Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Food for thought

A (male) friend took me to dinner last night, since I was accompanying him to go buy furniture (giving a woman's perspective, i guess). The waiter's cute, and young (21, it turns out), and comes up to our table looking like somebody just ran over his dog. I've worked service for 10 years, give or take. I know what it's like to not want to be there, to not want to plaster a fake smile on your face and sing the old refrain of, "The customer's always right!" But that's the job. Sometimes the job sucks.

So I start grinning at the guy, cracking jokes, making lots of eye contact and generally attempting to add levity to his situation. It works. The kid is walking a little taller every time he comes by our table, and is now smiling and laughing right along with us. He swings by to check up on us about half-way through our meal and comes out with, "Just wanted you guys to know I took $5 off your ticket, because you're being so cool about everything."

Now, I've been comped stuff before, for various reasons... a mistake was made, the guy behind the bar was trying to flirt, whatever, but never simply for making somebody smile. This is a good feeling.

The check comes, and my friend is picking up the tab. It's a mid-grade Italian chain joint without a lot of foot-traffic. After the $5 deduction, the bill's $27 and some change. My friend leaves $31.

Four bucks. Less, actually, taking into account the change factor. That's it?!? Now, I understand that's %15 off the modified ticket, and %15 is a decent tip from a cheap suburbanite in his mid-forties. I, on the other hand, know that wait staff in my area make less than $3 an hour. The place is dead, we're the kid's only table, and he provided exceptional service. I don't think it's enough, but I'm not buying. It takes me two seconds to come up with a solution.

"Why don't you go grab the car. I'm gonna run to the ladies' room, and I'll meet you out front." Being the gentleman that he is, I probably would have had to stand on the curb and wait for him to pull the car around anyway, so this makes sense. I move towards the bathroom to reapply my lipstick as he goes to fetch the car. I fish a $10 out of my purse before heading out of the can.

On my way out, the kid's dealing with some customer in the corner who's talking to him like he's not worth the dirt on the bottom of her shoe. I drop the ten on the table and walk out with a smile.

Ever been in this situation? Does it make you uncomfortable to go out with a "cheap" friend? If you were the buyer, would it piss you off if you found out your friend slipped a little extra to the waiter on the sly?


UPDATE: Well, guilt finally got the better of me (that didn't last long). I told my friend what I did. He laughed at me. "So, you think I'm cheap?" I knew that was coming.

"You should have just tossed a couple bucks on the bill, if you thought he needed a bigger tip." I explained that I didn't want to offend him. Friendship, apparently, transcends small slights such as these.

I'm all smiles now. My friend isn't angry, I have my sneaky behavior off my concience, and the waiter got a 50% tip. All is right with the world.


Marc said...

You are amazing hun........huggs

Mouth said...

Aww, thanks, darlin! I don't know about "amazing", though... how bout we say "she's in touch with her humanity"? I can live with that.

Bein all modest today... pardon me.


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