Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bring me to Tears

It's Friday night and there is an open bar party. This event was scheduled over a month ago, but I found out about it the weekend prior when another server told me she would be working with me Friday. I was surprised and felt a little sour about the management not telling me since they had known for so long.
The party is scheduled for 7 and will run for 3 hours. I don't know if the house was including a tip for me and Kate. Kate arrives at work at 6 and we try to work out a plan of attack for the party. Since we don't know how many there will be or which side of the bar they will be at we decide to play it by ear. There could be as many as 150 people!
The party begins to arrive at 7. Kate takes the first round of drink orders while I continue to care for the few dinner customers we have. Kate lets me know after delivering the first round that she did not receive a tip. We laugh it off and try to make a joke about it. By 8 the dinner tables have left and Kate and I are both caring for the party. Kate quickly figures out which tables are tipping and only serves them. This leaves me with the tables that are not tipping. I take it in stride, making jokes with Kate and the bartenders about how I am not making any tips. It is, after all, my job to serve customers whether they tip me or not. When the party is over I have made $2.
Kate leaves as soon as the party is over and I am on my own. Most of the party-goers have left and the remaining people are paying cash and have begun to tip. Go figure. With every tip I receive I give a big smile and a genuine thank you.

The next day I am scheduled to work the bar. When my manager gets in I let him know how the party went. I told him I made $2 and that we had to turn away several tables that came in for dinner because we had no seating. I suggested that next time we reserve a few tables so we can still seat customers.

About an hour into the day my manager asks to speak to me. I stepped iff to the side with him and he starts.
"I had a couple of complaints about you from the party last night."
"Really?" I ask, genuinely confused.
"The guy in charge said that he had people from the party coming up to him telling him that you were really rude. They said that you were complaining about not making any tips and that you had an attitude problem. We can't have people like that working here. These are customers, people who live in the neighborhood. We want them to come back. We can't have employees being rude to them."
"Wow. Jerry, you know me better than that. I would NEVER be rude to a customer. As far as complaining about them not tipping would make me uncomfortable to say something to them about it. You know me better than that." I am floored. I wasn't happy about the way the party had turned out, but I felt I had handled it with my usual attitude. I have never been told I had an attitude problem with a customer. I know better than that!
"Well, we can't have that here. I've let girls go for that. You can't be rude to customers."
"Jerry, you know me better than that. I usually get compliments, not complaints. I admit that I was joking around about not making any money. One of the people from that party probably overheard me. I am very sorry that happened and I assure you it never will again. I will be more careful in the future. But I promise you I was not rude to anyone last night and I really don't feel that I had an attitude problem."
At that point my barback let me know that someone at the bar needed a drink and I returned to the bar nearly in tears. I got a beer for the customer and excused myself. I stepped outside to clear my head and my eyes.
The rest of the day went quickly, though I was fighting back tears for 2 hours after the talk with Jerry. Several times during the day I was told that I was "on top of my game" for offering another drink when one was almost gone. One customer, who had been gone for 3 weeks, told me that he had missed my smile and was happy to see it again. These are the comments I am accustomed to hearing, not that I have an attitude problem.
I managed to make it home before I broke down. I guess I thought my managers thought more highly of me than to believe I would treat customers in that manner. I believed that I was thought to be a good employee. I realize that there may be other factors that contributed to the view of my actions the night before. I know that I was not rude and did not have an attitude with the customers. I'm embarassed that I made the huge mistake of mentioning tips within hearing range of the customers, but don't believe that was the only perceived problem. What the hell happened??? I guess I am not the valued employee I thought I was...


Anonymous said...

You know I am afraid to tell you this but it is like thanks for nothing. It is time to look elsewhere. You are too good for that place. There is probably something more to it than what he is saying.

Lone Waitress said...

I agree that there may be more to it. Unfortunately I think the "more" is Kate. She has made it clear that she wants two of my shifts. I'm going to stick with it for a bit longer and see if the atmosphere changes. If not I will be looking for another place to work.

BizTone said...

Wow... I know exactly what you are talking about. You can go a whole week, getting nothing but compliments, the manager may shoot a "good job," or "nice work," in passing. Then one complaint rolls in and it's a talk about your job. Any manager that is worth their salt should know that the service staff discusses their tips. It happens at every restaurant. Sometimes the customers over hear this, and sometimes they don't. So is life.... Maybe those people that night should have taken a clue and gave a buck or two. Anyway, I hope things are better for you now.