Gray Matters: What You SHOULD Be Tipping

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If I had to choose between waiting on the average person in a restaurant or getting a root canal without novocaine  I’d have to think long and hard about which was worse and I’d probably choose the dental chair. People, in a word,  stink and trying to make them happy is often impossible.  Earlier this week one of the top trending stories on our Facebook page dealt with a waitress getting stiffed on a tip and trying to publically shame the customers by posting the receipts (three tipped nothing and one just a buck) online.  She was wrong to do this and deserved to be fired. However, can we talk for a minute about waiters and waitresses and the nonsense they deal with on a daily basis?

First, we have the customers who think they are eating at their mom’s house, meaning they can change up the entire menu and make endless special requests. I’m not talking about swapping our fries for chips, I mean wholesale changes to how the food is prepared and everything that comes with it.

Second, we have what I call the “one more thing” customers. The waitress brings the food and asks if they need anything? “Ketchup”, they say. So she comes back with it. “Oh, and can I get a side of barbecue sauce?” She runs for that. “Oh and I’d like a water on the side.” Back she goes. “Oh, actually can you bring another water and a side of mayo. Thanks, hon.” Yeah, don’t call me hon.  Here’s a tip- make a mental note of what you think you might need and ask for your six separate requests all at once so the wait staff can make one trip. Last I checked you weren’t the only table.

Third, we have the picky eater. “Hi. Yeah, I know I said rare but this is too rare. Or too well done. Or is there any I can get this without the special sauce (that is clearly marked on the menu).” They didn’t bother to actually read the menu so now they want to send back the food that just came out with all the fixins the menu told them it would come with.

And last but not least we have the crappy tipper. I know waiters and waitresses have recently gotten a bump in base pay but most still rely on tips to make this endless running around with heavy trays worthwhile. So here’s my tip on what to tip. If the service is truly horrendous then tip 10% and ask to see a manager. But be fair about your gripes. The waiter or waitress didn’t cook the meal so if the chicken was a bit dry that’s on the chef, not the waiter. Tell the manager. Stay calm. Be polite and you might get something taken off the bill or a gift card for next time.

If the service is just OK, tip 15%. That’s fair. If the service is better than average tip 20% and tell the manager what a good waiter or waitress you had. And if the service is out of this world great, toss them 25% if you have it. Now before you roll your eyes let’s be honest. Most of us are not eating at a 4-star restaurant where dinner for two comes to $200 bucks. Most of us are dropping $30 on lunch or dinner so the difference between a 15% and 20% tip is bumping it up from $4.50 to $6. That’s a buck and a half to make someone’s day and you’ll barely miss it.

If you are wondering why a TV anchor gives two hoots about this let me tell you that in 1984 if you walked into the Turf Inn restaurant on Wolf Road in Colonie, N.Y. you would have seen yours truly bussing tables for money to pay for college. Busboys back then got 15% of whatever the waitresses took in so those extra nickels, dimes and quarters made a huge difference for lots of hardworking people. I saw the look on a waitress’s face when someone left a generous tip and I also saw a few crying in the back when a table for six decided to toss a $20 on the table after running up a $300 bill. It’s a lousy thing to do to someone.

Lots of people are generous but far too many are not. Food for thought.

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