What do you say to a stinky waiter?
My friend Carmen is still ranting about the waiter at a trendy downtown bistro who had such potent body odor that she was nearly knocked out of her chair.
“I’m in the service industry, and I think it’s incredibly unprofessional for a waiter to smell so bad that it ruins your appetite,” Carmen told me. “My friend and I considered getting up and leaving, but he wasn’t that attentive anyway, so we just held our breath every time he came to the table.”
I asked if she called the restaurant manager after the meal to complain about the smelly server. “No,” she said. “We just decided never to go back to the place.”
I’m happy to say that in all my years of dining in restaurants, I’ve never encountered a waiter who smelled bad — though I wouldn’t hesitate to call over a manager and request another server if it happened. Ripe fruit on the dessert tray is one thing; a ripe waiter is another thing entirely.
When I was waiting tables, I did work with one server who stunk — a dizzy little man who led a double life as a waiter and a drag queen. One too many nights, he showed up for work drenched in the most acrid cheap perfume; the rest of the wait crew would be gasping for oxygen back in the kitchen. The lazy manager ignored many customers who complained about this tuberose-scented turd, but when I threatened to lead a full-scale work strike, he suddenly took a deep breath and came to his senses. Miss Stinkette went wafting out the door for good.
My friend Ned had a similarly pungent experience when he was waiting tables at a downtown hotel: “One of our waiters was on some kind of weird toxin-removing fast that required not bathing for, like, weeks at a time. I don’t know if the customers complained, but the rest of the staff did. The manager finally insisted he take a bath when we all said we wouldn’t work with him again. He finally quit.”
My favorite story on this topic comes from a friend who was stunned that his waiter at an expensive Chicago restaurant “smelled like dirty underwear.” My friend was so pissed off that he apologized to his lovely dining companion, got up from the table and walked out of the restaurant to the drugstore across the street. He returned in a much better mood.
“Instead of a tip, I left the waiter a nice big bar of Ivory soap. I don’t know or care if he used it, but I felt it was a very soul-cleansing experience for me.”