The Terrible Couple

A few days ago, a server friend of mine posted the following Facebook status: “I’m at a restaurant and I’m looking at this couple I’ve waited on somewhere. They were regulars wherever it was. They were rude, bitter, bad tippers and everyone would cringe when they walked in.”

I chose to redact a physical description that includes signature headgear the lady wears. My friend continued: “They are Highlands people. If I could remember where it was I knew them from, I would tell them what the restaurant community really thinks of them, but I’m not 100% sure, so I can’t do it. I always dream of running into these people who treat us like shit and giving them a piece of my mind. I guess I’m lucky right now it doesn’t feel worth it. What would it accomplish? Does anyone know the couple I’m talking about?”

To be clear, my friend was dining out as a patron when he recognized this couple. Despite his fantasy and strong compulsion to confront them, he didn’t. Why should he ruin his evening by creating a scene? And yet, the compulsion was nearly irresistible. “Really strong,” he said to me later.

With 16 “likes” and more than 30 replies to the post over the course of the evening, it became obvious that this notorious couple has been terrorizing servers and managers at local restaurants for years. Like 25 years. Here’s a sampling:

“I know the hats.” “We used to call her ‘stupid hat lady’ … they truly suck.” “And they shall know us by our trail of bad tipping.” “I knew who you were talking about immediately! I really think they are just very odd people.” “They are horrible people.” “I remember exactly who you are talking about.” “I haven’t worked in a restaurant for 22 years. But I remember them.” “Lack of tipping is the ultimate insult.” “Some people do need to be sent a message not to eat in restaurants.” “I remember them making passive-aggressive statements about the food and restaurant sort of … at the same time they were very complimentary of their food strangely, but their attempt at rapport with me was just awkward … They DEFINITELY see themselves as people who we’d LOVE to have as regulars. … Ha, nope … Leave already.”

How has this couple gotten away with this awful, practically universally recognized and remembered bad behavior for all this time? Is all this blowback simply a function of poor tipping practices combined with unfortunately memorable headgear? My friend’s answer was a resounding “no.”

“They are rude, mean, entitled complainers who show up with a chip on their shoulder, as if we are mortal enemies engaging in battle and not server and diners. Every interaction is met with a scoff or eye-roll or just plain silence. They’re unhappy, mean people, and I guess they think we all are as well.”

I note with gratitude that not a single person reported or suggested adulterating the Terrible Couple’s food. I have worked in many restaurants going on 15 years now, and I have never seen anyone, server or cook, deliberately tamper with a patron’s food, no matter how horrible they were — no matter how many times they sent back that entrée. Many curse words are/have been/will be uttered, but it’s really only in movies (or places of business with heinously poor management) where that sort of thing happens.

Good cooks and servers have personal integrity and wouldn’t dream of serving anything unwholesome to a guest, despite whatever crazy behavior they decide to exhibit. But we will remember that behavior, those frivolous complaints, the dismissive way they treated their server. And we will talk amongst ourselves.

Are you the Terrible Couple? Does the entire roster of Louisville Metro restaurant servers hate to see you coming? Do you “camp” at your table, whiling away the hours rolling your eyes and complaining about trivial matters so often that you’ve garnered this reputation? And then, when you (thankfully) leave, do you leave a poor tip?

Well. Lucky you. We are still cooking and serving your food with a smile after all these years. And when one of us finally saw you out in public in a situation where he could have called you out, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Why don’t you dine at home a few nights a week for a couple of months? Let’s say … until after Derby? That would be awesome. See you next summer!

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro and Café Lou Lou.