In a Restaurant, Part Two

Are you the kind of person who doesn’t like giving money to street-beggars because they provide no service to you (other than disappearing when you give them money), do no work for anybody else, and you feel they’re just sponging?

Do you also bring heat down on the government for donating money on your behalf, since charity should be given voluntarily by individuals, and not come out of your taxes against your will?

And do you not donate individually to charities because you’re suspicious of how much of your money goes to administration, overhead, staff salaries and boondoggle studies in Tahiti, as opposed to winding up among the truly needy?

In short, you don’t donate much money at all. Although you would certainly like to, if you could be assured that it would really get where it’s needed.

Never doubted it for a second.

Well, here’s a way.

There are very few rich people waiting tables. Or shining shoes, or carrying bags in hotels, or driving the mini-van that shuttles you from the terminal to the long-term parking lot.

And none of these people intended those jobs as a career. They’re pretty much all trying to save up to do something better. Or are barely making ends meet so they can feed their families.

They all work hard, they provide a service to you, and they’re working, not sponging.


If you’ve got the scratch, even if it’s perhaps not quite enough to start your own charitable foundation, over-tip the hell out of everybody who does a good job for you.

Maybe you don’t approve of tipping at all. Maybe you feel, "Hey. I paid a fair price for the meal and the service. Why should I have to pay more?"

Actually, you didn’t pay for it all. Waiter salaries are adjusted according to anticipated tips. Many waiters are actually paid less than minimum wage for this reason. This is also true of bellhops, valet parkers, casino workers, etc.

Were this not the case, you would find that the prices for all these services would jump way up.

But the good news about tipping is, you decide how much the service was worth, not management. You get to vote for service people with your wallet, not with those feedback cards that the front staff censors before passing them on to their bosses.

In the case of waiters, 15% is a reasonable figure for normal, unobstrusive service. Why 15%? Is it just tradition?

Yes, in a sense. But it’s also the number that management assumes will be left for the waiters when they calculate what their salaries should be.

Now you and I both know that a surly, indifferent, lazy, incompetent or rude waiter can ruin what otherwise might have been a perfect dining out experience. Depending on the severity of such behavior, you can drop below 15% with a clear conscience.

If their behavior was bad enough to be noticeable, so that it affected your enjoyment of the meal, leave nothing. But never leave nothing unless you tell the boss why. That’s a hard and fast rule. You can bet the lousy waiter isn’t going to report himself. And if it turns out that there’s a pattern to his behavior, and enough people bring it to management’s attention, then the enlightened boss will be able to do that waiter a great favor by finding alternative employment more suitable to his or her temperament. Like working in a nationwide discount chain store.

On the other hand, go all out to reward that waiter who truly enhances your evening out. I’m not talking about bubbly chatterboxes who insist on becoming one of the family and showing you their appendectomy scars.

I’m talking about polite, attentive, unobtrusive and knowledgable people who genuinely seem to care if you have a good time, and take pride in their ability to see to it that you do.

Treat them like you would want sombody else to treat your kids if they were waiting tables. Be lavish. Outrageously so.

(If you really want to show your appreciation, leave a ten percent tip on your credit card, and give them the rest in cash. But you didn’t hear it from me.).

You will make them very happy, and, surprisingly, at the end of the year you will discover that it has not cost you all that much. In fact, you will probably not notice the difference at all.

But they will.

Except Trevor. Him, you can stiff.

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