Ah, the pity tip. Have we all received these before? It's when you get an outrageous tip and you know it was only because your customer felt supremely sorry for you. It usually happens when a situation spirals out of control and there is a perfect storm of "of, fucks." Like you get triple sat, two or three orders in a row are all cooked wrong and then your nine top wants nine separate checks. Things just pile up and you end up so far in the weeds that you can't see past your station and as a result your customers think, "give this boy an extra dollar, he's in sad shape." This happened to me the other night.
The show I was working had reservations for about 70 people which is at the cusp for needing three servers instead of two. But the two of us are both really strong so we felt like it would be okay. It would have been okay if thirty more people hadn't shown up who didn't make a reservation. Suddenly, I had about 60 people in my station all needing a drink before the show started in twenty minutes. Panic and acid reflux began their way up my esophagus. My station was filled with one and two tops so the number of checks I had was staggering. People were clawing at me to get their second required beverage before I had even greeted half my station. Ordinarily I would be pleased as punch that people were on their second $15 martini before the show had even started, but I really needed to get to those people in the back of the room to see what they wanted. "Seriously? A hot tea and a Pelligrino? And you want a Pelligrino too? And you also? Wait, am I about to bust my hump for a bunch of five dollar Pelligrinos?" Yes, my hump was indeed busted for a bunch of five dollar Pelligrinos. My hump was so busted, I looked like a tired ass camel prostitute who had been ridden so many times that my hump was no longer a hump. It was just a of soft fleshy mound of "I just got screwed." I spent the whole 75 minutes of the show struggling to stay afloat. I had so many orders in my head that I couldn't remember who got what and I was wading through my station with a tray of cocktails just waiting for someone to raise their hand when they saw what they had ordered. I could picture my tips going down the drain faster than Charlie Sheen's career. (Lame topical reference, I know. Winning...) I felt really bad when the last song of the show was starting and I was just barely setting down booth 5's second round of Cosmos and wine. I was a bad waiter. I felt shame deep within my soul for not meeting the expectations of my guests. That may sound facetious, but I genuinely felt bad. Technically, it wasn't my fault. It was the fault of the 30 people who didn't see the need to make a two minute phone call to make a fucking reservation.
As I distributed the checks to the table, I felt the need to apologize to every single one and let them know that we were clearly understaffed. And my apology was sincere. When I started to pick up the checks to run credit cards and make change, something wonderful happened. "Keep the change, you deserve it" was the mantra of the people in my station. I saw 20-25% tips. It was like a miracle. I think out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jesus turning water into wine and then I saw Moses parting the Red Sea, so I guess God felt like throwing in some kick ass tips for me as well. I know they were all pity tips. They felt bad for me. But I'm okay with that. Now if only I could figure out a way to get pity tips when I am not slammed. It will be difficult, but maybe God has a plan.
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