Note to waitpersons
grady at ibiblio.org
Sun Jan 16 13:06:43 EST 2005
Hello, waitpeople. Thank you very much for carrying hot plates &
enduring abuse from the kitchen *and* the customers, and answering dumb
questions, and pretending screwups were your fault even when they weren't.
There is just one thing I'd like to ask of you:
Stop asking me "do you need any change?" Just stop it. It is demeaning
to both of us.
It makes you sound either greedy, or lazy, or both, and it implies that
I'm going to undertip you unless you put me on the spot with your
question. (by the way, I'm not; 20% has been my minimum for many years
now, and you've really got to work your ass off to be a jerk for me to
even drop you to 15%)
I understand that waitpeople are too often overworked & burdened with
too many tables & too much to remember. However, that's the whole of the
job. That's what being a waitperson is all about. You wouldn't walk up
to the table & say "do you need water? because I'm really busy right now."
Certainly if you're one of those poor bastards stuck waiting tables at a
joint like Elmo's, where the average check is like $15 and you're
covering like 20 tables, then it's understandable that you wouldn't want
to waste a single trip, and it might be forgivable for you to ask about
But three times in the past 6 weeks, at three different "nice"
restaurants (as in 3.5-4 stars in all the local dining guides), with
two-person totals ranging between $55 and $115, I've been asked "Do you
need change?" It totally blows the whole illusion of
effortless-dining-experience that you & your fellow restaurant employees
have spent the entire evening trying to maintain.
When you tie on the apron & pick up that pad & pencil, you're pledging
yourself to help other people. You're committing to help the customers
locate & order & receive the food that's going to make them the
happiest. You're probably also committing to help the chef or owner get
rid of that terrible surplus of fennel that's clogging up the fridge,
but we don't need to talk about that, because it's your job to pretend
you're not doing that.
One thing you're *not* doing is pledging to help yourself. For the
duration of your shift, helping yourself should be way at the bottom of
And yet the question "do you need any change?" can only be construed as
you attempting to help yourself. It is in no way helpful to me. If I
need change, then I need change. If I don't need change, then I'm free
to get up & leave the restaurant as soon as I've put the money on the
tray, and it doesn't really matter to me what you do with any change
that might be left. Asking me whether I need change does not help you
help me in any way.
Last night a waiter asked me that & I said "please don't ask me that,
it's terribly rude" and he stammered a bit & said something about it
being really busy, as if somehow he were too busy to perform this last
relatively minor chore & he'd prefer that we just get the fuck up out of
our seats & get out the door and quit hassling him & his colleagues with
our continued presence.
I don't know where this bizarre "need change?" meme came from; I don't
really remember hearing it until 3-4 years ago. Perhaps it has gotten
worse in this age of utter credit-card dominance; I nearly always pay
with cash & perhaps it's such a novelty that even higher-end waitstaff
haven't been trained on how to behave.
So here's the lowdown: take the money to the register. Cash out. Bring
back change that contains at least 3 ones; this means that if the change
ends in a 5, 6, or 7, you bring 5, 6, or 7 ones, not a five and a couple
of ones. Put the change on the table. Take this opportunity to thank the
customers once more for coming (studies have shown, by the way that a
single final thank you has a higher impact on tip, than general good
service throughout the meal).
More information about the Ch-scene