Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Got tips?

While I was pregnant with the bean, I would often lurk on the August pregnancy board at Baby Center. This was done mainly to convince myself that I wasn't the only crazy, hormonal pregnant lady in the world. I'd commiserate with the ladies' and their stories of morning sickness and heartburn and moodiness and nesting urges, but I didn't go there with the expectation of expanding my knowledge base. It was mainly just an entertaining outlet for when I was too lazy to get off of the couch which, come to think of it, happened more and more often the bigger my belly grew.

Then one day shortly before the arrival of my little cupcake, I came across a ranting post by a young mom to be. Ranting posts are my favorite as I can relate very well to the urge to just flip out over the many annoyances that life can bring. Anyway, this woman was a waitress who at the time was about 8 months pregnant. She was angry because a couple left her a measly $2 tip on a $150 check after they had commandeered a table for the entire evening and kept her running back and forth with their various demands.

Now, it doesn't take an economist to know that a 1.3% tip is woefully inadequate for a server to survive on, but what I didn't know was that she actually lost money on the table. You see, I wasn't aware that some restaurants require that their serving staff contribute a set percentage of their total sales to the hostesses and busboys. I think she said it was 2% but details are not my finer point, so it's very likely that I'm wrong on the exact figure. If it was 2%, that means she had to put $3 into the kitty for support staff when she had only gotten $2 from the customer. Now, my stellar math skills come into play as I realize that she had to pay $1.00 for her time and the pleasure of waiting on that party. And this doesn't even factor in the taxes that she'll have to pay on the gratuity, or the fact that her hourly wage is well below the national minimum.

In this particular situation, the low ball tip stung even more as the waitress only had three tables in her section that evening, so the difference was not as easily made up by customers who tip appropriate amounts. I knew about lousy tippers, table turnover, taxes and having to share tips; but I never considered all of the myriad of ways that those things could impact the server and her ability to earn a living.

As someone who spends a lot of time eating out in restaurants, I was quite perturbed by this new knowledge. I've seen how hard many waitresses work, and to think that they would do so without proper compensation made me feel enraged for them. I was still riding this wave of ire when I happened upon this book while browsing in Barnes and Noble:

Of course I had to purchase it. But being pregnant at the time, I quickly forgot it until I found it the other day. I put it in my suitcase this past weekend and proceeded to devour it at the lake. The author started out as a 30 something blogger who wrote about being a waiter in an upscale restaurant in NYC. This behind-the-scenes peek into the restaurant business developed a huge, devoted following that lead to the writing of this book. The blog's address is www.waiterrant.net, but I have to warn you that his recent entries are mostly self-promoting plugs for his book and media appearances. It seems that he may be a bit consumed by his own success at the moment. I recommend going back and reading the archives for the good stuff.

In the book, The Waiter writes as though he his speaking to you in a way similar to how a father would sit his son down to be regaled by the older man's hard earned words of wisdom. This relaxed prose made for an easy read. I enjoyed his distinctive, dry wit and his sprinkling of illuminating metaphors as he exposes the existence of a culture within the food industry that I am sure most diners are completely unaware. I know that I'll never look at my server the same, and I will most certainly be on the lookout for some of the extreme customer personalities that were so humorously brought to life in the book. Having learned from a firsthand source the many ways a wronged server can enact revenge upon his charges, I'll be sure to be on my best behavior when eating out. I certainly don't wish to become the star of another waiter's war story filled memoir especially since I no longer have pregnancy hormones to blame for all of my poor behaviors.


  1. Anonymous4:24 PM

    Hey Laura! I bought this book for Melissa for her birthday and she loves it!! I figured it was appropriate seeing as how she's waitressed away in S.C. and now her and her hubby own their own seafood joint! Now I think I need to get it...BTW, I love all the new photos!! Call me soon!

  2. Anonymous4:24 PM

    P.S.-It's Amy