Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Time When Tips Die

The time that passes from when I finish my meal to when I receive my tab is the time that good tips die. It's a time when good waiters show their attentiveness and earn rewards, and bad waiters cost themselves money I would have been happy to give.

I'm a patient diner and a generous tipper. Where else in your economic life can an adjustment of a couple dollars either way have a direct impact on the happiness level of a hard-working person? On a $15 bill, I can be an ass for $2, a decent human being for $3, a good guy for $4 and a working class hero if I don't insist on getting a measly buck back from my $20. Most days, I'll invest in some good karma.

I don't blame waiters for mediocre food, I don't blame them for long preparation times, and I'm not fussy about whether my water glass is refilled every time I take a sip. I get annoyed with them for not having a clue about their beer list, but the problem is so widespread I assume there must be some union rule forbidding them from knowing what malted beverages are available, so I grudgingly forgive even that incompetence. Unless I see them hanging around chatting with coworkers, I assume they're working hard and doing their best.

But my patience lasts only until my plate is empty, or moved to the side. At that time, I expect the waiter to notice, ask whether I want dessert or another beverage, and begin preparing the tab. That is the time period that most impacts the size of my tip.

A couple weekends ago, we had pizza for Saturday lunch at an "upscale" pizzeria in Brookside. The food was better than I had been led to expect (including some inventive salads), and their beer list included Magic Hat #9, so the stage was set for a generous tip. But we became invisible to the waitress when the pizza was shoved to the side. With laser-like focus, she swooped in to seat take orders from tables near us, without even a sideways glance at the table she had already served.

To me, that is like serving a dessert with a roach in it after a fine meal. It ruins what has come before. A pleasant 35-40 minute lunch has been capped off with a 10 minute annoyance of trying to pay for it. Her tip reflected my annoyance, and she probably figured she had gotten stuck with a lousy tipper. 10 minutes earlier, she would have been pleasantly surprised.

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Blogger Marc Cote said...

In cases like that, I will always pull the manager aside and give them feedback on better training their wait staff. How that feedback is received by the manager determines whether I return.

11/19/2009 7:58 AM  
Blogger Midwest Kitchen said...

I think this type of feedback would make this establishment feel "blue". I think that you should contact them at least by email, as Marc said, to make them aware to tighten up their training, but alas, no email contact on their site. Phone is good but email is just as necessary.

11/19/2009 9:18 AM  
Anonymous BeerBen said...

One must be careful that he or she is not crossing the line between expecting decent service and believing the server is one's own indentured servant. For every story about some slacker server who does not attend to their customers, there are at least double (i suspect) the amount of stories of prima donna customers who treat their servers like a fleck of dirt.

11/19/2009 7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couple arrested for failure to pay tip

11/19/2009 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Your Better Angels said...

You are a pretentious sot Dan.

11/20/2009 7:27 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marc and Midwest - don't you think the management would be observing what is happening on their floor if they cared?

BeerBen - I agree. Two separate problems, I think, though.

Anonymous - What a wild story. It seems like if anyone mentioned in it had an ounce of common sense, everyone would be happier.

Your Better Angels - A pretentious sot? You are absolutely correct, and now that you've pointed it out, I'm shaken to the core and I hate myself. Thank you for changing my life with your thoughtful commentary. Please keep up your valuable work of anonymously attacking people. The world will never improve if people like you aren't selflessly and anonymously saying mean things to people.

11/20/2009 7:40 AM  
Blogger Midwest Kitchen said...

I just wouldn't assume management knows anything and would at least give them a chance to show if they care or not. There are lots of reasons why a manager wouldn't have been on the floor at any given time.

Posting the story shows you had enough of an experience to put it out here so why not at least let the owners/managers be aware.

Stuff happens and I even saw a story yesterday about a customer who ordered a meal from an airstream kitchen in the North West and they served a burnt dessert and his burgers had no top buns. The customer posted the oversight on their facebook page and the owners were glad to hear from him as they realized their mistake but could not track him down before he left. Letting them know allowed them to correct the problem. My two cents since I have been on both side of the fence and maybe you have too.

11/20/2009 8:35 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Well stated, Midwest. I'll email them.

11/20/2009 8:46 AM  

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