Restaurant goers typically tip the way they tip according to attitudes and preconceptions they formed long before they got sat in your section. Real life semi-scientifical studies have shown that who you are waiting on affects your tip a lot more than how well you wait on them. According to the gist of those studies, one could conclude that there’s not much one could do to increase your tip average. One would be wrong, of course, but there is a great deal of truth to it. There’s actually a lot you could do to increase the amount you get to keep out of the stack of cash you count out every night (being an hot chick with big boobies is the best, first thing you can do according to another study), but that’s a subject for another post. Check out Tips For Improving Your Tips if you want that kind of information.
If you’ve ever made the mistake of getting into the Viet Nam War level quagmire that is ‘The Tipping Debate’ with someone who does not share your view that people who work in restaurants deserve to get paid just like everybody else, then you probably came away from that exchange feeling like you didn’t get a lot accomplished. Most likely because you didn’t. It’s hard to fight a lifetime of cultural attitudes. You would have better luck trying to convert people to Mormonism. Or a real religion like Scientology.
Occasionally it does happen though. Once in a rare while you will encounter a table that didn’t used to tip that well and now their opinions on the matter seem to have changed. Maybe they got a job at a restaurant for a short time. Maybe they made some friends that work in a restaurant. Maybe they were banging a waitress for a while. Who knows. But I have personally witnessed several cases of bad tippers who have reformed. It happens. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
I’d like to think that I had played a part in the swaying of those hearts and minds but that would just be unwarranted hubris. Sure, I’ve engaged in my fair share of the tipping debate with people, but for some reason never with any of the tables who reformed their tipping practices. They were influenced by outside sources. Or boobies.
Either way, Gold Stars to all those tables out there that have decided to be more generous and easy going than they used to be! Tables like that reinforce the waiting maxim that you should never prejudge a table and always do your best because you never really know how they’ll treat you in the end.
When I started writing this post I had several examples in mind. There was the kinda rednecky but still fun couple who followed me from restaurant to restaurant who were solid 12 percenters and then finally after waiting on them a couple of hundred times they finally got it up to 15 and even sometimes (when they were drunk enough) 20 percent. When they split up they went back to the less than ten percent club, but for a while there they were a good table to wait on. There was also a kinda dorky, D&D playing LARPer couple who didn’t tip well until after they had a kid, which is totally the opposite of the way it normally goes with breeders. And I’m but no means trying to disparage anybody’s hobbies but saying that. I myself am a HUGE science fiction nerd and yes I have played D&D before. But sometimes you look at a guy and you can just tell he owns a medievel replica sword. And that it has a name. Like Dragon Nard or something. No judgements, just statistical probabilities. And then there was this guy that would come in and would leave you three on a $97 check if you were lucky. And you were always lucky. As could be expected, he rarely got top notch service from the servers in that restaurant. Then one day he was sat in my section and I decided to swing for the fences and give him the best service he’d ever had just to see what would happen. I was my most charming, friendly, helpful self and treated him like I’d never met him before or had to pay to wait on him a hundred times. I guided his dining decisions, I anticipated his needs, I did everything any one of us could ever do to make sure he had the best experience possible and I did it all with grace and wit. The result was an astounding 14.9% tip, which was so close to the [old] standard that I counted it in the win column.
The lesson learned, time and time again at so many different places with so many different people, is that any table, on any day, presents its own opportunities, its own hope for a pleasant outcome. Even if you have waited on them a hundred times and they have left you a dollar and a religious pamphlet for a tip, then there is still a possibility that something happened since the last time you saw them that made them see you as a human being, a person, worthy of a 20% tip and . . .
Dignity and Respect
Me, The JerBear
The main inspiration for this post was this guy who I’d waited on several times at several different places. He was a couple of grades behind me in school, and I even had a few classes with his sister. Just to show you how far back I’ve known who this guy was, his mom was my Sunday School teacher back when me grammy would drag me to church. So I knew who he was but I found out later he didn’t really know me. Fair enough, easily understandable. We’ll come back to this.
When he was younger he would come in Chili’s and tip the way teenagers tip. He was never rude or acted stupidly to my knowledge. The only thing bad you could say about him is that when he was younger he tipped like your average teen. Fast forward a few years and now he and his girlfriend are regs at The Sushi Joint. They come in, they eat, they are pleasant to deal with and they tip decently. Not only that but they had gotten in the habit of requesting me.
The other day the hostess comes to the back to tell me that they were sat in my section and that they had requested me again. I wasn’t expecting to hear that because the last time they came in and requested me they were with another couple who had, for some reason, left a dollar and some change on a thirty dollar check.
Having recently found out that we had mutual friends in the business, I felt comfortable enough with them to ask what had went wrong on their last visit. In hindsight this was the WRONG thing to do. The poor guy immediately got defensive and I guess he thought I was impugning his tipping practices, when I was really just asking about what happened with his friend.
Normally I am a very adroit conversationalizer but this time I guess I really dropped the ball. What was meant to be a quick WTF turned into a very uncomfortable and drawn out fiasco. Multiple apologies and assurances of their coolness did nothing to put the genie back in the bottle and assuage the hurt feelings I had stirred up. I felt so bad about it afterwards until I saw the overly generous gratuity they left me. Figuring all was well I didn’t think much more about it until I found out from our mutual friends that I had apparently really pissed him off.
That was not my intent and I have felt terrible about it ever since. Dude, I never meant to insult you and I never wanted you or your girl to feel uncomfortable in a place that you love to eat at so much. Please find it in your hearts to forgive my forwardness.