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Nice to the Waiter

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This trope is under discussion in the Trope Repair Shop.

"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."

In fiction, you can usually tell the good guys from the bad guys by the way they treat the working class.

Heroic people will treat service staff nicely. Whether they're Spoiled Sweet, a Benevolent Boss or just a super Nice Guy, heroic characters will Pet the Dog by being polite, generous and personable with doormen, waiters, secretaries and so forth. They might remember people's names, exchange pleasantries, tip well, or just generally treat them as human beings worthy of dignity and respect. Even a grouchy Jerk with a Heart of Gold who snaps at all of his social equals can reveal his Hidden Depths by showing kindness and consideration to those below him.

On the flip side, villains can Kick the Dog by abusing their inferiors. Whether they're an Evil Aristocrat, Corrupt Corporate Executive or garden-variety asshole, they'll treat servants and other workers with callous disregard, if not open contempt. A good way to expose a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing is to show how they treat the staff when no one who matters is around.

The trope gets more complicated when a Villain with Good Publicity cultivates this image, showing superficial kindness to the common man in order to further their own selfish ends. A real hero will expect nothing in return for kindness, but of course the difference isn't always easy to tell from an outside perspective. On the other hand, the Affably Evil can be genuine in their kindness towards the staff, as such petty villainy is beneath them.

The response of the servants can vary widely. Some might feel Undying Loyalty because of this treatment, while others might still be unimpressed by their boss. Those who foolishly antagonize food staff might find themselves asking "I Ate WHAT?!" when The Dog Bites Back.

Mean Boss is a specific version of this trope where the character abuses direct employees. The Obnoxious Entitled Housewife is also defined in part by her needless cruelty towards service workers. See Sympathetic Slave Owner for an even more exaggerated version of someone who is unexpectedly kind to his social inferiors as a telling character trait. Contrast with the Professional Butt-Kisser, who shows kindness to his superiors in hopes of reward. Also contrast Haughty Help, for when the waiter isn't nice to you. Someone who is not nice to the waiter may perform a Bratty Food Demand or a Bad Review Threat. See also Interclass Friendship.


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    Comic Strips 
  • In Beetle Bailey, Sarge is such a loyal customer at Mama Rosa's Pizza that Rosa gives him personalized discounts.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin always gives a rather flattering compliment to his barber no matter how much he dislikes his haircut. ("Never argue with a guy holding a razor," he says.)
  • In FoxTrot, this is where most of the characters are complete and absolute dicks.
    • Roger has no concept of an appropriate tip, instead tipping the paperboy with a Shiny New Nickel and then wondering why the paper always ends up on the roof or in the rosebushes. (This is sort of a Running Gag for him.)
    • Peter is worse. In one strip, he makes a complex order for a coffee (basically stating one cappuccino without any ingredients), and then pays $5.00 and tells the clerk to keep the change (the amount was $4.97). Peter admits to Jason that he was being annoying, explaining that this was the reason he tipped him. Cue the three pennies being thrown towards Peter's head offscreen.
    • Peter is actually extra mean to his "best friend" Steve when he eats at the pizza place. In one strip, he asks for a pizza that's 499/1000ths pepperoni and 501/1000ths mushroom, and when Steve—who's already busy—brings him a pizza that's exactly half, demands it fixed. (When Jason says Steve is going to spit on it, Pete says, "Steve? No Way! We're buddies!")
    • Jason should talk. He once ordered pizza and requested one with 17/31th cheese, 109/327th sausage, and 86499328/259497984th mushroom. (Roger, who had to pick it up, was given his change all in pennies, and it is implied he will never let Jason order it again.)
    • On the other hand, Paige is such a loyal customer for the ice cream man, he comes when she rings a bell.
  • As seen here, the protagonist of Hägar the Horrible is known as "Hagar the Horrible Tipper" in a restaurant where even Attila the Hun is a regular.
  • Many of the characters in Retail are like this since, being retail workers themselves, they know what it's like to deal with horrific customers. During the series of strips where Marla is on her honeymoon in Cancun, she enters a gift shop and encounters a customer berating the couple behind the counter. She immediately puts the jerk in her place, because she can, and the woman leaves.
    Worker: With pent-up anger like that, you must be a retail worker.
    Marla: [fistbumps him] Solidarity, brother.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Bad Guys (2022): In the opening diner scene, Villain Protagonist Mr. Wolf is polite to the patrons and staff of the diner and leaves a generous tip with his payment for his meal, even though the humans are cowering in fear of him. He also doesn't steal from the diner despite being a master thief, and goes for the bank across the street instead. This scene foreshadows Wolf's hidden, much nicer side.
  • The Breadwinner: Razaq starts out a bit stern and snippy with Parvana disguised as Aartesh, but the news of his wife's death softens him up considerably and he slides into this. It becomes the basis of their Intergenerational Friendship.
  • Cinderella: The Grand Duke is about to depart when Cinderella, having broken free from being locked inside the tower, asks to try on the glass slipper. Lady Tremaine tries to dismiss her as "just an imaginative child", but the normally beleaguered Duke firmly responds, "My orders are every maiden." He then graciously invites Cinderella to sit on a chair and try the slipper. And when Lady Tremaine destroys the slipper, making him panic, Cinderella repays his appreciation by showing the second slipper to him. When you actually think about it, the Duke's probably the only human being who has sincerely stood up for Cinderella since she was a child.
  • Frozen (2013): Prince Hans is quite nice to Anna when she bumps into him early in the film, despite not knowing she's a Princess of the kingdom he's visiting. When he looks after Arendelle in her absence, he's seen showing a great deal of concern for the common people, distributing warm cloaks and urging them to go into the palace for hot soup. Too bad he's the villain, and it's just an act to get into the people of Arendelle's good graces.
  • The Incredibles franchise:
    • In the first The Incredibles movie, Mr. Incredible is nice to the bot in charge of his ship that flies him to Nomanisan. It offers him some mimosa, he accepts, and then he proceeds to graciously thank the bot in question. It's a smaller moment, but it's there.
    • In Incredibles 2, Evelynn Deavour is introduced saddling the servant with all of her packages and clothing and such, but not out of malice; she's just not terribly fond of interacting with people. However, she does turn out to be the Big Bad.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, the first sign that "Big Daddy" LeBouf is an Uncle Pennybags is the way he treats Tiana's mother (a black seamstress who works for him) with genuine respect. He encourages the lifelong friendship between Tiana and his daughter Charlotte, and he and Charlotte are shown being very friendly and respectful to restaurant servers and other service personnel (including Tiana, who is a waitress). Unsurprisingly, "Big Daddy" and Charlotte are actually based off of what the Uptown folks were like in New Orleans. Historically speaking, a notable number of them loved the people in the French Quarters (which were slums at the time and not the tourist destination they would become, because of all this) because of how "useful" and hard-working they were. It also helped that they cooked extremely well, and many of these Uptowners would eat in their restaurants, not just because they were cheap, but because they served good French, Italian, and Creole food.
  • In Zootopia, one of the signs that idealistic performer Gazelle practices what she preaches is that she works alongside stereotypical predator animals like tigers, and doesn't replace them even as anti-carnivore hysteria reaches its height.

  • The Spoon song "The Underdog" addresses someone who pays no attention to their social inferiors, something that will lead to that person's downfall.
  • There's a David Wilcox song called Rule Number One about this very thing.
  • In "Tacky" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, the list of tacky behaviours includes "Think it's fun threatening waiters with a bad Yelp review."

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Classical Mythology there is Zeus: King of Olympus who casually flits between Anti-Hero and Jerk Ass Gods, but one of his few consistent decencies is enforcing the rules of etiquette as part of his dominion over Sacred Hospitality. You are to follow his example and always be polite to your party guests unless they start trouble, you always show appreciation for your servants, and you never take advantage of your hosts. Because if you do, he fully reserves the right to shove a lightning bolt up your anal cavity.
  • In The Mahabharata, one of many scenes that depict Krishna's compassion for all beings is when he stops in the middle of a warzone (with Arjuna providing cover fire) to rub down his chariot horses and heal their wounds.
    He has tears in his eyes that they were hurt.

  • Mystery Show: Starlee has a habit of striking up friendly conversations with everybody she encounters. In episode two, Starlee encounters a cab driver who once drove Britney Spears and speaks glowingly of her.

  • In The National, a BBC radio drama based on the founding of the National Theatre, Sir Laurence Olivier is characterised by remembering the names of everyone in the company, and at the end of part two impresses the importance of this on his successor, Sir Peter Hall. Part three opens with Sir Peter unable to even remember the name of his assistant, although he is at least a bit apologetic about it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The more heroic Space Marine chapters, like the Blood Angels, Salamanders, Space Wolves, and Ultramarines, in Warhammer 40,000 tend to treat their Chapter Serfs (unaugmented humans who serve non-combat roles alongside the Marines) as equals and respect their jobs as being necessary for the Space Marines to do their job. The more jerkish ones just sort of ignore them, and the complete assholes (including most traitor legions) abuse their serfs.


    Visual Novels 
  • In Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem, not only can you learn a lot from how any given character treats the servants, other characters will just as easily draw their own conclusions about you based on the same thing. In one case in the first week, how you treat a servant while no one else seems to be around turns out to be a Secret Test of Character on the part of one of your fellow delegates.
  • In Fate/hollow ataraxia, Caster isn't particularly nice to the serving staff, feeling that if they had any actual worth, they wouldn't be in the serving industry. It doesn't help that the waiter she interacts with is Lancer, who delights in trolling her.
  • A Little Lily Princess:
    • The students in the high-end Boarding School include the protagonist Sara, who loves books, and Ermengarde, who doesn't like books much. One of the indications of Ermengarde being a nice person is her regifting a book in French her father sent her not to Sara, but to Sara's French maid Mariette. Mariette points out that very few of the students would have thought of giving the book to her rather than a fellow student. Ermengarde is also one of the students who's kinder to Sara after Sara ends up as a servant, and while things are initially awkward between them, it's indicated that Sara is distancing herself from the others. On non-Ermengarde routes, Ermengarde is on good enough terms with Sara to say goodbye to her when Sara leaves.
    • Sara herself is one of the few who treats Becky, the scullery maid, with anything resembling common decency.

    Web Animation 

  • Cursed Princess Club:
    • The Pastel Kingdom's royals are shown to be quite chummy with their servants, with Gwendolyn in particular helping Molly the maid cook meals among other tasks. The worst the servants have to deal with are King Jack's very strict rules for how the male guards interact with the princesses, but even then there's no indication that he has ever actually carried out his over-the-top threats. In contrast, the Plaid Kingdom royals (or at least King Leland) treat their servants standoffishly if not abusively; King Leland even expresses disdain over Gwendolyn hosting a dinner party because "Cooking is best left to the help." This contrast is best shown when the Pastel princesses get a makeover from Plaid Kingdom maids for an event and Gwen gets a Cosmetic Catastrophe; the maids are worried that Maria and Lorena will get them fired for doing such a bad job with their little sister (implying that this is a common threat they have to face from their Plaid Kingdom bosses), but the two of them say they'd never do that over something so minor and simply step in to fix things themselves.
    • The members of the Cursed Princess Club, which is made up of princesses (and one prince), are generally very kind to lower-class folks. One of their main tenets is "assist others", and one way this manifests is by having the members volunteer as Candy Stripers at a public hospital where they help out patients of all social backgrounds. They're also very chummy with Curtis, who is specifically club president Calpernia's butler but who also serves the needs of all the club members. One of the few times there's any real tension is during his Establishing Character Moment, when Princess Syrah makes a suggestive comment about Curtis to the laughter of several other girls; Curtis responds: "I don't know what you ladies have scheduled in your planner for today. But I hope you have something loftier in mind than utilizing your extreme privilege to objectify the person who cooks and cleans after you." Syrah and the others who laughed are visibly chastened by this, indicating that they all respect him and his feelings.
  • In Erstwhile, the bride in "Maid Maleen" is hostile to the servants.
  • Freefall:
    • Florence explains the practicalities of it to Edge.
      Edge: A brilliant mind like mine, and I have to rely on a dumb dog for brain surgery.
      Florence: A brilliant mind would not insult the dog before surgery.
    • Later, Mr. Ishiguro acknowledges that Kornada's misuse of his personal assistant Clippy has left the latter seriously traumatized, and wonders where he's going to find psychiatric help for a robot.
  • Girl Genius:
    • One reason for having medical labs all about Heterodyne Castle is so the body doesn't have to be lugged far.
      Moloch: I think it shows a bit of respect for the working man.
    • And Zola admits that Gil treated her nicely even when she seemed just a chorus girl to him.
    • In the Novel of the Comic Gil also treats Wooster, his valet/assistant, less formally than he should, such as giving him a cup of tea instead of expecting him to serve and stand back.note  He also shows genuine affection for Zoing, a construct servant. Gil in general treats subordinates better than one would expect the son of the dictator of Europe would.
    • In contrast, the Jägergenerals relate how the Heterodynes always earned the trust of the Jägermonsters, hence their loyalty; Lucrezia, however, is shown to be very rude to the Jägers, who only serve her for Bill's sake. So when Lucrezia turns out to be the Other, there's no fear that the Jägermonsters will join her.
  • No Rest for the Wicked:
  • Played with here in Questionable Content, where being kind to the waitress gets Steve a date with the waitress.
  • In Sandra and Woo, Larisa gives this as the first of three pearls of wisdom. She was supposed to give three teachings of Aristotle but the teacher gives her an A+ anyway.

    Web Original 
  • Chakona Space: Goldfur and her family tend to treat every new stranger in their lives with smiles and hugs, regardless of their status. This is in spite of their sheer wealth in terms of utterly powerful connections to, and definitely not limited to: a space admiral, a sentient battleship, two black ops retirees, and the strongest psychic in the series. They only treat child-killers like crap.
  • The Knights of Fandom encourage this as part of their modus operandi—the idea is to treat everyone with, at the very least, basic decency and respect, regardless of their station in life.
  • Whateley Universe: In at least a couple of the Ayla stories, it's pointed out that Tansy Walcutt is horrible to the help, and is fairly anvilicious about never emulating that. Just to drive the point home, the author contrasts this with Ayla who is always kind to the help and gets huge bonuses because of it. Ayla also has a good reason for it. If you aren't nice to the help, you'll end up without any help. And good work deserves good pay. It's just good business.

  • Not Always Right:
    • The "Awesome Customers" tag is for customers who are nice to the employees. Otherwise, the site is dedicated to unpleasant customers, whether by stupidity, malice, or derangement.
    • Of course, the nature of the site being what it is, the opposite also shows up. Witness this little interaction between a Navy Lieutenant and the waiting staff at a restaurant. Rarely has Laser-Guided Karma been so sweet.
    • The wife of this university president was widely known among the catering staff for averting this trope. Finally, she throws a public and loud fit (and a plate) during a banquet for big-money donors because the waitress dared to serve her husband before her. One donor tipped the waitress directly, and said the school wouldn't get a penny more from him so long as that woman was still there. Apparently several other donors had the same reaction, because the president announced his resignation within one week.
    • A student on a work-study job at a museum learns that none of the other students—or even most of the museum staff—interact with the cleaning crew. Who turn out to know more about the building than the curators do.
  • The webpage "Sundays Are The Worst" is full of stories from people who have waited on the pre/post church crowd, stories of little to no tips and a sanctimonious attitude —"How DARE you work on the Lord's day!", etc.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Nice To The Waitress, Nasty To The Waiter, Nasty To The Waitress


Kunai and The Coachman

Having arrived at an Oasis in the desert, Hakuto deploys the Base to have the girls wash up along with offering the same courtesy to their Coachman to escape the desert heat, along with offering him one of his Stamina-Recovery Cigarettes.

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Main / NiceToTheWaiter

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