Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Musings - My "Hates" as a Server

Hello one and all,

Allow me first to apologize that I haven't been able to update this as much as I have wanted.  My hope was that once I got past the beginning of the year I would have more free time to blog.  However, what happened was, in fact, the inverse.  I was scheduled endlessly at work and that, combined with the unfortunate flipping of my car at the high speed of 15 mph, sort of swallow my time and mental faculties.  Rest assured that I haven't forgotten about this thing and hopefully now that I have laid down some ground rules for my schedule (no more doom schedules with 5 doubles on them) and have time to experience the outside world (as well as sleep for that matter), I should hopefully both have more material to blog about as well as the time to do so.  Hopefully this funny picture of a squirrel will help make amends.

"Maybe I can make commercials like that Dos Equis guy..."

My "Hates" as a Server

As some of you may be aware, I am currently a waiter full-time.  While I would thoroughly enjoy continuing to further my education towards what I hope one day will be a doctorate, having young children to care for and a beautiful to buy things for required that I take some time to make the monies.  Before I moved back to school, I had served tables for a couple of years and had made fairly decent money at it.  Granted, I drank a lot of that money away so I don't know for SURE how much money I made, but I paid my bills and saved a substantial amount.  As a result, I went for a job serving tables at a local restaurant chain (which shall remain nameless) and got it.  Now, I had idealized images in my head of my return to serving tables.  However, within a few short weeks...I remembered why I went back to school.  First of all, I didn't get to dress up like this guy...

Secondly, there are a lot of pitfalls serving tables for a living that I had forgotten I figure, why not share those with "hates" as a server.  Before I begin though, there are some things that I like about serving.  I have been lucky enough to have some of the best regulars in the world at my stops in the serving world (with a couple notable exceptions that I will enumerate later) who I consider to be more friends than customers and who can single-handedly brighten my day if they show up.  I also make fairly decent money, especially considering the actual number of hours I work in a week, that I get to take home day to day.  Its nice to not have to wait for a paycheck.  There are also shifts where I do feel like I both A) did a great job and B) the guests knew/cared that I did a great job which does give a sense of accomplishment in certain respects.  Now that being said....I do have some things I want to say.  Most of this is just to get off my chest, but maybe it will help some of you realize that you are doing things that drive us (servers) crazy.

1.) People who have overly complex drink orders or order multiple drinks at once

Now, the exception to this is if you order a regular drink and an alcoholic drink.  You people are okay with me...if for no other reason that if you are drinking alcohol, you are probably going to entertain me a little and probably are going to tip better (the basic law of check average tells us this is true).  Now, for the rest of you assholes...please stop ordering decaf coffee at 2 PM in July to go with your half sweet tea, half unsweet tea....extra lime.  Then there are the water "with extra lemons and can you bring extra sugar too so I can make my own lemonade at the table" people who I have on more than one occasion considered charging for a lemonade when they do this.  My table is not a lemonade stand you cheap bastards.  Whenever people do this, I make a mental note of them in the hope that I will encounter them at THEIR places of employment and then I try to get free stuff from them shamelessly.  If you can't get by with one drink that has free refills and isn't some ridiculous ratio of sweet tea to water to unsweet tea concoction, then you don't need to go out to eat.  Also, the more complicated/stupid the drink order, the more likely you are just a douche that is going to hate everything we do anyways because you are too picky to be taken care of by anyone other than their mothers.

2.) Servers are emotionally unstable people....and folks who work in the kitchen are worse

"Here is your drink ma'am....please love me FOREVER!"

This one is probably more a function of where I am in my life.  I have a stable home life with a loving family and while we aren't loaded by any stretch of the imagination....we get by fairly comfortably.  I am, generally speaking, older than most of my coworkers and, as a result, just don't care about a lot of the things they care about.  That being is amazing to me the type of person you have to be in order to be a server.  You really have to just put yourself on stage and out there over and over again....hoping that that will be good enough to get a good tip and make your livelihood.  However...this process also makes servers very fragile people in a lot of ways where if ANYTHING goes wrong...then they can just go completely off the rails in a hurry.  Every day, I see servers who come in and either got in a fight with their roommate or broke up with their boyfriend or had their cable turned off that morning and just watch them unravel during the course of the shift.  By the end of the night, they are near tears, screaming at anyone/everyone, and the rest of us have to basically do their jobs for them.  Now, the truly spectacular meltdowns, though, are saved for the kitchen guys.  I don't pretend to be able to understand the stress of working in a kitchen during a busy shift...but I am amazed at the amount of times I have seen a simple request from a server/guest/manager/fellow kitchen person turn into a profanity-laced tirade followed by them quitting.  While some of these things are funny, most of the time it just makes my life more difficult and hurt my money making ability.  I'm sure you had fun getting completely hammered with the kitchen staff last night, but you are 45 minutes late and I had to wait for you before they would let me go home.  I will now scream in your ear and hope that it will ring in your hangover-addled head for a couple of hours.

3.) Guests do....not....listen to you

This drives me crazy.  Contrary to popular belief, servers DO in most cases receive training on how to prevent mistakes in terms of ordering food.  They teach us how to repeat orders back to the guest in a way that helps insure that the order is correct as well as how to identify potential problems (an 80 year old woman on oxygen, for example, probably doesn't need to order the spiciest thing on the menu).  Does this solve all of our problems?  Hell matter how clear I am saying that medium well will have a slightly pink center...some dumb bastards nod at me with a blank stare on their face and then, when they get their steak and its exactly the way I described, they say "oh, I didn't want any pink or blood in it" and I just want to stab them with their fork.  When I say, "we have rolls in the oven, as soon as they come out", do not ask me 10 seconds later BEFORE I EVEN LEAVE THE TABLE, "Hey, did you forget our rolls?"  No I didn't....and now I will try to forget that you are a total dumbass and suppress the urge to go and slash your tires.

4.) Managers in restaurant chains are often extremely trite and useless

"I notice that you don't have 15 pieces of flair..."

Don't get me wrong....managing the group of crazies that comprise basically every restaurant staff is not a task I envy and I have zero desire to do it.  That being, I could care less about a lot of what they say.  So much of it is "So, you didn't mention your name TWICE when you greeted the table Eric.  We do that to help create a relationship with our gues.....(zzzzzz)".  In a lot of cases, managers don't MANAGE so much as just recite the answers/company line they have memorized to respond with to specific situations.  Now some of this is outside their control because the company makes them do it (which makes it understandable if not excusable), but some of it is just because they ACTUALLY think this little trite phrases and mottos are clever and insightful.  I don't give a shit about the length of my apron, I couldn't care less about whatever acronym you want me to memorize that helps me remember what I'm supposed to say when I drop off a check, just let me take of these people and I will come to you if I actually need something.

The next one is the big one...

5.) Even if do everything you are supposed to, if any one of the following: hostess stand, managers, kitchen, or bus boys have a bad will directly effect in a negative fashion the amount of money you take home

"Sigh....rolled three doubles in a row..."

This just infuriates me to no end.  I can be on my game.  I can be aware of my tables' needs, be on it in terms of friendliness and willingness to take care of people, and I can do everything I am supposed to....and still end up going home with little to show for it.  You see.....servers make $2.13 an hour plus tips...thats it.  We need tips in order to make our days worth while.  So when the kitchen screws up an order or the hostess stand (which is essentially run by 16 year old girls with a combined IQ of a bushel of potatoes) pisses someone off by sitting someone who came in after them or the managers don't communicate and a bunch of orders and guest issues get messed up....guess who the guests take it out on?  I'll give you a hint....its us.  Sure, they will tell you that they knew that you didn't cook the food and burn their steak and they may even smile.  But when you look at that credit card slip and you see that $3 tip on a $40 tab, they are showing you exactly how they felt.  Serving tables is in a very small minority of jobs where the inadequacies of your other coworkers contributes DIRECTLY to how much money you take home.  Teachers have to deal with dumb kids, sure, and that can reflect poorly on test scores which sucks.  But its not like if 5 kids fail a test they dock 20% of their pay....which is basically what happens with us.   If the bus boys are not cleaning tables quickly (or at all in some cases), then I can't have people sitting in my section, which means I'm not making money.  

So the next time you are in a restaurant, I hope this helps you realize what servers have to go through....especially those of us who aren't batshit crazy and are simply trying their best to get by. 

Thanks for a parting gift, here is a basket of opossums