UnderCover Waitress: Allergies and Critical Reading Skills

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Allergies and Critical Reading Skills

I've been shot with "friendly fire" by someone who seems to lack critical reading skills. One of the many bizarre things is that she is lecturing me on issues I have written about; she has no clue that she agrees with me.

When I first wrote her back, I tried to tell her that she had misinterpreted my blog posts. That disintegrated into a "you're angry, you didn't read my letter thoroughly!" (I wasn't angry in the beginning, but at this point I started to become so.)

Let's test out Under Cover's critical reading skills. Game on.

Her words are in italics, my public responses are in bold. Why do I feel like some spinster schoolmarm is lecturing me? I picture glasses on a chain and pinched nostrils...

While we can certainly understand your frustration regarding allergy issues in customers,

We? I love the royal "we!" 

But seriously, I don't have issues with people with allergies. I have made clear on many occasions that 1) allergies are serious, therefore 2) people with allergies should tell the server. The server can then make sure you are not served anything that will make you sick or kill you, and 3) people should not lie about allergies. If you don't like tomatoes, say you don't like them. Don't pretend to have an allergy. 

it is obvious that your expectation is that people lie about them and made this more than clear in a recent blog. [Name of website withheld]  has published your words, and the community is pretty upset with what you have written because it is, quite frankly, dangerous. 

I don't expect people to lie to me, but I get annoyed when they do. If you think I "made more than clear" an expectation that people lie, then you did not understand what you read. 

I do hope  my copyright has not been violated. 

While this blog may seem trivial to you, or a personal journalisation [sic] you don't really believe others read or are affected by, you need to understand that words have implication that may go beyond a rant written after a particularly frustrating day. 

Thank you for assuming that my writing is trivial to me. "Journalisation" is a French word, rarely used in English. Here in the states (and I know you are in the states) it is spelled "journalization" when it is used. 

Such rants are better written on your personal facebook [sic] page or written in a private diary. 

I will continue to publish where I see fit; if you don't like my blog you don't have to read it. Perhaps you should stick to expressing yourself in a private diary. The answer to reading something on the internet that you do not like is not to say that it shouldn't be there in the first place. 

If you wish to know what a real "rant" reads like, please meet my good friend, Springs1 Ranch Dressing.  Don't miss the comments, they are the best part. 

Three members of our family have life threatening allergies and we write for several groups that advocate for those with rare disease, such as severe and life threatening allergic conditions. 

So, you "journalisation," too? We have so much in common. 

Chen Efrat was killed by a restaurant "mistake." If you think I don't take allergies seriously, you lack critical reading skills. 

Unfortunately, your blog has gone viral - 

Don't tease me. 

Thank you for saying that any popularity my blog may enjoy is "unfortunate." I love being insulted. 

this, too, is life threatening for customers who are unaware that your words have affected their situation by encouraging others who are employed in the hospitality industry to doubt the veracity of their customers. 

Did I stutter? I have never encouraged anybody to assume that a diner with an allergy is lying. It will be a very cold day in hell when I do. 

I have said that when people lie about allergies, and some do, it is bloody obvious. Don't tell me you are allergic to shellfish, so hold the mussels, and then eat shrimp. Just tell me you don't like mussels. 

Because allergies are serious, the kitchen will go out of its way to not contaminate surfaces with allergens. They are happy to help allergic customers enjoy a good meal; they detest being lied to and made to perform extra work unnecessarily. 

Many people who deal daily with deadly food allergies may not know the true extent of the allergies and cross-reactivity, so it is very important that restaurant staff be aware of the signs of anaphylaxis and be able to react quickly especially if a diner is alone. In other words, once wait staff knows that there is one allergy, be prepared to take a closer look at what is going on at the table, because you may serve them something that may contain a similar protein. Please learn to use an epi-pen. and remember to dial 911. Even if you cannot apply the epi-pen because of restrictions of insurance for the restaurant, you can instruct others or help your customers - you can save a life by learning to use epi and taking a CPR class. 

In a perfect world, maybe all restaurant staff would have CPR classes and epi-pens. In reality, servers are considered dime-a-dozen by many restaurant owners, are poorly trained and even more poorly paid. I do not see this happening, so I suggest people carry their epi-pens with them. Kitchens should accommodate allergic customers, but at some point you do have to take responsibility for yourself. I understand that somebody dining alone may need help, but servers are not doctors. If an allergy is so bad that waitresses have to watch the customer for allergic reactions, the person may reconsider eating out alone. 

If you are traveling, you can stay in places with kitchenettes. This gives you the control you need to disinfect surfaces and prepare your own food. As much as I sympathize with people who have life-threatening allergies, to expect restaurant staff to have medical training is naive. Find five restaurant owners in the states who would pay to give staff such training, and I will eat my hat. 

Also know that by law, it is necessary that restaurants throughout the U.S. maintain complete ingredient information in or near the kitchen for this very reason. While it is not required that this be posted on the internet, the kitchen is required to make that list available - yes, even proprietary ingredients - to customers who request it. 

Actually, I am familiar with restaurant laws, and write about legal issues affecting restaurants on a regular basis. But, thank you. 

When customers say they have an allergy, or need a complete ingredient list of what will come to their table, we cheerfully comply. It is legal to note on a menu that not every ingredient is listed on the menu; this is done so that people will ask if necessary. It is legal and appropriate to note on a menu that servers should be alerted to any allergies. Help us help you, for christ's sake. 

Most larger chains will have the manager read through the ingredient lists wth the customers and help them make a healthy choice, and others will leave the list at the table and pick it up once the diner has ordered. Anyone not dealing with severe allergies will probably not be aware of this law, but anyone who has had life threatening problems in the past will know this. If you know it as well, you may be able to help a customer navigate through a menu with which they are unfamiliar. 

Any good restaurant will discuss ingredients in full detail if the customer requests it. You don't have to eat in chains to be told what will be on your plate. 

We agree that anyone who lies to a waitress about an allergy will make it less safe for anyone who later comes in with a genuine allergy issue - nobody should lie to anyone. There is a big difference between preference and allergy; but think of it this way....if you can substitute something that the customer likes for something they would prefer not to have on their plate, that customer will pay their bill, hopefully tip you for the extra help, and return another day wth a better attitude. The allergic guest will return because they didn't die in the restaurant or get taken away in an ambulance. Believe me, past experience has taught me that often wait staff is irritated by changes, and we truly appreciate a waitress or waiter who shows compassion and understanding rather than skepticism or irritation. I am going to firmly request that you not publish my e-mail address - my name is (I held this out.) 

You needn't lecture me about accommodating customer preferences. It's my job. People who possess critical reading skills know that I have advised diners to expect a restaurant to accommodate their preferences, within reason. 

For the record, I do not publish email addresses. Period. 

The back and forth was more irritating than amusing. Fortunately, she promised to stop writing and trying to "help" me. Yeah, I could use a little less "help."


  1. Yikes!! Good for you for holding up and not throwing things ;) I read a lot of blogs. I do not blog just follow. IF I do not like what I read, I just shake my head and move on. I am a "agree to disagree" sorta soul. also old waitress and server. You are followed in Tuscaloosa AL. Keep up the great writing!!!!

  2. I like what you say and how you say it.... Hey I am #50 do I get a prize??? :)

    1. Hi, Mary I -- thanks! :-)

      In all seriousness, if you send me your snail mail (no, I won't publish or abuse it) I will send you a free "I love UCW" bumper sticker just for being #50 an for asking about a prize. ;-)

      Use "contact the waitress" or email me via my blogger profile.

  3. Yikes!

    In such circumstances, I find that a good face palm picture always helps.

  4. Reminds me of the woman who sued Nutella because she thought it was healthy and fed it to her kids.

  5. Gosh! I hope you will be able to forget soon about royal (not) THEM, who seem to have waaay too much free time on THEIR hands and/or allowed THEIR health conditions turn into purpose of THEIR lives.

    1. Lol -- thanks, Yulia! (Maybe she is Springs1 on Prozac?)


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