Okay, time for another five questions. But before I begin, maybe a mini rant: the past year or two have seen a big reduction on tipping. Many people are downright using the status of the economy to be cheap. I don't think tipping should change. If you're not going to spend money, then just stay at home and order takeout. People who wait tables are trying to pay bills. If you have decent service, don't use the economy as an excuse to give them something less than 15%! That's just wrong. And it's further eroding our economy. As always, this column is a Q and A about the waitressing life. To ask questions, write to email@example.com.
Q: Just had a heart-to-heart talk with myself tonight. I have been waitering for almost a decade now. I realized how much I wasted my life and I've got no future. I want to do something else but it's all I know. Waitering used to be fun...then it became tolerable. But these past few weeks have exposed to me of living in an empty existance. I feel like a monkey being enslaved for spare change. I am placed in a position where everyone knows I am inferior. We just pretend to smile and act like I'm not. I have realized this and it's made me depressed. I don't know if I can do this anymore. What does a waiter do in times like these to keep going? Realistically speaking, I can't quit now.
- Simon T.
There were times I went through that phase too. I would feel like a loser and stare at the night sky. I didn't want to return for work the next day. Usually when that happens it was a succession of rude customers or other drama between the staff. Inevitably, it happens. But waiting tables is a stepping stone to most people, and you must see it that way because then it turns into a friend to you. I encourage you to find what it is you're dreaming about and then pursue it while waiting tables on the side. If you're in a band, see the waiting tables as funding that dream. If you're going back to school, see it as funding your education. During those bad days, remember the good days and the fun customers. Back then, mine was a little girl named Prina. She was the cutest thing and always called me Momo. My memory of Prina kept me through the dark days. Her family stopped coming to the restaurant I was working in, but Prina was immortally 2 years old in my mind. To you, as a guy, it may not be a cute little girl. Maybe it's a hot chick that flirted with you. Maybe it's a cool guy who told you awesome stories. Whoever it is, we all have positive customers which we remember over and over again. Thinking about them will carry you through. Best of luck.
Q: I have had a lot of rude customers before, but this one guy recently topped them all. I had forgotten to put fortune cookies in his to go order and he came back making a big [explicit] deal out of it. He made a big scene and to everyone's surprise, the manager fired me on the spot and told me to get out. The customer smirked and even made a forward motion with his hands. It was major embarassing and I felt enraged to get revenge. Don't talk me out of it. Just tell me what I should've done that night? (It's too late now)
- Bebe W.
Irrational angry customers are common, even guys who make a scene about fortune cookies. The real culprit to this story is your manager who could have pleased both the customer and kept your job. And even if he were to fire you, he didn't have to disrespect you by firing you in front of this douchebag customer. This tells me that the manager has something personal against you. I'm going to encourage some passive-aggressive revenge. Call the restaurant and tell them a celebrity will be coming that night with a party of eight. Tell them to prepare something expensive. Then go spend about $1 on xeroxing several dozen flyers and give them to the homeless. The flyers will indicate free food is given at the restaurant ("charity night"). Not only would you get revenge on the restaurant, but you'd be feeding the homeless too!
Q: Recently found out something...my friend and I at first did it as a joke and a dare...when we were about to pay at a restaurant, I pointed at myself to the waitress and said "Do you know who I am??!" She replied no. And then I said "well you should". Next thing I know, the bill was half off. We were shocked. After polishing up our act, we decided to do this in another restaurant. Again, we got half-off our bill. I don't really have a question here, but is this what real celebrities do? Is that why I keep getting away with it? I'm riding this until the wheels fall off.
- Joe J.
LOL. I wouldn't fall for that, 'cause if they really were a big-time celebrity, people would recognize them and even bug them for their autograph and picture. Or some kind of sign that showed their importance. To answer your question, I've met quite a few celebrities, but none of them have ever pointed at themselves and asked if I knew who they were. You guys got lucky lightning struck twice in the bottle, but the third time might find it failing. Still, what's the harm? If they call your bluff, just pay like regular people do. I would not share this tactic with others though, because it would be hilarious if an entire customer started doing that trick and it becomes an epidemic of comedic proportions. LOL.
Q: I have had it with singing Happy Birthday songs!!!!!!! This idea is ridiculous!!! The customer doesn't want it, we feel like idiots standing there and singing...what purpose does it serve? I want to go back in time and punch out the people who started this.
- Lilly Z.
Oh my God, I totally hated doing that when I was waiting tables. What purpose does it serve? That's a big mystery. It certainly doesn't bring an increase in tips. They really should start asking whether or not the customer wants it before just unleashing it on the customer. Customers want free dessert on their birthday, but no necessarily an entire waitstaff singing Happy Birthday off-key. If you're really against it, just say you're a Jehovah's Witness and it's against your religion to sing it.
Q: I've recently been given a manager role in a restaurant (family connections). I've never waited tables before, but I'm in charge of interviewing candidates for the job. What are some good interview questions I should ask them?
- Thai M.
The two biggest things you should determine is how much charisma they have and how they handle pressure. The pressure one is especially important. This may sound like a bit of a surprise but experience is not all that important...common sense is. Waiting tables isn't a hard job, so it's more important to get a feel of whether or not that person has common sense. When I got interviewed they asked me some silly scenario questions and how I would handle them. Their answers will tell you everything you need to know.
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!