Today I came across this blog post that someone wrote back in 2009: http://www.bhagwad.com/blog/2009/philosophy/5-reasons-why-i-wont-tip-you-if-youre-a-waiter.html/
It made my blood boil. I was so outraged at the cruelty, selfishness, and ignorance of the author. My first response was that I needed to write a rebuttal, something along the lines of ‘Here are the reasons I will ALWAYS tip a waiter at least 20%’. But as I plotted out the list in my head, my own bitterness toward those type of people (the ones who don’t tip or tip really low) came out. And I don’t think my points would be as strong. Rants never sound good even when they have valid points.
So, let me paint a picture for you in the way that I know how, by writing a story. This is a true story about where I was 10 years ago. (I’ve made up the family I served to make a point).
WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
I park my car in my usual spot and get out. Dread fills my stomach. I’d give anything to be home on the couch, doped up with pain meds and sleeping. Instead I’m here, gritting through the pain without any meds because if I don’t work, the bills won’t get pain.
My apron sags on my waist. I readjust it a little tighter as I walk through the doors of Longhorn Steakhouse.
Andrea stands at the bar, getting change for her upcoming shift. She sees me and walks over. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she says quietly and I understand that to mean the she-witch must also be scheduled for Andrea to be so relieved to see me. She squeezes my forearm and walks to the hostess stand, no doubt to see what section she has tonight.
I go to the back and clock in. The Friday night servers trickle in, stocking glasses, making tea. I’m on bread duty tonight which means I have to constantly check the bread to make sure there are always fresh, hot loaves, but not too many that they burn. It’s an impossible station that will have me working nonstop.
“Amber, I sat you at table 62,” the hostess calls to me from the alley doorway.
“Okay, thanks.” I wash my hands and dry them, pausing before walking out there. God, please give me the strength to get through this night.
Out at the table I’m greeted by four smiling faces—a mom, dad, and their two teenagers.
“Welcome to Longhorn.” I place the drink napkins in front of them. “Have you ever eaten here before?” It hurts to speak, but I keep the smile on my face.
They seem receptive and friendly. These are the kind of tables I like. They make my nights not seem so bad.
I finish the spiel we’re forced to say to customers, take their drink orders, and head to the alley.
Someone opens the bread drawer. There are only two loaves left. I kneel down and grab some loaves from under the cabinet and toss them into the oven.
“Hey, did you talk to the doctor today?” Andrea sits her tray down and loads three glasses on top.
I press the timer for the bread and grab a tray to load beside her. “Yeah. He said they still haven’t heard from the lab.” My throat clenches and I swallow the lump. I refuse to cry at work. I refuse.
Andrea sighs. “But how can they not know? They said they’d know in one week and that was three weeks ago.”
“I know. The longer they take to diagnose it, the more convinced I am that it’s really bad. He said it was most likely cancer, but how many chin cancers are there?”
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Andrea’s eyes water.
“Don’t you do that.” I point at her and shake my head. If she starts crying then I will.
“I’m not.” She forces a smile. “I just got something in my eyes.” She slides open the ice bin. It’s completely empty.
We both sigh. Just great. I walk off to the back and grab a bucket. Andrea joins me, grabbing the other bucket and we scoop ice into both. I don’t even know why the managers put some of the servers on Friday nights. It’s always the same people who don’t carry their weight and it’s always the same people who have to pick up their slack.
We finish loading our buckets, lug them up front, and pour them into the bin.
I pull out my notepad to make sure I get the drinks right and scoop ice into each glass. I have to hurry now. It’s been several minutes since I took their drink order.
Owen, the night manager, walks over and leans on the wall. “Hey.” He reaches for the edge of my sleeve and tugs it to get my attention. “How are you doing? Any news?”
“Nothing yet.” I glance at him and shrug.
He makes a face like he ate something sour. “Does it hurt? It looks so painful.”
I roll my eyes and place a glass under the coke dispenser. “Yes it hurts. It feels like someone hit me in the jaw with a baseball bat, but thanks for reminding me how deformed my face is.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. You don’t look deformed. No one would even know you have a tumor. It just looks like you have a really big chin.”
“Owen! Shut-up.” Andrea smacks his arm on her way out of the alley with a tray of drinks in her other hand.
I finish loading the drinks and walk to my table with a smile on my face, trying to pretend that Owen’s words don’t hurt my feelings. I know he’s just a stupid guy who means well.
I place the small tray on the edge of the table. My chin throbs, but I force my motor skills to take over. I’ve grown used to the constant ache over the past few weeks. Well, as used to it as anyone can. “Here are your cokes.” I hand the teens and the dad their drinks. “And your sweet tea.” I hand the mom her glass.
She raises her brows and points to it like I sat a rat down in front of her. “I asked for unsweet tea,” she sneers.
“Oh.” I put the glass back onto the tray. “I’m sorry. I’ll get that right back to you.”
“Mom, you totally said sweet tea,” her daughter says.
She shakes her head. “No, I said unsweet.”
“My mistake. I’ll get you unsweet.” I try to sound as kind as I possibly can. I know she said sweet tea because I wrote it down as soon as she said it, but I need her tip. The doctor bills are already piling up from the biopsy and my $2.35 an hour goes straight to taxes. I reach for my notepad. “Are you ready to order?”
“Not until you get my drink?” She looks at me like I’m a complete idiot.
“Okay. I’ll be right back.” I reply like I’m the sweetest person in the world, place my notepad back into my apron, and grab the tray from the table.
It’s just an extra minute or so to get her a new drink, but that extra minute could mean that several orders go to the kitchen before theirs. The dining room is filling up quickly. Soon the cooks will be slammed. It would be better for them if I could put in their order and then bring her a drink, but whatever. The customer is always right.
I get her drink and take their order with a smile. The mom seems to have settled down, so maybe my chances at a decent tip aren’t shot.
I type their dinner order into the computer just as the hostess double seats me. This girl’s been here a month and she still has no clue what she’s doing.
My stomach growls. I place my hand on my belly. The hardest part about possibly having cancer and dying at the age of twenty is that I’ll never get to be a mom.
My eyes water. I shake my head and force that thought to the back of my mind. I don’t get to be a person with feelings and issues when I’m here.
Act professional. Keep it together. Keep it together.
I grab a solo cup and fill it with coke. I’m so hungry, but chewing hurts too much and I’m sick to death of mashed potatoes. The soda fills my stomach with carbonation which helps a little. It’ll have to do for now.
I walk to my new tables and take their drink orders back to back. On my way to the drink station I notice the first table is running low on soda. I grab the large tray, pull out my notepad to make sure I get it right, and load the tray with all three tables worth of drinks.
Everyone seems happy. They have full glasses, bread, and their orders are in.
“Amber, your food’s up,” Ashley calls from the food window.
She helps me carry the plates out to the first table. I make sure everyone's food is exactly how they ordered it, check and see if there’s anything else I can get, and when they’ve assured me everything’s great, I go to check on my other tables.
As I walk off, out of the corner of my eyes I see them bow their heads and the dad says something softly while they all listen. After a few seconds, in unison they say, “Amen.”
I always like it when I see a family pray together. It’s how I hoped to raise my family someday.
Later, I stand in the back with Andrea, while I wait for the first table to pay.
“Here you go, babe,” Whitney, the bartender, hands me a shot glass with a teaspoon amount of whiskey in it.
“Thanks.” I smile at her and pretend I don’t notice the ‘poor kid’ look in her eyes.
It’ll only give me about five minutes of relief, but it’s something. I stick my pointer finger into the brown liquid and rub it on my bottom gums, just below my front six teeth. It numbs in seconds.
I check on my tables. My other two tables are eating and everything seems good.
The dad and mom from my first table stand up.
I walk over and notice cash on top of their bill. “Do you need any change?”
“No, we’re good,” the mom says and gives me a fake smile.
“Well, thanks for coming. Have a nice evening,” I say as genuinely as I can muster up.
The daughter smiles at me as she slides out of the booth. “Thanks. Everything was really good.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it.” It’s nice to see she’s not as rude as her mom. I reach for their glasses, which are the only things left on the table, and load them all into my arms. The hostess will need to seat this table right away, so I have to clean it immediately. I stuff their bill and the wad of cash into my apron and head to the kitchen.
After emptying the glasses and putting them in the rack to be washed, I clean my hands for the millionth time and go to the computer. I type in their table number. The order pops up and I flip to the close-out screen. I pull the cash out of my pocket and thumb through it, counting in my head.
My eyes go wide. I look at the amount on the screen and recount the money. Surely I miss-counted.
After counting their money four times, the amount hasn’t changed. They left me $73 on a bill that was $71.86.
My heart sinks to the pit of my empty stomach. I take a slow breath and type into the computer that I received $80 in cash. For tax purposes servers have to claim somewhere around 10% in tips. If we claim too low it looks suspicious and the IRS gets involved. They want to make sure they get their tax money.
I go through the night with a smile on my face, working on autopilot because if I stop to think about the pain in my chin I will collapse. My feet hurt too. I really need new shoes, but that’s the least of my worries.
The restaurant closes and I start my nightly stock duties. It takes me over an hour to finish. It’s nearly midnight by the time I can go home. On my way out, Andrea hugs me goodnight.
Her shoulder grazes my chin. The pain is instant and it consumes me.
I cry out and pull away. My eyes flood with tears. I can’t hold them. My chin pounds like a drum. Spots appear in my peripheral vision.
“Oh no!” Andrea puts her hand to her mouth. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” She reaches for me, but pulls away like she’s scared she’ll hurt me again.
Tears roll down my cheeks. I blink them away and force my jaw to move despite the agonizing pain. “It’s okay,” I mumble, trying not to use my lips or any muscles attached to my tumor. I let my jaw hang loose in an effort to lessen the pain.
“What can I do?” Andrea squeals. Her eyes water.
I hold my hand up. “It’s fine.” I cover my mouth in case I drool. Every nerve in my chin is on fire. It feels like someone just beat me with a sledge hammer. I can’t say another word. I just need this night to be over.
I turn and leave, unable to comfort Andrea because that would require more speaking and it just hurts too much.
In my car, I slump over the steering wheel and let the tears fall like rain. My chest heaves, but I can’t let any sound escape my lips for fear of the extra pain it might cause. I sob silently until the pain softens enough to bear.
The events of the night run through my mind. It really wasn’t a bad night. Most of my tables were great. I’m just in too much pain to enjoy anything.
But that one family… My heart speeds up in anger. How could they bow their heads and present themselves as Christians and then basically spit in my face with that joke of a tip? I spent an hour serving them, doing everything they asked of me.
I’ve been over everything that was said and done two times and I didn’t do anything wrong aside from the drink mix up which wasn’t even my fault. So, why would they treat me like that?
I crank up my car. If I sit here any longer, someone will come check on me and I don’t want that.
On my way home, I think about that family.
If those parents only knew what I was going through, would they look at me differently? If they only knew the pain I was in, would they be more generous? Maybe one day I’ll see them in Heaven and they’ll know how cruel they were. Maybe one day they’ll understand.
But until then, people like that should stick to fast food. If you can’t afford the service at a restaurant then don’t go.
Sorry if this was a bit of a downer. Let me conclude with, I DID NOT have cancer. The tumor was diagnosed four weeks after the biopsy as Central Giant Cell Granuloma. It is a fairly common tumor that is typically slow in growth and painless, but mine was in the small percentage of fast growing, extremely painful tumors. I had three surgeries over the next year to remove it... because it was so aggressive, it came back twice and had to be removed again and again. But I'm happy to say that it's been 9 years since I've had any tumors.
I now have a loving husband and two wonderful children and I am very blessed, but my life wasn't always this way. I hope the next time you go out to eat, you think about your waiter as a person. You never know what they could be hiding behind their smile. Be kind. Be generous. But by golly, if you are going to bow your head and publicly praise Jesus, you'd better represent Him when you leave that tip. What if that server had decided to give church a try and then they got a table like the one I described above? OR what if that waiter went to church the following Sunday and then bumped into those people???? Now I doubt the author of that other blog is a Christian and it's clear in his mean post, but I know several Christians who I won't go to a restaurant with because I'm embarrassed at how they treat servers. If you love God, you should show it in how you treat others.
Feel free to share this post with all of your cheap friends :)