The Rules

Every restaurant has its rules, and there are rules that apply to every restaurant. There are some things that are true no matter where you go. And I’m not just talking about the simple ones like People Who Pay With Hundreds Usually Tip Like Shit. That’s just a given, so much so that it should be on the first page of every training manual, even the ones for the BOH. Also, it should be a How You Know but it’s just too easy. And done to death elsewhere.

I’m talking about general truthitudes, like:

If you are working shorthanded or several key members of the staff are hungover or otherwise ‘just not feeling it’, then you WILL be slammed out of your ass.

I have seen this happen so many times that I have no doubt of this rule. The restaurant gods can smell weakness and they have fuckall for mercy.  The nights when everybody is literally praying to the restaurant gods for a slow night are the nights when the wait never dies and you run out of everything. Glasses, linens, forks, food. Everything. One night at Outback we ran out of every kind of steak except one. At a steakhouse. Prayers to the restaurant gods get answered. They get answered by them dropping a gigantic Cleveland Steamer on your night.

Or:

If your section gets filled up with a bunch of tables who are waiting for the rest of their party, then ALL of the rest of their parties will ride the same bus to get there and arrive at the same time.

You can’t really expect civilians to comprehend what’s going on around them but sweet jeebus do people miss the fact that all the other tables around them had people show up as well. And then they get impatient and jealous of your attention. This seems to happen more at lunch than at dinner but the idea is the same. Buses run all the time.

Or:

The longer a table who is through eating sits there ignoring their check the more impatient they will be for you to process it once they finally do put their card/cash in the presenter.

The polar opposite of the Hurry Up And Wait idea, these people are in no kind of hurry whatsoever until they deign to pull something out of their wallet. Then all of a sudden they remember that they have an open heart surgery scheduled across town in five minutes that they have to get to and even though they have gruffly told you to leave them alone the last few times you’ve checked in on them this past hour, every second that YOU have wasted doing anything other than running their credit card Right Effin Now is a grievous offense unto god. All the karma and good will you have built up will trickle away along with each grain of sand that falls out of the hourglass. The real life actual hourglass these fuckers carry around with them so they can time how long it takes you to run their card so they can figure out how much to take out of the tip you were supposedly going to get. Okay maybe I’ve never seen a table put a real life hourglass on the table but I’ve seen plenty of mental ones. You can just see the impatience and anxiety building up. You can feel their eyes tracking you before they inevitably roll and they cross their arms and tap their feet. There are signs. There are tells.

There are more rules but for now I’ll leave you with an idea we can all get behind:

 

Dignity and Respect (to restaurant workers!)

Me, The JerBear

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How You Know You Won’t Get A Good Tip #5: Transaction Jackson

Everybody deserves to get a Mulligan every once in a while, especially if they are new to something. First time patrons can certainly be forgiven for not knowing their way to the bathroom or not knowing what time the restaurant closes or not knowing that ‘Soup or Salad’ is a choice and not a Ballin! ass salad.

But some people come in and you would swear they have been cave-next-door neighbors with Bin Laden for the last few years because they stare at their check like a monkey stares at a banana covered in shit. They just have no idea what to do with it.

My favorite type of these is when you present the check to them and they pick it up and stare at it and study it like it’s the friggin Talmud and after much concentratin’ and figgerin’ and cypherin’ they finally manage to put their credit card in the little sleeve. Yay! Everything is [mostly] normal  you think. Then you go to the table to pick up the card to run it and they ask you for a pen.

So they can sign it, you stupid idiot.

They say the first part of that sentence, they think the last part. Trust me, though–that’s what they’re thinking. What YOU are thinking is Fuckstick, YOU aren’t so famous that I want you to autograph your check for me. Let’s try running it first and see what happens.

These people always seem agitated and stressed out. This might be because they actually are agitated and stressed out about something, but it’s more likely due to the Juan Valdez’s donkey-sized Columbian saddlebags full of trucker meth they had consumed prior to dining in your establishment. By the way that would make another  How You Know . . . If your table is so geeked up they make Hunter Thompson look like a sobriety coach then they probably won’t leave you a good tip. In my experience if they are REALLY tweaked out you will be lucky if they don’t short you on the check and merely complain to the manager about everything single thing they can remember or imagine that you did wrong, one category usually significantly outnumbering the other.

So the rule is:

If your table displays ignorance of basic financial transactions (where to pay, who to pay,  how much to pay, if they should pay, etc.), then you will probably say something like ‘You shitbiscuit!’ or ‘Aw, dogfarts! under your breath when you open up the check presenter. You will have reason to.

Dignity and Respect

Me,  The JerBear

P. S. Apologies to all the good people that came to the last comedy show I performed in. I had had a long, hard day. When I asked you if you had ever had a day so long and rough that at the end of it you just wanted to take a nap and a crap and a shower and you just hoped they didn’t all happen at the same time, I was speaking from a place of profound personal truth. You were a good crowd and I got my share of laughs but I didn’t adequately prepare for that gig and I ran out of steam and didn’t give you the JerBear show you deserved. But rest assured knowing that I will close a lot better next time. Probably with a dick joke.

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And You Thought Getting Stiffed Was Bad

This story sucks a big fat veiny donkey cock: Apparently (and allegedly) a waiter in America’s wang, Florida, had his finger broke by an irate customer for the ghastly offense of bringing him the check after the customer’s wife asked for it.  I read about this originally on the Bitter Waitress forum and knew immediately that I would have to write about it.

This is the story I copy/pasted from the Palm Beach Daily News:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A server at Club Colette filed a police report Sunday that stated that resident John Castle became irate with him the previous night and injured the waiter’s hand to the point of breaking his finger, records show.

The 57-year-old server told police that Castle’s wife, Marianne, asked the server for the dinner bill around 9 p.m. Saturday, then directed the server to give it to her husband, the report states.

Castle, 76, of 1095 N. Ocean Blvd., began ranting and called the server a “schmuck” for bringing the bill to the table, the server told police. He also reported Castle grabbed his left hand and began squeezing and twisting his fingers, police said. The server told police he was in pain and went to a walk-in clinic Sunday where an X-ray showed his left ring finger was broken, the report states.

Police took the report as informational, listed the case as open/active and wrote in the report they would take no further action at this time because the server wanted to consult with an attorney, police said. The server also said he would get back with police within a few days, the report said. He declined to comment on the incident but confirmed he would most likely seek legal counsel.

A call to the Castle residence Monday afternoon went unanswered.

Club Colette owner Dan Ponton said his employees do as requested by members and that the club does not have a policy either way about presenting a check at a member’s table.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Let me just say what we are all thinking: Holy Shitballs, Batman! (I know–as a so-called ‘writer’ I am supposed to be able to capture the zeitgeist of the moment and coalesce the vapors of human understanding into verbal symbols and all that but I’ll be damned if I could come up with anything more eloquent than ‘Holy Shitballs’. Sorry, kids:)

When I told my friend Silent Dave (who doesn’t speak much but when he does it’s usually worth listening to) about this, he succinctly said ‘I wish that motherfucker would get sat in my section and try that shit with me.’ Yes Indeed. I personally would give either one of my testicles for the opportunity to wait on this richie asshole, and I love all three of my boys.

In case you didn’t feel like reading an actual reporter’s take on it, I’ll summarize it for you. A FIFTY-SEVEN year old waiter named Paul Kucik  was working at a posh dining club in West Palm Beach when the wife of a customer asked him to bring the check. This was such an egregious breach of protocol that the customer felt within his rights to insult and berate the server, ultimately physically assaulting him and breaking his finger. And from what I’ve been able to read nobody is making any sort of comments and this and it will probably be swept under the rug with a gold-plated broom, which can totally happen when there’s enough money involved. And there is. This guy Castle, whose name I feel safe  pronouncing Cas-hole, is supposedly  famously stinking rich. And not for being a nice guy or inventing something useful or curing cancer either.

Some of the headlines on some of the articles on the internet refer to Paul as an ‘insolent waiter’ and that he gave ‘schmucky service’.  Without a doubt you will read stories about how Paul Kucik is just another bumbling, incompetent waiter who is just trying to blow  this little incident way out of proportion and cash in on the situation. You will read comments about how any man who is 57 years of age and waiting tables for a living obviously just has to be mentally deficient or incompetent. Somewhere someone will write that Castle was justified in standing up for the rights of all of the dining public who have suffered from the mistreatment of rude and insolent servers everywhere.

But these people don’t know Paul.

Hell, I don’t know Paul. I’ve never met the man. I’d like to meet him, but I don’t know anything about him that you don’t know.

I know he is a waiter at a prestigious country club-type fine dining establishment. I know that, generally speaking, the better the quality of establishment the better the quality of staff usually. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he probably didn’t get that job by being terrible at it, or not having experience. I know that Kucik’s ‘crime’ seems to be bringing the check when he was requested to do so. I know his finger was broken. I know he didn’t make too big of a fuss over it, and that shows a lot more poise than I would be showing in the multiple press conferences I would be holding.

I think it sucks that something like this ever happened in modern-day America but I hope that some good at least comes from it. I hope Paul pillages Castle’s bank account like he pillaged all those businesses to get his fortunes, but I also hope that this is so bad that it sheds light on all the injustices that resties suffer through in dealing with hostile customers and managers. I hope that in reading or hearing about this that people who otherwise would not have considered their server to be a human being begin to see them as such. And ultimately I hope Mr. Castle figures out that servers and restaurant workers are worthy of dignity and respect.

But let’s face it–if he’s smart he’s probably not going to want to eat in a restaurant for a long time. You all know my stance on adulterating food, but the idea of this Revenge Of The Nerds/Gollum looking piss monkey grabbing a fellow server’s hand and breaking a finger really just makes my dick itch. If the story next week is that Castle went to a restaurant and ate a twice-used condom salad with a side of Hep C it wouldn’t break my heart.

It’s a good thing Paul’s bird finger wasn’t harmed. I hope it got put to use.

 

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

 

 

 


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Merry Christmas, Bitches! Now Get Up . . .

Wowzers gang I am really, really guilty of ignoring my blog. This is partially due to my kid (who is apparently some half billy-goat/half monkey/ half man child) eating several of the keys off the laptops and partially due to me concentrating on live performances.

‘Yeah,  JerBear, but you could punch out a post here and there, you fat lazy bastard. Your life is so interesting and I want to know more about it’ you might say.

Okay so here’s a quick little bit of holiday cheer that I promised this cool guy I would write about some day:

This happened one year in the week leading up to Xmas, a time in the year when stress levels are high and patience is low. We were fairly busy and this party had been waiting on a couple of tables to open up so they could be sat. The envoy of the party was either restaurant savvy or just plain smart enough to figure out that the situation was that they were waiting on this other, smaller party of young ladies to get up in order to free up the tables they needed to be sat at. The hostesses, who were quite Ballin! at hostessing if I remember correctly, had been informed that the young ladies were finishing up and checks had been dropped. Going by this they sat a few 3 and 4 tops at the other tables getting up that were sprinkled throughout the restaurant instead of saving one and waiting for an adjacent table to get up. The plan was that the ladies would get up shortly and the party would be sat and the other smaller tables would get sat and everybody would get sat as soon as possible and everybody would be happy except the kitchen.

It was a good plan. It was the right plan. It was absolutely the correct course of action.

The only problem was the ladies didn’t know the plan. The hostesses never told them the plan. For some reason they thought they were allowed to sit there and laugh and talk and enjoy each other’s company for a little while at Christmas time at the restaurant they were paying to eat at.

All of this was happening outside of my section so I got to observe from a safe distance as the hostii kept getting more and more frustrated with both of these parties. I kept hearing from the hostesses how much the party at the door wanted to get sat and I kept hearing from the server how the ladies were just camping for spite at this point. The story got juicier when I heard that the envoy from the party at the door finally got tired of waiting on these chicks to get up and went over there to talk to them. I found this out when the server came to the back laughing hysterically and said (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘Haaa!! That guy from the party at the door went  over to my campers and told them ‘Merry Christmas, bitches! Now get your fat asses the fuck up so we can sit down!’ I laughed so hard my tits almost fell off!’

Drama can be quite entertaining when viewed from a distance. I was enjoying watching this little story unfolding, until the hostess threw it in my lap by telling me (and again I’m paraphrasing) ‘Hey you know that crazy motherfucker that went over there and told those campers to get up? Well we’re about to seat them in your section. Have fun with that!’

Great. Since I hadn’t met or talked to any of these people I didn’t really know how to  gauge how they would behave. Generally people who get impatient enough waiting at the host stand to accost another table won’t be very understanding or patient with their server. As far as the other party is concerned, I am of two minds on the matter.

Camping is a bad thing for those of us in the biz. It eats into income by tying up tables that could be sat and made profitable during the limited time a restaurant is open. And the odd table of campers that know they are camping and pay rent for it are even more rare than the table with a small child that eats like Mr. Peepers from SNL and leaves a huge pile of bread crumbs and yogurt chips on the floor and then volunteers to clean it up. In other words it just doesn’t happen.

Naturally I don’t like it when tables camp. But personally and philosophically I feel like a table has a right to take as long as they need to eat, within reason of course. Like bad tips, camping is just one of the things you have to tolerate in this business.

So on one hand I could sympathize with the ladies-they had every right to be there  and if I was them I probably would have thought it was rude if someone came over and told us to GTFU. On several other hands, they really needed to GTFU. We were on a heavy wait, they had stopped eating a long time before the table at the door talked to them, they had been overheard saying that they were going to stay there extra long just to piss that other table off, and their server said they were kinda rude and didn’t tip worth a shit.

Angry tables don’t scare me like they scare some people. I get on stage and tell jokes so I don’t exactly have a normal sense of fear. But I still wasn’t looking forward to meeting and greeting this table that had the gigantic, Jupiter-sized balls to confront another table. Expecting the worst but hoping for the best,  I went over several ideas for what my opening statement should be in my  mind before settling on the following greeting right as I got to the table.

Extending my hand to shake his and smiling as warmly as I could, I said to the envoy of the party ‘Hey I understand you guys had to wait so long to be sat that you went and asked that other party to get up. First of all, I’m sorry you had to wait so long. But secondly, and more importantly, on behalf of servers everywhere I would like to thank you for saying and doing what we never could or would. I promise you that I will make you and your story internet famous.’

As it turns out I didn’t have to  be extra nice or diplomatic with this table. The envoy (and really the entire party) was as cool and nice as they could be. They really were. When he talked to that other party all the envoy did was ask them how much longer they thought they would be, and judging from the way he comported himself throughout the meal I would bet that he did it in the nicest, most nonconfrontational way imaginable. This whole party just oozed niceness. They were sweet people.

And the reason they were in such a hurry to sit down? Pops was getting on in years and physically needed to sit down and get his blood sugar up or something like that. I’m sure they would have waited all night if they could have, but someone in their party had a pressing need to get the party started. The envoy was just looking out for his grandparent and I can totally respect that. It reminded me of when I got to take my grandma out to eat when she was still alive. Being who I am and doing what I do we never really had to wait that long but if she had needed to sit a table and start eating then I, too, would have done anything in my power to make it happen.

So now, publicly and permanently, I applaud and salute the Envoy for nicely asking how much longer that other table was going to stay. You crossed a ‘line’ and did so with class and civility.

 

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

 

NOTE: For the record I don’t think it’s ever really a good idea to confront strangers at a restaurant over something like this. Yeah it’s cool that a table that was camping for spite was asked how much longer they were going to be doing that, which is something we sometimes wish we could do, but ultimately it just caused bad feelings and bad tips for the other server. So I don’t recommend it. As much as we might not like it, campers have the right to stay as long as they want within reason. God I’m going to catch a lot of heat for that but I stand by it:)

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Fire Walking

50th Post! Woo to the Hoo!

I very much appreciate everybody that reads my blog. I’d like to have a beer with each and every one of you. And someday I’d like for one of these blog posts or live performances to somehow make a positive difference in the way restaurant workers are treated and perceived. That really is my mission in life.

Sadly this post will not accomplish any of that.

This time we will be saluting fallen comrades. And instead of departing like most would do, these heroes lifted their two-fisted single-finger salutes to the powers that be and challenged them to by god make them leave.

Whenever I’m talking to someone about all the jobs I’ve been fired from, they will invariably ask this:

‘Nine times? Nine friggin times, JerBear? Nobody gets fired from the same place nine times!’

I’ve heard it before. There are many who doubt my claim that I was fired from the OB nine times. Shit I wouldn’t believe it either if it hadn’t happened to me.

But if you’ve worked in the business long enough you have probably worked with someone who had been kitshanned but was still working there somehow. It’s not all that uncommon. And given that restaurant workers are disposable employees it’s not all that surprising.

Recently a friend of mine underwent the process of getting fired and then coming back to work the next day. I have dubbed this Fire Walking. Anyway my friend, who I won’t call Steve, was told by a rookie manager that he was fired and to clock out and leave the restaurant. Since all he was guilty of was trying his best not to eat too much shit when the rook manager was chewing him out for some minor bullshit (And really is ANYTHING that could happen in a restaurant major enough to warrant yelling at an employee in front of customers or anybody?), my friend was back to work the next day.

One could argue that Steve was never actually fired if he was allowed to come back to work the next day. I would disagree.

I feel like it counts if you are told by your boss that you’re fired. And getting told to immediately leave the premises is like the field goal kick–yeah you get extra points for it but it doesn’t change the outcome of the game very much. If your boss is capable of firing you and tells you that you are fired and then tells you to clock out and leave, then: Dude, your ass just got fired.

No matter how soon you start back to work, you still get to chalk one up in the fire column. Even if you start back to work the next week, the next month, or the next day. Even if the worst thing that comes from it is a good story and getting an early start to the nightly post-shift festivities, you still got canned.

Getting fired is a bad thing. It can be a life-changing, personal and financial tragedy. So many people lose their jobs every day that there’s almost nothing funny about it. It’s just not a happy thing.

But out of all those people getting fired, a percentage (that I don’t care to research) will be restaurant workers. And out of all those fired restaurant workers a percentage will have been a casualty of indiscriminate firing practices. And out of those I know for a fact that an even smaller percentage will be able to return to work after their manager comes down from his coke bender and realizes it will be more trouble than it’s worth to fill out the paperwork explaining why Steve-O should be fired for just standing there letting the manager throw plates at him while calling him racial slurs, or whatever the ‘reason’ was.

If getting told I was fired but not having to fill out new paperwork each time doesn’t count as getting fired then my real fire count at Outback is really only four times. Maybe even three. I don’t know for sure. I filled out a lot of paperwork at Outback, especially considering how my file would mysteriously disappear from time to time. But still . . . three times! That’s something to be proud of.

Oddly enough I got fired at least four of those times on my day off. Yes, just like in that movie. Only it actually happened.

I was working in the kitchen during my second tour at the Outback and the KM, Dan, was a fat useless fuck who didn’t like me too much. And the feeling was mutual. The schedule had a nasty habit of changing right after I went home. I was going to school at the time all day Tuesday and Thursday so those were the only two days I was unavailable to work. You know where this is going. Several times I would clock out Monday night, go to school all day Tuesday, come in for my next shift on Wednesday night and I would hear the words ‘What are you doing here? You got fired yesterday!’

Sometimes it would be a coworker that told me how I got fired the day before, sometimes it would be Dan. Which would always beg the question ‘How the fuck do you get fired on your day off?’

A reasonable response in my estimation. My school schedule was provided on numerous occasions and it wasn’t exactly top-secret, nor was it difficult to work around. I had two whole days out of the week that I absolutely could not work but I was available every other shift of every other day. Yet at four different times the schedule changed without any sort of notification and an X was penciled in next to my name and a shift I couldn’t work and I would come in for my next scheduled shift and be told by the KM that I had been fired the day before.

It really got to be comically stupid after a while.

It wasn’t so comical the other times, though. They were mostly the result of pinky-dicked managers losing their shit and going stark raving mad and then firing me for reasons even they had trouble identifying afterwards.

For example one Fire Walk happened when the general manager at the time and I were debating some completely unimportant topic and he flew into a rage during the middle of a serving shift told me I was fired and that he wanted me to leave his restaurant Right Now. I didn’t know what went wrong. I didn’t know what I did wrong. All I knew was that I had been caught in the blast radius of a manager meltdown. And that manager wanted me, above all else, to clock out and leave Right Now.

‘Right now?’ I asked. ‘Are you sure? But I don’t even know what I did wrong.’

‘Yes I’m sure! Clock out and get out of my restaurant before I call the cops!’

So I did. Maybe two hours later I got a phone call from the batshit crazy, bitter bastard. Anybody who is familiar with serving and was paying attention to the last little bit should be able to guess what that phone call was about.

I did exactly as instructed and left immediately. What I didn’t do was my checkout paperwork or turn in my money. This jackass fired me for no reason, told me to leave Right Now, and had the nerve to demand that I bring ‘his’ money back to him (again Right Now), or else he’d call the cops and tell them I had stolen it.

I told you he was crazy, but don’t take my word for it. One of the reasons he was so unstable and bitter was that his girl had the good sense to go all Nancy Reagan on his ass when he proposed and she just said No. After that I guess the kid just didn’t have any room left in his ego to be wrong about anything, ever. Plus he had a tiny dick. She was quite vocal on that point.

But even if he had called 20 minutes after I left (I lived 15 minutes away) instead of a couple of hours, my response would have been the same: ‘Boss, I am in no way sober enough to drive right now. I’ll have to bring it to you tomorrow.’

‘No! Call a cab if you have to but if you don’t bring me my money back tonight you’re fired! And I’m going to call the cops!’ The guy was all about dropping some dimes.

‘Wait . . . I thought I was fired. You know, cause you told me like five times.’

‘Yeah well just bring me that money. I really need that money. I need it-‘

‘I know: Right Now.’

‘Yeah. Or I’m-‘

‘You’re going to call the cops. Yeah, I get it. I’ll be there in a little bit.’

So that was Fire Walk number five. Six through eight would be thanks to the infamous New Sheriff’s similar emotional meltdowns.  He would go apeshit and fire me. Then I would just call the GM and get myself unfired because he knew what a psychotic piece of shit his AM was.

Number nine came at the hands of Jerry ‘The Child Rapist’ Blott. I’m not saying Jerry Blott was a child rapist, but the sixteen year old hostess he unsuccessfully tried to foist himself on sure is. Jerry actually used to be an alright guy when he was a floating manager. Then his particular blend of mental imbalance caused his girlfriend to leave him (anybody seeing a pattern here?) and his full dickness came out. One day I came in when the place was short-staffed and in the shit so bad nobody could even answer the phone. At the end of the night I made the mistake of asking Jerry (‘The Child Rapist’) Blott to comp my employee meal. This angered him for some reason and he refused to do it and I refused to pay full price for my food. So he fired me from my key manager position by demanding that I give him my key Right Now, stating that I didn’t ‘deserve’ it. Okay, whatever man.

I got another job and they kept intentionally scheduling me on the days I requested off to train for that other job, so in the end I was fired for trying to quit on good terms. Sheesh.

Getting fired is never fun, but if you work in this business long enough you will eventually work under some unhinged individuals who will fire you for anything and everything. It’s almost a rite of passage.

And if you can walk through the fire and not get burned and still have a job, I think that shows you are doing something right.

Fire Walkers we salute you!

 

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

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You Won’t Come Back

Just when I start to think I have run out of things to bitch about, just when I start to think I’m too hard on the general public, I get to bask in the musky odor of a brand new flavor of bullshit.

Okay to be fair this isn’t really all that new. I’ve seen similar situations happen to other people, but this one had a slight variation in the overall stupidity of it.

The Other Day* our new and awesome hostess warned me that the lady she just sat me with was a rude bitch. Believing that anybody has the right to feel frustrated and stressed out after a day’s work and said stress can make people appear angry or rude, I took it as a special challenge to treat this table well and make sure they left happy. They enjoyed their food, smiled a lot and had no complaints. When they were finished enjoying their Eastern delights** the wife left and the guy was charged with the task of paying the bill, which turned out to be a duty way above his pay grade.

Their check had been down about five minutes and I went in the BOH to get a drink refill or something and when I came out I saw the guy at the host stand trying to pay the hostess. This is so commonplace it blows my mind. Pay Your Server isn’t written in a lot of places in my restaurant but it just seems obvious (to me at least) that you should pay the person who brought you your bill. I realize that there are lots of different restaurants out there that process payments differently, so leeway must be given in this regard. But that’s where my sympathies ended for this asshole.

Right before I got to the host stand to get this guy’s money, he had already paid the hostess. His check was something like $37.11 and he gave her $38.26, but he couldn’t figure out why he was only getting back a dollar and three nickels. Hell I can’t really blame him. We couldn’t figure out WHAT the fudge the thought process was behind that exchange.

So instead of, I don’t know, leaving any sort of tip whatsoever, he takes his dollar and starts walking out the door. He kept saying ‘I left my money out in the car. I’ll be right back to give you a tip.’ And ‘I’m definitely going to leave you a tip. I’ll be right back.’

What I thought was: Yeah right, you purple dickvein-looking lanky banjo-plucking sister-fucking shit shoveling hillbilly. You won’t come back.

What I said was: ‘Okay. Sure.’

As soon as he got out the door, I thought about what I SHOULD’VE said, which was: ‘Okay. Sure. I’ll even follow you out to your car so you don’t have to go through the trouble of having to walk back in. It’s no problem at all.’

So in the future (you know-later), if a table ever tries to tell me my tip is out in their car and they’ll be right back with it again, I will totally be glad to follow them out to their car so they don’t have to come back in the restaurant. So that I could provide the very best service possible, of course.

The tip would be the same either way but I will at least get the satisfaction of calling them out on their bullshit to their face. If you are going to stiff me, that’s one thing. I’m sure you have your reasons, though I would question their legitimacy. But don’t lie to my face just because you feel stupid for not being able to figure out simple economic transactions and you don’t have the huevos to own up to it. Satan’s Ex would never lie and say she would come back with a tip for you. She would just come in and bitch about everything to your face, demand an endless stream of thises and thats, and stiff you every time. And then she would come back the next day and look you in the eye and do it all over again. But she didn’t make spurious promises.

Damn, dude. You just made Satan’s Ex look good in comparison.

Thanks for not having, for me or yourself, any . . .

 

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

*The Other Day refers to one of the three days on the Hippy Calendar, which are: The Other Day, Right Now, and Later. Yeah, you know you’ve told someone a story about something that happened ‘the other day’ and it turned out it was yesterday. You hippy.

**Not actual menu items. This was, naturally, an homage to Eastern Delights, widely considered the Citizen Kane of Bukakke films. You know you’ve seen it. You pervo.

EDIT:

In an ironical turn of events, almost the exact same thing happened just last night. This cool and polite young couple had issues with their card and had to pay part of their bill with cash. Their last bit of cash. Which left nothing for poor little old me. The guy explained that he had more money at his house and that he would be right back with my tip.

I just smiled and told him it was okay and that this had just happened recently. I had a different feeling about this guy though, and I told him so. He said that he had worked in a restaurant before and confirmed my suspicion.

He promised several times that he’d be back and then he left. I was an early out so I even left. But shortly after I left I got a call from the same new awesome hostess saying that he had indeed came back.

Let me just say publicly: Thanks, Dev. Gold Star to you! You are apparently a man of your word, and that is a good thing. You didn’t have to come back that night but you did. Your display of character and courtesy did a lot for my faith in humanity.

J

 

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Tip Reform

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

 

Post Script:

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.

 

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The Clean Slate

Okay that last post was kinda pissy and whiny. I’ll own up to it. I’m chalking it up to the axiom ‘Write What You Know’. We’ll talk about something cool and happy in this post though . . .

Every day is a new day, especially in a restaurant. For some reason people who work in restaurants can get mad as hell at each other, going as far as screaming and cussing at each other, and then the next day they will laugh and joke around like nothing had ever happened. Everybody gets a clean slate. Every day.

This phenomenon is most likely due to the close-in, pressure cooker work environment of a slammed food service facility. DARPA and NASA have done more studies on the psychological effects of people working together in tight, overcrowded, high-pressure living/working quarters than I care to research in order to reference. I’ll sum up their findings for you: the longer  human beings are cooped up with one another in small spaces, the more they will be at each other’s throats. Submariners and astronauts deal with this every day.

So do us resties. We just don’t get to fire missiles. Or walk in space. Meh. We do get margaritas and a meal comp though.

This psychological effect can be so detrimental that it’s one of the biggest impediments to long term space voyages. There have been several missions where the astronaut crew became openly hostile towards each other and even revolted against ground control. And don’t even ask about all the shit that went down on Mir. The Russians had a habit of leaving their cosmonauts up there for LONG periods of time. I think they still have the endurance record, too, which goes to show what a shithole their country was that people would be willing to stay caged up in a decade-old VW bus in space for so long.

Sub crews get shore leave every six months or so, so they at least get to let off a little steam. Restaurant workers get shore leave every night. And we let off a lot of steam. And that’s why I think we get a clean slate every day.

Don’t get me wrong: the clean slate won’t cover heinous misdeeds. If you suck at your job and are causing problems for your coworkers and on top of it being a dick about it, then they will probably still be frustrated with you the next day. But generally speaking a fellow server can yell at you one night for accidentally taking their app out of the window and running it to your table because you didn’t read the ticket and assumed it was yours, and the next night you two could be sharing your last Camel Light out on the back dock and they’ll say ‘Hey, how’s your mom?’ and before you can answer their heartfelt inquiry into the general well-being of your mother they’ll say ‘Cause I thought she was pretty good, a real giver.’

And it will all be okay because your slate is clean from the night before, and tomorrow your friend’s slate will be clean for talking smack about your mama.

You gotta love it:)

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

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The Auscars

The other day I talked to a restaurant manager friend of mine. I noticed that he kept a plaque on his desk that these high school students he used to teach gave him in recognition of his awesomeness. It reminded me of this really odd awards ceremony I went to one time.

Way back when, at a manager meeting at Outback, I posited the idea of a recognition meeting/award ceremony as a low cost way of recognizing and motivating the staff.  This kind of suggestion was nothing new coming from me. I had originally requested that my business cards they had printed up for me list my job title as ‘Levity Coordinator’ because I was always trying to make it a fun place to work. But nobody at home office had any idea what the hell that was (Mostly because it was just some shit I made up but it at least sounds like a fun job, right?). I was also the dumbass who suggested that instead of having just one key manager at our store (me at the time), that we should cross train some folks and have a whole army of keys.

Both of those ideas were well-received and well-implemented. One of them was at least. The GM really liked the awards ceremony idea even though he went with calling it something banal like ‘The Outbacker Awards’ instead of what I first suggested, ‘The Auscars.’ Even though I wasn’t aware we had the AwFuckIt Budget for it, he even decided to have nice little plaque trophies made instead of the framed certificates I’d had in mind.

Since the idea was to give out a lot of awards I didn’t think too much about who would be getting what. I figured the half dozen keys, the handful of trainers, the people who had been there a while and the bartenders would all stand a good chance of getting a plaque. And I was right.

Truth be told I secretly hoped I would be getting a super cool kind of award for ‘Most Hooley-Dooley Outbacker’ or something cheesy and sweet like that. I had never before gotten any sort of award like employee of the month or anything like that. I was runner up on several occasions at a few different jobs but for some reason any sort of public recognition for a job well done had always eluded me. There was that one time when there was talk of making me employee of the month at the OB but since I was on the committee that decided it I felt it would be a heinous breach of propriety if I gave it to myself. That kinda sucked for me because I really wouldn’t have minded somebody somewhere saying ‘Hey, You Kick Ass! We appreciate your years of experience here at this company. And your hard work. And dedication. And this little plaque is proof of it.’

My point in adding these details is not to make you think I am a desperate attention seeker who needs the approval of others in order to function. I mean, I am an attention seeker. I’m just not desperate. I didn’t stay up late at night dreaming of winning the coveted Outback Of The Month award. But to be honest-no matter shallow or stupid it might have been-I was kinda expecting to get an award at this awards ceremony.

In addition to being one of the few people that had opened the restaurant and were still there, as well as being of the the trainers, and as well as being the oldest key manager, I had been told several times by the GM and the asshole new sheriff AM that I needed to be at that meeting.

As in ‘Hey are you going [to the meeting]?’

‘Yeah, I sure will.’ It was kinda my idea after all. Of course I would be there.

‘Okay just make sure you’re going to be there.’

This exchange happened four or five times in the week leading up to it, almost verbatim each time. I sensed there was some great practical joke going on, like one of them was going to take a shit on my windshield or something while I was at this thing. Either that or they had some special award they were going to give me for being so hooley dooley. Had to be the Hooley Dooley Award though. Had to be.

So the day of the First (and last) Annual Outbacker Awards arrives. Since it was basically just an all employee meeting, everybody that worked there was crowded into one side of the dining room.

I sat at my table eagerly anticipating finally getting an award for something. I applauded with genuine enthusiasm as my friends and colleagues received their wood and etched metal attaboys for various categories. I applauded when each group of employees that I belonged to got awards.

I clapped as every single member of the staff that had opened the place and was still working there individually got a plaque. Every one but me. That’s okay I thought. I’ll get mine later.

I clapped as every single trainer got handed a plaque with their name on it. Every one but me. That’s okay I thought. I’ll probably get one later.

Then towards the end of the show, after sixty to eighty percent of the staff had gotten a plaque, I clapped as every single key manager each got their awards. Again, every one but me. Wow that’s odd. I really thought I would get one with all the other keys. I guess they’re saving mine for last I thought. They must really be planning a special way of showing me how much they valued me as an employee.

Then the show was over.

I still clapped, albeit with noticeably less spirit. Now people please don’t think that I’m filled with bitterness because I never got a stupid award from my place of employment. I am, however, filled with an abundance of What The Fudge when I think about all the times the managers personally insisted that I be there. It was kinda like they threw a party just to publicly say ‘Fuck You’ to me.

And I wasn’t the only one who felt painfully awkward because of the absence of recognition for one of the most prominent members of the staff. I had trained a lot of the people that had gotten plaques that day and they, too, felt like it was an egregious oversight not to give me one as well. What was supposed to be a light-hearted and fun way to make everybody feel appreciated wound up leaving a bitter and uncomfortable taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Way to go, Outback Management! Yet another example of the childishness and shittiness that people are capable of when they have zero accountability. But then again what do expect from people that cancel your health insurance while you’re trying to recover from tumor removal surgery and give you in its place a leather jacket with the OB logo on it?

Again, the purpose of this post isn’t to cry Oh Poor Me. I’ve already got plenty of those. I just want to recount another effed-up tall restaurant tale that happens to be 100% true. If I hadn’t been a prominent member of the crew or if I just sucked at my job or if the kids in charge of the award selection hadn’t insisted that I be there so many times, I would think nothing more of it. But the circumstances of it and the way it went down just made me think Oh. Okay. I get it. But who looks like the bigger asshole here? I never spoke of it again after that until I saw my friend’s plaque the other day.

From what I later saw with my own eyes and from what a lot of people told me, many of those plaques wound up in the garbage. Though I appreciated the sentiment I thought they should keep them. They earned them, even if ‘I’ apparently didn’t.

Managers, please treat your employees with . . .

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

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How You Know You Won’t Get A Good Tip #4: The Deafening Silence

What can you infer from a table that just will not speak to you no matter how friendly and accessible you try to be? At best, you can infer that they’re assholes, or maybe just socially inept. But chances are that . . .

IF YOU HAVE TO DRAG EVERY MONOSYLLABIC GRUNT OUT OF YOUR TABLE . . . then you won’t be going out for brandy and fine Cuban cigars with their tip. More like room temperature PBR tallboys and some Pall Malls.

Like all the other helpful guidelines in the How You Know series, this one for the most part boils down to the psychology of self-esteem. People who don’t believe in themselves don’t ‘believe’ in what they’re saying, so they tend to mumble and speak softly or meekly. And if there is a recurring theme in the How You Know series it’s People Who Don’t Like Themselves Won’t Like You And You Won’t Get A Good Tip.

An addendum to this is sometimes you’ll see a not-so-loving couple where the woman is apparently not allowed to speak before or without the permission of the ‘man’. This particular situation bothers me on a personal level. I’ve gone up to so very many tables, asked them what they wanted to drink, looked directly at the lady for her answer, and had the guy blurt out ‘I wunt uh Bud Liught and uh Co-Coluhh!’. The lady will look down, no doubt contemplating some kind of genital-mutilating, bed-burning  murder/suicide as her only way out of her miserable existence with the dipshit she paired up with, then she’ll look up at her man. Once he gives his silent approval for her to speak she’ll order the only thing she won’t get bruises for later, which is a water. I’ve seen this happen so many times it almost feels like my job is a crappy video game and the game designers got tired of inventing new characters for me to wait on so they just slapped new faces on the same bitter, dysfunctional couple I’ve been waiting on for years. The sad thing is that the same thing happens when it comes time to order their mains. He will order the steak and lobster and she gets the chicken . . . seizure sallitt.

If the silence isn’t caused by poor self-image or an uncomfortable relationship then it can be attributed to people building emotional walls around themselves. Some people don’t speak to you because they don’t want to make a connection to you as a person, so that they won’t feel bad when they leave you 2 on an $80 check (and trust me they won’t). Maybe they’re just assholes who don’t tip. Who really knows. But it’s a fact that some customers will go as far as not even making eye contact with you in order to avoid making any sort of personal connection with you, no matter how minute it might be.

It’s possible that maybe I’M the asshole in this equation. Maybe some people just don’t like me, and that’s why they don’t talk to me. I’m sure that’s been true on a couple of occasions. But I’ve observed plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that silence is a bad thing.

 

Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear

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