Monthly Archives: February 2013

Please tip me twenty percent

Every time I sit down to write something, I always have to hold back the urge to start complaining about my job, to start another one of these restaurant posts. One, and I’ve already said this a million times, there’s already a great blog all about waiting tables. So I don’t want to just do what that guy has already made a pretty successful career out of. But two, I like to stay positive, upbeat, you know, to the best of my ability anyway. Whenever I write one of these restaurant pieces, it always comes out negative, whiney, just very unpleasant.

Having said all of that, this is already a waiting tables piece. That first paragraph was just a big unnecessary disclaimer. I wait tables full-time. I spend more time at the restaurant than I spend awake at my own house. And so yeah, while I don’t necessarily want to be all about waiting tables, I’ve got to get some stuff off my chest now and then. Otherwise it’ll just fester and grow inside until one day I explode.

Today I’d like to talk about tipping. Think about gratuity, the system. It’s the system by which I and all of my waiter and waitress brothers and sisters eek out a living in this world. I work for a restaurant. The restaurant pays me something like three dollars an hour, which, and I don’t have to say it, isn’t a lot of money. It’s nothing. All of my money comes from tips, from tipping, from total strangers giving me money at their discretion after they settle their bill with my employer.

It’s crazy. It’s crazy because the people I work for still control everything that I do when I’m at work. Even though they’re paying me next to nothing. I still have to follow all of their restaurant rules, I have to shave every day, get micromanaged every ten seconds, do what I’m told, stand up straight, smile for the guests on the floor.

And I do my job and try to make sure everybody’s having a good time. Why? Because it’s my job? Sure. But also because I’m personally invested in each of my table’s dining experience. They have a good time, I do everything right, hopefully they’ll leave me a good tip, a twenty percent tip.

And that’s the whole argument. The system works because if I didn’t have that incentive of a potential tip, then theoretically I wouldn’t work as hard to earn that tip, right? Wrong. It’s bullshit. The whole system is flawed. It’s flawed because I never receive uniform twenty percent tips. A lot of my tips are fifteen percent. “Boo-hoo” a lot of you might be thinking to yourselves. I should be happy for whatever I get.

But that’s a terrible way try to make money. The standard is twenty percent. If I get like four or five fifteen percent tips, it’s like trying my hardest in school and getting nothing but B minuses. It’s like busting my ass, doing more work and taking home less pay.

Whenever I complain about the system, I invariably hear stuff like, “suck it up,” “stop whining,” “get a new job.” But that’s not how it should be. Every other real job in the world, you’re taking home a certain amount of money. Only by waiting tables does that money depend on the whims of the customers. And a lot of the customers aren’t nice. They’re just not nice people. They go out to eat, they order a bunch of stuff, they make me run around, I do it, I do my job, I smile and act friendly and do whatever I’m asked, and then these people leave me ten or fifteen percent. Seriously, that’s not a good system.

And the restaurant doesn’t care. Better luck next time. The customers paid for all the food. They didn’t arbitrarily decide to pay only fifteen percent of the check. No, they try something like that and then somebody’s calling the cops. But a ten or fifteen percent tip? “Bye! Thanks so much! Hope you had a great time! See you next time! Bye! Thanks! Bye!”

The hypocrisy is compounded when you try to wrap your head around the automatic service charge nearly universally applied to parties of five or more. Why should that gratuity be automatic? What’s the difference between five people ordering Diet Cokes and two people ordering Diet Cokes? The waiters and waitresses with bigger tables, not only are they serving more customers, but they’re serving more food, handing over bigger checks, and automatically receiving eighteen to twenty percent of those giant bills. All while the rest of the staff serving small parties just has to keep smiling and crossing their fingers, hoping that their tables choose to pay for their service, their personal employee that did everything required.

Restaurants should operate on a system of uniform automatic twenty percent gratuity. We should treat waiters and waitresses like salespeople receiving a commission. You don’t go and buy a car and then tip the salesperson. He or she gets a cut. It should be the same with waiting tables.

Oh but what about that incentive business? Maybe the wait staff might start slacking off? Well this is just a question of management. If your employees aren’t doing their jobs, they should get disciplined and eventually fired, just like at every other job. There’s no reason to assume that everyone will start sleeping while they work. No, just like salespeople, we’re going to want to bust our asses, sell stuff, bump up checks and earn bigger commissions.

Finally, while I’m up here on my soapbox, I’d just like to say, tip twenty percent. Don’t be an asshole. Leave a tip. If you go out to eat, if you sit there and have somebody wait on you, pay them for the job that they’re doing.

Done. See? That was really long and I got myself all worked up. But I had to. I was already worked up. I worked the dinner shift yesterday and my last table of the night, it was these three German people. They ran up a check of a hundred and fifty bucks, paid in cash, and left fifteen dollars on the table. I went up to them, took the money and said, “Was everything OK? Was there something wrong with my service?” and they just looked at me and said, “No, everything was wonderful. Thanks.”

The Trilogy: The Prequel: Part Negative One of Three

Before there was ever a trilogy, there was always the Prequel. I’ve been prequelizing for some time now, you just haven’t realized it. And you still might not realize it, even after I’ve just said it to you, just laid it all right out there for your eyes to consume, for your soul to devour. But it’s all going to make sense. Even though nothing makes sense right now. By the time you’re done reading this blog post, you’re going to be like, “Ahhh … so that’s where he was going with all of this.”

Yep. Back to the start. Or back to before the start. Before there ever was a start. This is the new start. What I mean is, a whole new way of looking at things. Because the best way to come up with something new to write about is to not come up with something new to write about at all. Instead, you pick something that you’ve already done, and then you just kind say to yourself, “What now?” and then you go run some laps and you play some Zelda and you go to McDonald’s and you buy yourself a snack. You call it a snack anyway, but it’s actually a full combo meal. Whatever, it’s only four, too late for lunch, and you’re still definitely going to have dinner later on, so yeah, it’s a snack.

And then you’re done with your McDonald’s and you’re done fucking around on the Internet and you look at your watch and you’re like, “Shit! It’s eleven o’clock and I haven’t gotten any of my writing done!” and so you just go through all of your old stuff, again, like the Trilogy: Parts one, two, three, four, and five, (wait, I should have probably saved that for the end, for continuity’s sake … oh well, I’ll just do it twice, it doesn’t matter) and you say to yourself, what about a prequel?

The prequel. Think about other prequels. Think about Prometheus. Think about the technology, the same sorts of gimmicks, the stasis, the corporate space faring, the robots, think about how nothing really new happened, how you still had the same strong young female hero lead archetype, the same “ehhh-uuuEEE” sound effects, the same headless robots. And then you watch the whole movie and you’re like, “Huh?” but then you stick around for the end and it’s like, “Oh yeah. There’s the Alien alien. It’s Alien! It’s a prequel! Right? Right. Maybe?”

Think about this new Wizard of Oz movie, all about James Franco playing a young The Wizard of Oz. Actually, don’t think about that. It looks pretty lame. Maybe it will be a good movie, I don’t know. I’m just imagining a lot CGI and a lot of good witches and bad witches and flying monkeys and … didn’t the Wizard of Oz come out like a hundred years ago? There’s nothing more recent we can reinvent? We’re going to have to wheel all of these senior citizens out of their retirement homes, take them to the picture show because, “I saw the Wizard of Oz live in theaters when I was three!” and instead of being happy that they had a nice night out at the movies, they’ll leave and complain about the lack of creativity and how that doesn’t make sense and where’s Dorothy?

No, let’s think about a different James Franco prequel, an actually successful prequel, the new Planet of the Apes movie. I’ve got to tell you, I wanted nothing to do with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The trailers looked terrible. But, whatever, that was a pretty sick movie. Good enough that, I guess Franco was like, “I’m the king of all prequels! Next up, the Wizard of Oz!”

But seriously Franco, two prequel movies in a row? And that’s not considering that you’re probably going to be doing another Apes prequel. You’ve got to branch out a little. Well, you were in Spider-Man 2, so that was a sequel. Yeah, I guess everybody’s got to have their thing.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. The prequel. This prequel. It’s a prequel to the Trilogy. And here it is. Here’s how it all ties together. Ready? I actually wrote this before I wrote the Trilogy last August. Before parts one, two, three, four, five, and six. What’s that? Six didn’t get released yet? It will. It’s all part of the plan. This plan. Before I even started there was a master plan. Is this the whole master plan? For now. Maybe there’s more. If I sequalize this prequel, it’ll all make sense, fill in any holes, answer any questions.

Sound like a bunch of bullshit? Yeah, well, it’s a prequel, so … you know.

Just a little late

Man, sometimes I really don’t want to go to work. I’m in my comfort zone right here. I’m writing. I’m getting shit done. But I have to leave this house in about an hour and a half. Which means I have to get up off the computer in like an hour. But I’m always pushing my luck. It’s a really bad habit. I’m constantly aware of what time it is, of how many minutes I have left to myself, but despite that knowledge, I’ll always just kind of willfully ignore it.

So say I commit to getting off the computer at three forty five with the end goal of heading out the door at four fifteen. I don’t have to be at work until four forty five, which, considering that I have to get there and change into my waiter’s uniform, that really means four forty. I ride my bike to work every day so I know exactly how long this whole thing is going to take.

But that’s like four steps, four different time deadlines, plus the present moment, which is all that really exists anyway, but I’m not about to get all philosophical. I have right now, then three forty five, then four fifteen, four forty, and finally, four forty five, the moment when I give up any semblance of freedom and commit to following somebody else’s rules for the next eight hours or so.

I never get going exactly when I’m supposed to. I’ll always push it. Five minutes. Ten minutes. And each step along the way, each deadline invites multiple opportunities to keep pushing it even more. So I might not get up from the computer until three fifty, or three fifty five. That’s OK, I’ll just haul ass and rush through the getting ready for work phase. Maybe I’ll make up the lost time. Maybe I’ll just run around the house extra fast and I won’t be running late anymore.

But all of that hustling, I’m frazzled, I’m frantic. I don’t want to hurry out the door just yet. I’ve got to calm down some. So I sit in front of the computer for a second, or pick up a magazine. And then my brain is calming down, and I’m getting engaged in something else, an article, a web site, whatever. And I’m still constantly looking at the clock. It’s four ten. It’s four fifteen. And now, OK, it’s four twenty. I’ve got to get going, I’m late.

And now I’m riding my bike, I’m really pushing it. This part of the commute is the most difficult to make up lost time, because while I’m always feeling up to the bike ride, sometimes I’m just not capable of really giving it my all for the entire duration. Maybe it’s really windy. Maybe it’s raining, or I’m tired, or I’m hitting a bunch of red lights.

But I could still get there on time. Maybe be exactly on time. Maybe only five minutes late. Everybody else will be lining up for the pre-shift staff meeting, and I’ll show up with them. I won’t be dressed, and so I’ll say that I’m technically not late, but my boss might disagree, seeing as how I’m not ready to go, that I am technically late. But I always punch in right away, as soon as I’m in the door, so that way if, months from now, the higher ups all decide to come at me with a list of recorded tardiness, I’ll be able to be like, what are you guys talking about? I’ve always been on time.

And say I make it all dressed, ready to go at four forty five. There’s still time to fuck around. I’ll think, well, I’m pretty good on time here, let’s get a cup of coffee. And then I’ll get a drink. And a snack. It doesn’t stop.

I think I’ve said all I can say here. But it’s just that, I have to deal with this every day. I’m always looking for two, three extra minutes, time that isn’t there that I insist on having anyway. I just need to stop working, that’s the problem. Anybody want to start donating to the Rob Doesn’t Have to Work Fund? It’s going to cost you, I’m not going to lie. I don’t have expensive tastes, but I eat a lot, all the time, and I drink a lot of coffee. So yeah, that’s going to add up. Bills, utilities. But just, everybody give me a dollar, please, and then get your friends to give me a dollar too. Come on.


Sometimes I just can’t get it right. Like the other day. I went to a basketball game at the Garden with some of my family. I go pretty often, and it’s always the same deal. Get to the Garden, get through the human wall of scalpers seeing if you want tickets, meet up with whoever it is you’re meeting up with (by the stairs!) and head inside to grab some beers before the game starts.

Right before the main entrance, you have to pass through security. Again, this always follows a pattern. You have a bag? Open it up so the security guys can pretend to look through your stuff. I didn’t have a bag. There’s always one line, everybody filing up to get checked out by one security guy, even though there are like ten security guys just standing there.

You do this enough times, you know it’s coming, you stand there and hold your arms out, the security guy gives you a little pat down, and that’s that. My first mistake was probably bypassing the one line and approaching one of the several available security guys. And nobody had to ask me anything, I just stood there with my arms out, ready to go.

And this security guy must have thought to himself, “What the hell’s this guy doing, I didn’t tell him to get out that one line,” because, that’s another thing these guys like to do. They let the line get ridiculously long, and then they start berating everybody, like, “Hello? Step on down. You’re wasting time people. There’s more than one line.” But here I was, taking initiative, not waiting to be called over. On top of that, I’m automatically spreading my arms. This guy must have been thinking, “Spreading his arms? I didn’t tell him to spread his arms. Nobody spreads their arms until I tell them to. I’ll show him!”

Because instead of patting me down he just kind of stares at me for a second, me, standing there with my arms out, waiting for him to feel the outside of my pockets, my cell phone, my keys. That night I had my Kindle in my pocket. I just found out that if fits perfectly inside the front of my winter coat. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to him when he feels it, and asks what it is, because I don’t want to automatically just say, “it’s a Kindle,” because maybe not everybody is that familiar with Kindles, but is an e-reader really a better choice of words? I don’t have time to finish the thought, because the guy shouts, “Next!” really loudly, right in my face, “Next! You’re wasting everybody’s time, buddy. Next!”

He didn’t even pat me down. And I don’t even know what to say, I’m like kind of pissed off. But as soon as he shouted, “Next!” I immediately started walking. It’s funny what your body automatically does when you’re in a certain situation. Like whenever I’m on any sort of a line I’m always operating on autopilot. So even though my mind knew something was off here, I was still blindly following orders, “Next!”

And so I’m like ten feet ahead of him, and I’m getting angry that he called me out on preemptive rule following, and so I shout out in response, “No, you’re wasting everybody’s time!” but I knew it was a stupid thing to say. I was too far ahead, I was talking over maybe five people, five other people just shuffling along, trying to get inside, nobody really wanting to deal with any of this bullshit. But it was too late, I already said it. There was no reaction from the security guard, so I just walked forward, didn’t look back, hoped the whole situation would maybe just erase itself from my consciousness.

But then my mom says to me, “What’s going on? Was he talking to you? Were you talking to him?” and I’m just like, “I don’t know, I have no idea. These security guys, always patting me down, every time, except right now, they’re terrible, just really terrible at their job.” But probably not, they probably have it all figured out. They definitely know exactly what they’re up to. And if you want to get inside, you’ve got to go through them, on their terms, their rules, their turf. Next.