G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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I’ve been reading the book Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica. Dublanica started waiting tables at an upscale place in NYC at the age of 31 and ended up writing a book about his experiences. A lot of his insights and exchanges apply across all types of restaurants. His insight that a server gets to interact with people when they are engaged very intimately with their families, friends, or significant others is something that has always fascinated me about the business. The server generally has to balance between being some sort of family friend but then also just a servant. If I’m waiting on you but don’t know you outside of this hour long relationship I still migth see you in a setting that people who you see on a daily basis – friends, coworkers, less immediate family – don’t.
Also, Dublanica related a funny bit from a New Year’s Eve when a woman at one of his last tables looked at him sort of funny at the end of the meal. He couldn’t figure out why but as he laid down to go to sleep it popped into his head that he forgot that particular woman’s third Cosmo. I can relate to that.
What I’m finding maddening about Rant though is the fact that he whines and complains about a great many things, yet he tells stories about pulling $1200 nights. The book reminds me of the New York waiter version of Girls.
Anyway, I decided to look up Dublanica’s thoughts on one of my favorite topics. From an interview he gave in 2008:
You outline the many types of tippers — the “verbal tipper,” for instance, who praises your service, but then only tips you 8 percent — but you don’t discuss race, like so many waiter blogs do. Did you think of going there?
I was looking at statistics and studies. They sounded very patronizing: They said a lot of African-Americans tip less than their Caucasian counterparts because they’re not exposed to white-tablecloth dining at the same levels. I read that, and something in it was making me go, “Uh, there’s something wrong with how that study was set up.” When I started, people said, “Black people are not going to tip. Chinese aren’t going to tip.” But what I noticed is that there are far fewer African-Americans going out to eat in white-tablecloth restaurants than Caucasians. The ones who have shafted me for nine years are Anglo-Saxon men.
No women, I guess.
Thankfully, Dublanica did look further into those studies and spoke to the same guy I’ve cited many times, Cornell’s Dr. Michael Lynn. In his 2010 book Keep the Change, Dublanica took a premise that he admittedly resisted on grounds that he was open-minded and threw all sorts of questions and possibilities at Dr. Lynn. But Lynn basically rebutted all of the exculpatory arguments Dublanica could muster, and Dublanica was forced to concede that the myth is true.
Dublanica should watch out though. I’ve been down this path, and look where it’s led me.
And since aftershocks of the Applebee’s saga are still rippling through the blogosphere, it’s worth pointing out that an article posted at both Salon and AlterNet asks the question of whether church-goers are less generous and make lousy tippers. At least some data is available, but the Salon writer didn’t care to look it up. Instead she bandied myths and anecdotes but without the skepticism of Dublanica when people told him that blacks are lousy tippers. That’s how it always goes.