We’ve all sat in a restaurant waiting for our order…and waiting and waiting and waiting; sometimes even when the meal is ready. In this article, let’s look at how to politely and effectively gain the attention of the waitperson, and in such a way that he or she will feel glad to serve you.
Marilyn writes: “Yesterday at lunchtime I was sitting at the counter of my local diner and sandwich shop. I could see my sandwich sitting on the counter for at least five minutes, maybe longer. The waitress was oblivious to it, since she was talking with her friend who just came into the restaurant to see her. Here I am, rushed for time, and she’s talking away. I felt myself getting more and more irritated, yet I didn’t know what to say to get her attention in a way that wouldn’t seem overly aggressive. Do you have a suggestion?”
Marilyn, I’m pretty sure we can all relate to your sense of frustration. As human beings, it bothers us that someone would be so inattentive while on the job (especially when it’s “we” to whom they are being so inattentive :-)). At the same time, you don’t want to offend them by “calling them out.” First, because you’re a nice person. Secondly, because you know that yelling at them will not get you any better service the next time. In fact, if anything, the opposite will happen.
The easiest, most effective course of action is to simply get their attention with either a polite wave (or, if necessary, walk over to them) and, with a smile, humbly say, “I’m sorry, I know you’re busy – I can see my sandwich waiting over there for me, and I’m just a bit on a schedule. Thanks, I really appreciate it.”
This is one of those cases where how you say it is just as important as what you say.
The chances are better-than-great that he or she will apologize – often, even profusely – and take great care of you from that point on.
By the way, you might have an almost irresistible urge to say to them, “I’m WAIIIIIIIIITING!” or “Hey you, have you ever heard of the website, “Move your rear end.com?” 🙂
Instead, handle it the way we discussed and you’ll both live happily ever after.
Have you done that yourself? How did it work for you?
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Great advice for a delicate situation Bob. So right, TONE is everything!!
Small point -I would prefer that the “I’m sorry”, be substituted with “Excuse me or Pardon me” – again a really pleasant, polite tone.
The overuse of the phrase “I’m sorry” has weakened the impact of what those two powerful words are intended to mean. For women especially, who offer it up too quickly, it puts her in an immediate weakened position. My two cents: Never use the phrase “I”m sorry” if you are not truly apologetic.
Thanks for letting me contribute to the discussion Bob. Always a pleasure to read your words of wisdom : )
Bob – Great advice. A little kindness goes a long way. This is also when it pays off to have the practice of getting their first name and eye contact with an extra 20 seconds when they take your order.
Deborah has a good point too – nothing to be sorry about.
Hi Deborah, thank you; it’s always a pleasure to read your wisdom-filled and thoughtful comments. Personally, while I’ve heard that sentiment before regarding the words, “I’m sorry” I haven’t found them to a negative; rather, just the oppositive. In fact, rather than “I’m sorry” being an overused phrase, it seems to me that it’s underused. 🙂 Typically, when said in the manner described in the article, it really helps to set a positive frame with the other person. Of course, as always, my suggestion is that if another phrase or phrases – such as those you mentioned in your letter – work for you, then by all means, use them with continued success. Thank you again for sharing. Please keep doing so.
Kathryn, great advice on your part and something I should have mentioned. Yes, that initial respect you show the waitperson such as by gettting their name and simply treating them with respect throughout the process makes getting their attention even easier and accepted in a much more benevolent fashion. Thank you.