Something happened and I’m curious as to whether my take on things is the correct one.
To wit: I took the Little Woman out to eat at a sports bar/restaurant. Nothing big or fancy; it’s actually one of our favorite places to hang out, when either of us has a few extra bucks. The waitress was a young woman – I’d guess she was about 20 or 21 – what I would characterize as “typical college aged,” if that helps, and it was clear from the start that she was either experiencing a rough day, or she didn’t want to be at work on a Saturday.
Anyway, we placed our orders and waited. About four or five minutes later, the waitress brought our drinks and told us our food would come shortly. As I said, we’ve eaten here before and we are slaves to our favorite dishes, so we had an idea on how long it would take. Thus, we talked, watched a bit of the big screen television that was off on one wall, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Our waitress, meanwhile, walked over to a table about five yards away, were she sat and chatted with a pair of “typical college aged” young men, one of whom appeared to be very taken with the young woman.
Our order came up and a server brought it to our table – all seemed well. The waitress, who did not serve the food and only noticed that we’d gotten it after the server walked away, excused herself from her conversation long enough to walk over to our table and ask us if all was well. It was, so she turned and returned to her seat with the two guys.
Within ten minutes, however, the Little Woman and I were not as content as we had once been. For starters, it was around this point that we realized we had not been given any napkins. And while this wasn’t as big a deal as it could have been, we also realized that both of our drinks were nearly depleted. No problem – we’d just rectify this when our waitress came back to check on us.
I should point out that the place, save the two guys, the Little Woman, and myself, was practically dead. I mean, if there were ten customers in this place total, that would have surprised me. Truth be told, I was already surprised because it was usually an active place; I have no idea what was happening locally to render the venue as empty as it was. Yet that’s my point – there were literally no customers in the place – so you’d think that we would have received some attention.
And that makes the whole experience all the more frustrating.
You see, the next time we saw our waitress, it was when she literally threw the bill on the table at me. Whatever she was talking about with those two men was apparently absorbing, so much so that she was determined not to let work or two ‘needy’ customers interfere. Neither of us ever received a refill on our drinks, despite asking for them. Napkins? Ha! A quick run to the restroom for paper towel was the solution. A box for leftovers? You’d have thought that the price for each box was coming out of her pocket – how dare we ask for a box? How much longer were we going to run her ragged??
Here’s the issue: I’m normally a decent tipper. I can’t stand those people who think it’s funny to not tip, or worse, to tip using those phony currency sheets with something Biblical or witty on the other side. I typically tip between 20 and 25 percent, although once I went as high as fifty percent. I don’t expect anyone to live the fabulous life with what I tip, but it’s a decent amount in comparison to what we’ve spent. And this is especially funny to me given the myth that African-Americans don’t tip at all. I usually leave a nice note (“You were great! Thanks a lot!”) on the receipt, along with a tip, and I can’t say that I’ve ever thought twice about it. In fact, in all the years I’ve gone to restaurants, I can honestly say that I’ve failed to tip only once – I was 18 and thought that the tip was factored into the bill – and the idea that I screwed some waitress out of $7 still bothers me to this day.
But I certainly won’t shed any tears over not tipping this time. No, siree.
A tip – for what? She hadn’t done anything. And I know this will not make me any friends, but I don’t believe my job as a consumer is to augment someone’s pay regardless of whether they’ve done their job. See, I’ve heard from friends whose attitude is that one should tip regardless of the level of service because the employer pays sub-minimum wage. But maybe I’m Old School, because I was taught that a tip was a token of appreciation for good service. It wasn’t to act as a carrot for great service, but as a ‘thank you,’ and the amount given was commiserate with the service performed. Honestly, I don’t know anymore. I just know that this woman had barely attended to us, and the thought of leaving her with ten or fifteen bucks when she couldn’t be bothered to bring us a couple of napkins or drink refills because she was too busy flirting (or being flirted) with a couple of guys, really got to me. When I filled out the receipt, I drew a line through the tip section, and left the receipt book on the table.
The funny part for me occurred after we got outside. I’d just opened the car door for the Little Woman, and as she was taking her seat, I saw the front door of the sports bar fling open. It was our waitress, hyperventilating and with a look of anger crossed with despair. She couldn’t see us because we were parked next to a large van, but I had a clear view of her. She rapidly scanned the parking lot looking for us – her head twisted to and fro – and then defeated, she slowly turned and reentered the restaurant. Part of me wishes that I had been seen, because while I hadn’t intended on making a production over this, her willingness to engage us was enough for me to untie my tongue and let loose. I don’t know how I would have approached it, but it would not have been pretty.
Was I in the wrong here? Should I have tipped this woman, despite her failing to do her job?