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What a Crap Night. Sigh.

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I had a shitty night, the kind of night that warrants reiteration of what should be obvious points. Points about tipping, and why you should, like, do it and stuff.

My wage is a paltry 3.00/hour. I am taxed on my hourly wage, 10% of my total sales, and any additional reported tips. All tips I earn via credit cards are automatically reported; I’m supposed to report my cash tips separately, but, well, I usually don’t. Because fuck that. (And most of my tips are credit card anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.)

What this means, then, is that when you tip below 10%, you have not merely denied me a socially acceptable tip; you have actually taken money away from me, because I am still being taxed as though you had behaved like a decent human being. It also means that you have not met the minimum standard of decency as determined by the IRS.

Allow me to repeat: the IRS thinks you are one cheap bastard.

Actually, I have fairly kind feelings toward the IRS. When I was 18, there was a bit of a clusterfuck resulting from the IRS’ mistaken belief that I owed them thousands of dollars in back taxes. The mix-up wasn’t their fault—they had every reason to suppose it was true. Anyway, once I finally obtained the necessary paperwork proving that I was not, in fact, the world’s youngest tax dodger, I sent it in a manilla envelope with a handwritten letter requesting to be reimbursed for the tax return they’d applied to my debt. Yes, a handwritten letter—because that screams professional.

But they acquiesced! They did! Four weeks later, I got a check for the exact amount I’d requested, and a note apologizing for the trouble they’d caused me.

So I don’t mind the IRS. Really, they’re just doing their jobs, and I’m all for apprehending white-collar criminals. But that makes it even worse when you don’t meet their human decency standard.

And you know, I can usually tell a shitty tipper the minute they walk in the door. I think most servers can. But although I was fully prepared for tonight’s murmuring, self-satisfied asspandas to leave me no more than 12%, I did not expect to be stiffed entirely. It’s not like I did anything wrong. They got their food, I checked on them, I refilled their drinks, everything your friendly waitress is supposed to do. And yet—nothing.

My other tables weren’t much better. The very nice but apparently cheap-as-fuck family in the corner? 4.75 on a 65.25 ticket. The two girls with the appetizer, shared entrée, and sodas? 4 on 32. The grouchy family with the screaming toddlers? 8 on 70. My last table left me 15 on 50, which, thank God, because that was the only reason I managed to average over ten percent for the entire night. But.

Bitching about tips isn’t exactly original, I realize. I’ve done it before. But what really angers me is the obvious sexism when it comes to tipping waitstaff.

All of the servers at my restaurant are women. We’ve had male servers, but they’ve never lasted long; they usually get fed up with the management and quit in a blaze of glory. Our cooks are men, and all the bartenders we’ve had have been men.

Our restaurant likes to think of itself as up-scale, but it isn’t; it’s just your typical steakhouse in a small town packed with restaurants. We don’t get many tables, and the food is only sporadically good. (It depends on who’s cooking.) A few weeks ago, I was looking for the blow torch so I could make crème brulee—yeah, we have to torch our own desserts; no, I don’t why—and found it in the hands of Saul, our most profoundly drug-addicted line cook. He was using it to “light a cigarette.”

So the restaurant is average, and the servers are women. This seems typical. If you go to a truly upscale restaurant, you will see plenty of male servers, and they make good money. But the less fancy you get, the more women you’ll find. I don’t mean to make sweeping generalizations, and I realize there are plenty of exceptions to that rule, but it’s still very common.

And it makes sense, because serving at an upscale restaurant requires a higher level of skill, and, well, we can haz sexism!!

Anyway, my point: Serving, especially at restaurants that are not considered upscale, is still widely considered Women’s Work; consequently, the women who work at such restaurants tend to be treated like crap.

The male servers I’ve worked with have been treated much, much differently from the female servers. This isn’t to say that customers consistently treat them wonderfully—they don’t—but there is, for example, a lot less finger-snapping. There are fewer pompous fucks holding their wine glasses aloft and waving them back and forth instead of just politely asking for another. There is less rage when their dining experiences don’t adhere to whatever ridiculous standard they’ve concocted in their heads. There is less overall entitlement.

Then there’s the sexual harassment. Assholes just love to harass female waitstaff. They love it because they can get away with it—not only because you’re at work, and they can complain to the management if you respond by telling them to go fuck themselves with a broom handle, but also because your tip depends on how well you tolerate it. You’re controlled by money, both on a large scale (whether you keep your job) and on a small scale (by what you make off that table).

Of course, tables like that rarely tip well anyway, but if you piss them off they often won’t tip at all. Also, they’ll become even bigger assholes.

Your typical male server will not have to deal with this. I don’t mean to erase any sexual harassment against men, because sure, it happens—but it doesn’t happen often, and not with society’s blessing. But, you know, women in the customer service industry are just asking for it, right? We’re not just here to serve you food; we’re here to serve you. When misogynists go out to eat, they get to imagine, for a brief moment in time, that they are living in their ideal fucking world—one in which tired, underpaid women zip around and cater to their every (food-related) desire.

Well, fuck all of you.

This isn’t to say that sexism is the only factor at work here—there’s also classism, racism…all the same tired, bullshit prejudices. It’s infuriating and exhausting. And every time I get a shitty tip, I want to run after the customers and explain to them:

When you go out to eat, you are paying for two things—food and service. The cost of the food is the price on the menu. The cost of the service is the tip. If you get good service and leave a bad tip, you have effectively stolen from your server. Because you are an asshole. And it’s probably related to your massive amounts of privilege and/or bias.

But why would they listen?—I’m just a waitress.

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About Paprika

Paprika Davis is a perpetually annoyed twenty-something college student waitress who would rather be a squirrel. The lack of commas in the previous sentence bothers her, but her laziness overrides her desire to improve the writing.

7 responses »

  1. It’s also funny how people “celebrating” (see: people who normally eat at Denny’s) are quick to spend 45 bucks on a steak and then balk at tipping on the outrageous bill they accumulate.

    Reply
  2. Actually, I find it extremely problematic to blame poor tipping on the socioeconimic status of the customer. In my own experience, my shittiest tips have come from my wealthiest tables (the people who stiffed me last night, for example, looked rich as hell), because poor tips are usually the result of entitlement, not poverty. My best tip this afternoon came from a young couple who work in the restaurant industry, and who always tip a minimum of 20% (usually more). One of the points I was sleepily trying to make in the OP is that people behave like shitheads in restaurants because of their feelings of entitlement and their bias–bias against the people serving them, who are usually of a lower socioeconomic status themselves. And as someone who usually can’t afford much better than an omelet and coffee at Perkin’s, and who tips waitstaff a minimum of 25%, I take personal offense to the classism implicit in your comment.

    Reply
  3. It’s hard to be classist if I’m the class I’m making fun of. Personal example of my friends.

    Reply
  4. It’s absolutely possible to have internalized classism, just like it’s possible to have internalized sexism, or internalized racism. Being part of a low-income class does NOT give you carte blanche to mock other members of that same class. Need I direct you again to our commenting policy? We don’t tolerate classism any more than we tolerate racism, sexism, ableism, etc.

    Reply
  5. Ah, yes yes. Commenting off-handedly.

    In my personal experience I grew up in an extremely weathly area being the poor kid so it’s no surprise to me the facade that the wealthy have. A front that suggests a class and elegance that breaks down into entitlement and rudeness. Which is why it’s so frustrating for me to see genuinely good people who idealize the life that the wealthy have. Which brings me to…

    I was clumsily saying that I find it ironic that some people visiting a fancy restaurant (outside of their normal dining habits) to splurge and celebrate on themselves, lose perspective and don’t provide adequate tips to people who are most often in their same socioeconomic strata. I tend to not understand the reasons for playing wealthy because I’ve gotten to see the effects of money on ripping families apart and destroying lives.

    But like you said, your point was more of the wealthy being the real predators. I totally got that part. I just tend to have harsh feelings about establishments considered “upscale,” especially because of where I live. The poor and rich are mixed in together and are sometimes indistinguishable. It creates an environment where the poor see the lifestyle of the rich as something to be coveted and emulates it in a most uncomfortable and denigrating fashion. Often leading to scenarios such as what I described. A hollow and meaningless lifestyle which is, again, frustrating for me to see happen.

    Does that maybe help you understand why I would self-depricate like that? I’ll attempt to watch my future posts for correctness.

    Reply
  6. I’m not really seeing how Paprika could have inferred that from your comment, and as you said you’ll be more careful from now on. Basically, you have to earn the right to speak “ironically” or sarcastically from the voice of the dominant group. We don’t know you, and you’re starting from less than zero here, so you need to make an effort to make yourself very clear. You haven’t earned the trust and goodwill involved in using short hand to mock the badness yet.

    Also, you should read this and keep in mind that good intentions will not get you very far here.
    http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/intent-its-fucking-magic/

    Reply
  7. HA! I actually read that post awhile ago and did a flashback right as I typed “intent.”

    “You haven’t earned the trust and goodwill involved in using short hand to mock the badness yet.”

    Realized that too. I’ve read and responded to too many of my friends blogs today. Forgot the candor I was supposed to conduct myself with.

    Reply

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