I was out eating recently with my grandmother and a friend at Chili’s located in the Camp Creek shopping plaza and we received mediocre service. The waitress was obviously overwhelmed. It seemed like she had more than her fair share of tables. I ordered a strawberry lemonade that I never received. My friend asked for plain mashed potatoes and received mashed potatoes with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. When my friend sent the potatoes back the kitchen staff [or whoever] just scrapped off the extras and brought it right back [We could tell because it was still some cheese left in the potatoes. What if my friend was allergic to cheese?]. The chicken on my grandmothers chicken salad was cold as if they took it out of the fridge and threw it on top of the salad. It wasn’t that bad. But it was not good either. To top it all off we only saw the waitress maybe 3 times; when she took our order, when she refilled our drinks, and after I asked another waitress to go get the check for us. The topic of discussion at the table became “how/what should we tip her”. My grandmother said “I ain’t giving her a tip…Imma tip my ass on outta here”. We ended up leaving the waitress a single dollar. In my mind I knew that she would probably be upset about it, but honestly that was all that I think she deserved.
As a black man living in America it is very hard for me not to tip because of the stereotype that black people don’t tip. At one point in time I would over tip no matter the quality of service just because of the stereotype. I backed off of that quickly. Still, every time that I use any form of service I am faced with the dilemma of tipping. I call it a dilemma because I usually receive bad service. I usually receive bad service because the people providing those services assume that because I am black I won’t tip well. When I receive bad service I do not tip well. It has become a self fulfilling prophecy.
I saw an article on Yahoo.com that stated “A study conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University found that approximately 40 percent of wait staff decide how they are going to treat patrons based on their race.” It went on to say that most waiters and waitresses [even the black ones] tend to give poorer service to black people [just so you know I am not making this stuff up]. This situation is not the end of the world but I would really like to see a change in this. What can we do to change this? If I go to a restaurant and receive bad service I want to know that it was because I had a bad server, not because I was black.
I think that tipping etiquette and expectations are out of hand anyway. For example: Do you know that it is customary to tip your room service at a hotel? Not the people that bring stuff to your door, the people that clean your room when you are not there, house keeping. It is also customary to tip your mailmen and garbageman around holidays. I don’t even believe in religious holidays! WTF? They don’t make below minimum wage…why should we tip them? They are just doing their jobs. Waiters and waitresses make between $1.25 and $5 an hour so they NEED tips. While we are on the topic, why is it even legal for restaurants to pay waiters/waitresses below minimum wage? That doesn’t make sense at all. Why can’t these restaurants pay their service staff minimum wage?
Here is a personal encounter that, to me, proves tipping etiquette and expectations are out of hand:
I was walking into the airport at Dallas/Ft Worth about 6 months ago. I stopped at the ticket counter outside to check in. The attendant was a middle aged black male. I gave him my identification and he printed out my ticket. He informed me that I needed to pay the $25 baggage fee and I paid it. He strapped the little “where to” sticker to my bag, took one step [not even a whole foot] to place it on the conveyor belt behind him and turned around with his hand out. The whole exchange was less than three minutes. Please note that my bag was under weight, there was nothing special about my ticket, and he barely did anything. I began to walk away. As I was walking away he said to me “oh you ain’t gone tip me? See that what’s wrong with our people today! We selfish!” I almost turned around and gave him an earful of history and black plight but all I did was say “whaaa…” with my face squelched up to which he replied “nothing man…”. I thought about that 3 minute exchange the entire flight home. If anything he can blame his employer for not receiving a tip. I, Stephen R. Freshley am expected to pay an additional $25 per bag on top of the cost for my ticket AND tip this guy who did nothing? Nope… That service [or lack there of] should be covered in my bag fee and his wages dammit.
Tipping in general [regardless of race] is on the decline due to the economy. People have less money, therefore they tip less. Harris Interactive reports that “The survey of 2,222 adults ages 18 and older suggested that nearly one-third Americans show their displeasure with poor service by not leaving a tip at all. One in five tippers scale back on gratuity when the economy is slow.” I have always tried to tip well because I was once a waiter. As a child my mother would always make me calculate the tip on a bill if we went out to eat. I have always known how to tip.
What I have resolved in myself is that I will be the change that I want to see in the climate of services tipping in the African American community but, I refuse to give away my hard earned money on poor service. If my waiter or waitress calls me a “nigger, coon, spear chucker etc.” behind my back because I didn’t tip to their liking I will be that. But you won’t get this “niggers” dollar for bad service. I earned my money so you should have to do the same.
And just so you know, here is a list of services that people “customarily” tip for. Out of this list I only tip bartenders, waiters/waitresses, and strippers [which is not shown in the list]. If that’s being a nigga then I’ll be that. Holla…
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