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May 6, 2009 10:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Waitresses are people too

May 6, 2009 10:57 AM

I am the sports editor of The Press News Group, but two nights a week, from March through November, I swap my reporter’s notebook for a waitress’s dupe pad. Having the extra cash is pretty nice, particularly since the newspaper industry isn’t exactly known for providing Wall Street-level salaries. In general, I like the change of pace and the chance to interact with people on a different level that a restaurant job offers.

But I won’t lie, working in a restaurant in the Hamptons from Memorial Day through Labor Day can definitely become an exercise in patience and self-control, with a whole lot of tongue biting.

Let’s just say that, as the weather gets warmer, the patrons become increasingly testy, demanding and just plain rude. There are plenty of people out there who I’ve come to the conclusion are simply determined to make you miserable. But most, I believe, could become significantly more pleasant to deal with after just a few simple lessons in basic restaurant etiquette. So, as we head into the busy summer season, I’m here to give a short tutorial on dining out and how you can make the experience much more pleasurable for yourself and your waitress.

Lesson number one: I just work here. So, if you don’t like the prices or the selection on the menu, try not to take it out on me. I don’t have control over these things.

Lesson number two: Chefs are not infallible human beings, but they do have the luxury of hiding in the kitchen. So if your order is wrong in some way—for instance, you asked for no tomatoes, and there they are, big juicy tomatoes, all over your plate—before you yell at me, stop to consider that maybe I told the chef “no tomatoes” but he messed up, not me.

Lesson number three: Physical contact between server and servee is just not a good idea. If you need to get my attention, eye contact usually gets the job done, or the old elementary school standby, a raised hand. Trying to tap my arm as I go whizzing by with a precarious tower of dishes in my hands probably isn’t going to end well. Finger snapping and verbal interruptions while I am speaking to another table are also highly discouraged.

Lesson number four: I like your table. Really, I do. I like to visit it often enough to make sure that you are having a good time and have everything you need. But I don’t like going there 25 times in a row. When you ask for extra napkins and I bring them, and then you ask for another spoon, and I bring it, and then you ask for another soda, and I bring it, and then you ask for another water, and I bring it, and, well, you see where I’m going.

Lesson number five: Kids are great and if you work in a kid-friendly restaurant, as I do, you accept the fact that you are going to have to do some cleaning up after certain tables. But allowing little Johnny to “make a science experiment” that involves shoving various food items in glasses of water and dumping the contents of the salt and pepper shakers all over the floor “to make it snow!” just isn’t cool.

Lesson number six: This is the math portion of the tutorial. Repeat after me: 20 percent. If you have a hard time figuring this out, we have plenty of calculators available for your convenience. Take the total, multiply by .2, and voila! And while we’re talking about tipping ...

Lesson number seven: A waitress’s salary is probably equivalent to that of a child factory worker circa 1875. The tips are what we’re there for. Your dining experience may not have been perfect, but unless your waitress was gossiping with her co-worker as your food was getting cold, being snarky or giving you an attitude, you really shouldn’t punish her with a bad tip.

Lesson number eight: At the restaurant where I am employed, I work with a teacher, a landscape architect, a carpenter and a mother. For a lot of people, waitressing is a second job. So when you are tempted to leave a 10-percent tip just because you want to be cheap, or think, eh, that’s good enough, consider this: Maybe your waitress is trying to save up to buy a house. Maybe she’s saving for a down payment for a car. Maybe she’s saving for a much-needed vacation. Or maybe she’s just trying to make ends meet.

If you remember nothing else from this tutorial, remember this: waitresses are people too. And if you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

Cailin Brophy is a the sports editor of the Press Newspaper Group by day and a Sag Harbor waitress by night.

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Just make sure it's 20% on meal & beverage not on the total. The tax should not be included when figuring out the tip

By C Law (354), Water Mill on May 8, 09 1:05 PM
Or of course you could always give your waitress 20% with the tax included.

Seriously, it's only about 83 cents per $50 you would be spending.
By RealLocal (76), Bridgehampton on May 8, 09 1:30 PM
Great article! I'm a server too, as a second job, and I couldn't have written it better myself!
By tjpg (11), Sag Harbor on May 9, 09 2:44 AM
You need to print it out and serve it with the menu. As I work in another area of tourism, as we all do out here, with the low economy the ones coming out think that they are the only ones with a bag of money, and obnoxious and rude are to kind of descriptions. This summer is going to be upthere on the rude scale. So if you work in and around tourism, just remind them that slavery has been abolished along time ago, and that you are not their employee. I think its time for an uprising. I work hard ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on May 9, 09 7:08 AM
Why should you base a tip for the waiter/waitress on a percentage of the tax? what if NY has a sales tax holiday on food & booze(like it does clothing) all you cheapskates are going to tip less.

I am nonplussed as to what your reasoning would be.

I bet you are all the types of people who don't even look at the bill to see if the waiter/waitress made a mistake.

Besides, If the service is good, I tip quite well.

By C Law (354), Water Mill on May 11, 09 1:39 PM
Well I am on the same page with all of the "lessons" except number 4.
How else are we supposed to get these items? If we need them, we need them. And sometimes you dont come back to the table for a very loooong time. If I could get myself another soda I would! But I cant. My other fetish is tipping 20% when the waiter/waitress doesnt deserve it. Its only happened to me twice in my lifetime b/c most, if not all, of servers work hard and up to their full potential and beyond. But I must say, tipping ...more
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on May 14, 09 4:07 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on May 14, 09 4:09 PM
Great article....it should be posted on all restaurant doors. I've only had a couple of bad experiences with waitresses out here. Once the restaurant was so crowded the poor girl couldn't even get to our table. And when she did, the food was cold. The second was because someone's kid kept knocking over the water, the ketchup, then decided to start throwing the silverware across the room, then started crying when his parents ignored him. Both waitresses received a tip close to the total bill. ...more
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on May 15, 09 9:25 AM