less annoying."
"When I was in high school I worked at a Panera Bread. One day in the middle of a dinner rush and I was on the sandwich line. I made a turkey sandwich for some man and I put it up on the counter as he thanked me.
Less than a minute later, the guy came back up to the counter with the top slice of bread turned over and two shiny nails sitting on top of the sandwich. He claimed the nails were in his sandwich. WHAT THE HECK? We don't have nails anywhere on the sandwich line, and they were clearly shiny and new. Then I found out that up until that point, that dude got like $60 worth of free food. I hated that job."
"I worked at a fine dining restaurant and every year we had a truffle dinner. It's amazing, we made desserts and 13 courses all with different types of truffles and a drink pairing per course. Needless to say, the price for a ticket is steep. It's usually over $200 per person and some years even more. 98% of the people who go are valued regulars or friends of the owners or chefs, so we let people pay at the end.
Well, this year we had one couple go out for a smoke that just never came back. We figured out who they were in the reservation book and quickly called the number thinking they were drinking a lot and that they probably made an honest mistake. Well, both numbers were fake and they had dined and dashed on us."