5 Courses with: Patrick Maguire

In the midst of a career trajectory that has taken him from bartender to mortgage broker to becoming patron saint of servers, Patrick Maguire started working on a book called I’m Your Server, Not Your Servant: The Customer Is Not Always Right. For two years, he’s been collecting the stories of Boston servers who have things they’d like to tell customers but know they can’t.

Q: How did you get started on this project and why?
Patrick Maguire: When I was bartending, I got tired of the “gimme, get me, I need” crowd. You’d greet folks with a hearty “How are you today?” and you’d get back a “Get me a beer.” I’d answer playfully, “Fine thanks. How are you?” “Gimme, get me” is not an appropriate, or even effective way, to begin a basic human interaction. Servers are salt-of-the-earth people, honest folk trying to make an honest buck, who are too often abused by their customers. I want to get their stories out.

Q: Tell me about the project
PM: I’m single and for the last 20 years I eat out most nights of the week in Boston. It’s natural that I befriended lots of servers. I witnessed the way that so many customers treat servers that I felt I had to get the word out in defense of good servers. It’s part therapeutic and part mission. So I put a questionnaire together — [I] didn’t want it to be one former bartender’s rant. I’ve sent out 200 questionnaires, and so far I’ve received stories and feedback from several hundred servers in the Boston area.

Q: Some of the worst stories you’ve heard?
There was a female chef/owner in Boston, on opening week of her restaurant — she had new staff in the kitchen, a new menu, a crowded dining room, and was reluctant to leave the kitchen. But with a little prodding, she came out to greet the guests. And as she turned to welcome friends, a woman at another table poked her in the ass with a fork. The chef turned and said, “Did you just poke me in the butt with a fork?” And the woman said, “Yes, I did, because I want my dinner now!”

Q: Is everybody a jerk?
PM: No. I think of it as the five percent factor — the same people who cut you off at rotaries, don’t thank you for holding the door. But the servers in my study say that 19 percent of their customers are “impolite, disrespectful, or downright rude.” Imagine how difficult it is when you’re working all day long with such a high number of people who are difficult or degrading.

Q: What’s your service mantra?
PM: There’s a special place in hell for the “Do you know who I am?” or “I could get you fired” crowd. What are they thinking? It’s just food and drink. There should be a customer Hall of Shame.

To reach Patrick Maguire with your story, e-mail pjmaguire7@aol.com.