UnderCover Waitress: You Don't Need to Know My Name, Part Deux

Thursday, February 2, 2012

You Don't Need to Know My Name, Part Deux

Here is a blast from the past. The following post went live on Friday, July 22, 2011. It sparked some interesting conversation, and I have included the comments underneath.

This post also inspired me to create a name tag that says, "You Don't Need to Know My Name" and put it on various and sundry items. Currently, the coffee mug is my favorite. I have also designed some organic cotton t-shirts for women with a "you don't need to know my name" tag on them. This is fun; I will continue to add more products and designs. Check out Under Cover Waitress Shop to see the humor.

Here is my personal take on the whole waitresses introducing themselves thing:

I couldn't agree more with the following:

The perceptive and competent service in the small town and New York City is the exception in this crazy world. Most restaurants in this country are suburban chains, companies that have decided their key to success is training their waitrons to grovel, pester, interrupt, introduce, be clever, sell desserts, and generally make a nuisance of themselves... Corporate headquarters has mandated that they use catch phrases like, "how are we all doing here?" at least once every five minutes. Corporate headquarters never tells the servers that it is rude to interrupt a conversation... 

Which is only one of the reasons why I detest eating at chains. (Well, okay, that and the food.) Have had interesting conversations with those who believe that it is good manners for waiters and waitresses to introduce themselves by name; I think it is a waste of time and completely irrelevant. Knowing my first name doesn't get you good service; letting me do my job does.

Some people are so used to the happy, bouncy servers described in the article that they feel something is missing if I behave in a professional manner. Have had people at tables say, "I didn't catch your name...?" I don't play games. I respond directly:

"That's because I didn't tell you." Wait a beat. Then, in order to still get tipped, I add "My name is Under." Now that they have the unnecessary information, I wonder what they plan to do with it -- call out my name across the restaurant instead of catch my eye?

The best, however, was the table that not only required knowing my name, but then felt it was necessary to introduce themselves. They wasted my time giving me four pieces of useless information that I promptly forgot, while keeping me chained to their one table during a busy shift. Gee, thanks for introducing yourselves.

Big City and Small Town Restaurant Service


1 -- The most irritating thing that most of these chain restaurants are now doing is the manager does one of those walk-arounds, asking everyone how things are. "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU??" I think every time this happens. I don't have a relationship with you, I have a relationship with my server, however brief and veneer that is (I forgot her name, but that is her right over there.)

Chain restaurants, please stop sending your manager around. It disrupts the experience.
2 --  (me) 
Agreed, Rufus. It also creates additional disturbance. The waitress has a sense of how often to come by. Good waitresses have empathy and get a sense for their tables.
3 -- Servers complain of being treated as objects yet when clients try to treat you as a human being and identify this is the type of response they can get?

Chain or not, your disdain for people will shine through.

4 -- (me) 
Saying "please" and "thank you" are appropriate ways to treat a server like 
a human being instead of an object. Introductions are a misguided attempt to be nice. 

Of course, if some places didn't train their servers to bounce over to the table and say, "Hi! I'm Missy, and I'll be your server" the problem would be less prevalent.

5 -- 
I don't mind introducing myself by my name so much--I also don't mind when people use my first name. I suppose its just a personality thing. 

I do hate corporate restaurants and their mechanical, stupid rules that were possibly written by someone who has not talked to an actual human being in years. And I hate being forced to robotically try to work the stupid 'service rules' into my interactions with customers thanks to the fact that the chain I work for employs a KGB full of secret shoppers.

6 -- (me) 
I have waited on people I know that introduced me to their dining companion. That is not contrived. 

Love your reference to "KGB of secret shoppers." That's hysterical -- would like to use that.

7 -- 
i always introduce myself bc I don't want to be called "hey ypu", "sweetie" "honey" etc. etc. But I throw it in casually after taking the order..."Ok, let me get this going, my name is Serenity, so let me know if you need anything while you're here". I despise when I go up to a table and haven't even spoken yet, and some yahoo says" And what is YOUR name?". it's always that person that "overuses" the name.."Serenity, could I get Tabasco?" "Serenity,this is awesome!" ad nauseum. And I agree, I don't care what your name is, and telling me just makes it awkward (unless you're a regular, totally different ballgame). -Serenity


  1. I hate when the manager comes over to ask me how things are. I also dislike when my server disappears for twenty-five minutes at a shot.
    If you want a great tip, be a great server! :D

  2. I've taken to using the term marketing chimps a lot. I think it applies to the notion of corporate chains who have execs sending down instructions from above to their restaurants... "all servers must say.."

    Marketing chimps. Just as noisy as actual chimps, and much less pleasant to be around.

  3. Marketing Chimps (I like that) have seldom done the thing that they are making decrees about.

  4. what you said above:
    "Have had people at tables say, "I didn't catch your name...?" I don't play games. I respond
    "That's because I didn't tell you."

    Oh im gonna like you bcuz that is just like me. it isnt rude either bcuz you just gave the customer a lesson, they dont need to know our name. its nothing personal its just that my name doesnt matter, my service does.
    maybe next time that happens i will have fun with it and just make up names for myself that day.
    customer: well what is YOUR name?
    Me: my name is Earthquake

    1. People are used to it at chains now, so they act like I have done something horrible by not cheerily introducing myself. Funny, I didn't catch the customer's name, age, level or education or career choice. Because he or she didn't tell me. Heh.

  5. Chains have made it difficult to provide genuine service, everyone expects you to do exactly x y and z, and you to recite the script (which has it's place don't get me wrong) but the checklist can't adapt to the situation. As a bartender, I have a bit different dynamic with the customer than out waitstaff (generally bar patrons want a conversation with the bartender), so while I don't give out my name I am more than happy to give it freely, as it is better than "HEY YOU", or banging the glass on the bar until I drop everything and run to help them (this is a sure way to get poor service), most of my customers know my name, although typically they ask right before leaving.
    I also feel it is more to be genuine with the customer and work to help them get the best experience they can, I don't tow the party line (I don't work corporate if that wasn't obvious), I tell them how it is, things like, "the side options are listed right here on the menu (we have like 10), but might I suggest the garlic mashed potatoes, they are excellent, made fresh from scratch", EVERY TIME I get a comment like "thank you, you were right ____is amazing". Occasionally I even tell customers something like, "you know if you are looking for a IPA, my pale ale is probably not what you want, but my stout is excellent, could I pour you a couple samples". I even overhear these customers returning, and telling the rest of their party we need to sit at the bar. While the old adage the customer is always right might sound great, I would rather have a happy customer who comes back, and wants me to serve them again. (sorry I may have gotten a bit off topic)

    1. You are giving the type of genuine service that I like to both give and to receive. :-) I don't mind people knowing my name if it happens naturally and genuinely. Part of my inspiration for this post is the attitudes from some tourists or new people that I have somehow committed a sin by not giving them unnecessary information in a canned fashion. When people ask me politely what my name is, and not with a chip on their shoulder, then I answer in the same polite fashion, truth be told. But I do think it has gotten out of hand; I don't want to stand there and go through introductions with everyone at the table.

  6. The fact that the customer knows my name doesn't bother me. But when they actually say my name while speaking to me it does feel a little awkward. It's like that feeling of moving too fast in a relationship. I'm ready to go get a cup of coffee, I'm not ready for breakfast.
    I do always introduce myself by name though. It's not required where I work but I think the little added personal touch does help with tips. We use to wear name tags before we switched to a different uniform, so I was use to customers knowing my name. But I do agree that when they actually use my name it feels a little strange.


Please share your thoughts.