Saturday Night In The City…

Once again I have too much to blog about. How will I ever narrow it down to one subject and I’m already too longwinded to actually try and cover more than one topic.

So do I discuss the fact that I now live on tree-lined street?

Do I talk about the 80 bucks I found on the floor at work?

Do I discuss the fact that Gina has been fired?

Do I blog about the 40 black teenagers that were thrown out of our restaurant tonight?

Do I mention that I’ve made more in five days this week than I did in more than two weeks last month?

Do I complain about how tired I am after working five days straight and still having one more to go?

What to do? What to do?

I think I’ll discuss the kids that were thrown out of the restaurant.

I actually thought a lot about how to blog about this coming home on the train without sounding too racist. I figured the best thing to do would be to just tell the story and let you all come to your own conclusions.

And like all of my posts there has to be three pages of back-story to get us there.

And so…

I’ve mentioned before that there are certain people that come into our restaurant that don’t tip. For a while every Italian table that I waited on stiffed me. Then it was the Irish. Then it was the French. Recently it’s been the Canadians. Tonight I waited on four people from Canada, one of which was an incredibly HOT young man. They were perfectly nice and I joked around with them. And when they left the HOT guy made a point of telling me to keep the change. And it was three dollars. On a fifty dollar tab. I didn’t even know what to do with that.

And for years now I’ve kept a tally of the ways that I can tell if people are going to tip. People who order well done steaks don’t tip as well as people who order them medium rare. People who request thousand island dressing don’t tip as well as people who use balsamic vinagerette. People who smoke tip better than non smokers. People who drink tip better than non-drinkers. If you work in the restaurant business for more than three minutes you start to make these generalizations. Is it always true? Of course not. But across the board I bet you would find it to be true.

And black people don’t tip well.
I once heard a black comedian say “If you have a canoe, paint it black it won’t tip. I also used to work at a Bennigan’s in Atlanta and the black servers would come into the kitchen and ask “Who didn’t pay the electric bill this week. It’s black out there.”

I know it’s bad to make these generalizations. But work with the public for more than three minutes and you’ll start to do it too.

So when I first started back to waiting tables, I was telling my roommate about my list of people that don’t tip. And I included black people. He then told me about an article that he read. It basically said that the reason blacks don’t tip is because they don’t get the same service everyone else gets. If they got the attention to detail, and the niceness that everyone else got then they would tip like everyone else. And I had to stop and think. Do I treat them differently? I don’t know. But I told myself that if I did, it wouldn’t happen anymore. And since that conversation I go out of my way to give everyone the same service no matter who they are or what they look like.

And has it made a difference. I don’t think so. It’s kind of 50/50 for the most part. Tonight I waited on a table a family of four that were black and they left me seven bucks on $68.00. It’s ten percent but it didn’t come close to the fifteen refills of Pepsi that I got for them.

And yet I was nice and polite and thanked them profusely for coming in.

And what does all this have to do with the kids who were kicked out of the restaurant. Actually nothing and everything.

At 1:00 a.m. forty black teenagers appeared at the host stand. They were unruly, loud and boisterous. Just like all teenagers. Unfortunately, no one could determine if they were there to eat or to drink or get dessert or what. And so it took a few minutes to get them to tables. If you could call it that. They were all over the restaurant. They would sit at one table and then decide to go to another table. And then run to another table. It took almost fifteen minutes to get even half of them into seats. At this point all of my tables were done and I was just about to start my side work. And then Alex came out of the kitchen and discovered that he’d been sat a ten top with some of the kids. He was more than a little perplexed. First it was three minutes till closing. And then it was ten people. And then it was ten black people. And so I said I would take care of them. I did this for two reasons. It was 10 people so gratuity was included, and I knew that I could deal with their unruliness. I taught high school for three years, dealing with teenagers isn’t that hard if you get your “teacher” voice going.

So I approached the table and used my teacher voice. I said hello. And then got down to business. First order of business — drinks. That took some doing. What do we have? Do you get free refills? Are the refills on juice free? I answered the questions and then said, that as much as I wanted them to have all the time they needed, the kitchen closes in two minutes so if you really plan to order food it has to be in the computer super quick. And this is true. The restaurant closes at 1:15 on Saturday nights and they want all the food orders in by 1:20. I had to say this about three times and finally just said, look if you going to order it do it. If you just want to sit here, that’s fine but you won’t get any food. They finally realized that I was being serious and they ordered. All told it took about six minutes to get their orders out of them and into the computer. Within ten minutes total I had their drinks on the table. Of course about two minutes later they announced that they are going to move to another table across the restaurant. I told them what I tell everyone who says this to me. That’s fine but your food is being delivered here and you’ll have to pay for it before you leave. Once again they realized that I was not kidding and took their seats.

Unbeknownst to me the situation across the restaurant was playing out very differently. First about 15 guys surrounded the two blond girls that were having dessert and started to harass them. They were finally ushered to their seats and then proceeded to tell my friend Suzette that she wasn’t sexy enough to wait on them. She would have to get them another girl to wait on them. So she did the same thing I would have done. She went to the manager and told them what had happened. Of course by this time all of the management staff is in the dining room because it’s quickly becoming complete chaos. I should also mention that our management team has a very strict no tolerance policy on people belittling or harassing the staff or other patrons. In the meantime there are people running around everywhere. No one will sit down and by this time the orders should have all been in the kitchen because it closed fifteen minutes ago.

And so the manager goes over to talk to the guys who didn’t like Suzette. He was there about two seconds when they started yelling at him and one guy told him to suck his dick. At which point Allan suggested they leave. And so half of them got up and head out. But the only sensible guy in the whole group calmed them down and they started back in. Unfortunately, the less sensible ones got the rest riled up and finally Allan had had enough and he told them all to get out. And get out they did. By overturning tables and chairs and cursing and basically making a scene.

And as the only black waiter on the floor tonight said, “They really aren’t doing a lot to help their cause. And it only reinforces the reason people as a whole react toward young black men the way they do.”

And the night ended. And I did my side work. And I clocked out as usual. And I changed my clothes. And I waited for Leslie because we were riding home on the subway together. And we walked out of the building and headed toward the deli when 45 black teens (mostly men) started running toward us, and then past us, all screaming run, run. And we realized at the exact same time they were the same teens we had had in the restaurant. Who knows what they are up to, or what they were running from. But I would bet they had been up to no good.

Update: 

I realized this morning that I should have wrapped the story up a little differently.

I will still strive not to make generalizations that effect the service that I give my guest.  I also know that it’s a minority of any group of people that ruins it for the rest.  And at the end of the day, it’s my job to make sure every guest has a great time in my restaurant and that there needs are taken care of as quickly as possible.

But I still think Canadians are lousy tippers.

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5 thoughts on “Saturday Night In The City…

  1. Lemuel March 23, 2008 / 14:19

    Maybe they thought they were now paying in Canadian dollars. 😉 (They are worth more that the US dollar now thanks to…)

  2. Donnie March 23, 2008 / 16:40

    Nice blog post, Maddog.

    But, as the grandson of a Quebecois Gramma who always tipped well, I must shake my head at your generalization of Canadians. 😛

  3. Cincy Diva March 23, 2008 / 16:48

    I do understad the generalizations, because I was in food service for years. In Cincinnati, we have the Kool Jazz Festival/ Many moons ago, it was a class act. Black couple would dress to the nines and come see Patti, Aretha, The Commodores. Now, it’s mainly just rap artists ad rude kids. They get an adult friend to rent a hotel room and them cram 10 people in it. They order off the childrens menu, and pay cash…no tip. several years ago, the room service waiters said no. either tips are included in the bill or we won’t work. So they did and a howl was heard the drowned out the music at the Jazz Fest.
    I was accused of being racist because we included the tip on their food.
    I told them we weren’t doing it because they were black, we were doing because I was poor. Most laughed and the tension was gone. Some complained but…I still got the tip

  4. Mike March 23, 2008 / 18:18

    …that the reason blacks don’t tip is because they don’t get the same service everyone else gets.

    I think that is the traditional view (of black folk), whether it is actually still true is another story.

    Sad, but true.

  5. Sarah March 24, 2008 / 16:59

    Canadians do not tip well. I say this as a former server who has waited on them and as a relative of a bunch of them. The one who dragged me up here knows to consult me on how much to tip when we are in the States. He has explained that Canadians do not tip on the tax. Whatever. Read what your guidebook says about how to tip when visiting another country and do it.

    Since we are on the subject…A friend of mine explained how to tip in Iowa. She said you multiple the tax by two and then leave two dollars. : )

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