Every day, I get literally dozens and dozens of emails (okay, maybe one or two every few weeks) asking me for my opinion on one thing or another. This email comes from a reader who questions restaurant owners who offer discounts to customers who then only tip on the discounted price. The owner gets more customers but it hits servers right in the wallet.
You can email me here if you have a question that needs attention. Or email me to say hello. That’s nice too.
Dear Bitchy Waiter,
I work at a fine dining restaurant that serves four course meals. The average time for a 2 top table to eat is anywhere from and hour and a half to two hours. Recently, the owner has been running “specials” that have cut huge discounts to customers. His idea is to bring more customers in, but at the same time, although we servers are getting more tables per night, we are doing the same amount of work per table for HALF of our normal tip! We are requesting the manager add an automatic 18% gratuity before discount on these “special” tables, but so far our requests fall on deaf ears. Our printed receipt for the meal lists the original price, discount, and new total, but so far, getting the customer to tip on the pre-discounted amount is near impossible! My tips have been going from nearly $20 per couple to $10! Talk about the owner making a profit… cause I’m sure not! I’m exhausted! Suggestions?
Yes this is a problem for many of us servers. In the the world of Groupon, Living Social, 4 Square, Travel Zoo, Yelp Deals and Green Stamps, customers can show up in our station and pay only half of what others would pay and they feel they should only tip on the discounted amount. I think I speak for all of us when I say, ‘It fucking sucks!”
I think it would be a swell idea if the gratuity was added to these bargains so that we servers don’t get stiffed. It happens all the time and it happened at my job just last week. I had four different coupon codes sit in my station and they all left me ten percent on the discounted price. I was screwed out of about $40-$50 and it really hurt being that it was an incredibly slow night. So many times, these offers entitle the customer to an extra appetizer or a free dessert, so not only are we getting stiffed, we are doing extra work for even less money. I have written about it before, but it bears repeating: CUSTOMERS, IF YOU ARE GETTING A DISCOUNTED PRICE, PLEASE TIP ON THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT. Why should I make less money just because the Groupon expires tonight and you have to use it during my shift?
There is no easy answer, Ashley. Owners love that they are getting more asses in the seats, but are these customers ones who will become regulars and be willing to order off the menu if they weren’t getting a discount? In my experience, no, they are not. They are one time Sally’s who breeze in and don’t feel bad about leaving a crap tip because they know they will probably never come back. It seems like adding the gratuity would be the least an owner can do, but too often, the employees are not on top of the priority list.
So what can we do? Not much. Other than voiding off a couple of sodas for cash paying customers and then pocketing the difference, all we can do is smile and say, “Thank you. Please come again.” Hopefully owners will soon see that very often, the social media deals are not worth the trouble. Then again, sometimes we can make a lot of money but the tips are of quantity and not quality.
And I am kidding about voiding off sodas so you can pocket the $2.50. You should never ever do that. Ever. It is completely wrong, unethical and immoral. Do not do it. Unless, you know, your manager is cool with it or if you know the password for voiding things and no one is going to look at your printout at the end of the night and question ten voids for Cokes…