I am petitioning this column to be renamed as "Ask the Former Waitress". I've since gotten a few emails about where I wait tables. I no longer wait tables! lol. But the higher ups that be say its better to keep as "Ask the Waitress" for marketing purposes. Meh. As always, this column is a Q and A about the waitressing life. To ask questions, write to email@example.com.
Q: I've heard from a friend that waiters/waitresses give hidden signals. One touched me on the shoulder recently while she was taking my order. My friend got excited after that and told me it was because she is interested in dating me. Is this true? What other secret signals do servers give? I need to know!
- Jimmy C.
Wait, why didn't you just ask her later if that was the case? Anyway, to answer your question quite bluntly, there are no "secret signals" shared by the waitstaff. There is no "community". We aren't baseball players. If a waitress or any woman for that matter touches your shoulder, it could mean a million different things and it depends on the person. Does she touch everyone like that? I playfully punch people in the shoulder all the time. Guys...girls...it doesn't matter. If someone is interested in you, they'll probably talk to you and give you their number, or at least friend you on Facebook. I've known a waitress who slipped her number on receipts (customer copy, of course). Bottom line, when we train for the job we just learn job-related issues like asking what you'd like to drink and carrying multiple trays. We don't get quizzed on secret signals shared by a secret society of waitresses. At least, I didn't. Hah!
Q: Be honest, are servers prejudiced? I'm not talking just race, but everything from gender to body weight, age, etc. I'm going to share something with you, Yoyo. I'm Pakistani, grew up in Jersey and living in Texas. Servers still treat me like [explicit]. They think I've got a bomb strapped on me or they give me the dirty look for 9/11. Come on, if I was really going to blow myself up it wouldn't be at Applebee's. And I always tip a little more just to alleviate the stereotype that Pakistanis are cheap.
- Rahim M.
We're no more prejudiced that any other profession. There will be certain races and groups that will be stereotyped more. I don't think you can blame anyone for stereotyping because it's just human nature. I recommend being a regular in a few restaurants where they'll stop seeing you as a "type" and start recognizing you as Rahim M. As for tipping more, it doesn't help alleviate any negative perception of the group you're in. If a waiter is against Group Xs and you, being a Group X person, tipped more, all they would say is that you were one great tipping Group X person. Remember, prejudices aren't your fault, so you aren't going to be the one changing them. Save your money and only tip more if you really like the server. No other reason.
By the way, stereotypes work against the waitstaff as well. I've gotten customers before who demanded another waitress than me because they wanted one who "spoke English". I've got one once who had something against Asians and intentionally gave me a hard time by ordering with confusing words, then telling me if I didn't understand it I should get out of the country and go back to China (I'm Korean). In the end, we're all people and sometimes you have to deal with us, and sometimes we have to deal with you guys. Let's all be as fair as possible, but if it happens to you, sometimes you just have to tolerate it. Or turn into a Tarentino character and cuss them out in a long-winded soliloquy. The choice is yours.
Q. How important is it to befriend the manager? I'm waiting tables, have a good relationship with my manager, and I think it co-relates to me getting good shifts. Lately, though he's been giving me graveyard shifts or early mornings, condensed into the middle of the week. No weekends scheduled. What gives? We were in good terms?
- Winston W.
Your question is too vague for me to answer. I'm going to do some guessing just to be able to come up with anything. What is definitely conclusive in your statement is that you felt *you* had a good relationship with your manager, but what if the manager didn't feel the same way? Sometimes someone can very annoyed at another person without that person knowing. A lot of people keep things inside rather than confront them face-to-face. Passive-aggression is the preferred method of most people in handling their problems. If that's not the case, then my other guess is that maybe he wanted to try out a new staff member and put them on the shifts? Or maybe there's a romantic link involved and he's favoring someone else over you? There's too many ways this could go. I'm sorry if I haven't properly answered your question.
Q. I am a waiter at a pretty well-known sushi restaurant in Houston. There is this one guy who constantly writes lies about me on Yelp. He calls out my name in public and makes everything up about me. I know who he is, I've seen that [explicit] many times. I even confronted him about why he writes lies about me. I've never done anything to him. He quickly ignored me and denied he did it. But it's him, and it's the same name on his credit card and I know he's the one! Plus, he doesn't even look me in the eye. This age of social media has made it so hard for to be a waiter that even when I do what I'm supposed to do, people make up stuff about me. Enough is enough! How do I deal with this?
- Scott W.
Well, I'm glad it wasn't any of the reviewers from Chopstix Houston! Haha. In all seriousness, I would fight fire with fire...or in this case, internet with internet. Get on Yelp, make an account, and defend yourself on his review. At the very least, if people start reading another side, they'll maybe begin to think that there are two sides of the story. This works if it's one person. I knew a fellow waitress once who had a greater problem: multiple people were talking trash about her on Yelp. She offended a customer once and this customer decided to get revenge by asking all her friends to ruin her reputation through negative reviews. They made up some crazy things about her. Being in social media means celebrities are no longer the only ones who live in a fishbowl. Just like famous people who have to deal with this all the time, the best thing you can do is keep doing a good job and if people are stupid enough to believe those lies, then they aren't ready for the 21st century. I always judge everyone I hear bad rumors about with fairness and a blank slate. I think as we get more into Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, etc. we will develop an attitude of taking everything with a grain of salt. I know this probably didn't give you any serious hope, but it's the truth.
Q. Hey Yoyo, how much does waiting tables make? One of my friends says he makes six-figures a year waiting tables. I don't believe this because he works in a Chinese restaurant, not an exclusive millionaire golf course club.
- Preetal H.
LOL. Is this a joke? I think your friend's a liar.
As a general answer to your question, it depends on where they work and how often they do it. The class of the restaurant will draw customers who have good jobs, which means they're more likely to tip higher. For example, there are restaurants in Beverly Hills where Hollywood celebs usually go. I knew a guy who waits tables there that makes as much as a doctor. He makes $2 an hour, but he gets tips for $1000 a table. But for the rest of us who don't work for Beverly Hills, the average waiter makes somewhere between $25,000-$35,000 a year full-time. Oh, I just want to add that most professional athletes are very cheap. I once had Dwayne Wade as a customer and he tipped me under 15 percent. He's a smart guy, so I figured he can do decent simple math in his head. I conclude he's cheap because he makes 13 million a year. And since we're dropping names, Yao Ming, Matt Barnes, Arian Foster, Kevin Martin, Chris Paul, Vince Young and Kazuo Matsui are very cheap as well. Best athlete tippers that I had were: Shaq, Mario Williams and Lance Berkman.
Thanks for the five people who asked! This was a fun! To ask questions, please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please leave your first name and the first letter of your last name (example: John S.). We'll take the five we like every 15 days!