Hi my name is Maddog and I’ll be your server today.
I read a post this morning that’s had me a little pissed off all day. In the post the person was discussing bad service and whether to leave a tip or not. Before I start, I should probably say that I was a waiter for more than 8 years at a number of different restaurants. I have worked fine dining, chain restaurants, and even a diner. I’ve probably seen it all. But it’s a rare occasion when I don’t tip 15% or more when leaving a restaurant.
In U.S. News and World Report about 10 years ago it listed waiting tables as one of the most stressful jobs you could have. Anyone who’s ever waited tables would surely agree. First you have to deal with the public and their food and the lists of ways they want to be treated. Second, you are dealing with a back of house staff that can be temperamental to say the least. And then there’s always management and they are all over the place in ability. Then, when it’s all said and done you have to hope that the people you are waiting on leave you money on the table because 3.35 an hour ain’t gonna pay the bills.
So what about bad service. I have to admit there are people out there who shouldn’t be doing the job. But there are also teachers, doctors, scientist, reporters and you name it who shouldn’t be doing their jobs as well. As expected they ruin it for the rest of us. But I also know that everyone’s definition of bad service differs. I don’t like it when my empty plates are left on the table. A response to the post this morning said they didn’t like having to wait more than 2 minutes to be greeted initially. I once upset a man very badly because I removed his wife’s plate and he wasn’t finished eating yet. This was a sling hash sort of place and we weren’t following fine dining standards. Before we even get to the table we are at a disadvantage because I have no idea what you are looking for in service. So I try and do them all, and hope for the best.
So what’s bad service. I don’t know. For me it depends on the restaurant. If it’s fine dining I expect one thing. If it’s the Bennigan’s down the street I expect something totally different. What I don’t expect is to be treated like a king, and yet I have waited on those people who expect just that. I do know is that it’s not always my fault. Do you want to know why I didn’t get to your table in two minutes. I was in the basement getting ice for the whole restaurant. Do you want to know why your drinks from the bar took 10 minutes. The bartender was having a smoke break. Why didn’t I bring your side of honey mustard dressing and mayonnaise? The kitchen guy hates me because I’m a “fag” and won’t give me anything I ask for until I get a manager. You think I’m making this stuff up but it’s all stuff that’s happened to me.
And then, when it’s all said and done you get to decide how much money I make. I sit in the kitchen hoping that you are generous because rent is due. I hope that even though your table of 8 ran me in circles the entire time you were sitting there you take pity and leave 15% of the $400 bill you ran up. I hope that you understand the reason your food took 60 minutes to get to your table wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could do about it. I also hope that you understand that I asked the busser three times to swing by your table and remove the dirty dishes because I was too busy dealing with the party of 8. And I sit in the kitchen and I hope.
I’d love to say that most of the time I was taken care of, but there are too many stories that go in the other direction. I once waited on 40 sorority girls with another waiter and together we made $4.00. I had a party of 12 once leave me an $8.00 tip in change. I’ve had other tables where things went so wrong in the kitchen they got more than $100 in free food and they left me nothing. My favorite part of this is that at the end of the night I get to tip out .02% of my sales to the bartender, .015% of my sales to the bussers, .01% percent to the food runner and claim 8% of my sales to the government for taxes. So for every table that stiffed me or left me less than .04% it cost me to wait on them.
So what do you do about bad service? Here’s what I do. I try to put myself in the place of the server. My favorite comment is maybe their dog died. Or even worse a relative. Or their boyfriend had broken up with them. Or their car died on the way to work and it’s going to cost $1500 to fix. Why is that my problem? The truth is it isn’t. And as the poster this morning said “that is what we go out to eat for, service, NOT dealing with someone’s emotional home life and problems.” It’s true you don’t. But the minute you entire the outside world you are faced with the world’s problems. I like to think of myself as human and understanding. I don’t know what’s going on in their life and I don’t want to know. What I do know is that waiting tables is the one of the few jobs where someone else gets to decide whether you pay your rent or not. And if the person tipping can have the tiniest bit of sympathy and compassion it might in a small way make the persons day.
All of the things mentioned in the above paragraph have happened to me. I have had to work after being called and told my grandmother had died. I’ve had to work, when my boyfriend called me and told me on the restaurant’s phone that he was leaving and wouldn’t be there when I got home. How would you feel the next time you went to work and your boss told you that you were working today for 80% of your normal salary because you just weren’t yourself. The post this morning insisted that he’d be sent home without pay. But most jobs, with humans for bosses would understand, and if you were sent home it wouldn’t be without pay. Most restaurant jobs don’t have sick pay, or leave, or any other kind of support. It’s either work or not get paid.
Which brings me to the end of the meal. It’s tip time. Not leaving a tip is always an option. But I beg to differ with the post that it’ll teach the waiter a lesson to be better next time. Truth is you’ll be written off as another idiot who doesn’t know better. And there are far more idiots out there than people teaching lessons. If you don’t think the service was up to par speak to the manager. A decent manager won’t fire the waiter they’ll try and find out what was going on. Or even better speak to the waiter. Tell them you weren’t satisfied. The thing to remember is waiter’s have long memories. And we remember that you don’t tip. And next time you come in, you’ll be pointed out to everyone in the restaurant. You’ll get service but it won’t be award winning. And no one’s going to go out of their way for you. There entire goal will be to get you in and get you out so you don’t take up anymore of their time than you have to.
I don’t remember the last time I didn’t tip, and I eat out practically every day. The truth is it’s usually only a couple of dollars. If I eventually got my food, and it’s what I ordered and no one was rude to me, I’m happy. Life’s too short to get all bent out of shape because you weren’t waited on in two minutes. Or that there are 8 empty glasses on the table. Or that no one has taken away my empty plates. With all that’s going on in the middle east, and here at home these are luxury problems. And is it really going to hurt to leave 15 or 20 percent on the table. Who know you maybe helping pay for the education of the person who will cure AIDS. Or be the next president. And maybe they’re just a little stressed from school and your 8 dollars will make their day. Who knows. I’ve seen a lot less make someone happy.