Massive life moments – like proposals, birthdays and anniversaries – often take place in restaurants, which means that servers are an integral part of the experience.
Unfortunately, the more people that are involved in a grand gesture, the more opportunities for said grand gesture to go horribly wrong. Here are 16 of the most mortifying stories, as told by the waiters, waitresses and bartenders of Reddit.
1. “Valentine’s Day, 1993. I’ll never forget the shame. I was waiting tables in college and our restaurant had replaced all the big tables in the dining room with bistro-style two tops … positioned really close together … for couples. It was 9:00 p.m. and we were packed. I grabbed a plate off one table, trying to be quick but discreet. When I brought my arm straight back with the plate, I moved too far. There was another one of those two tops just inches from my back. My right elbow caught a 60-year-old lady right at the base of her skull. HARD. I knocked her out, and she face-planted into her dinner. The whole dining room gasped. I freaked. The manager freaked. Her husband freaked. Everybody freaked. Except her. When she came to a few seconds later, she was the sweetest, most gracious person you’ve ever met. Her face was covered in fish and asparagus, but she could not have been nicer. We comped their meal and gave them a $100 gift card, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They even tipped.”
2. “A family of about 15 people are out for this man’s 40th birthday party. His wife is a vegetarian and has been for 23 years. She tells the waiter, who has only been a server for like a month. She orders a vegetarian hamburger with blackened seasoning. So the waiter hits the button for a turkey burger, doesn’t check when he grabs the tray and gives it to her. She eats most of the burger before she realizes it’s not vegetarian – and then she lost it. The party of 15 people all walked out without paying. She sent multiple emails to corporate because she was vomiting all night and didn’t eat for like four days after.”
3. “I accidentally spilled a small amount of white wine on a woman’s coat while clearing the floor. She instantly go this look of vehement anger and disgust on her face, but before she could say anything, her husband butted in. ‘Oh thank god! That coat is hideous.’ They eventually started yelling and screaming at each other and were escorted out by security. It turned out to be a very special date night for them.”
4. “I am a florist, and last week I made a bouquet for a husband and wife who were not getting along. They ended up getting into a shouting match (over flowers, mind you) and the husband stormed off. It ended up being one of the ugliest bouquets I’ve made.”
5. “I ruined a family’s vacation, apparently. I was a server at restaurant in the Myrtle Beach area. There were people waiting outside on the front patio until they were called for their table. There was also seating outside on the same patio, and I had a table out there. I was running around like crazy during dinner rush and was taking drinks outside to my table. I pushed the front door open with vigor, and proceeded to knock a little girl down who was standing in front of it. As soon as I heard the insanely loud thump, I see the girl on the ground SCREAMING. Her mom starts yelling her head off at me, telling me they were leaving and thanking me for ruining their vacation on the first day. ”
6. “An ex of mine came in with his wife and were having a couple drinks for an anniversary. I hadn’t seen this guy in eight years or so, but I knew he had a son and got married. I promptly said my yellows and something like, ‘Hey, you have a son right!? How old is he now?’ Turns out their son passed when he was five due to cancer. The wife teared up and excused herself. I felt awful.”
7. “I lost an engagement ring on Valentine’s Day when my restaurant was completely packed and super busy. My manager stalled dessert at that table for about an hour while I looked and still served all of my other tables. The ring box slipped through a hole in my apron and got kicked around by servers, so I found the box after about twenty minutes in one place and the ring forty minutes later in the most disgusting pile of grit and grime under the stove. The guy figured that I had lost the ring, but my manager saved the day by sending someone to the bakery across the street and getting an elaborate cake to make it seem like that was why we made them wait. Plus, he kept the drinks flowing at their table. The special cake, free bottle of champagne and finally the ring made everything work out in the end … for the couple. I had to pay for the cake, all of their drinks and a $150 bottle of champagne.”
8. “I was a host at a restaurant, but I would help everyone who looked like they needed help. My manager one day asked if I wanted to come in on a day we were usually closed because there was a large party celebrating three children. It was a confirmation, a first communion and a birthday party for three siblings combined. I was handed a big tray with about fifteen glasses of water on them. I ended up taking all the glasses from one side, and when it started to not be balanced, I overcorrected and about five glasses of water tipped over on my tray, and the lip of the tray was like a water slide. It launched five glasses worth of water at the five-year-old who just had her first communion in this beautiful white dress.”
9. “It was a birthday party for a family’s grandfather. It was a nice little cake with some type of WW2 fighter plane stuck on top of it because he was a veteran. I presented the cake, they sang, everything was great. Everyone commented on how awesome the cake looked, and the grandfather was so grateful for his family getting him a thoughtful cake. When I went back to cut the cake with the pantry girl, we dropped the cake and it smashed all over the floor.”
10. “For a little more pizzazz, guests brought in sparklers to add to a birthday cake instead of just candles. The waitress lights them … and there was enough smoke to set off the fire alarm. There were no sprinklers, but an ear piercing alarm and emergency lighting … on a Saturday night during the dinner rush. We had to evacuate and wait for the fire department. Lots of people who already ate just left.”
11. “I spilled eight Bloody Marys on the mother on Mother’s Day.”
12. “I’m a hostess at a fine dining restaurant. For birthdays and anniversaries, we add either birthday confetti or rose petals to the table to decorate it for the guests. I was seating a couple, and since it said it was their anniversary on their reservation notes, I took the rose petals with me, and as they sat down I sprinkled them at the table and said, ‘Since you’re celebrating your anniversary, we like to decorate the table for you.’ The guy looked up and said, ‘It’s our anniversary?!’ And the girl then got pissed and screamed, ‘Yes. Why do you think we came here?!'”
13. “I spilled beer on a woman who had invited her family out to dinner to announce her pregnancy. The woman wasn’t too upset – she got a big discount – but my manager was furious.”
14. “I worked an Irish wedding, and my co-worker spilled an entire tray of Guinness on the bride. Nine pints.”
15. “I work at a Starbucks. A bachelorette party comes in and asks me to draw penises on their cups and put penis-shaped straws in their drinks, etc. I refused. Maybe I’m a huge party pooper, but Starbucks isn’t a bar. It’s a coffee shop, and there are kids all over the place.”
16. “I was serving the head table at a wedding – so bride, groom and bridal party. The bride and groom had special champagne glasses for their toast. My wrist twitched weird, and I dropped the tray and shattered the glasses.”
All posts have been edited from Reddit for length and clarity.