Gotta Love Less Than 15%, …right? – Part 1

It’s a slow Monday evening; I’ve got a couple of tables. I’m meandering through my section, only walking to keep my eyes open. I’m on my second sixteen hour double after closing the night before and opening  the bar this morning. I’m going to be the closing cocktailer again tonight.

Happy hour is starting, though, so the rush is about to happen. Right on cue, two tables sit down. I bring them menus, run through my greet and collect the menus again to put in drinks and food. While I was taking orders, I noticed a few girls had sat down and were animatedly speaking with one of my managers and they already had menus on the table.

With quick skills of common sense, I figure they must know him. I dole out drinks and pre-sets for the tables before they are finished talking to him. At this point, a pitcher of beer and three glasses has appeared on the table. I love when managers do the work for me.

They all look in their very early twenties, sipping on the Hefenweizen I assume came from my manager. I go up to ask how they’re doing, one of the girls once more talking with them manager. I get the “once-over” and a glare from both girls who aren’t occupied by the conversation before one of them says, “Can we just get a minute?”

I just figure they’re young, annoyed and hungry. I brush off their attitude and check on the rest of my tables. I give them a good ten minutes before I check back, as they talked with my manager for a little longer and perused through the menu for a couple more. When I came back, the same “you’re really inconveniencing me by asking if I’m ready to order” looks stayed on their faces. They voices, though, dripped with faux kindness.

I put in their order and curious how my manager knows these young women so I ask him; my assumption that they worked for him turns out to be correct.

The rest of the meal goes smoothly, once they have a few bites of their food they are much easier to cope with. They need very little and seem to be in good spirits.

As I expected, the manager takes care of their food. Their original bill as $60, but once the food was removed only the pitcher was left at $16.75 +tax. They split it three ways on their card, leaving them with an average bill of $5.50 each. They each left me a dollar.

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Before I launch into a long rant about how much steam came out of my ears after seeing this, I want to know what you guys think. Would you be angry if you knew other servers tipped you bad? How much would you have tipped? If you receive bad service, do you still tip your server? If so, how much do you tip?

Leave comments on the Facebook post of the “How I Survived Serving” page.

Being a Grown-Up is Hard, so instead…

I’m an awkward person for serving. I don’t practice personal filtering or fake enthusiasm. I’m immature and have a passion for inappropriate banter. For the most part, my sarcasm and sick sense of humor have worked to my advantage.

My biggest weakness is idiots, and if you serve you know this is part of the job. Just nod and smile, right?

For me, it’s never been that simple. How do they get off tipping me bad, talking down to me, or making impossible demands of me as if I’m their personal slave? I’ve had a few nasty exchanges and the lectures that follow, I have learned to run through a few questions before I decide on my reaction:

  • How badly do I want to ruin my shift/day because of one idiot?
  • Do I want to listen to the lecture about being the bigger person?
  • Do I want to be written up?
  • How badly do I want to keep my job?
  • How much do I like the shifts I’m getting now?
  • How bad of a tip do I want from said idiot and the surrounding tables?

In an attempt to avoid lectures and job preservation, I develop a passing moment of maturity and force myself to look at the big picture. Fear not, though, I don’t take their criticism lying down.

I have learned to satisfy my inner 15-year-old male by developing an elaborate story line that emphasizes on their stupidity. Here’s a story from last week about a fresh 21-year-old douchebag who left a sour taste in my mouth.
—————————————————————————————————-

You just turned 21 a few months ago, so that means you’re in now. You’ve had a few months to explore all the coolest bars and nightclubs, know all hotspots and places you wouldn’t be caught dead at, and you can finally go out on all the cool after-work field trips with the older crowd. Man, you sure have it good. Finally feels good to be treated like an adult, sipping your Greygoose & Cranberry juice. You don’t drink the cheap stuff.

It was kind of annoying earlier, though, when the waitress chirped a Happy Birthday! at you after she looked at your ID. I mean, c’mon. That was four months ago, it’s almost June. This same pretentious waitress had listed off all the mixers that would go with Greygoose when you asked earlier, and she had seemed so cool then. She must be bipolar.

In fact, what she did was so ridiculous you think, I’ll go ahead and have an intellectual discussion about it with my new grown-up friends while I sip my expensive Greygoose & Cranberry.

“Can you fucking believe that?” you ask as intellectually as possible, “My birthday was four months ago and she said Happy Birthday. Who the fuck does that?”

Your friends are so astounded by how astute you are, they can literally not fucking believe that she would be so pretentious as to wish you Happy Birthday just because you recently turned 21. They are staring at you, dumbfounded; you are sure there must be a light shining down on you in this rare moment where you provide a fountain of knowledgeable discussion.

But your dreams are soon shattered when you come to realize their blank looks are not at you, but past you to the waitress behind you. The bipolar bitch seems to be wearing some sort of smirk on her face, probably the voices in her head telling her a joke.

You pretend not to be embarrassed and quickly reassure her, “I… I’ll tip you really big?” You give her a what can you do? shrug, only stuttering to make her feel like you really care that you just got caught talking shit about her. Your friends admire how cool you are after your quick recovery and they return to whatever conversation they were having about the bipolar server.

Man, you think, sometimes its hard being so fucking grown-up and cool.

Glitter, Big Boobs & Shitty Service

First and foremost, whether you had the patience or not, thanks for waiting while I vacationed! But as promised, I am bringing this week’s learning lesson straight from Vegas.

Las Vegas is one of my not-so-secret guilty pleasures due to the attention I get as a mid-twenty female. What isn’t to love about free food and drinks for being semi-attractive? But working in the service industry keeps me from fully enjoying the Vegas experience due to my over analytical scrutiny of their interpersonal skills and multi-tasking efficiency.  

What sets the Vegas industry apart from all others is its glitz and glamour, half-naked women and making people feel more important than they actually are. From club hosts and poker dealers to go-go dancers and servers, Vegas hits every aspect of the service industry in a 4 mile stretch.

Each day I spent in Vegas this last trip, I paid close attention to all the different types of service I was encountering. I am desperate to make my job a more enjoyable one for me and you readers (people sometimes [coughallthetimecough] make this a difficult task), anything I can learn I absorb like a sponge to water.

I learned a few things about the food service industry in Vegas – it’s nothing special. They have all types of different food, yes. But their servers are not anything special. I know it is hard to find great service anywhere, but of all places I would assume Vegas would be the easiest. It is all different walks of life in the city of sin; people come from all over looking for work. You would think people would be more excited about their job due to traveling so far just to work here. We ate at multiple places and the experience was the same – automatic gratuity and annoyed servers.

My most entertaining food-service experience was within Diablo’s Cantina attached to the Monte Carlo hotel. In desperate need of a hang-over cure, guacamole and burritos too big for my mouth seemed like the right fit. We were all sat down by a less-than-amused hostess (I understand, pushing a couple tables together when you first open is a daunting task).

We sat for a few minutes before an equally less-than-amused slu—I mean server—came over to greet us. Adorned in 4-inch wedges, a mini-skirt so tight she could barely walk and a strategically-ripped, breast-revealing shirt she offered us some of their signature margaritas. We laughed and just asked for water (sissies, right?) which in turn caused her to wrinkle her nose job at us and she waddled away to let us decide on food.

The service after wasn’t slow but highly inconvenient. When asking for a couple of beer refills, she goes, “Oh you wanted more?” as if she had ever asked in the first place. The same response was gotten every time we asked for something. A side of ranch got, “Oh? Sure, I’ll be right back with that for you.” She seemed surprised every time we talked to her, like she was shocked to find this party of seven in her section.

The only time I saw a genuine smile was when she handed us the check, and like most of Vegas restaurants, we were greeted by an 18% gratuity.

I am the last person to complain about gratuity, seeing how it’s one of my saving graces in my place of work. But I am thoroughly disappointed that every one of my meals was greeted with this same dull-ridden faces and annoyed attitudes to be followed by gratuity. I am not blaming the gratuity perse, but more so saying the gratuity has allowed laziness because the tip at the end of the meal is automatic, so why try?

But even though disappointed by the food-industry, the dealers at the gambling tables in every casino have never left me feeling this way. Engaging in genuine conversation with dealers is probably the reason I gamble for so long – who loves to lose money?

My favorite dealer’s name was Amy, who can be found at Planet Hollywood at the Paigow poker table. When deciding which table to sit at, three drunken Australians were screaming enthusiastically. Immediately attracted to trouble, the boyfriend and I decided on this one and set out our cash. Amy briefly greeted us with a warm smile before continuing to hush the drunken gentlemen, clearly irritated by their intoxicated antics. Before she could begin another hand or deal out our chips, they decided on another game and quickly stumbled away.

Slightly disappointed, we decided to stay anyway. We ended up sitting at the same table for about four hours, gambling until our last penny was gone. During those four hours, we contemplated leaving a couple times but stayed for the good conversation. Amy was engaging and genuine. She taught us more about the game, helped us with hands (yes, I’m aware all dealers in Vegas will do this for you) and let us stay at a cheaper minimum even after the table’s minimum went up. Not once did I feel as though she was bored or would rather be doing something else. We tipped her heftily (that’s probably where half of our money went) and I found myself perfectly intoxicated after leaving the table. Even though we’d lost two hundred dollars, we left happy.

Our table server (gal who brings around free drinks) was equally as pleasant, unnecessarily offering us bottles of water and returning frequently to refill our beverages. I’m sure our heavy-tipping had something to do with it, but she worked for the tip. And that’s all I wanted, was genuine service and understanding that a tip really isn’t something to be expected but earned. Without realizing it, my want for better service taught me something.

My experience in Vegas taught me the most important part of service is being genuine. Yes, a little ass-kissing and unrealistic expectation fulfilling is part of the shitty job description. But without personality and flare, you don’t have anything. You’re going to make 15% or less anywhere you serve without a personality.

If you’re consistently making less than 15%, it’s you, not the guests. Being stiffed is heard of, no matter how good you are. But to consistently claim that no one tips you well should be an indicator that you’re doing something wrong. Whether it is a bad attitude or lack of understanding of what people want, self-examine. You’ll make more money the more genuine you are.

Viva Las Vegas.
TSD

The Secrets to Big Tips on Father’s Day

It isn’t very often that I talk about my place of establishment. I believe that no matter where you work or what section you’re in, if you’re a great server you can make money anywhere. With that being said, where I work has no significance because I’m a great server. Therefore, it shouldn’t matter because the advice applies the same to every type of restaurant.

But on Father’s Day, I couldn’t love working for a brewery and pub more than I do on this day. Working in an industry that caters to men – the easier to please gender, in my opinion – means I leave the holiday with a few extra bucks to spend on dad. Even in the rare occasions I’ve had the day off, I’ve volunteered to work.

In honor of my favorite serving holiday, I’m here to share with you a few tips on how to make a few extra bucks on Father’s Day.

1. Men’s needs & wants are more simplistic than women’s, cater to that.

This seems like a very sexist idea, but it’s the truth. Ever notice how men don’t often talk about their day when you give them the obligatory “How are you?” If they’re alone, they’re usually pretty curt about pleasantries – they want you to take their order so they can go back to reading about video games or e-mailing on their Blackberry. Every man is different, but read the signs he gives you. Men don’t bullshit around; they’ll tell you what they want from you. Read the signs, reap the benefits.

2. Make real suggestions about food if they ask.

I know, I know. Talking about the food on your menu that you see every day and probably have to eat on your breaks really isn’t your cup of tea. But a few suggestions based on their likes/dislikes in your food will go a long way. Some menus are like shopping, you have to walk through the whole store to find one thing you like – sometimes that can take hours. It’s no secret that shopping isn’t a man’s favorite activity, remember that when he asks for your opinion. You know a lot more about the menu and your food than he does, so be his personal food shopper. Remember: food make man happy.

3. Encourage indulging in all courses.

How often do you see mom order for the whole table or (my favorite) mom telling dad not to order something because the calorie count is too high? Men are often out ruled on their choices when they see their significant other guilt them into eating better; it’s just easier to agree than deal with a long lecture and argument later about their meal, so they usually cave (Sorry ladies, it’s true; we’re frickin’ bonkers.).

This is a whole day dedicated to dad, make it about him. Encourage beer, the deeply fried food or too expensive steak and/or dessert. Making dad happy is the most important part of the meal, and even the healthy-eater enforcer will appreciate that.

4. Use your sense of humor.

If you have one of these, use it! In my experience, men appreciate my inner 15-year-old teenager and awkwardly placed sarcasm more than women. Some quick-witted banter and playfulness (it does not have to be flirty) will earn you a few chuckles and a few extra bucks for being engaging (like your restaurant wants you to be) and personable (like you want to be).

This should only be used when observation skills are on high, though, because wrongly used jokes are a means for disaster. Pay attention to when a sense of humor is appropriate!

Happy Father’s Day to all dads!

TSD

How To Survive Serving While Sick

It’s your “Sunday” night and you had a well-rested couple of days off. Of course by well-rested I mean filled with errand-running that you put off during the week and much needed booze-infested nights catching up with friends and family you have to neglect due to conflicting schedules. Damn 9-5ers.

Upon awakening that morning you had a slight sore throat and small headache, but contribute that to your hangover. You’re not really focused on hydrating during beer pong. You’re feeling achy as you wait for your coma to settle in and give you your last hours of heaven before returning to hell tomorrow. Some rest and a few morning Coronas and you’ll be feeling much better in the morning.

What feels like only minutes later, morning comes bombarding through your windows like unwelcome brothers and sisters shaking you awake. Your eyelids creep open, the sun’s rays seeming to pound into your eyes as you quickly shut them again and cringe. Your head is pounding worse than the day before, getting up feels close to impossible, you seem to have sweat a lake around yourself, and it appears as though your pillow case became a snot rag in the middle of the night. You groan as the drummers in between your temples start again and you notice the nasally noise that leaves your mouth. Yup, you’ve got yourself the flu.

You pull the covers over your head, weighing your options. You could call out, but you spent the last of your tips yesterday morning on your hangover brunch. Rent is due in a few days, you have to replace the clutch in your 1991 Honda Civic and you still have to take your dad out for Father’s day this weekend. Shit, you think, I have to work like this.

Here are a few solutions to your serving-while-sick blues:

  1. In your nearest cabinet or mini-mart, find yourself the college diet: chicken noodle soup (ramen is also an okay substitute).
  2. Hydrate with lots of water, water and more water.
  3. Hot tea to help sooth your sore throat (they make teas specifically designed for colds).
  4. DayQuil, cough drops & the much needed pain-killers. Like we need more physical pain to add to our misery.
  5. If you’re in a closing station, I’d recommend switching out to a shorter shift. It won’t be as hard on your body and will allow for more rest.
  6. Opt into hosting, silverware-rolling, take-out, or any other position that isn’t as strenuous on the body.
  7. When you finally rest your head, take any meds that will help you overnight. This is free time to heal.
  8. Ask for help – you’ll need it!

Things to avoid while serving sick:

  1. Telling tables you’re sick will earn you better tips out of sympathy. – This almost actually never happens. You’re handling their food, which won’t please them to know you’re sick. Secondly, if you openly advertise you’re sick you’ll sound like a homeless man/woman begging for money. These are not qualities of a good server.
  2. Telling the manager you’re sick will get you sent home. – While this could possibly happen, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Complaining to your manager puts him/her in a bind between choosing between restaurant’s well-being and yours. If he chooses to send you home, he now has to cover whatever work you were doing versus if you had just called in sick he could have had a plan for you not being there. If he chooses for you to stay, he’s contaminating his guests, employees and the food. So if you hadn’t wanted to work, you should have called in.
  3. Complaining to your co-workers that you’re sick will make them stay for you and get you out of your sidework. – You probably only do this if you’re a “co-worker.” Manipulating your way out of the job only upsets your co-workers more than if you had just directly asked them. Trying to gain sympathy through whining only earns you a “I think you’re too stupid to realize that I’m trying to manipulate you” sticker across your forehead which loses any respect you may have had. Treat your co-workers like fellow people, and they’ll treat you the same.

Avoid the above mistakes and keep yourself charged and healthy as possible; you’ll be on your merry way to making money and a cure in no-time!

(Disclaimer: I am no doctor; I cannot guarantee your success or failure in feeling better. But I can assure these things have worked for me and others when having the flu/cold/anything else like it when I’ve had to serve. I am not encouraging you to work while sick, just giving you a little how-to in case it happens. It has happened before and will happen again.)

Everyone Should Serve, Right?

So for my birthday, I thought my significant other was taking me sky diving. We enjoy tricking each other, so he let me go on thinking the surprise was sky diving without verbal confirmation. Even as we drove deep into tree-infested hills, I continued to think we would be sky diving. I was antsy and nervous, mentally preparing myself. It literally wasn’t until after we pulled in and were out of the car that I realized we were zip-lining.

I was immediately relieved. The guide, Dylan, was an awkward and spunky 20-something male quipped with dry humor and bad puns. I can dig this, I thought as I filled out my promise-I-won’t-sue-if-I-die form (I honestly never read these things, so I’m just assuming that’s what it was).

I love service with a personality, because I have one too large for my own human body. So when I connect with other awkwardly big personalities, we bond over our awkwardness.

I watched Dylan interact with everyone, my boyfriend occasionally giving his two cents to the conversation. Amused, I was looking forward to the rest of the trip until Dylan let a sentence slip out that would doom our entire “big personalities” connection, “Zipline instructors are like servers, except they save your lives rather than just serve you food.”

I don’t remember the context it was taken from because I had only been passively listening to the conversation. Regardless, I was enraged by his ignorance.

Luckily for Dylan, he was only the introductory guide. We met two others, Brandon and Andrew, who would be our zipline instructors throughout the tour. The two had similar personalities which made the whole tour more enjoyable, tastefully making fun of those who struggled or had an unnatural fear of heights.

Even after an enjoyable birthday and experience, Dylan’s lack of understanding of the food service industry leaves me with a resounding realization that all people should serve at some point in their life.

The more we grow into a society of instant gratification and technological perfection the less we remember things like patience and humility. We forget that humans are just that, human. Humans make mistakes, forget orders and the side of ranch table 7 ordered. We still have things like microwaves, stoves and grills that people (BOH) use to take time to cook food.

Dylan’s comment is just one of many ways people are truly disillusioned about the food service industry. Serving tables is more than delivering food and getting tipped for it. It’s paying attention to every detail of your food, drinks and overall happiness whether you are in our section for 30 minutes or two hours. If you’re not happy, we don’t get paid. In ziplining, the customer pays for the experience prior to entering the facility in order to enjoy it.

This small detail alone allows the guest to set the tone from the minute they enter the restaurant to the time they exit the door. People have come to exercise this power like they are 5-year-olds stuck in a mature body by throwing fits, making impossible demands and pouting if they’re not completely satisfied. This is often followed with a bad tip or no tip at all as a last minute “Fuck you, then!”

(And for those of you who are unaware of servers’ wages, the hourly paycheck we receive is barely enough to pay half of one month’s rent. This does vary based on where location.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought this and probably won’t be the last. Those who haven’t worked in the service industry truly just don’t understand how awful people can be (including themselves) – and it’s an excellent life lesson to acquire so we don’t grow to be the same. And I don’t mean just the restaurant industry, but in life.

I am aware that not all people are this way and that some people don’t need it – there will always be outliers. But the same can be said that some people may never learn a damn thing and die thinking the Earth truly orbits their ego, not the sun.

Serving allows the character-building that sometimes can feel as brutal as Chinese torture – the feeling of slow, slow agony slowing killing you inside. It can be a therapy for life that includes both tough love and empathy – a lesson that everyone can benefit from.

A Reminder That Not All People Suck

Early morning and late night are the times my writing flows the easiest. I can only guess that it’s because my thoughts are most pure and at peace during these moments, unburdened by the daily anxieties my head puts me through.

Sometimes, my mood will carry like this throughout the day as if I am simply immune to life’s worries. It’s not the bitterness of apathy or the numbness of a heart heavy with hurt – it’s simply my mind at rest and pure happiness. For me, a quiet mind is pure bliss.

I found myself in a serving state like this last night, even though I didn’t feel that way from the beginning. I was as lethargic as ever when I walked through the door, no thoughts of riding a unicorn into the serving sunset, that last anticipated refill floating into the patiently awaiting guest’s hand. It wasn’t my usual two lines of cocaine, hyperactive movement or any table in particular that sent me into serving euphoria.

From the time I began my first table, it was as if I was the serving witch conjured spells of good attitude and tips on me. My cheeks were as rosy as Santa’s and my voice annoyingly chipper as I greeted my first victims. They took well to my cheery sarcasm and left me with a 50% tip as proof of their appreciation. The next few tables went flawlessly, leaving me no less than 20% no matter how big or small the tab. I wasn’t quite sure where this alternate personality was coming from, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain about the money she was earning me. Although, I was a little pissed she was just rearing her head after five years of annoyed serving prior to this moment.

Even through almost having four waters dumped on me because some idiot walked through the out door the wrong way (it’s one of my biggest pet peeves when people can’t follow simple directions and cause chaos because of their lack of common sense) and being given a table born to complain, I seemed to be on some eerie version of Cloud 9 where irritation registered but vanished every time I came within a five foot range of a guest.

It wasn’t until I spilled water trying to clean a table that I all of a sudden felt as if the water had been thrown on my face rather than on the floor. I was embarrassed, peaking around like a guilty five-year-old to see who had if anyone had noticed the spill (which is equally as odd because I seldom get embarrassed). Because the glass had only dumped the water, there had been no shattering so no attention was paid to my mess – or so I thought until I heard the couple to the right of me snickering. Pretty sure that they had just seen me stop to check if anyone was looking; I couldn’t help but give them a sheepish grin. After all, it was just a spill.

Nonchalance settled back on my shoulders and I play-fought with them about laughing at me. Not sure what caused me drawn to talk to them, but I suddenly found myself wanting to know them more (my goodness, I sound like a pedophile).  I asked basic questions: how often they come here, where they’re from, do they serve (I know this is serve-ist of me, but I always assume nice people are in the service industry as well), what do they do since they don’t serve, etc.

Maybe it was their witty banter in response to my dry sarcasm, but I found myself suddenly wanting to write about this fantastic, entertaining couple in my blog. And not only did I want to write about them, I wanted to tell them about it.

I’m not much of a serious bragger; don’t get me wrong, I think I’m pretty awesome. But seldom do I compliment myself out of sincerity (read enough self-help books to know the importance of self-recognition, hasn’t really changed my perspective on the matter) let alone advertise my writing outside of the online marketing world. When people ask, I am happy to offer answers. But I’m the worst self-advertiser out of fear they will think my writing is bad.

So my only conclusion to draw from this was that this couple, Manuel and Ashley, had exerted such a force of unexplained empathy and easy-goingness that seemed to ease me into the confidence I needed to tell them about my blog. From this, I want them to draw the knowledge of how great of an aura they give off whether it be as individuals or together, the two of them shine inspiration that would make miserable people puke (“Why the fuck are they are so happy?”).

With this uncanny good mood and connection with the couple, I tried to find an explanation for the desire and uncharacteristic risk-taking. It could have been because Manuel ordered my current favorite beer. It might have been the guilt I felt about their obnoxious understanding after my faux apology for them having to sit at a dirty table (I had just been complaining about guests sitting at dirty tables before I went to clean it off for them to a co-worker). It could have been their genuine worry that I would write about some tiff they thought I heard when I asking their permission to mention them in my blog.

Or it could just be great people spreading good vibes that reminded me failure is always going to be waiting around the corner if I never try to succeed. I took a minute to stop over-analyzing and took a chance.

Whether their interest was genuine or not, I shared my blog with two other tables that night due to their positive response in my mentioning it. Kat and Tim, two of the most perverted people I’ve ever met, (that’s saying a lot) left with my URL as well with demands that I write about them. They deserve their own post, so I’ll save your story for another time you two.

And one of my regulars (I call her mine because she likes me the most, let’s be real) I got hooked on my favorite beer also left with it, who I came to find out is also a writer.

Thanks for being such an inspiration, Manuel & Ashley!

And even though I should probably head to the doctor to ask about my bipolar trip from shame to euphoria and from euphoria to anger and back to euphoria from last night, I think I’ll just share my experiences instead. This way you can remind yourself to be human, laugh at all my stupidity and be inspired by my conquering evil abilities.

And this is a reminder for all you servers what great people we can meet. Yes, yes, …yes. There are an abundance of fucktards that are going to walk through your restaurant doors every day that are unavoidable and need to be vented about. The Bitchy Waiter is an excellent place to find solace in your serving pain (my own version of Chicken Soup for the Serving Soul). But don’t use them as an excuse to be miserable, make the best of what you’re given. It’s all you’ve got.

The Serving Doctor