Thursday, January 19, 2006

He's Not Heavy, He's My German

Photo identification: G4, far right. Perhaps I should take him shopping for some new clothes so he blends in better, but he looks so cute in his lederhosen.

Today could be the day I punch a hole in the wall in my office. It has just been such a frustrating day. Every five minutes it's another goddamn disaster I have to fix. I'm going to start a new post to discuss party food exclusively, but in the mean time ponder this:

Yesterday I had lunch with G4 at a restaurant near my office I have been to many times. I like the food and the design, so I'm willing to overlook the waitstaff that just hovers over you. So yesterday, G4 finished eating before me. They took his plate away while I was still chowing down. G4 said told me that he considered that poor form, the server should have waited until I was also finished. Then they brought the bill and presented it to G4 telling him they would take it when he was ready. I don't like that they automatically presented the bill to the man- we were going dutch and I didn't want him to feel embarassed or feel as if he should pay. But here's the weird thing:

So, I'm still eating and G4 is looking at the bill and he says, "This tip is included? That is what this means? Gratuity?". I asked to see the bill. Sure enough they had added an 18% gratuity. Now, all the times I've ever been to this place, alone or with a companion, I could swear that they never add in the tip. Here's my beef: did they add the tip because they heard G4's accent and assumed that since he was European, he would be a lousy tipper? I mean, I used to work in coffee bars and yeah, the Europeans never tipped for counter service. I know that many Europeans don't grasp our tipping system or maybe pretend not to understand and tip less than an American. But if they included the tip just because my lunch companion had a noticeably foreign accent, well, that would really piss me off. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to make a scene and embarass G4.


Anonymous said...

Cheeky bastards. I never understood tipping though, is it because wages aren't 'complete' in the US? Shouldn't the employer be responsible for paying service?

Cupcake said...

Anon- there is a big difference between tipping on food service in the States and the European system (I am most familiar with the German system, I think it's the same on most of the continent).

For counter service, say if you go into a coffee bar, lunch counter, etc... many places have a tip cup on the counter. For good service I tip a buck. Otherwise, I might throw my change into the tip jar. I worked in coffee bars for a while, and trust me, the tips made a difference. You certainly don't make what you would if you were doing table service, but even in you pull down $10 in cash a day from the tip jar, it helps.

I've never been a waitress, but this is my understanding. Although there is a minimum wage here, employers can pay food servers far less than the minium because they account for tips. I think their wage structure is based around the assumption that people tip 15% for average restaurant service. The tip you leave for the server doesn't go directly in her pocket. Depending on the restaurant, she may need to "tip out" the bus boy, hostess, sommalier, etc...

Taking into account the exceptional wage structure in this case, taxes and "tipping out", whenever you don't tip at least 15% you are essentially costing the server money.

That being said, if you experience truly bad service, do not feel obligated to tip.

Joshua said...

Yeah, it's 'cause people in the service industry do not get paid liveable wages here, whereas in Europe they do. That being said, since American waiters and waitresses do not get paid enough, people need to tip damn it! So I kind of understand their anxiety over G4.

Anonymous said...

Cheers! That clears it up. Although I still think the employer should just pay the total wage, it just gets confusing otherwise.

I live in Australia and there is no tipping at all (except taxis), although the wages are quite ok I guess for those in the service industry.