Scott Hardie | December 24, 2001
There are thousands of ways in which being fat is hard and/or unpleasant in this world, and I re-encountered one of them earlier tonight: The service you get at all-you-can-eat buffets.

My mom took me to Sweet Tomatoes, which is an all-you-can-eat place that specializes in salad. You walk in, get a tray and a plate, and walk down a long salad bar, getting stuff. You pay at the end, and beyond that there are a few more food stations, like pasta, baked goods, fruit, soup, dessert, et cetera. The salad bar is definitely the point.

My mom paid and walked over to the soup area. I was getting some silverware before joining her when an assistant manager walked up to me and insisted on seating me immediately, even though I told her I wasn't with the rest of my party. She took me across the restaurant into an isolated area where I was away from the food, a little table for two in the corner. I didn't even get a chance to look at the other food stations on my way.

Before I could lift the first forkful to my mouth, another employee walked up, an old woman. She asked, "Are you alone?" I said, "No." She asked, "Is your companion as big as you are?" Caught off guard, I said, "Uh, no." She rambled briefly about how her baby brother was a big man, slightly bigger than me, then pretended to adjust the table for my belly and walked off. I guess I was supposed to think that she was only asking me about my weight to see if I needed the table to be adjusted, but I didn't, because I fit just fine in the booth. Besides, she didn't actually move the table, only pretended to do so.

At first I thought I was being paranoid, but my mom agreed with me, and then I remembered this happening at other buffets. I've been seated far away from the food, where I couldn't see it, and I've also had other employees mention my weight to me early in the meal, to get me thinking I'm fat so that I'll eat less. It happens mostly at franchise places; the locally-owned restaurants don't seem to care. (Big ups to two of my favorite restaurants, China Buffet and New China Buffet, no relation, of Peoria. Never once was I treated as a fat man at either of those.) While I ate as much food as I would have otherwise, the old woman's psychology worked halfway, as I obsessed about my weight throughout the meal and for half an hour afterwards.

Needless to say, we didn't leave a tip.

Matthew Preston | December 25, 2001
I'm curious if the waiters and waitresses are taught to do this. I can't believe that most would really care as they are paid a small wage and depend on tips as a large part of their income. Then again, the more you eat, the more plates they have to take from the table.

I can say that I have never really come across this... especially when I lived in Milwaukee, where everyone is obese. Here in vegas, the buffets are so huge that no one cares. They are overpriced and make their money off the little old ladies who eat half a plate full.

At any rate, you did the right thing not leaving a tip. Having had lots of meals with you before, I know that you are generous to servers who are decent workers.

Scott Hardie | December 27, 2001
Thanks. I don't know if the other workers at Sweet Tomatoes care enough to do this fat person thing, but the first woman who talked to me was the assistant manager, so she cared, and the second was an old woman. If she's that old (looked about 70) and still working at a buffet place, she needs the money, and she may be that much more willing to do what she's told. I dunno. I'm never going back to find out. (And we finally made it Olive Garden tonight.)


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