Not the Same Old Drill

tips.jpg I have a night job where I work for tips, giving me a pretty decent work out and it’s lot of fun to boot. I’m unique in that I am the oldest guy on the crew – by at least 20 years! Which means that I am surrounded by lots of irreverent, profane, high energy and fairly cocky young folk. Pretty much all of them do a great job and can run rings around the Old Man but, hey, I’m an old man. What do you expect?

One thing that hasn’t changed with tipped employees over the years is a tendency towards a creeping cynicism for their customers. Like a bad car salesman, they continue to run through the same old drill of pre-qualifying their customers, gaging their take by scrutinizing their guests; demographics, dress, diction, manners, attitude, etc. Being a wise old fellow I will counsel my young friends as to the perils of doing this; just as Tiger Woods must visualize the ball dropping into the cup, so should we visualize the guest dropping a C-note onto our tip trays. Doesn’t usually happen but what the heck. If you visualize getting stiffed it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; your service will suffer and the average guest can sense the shift in your demeanor as well.

I even go so far as to never look at my tips until I’ve collected all the check presenters. I don’t want to know which person stiffed me or which one only left me only a couple of bucks. This way I can leave feeling good about all of my guests. After all, who knows what financial straights they may be in? I’ve been there myself. (Heck, I ain’t moonlighting entirely for fun.)

The other night was pretty typical; some nice tips, some average and a couple of small ones. One party left me nothing (but I don’t’ know which one). Something different happened that evening as well. Someone (probably short on cash) left me with a Home Depot gift card. I have to admit to being wryly amused. Sharing this with the crew most of them didn’t see anything too funny about it- probably only had a dollar or two on it. In fact most of the them thought it was tacky, indicative of someone too cheap to leave any cash. I figured, what the heck, at least I could pick up a new drill bit (maybe).

Boy was I surprised when the clerk at Home Depot told me that there was $66.63 on the card! I was able to get that new Black and Decker drill that I had been eying as well as a power screwdriver. Not too shabby. Thanks, mystery guest. I’ll remember you every time I put a hole into something with my new toy.

So, what’s my point? It just doesn’t pay to allow yourself to judge others. Aside from the times we are wrong (oh, so many times that is) what is there to gain from it? Who needs the bad vibes? So I would recommend not only doing but actually seeing others as you would have them see you. It might actually happen.

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  1. #1 by Christian on January 24, 2008 - 7:07 pm

    Tipping is not expected, however it is customary. If the service is efficient (and full service) then 15% is the norm. If it is a buffet or diner setting 10% is acceptable. If the service is also friendly and cordial then I will leave 20% or more. If I’m just having a beer at the bar I might leave as much as 100% (especially if it’s happy hour)

    I have a slightly different take on things, having spent most of my years in restaurant management and now find myself working for tips again. Ric is right – when the kitchen screws up don’t penalize the server (unless they are cavalier about the problem). But how do you know when it ‘s the kitchen’s fault and not your waiter’s? If they are laying a thick layer of blame (called bullshit) on the kitchen staff or management you can bet it was the server who screwed up, 9 times out of 10. This indicates an unprofessional attitude so you can bet they aren’t up to par in other key areas as well.

    But please do not reward servers for poor service. One of my pet peeves was when, as a restaurateur, I would comp something off of someone’s check because of the waiter’s carelessness (I used to rule by the comp) and then the customer would turn around and leave a hefty tip for the server. I would even confront customers over this – essentially the guest was putting my comp in the server’s pocket.

    Tip share is customary in a restaurant environment. Where I work now we tip out the kitchen (a great idea) at least $2 and the “extra” (expediter/food runner/ gopher) at least $5, Almost all of us exceed those minimums regularly, depending upon how much they helped and how much we made.

    But don’t feel too sorry for the ‘sub-minimum wage’ that servers receive. If you do a good job (and have the right type of personality) you can make much more than any other relatively unskilled job and more than many that are skilled. I consistently take home (after taxes) more per hour than my wife does and she’s a dental hygienist. But- the work is usually seasonal and there are down periods, very much like what any entrepreneur experiences.

    If all establishments decided to work the gratuity into the price of the meal (or paid a higher wage with no tips, what the IRS is hoping for) you would experience a tremendous drop off in quality service. Next time you go into a Wendy’s or McDonald’ (or Walmart or 7-11) try to picture that clerk waiting on you during your next anniversary dinner.

    Brent, when it is included in the check (or left on a credit card) we get that tip, sans taxes, on our next pay check. Every place is different though.

    Bottom line; enthusiastic servers always make good money. Indifferent servers are always complaining about lousy tips. It’s all showbiz.

  2. #2 by Christian on January 24, 2008 - 7:08 pm

    Whoa! What brutally long comment. Sorry.

  3. #3 by logiopath on January 24, 2008 - 8:05 pm

    Maybe the Castle is just too @#$%^&* expensive, so people have all the blood bsucked out of them when the check comes?

  4. #4 by Christian on January 24, 2008 - 8:44 pm

    Well, it could be that as well. It ain’t cheap.

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