Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Teach to Tip

Through the course of my life it amazes me how many people can't figure out how to tip. Gratuity is a pretty common thing anymore with most service oriented businesses, and even with it's prevalance, the technique seems to escape a good deal of people. In my business, I am fairly often faced with the situation of sitting and eating with clients in a casual setting while writing a contract, negotiating terms, and so on. Rarely do I let them pay, as it seems to me to be a staple of hosting and continuing my relationship with them. But every so often, they sneak one in there, and tip a crap-ass $3 on a bill running about $28. For the record, yes that is less than 10%. I had someone do it just last weekend. It wasn't particularly bad service. It wasn't stellar five-star stuff, but our food appeared in a timely manner, the server didn't inturrput our conversation, and we were in and out in a shade over a half hour.

Alright I admit that I'm biased. When I was 20, I spent my time as a server and the ever-popular T.G.I. Fridays. On a particular Saturday night, around the 11th hour of what ended up being a 15 hour double shift, I was given the joy of seven 17 year-old teenie boppers. Shit. Anyone who has served knows that this is death. Every single one is going to want something weird about their food. "Uh yeah, like...can I have a burger...but like, instead of the burger I want chicken on it, and crazy stuff on it but I totally want mustard....." and so on. "Hey why not just have a grilled chicken sandwich with only mustard on it?" "Like totally not! I don't want my chicken like, grilled or something!" and so on and so forth. They are all going to want separate checks. Not a big deal, but naturally they will make no mention of this until it's time for them to go, and they are in a hurry, and you have 4 other tables all with screaming kids. Hopefully you get the idea by now. And what really sucks, is the number. A party of 8 in most places is grounds for added gratuity. A nice number of 17 1/2% sounded just fine to me. But no, there were only 7, my manager wasn't budging on the number, and I knew that I was about to bust my hump for next to nothing.

Suck it up and press on. I make my way to the table and introduce myself, trying to hide my utter frustration. All of a sudden, one girl turns to another and very excitedly says "I told you he was going to be out waiter! I told you!" What this? Hmm...Looks like an opportunity to work the room and maybe eek some cash out of this after all. And no, for the record, I'm not too proud.

"Alright ladies, let me first ask you, is this all going to be on one check, or are we going to need them split up?" Let's just get that crap out of the way now.

"What's easiest for you?"

Sweet! "Actually, if you can put them all on one, that's a bit easier, but it doesn't make a difference to me. As long as I know in advance, I can split them up, no problem. " And one check it was. Good deal. Off to a strong start. What's more, none of them wanted anything crazy. Someone asked for a sandwich without onions, someone else wanted some extra dressing. All in all, nothing out of the ordinary that was going to make the cooks in back seek my death.

So the night is sailing along. No hiccups, no bumps, everyone is happy, these girls are flirting like none other, and I'm already counting my tip. Come to find out it's a birthday for one of the girls, so I gather all the guys in the place that night to come sing happy birthday. Then I ask them "So are you just starting out here? Or are you ending up?" They tell me they are just starting out and I ask "Where are you ending up for the rest of the evening?" The response comes back "Don't know...somewhere with you?" Now I was a bold young lad, but I never would have had to guts to put that one out there.

So the night winds down and I offer to take pictures for them, as there are 7 different cameras floating around and no one is left out. Of course not, they wanted me in the pictures. Are these kids for real? Finally I bring them the check for the damage. As luck would have it, my tip tray had on it a picture of me holding my baby sister when she was about 7 weeks old. In the spirit of being bold, several of them asked for the picture. What the hell, I had more, but that one happened to be glued to the tip tray that I really needed. No big deal. They left cash on the table, and all of them gave hugs and little pecks on the cheek before they left. Finally the time came to survey the scene.

$100 even the bill was. No cents. A simple, pure, whole, round number. Figuring and percentage of that should be a simple task. No rocket science here or brain surgery here. But as I started sifting through the money, I was rapidly approaching the bottom of a stack of fives and singles. My concern started to turn to panic when my mind grazed past the idea that there wasn't even enough here to cover the bill. I relaxed when I hit a hundred, but nearly past out to see a single, solitary five dollar bill remaining. These kids hat sat at my largest table for over an hour, I gave them very good service, brining food out quickly and never letting cups sit empty, and in short, did everything I possibly could to give them what ever they wanted it. Five bucks.

My bus boys were so fired up that they were willing to go out into the parking lot and bring them all back in. Much love for feeling my pain, but I couldn't allow that. So I pulled out a chair, had myself a seat, and just caught my breath.

So there's my long and hopefully funny story. And I always thought that for some time, knowing how to leave an appropriate tip has been an important aspect of social life. I guess others don't agree.


Anonymous Ericka said...

From one server to another, I really feel and understand your pain. Aren't you glad those days are over?!

9:06 PM  
Blogger Katrina said...

I am so glad that I never had to serve; I have neither the patience nor the smooth talking ability.

9:04 AM  

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