"Dear Abby" to harassed waitress: keep your sense of humor and stand out of reach

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Yes, yes, and yes. Statistically sure the dudes being Creeps are probably harmless. But that ain’t the point. No one deserves to be creeped on a regular basis (and because of their job?)

Rob, you put it better than me. My response would be more of, “Fuck. That. Noise. And fuck those assholes. If you want to hug someone, go hug your SO.”


Dear Abby… bye-bye:


I had no idea that Dear Abby was still a thing. Who reads that, anyway?

When I was in my 20s, the president of the small company where I worked had written a Dear Abby letter and put it in the outgoing mail. The receptionist saw it, and let’s just say we found out some really messed up stuff about the pres that day. Yick.


You read a guy’s personal mail?

Kinda not cool.


I’d point out that telling a waitress in a shitty work environment to start a an arduous process of complaints, documentation, and legal action, is privileged.

I do hate that term a bit, but it’s apt.

“Just call your legal team!”


He didn’t put it in an envelope?

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Unfortunately this advice doesn’t address the issue of tips. Most waitresses know the formal means of dealing with this but your income will suffer. If you pool tips you might also expect resentment from some colleagues for bringing it up every time. Men really like flirting with and touching their waitresses.


There. FTFY


Actually, that was the correct answer, for the question that was asked, which was: “Is there anything I can do to prevent it and still receive a reasonable tip for good service?”


This is probably a semantic discussion… But privilege? It is your right to not be harassed. And there are societal mechanisms to enforce that right.

There are also incentives for legal professionals, law enforcement, and business owners to protect those rights, even for the disenfranchised.

Lastly, (and I am saying this in a thoughtful, non aggressive way, which is sometimes hard to make obvious on the BBS) I think “call your legal team” is a touch disingenuous.


What I was thinking is that no waitress is going to write Dear Abby about it, because we all know what to do: stay out of reach, be polite but curt, and assume you’re not going to get a tip for that table. If the guy is a repeat customer, all the more reason to act in a way to make him not want to sit in your station anymore. You’ll be called a bitch, a dyke, and a whole bunch of other things, but ultimately the guy will go away.

And that’s all you can do, because the vast majority of managers and owners of restaurants do not stand up for their wait staff over the demands of customers. Like there’s even a “complaint process” at most establishments! Geez. Dear Abby has clearly never worked on her feet a day in her life.


Very not cool, and it’s something I regret having done. We were young and not versed in what was and wasn’t ethical, and justified it because the guy was a total dick to us.


Everyone has all sorts of rights, but most of us occasionally find ourselves in positions where insisting on enforcement of our rights has unwanted consequences or is not ideal. The original question comes from this context. What are the practical steps that I can take to make my work life less miserable while protecting my source of income? Answering that by suggesting filing a lawsuit ignores the practical reality in favor of an ideal world response. It completely ignores the fact that course of action is unlikely to help the questioner and will come at a cost of income and damaged future prospects. Is this trade off fair? Of course not, but the world will never be perfect place.


Dear Sick and Tired,

Upon receipt of unwanted hand-to-waitress contact or improper patron proposition: take one step back, fix the abuser with a steely stare and, using your best GTFOH voice tell him, “Thanks for the offer, pal, but one asshole in my pants is enough.”

Thanx for writing,
Antipode Abby


I wish Bad Advice was more active.


Not for all of us, there aren’t. Hence the privilege.


The legal advice would be spot on for someone making a reasonable living wage, from a paycheck issued by the employer. But it’s badly misguided for someone making a lot less than minimum wage.

When tips outweigh wages, it’s not the restraunt chain that controls the workplace environment, it’s the ones paying the tips. All those noble sounding rules from state agencies don’t really hold much sway in the real world.

Remember as a kid, when adults would tell you to just come to them if you were being bullied? And remember how useless their concern turned out to be? It’s the same deal here.

Chattel slavery may be over, but wage slavery lives on. Tipping culture is a form of wage slavery. Those few places that prohibit tipping and pay their staff what they’re worth, they have the right idea. Let’s make that the law of the land. It doesnt sound any weirder than a black president, or gay marriage!


I was thinking the same thing. Most folks working in this environment have to fear losing a job if they complain. Sure it won’t be over the harassment claim, but something else. Or they will get crap shifts and sections in the restaurant. If they get pushed out, management usually thinks that’s fine because another girl will need the job, and shut up and accept the harassment waitresses face.

I’ve cooked in a lot of restaurants. When the gals up front had problems, it was usually us cooks and dish guys that would come out and stop it. I’ve walked out with a cleaver on more than one occasion in the high end restaurant I was the “chef” at. Drunk rich people are the worst at thinking they can screw with the wait staff. Not every back kitchen guy will do that, though.


Thats the problem with working for tips. It encourages waitstaff to put up with whatever the customer does, and at certain types of places and/or certain types of customers encourages the waitstaff to be on the flirty side themselves. I wouldn’t dream of flirting with a waitress let alone touch one. Is there a form of mild flirting that isn’t harassment or borderline harassment? With a captive audience maybe not.