I was reading an article the other day, about how, many fine dining establishments, are doing away with the long-honored tradition of tipping your waitress or waiter. Owners and management say, in an effort to address long-standing inequalities, including wage disparities between kitchen staff and servers, they are now paying wages that reflect an employee’s skills and seniority, while eliminating tipping. One upscale restaurant in Portland, Oregon, called “Le Pigeon,” which specializes in French food has completely done away with any type of tipping. The providing of gratuities has been replaced with a 20% surcharge added to your bill.
Do you really think that the service provided under this arrangement will meet your expectations? What if your server shows up at your table with a half-eaten tray of food, is loudly belching from furiously consuming a large portion of your pate de foie gras, her breath smells like frog legs, she has a huge smelly cigar sticking out of the corner of her mouth, you’ve been waiting twenty minutes for a coffee refill, and she sneezes on your food, after wiping her runny nose with her sleeve? I guess that big surcharge is going to go down about as easy as the food dumped on your table.
Oh, I almost forgot. If you happen to be in Portland, love French food, and visit the famed “Le Pigeon” restaurant, I have one caveat. If you raise or race pigeons, are an avid birdwatcher, or enjoy frequent trips to your local park to feed bread crumbs to our fine avian friends – don’t eat what looks like a very tiny, and scrawny chicken.
I have an enormous respect, and a special place in my heart for the men and women who work hard, make very low salaries, and depend on tips for a large part of their income. Personally, I try to tip everyone. I even tip those wonderful ladies who clean my room during my vacations, or business trips. Do me a favor. The next time you leave your hotel room; use your smart phone to take a picture of the bathroom and sleeping area, and look at the picture. No, I mean take a really good look at the incredible disarray, destruction and disorder. I call it the three D’s. Now, reach in your pocket, pull out some money, walk over to the bed, deposit the wad of cash under the pillow, and thank God that someone is willing to do what they do for minimum wages. I know, you’ll feel a lot better.
I don’t know about you, but I always get better service when I make it a habit of showing my appreciation to those who do jobs, I don’t want to do. It works! I can dump an enormous, three-piece sectional couch on my front lawn, and the waste management engineers, will somehow jam it into the back of the garbage truck, my newspaper deliverer will show up at my door, every morning at 5:00 am with the morning paper, and a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, and my barber will spend an entire hour, if needed; removing bushels of thick hair from my nose and ears.
My wife and I, go out for breakfast on most Saturday mornings, and we usually have the same waitress. She always gets at least a five-dollar tip. Most of you have had waitresses like this. She’s at least seventy, as thin and fast as a racing greyhound, looks like everyone’s grandmother, is always smiling, can carry two trays of food in her hands while precariously balancing another on her head, magically fills your coffee cup when you turn your head for two seconds, and can read your mind. I’m serious. She’s kind of like my wife. She tells me what I’m having for breakfast, and I just nod, and say – yes dear.
With the economy being slow for the past few years, I’ve been seeing more and more tip jars. I, always manage to find some change, or one or two well-worn bills to stuff into them. Have you seen any of those tip jars with the little sign that says, “Please leave a tip for exceptional service.” What do you think they mean by that? I would think that exceptional service at a restaurant would entail an always filled coffee cup, extra napkins, food received within ten minutes after ordering, relaxing back rubs, pleasant conversation, and a smiley face on the bill.
Really…………… exceptional service would be all of the above, plus, a fantastic electric guitar solo by the server, and possibly a series of difficult and athletic tumbling runs, along with a somersault or two without spilling anything. Now, that would get one heck of a tip!
There are two things though, that have bothered me lately. Do you think it’s the business owners who are putting out the tip jars, and more importantly; are the workers getting any of the money? Many of the jars have things written on them like, “Tips are greatly appreciated?” Of course, they are. The owner of the establishment probably wrote the note! He then emptied the jar, just before he left for a twenty-one day, fun-filled excursion on Carnival Cruise Lines with his new twenty-two-year old wife.
Do you think poor Juan, who came up from Tijuana and washes dishes in the back for fourteen hours a day is going to see any of those tips? The poor guy lives in a closet, and sends what little money he makes back to his wife, ten kids, and fourteen assorted relatives in Mexico. Maybe we should just ignore the tip jar, jump the counter, visit the kitchen, and start handing out bills to Juan, Bill the line cook, Mike the busboy, and poor Myra. She’s the nice waitress who’s eighty-four, and still carrying huge trays of food ten hours a day to buy dog and cat food, pay her real estate taxes, and purchase her medication.
Most of you don’t know this, but years ago, I worked as a professional mixologist. I always depended on the largesse of strangers to pay my bills, and was extremely grateful for even the smallest tip. I recall, after a particularly long night, I checked my tip jar and found it stuffed, not full of crisp bills, but with tiny pieces of neatly folded paper. As I opened the first couple and read them, I realized there were some pretty good tips. Let’s see what people wrote.
“Lose some weight, find a personality, get a face transplant, wear deodorant, invest in breath mints, and please, and I mean this sincerely – never have children.”