Thursday, July 10, 2014

With “friends” like these

One of the great pleasures of waitressing is complaining.

Complaining about the hostess. Complaining about the cooks. Complaining about the bartenders. Complaining about the food. Complaining about the management. Complaining about the busboys. Complaining about the hours. Complaining about the breaks. Complaining about the stations. Complaining about the scut work you’re forced to do during downtime (all while being paid far less than minimum wage). And, perhaps most cherished of all, complaining about the customers. Which, of course, meant complaining about the tips.

In my experience – which, while extensive, is most thankfully not current – most people are reasonably good tippers. Occasionally, you’ll get stiffed. Occasionally (but far less frequently than the stiffs) you’re overtipped. (Not that there’s any such thing as an overtip…)

Most people being reasonably good tippers is a more than reasonable good thing, given that waiters and waitresses, if not for tips, would be making squat.

The federal minimum wage for tip-earning waitrons is not much more than $2/hour. It varies state to state, but there’s always a substantial delta between waitron wage and minimum wage.

The good news is that, in most restaurants, you can definitely make up the difference between tip-earning wages and the minimum wage – with plenty of room to spare. Obviously this varies. Working the breakfast shift in a coffee shop is not going to be as lucrative as waiting in a high end restaurant that serves booze.

Still, it’s a tough and exhausting way to make a living.

And, these days, if you decide to go social with your complaints about it, you might just find yourself out of that tough and exhausting job.

As happened to Kirsten Kelly, former waitress at a Findlay Ohio Texas Roadhouse (which specializes in line dancing to distract from the not-so-great food).

Kelly’s mistake was to take her grousing out of the break room and onto her FB page.

She did it circumspectly.

She didn’t mention the restaurant or put in any details that would have exposed the identity of the poor tipper.

Except, of course, to the bad tipper herself who was a former classmate of Kelly’s, and a “friend” on Facebook.

Now, if that “friend” were truly a friend, Kelly probably wouldn’t have bitched about her.

And if that “friend” were truly a friend, she would not have self-righteously taken it upon herself to march into the restaurant manager’s office, waving a print out of the offending post, and making a complaint of her own.

The message said, 'If you come into a restaurant and spend $50 or more, you should be able to tip appropriately for that,' Kelly told WTOL11, adding that she didn't identify the person or the place.

Still, her managers weren't happy about it.

'They told me that I knew what I was doing when I posted that, and they would have to let me go,' Kelly said. 'They were really upset.' (Source: Daily Mail UK)

And so they fired her.

'I knew that they could have yelled at me for that, but I didn't think they could fire me for posting that,' she said.

Maybe Kelly shouldn’t have taken her cheap-tipper rant to the airwaves.

But in terms of complaining about customers, this seems pretty small potatoes.

She didn’t name names, and no one would have known who she was complaining about unless they knew that they were the rotter who had left a lousy tip.

I have a pretty good idea what was going on in Kelly’s head when she posted: She’d had a tough night. She hadn’t made much money. She’s got bills to pay. She thinks people who can’t afford to tip shouldn’t eat out.

It’s hard for me to imagine the circumstances under which I would stiff a waiter or waitress.

I suppose if they spit in my soup, called me an a-hole, stabbed me with a fork, and tossed a Caesar salad on my head I might take it upon myself to stiff. And even to complain to the manager on my way out the door.

Mostly I leave about 20%. More if the service is exceptional and I really liked the waitperson. Less if the service is “meh.”

But having been there/done that on the waiting side of the table, even “meh” service will rarely go below a 15% tip.

Waiting is a tough, exhausting job. Cooks can be jerks. Food can be bad. Diners can be unreasonable. Sometimes you just make a mistake.

The mistake Kristen Kelly made was a pretty small one, but it had large consequences for her.

But I’d rather be unemployed Kristen Kelly than the nasty piece of work who took it upon herself to march her prissy bad-tipping arse into Texas Roadhouse to file her complaint.

A real friend might have told Kristen that it was pretty poor form to air this type of grievance. A real friend might have apologized for the crummy tip, and explained that she was a bit short. A real friend might have said “you hurt my feelings, even if you didn’t mention my name.” A real friend might have laughed it off, and/or told Kristen to kwitchyerbitchen.

But this was no real friend; this was a Facebook “friend.”

With friends like these…

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