Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wait Here -- Godot

I used to be a waitress (back in the halcyon days of my youth). In fact, waitressing put me through college and graduate school. As an English Literature undergraduate major, finding jobs that allowed me to just read books all day was not possible, so waitressing arrived as the next best option. I worked in a Howard Johnsons, in various sandwich shops and family restaurants, in a vegetarian jazz club coffee house and in a fancy tea room. The uniforms may have varied, the menus may have been vastly different, but the clientele was always the same -- by that I mean that they were always "The Source of Income". In America, the minimum wage laws do not apply to waitresses. It is common, even today, to find waitresses earning a dollar or two an hour from their job...depending entirely on tips.

I am an elaborate tipper. For minimally good service, I pay about 20%. A waitress has to be downright horrible to earn leess than that from me. For extra fine service, I pay extra fine tips. If I do not have enough cash to tip, I do not dine out. Tipping in America is not an optional expense, although it is a variable one.

And, like all waitresses, I have my stories to tell about bad tippers - people who "stiffed" me (i.e. left without tipping). There are certain groups known to be bad tippers among waitresses. They are (and yes, there are exceptions -- but one always braced onesself when these groups sat down).

1. A family with multiple children. They may not abandon without a tip, but you can be sure they will make a lot more mess and a lot more demands than other customers and will not factor that in. I even had a woman change her baby's diaper in a booth and hand it to me to throw out. And then tipped 10%.

2. Groups of women. Sigh.

3. Church Groups - these are probably the worst. I once had a group of 20 at a large table. They left me a stack of Bible pamphlets and a pre=printed envelope that said they knew it was easy to store up money in our earthly homes, but that they had a far better treasure for me in the envelope -- and inside was an invitation to worship with them. No tip. None. One hell of a messy table. Lots of trips back and forth. No tip. I went back to the wairess break room and just cried. I was 23 and had bills to pay. My landlady was not going to accept some Bible leaflets as rent.

4. Then there are the innocents -- the first time visitors to the US who may not know that the gratuity is not included in the bill. I tried noting their bills "service non compris" until one man yelled at me "What do you think I am, madame, Stuuuuuuuupid?"

Well, that was long before the internet, Now there are some great sites to vent ones spleen... where waitresses file public complaints about bad tippers and call them out by name! where an urban waiter has his say. where the quest for justice continues.


Blogger samtzmom said...

I've always been a generous tipper too Mata, as I know that they depend on their tips to live doing that job. I especially reward those who make sure Sam is taken care of in terms of extra biscuits, etc. I generally never give less than 20% either, and have at times given much more. Nothing worse in my mind than those who will get out their calculators and figure their 12-15% to the penny and even leave the exact amount with change. ACK!

4:34 PM  
Blogger The Harbour of Ourselves said...

Such a different ball game over here! My poor old dad first travelled to the States when he was 70 - he just couldn't understand why we had to leave so so much extra than the bill was...bless

4:10 AM  
Blogger mister tumnus said...

my first (and only as yet) time in the states and i totally forgot to tip the barlady who reminded me in the most pleasant of ways....


3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the GREAT sounding Potato Soup recipe. I will certainly try this.
I enjoyed your tip spot as well, I try to tip well myself! Samtzmom's Mom

4:01 PM  
Blogger The Carpathian Peasant said...

What I never liked was being with someone who liked to throw their weight around, like sending back food that was perfectly all right on a whim.

I once thanked a waitress and was told by one of my companions that "You don't thank the servants."

I still cringe at some of these memories, and, of course, no longer associate with the people.

Off topic Mata, I sent you an email to the address you gave me. I hope you find it.


8:56 PM  

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