I'm not sure if this alleged "tip" left for a server, somewhere, is a hoax or the real thing, but it has stirred up a lot of controversy on the Web. If this story - most recently posted on the boing boing website - is to be believed, a presumably wealthy patron left, instead of cash, a slip of paper stating: "As a direct result of Proposition 30 and President Obama's insistance that I pay "MY FAIR SHARE IN TAXES," I find that I must cut back on discretionary spending and gratuities. I wish it didn't have to be this way for both of us."
As a young waiter, I was notorious for throwing tip trays - coins and all - back at stingy customers as they were walking out the door of a restaurant. Not a very endearing habit, and I soon came to my senses. There are always going to be customers, rich and poor, who don't like to tip and find many excuses not to do it. That includes my late Uncle Bill, who had lots of money and never, ever left more than a 5 percent tip. Even as a teenager, I would hang back after he paid the tab to add a couple of bucks to the tip tray. Bill's excuse? "I was a child of the Depression. In those days, a waiter was lucky to get a dime." It wasn't worth arguing with him. That Depression story was his mantra every time he opened his fat wallet.
That being said, as a waiter, I did get quite a few embarrassingly pathetic tips from a few of Kansas City's wealthiest citizens. No names mentioned.
I asked waiter and blogger David Hayden (who had his own post on this subject on his Restaurant Laughs Facebook page) yesterday if he believed this story to be true.
"Yes, I think it could be," Hayden says. "I think there's a general feeling from a lot of people in this person's position in regards to the changes in the tax laws. But as long as servers are being paid less than the minimum wage, they are subsidizing the cost of dishes on the menu. If someone wanted to protest costs at a restaurant, they should order less expensive meals rather than take it out on the servers."
Why is it that no one seems to complain about paying a salesperson's commission in retail sales, but the gratuity that a server earns for providing excellent service - which involves salesmanship, a sense of both theater and subtlety, tact, wisdom and grace - is sometimes a bone of contention? If I received that piece of paper instead of my rightful tip, I'd be back throwing tip trays again.