Confronting serving staff responsibly and not being That Person

I have extensive experience in customer service, having worked at coffee shops, retail stores and, currently, a call centre—meaning that I know how rotten those kinds of jobs can be. The pay is bad, benefits occasionally nonexistent, and nowadays it’s harder to work your way up the ranks. Plus you have the emotional labour of having to put on a smile while the occasional irate customer, justifiably or not, rants at you.

So how do you go about addressing poor service while recognizing that those folks probably aren’t having a good day themselves and without getting them in trouble and risking them losing their only source of income?

I ask because, over the last couple days, the service at the Tim Horton’s near my work has just been bad—incorrect order taken down and/or getting lost in the shuffle of a rush, staff frequently confusing one item for another, super long wait times, etc. How do I get them to be more on the ball without being That Freaking Customer?

I just take the bad service and stop going to that place.
I much prefer places that are self-serve and I’d like to bring up the bigger issue that the tipping-system is so horrible for everyone involved. I hate the tipping-system so much; businesses should pay their employees.

Most of the time, I’m like @Clyde. Once or twice, I just let it go. More than that, I just stop going to that place.

The exception is when the server messes up on a gluten free order (I have Celiac). When that happens, I just try to stick to facts. “Sorry, but I asked for gluten free. I can’t eat this or I’ll be sick for days.”

Then I hope when they bring out the correct order they haven’t spit in it.

Btw, worst “that guy” I’ve seen was one of my wife’s coworkers, who once sent back their water with lemon (they specifically requested the lemon) because it had a seed in it.

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Oh that’s easy, I don’t. if I ordered fries and got onion rings I eat those onion rings.


Yeah honestly I’d say just stop going or try to live with it? Especially since whatever’s causing the bad service is presumably not gonna be fixed by some stranger asking them to get it together, no matter how politely you ask. And if it’s only been the last couple days then there’s a decent chance that whatever’s gone wrong is just temporary anyway? I mean maybe someone there could explain Why things have been a bit of a mess but that seems like the most you’ll accomplish.


Yeah speaking as a food service cashier and a server for many years now, unless they’re super new hires the staff probably already know they’ve messed up or they don’t care! Coming in as a customer and aiming to change things is like… extremely nah. That’s not going to happen because you don’t know what’s wrong, you don’t have the information to address the problem properly, and you don’t have the authority for these folks to have any desire to listen to you.

As I see it you’ve got a couple options: ask if they’ve got a feedback box or email address and write a measured and calm response detailing the issues you’ve seen, and understanding that at a fast food joint like Tim’s where employees are relatively disposable it might get your cashiers in trouble with management. From there you can either just chill and deal with the service as it is, or you can start going to a new place. Tbh there’s not really a method of confrontation that avoids becoming That Guy to some degree (on this larger level, I mean – I think it’s fine to mention that something’s wrong with a specific order if you’re being polite about it).


You folks all raise fine points. I think the sudden frequency of it happening left me in a sour mood today, so I’ll just chill out over the weekend and things will probably be better come Monday. Thanks for the advice!

I think most Tim’s do have a feedback box, though I don’t know how much of an impact it would have. Giving feedback to management would, for better or worse, help them document the issue and you’d be trusting them to use that information responsibly. Perhaps giving feedback about the nature of the problems you’ve had without giving identifying information about the particular people involved could be the way to go if you’re worried about getting anyone fired.

Enjoy your weekend!

P.S. Super long lines are a part of the Tim’s experience.

There’s definitely a line between like. Politely telling them they got your order wrong, and trying to armchair restaurant manage.

The former is fine, honestly. As long as you’re polite, and especially if like, you made a specific request due to diet or allergy reasons (though if it’s just personal preference that’s still fine)

But the moment you go up to the wait staff and try to tell them how to do their job I don’t think you can AVOID being That Person.

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Places with conspicuously bad service I give a couple of tries and then I stop going there because it’s often not new wait staff versus very bad management and I can’t do anything to fix that. Stuff that’s a one time order being wrong, I just politely (very politely) ask wait staff to change it if possible, especially if they ask “how is your meal going” because I’m not often a person who’s being really arcane with my requests and I tend to be thorough as it is with anything I really care about - meat being medium rare and so forth.

Wait staff basically just wants you to be polite and not yell so if you can manage that, you’re usually okay.


I’m the type to tip 15% for mediocre service, and up from there

I’ve never actually worked food service itself but between having friends who did through high school, and working the door at a bar long enough to get a proper appreciation for the staff there, I’ve at least got that much experience around restaurants to have some room for empathy even when my wallet’s light

I think speaking to a manager is the nuclear option - it’s really only useful in situations where you have a legitimate problem that wait staff is either unable or unwilling to address.

I try not to mention issues with my order unless they’re dramatically wrong. Someone accidentally puts too much sugar in my coffee? I’ll deal. Every part of my order is completely wrong, or items that I was billed for are missing? I think in that case, it’s perfectly fair to mention something as politely as possible. And never use it as an excuse to not tip.

I never undertip. I don’t use tipping as a way to punish people. Servers all already making way under minimum wage and tipping is based in racist work culture anyways.


I tip heavily by default and don’t take away even if the service isn’t great. Servers here in the U.S. literally live off of tips often and someone being slightly rude or inattentive is not enough for me to take that away from them.

I’m also not a picky eater and rarely make special requests when ordering, so if something is slightly off with my order I’m usually cool just eating it. If it happens all the time I’ll usually just go somewhere else. Working in retail has taught me that poor management is usually to blame when it comes to a business being disorganized and inefficient, very rarely is it the incompetence of regular employees that makes an establishment fall apart.

Okay, so Tim Horton’s, specifically, are a living hell. I’ve had family work extended stays there. Quite frequently they are understaffed for their demand, way underpaid, and not exactly given a whole lot of training before being thrown on the floor. Bad service is just a reality of companies that don’t make sure their staff is 100% trained and not over worked.

If you get a wrong order, ask someone to fix it. They’ll be happy to. If the wait is long, there isn’t anything you can do aside from changing your routine. Rushes happen, and they don’t go away because a manager was told. Talking to a manager MIGHT help, but these problems are structural, and finding a store or a restaurant that takes staffing seriously is a nightmare.

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They’ve opened the first ever Tim Hortons in the UK in Glasgow. I walked past it today, a few weeks after it opened, and people are queuing out of the door. Deary me.

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But…but, why?