So there was a TON of response to the tipping question—I was kind of stunned. I wasn’t expecting so many people to weigh in on the matter. I’m glad you did, but now it seems I have more options than I ever considered, so now it’s more confusing! Thanks a lot! :-)
I didn’t want to go too far into the story that happened to us, but I’ll reveal it now…
We sat down in the outdoor area of the restaurant to eat, and the waiter came over and greeted us. He was not over-the-top friendly, which can be nice, but it can also be a warning that he’s really not into his job. On one hand, I don’t usually like when a waiter or waitress feels fake because they’re trying so hard to be “friendly,” but I also don’t want someone who’s aloof.
Abraham told me later that he could tell right from the beginning that this guy wasn’t going to be any good. I did not have the same premonition. (I don’t tend to be very intuitive.)
The food came out quickly enough, but the chips and salsa refills were a little slow. Not that big of a deal, I figured, since we were downing them like it was our job.
About halfway into the meal, I thought I’d like to have a lemonade. Abraham said he’d order it for me, but then as we looked around again and again, the man was nowhere to be found.
From time to time he’d pop back onto the patio and get something for another table but never made his way down to the end, where we were seated.
So we were endlessly trying to get this man’s attention. When we finally ordered it, it came quickly enough. We continued on with our meal, Abraham helping me ingest the lemonade at record speed (easy to do when you’re eating Mexican food).
We asked him for a refill, and he took the glass away to refill it. Then we didn’t see him for literally five minutes. Maybe more. It was a really long time. By this time we had eaten all of our food and were just waiting on the lemonade refill. It felt like we were sitting there forever.
Eventually he came back to our table, asking if we needed anything else. Abraham said, “We’re just waiting on the lemonade.” And he was kind of apologetic, but not really. So he hurried inside, and I thought, “Okay, it’s coming now.” But then he didn’t show up again for another five minutes at least. And this was not fresh-squeezed lemonade. All he had to do was go to the fountain and fill ‘er up.
So he finally brought the refill with no further apology. And we sat there and drank it, more out of obligation at that point than true desire for it.
I know it’s not the worst ever. It’s not like he brought the lemonade out and had his Band-Aided thumb in the glass or anything. But waiting that long for one refill? And there were plenty of other staff around that he could have handed the task off to.
Aaron posted a pretty long comment, including an article that was really helpful. Aaron is one of my oldest friends, and he, in a former life, was an excellent server and restaurant manager. I take what he says about customer service seriously, because he thinks about it all the time. He posted a link to the article on his blog, so feel free to read it if you get a chance.
The mercy/justice tension is always there if you’re thinking about the undeserved favor that we as Christians have received from God, but that we still live striving for holiness in all we do.
I also understand the argument for the underlying issue/personal matter, but honestly know that if I let my personal problems affect my job, I would be in major trouble and not be rewarded for my performance. If doctors do it, it’s a lawsuit; if designers do it, they don’t get paid for their work; if teachers do it, their students fail and they are let out of their contract. Why is the standard different for servers?
I think the suggestion to talk to a manager when service is bad or good is definitely something we should do more often.
Sometimes I try to put it into a global perspective and remind myself just how privileged we are to sit down in a restaurant with tons of options for meals on the menu and money in our wallets to pay for it, unlike most of the world. However, what does that mean when we actually do live in America and there are different standards for service provision here?
Thanks for all the thoughts, readers. You’ve got me totally bamboozled.