On The Same Level
Last Saturday morning, after a night at the casino with my amazing husband, we crawled out from underneath our blankets far too early to go have breakfast with family. We struggled into the shower and made it to Cracker Barrel at 9:30am on the dot. Our server made it to our table in a few minutes to take our drink order and I forced her to come back almost immediately to refill my water due to my inability not to chug down that ice cold glass of deliciousness. My sister-in-law, running fashionably late, gave my husband her order over the phone so we could go ahead and get our food going and get my husband’s aunt back on the road to Ohio.
It took a while for our server to get back to us, as she was assuming we would wait for the rest of our party to arrive prior to ordering. Putting our order in should have been simple, but one member of our party was slightly too worried about her order being cooked to her specifications and was very blunt and slightly rude to our server. To our server’s credit, she never lost the smile and polite tone in her voice. My sister-in-law finally arrived, half asleep, and our server returned almost immediately with her coffee and juice. As soon as our food arrived, a glass of water was spilled on the table, soaking the sugar caddy but thankfully sparing the food. We burned through our extra napkins pretty quickly, broke the baby wipes out to deal with the oatmeal smears, and ended our meal with the table looking like a war zone.
I’m an ex-server and both my husband and I don’t like to create extra work for people or take advantage of anyone whose job is to satisfy the customer. My husband began stacking plates, I collected napkins, and we cleaned up the table as well as we could. Our check came to slightly over $50 for the five of us and a $10 was left on the table. My husband snatched it up and replaced it with a $20, then stayed behind as I carried my niece outside so he could apologize to our server and ensure she got the cash. He said she was incredibly appreciative and told him we were no hassle at all; she told him that he wouldn’t believe some of the things she sees.
Waiting tables is a rough job, often a thankless one as well, and many people take advantage of the fact that a server is of course there to serve you and cater to your needs. That being said, unless you’re just an awful human being, there is no reason to create extra work for someone or to not properly thank and compensate an employee when you can’t help the extra work you’ve created. A dressing room attendant shouldn’t have to collect clothes from the rooms because you were too lazy to walk it back out to her. A janitor shouldn’t have to pick trash up off the floor because you missed the trash can and didn’t bother to pick your mess back up. No employee should be talked down to because you’re having a bad day or you had a bad experience in the past and expect to see it repeated, and no employee should be treated like your personal servant.
When you go out to eat, remember your manners. Thank your server. Say “can I get” or some variation rather than “I want” when ordering or requesting additional items. Tip accordingly; if you have a messy child, if you or members of your party are difficult, or if you’re engaging in any other behavior that results in your server needing to go above and beyond reasonable expectations, your tip should go up to reflect that. We left $20 on the $50 check because a sugar caddy was ruined due to the water spill, we had a difficult to please member of our party who was less than polite to the waitress, another who wasn’t too polite due to the fact that she was about to fall asleep, an 8 month old making a grand mess, and four adults not doing much better than the baby. Our server was wonderful and at no point seemed frustrated or annoyed, so I definitely think a larger than normal tip is more than justified.
We stacked our plates up at Cracker Barrel because it’s Cracker Barrel. It’s not a fancy place and I’ve seen servers stack plates themselves many times at their various locations. I like doing this if it can be done safely in a way that makes sense and if you’re at a place where you are sure it’s acceptable. If I’m not sure or can’t stack without making a Jenga-style tower, I leave it and just ensure I put my napkins, dropped food, and silverware on the plate rather than leave it scattered around on the table. If you drop things on the floor, don’t leave them there. Use common sense and clean your area as well as you can; there’s no reason to have your server scraping mashed potatoes off of the wall. If you can’t clean it up, your tip had better go up.
The thing to remember is that sitting down at a table and having someone take your order and bring your food does not put you in a higher class than the server waiting on you. You don’t become King or Queen with your server taking the role of your lowly staff who exists solely to attend to your every need and whim without expecting so much as a thank you nod. Treat your server like a human being and treat the table like you would at your own home, only slightly better. Be the bigger person and be the better person by conducting yourself with class, regardless of how the rest of your party or other patrons behave. A server may not remember everyone, but I guarantee they remember those who tip well and they never forget those who tip and act like trash.