Tip Analyzers, People Dissectors

22 Jun

People “In the Biz” are excellent judges of character, but sometimes that personality trait can be a fatal flaw. 

My junior year of college, I took a multi-ethnic reporting class. In this class I learned what it was like to report on different cultures, and the stigmas that are sometimes hard to avoid as a reporter.
In the blog I kept for this class, I wrote about what it’s like being a waitress and how we analyze people. I feel like really learning to read people in this business has helped me as a reporter, but sometimes analyzing people for the amount of tip they leave can cause me to judge before I know.
I wrote the post below last year, writing specifically about the stereotypes we hold. Be careful not to take anything too seriously, and check out my old blog, They call me Sunshine, ’cause I’m white, if you’re interested in multi-ethnic reporting.

 February 9, 2011

Working in a restaurant can be such an awarding experience. I’ve worked many jobs including retail, lifeguard, swim instructor, sandwich artist, and every position possible at a restaurant.
Since I was 16, I’ve always loved the fast paced job of the food and beverage service industry. I just love the people you get to meet. If I meet a table I love; I’m one of the guilty servers who will ask a lot of questions and try to get to know you, where you come from. Sometimes I sort of despise working Friday nights because I’m too busy to talk, but the pay out is necessary to pay bills.
The point of this blog today is about how your job can affect your views of the world, especially your community and the people in it. Today I’m going to outline the different jobs I have worked at in the industry and how they’ve affected my views.I started out as a hostess at the Ruby Tuesday in Pensacola, Fla. My big brother had been working there about 10 years as anything from bartender to cook. I pretty much went in there the day I turned 18 and told the manager I was Rick’s sister, and he hired me on the spot. This was my first lesson, teaching me “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Sometimes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. My big brother and I at Ruby Tuesday in 2008.

As a hostess, being the most boring job I’ve ever had, (except on some busy nights) I was able to people watch. I loved standing there with my manager, Patti, and watching the people make there salad bars. I noticed all of the chubby kids’ parents would allow them to pile their salad bar plate with chunks of ham and cheese and then insist it be free.

I usually loved to talk to the servers, I was so jealous. I couldn’t wait to finally be promoted to a server. I loved when we were slow and they would come to the host stand and chat with me. They were older, wiser; I thought. There’s always some kind of a sharpness, or street smart about most servers.

But we have giant flaws, as I will get to later.
There were about three kinds of servers I observed.
First there were the older ones, 50s to 70s I would say. They always have the most regulars and the greatest stories. They always come into work with warm welcomes. They are either the most judgmental people in business, or have come to realize you can’t judge a book by its cover.Next are the 25-40s. Some, new mothers always willing to work to support their families. Others, old enough to be my mom away from home. These always have a certain spunk to their personalities.Then, there are the 18-early 20 somethings, just like me. Some are in college, funded by this very job. Others are here just for extra spending money. And still others, it is their only responsibility, just this job and living life. We are the most insecure of all. We are still figuring out our lives. Most of us probably worry we will be stuck in this business for many years, but then feel lucky we have a job in this economy.

Next, I worked as a QSS which means Quality Server Specialist–aka–Server’s bitch. I started this job at the Ruby Tuesday in Davie, Fla. I basically had to run out all of the food, roll the silverware, bus the tables, and do anything the server asked me too. Working this job I got to know the front of the house people and the back of the house people for the first time.

The back of the house people always fascinated me. In Davie, there was a salad bar girl. She was Haitian and her name was Marie. Everyone loved Marie, with her quirky accent and constant witty remarks she could make anyone laugh. She was always willing to know what was going on in your life and would openly listen to you pour your problems out on her.

Ruby Tuesday crew in Davie, FL

There was also a dishwasher, named Bonita in Pensacola. She was a petite little black woman who was a firecracker. She always had so much energy and her phrases like, “Oh, yes hunny,” and “Mhm girl,” made you feel like her best friend. I go there every summer and work still. Her brother is best friends with my brother so our families are pretty close. This time she gave me one of her red scrunchies to remember her by.The cooks are usually funny. Most of the cooks I’ve worked at are black guys who are always singing and cracking jokes. Then, there is the occasional white guy, like my big brother, and yes I am sounding stereotypical, but usually they have a criminal past (like my brother). My biggest lesson, make friends with the cooks. They make your food, and once they like you, they’re loyal.I’m now going to talk about my job as a server. Being promoted to server, I began to notice the customers more. I began to make inferences about the people waiting to be seated at the hostess stand, and whether or not they would be good tippers. It may not be a constant train of thought, but it passes through every server’s mind.

We usually base these inferences, or “judgements” on a couple of bad experiences with similar people. We then sort the people out into different categories. Beware people: You are all being dissected, and analyzed by the people who serve your food. Don’t worry; I’m sure it happens in more places than we suspect.

First, there are the elderly couple who have been coming for years. Two types. The first type are the sweetest people. They have been coming for years and years and know all of the managers and servers. They also expect you to know exactly what drinks they want without asking. Some then proceed to make up their own menu item such as poached salmon, and insist on  no butter on anything.  They are the best people to talk to. They always have sweet stories of how they met and always are interested in your life. Do they tip well? Not usually. Some do, but if you overlook their shy tip for good conversation you ignore it. The other type are usually bitter. They must complain about everything, and usually attend with a family member apologizing for them.

Are there other types of elderly types? Sure, but for tip analyzers like ourselves, they are mere “types”. Our rationalizations must be off, probably base our assumptions on only a couple of bad experiences. We always remember the bad experiences.

Next there are, dare I say it–the black people. But, I must admit we sometimes clump all minorities, “white trash”, and French people into the “Poda” category. “Poda” is a word I learned from a coworker that derives from the phrase, “I didn’t know I was ‘poda tip.” Thus, the Poda’s are the poor tippers. And also, in our eyes the most unpleasant. The must have an evil fascination with watching us run circles around the restaurant. One of my coworkers, who was a black woman, one time shouted, “Sometimes I just hate my own people,” referring to a difficult table she had.

But are they really this unpleasant? Or do we assume the whole time we are not going to get tipped so it makes the work that much aggravating? Either way, we still all experience situations that prove this theory wrong, probably more often than not. But like I said, we remember the bad experiences.We then have the “elite.” The business group that comes in at lunch hour, sits around and either chat about their thriving business or their Ivy League educations. If one guy is paying with the company’s card, beware, I have a feeling they are only allowed to leave something like 10%–or at least that is the assumption I have made. On the other hand, if you get a large group of people in this “type” paying separately they’ll leave 18%-20. Like I said this is all based on my irrational, and biased assumption.I could go on and on with more types, and perhaps I will on the next posts but I wanted to prove my point of how the workplace changes how you view the people in the world. The stigmas that linger are haunting. But every once in a while, an eye opening experience–as simple as an unexpected good tip–can reverse your opinion, and if you learn to remember the good experiences instead of the bad, maybe these stigmas will fade.

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