Salty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.
I’m pregnant—quite visibly—with a baby due in a few weeks. Last month, some friends and I went out for lunch at a casual restaurant I’ve been to a few times before. They ordered cocktails and I ordered a juice-and-cayenne agua fresca, since I’m avoiding alcohol. When our drinks arrived, mine tasted a little strange, so I passed it around to the group. We all shrugged and figured it was just a weird combination of juice and spicy pepper.
Five minutes later, our server came back and apologized, saying some of the drinks she’d brought out were wrong, and I was actually drinking a michelada. I was shocked, and explained that I’m pregnant and shouldn’t be drinking beer. She was mortified because I guess she didn’t see that I was pregnant. Anyway, I was so flustered that I didn’t really know what to do in this situation, and I kind of just sat there dumbfounded. I’d only drank about a third of the glass, which I know isn’t enough to really do much damage to the baby, but I was still upset at the error.
Later, the manager came over and apologized again and told us he’d be comping all of our drinks. I thanked him for that gesture, but should I have been more angry in this situation? How much should I have complained?
Almost at 9 Months
Dear 9 Months,
Mazel tov! I hope your future baby is a bundle of joy, but also likes to nap and let his mom catch up on Westworld.
And whew, your question is a rat’s nest. If I was this server, I would have immediately crawled under a rock and probably died of sheer guilt, or at least cried in the walk-in cooler for a while. The worst accident I’ve had as a server is spilling a dipping saucer of olive oil all over a woman’s obviously incredibly expensive and dry-clean-only white silk pants. She was madder than a wet hen, but all I could do was apologize and get my manager to comp her meal. I told her to send me the dry cleaning bill, but she never did.
Anyway, I think you were right to be pissed off. Of course mistakes happen, but as a server, I would immediately notice if one person in a group didn’t order alcohol while everyone else did. I’m not going to ask questions like I’m your OB-GYN, but it probably wouldn’t have taken a doctor to glance quickly and see that you’re about ready to pop. Even if you weren’t visibly pregnant, there are lots of reasons a person might be abstaining from alcohol, not least of which could be a drinking problem or other health concern. Really, this could have gone very badly.
The best way to complain when it’s warranted—which it is here—is to be clear and firm but not rude. I think you could have definitely asked to speak to the manager, not to chew out the server but to call his attention to what is perhaps a disorganized or confusing exchange between the bar and servers. Or who knows, maybe this server has had a string of screw-ups and this is an important last straw. That’s not your call to make, but the management should definitely be aware of an incident like this.
In the end, it sounds like you only drank a few sips of watery beer with tomato juice, and probably are none the worse for it. (Insert some cliché here about how French women guzzle Champagne while pregnant.) I’m sorry this happened to you, though, and you should feel empowered to firmly and politely complain in the incredibly unlikely event this ever happens to you again.
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.