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Tales from the waitressing crypt

Submitted by on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 No Comment

I can’t remember their name, though it was burned in my brain at the time. Just seeing it on the reservation list was enough to make me want to fake a case of bubonic plague and head home, no matter how badly I wanted the money from the shift.

I’ll never forget their faces, though. At least, I’ll never forget the parents’ faces. I don’t think I ever saw the kids. They were always under the table trying to turn it over, even though they were old enough to know better. Or grinding pasta into the carpet. When food arrived and they were supposed to turn their attention to the meal, they instead turned to smashing crackers into the tablecloth. I should have been happy it wasn’t worse – there were candles on the table, too.

It’s been 30 years, but I still remember that the tip was usually $2 on a $40 bill. Both parents were highly paid professionals – they knew better on both the undertip and the shenanigans.

Still, shenanigans with a respectable gratuity would have made my stomach cramps less severe the next time I saw them on the reservation list. That’s why I can understand a waiter who hates serving families. I don’t agree with some of his characterizations – what he calls bratty seems to me a case of a kid being a kid – and I don’t agree that parents have to compensate for lower-priced kids meals. But I support his position that parents should overtip in many situations.

We always have – at minimum to compensate for the extra trips for extra drinks, at maximum to make up for the mess. Dad, who’s also done time in the restaurant business, used to refer to it as our “Big Guy surcharge.”

Now that the kids are older and we’re again venturing into places that don’t serve Happy Meals, they get to clean up their own mess if it was deliberate. They get help if it was an accident. We don’t eat out often, so to them it’s still a treat – and one that they know is going to be revoked for at least a month for over-the-top behavior.

Such was the case this summer when they caused a near-riot at IHOP, which Boots refers to as “a really nice restaurant” because it has silver ware and napkins on the table. They were with two friends and, while no food was flung, the decibel levels nearly shattered glass. When repeated warnings and trips to the restroom for talking-tos didn’t work, we left. I wanted to overtip the other diners, not the waiter who kicked it all off by bringing three beverages but forgetting the fourth for ages.

We haven’t been back to that IHOP since. I wonder if they’ve hired a bouncer.

Yes, adults can be difficult customers, too. I remember one man who always demanded that his water, wine and iced tea glasses be filled to the brim constantly, regardless of what other people at the table needed. His brother – also his business partner, poor guy – would always slip me an extra tip by way of apology. I had the feeling that he’d seen his sibling’s act many times before.

Now that I think of it, that’s probably where I picked up the habit of the tip surcharge for bratty behavior.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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