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In The Weeds: Piss and Vinegar. It’s What’s For Dinner.

December 29, 2009
By

punchChristmas is officially over but the gifts just keep on giving.  The reprint of my Surefire Stereotypes column that was in the December Reader’s Digest was run on the homepage of Yahoo a few days ago.  It had already run in the magazine, the Today Show, and Msnbc.com — but Yahoo really brought out the weirdos in their “comments” section.  As of today, there are more than 2,000 comments to the story, mostly of the “I hate you and all that you stand for” variety.  I perused some of them over dinner at home with some short breaks for dance parties with my kids.  As I dipped my four year old at the end of the “Hot Chocolate” song from the Polar Express soundtrack, I wondered if this moment would count as typical for a “clearly strung-out, low-end waitress?”

With success comes critics.  I know.  But I can’t resist taking this moment to comment on some of my favorite comments.

1)  From Shellshock: “Wow. The author is going to kill someone with the attitude towards allergies. I guess the terms anaphylactic shock and death are words not found in the author’s vocabulary.”

I covered the topic of food allergies already, but again, if you can DIE from someone messing up your food, you might as well ask your waitress to perform your next open heart surgery.  It’s really the same risk.  I’m not insensitive to your plight.  I’ll do my best.  But it really sucks that you could die.  Because if the Mexican kitchen workers don’t understand what I’m saying about “anaphylactic shock”…. damn.

2) From John: “…is Charity the idiot for being a biggot and leaving pics of her family up on Myspace, called your work Charity, too bad you already got fired for this article.”

Geez, John, stalk much?

3) From AndWhat’sWrongWith10%? “if your boss is too tight to pay you a salary, it’s not the customer’s fault. and if you keep complaining about 10% you’ll end up getting 5.”

There were lots and lots of comments like this.  What’s Wrong With TEN PERCENT??? Are you freaking kidding me???  Breathe.  Sigh.  So…one more time class, shall we?  20% is expected for good service.  15% for average service.  Poor service should be brought to the attention of the manager.  Servers have to tip the support staff….blah blah blah…..servers are taxed on the assumption of a minimum 12% tips…blah blah blah…..servers generally make $2 to $3 per hour ……blah blah blah.  This is how it is.  Yes, we choose the job.  Yes, you choose to participate in the system.  Now, let’s move on.

sorry4) From Heidi “corporate business women do not tip as well as men because they are being paid less to do the same job.”

Again, I was surprised at how many woman wrote about how they tip less than men because they make an average of 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.  Puh Leez.  We are talking about corporate business dinners paid for by the CORPORATE CREDIT CARD (not that your salary is any excuse to short me on mine).  But ladies ladies ladies.  Get a grip.  If you are indeed being paid less than your male colleagues for the same work, allow me to help you stick it to “the man” by leaving me a 50% tip.

5) From Tim P. “Stop taking this article so seriously. It is from Frothygirlz.com, which bills its site as one that delivers, “Pop culture with an attitude.” In otherwords some of their stuff is funny or provacative on purpose. This article was “7 Funny Restaurant Customer Stereotypes. If you are someone who laughs at jokes performed by George Lopez, Eddie Murphy, Robbin Williams, or Jeff Foxworthy, then you shouldn’t be upset at this. But, if you think these stereotypes are true, you may need help. :-)

Hey Timmy, what’s your number?  I am married, but I think I’ve got room for you in my life.

6)  From RatherDieThanBeAWaitress “Did they just make up this crap? Ah, the ‘author’ is from Kansas City, that explains a lot!”

Well, I’m not from here but I did start to learn my alphabits and readin here.  Oh dang, I have to go empty the sewage in our camper home, so I can’t really right more write now.

7) From ShutUp “She is complaining about this job because she is a clearly strung out low end waitress who has no skills to do anything else. eat at upscale places and you won’t have these problems.”

First of all, as my crack baby kids will tell you, Shut Up is a bad word. Secondly, I spent the majority of my serving years at a place where “dinner costs more than most car payments,” as my boss liked to say. Full-time servers easily pull down about $60-80K per year there. I was so well liked that I was asked to be a trainer after only a year of service and was ranked among the top servers in my last review.  In fact, my boss said it really sucked that I wrote a funny blog and that I had to be fired because I was one of his “favorites.”  Think about your own jobs, my friends.  We all have complaints.  We all make generalizations about our customers that bring laughter to our co-workers.  For whatever reason, people just happen to love reading about restaurant stereotypes.  They don’t tend to click on articles about electrical engineering stereotypes.  Yes, even upscale places have waiters that are human and like to deal with work stress through humor.  I certainly enjoyed taking care of my guests, but I enjoy writing about it even more.  Now, does anyone have some blow?

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15 Responses to “ In The Weeds: Piss and Vinegar. It’s What’s For Dinner. ”

  1. Pancake on December 29, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Dear Charity,

    SMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOCH!

    Your Devoted and Besotted Friend and Colleague,
    Jane

  2. Jill Manzi on December 29, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Charity,
    You’re a great blogger, I’m also a long time server, and I think you’re great! Too bad you got fired, is that legal? You seem like you’d be a great server too!

  3. Huskyluvr on December 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Charity,
    Loved the Blog. Spent 14 years in food service and you right on the mark in some cases. I have seen a lot but not everything. Sorry you got fired, some people have no sense of humor!
    Moved into retail a few years ago , and let me tell you it is true , the more things change the more they stay the same. I could tell you stories and give you a list of stereotypical customers( like the african-american customer trying to return an item with no receipt, hasn’t been carried in years and threatens to call Jesse Jackson if we don’t take her return and give her cash back)While all the customers behind he, also african-american lauf gh there buns off and the silliness

  4. Solorzano on December 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Hi, I’ve read this and two other posts, and as a line cook/cashier/salad prep worker, I can definitely identify with almost every incident you’ve posted.

    My background in restaurants goes back to when I was 15 and worked for a month at a kosher pizza shop as a dishwasher, then when I was 17 I cashiered and prepared sandwiches at their competitor’s place, a job I held intermittently until I was 22 (I did a stint in the army on the way).

    Since coming back to town I work at a grill in the above-mentioned capacities. We currently are an establishment of nine tables and two to four workers per shift. I’m sure our one waiter, a 56-year old never-do-well guy, will laugh at your “20 Secrets Your Waiter will never tell you”.

    On a more practical level, I would like to ask you if your boss’ competitors have ever tried to lure you or other servers away with promises of better tips and wage compensation if the customers don’t deliver. Our’s, who incidentally employed me when I was fifteen, is constantly attempting to convince our waiter to defect, and is in the process of opening up his own grill restaurant in order to run us out of business (we share the same eight store building).

    I’m wondering if you have any advice I could take, because without that waiter we’d be in danger of losing a great number of our current customers. We are a community establishment, and a kosher one too, and our clientele is very limited in its choices, but if the other grill starts a price war with us, we don’t have the workforce or the budget at the moment to block them.

    I’d appreciate your reply. All the best

  5. cj on December 29, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks for the love everybody.

    Solorzano,
    First of all, thank you for your service to our country! Nobody ever tried to lure my coworkers or myself away that I know of. I worked for a very large chain restaurant, not nearly as intimate and specialized as what you are doing. I feel for you in this sticky situation because you have such specific clientele who have gotten to know your one waiter. I don’t like to give out advice because it makes me laugh to be thought of as any kind of knowledgeable person, but if I HAD to say something, I would suggest having a heart-to-heart with the waiter and see where his head is. Tell him how much you all appreciate him and all the business he brings in. Tell him how much you hope he stays. At the same time, I would suggest really laying on the big-time hospitality to your customers. Send hand-written thank you notes to their homes after they dine with you. If you haven’t seen someone in awhile, send them a note saying you hope they return soon. Offer hot towels after the meal. Escort them to their cars with umbrellas if it’s raining. Use their names when you see them. Put a rose on a table if a couple is celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Find those little ways to connect and do something special for each and every guest (doesn’t have to cost any money), and they will remember you when the new place opens. Be unique in your hospitality and offer the genuine type of old-school service that is so lacking these days. Good luck!

  6. cj on December 29, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Solorzano – here is an article I found to get your staff thinking about creative ways to be customer service rock stars:
    http://www.forexfee.com/the-essentials-of-restaurant-customer-service.html

  7. BettyBostonia on December 29, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    As my mother would say to all of the negative commentators – LIGHTEN UP FRANCIS! It’s humor, not a life manual. Mucho gracias CJ for another article that made me lmao.

  8. Shannon on December 29, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    @BettyBostonia
    Amen, sister! Everyone takes everything so seriously nowadays!

  9. shannon c. on December 30, 2009 at 2:50 am

    so, i started reading your bag the second i saw it on yahoo, i immediately fell in love. i’ve only been serving for a year, and while there are times that i am so far in the weeds i just want to cry, and scream and shout at my guests to “hold on a second, and i’ll get you your goddamned water with lemon!!!” i still love it way more than retail. so, thank you for your humor, and thank you for giving me a good laugh after an insanely busy night at work. good luck.

  10. Niki Bishop on December 30, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    You are my hero!! I couldn’t help but laugh my “low end, strung out, fat server ass” off at some of the comments! You clearly have a knack for zinging these critics right back! I have been a server for years now and I love serving, but I hate stupid people. You have been the topic of conversation for the last few days now at the restaurant I work for. Me and the girls had a great time with your article. Keep up the good work!

  11. AiXeLsyD13 on December 31, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Interesting…

    “So…one more time class, shall we? 20% is expected for good service. 15% for average service. Poor service should be brought to the attention of the manager. Servers have to tip the support staff….blah blah blah…..servers are taxed on the assumption of a minimum 12% tips…blah blah blah…..servers generally make $2 to $3 per hour ……blah blah blah. This is how it is. Yes, we choose the job. Yes, you choose to participate in the system. Now, let’s move on.”

    I was always told that 15% was a good tip. When did 20% become the norm for good service? Generally I tip 20% – 25% (which annoys my wife) but because of my shellfish allergy I have a small circle of places where I feel comfortable dining… and I like to keep the servers happy & looking out for me not to die.

    If you’re taxed on 12% of your wages, why is 15% an ‘average service’ tip? (Not meant to be condescending or smart-assed… just wondering.)

    I do enjoy these blogs, glad I stumbled upon them… however I was brought here.

  12. I've eaten, thank you on January 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I for one admit I have NEVER waited tables nor worked in the industry.

    I do appreciate the effort, hard work, and dedication it takes to be successful at any level.

    I watch very closely the staff members at restaurants to learn how they interact as TEAM members. I have always found new and exciting ways to improve team dynamics with these observations. Of course a stand up comedian probabbly gets more return than I do.

    Thanks for a great insight to the other side of the kitchen doors.

  13. [...] people complaining upset the “In The Weeds” writer, and she posted another blog, again venting… 1)  From Shellshock: “Wow. The author is going to kill someone with the [...]

  14. teleburst on January 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    @Alex:

    Regarding your questions about tipping, the current standards have been in place since the 50s. I’ve actually done some research on this and I guess I’m going to have to post about it on “So You Want To Be A Waiter”. But the short of it is, 15% has been the “baseline” for tipping – the point where you “start” – since the 50s and this is backed up if you read 50s editions of Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post, which I have.

    15% is for the times where the service is “just fine, I guess”. The server doesn’t do much more than bring you your food, but does it in an error-free and timely fashion. Obviously, this is a “judgement” thing, as is the patron’s perception of caring for the diner’s dining experience, offering suggestions that make the dining experience better, is personable, makes you feel good, goes out of their way to accomodate you, etc. that lets you know that it’s more than just
    “acceptable” service and more like “appropriate” service. Business dinners require a different mentality and demeanor than celebrating your 15 year old’s birthday, for instance. You don’t want to swap demeanors with them. A better than average server seems to magically read your mood and your needs. An average server is only interested in getting your order right and moving you along and doesn’t seem to think of you as much more than a seat-filler. Better than average service means perfect pacing of the meal according to your needs. Got theater tickets or want a leisurely dinner? An average server will serve you on THEIR schedule, not yours. A great server will serve you exactly as you need to be served and will be personable and interested in you as more than a meal ticket.

    And bad service can encompass a lot of things, but a
    “mistake” or two doesn’t mean that you automatically go below 15% if the server makes a genuine effort to make it right. And CJ is correct, a 10% tip is perceived as a bad tip.

    I’ve been around for a long time and my dad taught me the standards in the 60s when I was but a kid. I’ve been in and out of the business since ’74 and it’s always been 15% for “normal” service and more or less for better or worse service. In fact, I average 18 – 19% on pre-tax totals (and I mean an actual average that I keep track of, not a guestimate”. Believe it or not, about 75% of Americans seem to tip on the post-tax final total, so my average is more like around 21 – 22% of the final total (yes, this IS a guestimate because you don’t always know what the intention of the guest is, although when they leave you $20 on a $100 check, it’s pretty obvious.)

    I’ve written some on tipping on my blog, but I haven’t really addressed the “history” of the current system except as tangents. Stay tuned – I’ll probably cover it in a future post.

    Sorry for the length…

  15. Stuck Serving on January 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    You are amazing! Thank you for putting those people in their place on behalf of all servers!

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