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Monday, July 16, 2012

Rules of Engagement (Guest Blogger!)

While I am on vacation in Texas to see my family (an obli-cation is what I like to call it) I have set up some really wonderful guest bloggers. I hope you will share them, comment on them and love them. In the meantime, I will be in Texas drinking gravy and sweating. 

Rules of Engagement: Tips from your Server on how to Avoid Being a Social Dining Douche Bag.
By: Lori Slee
As much as it pains me to have to write and post this, I have observed and experienced firsthand that it is indeed, a necessary evil.
We have all been to a restaurant to eat.  Some are small mom and pop joints.  Some are our favorite national restaurant chain…or on occasion, we might be visiting a world class city, and meander into a place that’s noted for fun, food and a bumpin’ atmosphere.  In either and all cases, there are certain rules of conduct that should be adhered to.  Not by your server, but by YOU…the guest. 

In most establishments there is/are a host/hostess to guide you to your seat, give you your menu and in some cases (not all) take your drink order.  That is all.  They work on a rotation system for seating tables.  When you as the guest are sat, stay put. There is a reason you are in that spot.  Now, mind you, if after being sat you notice the table is wobbly, there is a screaming child nearby, or some unidentified liquid is dripping from the ceiling; when your server comes to greet you, let them know of the situation.  They will be more than happy to help you to another table, either in their station or one belonging to a nearby colleague…DO NOT get up and walk willy nilly to another table.  This may result in not being greeted or noticed, thus causing you possible angst (brought on upon by yourself) and in the end you have only you to blame.

Social Conduct:
After being sat and greeted. Be kind to your server. Take a look around you, noting other guests and tables. Yes that is right.  There are other people in the same establishment!  The restaurant is not your oyster. Look at your server, smile.  Speak directly at them, especially if there is an atmosphere of loud music and whatnot.  DO NOT look into your menu and mumble your order.  This may result in your getting something you did not want.  If this happens, again, you have only you to blame.
Take care to leave your personal hang-ups outside the door.  If you are fighting before you arrive and cannot come to some agreement, DO NOT come into the restaurant with clenched teeth and fists and a belly full of hate.  We your server along with surrounding guests DO NOT want to witness your bullshit.  Again, you are not the only people in existence.  Take mind to the fullness of humanity around you.

Your Server:
Even though we all wear the same cartoon uniforms, this does not make us cartoon characters, servants or robots.  This was put upon us by the corporate minds to keep some kind of image for the restaurant.  We have agreed as servers to don the garb, still underneath it all, we bleed real blood…just like you. There may be days your server had to come into work and is having a bad day.  It happens to all of us. 
So if they seem a bit despondent or off kilter, keep in mind they may have just received news earlier that day from a government agency that their ex-husband passed away two months prior, and nobody in the family had the decency to notify them. These things happen. DO NOT leave an outlined synopsis of how your server was ‘inadequate’ and ‘mediocre’ on the bottom of your credit card receipt; just because you have the vernacular ability to do so.  This just makes you look like a pompous asshole.  And your server will hold absolutely no regard to what you believed to be helpful constructive criticism.
Now, if your server IS the pompous asshole (because these things do happen, and chances are they won’t be in the industry for long) take note to the degree of their rudeness.  In some cases the remedy is easily handled by your gratuity. Bad service, bad tip.  If the server is way outta line, like mackin’ on your date, or sloppy drunk, please ask to speak with a manager.  It would be greatly appreciated by not only other visiting patrons…but fellow servers as well.

Time Frame:
If you DO NOT have enough time to sit down and enjoy a meal, just keep going and hit a drive through. We are the server, a kind of data entry/delivery employee.  We do not rule the universe with the wave of our pens, nor do we traipse our asses into the kitchen and prepare your meals.  We are just a cog in a greater machine.  

“I believe the children are our are future; Teach them well and let them lead the way…” TEACH THEM FOR GODSAKE! I have four of my own, so yes I have a certain authority on this subject.  DO NOT let them run amuck around the establishment.  This is rude and dangerous.  We servers balance huge trays that weigh upwards of 40 pounds on one hand one shoulder whilst walking through an obstacle course of tables and people meandering (looking at all the ‘memorabilia’).  If a child were to get under our feet, it would not be pretty, especially if that tray has a hot Sizzling Fajita on it. People, really.  And please, please, please, keep purses and diaper bag straps off the floor and out of sight.  Too many a server has biffed it because of the unseen booby trap set next to your feet.

A food that stimulates the appetite and is usually served before a meal.  Unless of course you decide AFTER your entrĂ©e order, that ooopsie…we wanted an appetizer. Chances are very high that your main food order has been put in.  So, your new order will more than likely arrive after you have your main meal.  This is your faux pas…not ours.  Ok, so DO NOT ask to have it voided from your check after you have eaten it, just because it didn’t arrive in true dinning sequence. 

Water, soda, coffee, cocktails, beer and the like… almost always delivered by your friendly helpful and duteous server. If you are a complete jerk, beware there are certain servers out there that may “Miss Celie” your refreshment.  If you don’t know what “Miss Celie” is, watch The Color Purple. 

After your meal has arrived and you are getting ready to grub, chances are and this is usually the case, one finds they need something.  Like a side of Ranch, some ketchup, or a refill on their drink.  This is a common occurrence, and we as servers are more than happy to retrieve and deliver.  However; when your server arrives to the table, whether it be just you or a party of twenty, please consolidate what it is you need.  That way we can take care of you in one fell swoop, and avoid having to run our asses back and forth for a small ramekin of dressing, two lemons, or an extra straw, or spoon…seriously people, note that you are not the only humans in existence.

Splitting the Bill:
Don’t do it.  You went out to eat with people you may enjoy conversation and company with.  Pay with one form of payment.  This helps expedite your departure and our cash out at the end of the evening.  See…we can all help one another and do each other a favor.  If you insist on paying your own way, please keep it to a two party check. Four is max. Parties of ten or more who want ten separate checks are just looking for complications. 

Coupons and Vouchers:
These are a pain in our asses; distributed by the think tanks that run these places as a way to generate business.  Now, if you really want to use your coupon or voucher, chances are you cannot, CANNOT combine two different ones.  Come now people, we all know this is the way of the world. And do not take it out on your server because the world is crap, and you can’t save an extra five dollars. When tipping, please be courteous and tip on the original amount of the bill, not the deducted price.  This just makes you look like a cheap bastard.  

This is the tip left.  It is a standard custom and tradition. The gratuity is 20%.  Not 10% and not five bucks.  If you cannot figure out the math, take out your cell phone, find your calculator and work it out.  
Plus, many of you may not be aware, but we as servers have to “tip out” five percent of our tips to bussers, directors and the bar.  So when you leave me five dollars on a seventy seven dollar tab, or worse, NOTHING… I lose income.
Note to foreigners and our Canadian friends:  I cannot do anything with your currency.  Please leave my money in American notes. Thank you.

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Mark W said...

Some of us don't tip out on tips. The last place I worked, runners/bussers received 3% of our gross non-alcohol food sales and bartenders received 5% of our gross alcohol sales.

If the customer spent $40 on booze and $100 on food, then leaves a $10 tip, half of that tip goes to runners and the bartender. If the customer leaves no tip, I'm stuck paying $5 out of my own pocket.

Anonymous said...

Normally, I agree with most all that BW or his guests say. However, I did find it a bit ironic that the guest blogger in this case said that customers should leave the BS out the door but then expects customers to accept that servers have bad days (short of being a blatant a-hole). It works both ways...customers have bad days too and while it's not acceptable for servers to take crap over it, just the same, it's not acceptable for customers to take it from servers either.

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Dewsterling said...

Last night was one of the most egregious serving experiences I've ever had. A Bastille Day pre-fixe at the French restaurant. A sold-out dining room, packed with cheap-ass diners in for a Sunday night discounted dinner.

Our first table showed up 30 minutes early. Our last table, 30 minutes late. I had orders for "hot water with lemon" and people who ate with excruciating slowness squeezing every penny of the $35pp cost. At the end, separate checks because 1 person got a $9 glass of wine that no one else could bear to share in the cost.

My FAVORITE part of the evening had to be the discussion of whether or not the tip was included because in France, restaurants include gratuity. Apparently, out diners didn't notice that they were in Northern California where gratuity is typically not included. Maybe these people are unfamiliar with dining in restaurants as they obviously mistook the waitstaff for slaves already.

I would, however, like to mention that the few experienced, friendly, generous diners we had made my night. They are why I enjoy serving.

Anonymous said...

i a young consumer(trying my best to remember to tip..i'm adhd i always remember because i'm always with a friend who has gone out by themselves and not their mommy and daddy) and never a waitress understand and agree with all these rules. My dad grew up working in a grocery store and then in a restaurant. These have never been "rules" but what is expected of my brother and I. we never ran around because fear was instilled in us. we tip a 20% when we can because it is the only tip you should tip in most circumstances. you are polite, organized and make eye contact because it's common sense and both the waiter and you are human beings and should act/be treated as such. Thank you for reminding and teaching others so that there will one day be peace at restaurants.

Anonymous said...

I like your site and find something funny or useful. However, in some ways, it just seems servers complain about their jobs. Just like every job, you have problems in the industry. I used to have bad customers when I served, but welcome to the industry. I am to the point where I read some of this and ask myself, why you in the industry if all you can do is complain?

It just seems that some of these posts sound like the sever is ungrateful they have a job in this day and age. Frankly, I don't think people should complain and TELL us how to be a customer. You're our server. Don't be one if you can't deal with the crazy demands.

Anonymous said...

What difference does it make, whether it's the bitchy waiter, or the bitchy dinner guest, unless it's about tips, if a certain guest is obnoxious enough to annoy the waiter, I'm pretty sure they are obnoxious enough to annoy fellow neighbouring guests.

And if people aren't giving proper tips, they are losing money, making them worse off than those who are homeless and/or bankrupt.

At least they're trying. Rather than sitting around waiting for handouts.

jMAN5 said...

To the first annon,
Nobody is forcing the customer to come in to the restaurant when they're fighting, they have the ability to turn the car around.
A server is required to come in to work or else they will be out of a job, calling in sick doesn't cut it at most places.

Sarah said...

JMan - so you're saying it's okay for servers to have tood because they HAVE to be there? I cannot disagree with you more. How about just everyone being polite and civil because we are humans and that's how we're supposed to act anyway - server OR customer.

JimL said...

I like your set of rules. As a customer, I try to follow them and rarely tip less than 20% on the total.

BTW, it's "seated," not "sat."

Practical Parsimony said...

The remedy for rudeness is handled by our gratuity? And, in the meantime, customers can just seeth and not tip. You really think that solves the problem of rudeness from a server? No, it just makes a server grumpier and blame it all on the customer.

Separate checks? Always when I am out, even if there are 20 people with me. It seems that separate check, announced up front, is just as easy as going to half a dozen tables. If it is not, and I tell you before I place my order, then I don't want you as a server.

I tip 15%, that's all unless there is some spectacular service, like refilling my tea or wster before I choke to death. Yes, I will call over another server to get my tea, not to go get you.

One server told me when I complained about lack of service that he had something he had to do in the back. I thought they hired people for that.

When servers are perfect, then maybe customers will be too.

Practical Parsimony said...

By the way, your post title sounds like you are jonesing for a fight. If you are going to have a title that puts me on edge right up front, the post ought to have a bit of humor...okay, a lot of humor. Actually, any humor in this post would be welcome.

Frimmy said...

I appreciate knowing what I should or shouldn't do in restaurants. I've never worked as a server and have no idea of the inside workings. I do try to be respectful and treat all servers like I would want to be treated but sometimes ignorance plays in and I know I've inadvertently inconvenienced someone.

I do work for a huge chain of Canadian coffee shops and I just want to say that bills get paid in US funds on a daily basis. The exchange is calculated by the tills, change back factors in the exchange rate and no thinking is required. I can see how leaving a payment in obscure foreign currencies would be inconvenient, unless you collect that kind of thing, but Canadian currency there should be as much of a problem as US currency is here. Which is zero, but that might be something unique to our till system. We have franchises in the US and we see Canada and the US as family and family gets privileges.

Anonymous said...

Clearly the fellow who doesn't understand why Canadian currency is a problem has never left our shared home land and travelled further than 1/2 an hour across the border. Most of our franchises here in Canada are also US franchises, true, but that doesn't mean our money is valued by anyone but us.

and Rules of Engagement forgot to mention to please for the love of God, do not let your children crawl on our dirty floors and then wonder why their tiny little hands are bleeding or where they got that french frie they are now eating when you didn't order french fries. Yes, we sweep the floors, but we miss stuff all the time during service. Please, take care of your kids.

sdr said...

Practical Parsimony: I am a server and the only time seperate checks are a pain is when I'm REALLY swamped, or it's a big party. I don't even really mind it in a big party as long as they realize it's going to take a lot longer to get your checks returned to you. Also, it causes you to have to neglect your other tables for up to 5 minutes while you dole out change and wait for the credit card machine for 20 separate checks.

And while you should never neglect your tables for work to do in the back, no they don't "hire people for that". All servers have side work and clean up that needs to be done after we are no longer taking new tables. We don't just come in, wait tables, then walk out the door. In fact, at my restaurant, we don't have a dishwasher and servers have to do dishes, too.

and 90% of the time I"m on top of refills, but sometimes you can't always get to it right away. Even if you see it, and your at another table dropping off food or taking an order, you can't just drop what you're doing and go refill a drink. When I see it getting low I get to it asap. Sometimes other things get in the way of it. That does not make the person a sucky server. Things happen. I'm sure you have never worked in a restaurant so you don't understand everything we have to balance and juggle when it gets busy. It's not as easy as it looks. Maybe you should try it sometime before you complain so much about service. Also, contrary to popular belief, most of us DO care if we give good service and if we are falling behind or food is taking too long it stresses us out because we WANT to be a good server, but the current circumstance is making it difficult. So maybe keep in mind when you go out to eat that 90% of the time there are other factors affecting what you might see as "slow" or "inadequate" service that aren't the servers fault.