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Happy Holidays! Take 10%.

Maybe it’s the fact that Black Friday has begun to truly infringe on Thanksgiving. Stores opening Thanksgiving Day? Really? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a wee bit surly about approaching the holidays broke when my husband wants an inversion board and a few other expensive gifts. Maybe it’s the crumbling mountain of debt that lurks over my head or the giant, all caps “NON NEGOTIABLE, THIS IS NOT A CHECK” that I get every other week in an envelope with my paystubs, but last night at work, I noticed a phenomenon.

My tip average dropped about 7%.

Normally, I average between 18-30% tips. Yes, 30%. I work in a bar, so a lot of my sales end up being small ones, and people (generally) don’t give me less than a dollar even if all they bought was a $3 happy hour beer. Sometimes they’re downright generous when it’s regulars I’m serving.

I should also say that I am a very good server. I make sure my guests know I value their experience and that I care if the kitchen decides cheese is okay on a salad where I specified no dairy.

But it’s the holiday season, and aside from the reality that most of us in the industry face of working while people with “normal” jobs get to stay in with their families or go out on the town to celebrate the “most wonderful time of the year,” the last thing we want on top of that is to have our wages slashed. Which, if you didn’t know already, is what our tips are. Those are our wages. I’m not going to get into the whole thing about how the system is flawed because the restaurant/bar should be paying its employees and how messed up is it that  consumers are expected to pay our bills with tips when tips are optional anyway? I’ve heard all of that. Until you fix that system, tip your servers.

It’s the holidays. Not only are we expected to roll out with our usual level of excellence, but we are expected to be joyous and optimistic, bright-eyed and elfish in our interactions. Chirpy voices. Holiday cheer for all.

None of that is really faked with me most of the time, but when I open a check presenter to find that yet another person left me four dollars on a $37 check, it begins to turn charming little Cindy Lou Who into the pre-revelatory Grinch.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (film)

This is what I look like now. You're welcome. Image via Wikipedia

Also, around this time of year I know there are heaps of promotions and Group-Ons and Living Social yadda-yaddas to slice major bucks from your checks, but please remember that your tip is to be calculated by the full amount of your check prior to any discounts. Yeah. You’re still saving a lot of money, so tip your servers well.

Why, you ask? Partly because of that whole thing about us not getting paychecks except for what you write in the “tip” line on your credit card receipt, but also because if you ring up a massive bill, we are serving you a lot of stuff. Alcohol, appetizers, desserts, getting that mayo you want, switching out that drink you didn’t like twice, cooing at your baby, and just generally waiting on you hand and foot so you don’t have to do all that yourself. Tonight (this happened twice), people came in with $10 coupons. Their bills were each around $40 pre-discount. They each left me five, which is 18% of 30 and not a bad tip, but it’s 12% of 40, and that is insulting. Granted, $40 is not massive, but 20% of 40 is a lot more than 20% of 25, and it adds up fast.

The holidays are about giving. Thankfulness. Kindness. We tip our mail carriers, our trash collectors, our nannies to thank them for their services. Please don’t forget about the people bringing you your food, your beers, and cleaning up after your children when you leave. Please remember that while you’re out to dinner celebrating, we’re working. And most of us have to work all through the holidays — we’re lucky to get one of them off to spend with our families (and with Black Friday encroaching even more on Thanksgiving, more and more people are losing one of the only guaranteed days off per year). I’ll be working Christmas Eve and New Years Eve till the wee hours of the morning. I won’t get to kiss my new husband as we ring in 2012 or open an early present  before Christmas dawns, and neither will millions of other servers.

A lot of us do this job because we enjoy it — we like to provide you with an excellent, caring experience and a great atmosphere.  So please, don’t forget about us this holiday season. Help us look a little more like this:

I'd much rather look like this.

 

 

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‘Tis the Season…

…to be utterly thankful.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Between the fall colors that are the last flaming burst of life before the earth goes dormant in winter and the gathering of family home to hearths and living rooms after being scattered for the year, it just holds a warm place in my heart.  There’s nothing I love more than taking the opportunity to get together with loved ones over Thanksgiving without the pressure of buying, buying, buying.  It’s one of the few American holidays that hasn’t been overtly commercialized–as evidenced by the fact that stores often put out their Christmas displays immediately following Halloween nowadays.  Thanksgiving gets rather lost in the fold–how do you commercialize a family dinner?  Oh, granted sales of sparkling cider and turkey go up, but it’s a far cry from the raging consumerism of Christmas.

I love it.

I love everything about it.  I like getting up early to put the turkey in the oven, covering it with herbs and stuffing it full of toast and veggies.  I like spending the day running around the kitchen, peeling potatoes, laughing with family, getting frustrated at pies and people, and preparing for the biggest feast of the year.  I love looking around that table and seeing faces of people I love dearly looking back at me.  All with the knowledge that today is a day to be thankful, to take nothing for granted, to love fully and be loved and to set aside the frantic busy-ness that makes up the other days of the year and pour our energy into people and life.

I love taking some time to reflect on what I’m thankful for.  There’s never a bad time to count your blessings, but Thanksgiving is really quite a good time to do it–because everyone else is doing it, and it makes these few weeks of the year a time of openness, of friendship and family and love.

Of course it’s shiny happy people stuff–that’s what the holidays should be about.

I don’t really have anyone to spend my holidays with, in terms of a romantic sense.  I am single.  But it’s more than okay–there will, most likely, be any number of holidays in my future in which I am flying to and fro, trying to coordinate plans with a significant other.  When I look at my family members doing this, I have to add the unlikely blessing to my list that I am the sole person in charge of figuring out what the hell I’m doing for the holidays.  I can go where I please and see who I want.  Woot.

I’m really quite thankful for any number of things, singleness notwithstanding.  I quite like the weather–though I’m in a lonely camp there.  I’m thankful for the many people who are new in my life this year–they’ve all been rather extraordinary, and I feel really very special.  I have a nice home, a steady job, and I’ve finished my first novel.  I will, in the future, finish the others as well.  Just a matter of time.  I have a lovely writing group filled with other odd souls such as myself.  I’ve had a large number of wonderful experiences in the past few years, and I really feel quite lucky about that, too.  On a very basic level, all my needs are taken care of.  I don’t have anything to complain about, not really.

I’m thankful that I’m pretty healthy.  I have the occasional sniffle, but I’ve thus far escaped any serious malady this year, and I fully intend to round out 2008 with my lungs intact.

I am thankful for the chance to see my mom’s sister and family after nearly ten years of absence.  I leave for ten years, come back, and 2/3 of them are bigger than me.  Who’d’ve thunk?  My cousins are all grown up now.  It will be quite the party this weekend.  I’m also thankful to get the chance to see a good friend again on Friday.  It’s a bit of a trek up north, but worth it.  I’m very excited.

I am thankful that my car will (will, I say) make it all the way to Columbus, then on to Toledo, then back to Nashville in one piece without major incident (or minor incident, for that matter.)

Yes.  It will be a lovely Thanksgiving.