Monday 18 May 2009

If you can’t afford to tip properly, you can’t afford to eat out!

“Bloomin’ eck, is it just me, or are these desserts taking a long time? I mean, the mains came really quickly, but we’ve been waiting ages for dessert. It’s been yonks!”
The Snapper looks over at me. She can see that I’m agitated, and knows well enough how impatient I can be when hungry, but for once it’s not hunger that’s driving my mood.
When money is harder to come by, life’s little luxuries grow in importance. Recent figures from the retail and service industries show that people are now shopping frugally in the supermarket so that they can still enjoy the occasional luxury.
Hey, I’m nothing if not a man of the people, so we are sitting in this pub in Barna, waiting for our desserts, and because it’s now a rare treat to eat out, I want it all to go swimmingly; to feel a bit special for an hour or so.
I start grumping silently to myself.
Wasn’t too much to ask, was it? Must’ve been twenty minutes now, and this wait is spoiling a lovely evening out.
Mind you, herself appears unperturbed. Maybe it’s time to light the fires of indignation within her belly.
“I mean, how long does it take to scoop a bit of bloody ice cream?”
“But Charlie, we haven’t even ordered dessert yet.”
“The waiter came over and asked if we’d made up our minds. You were lost in a quandary about sticky toffee pudding and pistachio ice cream, so I asked him for a couple more minutes.”
“Really? Oh bugger. How long ago was that?”
For once I’m delighted to be in the wrong, because thankfully I haven’t yet verbally abused an innocent waiter. Something dangerous happens to certain human beings when they are being served. A little like road rage, we suddenly and irrationally see ourselves as the single most important and powerful person on the planet, for whom all must run perfectly.
Having been a barman for years in my youth, and befriended many chefs and waiters, I know all too well what it’s like to serve people like me, and therefore respect and honour good service by smiling, saying thanks, and because I know it’s a vital part of a server’s wages, leaving a chunky tip.
Shame that others don’t do the same.
I was talking to a despondent friend of mine the other day. A city centre waiter, he was bemoaning his lot, complaining that as the recession bites, people are leaving tinier and tinier tips. He couldn’t understand how people decided they could afford to eat out as long as they left pathetic tips.
“It’s like cutting the weakest link in the chain just so you can pretend to be well off! And now people like me can’t afford to live!”
“Sounds like the government all over again, if you ask me!” I offered, amazed at how thick and selfish some folk can be. “I don’t know how you do it mate! I wouldn’t have the patience.”
“Oh believe me, mate, you so wouldn’t. You’ve got no idea. The other night I seat two tables at once, right? I give menus to both and go to the first table to tell them about the venison special. They say they’re not ready to order, so I say
‘Fine, take your time!’
and go over to the second table to take their order. Three of them order the venison special, so by the time I’m back at the first table, we’ve run out of it. Of course yer woman orders it, so I tell her that I’m afraid there is no more venison. She says I shouldn’t have told her about it if it was all gone.”
“Do wot! She wha’?” exclaimed your colyoomist. “Ooooh, I’d’ve bloody hit her!”
“And that’s why you’re not a waiter, Charlie. So I explain politely that when I first told her about the special, there were three portions left. Then she asks me who had those portions, so I point to the other table. And then, get this, she says that I should go over there and explain to them that she wants a venison special so they can’t all have it.”
“She she she WHAT? No way mate! Don’t believe you!”
“God’s honest truth, mate. So I smile and tell her that no, I simply couldn’t do that, as she’d actually had first choice but declined to place her order when there was still venison on the menu.”
“I cannot believe she told you to go and nick the other table’s food! That makes my arrogance look paltry and weak-kneed. I mean, it’s not too hard to understand is it? Not exactly complicated stuff? Yes, we have no venison, so tough bloomin’ titty love. Stuff a scallop in your gob and shut the hell up.”
“You’d think, mate, but she still hadn’t given up. She asks me if there is any chance of me finding some venison in the kitchen. I tell her again that it’s all gone. And then she turns a bit nasty and sarcy and says that if I should happen to come across some venison that I didn’t know about, I was to tell her and she’d order it. I smile once again and tell her as calmly as I can that that isn’t going to happen, because Chef has a very precise knowledge of exactly what he has and doesn’t have in his kitchen, and there ... is ... no ... venison.”
"Don’t know how you do it mate. I do not know. Fair fucks to you, and all of your comrades.”
A voice is muttering in my ear. I’m ripped from the memory of my mate’s tale of venison, waitering and woe by a smooth gentle servile voice.
“Would you like to order dessert now, sir?”
How lovely to be asked that question. How lucky am I that professionals employ their superb cooking and serving skills just so that prats like me and that vile venison woman can have food brought to them?
“I would, and thank you! Thank you so very much!” I say to a slightly bemused waiter who thought we might be upset because he had taken so long to serve us.
I leave him as big a tip as my pocket will allow, and suggest you all should do the same.
If you can’t afford to tip properly, you can’t afford to eat out.


Paz said...

I agree somewhat, there are some places in Galway that service is terrible, these often are the paces that charge the most. But it is horrible to see staff being treated badly when people want to make themselves important

Charlie Adley said...

I think it's pretty likely that the people who treat staff badly are the ones who have never had to do it themselves. Ignorant behaviour, pure and simple.