Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Write-on topic today is tipping

I just read a column from a very popular and well-read columnist in one of our local newspapers about tipping those people who assist us in everything from getting a good meal to hanging up our coats.

My philosophy on tipping has always been, if I get good service -- I give a good tip. My son bases his tips on whether or not the waiter or waitress keeps his ice-tea glass full. My husband only really wants to tip when my son or myself guilt him into tipping.

My almost-daughter-in-law used to do hair for a living and relied on her tips to help make her car payment. She felt that all of us should tip 20% no matter the service, no matter the empty glass or the cold meal or the forgotten eating utensils. She used to tell us, "These people depend on tips to live on" and we should all appreciate that fact.

The local columnist believes that we should always show our appreciation for service -- be it good or bad -- because all people have bad days now and again. My own thoughts are that I always treat my servers or hostesses or coat check persons with the utmost respect and manners. I always say please and thank you and always ask and never demand.

I have sat at many a table with many a professional where the servers are treated as invisible entities that are only important when you need something. I have also been guilty of not knowing for sure what our waitress or waiter looked like. But, in my defense that only happens when my mind is still thinking about a problem or is replaying a conversation or when I am really writing in mind. In other words, when I am other-wise preoccupied, I have forgotten to look at my server but I have always said please and thank you.

Does that mean I tip 20% every time? No. I tip according to my service. Granted, we all have bad days but when I hold back on my tip it is because I have observed the server being very nice and attentive to other tables and she or he has chosen my table as the one to bear the brunt of having too many tables to serve.

When I perform poorly with a client (this rarely happens but again we all have bad days) I may not loose pay, but I hear about it from the client and/or from my boss. When a server chooses me or my people to take out their bad day on, I don't tell their boss nor do I tell the server about it -- at least not verbally. I let them know what I thought of their performance with the amount of tip left.

A recent article about Hilary Clinton's campaign team not leaving a tip at small diner they visited on the campaign trail (including Hilary herself who by her own description graciously spent time talking with the waitress) is probably the most horrific example of how servers are taken for granted. The wait staff said that no tip was left but the campaign team said there was a $100 tip left. Who do you believe and why?

At some point we have to admit that we really, really need the waiters, waitresses, parking attendants, hotel staff, coat checks and all of the other titles assigned to persons who serve the public in the most seemingly invisible ways. I love my Starbuck servers. I know manyby name. I know many of their personal details. And, they always know what I want before get to the counter to order. I love how that makes me feel.

I love the servers at my favorite Chinese restaurant when they see me come in the door and they say, "Good to see you back. You want your usual?" It makes me feel wanted. It makes me feel important. It makes me feel appreciated. It also makes me want to show my servers how much I appreciate them by saying thank you, please and by tipping them enough to help them make their car payments.

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