Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What is poor service? (Dining Out; part 1)

I had a heated debate with someone the other night about tipping. As a waitress, I won't date someone who doesn't tip properly. I won't even go out with an acquaintance who doesn't abide by the principle of tipping. Hell, I don't think I can be friends with someone like that.

I understand that in some countries tipping isn't a custom. In the United States it is. Servers are paid minimum wage (or a lot less in some states!) and hence the bulk of our income is derived from tipping. Furthermore, we tip out of the tips that we accumulate in the night or tip out based on our sales. Not tipping us effects not only our personal pockets but the busboy, the bartender and the expo. Even more so, we get taxed not on how much tips we make BUT our overall sales for the night.

Poor service merits a poor tip. Poor service to me has nothing to do with how fast I get the food, whether there is an error in the order or if the server doesn't refill my glass the moment it is half-full. The time it takes to get your food is caused by the cooks, not the server. The majority of the time, errors are caused by cooks or expos (the people who run out the food), not by servers. As for refills, if the server is busy and appears frantic, I give them a break. I understand what it is like to get sat three tables at once or to have a table that is making your life miserable. Giving grief to a server is bad karma.

What is poor service? It's when you see your server standing around gabbing it up and your glass has been empty the last half hour. Poor service is when you politely ask for another side of dressing and they make it seem as though you just asked for the world. It's when your server acts as though serving you is a chore. As a waitress, I am the first to hate bad service. I can't stand rude, abrupt and arrogant servers. I will go so far as to leave a note explaining to the person that they were horrible. On the other hand, if I get amazing service, I will go so far as to notify the manager PLUS leaving a good tip.

The next time you go to a restaurant, if you have a really nice but exasperated server, cut the person some slack. There are many factors outside of our control. We smile, we serve, we apologize, we hold our tongues when someone yells at us. Please just leave us a decent tip?

Part one in a series on dining out at restaurants.


Anonymous said...

Well, you should be paying taxes on the amount you make, because it is probably much more that the minimum tax the government charges based on food sales.

SavingDiva said...

I would agree that tipping is important. However recently I've had horrible service....I still tip 15%, but I just don't go back to that restaurant...

VixenOnABudget said...

Anonymous: I'm going to actually get into that in another post. Some nights you make good money; other nights, like right after Christmas, people give you poor tips left and right. You end up making less than the government expects you to make, yet still claim a higher amount of tips to avoid falling under the 10% mark. No server wants to risk an audit.

SavingDiva: I completely understand. Which is why I went into what poor service is. There are a few servers at my restaurant that I wish I could smack some sense into.

Julie the Graduate said...

I attended a one day business etiquette class over the summer and the instructor said to either tip 20% or nothing. If nothing, make sure that you talk to the manager to explain what was wrong with the service. This seems a little extreme to me and I always tip 15% minimum (usually 20-25%), but I've never been a waitress. I'm curious to hear what you think about that.

VixenOnABudget said...

I concur that that's a bit extreme. As a waitress, I'm happy with the standard societal norm of 15% and 20% for great service. The 20% tippers who acknowledge I'm a fabulous waitress (and I am! :-D) balance all those people who don't know how to tip.

I could see that in a business etiquette class it is advised to tip a standard 20% or nothing. If you were on a company paid business lunch with some execs, either you tip well or you don't reward shoddy service. Maybe it's an appearance thing?

ntbeachnc said...

Having previously been a waitress for many years and having a mom who has been one for most of my life, I get irritated by people who don't tip accordingly. The worst tippers also tend to be the most demanding. I worked in a touristy area and the tourists were the worst. They'd get upset if their food took longer than 20 minutes...I'm like it's Friday or Saturday night, the place is packed, and you're on vacation you should be relaxing.

I always tip well. Even for bad service, I still tip decent. In NC, my mom makes just over $3/hour. Yes, she makes great tips some days, but she still only makes about $20,000 a year or so.

VixenOnABudget said...

You always come across those people who start complaining about where there food is after ten minutes.

In NC it's only $3/hour?! Ugh. California's minimum wage is high, fortunately. And, it doesn't penalize tip-based professions either. NC is one place I won't be moving to.