Friday, March 29, 2013

The Pros and Cons of working in a high priced restaurant.

The first pro is obvious: People usually tip a percentage of the overall total.  Getting people to change their percentage is *hard*.  Most of us, myself included, say: "Well I tip this % if it's good, and that % if it's bad, but I might tip as high as blah % if they're awesome!"  But be honest, we all usually tip the exact same amount, with rare exceptions.  By working in a restaurant with a higher total, the percentage will work out more than it would at a lower-end restaurant.  If I can't change your %age, I can start with a higher total at least.

That's the first obvious pro.  A second one is less obvious: It's been my experience that the more people are paying to eat, the better behaved they feel they must be.  This means all sorts of things, from less sexual harassment (it'll never go away altogether) to less loud/messy children.

There are some interesting cons though.  The first may be obvious: The sort of people who prefer fine dining as their norm have a hard time with how close the word "server" is to "servant."  They get us confused a rather lot.  This can manifest all sorts of ways.  My least favorite is when people refuse to acknowledge me.

I have a job to do, yo.  You've come here because you want me to do my job for you.  So why, then, do I walk up to the table and stand there like a damned hovering idiot while you continue your conversations forever?  I'll try walking around the table a couple times, but if you continue to ignore me, I walk away.  I'll take your drink order when you give it to me, but I'm not psychic.  I need you to actually give it to me.  I'd honestly like to greet you, ask how you're doing, wish you a good day thus far, tell you about specials, and offer to help with any questions about the menu and suggestions.  But damnit, I'm trying to work here.  If you don't want a server, you can stay home and call for pizza.  And even then, you're going to have to answer the door.

Oh, I come back and I do the hover-circle-dance again, but each time I get ignored, I make it quicker.  Eventually one of them starts looking nervous.  She really wants her Arnold Palmer, and her friends telling stories and ignoring me is keeping her from getting it.  The third or fourth (or sixth?) time around, she'll interrupt for me and say, "Hey, do you think we should go ahead and order our drinks?"  Thanks, lady.  Thank you so much for noticing and caring, if only about getting your AP.

The other, far weirder way this manifests is when they don't see us.  The ignoring me when I come to the table is one thing, but not being seen is altogether different.  I've got two examples.

One is my own.  I wait on a group once a month of old retired military white dudes.  They're having their little privileged circle jerk, it's adorable, whatever.  We give them discounted beers.  There's a tangent here: this sucks because we quote them the price of the beer assuming they're going to tip us - that is, we don't quote tax.  That'll be $3, sir, we say - far easier to manage and make change on than $3.27.  But when they don't tip us, they're actually negative-tipping us.  We still have to pay that tax.  But that's beside the point.  I'm telling you this to bring up one certain guy in the group.  He calls me his girlfriend.

Fucking ew.  You're 70 if you're a day, and by the way, the only way you could ever make me your "girlfriend" would be rape, because I do NOT consent to you having any kind of relationship with me.  But this guy, he knows every month he can come in and "slum it" by flirting with his serv(er/ant) "girlfriend" and get away with it, and he does.

But he came in with another group.  This man who so looks forward to seeing his "girlfriend," so much so that he looks for me when he comes to the military beer party and will wave me down from across the room, was sitting at another table and I ran the food to help their server.  I carried the plate to him, I set it down in front of him, I announced the order, he didn't ever see me.  Didn't recognize me.  His "girlfriend."  Because in his mind, I only exist in one place, and that is the only place he cares to see me.

This happened to another friend of mine in a far more extreme way.  She's a swim instructor and gives lessons to kids in the summer time, often in their own home pools.  She tells me one night at work that she's working a party where there's a woman there she knows.  She taught this woman's children to swim every summer for several years.  She would watch this woman's children all day.  She helped raise this woman's children.  If these kids ever end up in danger in water and make it out alive, this woman can thank my friend for their lives. My friend is serving this woman drink after drink... and the woman never sees her.  Never recognizes her.  Why would she?  My friend is just some rando proletariat servant and she's the bourgeoisie. They don't look at us, they look through us.  We are simply props in their rich-folk play.

There's another con, besides the classism that manifests all sorts of ways, and it is People Who Want To Get Something For Nothing.  They know it costs a pretty penny to come eat in our restaurant, and they feel like they deserve it but they don't want to have to pay full price.  You know these people.  Shit, you may BE these people, although if you are, whether or not you admit it is anyone's guess.  Some folks know it, but some insist they're in the right.  These people will eat their entire meal before telling me something was wrong with it and it totally ruined their experience.  Nevermind that I checked at least twice during the meal to make sure things were going fine and they didn't say anything then.  Of course I have to tell my manager if there's a problem, so they'll usually end up getting that meal for free, and maybe even a free dessert.

That's fine, whatever.  If you still give me a decent percentage, I'm not going to be too upset.  I'll still know you're a cheater and a liar and a cheapskate, and you're probably going to be tipping me on the discounted total rather than the total amount on the total work I did for you, but whatever, I'll be fine, because you're ripping off the restaurant, not me.  It's when mufukkas run up drinks and starters and entrees and desserts and then tip *less than ten percent* that I really get chapped.  I am a Damn Good Server, and I give all my tables an equal share of my awesome service, because you can never know who's going to be great tippers and who's going to stiff you.  But don't punish me just because you feel like you shouldn't have to shell out dough to eat in our spot.  Like that one punk kid who brought his date in on Valentine's day and wore his damn ballcap the whole time inside and left me exactly $100 on his bill of $100.26.  Sure, I don't mind paying part of your check and serving you for free.  Or this asshole yesterday who was one of those people who just wants the world to be his audience and laugh at his jokes who gave me $65 to pay for a $63.38 bill.  I don't carry change on me, so I gave him back change on $63, eating the 38 cents.  He left me $6.

Speaking of people who just want the world to be their audience, that happens more in high-end restaurants, too, in my experience.  Lonely people with no one to listen to them flap their gums so they come to your job because they know you have to be nice to them.  You're a captive.  You're required in your job description to put up with them.

This guy got weird yesterday.  It started out only a little weird.  I asked if he wanted lemon in his tea - I hate lemon, so I like to give people the courtesy of not bringing it if they too hate it.  He said to me:

"I can't eat jalapeños.  I used to eat whole lemons."

I'm not sure how we got to jalapeños, but whatever.  At that point he hadn't been too annoying so I figured I'd humor him.  "Whole lemons?" I asked the way I knew he wanted me to.

"Yep, the peel and the rind can keep you from getting cancer, so I ate the whole thing!  I used to eat one a day!"

Hey guess what, I don't care.  It was obvious he was one of those who just wants you to laugh at everything he says and be super shocked and impressed by all his declarations but I just didn't have that to give that day.  I just wasn't feeling it and I couldn't fake it.  I still had plenty of Awesome Service to give, but I wasn't going to be someone's canned-laughter audience, so I mostly ignored him.  Right up until I forgot to bring his katsup.  "I'm so sorry," I said.  "I made it, I just left it in the kitchen.  I'll be right right back."

"Made it?  WITH YOUR OWN HANDS?" he yells in feigned surprise.

I get it, dude, I get what you're trying to say.  I just looked at him blank faced.  I just don't have what you want right now.  I'm not going to laugh, I'm not going to protest and play the game and say "No I meant I just pumped it into the cups," I just looked at him and stared but he only missed one half of a second before barreling on into:

"When you get your hair cut, you're going to have to give me a discount!"


I spent all day trying to puzzle that one out.  I've still got nothing.

I feel like only Lewis Black can understand my pain on that.

Please feel free to share server woes specific to your particular sort of service in the comments.

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