Friday, March 10, 2006

DDW 3: Revenge of Downtown Dining Week Strikes Back

Tipping is kind of a funny thing. I know that everybody has their own opinion as to how much to tip, but the formula breaks down as soon as service and quality are called into question. Me? I like to tip 15%, as I understand it to be the socially accepted norm. But tonight at The Conga Room, the service was slow, the food was bland, and my drinking glass had lipstick marks on it. Our server was switched over in the middle of our meal, and we were never asked about the quality of our meal. In general, it was a bad dining experience, and I did not feel that the usual 15% tip would be fair. Imagine my surprise when our waitress confronted me after paying, asking why the tip was so bad. After detailing our qualms, she bacame really defensive and actually told us to not come back. Fine by me, I say. Why would I go back to a restaurant with bad food and shitty service? I'd much rather go eat at Latin Corner, where the staff are friendly and the food is delicious. But enough about that. It just kind of bugs me that I'm going to have to end this year's DDW on such a sour note.

Getting back to tipping, the whole situation in Cuba was really strange. Because of the freakonomics of the country, you never had to tip much for anything. Maybe a buck for a round of drinks, 3-5 bucks for a family dinner, etc. The weird part was the kinds of things you were expected to tip for. You tip the busdriver, the tour guide, the guy who gets your reclining beach chairs, and everything in between. In reality, I was probably tipping as much money as I would be anywhere else, it was just spread out over many more people. Begging was also really strange. I don't mean to equate tipping and begging, but the segue has to come somewhere. Street beggars weren't as interested in money as they were strange products that we take for granted. The elderly would beg for things like soap, the children would beg for pens and such. Apperantly it's impossible to get pens in Cuba.

But hey, what I want to know is, what's your whole take on tipping? I know a lot of you guys who read this like to overtip, but what's your justification for it? Let's get a dialogue going.


At 9:59 AM, Blogger Matthew Thompson said...

I have a feeling that the overtipping comment was (at least partially) directed towards me, as I tend to tip like there is no tomorrow. I will self explore the reasons for such, and get back to you.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Tay said...

It's true, that comment was directed primarily towards you and Ryan. You guys tip way more than could possibly be expected.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Cara-bellum said...

I overtip if it's a place I go to a lot. Mostly because I go there a lot, and they don't care if I spend 2 hours there drinking nothing more than coffee (Helllooooo Vicious!).

Growing up in a world where the 10% tip reigns supreme, it's embarrassing to eat with my parents sometimes. They justify the 10% by saying "We're Chinese, and a 10% tip is customary in our culture." Yeah, but dudes, we're eating at Swiss Chalet. They're not Chinese. They're about as un-Asian as you get. I don't say much though, because I AM getting a free dinner and all. So I try to balance out years of inherited bad karma by overtipping sometimes.

Also, a lot of places are jerkstores and expect servers to tip out a certain percentage, regardless of how much tip money they actually got. Earl's is one of these places. If the section was really cheap, this can mean the servers pay out of their own pockets. Plus, they make Restaurant Minimum Wage, which is, what, like $4/hr?

All that being said, I think your server at the Conga Room was way out of line. At the end of the day, a tip is just that: a token of appreciation for good service. If the service is lacking, why shouldn't the token also be lacking? (Unless there were extenuating circumstances, like if she was managing 3 busy sections on her own or somesuch.)

You could probably speak with a manager about this. Not to get free food, because as you said, the food sucks. But they should know that their servers are flipping out at customers like that. She should have just smiled thinly, apologised, and spit in your food the next time you eat there, like all the smart servers do.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Man of the Century said...

Spending money irresponsibly can be fun for the entire family.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger The Irishman said...

cara, I NEVER spat in your food...drinks maybe...

I feel I have some good insider knowledge here, so I'll share my take. Tay raises some good points, but some clarification is required... which cara did to an extent.

First off, its not just earls where you "tip out". That's basically a universal thing at almost any restaurant or bar. The amount or breakup of such differs greatly, which is why servers usually bounce around from one place to another. The main reason I and most who understand this tip more than the usual "standard" 15% gratuity is that it is exactly that, the standard. The restaurant assumes you get 15% tips on everything, which is complete bullshit. Therefore they breakup tipout to kitchen, wenches, barmen, hostesses, walk out funds, house funds, on the assumption you make 150 bucks on a 1000 ring out. That sadly, doesn't happy as much nowadays. People are cheep. Therefore as cara suggests, you may on slower days, or crappy tip days, actually be paying out of your pocket to tip others... which is uber wrong. Minimum wage is now 7 bucks, but for years it was 590 or something retarded for all servers... so they really NEED the tip to make decent money. The history of the tip is to show special thanks (above and beyond coming back) - and the idea of tipping out is that its a tip for the ENTIRE service, not just server. So tay, you're quite right to give less tip for bad service, food, etc. However, sometimes (always) servers are selfish snots and can't get it into their heads they may have done something wrong. They've become accustomed to 15% or more, so when they get slighted, they get all snotty. I have no respect for that. The idea of a lower tip is almost to explain to them the service was not up to par. She had no right to snap at you. As cara said, she should eat it, shut her yap and work harder next time, or bitch out the kitchen for screwing her money cuz the food was crap (if she was a good server, that woulda happened during your visit after a checkup). Anyways, the other possibility is she for whatever reason (busy, thought other server checked on you guys) thought all was fine and had no clue you were upset. I wouldn't know if thats true... just speculation. Hence, I'm very open about bringing up issues of service during the meal, so they're aware and maybe can make adjustments or improvements before the bill comes, so the servers isn't shocked at a bad tip. I guess this comes from my sympathy for servers usually, and wanting them to do well and not get screwed. The situation is much better in europe where servers are paid more so they don't NEED the tip to pay their bills, so it really is much more discrestionary and a bonus. So, basically I'm saying most of our problems are because of Ralph and friends and people being greedy bastards...haha

And cuba... my neighbours go every year and for tipping they bring with them cartons of bathroom stuff and cigarettes and school supplies for kids. They said the locals much prefer it to money even in the restort they were staying at. A weird quirk of communism. They're brillant people, but they don't have the pens and paper to write down what they know. Shameful.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger The Irishman said...

oh another thing I didn't get to regarding tipout. Sometimes it gets as high as 6-9 % of ringout... so thats why many of us, matt/ryan/me it seems will often go to 20% or higher. The other thing thats a little messed up is the servers need the tip to really make good hourly wage 10-12 bucks to make it worthwhile at least... kitchen and barmen usually get paid more anyways, so its more of a bonus for them, where its essential for servers. A little screwed up that way.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger The Man In Japan said...

T.I.P.S. is actually an acronym folks. To Insure Prompt Service.

The word prompt has had its definition widened to not only mean fast service, but "good" service.

I'm always reminded of that Seinfeld episode where George puts the bills on the table and every time the service declines, he takes some of the tip away. If it increases then he puts some back. I think thats what I do mentally as well.

Tay, you were absolutely just in docking the tip at that restaurant. If it was me, and the waitress fussed in my face about the tip I'd have asked for the manager. I don't put up with that. She's lucky she even GOT a tip. I would have asked for the entire tip to be returned...

That being said, I live in Japan where you don't tip! Its awesome. You just pay the bill and go. No figuring out how much extra I need to pay. Its done for me! (there's usually a "tip" factored into the bill so you don't have to do it)


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