Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Do Clueless Waitresses Get Better Tips?

During the last few weeks, I've eaten in restaurants a couple of times with my friend "Cookie." The first time was at a Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood, on a quiet night where we were almost the only people in the place. We had a couple of margaritas, and when the waitress asked if we wanted another round, we said yes. But then it seemed to be taking a while for them to arrive. We'd already been guessing that the waitress was new-- I'd eaten in this place a couple of times before and never seen her, and also, the waitress was not Mexican herself, which I couldn't help but see as a sign of the times in a gentrifying area. Aside from all that, the waitress just didn't seem to be quite in her groove yet, and didn't bring us utensils and napkins until our food arrived, even though I'd asked for a napkin when she brought our drinks.
Eventually, the waitress comes to our table looking apologetic, and says "Um, about those margaritas? I'm really sorry but we ran out of margarita mix." Cookie and I just look at each other and start laughing. By this time we're almost done with our food anyway and we don't really care whether we get another drink, and we just think it's funny that A) a Mexican restaurant would run out of margarita mix, and B) they wouldn't know how to cope with making one from scratch! We tell the waitress it's no big deal, but she does come back a few minutes later saying someone has figured out that they can just squeeze some fresh limes to solve the problem. The resulting margaritas, when they arrive, turn out to be almost undrinkably strong, but Cookie and I bravely manage to finish them after a few jokes with the waitress about whether someone behind the bar is trying to kill us. Cookie picked up the check for this dinner, and after we left, she said "I gave her a big tip!"
Then just the other night, Cookie and I went to a different place where, again, the waitress was obviously new. She hadn't yet figured out how to pronounce "ceviche" and seemed a bit vague about a few other things. When I asked to take home the uneaten portion of a gigantic pasta dish, the waitress went back into the kitchen and brought a plastic container to our table. "This is big enough, right?" she asked, and then proceeded to pick up my plate and start scraping the pasta into the dish. I had to grab a fork and help her, because the pasta started falling all over the table and she would barely have gotten any of it into the container. She laughed and thanked me for helping her, but just seemed to have no idea that servers in restaurants are supposed to do that stuff behind the scenes in the kitchen, where presumably they can drop as much as they want on the floor and then still throw in back in the doggie bag for you to eat the next day.
But there was something kind of charming about her, so Cookie and I ended up giving her kind of a big tip too. I guess sometimes a good attitude wins out over competence...

13 comments:

Simone S. said...

Good Lord! Pasta and Ceviche in the same restaurant? I would not trust either to be any good (and the latter to be rather suspect) if that is the case....

English Major said...

It's a non-New York thing, I think, the packing-things-up-at-the-table practice. Servers used to do it in all but the fanciest restaurants in Portland (where I went to school).

PiggyBankBlues said...

if you're nice to people, that goes a looong way in new york. also, so much in a restaurant is way beyond the wait staff's control.

Anonymous said...

At the average restaurant where I live (in the Capital area) they usually bring the container out to you to box. On one hand I think it would be nice if they did it but on the other, I like being able to box the food I want, how I want it. P.F. Chang's boxes your food for you at the table, which is nice because you know that they didn't put any "extras" in with your food.

SavingDiva said...

I wouldn't say that I tip clueless waitors any more, but I do tip waitors that I think are nice more...if a waitor actually bothers to ask if I need anything, rather than dropping the food on the table and running...I do tend to kick up the tip $1 or more...polite matters!

Amanda said...

I used to wait tables and I never got tips if I didn't know what I was talking about....maybe I just wasn't charming enough? :-)

Rete said...

I do tend to tip obviously new waitstaff more as long as they're good natured about it. I figure they could use the encouragement, especially if something goes wrong and they're trying to figure out how to deal with it.

That being said, someone who's new but acts like waiting tables is beneath them, or only a temporary hardship, doesn't get the bigger tip.

SMB said...

I was a waitress for 2 months and was never that good(though I was always nice). For example, I never got the hang of carrying the super big trays, so often had to make multiple trips to bring food out to large tables. I also spilled salad dressing in some poor woman's lap, though thankfully she'd already put her napkin there and it didn't get on her pants. Nevertheless, I pretty consistently got 20% tips.

OptionedUnarmed said...

I think restaurant-goers can pretty much be categorized into either a)People who can sympathize with and relate to the waitstaff, and b)people who don't. People in Group A will tend to use good tips to provide some moral support to a nice but struggling-with-the-job waitress, while people in Group B will probably be more annoyed and unsympathetic of any service glitches.

Ms Bart said...

It's definitely possible both waitresses were new. College is just starting and I'm sure the college students are looking for jobs. As for the ditziness, I'd rather hire a lesser performing people person for a customer interaction position than a higher performing misogynist. Go back in a couple of months and see if those waitresses are still there and if they have 'improved'.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica..I would only have given the 2nd waitress a tip. You & Cookie were nice to give both. But you know the saying "What goes around, comes around".

hellawulf said...

I'm guessing though if they were cluelss dudes you wouldn't have given them a big tip. Being 'like totally hawt chicks!' you paid them a big tip because because in the primative recesses of the human mind is
'Me gronk got support to support female...me gronk strong rich male, you want do boinky-boinky?"
That's my theory on it anyway.

hellawulf said...

Not being nasty there, just saying that's probably (if subconsciously at least) the reason for the big tips. ;)