A person who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.
Paraphrased from Dave Barry and spread as an awesome graphic meme
Twenty years working in restaurants has taught me one thing: people can be incredibly rude when they are paying for the right to be. Take an otherwise civil person, charge them six dollars for a bowl of soup, have a fly buzz its way in there after it has been served and watch the person turn into a raving lunatic. It is not a hard and fast rule, but I have seen it many times. It is part of the reason working in restaurants makes many surveys’ top ten list of stressful jobs.
The customer demeans the server, regardless of the legitimacy of the complaint, the server takes it out on the cook who takes no time giving it right back to them, or taking it out on the other cooks on the line. People rarely go to full service restaurants for good food or even just to sate their hunger, they go to be served, to feel, after not being on top all day, like they are the most important person in the room, if only for forty five minutes. It is a chance to take all your personal issues that have built up over the day or week and dump them on someone else without having to pay a therapist.
I have friends, perfectly nice people outside a restaurant, who when I met them could be terribly rude to the people serving them. Most have gotten an earful from me over the years and have amended their behavior appropriately, at least around me. Their tipping habits still often leave much to be desired.
Which gets me to another important point: please learn how to tip. If you are in a full service restaurant the very easy to remember rule of thumb is a minimum of 15% of the total bill. Remember that word “minimum.” If, for whatever reason, you feel you should not have to tip, you need to ask to talk to management, if for no other reason so you don’t look like a cheap bastard and the manager knows about the problem. If you were really not that unhappy, you tip less anyways, and don’t talk to the manager, then you are a cheap bastard. Sorry to break it to you. The only other time it is acceptable to tip less is if you are a regular and you have a good rapport with that particular server and you promise to make it up to them next time and you do make it up to them next time.
As I said, working in restaurants is brutal. The pay is often crap, the hours erratic and the work itself can be harrowing. I have helped friends who thought it would be breeze after working jobs that either required more schooling or were more traditionally thought of as “hard” jobs, such working on a loading dock, get work in restaurants when they were unemployed. Most of them lasted a week… tops. So the next time you look down your nose at that server, busser, dishwasher or cook, ask yourself how well you would do in their position and how you would want to be treated. Otherwise, you might find more than just a fly in your soup.