(Good movie, by the way.)
Remember that sea shanty that included the verse that starts “What do you do with a drunken sailor?”
I have a new one- “What do you do with a snarky waiter?”
The answer may seem simple- more ‘tude, less tip- but it isn’t if you’re in a large party and the gratuity is tacked onto your bill automatically.
Monday night we took BJ out for her b-day to The Melting Pot. Fondue can be a labor intensive meal, but she’d not been and wanted to try it, and frankly it was fun. We ordered scads of delicious meat and seafood, told anyone who would listen that it was our girl BJ’s special day, and chatted and laughed over boiling pots of cheese, broth and chocolate.
Our waiter had run the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday and was, he confessed a tad out of it. We expressed our admiration for his Nike attitude (no training, he just did it) and were onboard the (name here) train. But as the evening progressed, he was also a tad confrontational, a tad snarky and a tad forgetful. Since I was organizing this little shindig, his behaviour got a tad up my nose.
He was… snippy. Not like the waiter my ex and I had all those years ago in Ptown. Not funny snippy. Bitey, angry snippy.
First, although he asserted several times that he got it that it was BJ’s birthday, ours was the only table having a birthday that didn’t have a giant Mylar balloon or at least a candle on something. I’d mentioned it while making a reservation, I’d mentioned it to the hostess, the manager and the waiter, and all had said, “No problem/we’ll take care of it/gotcha,” and still nothing. It was like watching apathy personified. How hard is it to put a candle on a piece of cheesecake and light it so that we can sing? Lesson learned: bring your own candle and matches.
Second, since I had eaten there before and had suggestions of my own (mostly steering my friends towards simpler things aswe are none of us rich) our waiter was very very aggressively upselling. Very aggressively.
As in saying, “Don’t listen to her, she has no idea…”
Oh, but I do, sweetie. I’ve eaten here before.
And then after as he was cleaning up: “See? I told you guys she was wrong…” (and on and on and on). And he wasn’t being funny or self-deprecating, he was being mean. How mean? RM was speechless. She is never speechless. Never.
Third, I’m sorry if this makes me sound all evil, but I don’t give a sh*t how exhausted you are because you ran an effin’ marathon. You chose to do it, not me. That’s why you train, that’s why you take the following day off, that’s why you have a job that doesn’t start until 5pm. In short, your problems are not mine. When I worked in retail I was told to leave my pathetic little problems at the door and do my best to put on a happy face because nobody comes into a store to get their head bitten off. Which meant if I chose to ride a 100miler the day before our annual Spring Melee that it was my responsibility to stay awake, alert and a-cheery. End of story.
Fourth, if you can’t remember something, like say the birthday girl’s drink, write it down.
At the end of the night I was so desperate to get out of there, which is odd because usually lingering is mandatory and enjoyable. Yet I was so annoyed at how the evening had turned out, that although I spoke to the manager it did not even occur to me to bring up the gratuity issue. A friend told me that she had contested an automatic gratuity that she felt was undeserved.
Personally I think, no- scratch that- I know that dealing with customers is hard. I know that customer service is an undervalued job with a low pay rate. Having done the dance- each time ending with me getting really fed up and walking away- I’m all for raising the minimum wage if that will get the best people for the job into the profession. Heck, if I were ruler of the universe I would make sure servers were so well paid that they came to work smiling and shared the joy. But if being guaranteed a tip turns out to be a license for rude behaviour, then screw it.
There is nothing worse than being on a budget in situations like this. Although I was happy to chip in my share- especially for the expensive but delicious Hendrick’s gin martini (a delicious small batch gin that I totally recommend, and I’m not usually a gin fan) – thereby treating the birthday girl to her meal and drinks as well, I was not happy. Ordinarily, if dinner is good and a server is helpful and polite and largely invisible, then forking over 3 weeks worth of grocery money is painless. But this was not. I hope that in the end, though talking to the manager did nothing, and calls to corporate were unanswered, the action of not paying over the 18% tacked on the bill spoke volumes.
In the end, and in my ever so humble opinion, the best meals I’ve ever had were the ones in which the server facilitated a smooth and satisfying series of transitions from drinks to food to check with humor and grace. On those occasions I’ve tipped generously, with pleasure and with no small amount of admiration for our server’s skill. This was, unfortunately, not one of those occasions.
My advice- if you get uncalled for ‘tude, run away. To the manager. To get another waiter.
Update: I received a letter from the owner of the restaurant with an apology and a credit for $75 toward our next meal- a more than generous compensation for our experience. I am writing her a thank you note as we speak.