For an obscene number of years, I worked as a waitress at places ranging from a greasy spoon, to a pizza place, to an upscale dining establishment. It was hard work, genuinely it is, but I loved it. It’s been a great fall back for me, as well, (blessing AND a curse, really) in case we needed a couple of extra Benjamins (not my child), because my experience is lengthy and varied.

But like Carney’s to street festivals, the holidays often bring out the worst people in the world flocking to every restaurant.

I take that back: HALF of the people who come out to eat for the holidays are the dredges of society. The other half are jolly, happy, and full of good manners. These people tend to overtip, use polite phrases such as “please’s” and “thank you’s”, do not let their children dump out condiments onto the table (just to entertain them). They genuinely recognize that although their server maybe SERVING them, it doesn’t mean that they are any less on the hook to buy Christmas gifts or any less of a person for choosing this job.

Aunt Becky doesn’t want to talk about THESE people, though, although she would like to give a shout out to them thanking them for being awesome.

No, Aunt Becky would like to tell you a little story.

Years ago, when Ben was a wee ickle baby, I began to work at an upscale pizza place as a server. I began this job when the joint had only been open for a couple of months, so all of the kinks hadn’t yet been worked out AND the holiday season was beginning. The hostess stupidly put together a couple of tables in such a position that getting near the table was damn near impossible, but since she didn’t know better, a party of eight soon decended upon it.

I was standing in the server station in complete view of these people, waiting until they sat down to get their drink order, while the (extremely inexperienced) busboy began to set down their water glasses. The space was so tight between this table and the surrounding tables that Kate Moss would have had a tough time making her skinny way through, and the busboy made a grave error: he accidentally spilled PART of a glass of water on a kid of about 10.

Now, I saw the glass beforehand, so I can absolutely attest that it was indeed filled with water (two hydrogens plus an oxygen) and not battery acid (lead metal electrodes, lead oxide, and sulferic acid), but you would NEVER know this based on the little brat’s reaction. Much screaming ensued, many crocodile tears were shed, and eyes were rolled heavily (mine, of course). Let me put it this way: if this were to happen to my own son and he were to react this way, I would smack him for being a damn baby.

The Sea Hag (likely his grandmother), sitting to his right, IMMEDIATELY began to scream (no small feat, as the dining room was extremely loud that night) “I EXPECT MY MEAL TO BE FREE!” I had made my way over to the table by that point, bearing a pile of napkins to wipe up the spilled water. When I reached her (a teeny part of her sweater had also gotten splashed), she held up her arm for me to blot it off.

Tips be damned, I was NOT about to wipe water off some Old Bag’s sweater. I shoved the napkins into her hand and apologized to the rest of the table (who were actually suprisingly nice). Drinks were ordered and delivered without incident.

When it came time to order their entrees, the Sea Hag asked about doing a combination ravioli, as we had several types. I explained to her that since there were five ravioli’s per order, she would get two of one variety and one of another (you can see my error here. Even Dumb Old Aunt Becky knows that 3 +1 does NOT = 5). She scoffed at me, rolled her eyes and haughtily informed me (how someone wearing a sequined Christmas tree sweater can take herself seriously enough to be haughty eludes me to this day) “That’s TWO of one and THREE of another, har-har-har,” as she turned to her neighbor and began laughing snottily at me.

(I should note one thing here. Although she was snotty to me, she was NOT a rich bitch, which our town is known for. She happened to be white trash who believed that somewhere in her pea-sized brain that she was better than the staff. It was odd. I’ve rarely seen that from homes where the average income is less than $400,000 a year).

Equally snottily, I informed her that I was completely aware of what the products of two and three are, but she wasn’t listening to me.

The rest of the meal was completely without incident. I had someone else bring out the food for her, as I had no desire to interact with her any further. They tipped decently, I had the manager comp exactly NOTHING for them, and they left.

Ah, serving.

I admit that I’m STILL confused by how to tip other professions, how much do I need to tip a hairdresser WHEN I KNOW that she gets about half of the cost of the cut? Cabbies get a buck or two, more if it’s a long ride, sometimes I’ll throw my change at the barista (well, not LITERALLY), but servers get at least 20%, but far, far less if they’re assholes.

(Word to the wise: you want to REALLY piss off a server? Tip them a quarter. A deliberate quarter. I promise it’ll make them madder than if you tipped them nothing at all.)

But this is for unforgivable offenses. Kristin, remember the server we tipped 30 cents AND left a note so there would be no doubt as to WHY we’d done that? If you write that up and leave it in the comments, I’ll repost it here. It was hilarious.

I guess the moral of the story is that no matter how it appears to you, your server does have to buy Christmas presents for her family, too. Just because you have spent too much on buying your family gifts doesn’t mean that you get to take your anger out on the staff. It’s not their fault, I promise. You don’t have to OVERTIP if you don’t want to (although I swear it will be appreciated), but don’t take out your Grinchness on your poor server.

Now it’s your turn. I want to hear ALL of your WORST customer service stories, serving or not. I’ll add them up here if you leave them in the comments.

Comments = full of the awesome. Like gravy. I can haz an RSS RSS feed .

11 Responses to Aunt Becky’s Guide To Tipping The Staff

  • Kristin says:

    I have officially added “Blog” to my work To Do list for the day. I am SO gonna get fired. And it will be awesome.

  • Gail says:

    I once left a dollar tip for spectacularly poor service at a high end restaurant where our check (for 4 people) was over $200. The server actually chased me out into the parking lot, threw the dollar at me, and informed me that I must need it a lot more than she did.

    On the funny side of holiday tipping, there is a great little diner in OP where we eat about once a week. Virtually every time we go, we have the same lovely server, Isabella (or Easter-bella, as Gabriel calls her). Our total check every week is around $15-20, and I usually tip Isabella $5. Just because we don’t spend a lot, doesn’t mean she’s working any less hard. And she is a doll. She adores both boys, and treats them really well.

    Last year we were there shortly before Christmas. We had the usual check of around $20, and when I went to pay the bill, I intended to do the usual Christmas tip for Isabella. This is a place where if you pay by credit card, you have to tell the guy how much tip to add because their credit card machine is ancient and basic. He said “Do you want to put a tip on there?” I quietly said “Yeah – 50″ He looked at me blankly and said “DOLLARS?” No, chickens!

    You don’t want to know my worst customer service nightmares. I would break your blog and lose my job because I would be here typing until next week.

  • Cara says:

    My sister used to wait tables at one of the nicer restaurants in a reasonably small town. One time, she had a group of twelve extremely demanding people. Nothing she did was right, according to them. They each left her a penny next to their plates as her tip.

    And Gail, I’m glad you mentioned your experience with *good* customer service. It’s so easy to complain, but we should remember to thank the people who make our lives a little better.

  • Cricket says:

    I used to waitress at a place like Pizza Hut. Had to reach across the table to deliver a drink, forgot to keep the tray level, and an entire glass of white wine tipped on a girl of about 10. I was horrified and, not even managing a word, ran off to get clean towels. They were nice about it, told my cranky manager that I did a great job, and left me the best tip I ever got.

    Have you seen the insurance commercial where the woman tries to ask the hairdresser a question (after the lady’d already had to hold her own curling iron) and the hairdresser snaps, “I’m trying to talk on the phone here.” Well, that’s the level of service I often get. Seems the reindeer games are more important than the customer.

  • Pauline says:

    Dear Aunt Becky, I used to work at the GAP. At Christmas. In a town filled with a lot of demanding rich people. Need I say more? The stories are endless.

    But, the best one. John Mellencamp once camp into the store. One of my coworkers, all excited (because he was actually considered good back then), walked up to him and asked him “Can I help you find anything?”. His reply: “Uh, do you know who I am? *Insert very disapproving glance here*”. My poor, sad, coworker was totally devastated. She crushed her CD’s.

    Retail at Christmastime= 10,000 John Mellencamps.

  • Gail says:

    Pauline, your friend should have said “Yes, I know who you are. And you’re still shopping at the Gap. So apparently you’re no better than the rest of us. So, can I help you find anything?”

  • becky says:

    Dude, JOHN MELLENCAMP WAS RUDE??

    Unreal.

    Even more fuel to my already raging fires against him.

  • Kim says:

    Mellencamp is a tool.

    more on rude/service/stuff tomorrow at work, dont’ want to miss too much time with the family, and this will be a long one. (probably a run on….stay tuned Becks)!

  • Juli says:

    I worked in the restaurant business for 17 years, and in additional customer service positions for another 8. I wouldn’t even know where to start with the horrifying customer stories – but I will say the single rudest famous person I ever waited on was the punky QB known as McMahon.

  • Kristin says:

    Please allow me to take a quick moment away from the tipping story by saying…OMG I know Aunt Becky in REAL LIFE!!!! OMG OMG – will she still talk to me when her blog is bigger than Perezhilton? More importantly, will she still read my comments and then comment on my comments?

    Seriously, though – next thing you know Dr. Spock will be out and Aunt Becky’s guide to guiltless cookies for kids will be on the NY Times Best Seller list. Frankly, I pray it happens. Even as a childless *gasp* reader of this blog, I have to admit that I am fed-the-fuck-up with parents who think their bratty kids can do no wrong. Knowing Aunt Becky’s children is to love them, and I wish that all parents put as much effort into teaching their children to be genuine, good people and less time into worrying that their child is not “stunted creatively” by being made to behave in public.

    Ok – Enough with the Becky accolades and on to the story.

    A few years ago, shortly after Becky met “The Daver” – I drove my (then suburban) ass out to the city to see the two of them. I think they were trying to set me up with one of Daver’s friends because they were already nesting and I was one of those loud, obnoxious, flirty single-types. Couples need other couples to hang out with – I get it, I get it. After meeting the guy that “just-happened-to-be-hanging-out-too”, we decided to go get some food to stuff our faces. Being that we were all early to mid 20-somethings, we headed to a bar – one which Daver recommended. (It was here –right? http://www.planet99.com/chicago/bars/bellys.html)

    We made our small talk – and waited for service – which was exceptionally slow. When our waitress finally arrived, she brought the attitude with her. It was as if she could hardly be bothered to pull her self away from what I’m sure was some sort of intellectual debate with the bartender (and by intellectual debate, I mean vacuous dribble such as “Oh my God, Like, I know she is like poor and stuff, but seriously, couldn’t she like get a guy to, like buy her a new, like shirt or something because she totally wore that same one to, like, John Barleycorn last month. Seriously, like.”).

    - “Do you guys want Drinks?”

    - “No, Skipper, we were just staring at you because your fake tan makes you look like a burnt hot dog – and who doesn’t love a burnt hot dog? Sexxy.”

    Anyhoo, we ordered Drinks and Aunt Becky decided to have herself a Colorado Bulldog. Don’t know what that is? Neither did our waitress, who asked the bartender. I watched from our table as the bartender shook her head indicating that she, too, did not know the ingredients to make the requested cocktail. Readers, I ask you, what do you do when you do not know how to do or make something requested of you? Personally, I ASK or look to a source of expertise – in this case a drink recipe book (that EVERY BAR has) would probably have come in handy.

    Did the waitress or bartender ask us how to make the drink? No, of course not. It must have seemed like a much better idea to mock us within earshot and proceed to pour various liquids into a glass and dub it “Colorado Bulldog” before setting it in front of poor Aunt Becky. If I remember correctly, it tasted like vomit. Mmmmm Vomit. Those girls were SOOO clever.

    Long story longer, the rest of our meal experience was very similar to the aforementioned drink ordering process complete with mocking. I think my food was even wrong. Oh Joy! When our check finally arrived, stiffing the server didn’t seem like a big enough punishment. Instead we left 30 cents along with a note detailing why she deserved every penny. Now it has been several years since the event, and to be fair, I had a couple drinks in me at the time, but I would like to think that our note was similar to what I have written below;

    Dear Server,

    As it is not in our nature to tip offensively as we have just done to you, we thought it only fair that we provide details for our otherwise inexcusable action.

    A) Never, ever, have we been treated so rudely for no reason at all. Granted, we came into a Bar and Grille establishment seeking food and libations – as inconvenient as this may seem, providing food and libations to paying customers is your JOB. Sometimes I don’t like my job, either, but I don’t act like a fucktard toward others out of self-hatred. Because you came over at all – we will provide you with 10 cents.
    B) When drinks or food are ordered by your customers, you try to provide said items as they are ordered. When something comes out of the kitchen (or from behind the bar) incorrectly, you should at least attempt to provide an alternative to your customer. Although you did not attempt to replace the Hamburger I received with the Chicken sandwich I ordered, I suppose I did get some sort of food. For that, you may have another 10 cents.
    C) We found a dirty dime on the floor. You can have it.

    Enjoy.

    Much love,

    Your Table

    PS. A Colorado Bulldog is essentially a White Russian + Cola. Sounds weird – tastes delicious.

  • Daniel says:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article s Guide To Tipping The Staff at Mommy Wants Vodka, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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