My name is Robert Hanna and the restaurant business is in my blood. My mother worked as a server most of her life, eventually owned her own bar/restaurant and if not for a stroke she’d continue to work today. I went to college. I received a degree. I had good grades. Yet no career jobs were available to me. I had already been working at a restaurant so I increased my hours there. I had started as a dishwasher, moved to line cook, and eventually I was bar tending. Now we all know wait staff make their livelihood off of gratuity. I have received paychecks for zero dollars after taxes before and still do. A paycheck over twenty dollars is a blessing. So when a table leaves me 10% its not as though I get to say “oh well at least my hourly rate will match the difference.” No indeed I now have to consider how my budget is affected and that is a huge deal.
As a server I have no idea what my budget is going to be because I can never assume Im going to make X amount of dollars. I very much live within my means. No pets though I’d love to have a dog. No flat screen TV’s or XBOX’s. And Im okay with that. Yet I don’t think many people understand that when I make a purchase that is costly I can’t just think “oh well I’ll just work an extra day at the office.” I may work an extra day but it may do nothing.
Now I could get into a great many details of both diners AND servers needing an education to dining out and what is to be expected of waitstaff but that’s for another time. I can say without a doubt though that the serving minimum wage must increase and I’ll let you find the facts and figures that prove that statement but here’s a story to go with it.
I work in New York and they have very strict ID laws here. So as a rule unless you’re pushing a walker Im going to ID you. Do I enjoy it? No, but I have to do it. I could be fired and cost the restaurant a lot of money if I don’t. So I had a table of two couples. Two ladies and two gentleman. One man was running late. When I took the tables drink order I asked for ID’s. The first three offered them up no problem. I go retrieve the drinks and return. The second gentleman has arrived at this point. Without so much as a hello he says his drink order. I say “of course, may I just see you ID please.” He gave a loud and very much deliberate groan of disapproval. Made his attempt of pulling his wallet out a long and very much deliberate burden. He opens and wallet and unfortunately did not bring his ID. Immediately he says “Well what are you not gonna serve me now?” I try to apologize (Why I should even have to is another thing) and explain that I cant serve alcohol to anyone without first seeing an ID. In this situation all I can really do is ask him to go home and get his ID or and this is illegal but I could ask if anyone who works here can vouch for him. At this point his voice is raised and he begins telling me that I am a “jerk” for even asking for ID. That he drove all the way in town to meet his friends. All of whom are staring into their laps silently. He tells me that he doesn’t think he’ll even want to come back if he goes home for his ID. Along with other jabs at the restaurant and me. This lasted a solid five minutes. In that time I have now neglected other tables which means a smaller tip. Other tables who overheard became uncomfortable and left that means a smaller tip. Yet the desire to drink won over this gentleman so he goes home to get his ID. Took him ten minutes. All the way into town huh? During his absence his friends never apologized or said anything to me or each other. He returns and throws the ID on the table and says “Well? There it is. Really had to do all that huh?” Other words were said but Ill leave that aside. I get his drink. I take their food order. Everything went fine. No food complaints, no wait in between drinks. Other than the ID issue a near perfect dining experience. Then comes the bill. They put a credit card out I go to grab it and before I leave the ID gentleman decides to tell me again that he felt he never should have been checked in the first place. That the prices are too high. The list goes on. Here is the worst part about it. The whole time Im apologizing. I have to say Im sorry for enforcing a policy I have no control over. I have to say Im sorry for prices I have no control over. I have to say Im sorry you had to drive back home for your drivers license. Try wrapping your head around that one? He pays with an American Express Gold card and leaves one dollar for gratuity. Oh and just so you know his age was 25.
So that’s why I support raising the serving wage and regular minimum wage. So when I serve rude people who leave nothing or close too Im not stuck in front of the fan. Ill still be there but least I can put my hands up.
Living off Tips is a nightmare.