March 1, 2010
Today I had a wonderful brunch with my wife at a local Brooklyn restaurant, Rosewater. We had some great food and wonderful conversation, and as new parents it was really nice to get out of the house.
As we left, I left a 20%+ tip, because honestly my tips start at 20% and go up from there.
But 12 hours later I am feeling cheated and here are four reasons why:
1) The Long Wait:
The wait was 45 minutes, which was fine. But after 15 minutes the Hostess said we’d be seated in the next few minutes, and it took another half hour. But it wasn’t the waitress’ fault – it was the Hostess who underestimated the wait time.
2) The Cold Coffee
As soon as we were seated, I ordered coffee right away – I had woken up early for brunch and was beyond groggy! Someone from the kitchen delivered the coffee, but without any milk or sweetener. I asked the waitress for both, so she apologized and asked the busboy to go get it: alas, he brought only milk.
So I asked her for sweetener the next time she walked by, and she had him bring it from the kitchen. This was about 20 minutes after the coffee had come, and it was getting cold. She felt bad that the coffee had taken so long so she told an endearing story about how she hadn’t gotten her coffee this morning either, and so she understood that coffee was important and she felt bad about it.
But my coffee was cold by the time the sweetener came and she didn’t offer to reheat it or to get a new cup. I was so tired I didn’t think to suggest it. But I’m sure it wasn’t her fault – it was the Busboy’s for not bringing out the milk and sweetener like he was supposed to.
3) No Dessert for You!
That was ok, because I was going to order a espresso after my meal so I could enjoy a nice warm cup before I went home. There were plenty of tables, so I didn’t feel too bad about holding onto our table for another 10 minutes. Besides when I order dessert or coffee after my meal, I usually add 5% to my tip for taking up the table for longer. But the waitress brought our check without seeing if we wanted dessert, and another waitress cleared our dishes. I just gave up and paid the check.
Of course, we tipped over 20%.
Then came the final straw.
4) Missing Takeout!
We had ordered a doggy bag to go, with some extra food for a friend who is staying for us. A pulled pork sandwich, and some Apple Pancakes for dessert… yum. We talked up the meal to our friend when we got home, so she was practically drooling by the time she opened up the doggy bag.
And surprise surprise, only the sandwich was there. The apple pancakes were missing. I don’t know whether or not we were charged for the apple pancakes – I didn’t keep the receipt so I can’t say either way. But either way, it was too late to fix it and our guest was disappointed.
I guess that was the straw that broke this camel’s back. Or in any case, it got me irritated to the point where I wrote this blog.
I really love to eat a nice meal now and then, and I love to tip generously. But sometimes I just feel like there’s no accountability any more.
I’m sure every snafu in my meal today could be attributed to someone besides my waitress today. But in the end, isn’t she the person who is most supposed to soften all the mistakes of the kitchen and staff?
We’ve been so conditioned to tip 20%, and so conditioned to believe that being a waiter is the Hardest Job in the World and food service is the Most Underpaid Job on Earth. And of course, if anything ever goes wrong – you’re not allowed to lower the tip. That 20% makes up for below minimum wage, and anything below that is unacceptable.
But sometimes I sense this air of entitlement when I eat out, like “I am the waiter and I am working so hard for so little that I am going to start laying on the guilt as soon as you sit down so that you will be forced to treat me as a human being.”
And yes waitress, I totally understand that other customers have made you feel like this. But I don’t think I am part of the problem? I regularly tip 25-30%+ for my meals, and I am super polite when I eat out. And I don’t reduce my tips even when I really really want to, because I’ve been indoctrinated to always tip well and because I was in the service industry for six years (delivered newspapers in the morning through snow, sleet and rain) and know how a good tip can save your month and salvage your faith in humanity.
But I feel like you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say it’s pure evil to not tip well, and then deliver bad service in a nice establishment. I just feel like I am regularly made to feel bad for having any kind of expectations when I eat out. Like somehow even though I am polite and tip well, I am participating in a system of oppression that is so awful that it is completely unreasonable to have any expectations of any kind.
Does anyone else feel constantly guilted when they go out to eat? And what do you do when you feel service isn’t up to snuff… do you dare lower your tip? Complain to the manager? Leave a bad review on Yelp?
I am just feeling a bit powerless here, and wondering if there’s something I can do or if I should just give up on eating out altogether!