Service of Pretentious Behavior in Restaurants, in Business & at Home

October 9th, 2017

Categories: Courtesy, Food, Pretentious, Snob, Waste, Work

Who is taken in by pretentious behavior? Such conduct has always turned me off.

Foodie Foolishness

Number 10 of “The 19 Types of Food Snobs, Ranked by Obnoxiousness,” by Andy Kryza and Matt Lynch, stuck out to me. They wrote in Thrillist,com: “It’s been two years since The Repatriated Expat moved back to the US after a magical six months residing in Spain. And yet, the backhanded comments about how ‘it’s so weird to be eating dinner before 10 pm,’ the observations that the gin and tonics ‘just aren’t the same,’ and the refusal to consume any red wine that isn’t Rioja have not lessened in the slightest.” This was my favorite–fun post.

Office Folderol
I started working just as executive secretaries no longer placed calls for bosses. They went like this:

  • Secretary No. 1: “Hello, Mr. Jones calling to speak with Mr. Snodgrass.”
  • Secretary No. 2: “Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Jones calling.” Snodgrass would get on the line and wait until Jones’ secretary got hold of him—unless Jones had left the office by then and it all started again.

The practice never made sense to me: Why waste four people’s time to accomplish one task?

A similar dynamic happens today sometimes. If I expect a response, I need either to copy—or email—the person’s assistant–even if he/she knows me. It’s pretentious. Why? Many other women and men juggling as many as three busy lives—demanding jobs, onerous family responsibilities and often time-sucking pro bono obligations—get back to me directly and without the fanfare.

Expensive Fashion Accessory

In a book review about Meryl Gordon’s “Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend,” I read about Bunny’s sending a private jet to pick up a scarf that was in another of her homes to coordinate with an outfit she was planning to wear. Was Bunny [photo left] spoiled or pretentious? Maybe someone tattled on Mrs. Mellon: Is a person being pretentious if nobody is supposed to know what they do?

Do food snobs drive you nuts? Can you name superfluous, affected business behavior? Are pretentious people aware of the impact of their behavior? Do some not realize that they are?

Tags: , , , ,

10 Responses to “Service of Pretentious Behavior in Restaurants, in Business & at Home”

  1. ASK Said:

    At a mini-reunion, I joined a group of some former college classmates for lunch after a tour of Sagamore Hill; at one time before developers moved in, you could see the LI Sound from the house. Our class president wanted the seafood salad and closely questioned the waiter about the freshness of each individual item. After many eye rolls from the others at the table, she got to the clams. I could bear it no longer: “Of course, they’re fresh, Estelle, he raked them from the beach this morning…”

    I also know a lot of people whose lives have been radically changed by going gluten-free. Maybe, but alas, going gluten-free does not necessarily improve one’s sense of humor. For some people, laxatives would be a better choice!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m finding it hard to respond while laughing.

    I’ve been to restaurants with friends who must complain about something. Are they showing off that they know more than the chef/wait staff? Then there are those who want a list of each and every ingredient and herb–not because they have allergies. I’m not sure why. Maybe they want to feel that they are receiving their money’s worth in waiter time?

    I haven’t discussed gluten free with anyone so I can’t chime in. Tragedy to lose a sense of humor over a diet though! Who knew gluten was so powerful!

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Pretentious folk are highly entertaining unless one is associated with them. Then it’s time to hide under the table or wear that paper bag w/eye holes!

    One incident stands out: at a local bridge event, an opponent wore a spectacular wristwatch, and I said as much. My partner would not be outdone, and ran his golden watch under everyone’s nose, announcing, “Rolex — $10,000.00!” Better luck with former college & high school buddies during numerous gatherings — both food and company was great, and mutually enjoyed… far!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I knew a man who pointed to things in his living room, describing where he got this lamp and that carpe and what he paid. It was embarrassing, rather than impressive!

    I love bargains and to hear about amazing value for the dollar–that impresses me, though I’d like to see a watch that cost $10,000 to decide if I thought it was worth it! What gets me about folks who boast like that is that often, when it’s time to give a tip they can be stingy because “they can’t afford it.”

  5. Debby Brown Said:

    When I was working in the home furnishings magazine business in the 1970s and 1980s I often traveled with editors who were difficult, snobbish and sometimes arrogant. In the days when we would travel the furniture market, i.e. Hickory
    Lenore and High Point, staying at local hotels, one editor insisted at breakfast one morning on sending a poached egg back five times. Another colleague with whom I had the “pleasure” of sharing business luncheons at top restaurants, would always have to audition where she sat. This attention-grabbing action had to do with the direction of air conditioning blowing on her, no sun in her eyes, etc. It didn’t really matter what the issue was as we all had to change seats to accommodate her needs. Another always insisted the chef come out to review the ingredients in various dishes on the menu. She claimed to have some kind of health issue but it never stopped her from continuously smoking at the table and downing vodka martinis at lunch. They were all snobs and pretentious. I hope no one puts up with this kind of behavior today

  6. HB Said:

    Many years ago, while vacationing in France, my wife and I stopped for the night at Roanne, a dingy little industrial city in the center of the country. Not unreasonably, a sense of anticipation mixed with just a little anxiety, gripped us as we drove up to the small, decidedly unpretentious hotel across the street from the railroad station. We don’t normally patronize establishments as elevated in its “métier” as the world famous Troisgros was then, and I understand still is.

    We were greeted cordially, efficiently and without a shred of superciliousness as we checked in and were shown to our room. Our motley collection of old suitcases and shopping bags – no Louis Vuitton matched sets for us –arrived quickly and our car was whisked away to be garaged for the night. Our room was discreetly lavish, multi-leveled, and oddly charming in an ultra-modern kind of way. We dawdled luxuriously pampering ourselves; as we bathed and rested before dinner, but finally we went downstairs to face the music of what promised to be a very great meal.

    The entrance to the restaurant was off the lobby and abutted a comfortable bar room. I was fully aware that there was a definite protocol as what one should or should not do when eating three star meals, like not smoking when drinking a great wine. We wanted to start the performance with an aperitif, but where should we drink it, in the bar or at the table? I asked the young lady who greeted us. She must have sensed my insecurity, for she replied spontaneously and charmingly as if she really meant it, “Comme vous voulez.” (Wherever you would like.) We went into the bar just as the barman emerged to greet us. I finally realized that I had nothing to worry about. Forget the insecurity, the dirty car, the motley luggage, my bad French, Troisgros was absolutely determined to see us have a great evening, and we did indeed!

    I am sure that had we asked them to serve our aperitifs on the platform of the railroad station, the restaurant would have obliged. That is the difference between superiority and pretention.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Oh does your vivid description bring it all back. Even into the 90s some were acting like this. As a PR person I had a nightmare time on a trip to the Atlanta metro area where an editor and her assistant were styling a suburban home that the PR agency I worked for had built on spec with a builder who incorporated products of two major clients. The house was built in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders Show in Atlanta that year, to illustrate to builders the latest in wiring technology.

    We stayed at what turned out to be a truck stop like motel–there was nothing else near the house. The breakfast room was jammed in the morning and the editor would carry on about how she wanted her coffee…with this much cream, that much milk and that much skim milk. This wasn’t that kind of place.

    When the waiter took some time to return, she shrieked at the top of her lungs, “NO WONDER YOU LOST THE WAR!”

    The next morning I arrived 15 minutes before we were scheduled to meet in the dining space. I apologized to the waiter–and gave him a hearty tip. He promised that he understood the dynamic. By the way: The assistant was lovely and talented. The editor–somewhere in the middle on the masthead–had zero design/styling talent; she’d only picked up the bad behavior of some of her bosses.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You described the opposite of pretention and it was a joy to read. Like so many things, people need to have an instinct for service of the highest caliber–neither unctuous nor pandering nor familiar. I imagine that people who work in such places don’t always get to meet pleasant customers. Debby Brown, in her comment, identified some who acted spoiled and rudely because they could in the 70s and 80s…and unfortunately, I bet there are remnants–if not dollops–of similar bad apple customers in some circles today. I hear about them from friends who work in retail.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:

    This post is simply a sheer delight! I have a beloved cousin who is a trained chef (Cordon bleu, London and France) and a Food Editor for a major newspaper. However, I have been hard put not to giggle at some of the opinions shared by some of her foodie fans. Pedantry and self-importance in discussing food is another type of food snobbery particular to “academic” habitués. I am not ashamed to laugh about liking cheese whiz, marshmallows and fluff, Hostess cupcakes, Devil Dogs and relish even though I have mostly lost interest in them and because my Japanese husband would be so sad to be faced with them. I also am not ashamed to say without offending anyone that I am not particularly adventurous about food including odd animal parts or heroines of childhood stories (‘Make Way for the Ducklings”).

    Wasted time theoretically establishing the importance of the party being called or written to and countering with the delay or barrier of the recipient is less prevalent today. It was always sort of silly, not for keeping order like Parliamentary Procedure, but was used to indicate hierarchy and deference. In those days secretaries bore the brunt of all kinds of nonsense anyway. This is unmitigated, pretentious and often irritating behavior, but the self-important revel in it..

    Bunny Mellon must have been ridiculously spoiled. I doubt this behavior was meant to be shared because it would seem embarrassing. How superficial and indulgent could she have wanted to appear to the world? I will, for lack of more information, attribute the scarf incident to extreme vanity.

    Food snobs do drive me nuts. I particularly dislike the guests who come to someone else’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner requiring a fish or vegetarian alternative for themselves or even worse for their offspring. I lived more than a year in one country whose cuisine I did not enjoy, invited constantly to dine in restaurants where the food was not appealing to me. I would concentrate on bread, wine and an item I liked and move around what was on my plate, occasionally dropping pieces in outdoor restaurants when there were cats around. I would make every effort not to offend my hosts or fellow diners.

    I detest pretension in general. I received numerous examples of insufferable pretentious materials particularly from the real estate industry, often with tacky admixtures of kitch and cultural pretentions. There are people in luxury retail sometimes and in visual art in particular who appear to have done advance study in pretentious behavior with entirely unappealing results. And as of now there are our leaders such as Messrs. Trump, Mnuchin, Tillerson, Kushner and respective spouses who give new meaning to pretentious!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I knew some excellent cooks [who spoke normally] but no chefs and can just imagine how fans pandering to top chefs would want to show off. I see it in marketing and PR. You can almost bet that if I don’t understand a word that someone who claims they are in marketing says they are unemployed and have stuffed their mouth with all the jargon they can muster. The outcome is a bit like someone who depends on a digital translation of their words and doesn’t ask someone who speaks the language to double check that it accurately captures the meaning.

    The interior design choices of pretentious people can be hilarious–it’s not just their behavior. I’m thinking of the chairs laden with gold that the Trump family sat on for an interview with Andrea Mitchell. We were supposed to be impressed.

    I agree with you re. Bunny. She seemed pretty low key in her likes–gardening [although when a gardener had picked up all the apples that had dropped from her orchard she had some of them replaced in an artful way–the same with fallen fall leaves on her lawn.]

    There is so much to eat at a standard Thanksgiving table along with the food served with drinks before that if a vegetarian can’t manage with what’s there…they should leave hungry or not accept the invitation or they should offer to bring a dish and make a favorite that they know they’ll enjoy!

Leave a Reply