Tip Sharks

No bad meals, only bad waiters: After spending quite a few years in the hospitality business, I found your article ("Tip Gyp," March 8) interesting. Several of the people interviewed displayed, in my opinion, a less than professional attitude.

I took particular exception to Rule 2: "So they burnt your steak; you still gotta tip. 'Remember, you're tipping the server for service,' says Luttmer. 'If something goes wrong with the meal, it's not the server's fault.'"

I strongly disagree. I learned a valuable lesson from an old career server at Tujagues in New Orleans. Sort of a Yoda for servers. He stated that a good server never lets a bad meal get out to the table. His philosophy was, "There are no bad meals, only bad waiters." I couldn't agree more.

The tip sharks you presented in the article sound like firemen complaining about going into burning buildings. You know what the drill is when you sign up: Do your job, don't whine, and things work out. Anyone who has been in the business awhile knows that it all balances out; a good tip is followed by a bad tip, as a bad tip is followed by a good tip.

It is a tough job, but do it professionally.

Pete Selin

At your service: I am a server at a new restaurant in Dallas, one fairly prominent in location and reputation, and I feel that your article made some excellent points, but I also wish to say that the servers and bartenders interviewed in the article do not speak for me and for many of my colleagues at the restaurant where I work.

I prefer tips of 20 percent or more. (What server or bartender doesn't?) I prefer to be paid in cash. (In my opinion, it is none of Uncle Sam's business how much money is given to me out of the free will of restaurant guests.) To that end, I have come to regard tipping as an essentially socialist venture. In a way, the beauty of tipping is that there are no rules. Guests literally give money to me in my line of work. Whether gratuity is given to me out of adherence to social norms or out of genuine goodwill doesn't matter. My job is to take care of guests and ensure the satisfaction with their dining experience and not to stand tableside with my outstretched hand.

This is the essence of tipping, in my mind. It is the incentive for giving good service. The incentive certainly ain't the hourly wage. It ain't the prestige of working at a particular restaurant or bar. All servers have similar duties, whether they work at Chili's or The French Room. Greeting guests in a timely manner, keeping beverage glasses full, selling and delivering food, clearing plates and silverware, offering coffee and dessert, etc.; all of these are central to any server's job, and guests should certainly consider each of these when figuring gratuity on a check.

Because the server has a job with so many variables, problems are bound to arise. They can be caused by a host/hostess, a busser, the kitchen, and certainly by the server. Woe to the server who does not solve a problem in a friendly and timely manner. If a problem is not handled to a guest's liking, a guest has a responsibility to bring the incident to the attention of a manager on duty.

This brings me to Rule 2 from your article, quoted below: "So they burnt your steak; you still gotta tip. 'Remember, you're tipping the server for service,' says Luttmer. 'If something goes wrong with the meal, it's not the server's fault.'"

Maybe it is and maybe it isn't the server's fault. The way in which the server handles a problem should be of primary consideration to a guest when figuring gratuity. A server should not merely say, "I am a server, therefore give me 20 percent no matter what."

Rule 3: Restaurants may or may not employ a tip-sharing plan, so keep everyone in mind.

Well, guess what: A guest should not give a care in the world to which restaurants have tip-sharing plans. Some guests tip 15 or 18 or 20 percent no matter what happens at the table. The server could set the table on fire or cure cancer on the spot, and some guests' gratuity would never change for the better or for the worse. Servers must ensure quality service no matter what. The guests are our supervisors, our judges, our jurors, sometimes our friends. Again, I say, the beauty of tipping is that it is left entirely up to the guest.

I realize that we in the service industry are not miracle workers. I can't make you like a particular dish that I want to sell you; I can't make food magically appear in the house that we do not serve; I can't will into existence a bottle of wine, the last one of which was just sold to another table. I can, however, give you and yours a wonderful dining experience. And for that experience, I do expect 20 percent. Perhaps your expectations as a guest, however, differ from mine.

Please don't misunderstand. This article pointed out a great many issues that guests should, of course, be mindful of. The fact that they were organized into "rules" (and the fact that the servers and bartenders interviewed for this article seem to care not at all about customer satisfaction) is problematic. It undermines the very nature of the act.

A server at Jeroboam
Name withheld

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