Pet Peeves: Servers’ Condescending “We”

The server approaches, towers above us at the table. “Have we made any decisions?” His tone is patronizing, like he’s dealing with a distracted toddler, with an implicit warning in his monotone question: I don’t have all day.

Servers addressing diners as “we”—the horrible, supercilious “we”— is a pet peeve of mine. I bristle in my seat. It makes me thorny in my interactions for the rest of dinner. “Yes, WE have,” I’ve said in response to the “Have we made any decisions?” query, prompting kicks and a look from my husband. And fairly or not, being addressed in first-person plural affects how I tip—I probably shave off a couple of percentages, even when I suspect it’s not the server’s intention to patronize me.

I could blame the language, of course. Unlike French, with its formal case (vous instead of tu), English offers only janky fixes to achieve linguistic politeness. You need workarounds: “What would you like?” instead of “What do you want?” “May I take your order?” instead of “Yeah?” And of course, “we” instead of “you.” The problem with “we,” though, is that it makes whoever says it sound like a kindergarten teacher addressing a roomful of restive kids. When you’re dropping $60 a person for dinner, being treated like a 5-year-old is hard to stomach.

Am I being the jerk in this situation, or is the patronizing server? Do I deserve those kicks under the table? Use the comments to sound off.

Photo by Flickr member garrynight under Creative Commons