Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Waiting on Godot (Rant Included)

by Sariah S. Wilson

Probably one of the worst things about being a writer is the inability to stop yourself from eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.

To start off, today was a busy day for us. We had Christmas pictures taken of the children (and I think they will be in two weeks from now, which means I might get an actual BEFORE Christmas postmark date on my Christmas cards. This is a new high for me), then we went to pick out our Christmas tree (slim pickings this year, but the house is filled with the pine scent that always makes me think of Christmas. I don’t know how people do fake trees. I LOVE real Christmas trees), got back in time to talk to an eBay trading assistant I found (which is great stuff if you’re someone like me. You have all this stuff sitting around your house which you would like to sell on eBay. You could donate it, but you’re thinking maybe you could make a little bit of money selling it which would help this time of year, but heaven forbid you actually do the work of posting it and shipping it. Hence, the eBay traders. They come to your house, pick up the stuff and do all the hard work for a percentage of the profits. So worth it to me), had enough time to have a small break before we headed out to Frisch’s Big Boy (in Southern California where I grew up it was Bob’s Big Boy and it seems very strange to me to call it Frisch’s).

I didn’t notice the couple sitting behind us until they got up to leave. They said my daughter was so beautiful (which she, humbly enough, totally is). I smiled and thanked them.

A few minutes later I overheard the waitress who had served them complaining to a co-worker. Instead of leaving her a tip, they had left her coupons. A Folger’s coffee coupon, one for Toaster Scramblers, and a third for Sara Lee pie.

I worked as a waitress when I took a semester off of school. It was my second job (I lost so much weight that summer/fall because I literally did not have time to eat. I worked an 8 to 5 and then had to get to my waitressing job by 6 and worked non-stop until midnight, went home and did it all over again. It seems sort of ironic that you wouldn’t eat if you worked in a restaurant, but there was never time). It was a Mexican restaurant, and the music was a combination of pop songs and Spanish songs. I remember singing along to Spanish songs where I didn’t even know what the words were, but darned if I didn’t know every single word. (I always have extreme sympathy now when I go anywhere that has a recurring loop over the loudspeakers. It is the worst to never be able to get away from repeating music.)

I remember several things from that job. I remember spilling a beer all over a very drunk man. That didn’t go over well. I had a couple of women who decided they wanted their meal for free, and they complained about me to the manager although I hadn’t done anything wrong. I remember serving my family when they came in to see me “at work.” I remember the nice Texan man with the big cowboy hat who tipped me $50 because I was nice to his mother. I remember the family of five that left me a note saying how much they had enjoyed my service.

I also remember that I routinely got shortchanged in my tips. Some people don’t like to leave tips, and I think those who leave the biggest ones are those who waited tables themselves. (One of my roommates in college complained that she had it worse in Provo – that quite a few people automatically tipped 10% like tithing.)

This one time I was assigned to the smoking section, which I hated working in. I hated breathing in the smoke, I hated the way my hair and clothes would smell. So one Saturday afternoon I waited on a couple who were the only people in the smoking section. I took very, very good care of them and really did go the extra mile because I had no other distractions. Their bill came to $19.89. They gave me a $20 bill. I brought them back their change. They left, and I went to get my tip. There sat the eleven cents. The vividness of this memory should show how crestfallen I was. All that work, and I got eleven cents. I usually made $2.14 an hour, and that hour I had made a whole $2.25. (Plus, when you report to the IRS, I was instructed to only enter in half the amount of my daily tips because the IRS figures you’re lying and doubles the amount. I was very worried that they wouldn’t believe my eleven-cent tip.)

I’ve had friends that didn’t want to tip because the waiter is “doing their job.” Yes, they’re doing their job, but part of the tacit agreement (IMO) in eating at a restaurant is that you will tip the waiter for serving you the food. Of course the tip is a sliding scale where you would tip less for poor service and more for excellent service. If you don’t want to tip someone, get carryout or fast food. But regardless of whether or not it’s “someone’s job,” everyone’s time is worth more than three grocery store coupons or eleven cents.

Okay, ranting done.


8 Comments:

At 12/09/2007 6:29 PM, Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

I'm sympathetic to servers who don't get tipped right.

At the same time though, they are just doing their job. The real injustice is that they're not paid what their labor is worth by their employer. Customers should have to tip servers; servers shouldn't need the tips to survive.

 
At 12/09/2007 6:30 PM, Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Er, customers shouldn't have to tip servers...

 
At 12/09/2007 9:05 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Unfortunately, if servers were paid their worth by the employer, the customers would still be the ones paying for it. Recently here in Ohio they raised the minimum wage, and they interviewed quite a few local eatery type businesses who all said the same thing - they were going to raise the price of their food significantly to cover the cost of the wage raise. So I think the employers would figure the cost into the food, and we'd still end up paying for it.

I almost think I'd have rather been stiffed all together (as I was many times) than be given a paltry amount that feels like a criticism on my performance. And I think I would have gone a little crazy if someone had ever left me coupons as a tip. :)

I don't know how far back the whole concept of tips go, but I know in the early 19th century it was very common to tip the servants who took care of you when you stayed in someone else's home as a guest. They were called vails. I think I read somewhere that goes as far back as medieval times (the era, not the restaurant).

 
At 12/10/2007 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd happily pay much higher prices for food if it meant I knew the servers were being paid a living wage and not feeling like they had to grovel for the merciful kindness of patrons. I've never waited tables myself, but I have seen some people in restaurants act horribly toward the staff, and the staff just has to put up with demeaning treatment in the hopes of a tip.
I don't think I've ever received service poor enough that I would skip leaving a tip. It would have to be pretty darn bad.

 
At 12/10/2007 1:30 PM, Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Like Sariah said, we the customes are paying either way. It wouldn't make much difference.

 
At 12/10/2007 5:03 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

There were two times my husband and I didn't leave a tip. The first was when the waitress only brought half our order then ducked out a side door where we could see her making out with a guy in a car parked not far from the window. We had to go bang on the counter to get someone to even bring us our check. The other time was when my husband ordered his steak medium well done and it was brought to him bloodier than the medium rare I like and mine wasn't even warmed through. My husband sent his back to be cooked more, a long time later it was delivered burned to a crisp. Chunks of black fell off when he tried to cut it and the waiter was snippy and rude. We generally tip 15% for average service, twenty for excellent, and ten for less than average service or cafeteria style where the waitress only delivers drinks to the table. For the most part, I find most waiters and waitresses do an excellent job. It's other tipping situations that confuse me. The baggers at the grocery store where I shop will be fired if they accept tips while some places baggers expect a dollar per bag. And what about hairdressers? I try to be generous, but have no idea what others do. In some areas even the garbage man expects a tip!

 
At 12/11/2007 1:10 PM, Anonymous jared said...

@Proud Daughter of Eve and Anonymous:

I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard that the average profit margin in the restaraunt business is 1%. More restaraunts go under each year than stay open. Do you really believe that a restaruant could stay open by upping it's prices by 20% compared to their competitors, but promising that you wouldn't have to tip? Plus, what quality of service do you think you'd get? Servers at that point have zero direct interest in making sure your dining experience is the best possible. Take Sariah's example; if she knew she wasn't going to get a tip from the smokers, what kind of service would they have gotten? She hated being in the smoking section, and there was no direct incentive for her to give them the best possible experience. No restaraunt will ever be to give a "living wage" to servers, because thier competitors won't, and it will price them out of business.

Just accept that when you go out to eat, if your entree says $10, that you are really paying $11.50 for it. That's the cost for going out. If you don't want to pay that, order take out and eat at home.

 
At 12/16/2007 12:01 PM, Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Jared, I don't care how much I pay. I know it's expensive to eat out. I care about how much the servers get paid. I want them to have a real wage and not depend on tips. Nor am I asking for the restaurants to change voluntarily. It would be great if they did but we know they're not going to. This is a change that needs to be legislated.

I understand that restaurants are expensive to run. I know many of them go under in their first year. There is no tipping in Japan though, and Toyko has just replaced Paris as the Michelin Guide's top city for world eating.

 

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