Busy tax season is keeping me stressed (yes, I work for an accounting firm now). Remember to file your taxes, even if you're a server. You are part of the employment line too! As always, if you have questions, write to email@example.com and leave your first name and the first letter of your last name. Like this: "John S.".
Q: I have a feeling most people don't know the difference between a good and a bad waiter. This was my first weekend on the job, I haven't done anything crazy yet like spilling a drink on a toddler or making a politically incorrect joke, but I suspect it's only a matter of time. I have forgotten many orders. I've not shown up on time, I usually have no idea what is on the menu and I've left food hanging there that should've been delivered to my table 15 minutes ago. Yet, everyone has so far told me I'm a great waiter. One even said I was the best waiter they ever had. Are people really that dense or simply complimentary?
- Ching-Wong C.
Here's a super secretive secret in the table waiting industry: the guest makes the difference in the experience. Really! If the customers who come are already in a good mood, or have turned into a good mood because of their dinner companions, they will most likely have a skewed view that you are better than you were as a waiter or waitress. The opposite also rings true: if they are in a bad mood they'll most likely choose to view things in a negative light. They're not dense, Ching-Wong...they're oblivious when they're distracted in a good or bad mood! Learn how to recognize the "easy" ones right away, and be as tolerant as possible to the difficult ones. In this case, literally, it's not you...it's them.
Q. Yo, Yoyo! Got my question for ya. I thought about phoning in my orders before I arrive at an expensive restaurant. I figured if I give them my credit card number and ordered, I can come in, take a seat with my group and the food is already there. This could eliminate any need of a waitress. I'm revolutionizing, aren't I?
- Marcus A.
Marcus, fancy restaurants aren't Domino's Pizza. Even if you're going to pay for it all in advance, this is a highly unusual and unwelcomed practice. Fancy and high-end restaurants pride themselves in the experience and simply the practical reason of looking like they're filled with patrons. You go out to these places wanting to be served. Why go to a fancy restaurant at all if you're just there for the food? There are plenty of hole-in-the-wall places where you can get similar food and do your ordering in advance trick. Fancy restaurants are a different breed. You're paying for the experience. Why speed it up? Also, why support something that eliminates servers? They need their jobs!
Q. I've gone though some hard times and resorted to using coupons in restaurants. Now, it's one thing to use a coupon at a Subway, but using one at a fancy Italian joint may send their restaurant staff snickering. I'm kinda embarassed but I really want to use coupons at a fancy restaurant. What do servers generally think about this?
- Yvonne F.
You're so silly, Yvonne...people won't laugh at all :)
As long as you tip accordingly and not have the usage of coupons reflect any kind of cheapness, you should be fine. Waiters are struggling rent payers living paycheck to paycheck (usually), so they all understand the usage of saving a little here and there. You guys are all in the same boat. One important thing that most people usually don't do: tip according to the original amount, pre-coupon. If you make a practice tipping based on the total after the coupon is counted, it may rub waiters the wrong way. Other than that, splurge with coupons...it's the new thing and the smart, savvy thing. All the server cares about is the tipping. Now if they made a coupon for a discount on the tipping, we'd be pissed!
Q. Hi. Yoyo. This is a first time I wrote to you. I've been reading all your articles since the very beginning. I'm working at a seafood restaurant and last Friday night, I tried picking up a dirty dish from one of my customers. I didn't know it still had sauce left from the crawfish shells, and it spilled onto her Coach handbag. She was very upset, and went to talk to my manager. The manager tried asking her to bring it to the cleaners and that the restaurant would re-imburse the bill for her. However, she refused it by saying it was and expensive handbag and that it could not be washed (even dry cleaned). Instead, what she wanted was for us to pay her back with a new handbag. I know the restaurant where I work will not pay for it, but I was wondering if the bag couldn't be cleaned by a professional cleaner...or should I have paid for a new Coach handbag? I'm just a college student and working weekends are all I have to earn some money for my college fees.
- Mimi S.
Mimi, why do you feel you have to do what this woman says? As an employee of an institution, only the institution is liable for a majority of cases involving the customer. In this case, even if she was extreme and somehow came with a legal representative, you are not involved. All the restaurant can do is fire you, but that's no big deal seeing how you can always get a job waiting tables elsewhere. Customers like that are usually overreacting and looking for whatever they can take advantage of. Their only real threat is never returning to the restaurant again, which, nobody cares. It's unfortunate that the accident happened, but perhaps she should be more careful where to put her purse?
Q. Know what goes through my mind when I'm standing there reciting the long-winded special of the days? The bored, tuned-off expressions of the customers as both they and I know no one's listening and they afterwards, they'll be asking plenty of questions they also won't listen to. And why ask questions to your server when you know you won't be paying attention? Does it have cheese? No. They order it anyway, then act in disbelief that it has no cheese. How do you get them to listen better? Do I wear a clown nose, do a little dance halfway through my routine? What.
- Paul L.
Something that truly annoyed me when I was waiting tables was when customers didn't bother to listen to my answers to their questions. It really made me feel subhuman. They would ask a question, then halfway while you're answering, they'd start talking to someone else. I have found that subtly repeating the answer often helps. Remember, waiting tables is all about passive aggressiveness. For example, if they didn't hear your answer the first time, answer a few more questions and take a few more orders, then go back to the original question asker and repeat the original answer. This takes a good memory, but then again waiting tables requires a good memory.
Okay, another five questions! That was quick and 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!