I never really mind bad service in a restaurant. It makes me feel much better about not leaving a tip.
I know I am standing in a long viral line to spew some angst here, but I do have issues with this whole gratuity protocol.
It makes me wanna jump up naked on a restaurant table and rattle the Versailles chandeliers. And not just about the prescribed tips to waiters, but taxes everybody except corporate America is expected to pay. And tithes we’re expected to give even if we’re not Mormons. And donations we’re expected to offer United Fund and every organization with a disease pouring from a CDC test tube. And gifts we’re begged to send to every South American orphan with big sad eyes.
We’re not asked to give; We’re told what to give. And how much. Ten dollars a month, here. A percentage of your income, there. Eighteen percent to the waiter.
It’s not tipping. It’s practically a mandated fee. A tariff. And with attitudes like haughty butlers who sniff at you while posing with their hands open.
And, of course, whackos like Wall Street and Hollywood have gone nympho-manic with it.
Excuse moi, but I was raised in an age when a tip was: Psst! Bet Fancy Dancer to win in the fifth.
I always thought gratuities were a sort of bonus, a perk, a tip. Something extra. For doing your damn job the way it is supposed to be done. Or better.
If Wall Street or Capitol Hill or Boeing and General Motors has all that extra money to give themselves bonuses the size of Donald Trump’s ego, then why don’t they simply give it back to the folks who bailed them out? That would be us, the taxpayers, investors, the workers, the folks who are sick with indigestion after standing in long lines to swallow their the greasy fried ptomaine line of baloney.
It seems like our gratuities have become one more entitlement. Like, say, alimony. Or welfare. Or subsidies. Or tax breaks to duh rich. Or power-of-attorney to venal lawyers. Or accrued sick days to union workers….
But I can’t fight the world in one column. So how about we start with waiters.
And more particularly, my waitress from the other night.
Look, I am not here to pick on the hired help. But punching some elected fancy-Dan government suit or some overstuffed rich guy with a mouthful means I’m going to have to go into hand-to-mouth strafing with all their lawyers on retainers. G-d forbid any one of those cow-pies should have to get his hands dirty before he inevitably gets caught in bed with a dead woman or a live man.
Anyway, the other night we were in a jazz club at the invitation of a new friend who sings and plays guitar in a Latino salsa-jazz group. It was a wonderful spot. With the candlelight too dim to discern the menu, or the price of the drinks.
But our fetching waitress was eager to please. And after her recommendations we ordered the first of a few bourbons that ended up costing about $9 billion dollars each. Then when we said we weren’t that hungry, she suggested we try the epicurean delight – crawfish.
Whatever they were they crawled over to us in a bucket. These were farm bred, tonka-size miniature lobsters. Steamed in spice hot enough to fog my politics.
The sultry waitress offered to demonstrate how to eat them. And then she sat down at the table with us and proceeded. Snapped off the tiny tail. Crunched the head. And sucked it harder than an Electrolux vacuum.
Oh-my. I must admit she did that part particularly well. And even better with the second crawfish. But before she got to a third, I offered: By-golly, I think we’ve got it.
With what she didn’t eat, we high-dived in. They crunched in our teeth. And tasted like cockroaches from an Australian penal colony. But the sauce…whooee! That stuff burned off 50 years of hard epidermal living.
And throughout, the waitress’ service was great. Her zealous attention wasn’t intrusive. The music was wonderful.
Then the bill came. And my-my-my did the light of day suddenly come beaming on down. Now I could easily see that for the price of non-dinner and drinks I could have bought each one of them anorexic crawfish his or her own condominium – with parking privileges.
It was painful. I won’t be able to go out for a month, again. But I left the nice waitress a healthy tip. Much more than the 18 percent of whomever-said-it-was-proper-etiquette.
My only real objection is why in the hell is the tip based on a percentage of the over-priced and padded ‘check.’
Does a sexy waitress poking her cleavage in your eye at a fancy restaurant do anything more or less than a Gertrude, in a hair net, slapping down your juice, coffee, toast, eggs and pancakes at the morning diner? She keeps refilling your coffee mug without having to be asked. She laughs at your bad sexy puns. And reminds you to smile because a smile don’t cost you nothing but a few wrinkles.
Yet your diner bill will probably be $10 bucks and you leave a couple of bucks as the gratuity. Here is where I often leave much more. And willingly. This waitress or waiter is working double time to make my day.
On the other side of midnight, however, I find the men and women of the evening often view the gratuity as an entitlement. Their faces aren’t smiles. Our water glasses and drink glasses aren’t expediently refilled. And half the dining room is left wondering why the other half is waving at them. Something everyone notices, except your unobservant waiter. You’d think he was a doorman in New York City.
Now, I know I am picking on restaurant servers here when this also goes for the vast majority in the so-called service industry.
What the heck, let me remind one and all of this: It was only a few short years ago when the dunces in the Pennsylvania State House had to wake up long enough from their inebriated naps to pass a bill. The bill required that employees in the State Liquor Stores, where all the wines and spirits are sold in the Keystone State, must be ‘courteous and helpful’ to the patrons. And not be the arrogant, insolent sots they always were as representatives of the biggest revenue producer in the state.
Furthermore, what also makes me pound my chest like Tarzan swinging on Jane, is when you have, say a party of eight, and the restaurant ‘automatically’ inscribes an 18 percent gratuity fee.
Arrrghhh! Whadduh Mother Theresa is this manure?
I have, more than once, barked and demanded that it be removed. That it is I, D.I., who will decide what to tip and how much – depending on the service. If it is good I probably will give much more. But if it be bad I am going to give back badly. And isn’t that the reason we tip more than our hats in the first damn place?
Oh, please, lord. Don’t let me near my machete.
Look, when I am seated at a bar drinking the pints of $2 Pabsts specials I usually tip the bartender a dollar a beer. A little more if she’s got bumps. That’s not 18 percent. Or 20 percent. It is over 50 percent. But so what?
What is the real meaning of tipping the waiter 18 percent for bringing you out a $100 steak or a $10 plate of eggs. It shouldn’t be tied to the cost of the item, but the quality of the service.
Doesn’t this make sense?
If anyone is listening to me, shake your head – so I can hear something.
What we presently do has no foundation in scientific or philosophic or economic reasoning. That no doubt comes as shocking news to you – about as shocking as seeing Charlie Sheen on a prostitute.
What we do is mostly steeped in tradition. And tradition is what we do when we don’t know why else we are doing it.
To change the way things are we’ve got to machete many traditions. To do that we must first change ourselves. And to do that we’ve got to examine what we thought was only in the rearview mirror.
It has gotten too expensive to live. To die. To eat out, or in. It’s even getting too darn expensive to get divorced.
Some traditions have simply got to go. And not come back. I know: That’s a tall order.
So, Lord, give me a tall order of strength to change the things I can, and a side order of ability to accept the things I cannot. And, if your service is good, I promise to make the gratuity worth your while.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.