A QUIET rebellion is brewing in restaurants across America and the combatants are arming themselves not with rolling pins or butter knives, but with computer keyboards.
These are the waiters and waitresses who finally have had enough with patrons who show them no appreciation, especially when it comes to the tip. Across the internet, websites are proliferating dedicated to the rants of restaurant staff saying what they really feel about the people they serve. They do not like many patrons, it seems, especially if they moan, make a racket or, worst of all, give a small tip.
It is a revolution in cyberspace that offers diners good news and bad. On the one hand, if restaurant employees can now work off their frustrations in chat rooms and on blogs maybe they will desist from exacting revenge by other means, such as tampering with your meal.
On the other hand, if you upset them unduly, you may find yourself identified on one of the websites.
The crimes of diners can be multiple. Most common is a failure to provide a sufficiently generous tip, which in New York means at least 15 per cent of the bill. Otherwise they may yack on their cellphones, light cigarettes, or complain about the table they are given.
Among the most popular sites is www.bitterwaitress.com, a favourite since 1999 among waiters and waitresses eager to embarrass patrons who have transgressed. Its most popular feature is their STD message board, or Shitty Tipper Database.
On it, waiters and waitresses expose patrons who fail to add the minimum tip.If your name is Timothy Johnson, Jason Melvine or Michael Spaulding, you are among the new names on the forum's list of skinflint diners. Or maybe you go by the name of Usher or Sean Penn. The R&B singer Usher, it seems, has been frequenting the Brio Tuscan Grill in Atlanta and, left a tip of just 10 per cent.
"He always eats his `usual'," rants the waiter, "and expects to be treated like a `superstar'. This kid is nothing more than an arrogant, spioled [sic] snot that I wish would go away." Mr Penn is accused of leaving no tip after a meal that cost $450 (pounds 240) in New Orleans.
Other sites catering to the bile of American wait-staff include waiterrant.blogspot.com, webfoodpros.com and stainedapron.com. This last one has an online discussion room that is titled: "Leave your brats at home!"
On the same site, a manager from a Colorado restaurant tells this week of a man refusing to pay his bill after a cockroach "as big as a fist" marched across his table. But the restaurant is at high altitude, where the cold means cockroaches are never present.
Can we, the customers, be so bad? Certainly, says Annarita Sasso, the hostess at an Italian restaurant, Gnocco, in the Lower East Side. Who is the worst? "It's the Italians; they are always the cheapest one."
Ms Sasso says Europeans fail to tip properly - her wait staff frequently chase diners who don't tip out onto the street to get the missing money - and Americans moan too much.
But, she says, some customers are striking back. A customer of Gnocco cornered on the street for a tip went to www.citysearch.com, a site that lets diners write recommendations of restaurants. Angered by the tip incident, they instead warned visitors off Gnocco.
But the manager, who saw it, was barely concerned. "We just laughed," says Ms Sasso.
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