My Favorite Tip
Memorable tip stories shared by people in the industry
Food & Beverage
Shares his past experience working as a waiter in East Lansing, MI and the encounter with two very delightful customers that still brings a smile to his face.
My Favorite Tip
I worked many jobs during my undergraduate career at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Many of them were tipped jobs. I tended bar, waited tables, delivered food, and served food and drinks in hotel catering. Across all of those tipped jobs, I can single out one tip that I can still remember after all these years as my favorite tip.
I was working a typically slow mid-week afternoon shift as a waiter at the Riviera Cafe (“The Riv” – it’s still there). I was far from the best performing waiter, being a forgetful dreamer has been a lifelong challenge for remembering lists and tasks, but I made up for those shortcomings with humor and connecting with the customers. Two ladies sat at a booth near the beginning of my shift. I learned that The Riv was their designated meeting place for an annual reunion since it was half-way between the towns to which they had relocated after graduation five years prior.
I sensed that they had a sense of humor so I fell into one of my favorite go-to shticks – I pretended that every single request they made, regardless of how tiny it was, was a major, life-altering inconvenience for me. I threw my head back in exasperation at the first question about the menu. I stroked my forehead and feigned frustration with a request for salad dressing on the side. I exhaled loudly and said, “I can’t believe you have the nerve to even speak those words to me” with my facial expression in response to just about everything. They picked up on my act and quickly played along. Every trip to that booth for the rest of the afternoon resulted in laughter with each party taking turns playfully out-harassing the others.
I waited on a total of three tables that afternoon so I didn’t make enough money to mean anything but I enjoyed the day. My new friends in the booth had a great time and remained through my entire shift. As my shift wound down, I started to bob into the kitchen to set up my side work between sorties to check on my new friends. When they were ready, I brought the check to the table and ducked into the kitchen for a minute to roll silverware for the next shift. Upon emerging from the kitchen I was shocked to learn that they had quickly paid the bartender and hustled out of the bar. “What happened??” I thought. I was genuinely hurt by the quick exit, far more than the lack of a tip. With my shift ending and no more customers to tend to, I went back to the kitchen to finish my side work.
“Doug, you gotta see this,” I heard from the bartender about 20 minutes later. She pointed to the booth and said, “go look.” I returned to the booth where the two ladies had been all afternoon to discover a generous gratuity like I’d never seen before. Spelled out on the table was the message, “We (heart) Doug”, in pennies. Lots and lots of pennies. They had taken the time to walk to a bank to get, I don’t know, $30-$40 worth of pennies so they could spell out that personal message, but the best part of the gag is that it was the perfect response to my “feigned outrage” shtick. I started the afternoon by being difficult to be funny – they ended it by giving me a generous tip in a funny, heartfelt, and difficult-to-manage way (so many pennies to manage!).
When I think about that day, I appreciate how much these mini-relationships influence our moods and our outlooks. Decades later – that memory still brings a smile to my face. People who work in hospitality understand this. The ability for a guest to give praise or criticism came up again and again as we crafted the design for youtip. Managers use all the feedback they can get, across all media, to improve service and boost morale among the staff. Yes, we’re helping to funnel more tip money into the paychecks of service professionals, but just as important is the screen that allows guests to let staff know how appreciative they are. It’s not the same as a huge scripted pile of pennies on a table but it is a way to put an exclamation mark on a positive, face-to-face interaction, and we’re proud to make this tool part of the tipping experience for our clients.
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