Tip Your Waitress!

June 19, 2010 at 11:42 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s a quote that many sitcom comics and cartoons will quote, reminding their audiences to leave their waitresses tips. Kind of a gag, at least a running one through the 80s and 90s, it nonetheless stands true.

Tip. Your. Waitress.

I’ve been waitressing for… a month or so now. I am not perfect, by no means, but I am damn well trying to be. I’ve had really good days and I’ve had really bad days. (my first day when I spilled two drinks on a guest comes to mind) But no matter what kind of day I’ve had, I notice the same trend: people leave shitty tips.

I haven’t yet figured out why. I smile, I make some conversation–though any server will tell you that a truly good server is much busier trying to make your stay comfortable and stress-free than making idle conversation that you most likely don’t want–I inquire about what movie you’re going to see if you mention it, I make sure your drinks are refilled, and I try to be prompt in presenting the dessert card and your check. Some days I’m better at these steps than others, but I always get them done, even when we’re busy.

Now, I don’t know about other restaurants, but the one I work at is extremely strict on procedure. I work at a national restaurant–meaning, there’s one in just about every state. (there are even some in Canada) We’re very keen on keeping up with the Kardashians–I mean, keeping up with company standards. We quiz each other daily on procedure, we have to take a quiz and have the manager-on-duty grade and sign it before we’re allowed to tell the hostesses to seat our areas, we have side work to do in addition to serving, and we have a time schedule to keep to. (be company standards, your meal should last around half an hour. A good table turnaround time is 27 minutes, even though we’re supposed to ‘give your guest the gift of time’) It is very intense work for $3.65 an hour (minimum for tipping jobs in Ohio).

So, about that side work… In addition to being on my feet anywhere from four to twelve hours (depending on how long I’m scheduled, how busy we are, when I’m phased, and how much side work there is to do), serving food to people who, some anyway, should not be allowed in public, I have other things to attend to. Most days, I bus my own tables. I reset my tables. I get all the drinks. I do dishes. I restock the beverage center, run new crates of glasses out to the beverage centers, refill garnish dishes, deep-refrigerator-dive into the depths of the walk-in fridge for refills on lemons/dressing/ice cream/etc, scoop ice cream into baggies for sundaes, restock the cabinets with condiments, clean the lights, clean the floors, restock to-go supplies, fold burger wrappers, wrap silverware, run menus for hostesses, sweep the patio…

Are we understanding that there is more to being a server than serving? All for less than $4.00 an hour?

Now, I realize that by world standards this is quite ridiculous to be complaining about, but I’m talking here in the U.S., by first-world-living conditions. When I get a $3.00 tip on a $25.00 bill, I am understandably going to be irritated that I am working my butt off for next to nothing, and worrying how I’m going to pay my bills.

Alright. I understand there’s this terrible economy. I understand it. I’m living it. IT IS THE REASON I AM WAITRESSING. But if you tell me “I can’t afford to tip more” then you shouldn’t be going out to eat at a restaurant that charges about $10 for a freaking hamburger you could get at McDonald’s for less than $3. My general rule is, I will let a tip be alright if it is between 15-20%. I understand that most people think that 15% is a good tip, while today’s monetary demands would make it 20%. I try to give good service to make you want to bump it up a little. (I also understand that teenagers do not, under any circumstances, ever tip well. I told my younger brother if I ever caught him leaving a FIFTEEN CENT TIP on a bill that was TWENTY FOUR DOLLARS, I would drive the three hours it takes to get to my parents house solely to kick his football-playing ass)

What I don’t think people understand is, we do have more than one table to attend to. Most of the time, if I am busy, I will stop by when I’m running to do something else to make sure everything is great for you, and try to fix it right away if it isn’t. If I have a table of eight, and you are with your partner, the table of eight will take slight precedence over your table of two. No offense, but they do. They help the restaurant’s sales, and it makes me look better. I will not, however, ignore you. I will do my best to make sure you are enjoying your meal.

But on busy nights, it might seem like I’m ignoring you, even when I’m actually in the back fighting with the cooks over why it’s taking twenty minutes when your food should have been ready and on your table nine minutes prior to my fight. If that is the case, it’s really irritating when I’ve made several efforts to come up to you and say, “I’m really sorry that we’re backed up in the kitchen right now, but your food will be ready in a while. Can I get you a free fry or another drink refill?”, and in the end I still get stiffed a good tip. Late food is, 90% of the time, not your server’s fault. Take it up with the manager, who will take it out on the cooks.

Also remember that servers tip out bussers, expos (the people who make sure your food is cooked to the correct temperature and that all of the stuff you didn’t want on it isn’t on it, and that your salad has the right dressing), and the bartenders, if there is a bar/”refreshment center” in the restaurant. (bartenders get alcoholic beverages, as well as milk and ice cream floats, shakes, and fruity drinks) If you stiff the servers, you’re also stiffing three other people out of the 1% they get off of my entire tab. If I make $10 in tips for a $100 tab, because you “didn’t have enough  money”, I have to give away $3 of my tips to other people, leaving me with just enough money to pay Uncle Sam, and have about fifty cents left over. On top of the $43 I made that week from working over 20 hours on my hourly wage. That’s going to cover my gas money for the week, now where’s my rent and utilities  money going to come from?

I’m not saying that I’m the best server. I’m still learning. But I am doing my damndest, and I know most other servers are as well. We might hate the job, but we try to put on a smile and pretend we love our jobs, because we have to work too. We have mouths to feed (I work with about seven single moms, and they need every cent they earn for their little ones), we have rents to pay, and we have food to buy. We’re lucky to have the jobs that we do–hi there, 10% unemployment rate, or has it gone up?–and until we can find something better, we have to do what we can with what we can.


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