June 24, 2006

My Rant on Being a Waitress

This is a rant. If you donít want to hear me whine, stop reading now, though I will tell you that there may be a few life lessons you should hear hidden amongst the bitching.

I am a waitress. I have been a waitress for over four years on and off now. I never thought I would waitress, and in high school probably would have said I couldnít do it. Most people seem to think that. But I ended up a waitress, and the money can make it very worth it sometimes. But I want to tell you a few things, mainly on how you should treat the people who serve you, and other things you may not realize.

First off, donít fuck with the people who prepare and serve your food. I think this would be self evident, but youíd be surprised how many people canít grasp this concept. We can do things to your food. I know a number of people who have been in the industry for years, and have witnessed people spitting in food, wiping bread on various body parts, and other gross things I will not mention. I personally would not do these things to someoneís food, but as a customer, you donít know me, and you donít know that. The meanest thing I have done is to give decaf coffee to people in the morning when they piss me off. There is a movie called ďWaitingĒ. It is a movie about a typical restaurant and all the people in it. People not in the industry think it is exaggerated. It is not. (and it is rather disgusting in parts). I highly recommend watching it, and its pretty funny as well as educational. (The guy from van wilder stars in it).

Secondly, I want to discuss tipping with you. I realize in some countries it is not the custom to tip. However, in those countries the servers are compensated in their wages for this. I am not. I make $3.90 an hour. And believe me, after taxes, thatís not much. My last paycheck was $198.00, and $194.00 was taken out in taxes. That leaves me with four dollars for two weeks worth of work. So basically, what I make in tips is what I make.

With that being said, let me explain a few other things about tipping that you may not know. I give back 4% of my net sales in order to tip out the busboys, food runners, and bartenders for their help. 4% of my NET SALES. That means that no matter what you tip me, I have to give back 4% of the price of the food you ordered. So if you tip me less than 4%, I am actually losing money waiting on you. If you can afford a $90 dinner of filet mignon for two people, you can afford to leave me more than five dollars, thank you very much. Thatís just insulting. In addition to the 4%, the IRS taxes us on 12% of our net sales automatically, in an effort to stop people who donít report all that they make in cash tips. So again, if you tip me less than that, Iím still paying taxes on what I havenít earned, and losing money.

About the amount you should tip. 15% means the service was barely adequate, or pretty bad. It means I never returned to fill your drinks, screwed up your order, forgot to come back with the ketchup you wanted, etc. Now, you do need to judge the atmosphere in the restaurant though, before you judge your server. If the restaurant is full, and all you see is your server running back and forth, and trying to take care of a table of twelve Asian tourists (its happened to me) along with six other tables, give them a break. If your server is standing talking to another server and ignoring you, then they may deserve the 15%. If you are drinking coffee, or sucking down diet coke after diet coke, tip them accordingly. The drinks may be free refills, and are only two dollars, but they cause more work than if you had a five dollar cocktail. It is very discouraging to have talked to a table for awhile, gotten them everything they wanted quickly, waited the four hours until they decided they were finally done with their coffee, only to find that theyíve left you practically nothing.

A few more random bits. Tip your bartender. They may only be opening a beer for you, but their base pay is again based upon the idea that they are making money from tips. If you are from another country, know the custom of tipping. Or else at least understand why your service is bad since any server who gets a table of foreign people wants to cry. To figure out twenty percent, take ten percent and double it. Tip higher or lower from there. Do not take out your cell phone to calculate the tip, it makes us cringe. Do not ask us about prices, we donít set them, we canít change them, and we canít give you discounts. If you canít afford the meal and the tip, please donít come in. Donít change menu items a lot. If you want one thing taken out, thatís fine, but most of the items have been carefully chosen and designed and itís a pain in the ass for me to type in, no bleu cheese, extra dressing, no Italian dressing, ranch dressing instead with extra crispy fries on the side. Also if Iím busy and it takes me ten minutes to get an order from two people, I get annoyed. Understand that the kitchen gets busy, it doesnít mean your food is sitting back in the kitchen because I donít even bring that out, the food runner does when its ready. If you have a large party and 18% gratuity is automatically put on, you can leave more, its acceptable to do so. If its 11:30 pm, and you have seen your server cleaning all of their salt and pepper shakers, and wiping down the dining room, and youíre the only table left in the place, at least settle your bill so the server can finish up their other side work. They canít leave until you leave, so unless youíre planning on tipping them for that time at least close the check.

Finally, your server is not an idiot and this is not the only employment they can get. I have had people come in that knew me in high school, and give me a look of complete disdain. Yes, Iím waitressing, but Iím also in graduate school, Iíll be a veterinarian in four years. Then when Iím serving you, (I may keep serving for the extra cash), Iíll make you call me Dr. Allison. Donít assume that this is what Iím doing with my life. Besides, itís a rather difficult job, but I can make more on a Friday night than some people make in a week.
Well, this turned out to be pretty long. If youíve stuck with it through to the end, I hope youíve learned something about the service industry. I am not a people person, yet I have to deal with them all the time. One of my managers told me in training that I was not there to be a server, but rather to be an actress. And this is true. You have probably annoyed the fuck out of me, but the smile will not leave my face. And if youíre drunk, donít hit on me, Iím not interested. Tip your server, be considerate, and understand that sometimes this job sucks.

Posted by allison at 11:48 AM | Comments (1)