Your Server Does NOT Want to Sing Happy Birthday To You

"I need birthday singers."

“I need birthday singers.”

On my birthday, I like to do things that involve people who care about me. I surround myself with my husband and good friends like Marlene, Scott and Svedka. These are the people who I think don’t mind singing the Happy Birthday Song to me and then when it’s their birthday I return the favor. It’s what people do.

You know who does not want to sing the Happy Birthday Song to you? Your server, that’s who. A reader sent me a little story about what went down in her section a couple of weeks ago. I am not going to give his name because I don’t want to take the chance that the is violating a social media contract. Basically, the story is this: at his corporate restaurant, they banned singing happy birthday because of a lawsuit involving harassment. He didn’t give me the details but I assume it went something like, “Oh my God, these bitches cain’t sing at all and they are ruining my Awesome Blossom eatin’ time. Harassment!” Anyhoo, the servers at his restaurant are exempt from the hell that is known as “I need birthday singers.” A lady came into the restaurant with her little girl and asked that they sing for her birthday. The server said they can’t do it, but gave her a free dessert anyway. The lady talked to the manager who confirmed that it was not gonna happen. The lady then got all pissed off and stiffed the server on a $32 bill and left this note which I Photoshopped a little bit so you can’t see what restaurant it came from:

Crappy birthday!

Crappy birthday!

“We wanted to give a better tip but felt no accommodations were given or consideration for the child’s birthday. It was her choice to come here but no candle or any type of celebration was done. We are kinda disappointed…!”

You know what, Mom? Get the fuck over it. If it’s the restaurant’s policy to not sing the goddamn stupid ass happy fucking birthday song, then that’s how it goes. Eat your free piece of thawed out birthday cake and move on. And what kind of life are you living if your daughter’s idea of a great birthday is to go to some chain restaurant that’s in the parking lot of a mall? When I was a kid, I celebrated my birthday in my back yard with my friends. My mom and dad would buy a sheet cake from Albertson’s and make some Kool-Aid and then all the kids from the neighborhood would come over and we’d play on the swing set. At some point, we’d sit at a big table and I would let them all serenade me until I was given the cue to to rip open my presents. That’s what a kid’s birthday should be like. The server told me that you said her “big day was ruined.” Well, honey, if my birthday passed without a bunch people I don’t know begrudgingly singing Happy Birthday to me off-key, I’d call that a rip-roaring success. And you’re mad because they didn’t put a candle in the cake? They didn’t have any fucking candles. Do you want your server to pull one out of her ass? Or how about they just put a chopstick in it and light it on fire? Or a Bic lighter? Would that have made her “special day” any better? And then you’re not going to leave a tip? Why in the hell does the server have to pay the price for a corporate policy? If you’re unhappy with the policy at a restaurant, do what every other disappointed customer does these days: go to Yelp and write a review about it and then go to their Facebook page and complain until they send you a fucking coupon for a free Apple Chimicheesecake and 10% off your next visit.

And to the little girl, I say this: aim higher. The next time your mom wants to take you somewhere for your big day, choose someplace where she’s gonna have to dig a little deeper into her pockets. You’re worth more than $32 (and that was for two adults and two children, by the way.) When you are older and look back on this day of disappointment, you will realize that not having the servers sing to you was a blessing in disguise. When I worked at Houlihan’s in Times Square, we were all singers. Before and after work, all of us were auditioning for Broadway shows. We could sing, like really sing, but when someone asked us to sing to them for their birthday, we would choose five different keys and and turn the volume to “shut the hell up.” It was not pretty. It was just our way to make that special day as memorable as possible. Hopefully next year, your mom can take you to Chuck E. Cheese or better yet, she will pony up the cash for a sheet cake from Costco and you can be surrounded by people who actually care about you and will want to sing Happy Birthday to you.

Okay, I’m done. That just rubs me wrong when people stiff the server for something the server has nothing to do with. Just remember: no server ever ever ever wants to sing happy birthday to you. Ever.

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29 thoughts on “Your Server Does NOT Want to Sing Happy Birthday To You

  1. Penny

    I’m not embarrassed when “Happy Birthday” is sung to me, but I really dislike singing it. The third line, note-to-note, is jerky and awkward and nearly everyone sings it off-key. Myself included. No one should face copyright infringement for singing that song. I actually thought it was in the public domain. Really, it’s such a universal song that no one should have a claim on it…

  2. Jack Clayton.

    I am a small business owner in a small town. We had a party for a nice young lady on her 6th birthday. The party(customers) sang happy birthday to her, and my staff joined in including, myself. I am now potentially facing legal action on copyright infringement. The license is very expensive and I never thought of it to be a problem, so I had to be forced to make it company policy not to sing that song by our guests and staff.

    1. William A Leitzel

      It’s ridiculous that an owner of a business has to worry about copyright infringement over a song that is only sung for personal pleasure and not financial gain. I know that technically, it could be said that there is a financial gain from singing the song by way of higher tips garnered by employees. I guess it is up to a business to weigh the “pros and cons” of providing a service. If the company policy is that they “don’t” sing “Happy Birthday”, the waiter or waitress should not be vilified for not singing it period.

  3. Dss

    Some of you guys need to get over yourself. I’m taking my kids to a restaurant that sings because they’ll get a kick out it. I’ll be sure to tip a few extra bucks because at the end of the day, you are working for money. It’s not like I’m asking you to get on your knees and act like a donkey… it’s a simple, non-demeaning request that can bring joy to a kid or embarrass an adult. It’s part of the job. You don’t want to sing? then be a better waiter and get a job at a fancy restaurant… otherwise, suck it up and play along.

    1. Lorraine Pennell

      Nope. GTFO with your ridiculous BS entitlement. You are not entitled to anything and GFY if you think anyone wants to sing to you. Fuck you asshole.

  4. SB

    I wish to Christ the last restaurant I served at didn’t allow birthday singing. When I started there, I was told that my boss wanted us to be buoyant, slap-happy servers who would bend over backwards to accommodate the customers, or our asses were grasses. So I had a two top (a couple) when I was a newbie and it was the guy’s birthday and he got cake. So I trussed that shit up with a candle and some gorgeous squeeze bottle syrup designs and on my way out to the table I spotted my boss just standing there by it. So I started singing “Happy Birthday” to the dude to show my boss I was a “team player,” and by the second “Happy Birthday to you” I realized the guy’s lady was not going to join in. She stared at me instead. They both did. And I had to sing the whole fucking thing because that was less awkward than stopping in the middle of it and running away. My boss was into it, and I couldn’t tell if the lady at the table was purposely humiliating me for fun or if she was pissed that I dared to sing to her man, but I never sang that shit to a customer again. So listen up “I’m not tipping because there’s a no-birthday-songs-rule” lady, if you want a song and dance, go to the circus and let the sweaty clowns do their job.

  5. Kat

    I hate when people sing too me, it’s embarrassing! Although going out with my friends once for a birthday, the birthday boy says not to tell the server it’s his birthday, so we don’t, another guy stands up and invites the whole restaurant to join us in singing to him. It was quite funny! I’ll take the free cake, just please don’t sing to me!

    Growing up our birthday parties were always friends and family at someone’s house, enjoying our time together, I find it very strange when a birthday party comes to a restaurant. But that’s just me and how I was raised, lol.

  6. Kevin

    When asked if I would sing for a birthday, I tell; my tables that I’ll gladly bring them something with a candle in it, but we I’ll leave the job of embarrassing the birthday boy/girl to the family and friends.
    It works every time!

  7. Molly

    I work at a BAR (that happens to serve food) and a new girl was frantically looking for birthday singers for a 10 year old boy’s bday. OK new girl, we’re a bar, we don’t do singing (unless its drunken after our shift), we don’t do dessert (unless we’re shoving our faces with it), and no, you don’t get a free shot unless your server likes you. She managed to grab a food runner and a few boys from the kitchen who think she’s sexy and yoinked a few cookies someone brought in and set a precedent for birthday singing. A few days later guess what happened… “Oh, its so n so’s bday!”- cust “That’s nice, happy birthday!”-me “Aren’t you going to sing? I was here a few nights ago and you guys sang and brought out cookies!”- cust.

    Yeah, you can see how big my tip was after explaining that one. Bitch.

  8. JuliaKAUAI

    I don’t sing happy birthday to tables, I don’t care if another server needs singers.. it’s stupid. I have a four year old and the last thing I would want is a bunch of people we don’t know singing happy birthday to her! Lady if you don’t have any friends or family to sing happy birthday to you please inform your child that you are a loser and that is why no one likes you enough to sing for you, even strangers 🙂

  9. waiter in Pasadena

    Great post. There is a group of 4 to six bitches that go eat once in a while were I work at. Every time they are there it is the birthdays of at least two of them, since I know they are bullshitting just to get a free dessert so I asked them for an ID so I can check their birth date. The bitches called the assistant manager and acted as I was disrespecting them for asking them for an ID. The manager covered for me telling them that I had been reprimended by him a few days before fir giving a group of eight birthday desserts to all of them, he’s a cool guy but he still gave the lying bitches free desserts. Oh well, I just hope next timw they show up I wont be stuck with them.
    This other day , years ago, some stupid bitch (why is it always bitches?), had a group of friends ,her friends, her dog and the dog friends of her dogs. So the bitch says (human bitch) that it was her dog’s birthday and that if we could sing for it, I gave her my most hypocritical smile, the kind that I try to show that its fake as hell without telling her and I assented. I just assentes so she wouldnt bitch but I didn’t sing or go to the table when the other waiters were singing. The manager asked me why I didnt ho sing to the dog and I just told him: “its a dog, I’m not singing to a dog” . I worked a split shift that day so later the managrs made a meeting just before the second shift to tell us among the other bulshit that we were to do what the customers tells us, I knew he was referring to the dog birthday song but I came out on top and with my dignity intact. Ok so my comment is now larger than the original post so I’ll stop. Take care people

    1. SB

      I don’t even serve anymore, but I would get an extra serving gig just to wait for a situation like that (being asked to sing happy birthday to a dog) so I could laugh, say no, take my apron off, sit down at their table and drink the rest of their mimosa/bloody mary pitcher.

  10. maxi

    Ha. I actually quite like singing to birthday tables. If their booking notes say to make a fuss then I will do just that! It generally only happens a few times a week and if enough servers get together and sing and the rest of the table/restaurant joins in I think it can be quite merry.

    Maybe I am just odd…. but I like to be sung to too! I was taken out for dinner for my birthday this year and at the end the servers brought out a cake and started singing. And I loved it. I think if you sing and make a little bit of a fuss of the table then they really appreciate it = more money.

    1. sally

      I confess I liked it too. I worked at a pizza place that was known for singing happy bday (it was my first waitress job) and used to LOVE embarrassing people I knew that came in on their b-days thinking they were going to embarrass me. In my restaurant we would honk a big horn, flash the lights and play a loud siren that you could hear throughout the mall. It was actually funny.

      But I hate attention of any kind on my Bday. I usually leave town just so I don’t have to deal with people. Maybe that’s why it’s so much fun for me to annoy others on THEIR bdays! lol!

  11. Rennifer

    One of the conditions that I required the last time that I went looking for a serving job was that there be NO BIRTHDAY SINGING. Ever. The place I landed was a brew-pub which gave celebrants a piece of cake, lit candle, free pint glass, and a $10 gift certificate for the next visit. Major win. I’d been at the Olive Garden before that and we punished servers who slacked or dumped side work on others by making them solo while about 15 of us stood around the birthday table and clapped and smiled. Then we’d all adjourn to the local Bennigans and if they had a late night birthday we’d scream the birthday song from around the bar. We couldn’t save ourselves, but wanted to do our part in training other restaurants’ patrons.

  12. Anonymous

    The place I used to work at made a huuuge deal out of birthdays…. Every server had to go sing, and they would get a cup and put some spoons in it to use as a fucking maraca while everyone walked to the table, yelling the whole way (we were supposed to cheer, but fuck that shit). And we had a huge sombrero we had to put on the customer while we sang. I refused to ever touch the sombrero because I didnt want to get lice (lots of little kid birthdays there), and I barely ever drank (the horror!) because even the slightest hangover was made a million times worse by that fucking cup maraca. And if the person was turning 21 or more we were only supposed to say they were 21, even if they were like 90. So stupid.

  13. Anonymous

    My restaurant doesn’t require us to sing, thank god. But I will do it if I really really like a table or if its a little kid’s birthday and they were well behaved.

  14. melissa in houston

    My very last singing of the birthday song was to a 50ish old deaf lady. I kid you not. The manager rounded up all of us girls and made us sing to a deaf woman. The birthday girl did not seem to enjoy this. BTW our manager was a complete lush. She was always drunk. She was the owners girl friend so all she really did was sit at the bar drinking all night. That lead to lots of stupidity. Hence singing to deaf woman. Positive note they gave me 40 bucks before i even hit the floor (i wasn’t even their server). They are just a cool couple like that. Oh the stupidity of a total lush manager.

  15. WhiteRussian

    when people ask me if i could sing, i honestly say – “no”. and then i tell them following – “i solely believe that people should be doing what they’re good at. i’m good at waiting tables, and that’s the whole reason i’m dicking around here with you. if i could sing, i’d be somewhere else making big money. i could sing, but that’s gonna sound really bad and you’re not gonna enjoy that. plus, i have accent which will make it sound even worse. and i’d rather not ruin your special day by my shitty performance”. eat your free cake, bitch. i need to refill table 16 and take order off 24.

  16. Insomniac

    Entitled parents make my blood boil. Like, it is so much worse that the restaurant didn’t sing for your kind, than it is for your kid to watch you flip out on the server, whine like a bitch, and then commit a felony (dine and dash can result in felony arrests & charges…every so often-though not nearly enough-they make an example).

  17. Laura

    I work for a place that sings “happy birthday”. I have to admit, I would rather not…but, oh well. People getting upset that the place they went doesn’t sing could have called ahead and asked about it. This lady was looking for a reason to not tip.

    1. Serenity

      I have to say, it is very hard for me to pretend that I am sincerely sorry that we don’t sing at my restaurant. Inside, my inner voice is saying “that’s right, jackass. I’m your server, not your singing telegram”. Some people even beg, ask me to make an exception, or try to bribe with the promise of a bigger tip. Shut up and grow up. Just be glad that I’m giving you free dessert, with a candle (if I can find one), and politely wishing you a happy birthday.

      1. Robert

        Not exactly the same as not having to sing but I did a summer at a seasonal McDonald’s at a popular beach. I actually enjoyed the litany I had to give many times daily…

        No, we don’t take coupons. No, we don’t have Happy Meals. No, we don’t participate in ANY promotions. Yes, our prices are four times higher than any other McDonald’s in the area. Would you like fries with that?

  18. you know who

    I am honored to be included with Svedka on your list of friends. And you will be singing to me in a few days. And it better be good. Like real good. Like beer, nachos, drunk singing kind of good. I will expect a candle…from your buttocks…

  19. Allie

    I had a 3-year stint at OG (and about a year at Applebee’s before that), and I will *never*, and I repeat, NEVER sing to another table again. It’s disruptive, not one single server actually wants to do it (plus, they are preoccupied about having to stop what they’re doing, what their tables might need at this moment), and it always sounds like shit. Like, not even half-hearted.. maybe quarter-hearted, if that, a tone-deaf droning dirge of happy birthday. Trying to round up servers to make it happen was challenging, too, because we all hated it and we’d try to weasel out of it if we could. I will flat out tell people no if they suggest that I sing, and I will also explain that I have corporate restaurant PTSD if they think me uncharitable or whatever. Fuck that. I am not a clown. My job is demeaning enough as it is.

  20. Kathryn

    From a customers perspective, if I know a place does it, I’ll mention it for my kids, because my kids are the type who love to sing Happy Birthday. That being said, if the server does sing, I tip more than 20% (I never tip less than 20% unless my server just ignored me, which has happened) to make up for them singing.

    As for going to that restaurant, as a kid, my parents had a deal for everyone on their birthday: they got whatever they wanted for dinner, whether it was made at home or going out to eat. We’d have my party on the weekend, but the day of my birthday, if I wanted to go to a restaurant, that’s what we did.


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