November 29, 2013

Now Hiring People With People Skills (And Who Won't Accidently Kill Anyone)

Back in the summer when I was career job hunting I served at a restaurant in Westboro, one of the rich hipster neighborhoods in Ottawa. Every bakery in Westboro is vegan this and gluten free that even for pets. The pets in that neighborhood eat better than I do on most days.

The tips were hits and misses. Some days I would only take home $20 but there would be occasional nights where I take home close to $100. Server wage at $8.75/hr wasn't enough to cover my my bills, gas, food and mortgage. I was surviving on tips. On days when I made less than $50 tips I would eat Mexican rice mixed with salsa for $1.50, and days I made over $50 I would treat myself to Mexican rice with beef for $3. That was my diet for 5 months.

I refused to ask my parents for help as I've always been about 'female empowerment' and being 'miss independent'. I'd rather be broke than lose my street cred. Besides, an artist isn't respected unless they are a starving artist and in our society, a person is not "real" until they have been poor. And I wanted to be "real" even if it meant catching scurvy from malnutrition along the way.

When the restaurant was slow, I could have crawled up in a fetal position and take a nap in the booths without anyone noticing. But when it was busy, it was busy. One night I had 6 tables all coming in at once plus my existing tables which turned into one of the more memorable nights.

Two middle age guys sat, hello, can I get you something to drink, would you like to order now, okay. I walked to another new table consisting a family of 6. Hello, can I get you something to drink, the kid was taking forever deciding between apple juice and pineapple juice, I stood and waited, and waited some more, okay, apple. I moved onto another new table of 4 foreigners, hi, can I get you something to drink, 4 water. I billed a table. I watered my existing tables. I took the drinks to the family of 6, they wanted to order, but the kid couldn't decide again, and the mom couldn't decide for the kid either. I stood and waited. The kitchen bell rang. If I don't get the food the kitchen will yell at me, alas I'm stuck here while you guys ho hum.

After getting yelled at from the kitchen, I delivered food for the two middle age guys. I went back to the table of foreigners whom made it clear that they had been waiting impatiently for me. Would you like to order now, okay, first guy ordered, the other three just sat there in silent, hello, anytime now, the second guy ordered, next, the lady paused, and paused, and finally ordered, one more, I stood and waited, the other lady was still not ready. "Maybe you can come back" she said finally. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR, SPANISH SEABASS?!? ITS GODDAMN COMMERCIALIZED MEXICAN FOOD. I'M NOT ASKING YOU TO PICK YOUR FAVORITE CHILD SO I CAN GAS THE OTHER ONE LIKE IN SOPHIE'S CHOICE, JUST ORDER!

After I delivered the food for the party of 6 and checked on the two middle age guys. One guy's face was bright red and inflated like a hot air balloon.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"No, I'm having a allergic reaction." The guy said.

Omg. Call the ambulance.

"Sorry, this is the second time I've had an allergic reaction in a restaurant. I'm allergic to peanuts."


While the guy waited for the ambulance, I went to the foreigners table. The last lady was finally ready to order: "Caesar Salad". Wow, you took 20 minutes to decide and went for the most generic item. Your lack of adventure disappoint me.

Time to bill the family of 6, the grandmother was paying, probably a 10% tip the most, andddd yup, 8%. 'when I was your age we only had to tip 50 cents! You're lucky I gave you a $5 tip for a $59 meal!' some older people would mentally reason, but have you considered how much has gas prices and property values gone up in the last 40 years? I hate people.

"Thank you! It was a delicious meal and a great service!" the grandma said.

I smiled and thanked her, but internally tried combust her into flames with my eyes. Compliments don't pay bills. How about I compliment hydro on their great service and skip out paying a portion of my bill next time.

The ambulance arrived. The flashing light lit up the entire restaurant. Suddenly the place looked like a strip joint.

"Can I have my bill?" the allergic reaction guy asked.

"It's okay, you don't have to pay" I offered.

"No no no, at least let me pay for the beer."

What a nice guy. 15% tip and I almost killed him. God bless.

"Call me tomorrow so I know you're okay!" I said, and gave him my personal number.

The foreigners ate. I gave them the bill. $85, foreigners don't usually tip well because they are used to not tipping in their country, but I figured I should at least get a couple dollars. "Thank you! You were great thank you we will be back!" the old guy said and they left. I smiled back and looked inside the bill fold. 30 cents tip. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! I almost killed a guy and he tipped me more than you did, and yet you're the one who is alive and well. Life is not fair.

This is how serving works: At the end of every shift the server has to tip the kitchen 2%, the bar 1.5% and the host 1% of the total food and beverages sale regardless to how much tips the server made. In the case of the East Indians, I had to pay $2 out of my pocket to cover my tip out to the kitchen, bar and host.

That's what most don't know about serving. People think servers are over paid for their easy job. Yes, serving is easy when you have only one or two tables. You don't need a degree to pour water and carry food. The lunch and dinner rush is when serving is hard. Every table is like a toddler- one is crying, one is thirsty, one is grumpy, one wants their food right away, and you have to juggle them all to keep them happy. In Canada server's wage is $8.75/hr, which is lower than standard minimum wage of $10.25/hr. It's not as bad as US where servers make $2.75/hr, so tipping is essential in North America.

And it's not that I hate people. I hate people but I hate saying I hate people because that makes me sound mean. I'm actually nice and sometimes can be quite compassionate and I like people it's just that I hate people. You know what I mean?

Days passed and the allergic reaction guy never called. I worried that he might have died. But who am I being such a pessimist. Perhaps during his visit to the hospital he found the meaning of life. Then maybe he moved to Mexico and got a new job and a Mexican girlfriend and a new ocean front house eating real Mexican food all day. Wouldn't that be nice.


  1. Awkward little laugh: "What a nice guy. 15% tip and I almost killed him. God bless."
    Haha, you write funny as usual c: I've been to US before and they have a similar
    system with tipping waiters/ress and they say that tips are actually more salary than
    the actual pay.
    We don't have this kind of system in my country and therefor you are not obligated
    to tip your service. XX

  2. I was a server once. I hated it. I actually wish my country didn't have tips because some people tip so poorly here. I always make sure to tip 20%.

  3. Haha @ your reference to sophie's choice. I really enjoyed reading this :)

  4. You are funny with your tip stories! I totally agree with the comment that there is an opinion that you are not an artist unless you are dying from starvation… My husband is a musician, a hobbyist, and he has a proper job as well, so a "real" musician who was, like you say, dying from starvation, laughed at him and told him that he was not a musician, because he had a real job! I found this hilarious!

  5. I've spent like 3 years working as a waitress, but stopped like two years ago. In my country you are not obliged to tip the waitress, but there were always foreign guys giving me 10 euros or more, which would blow my mind back then. It was such a nice experience, I know what you mean when you say that the restaurant is busy! Bloody hell!

    Hope you are well and happy!
    Many kisses
    Angelina -

  6. Oh man, these stories are so true. Being a server can suck! I've remained a cashier at my job, but I hear the waitresses bitch to me and each other about the horrible people they have to serve at times. And you're right, compliments don't pay bills. They hustle and work hard to get their tips! Anyway, since working at a restaurant, I always make sure to tip good.

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

  7. That was such a realistic and enlightening story! Thank you for sharing. I've been working in the f & b industry the last 10 months and plenty of things like that happen. It was amazing that the man who had the peanuts still was the nicest guy in terms of paying and tipping. This really just shows us not to expect what we do at the most unfortunate or crazy times. I believe he's fine, don't worry. And I'm glad that was a summer job for you because you definitely stuck through a lot! It's crazy how you guys over there get paid so little as service staff! There's at least a basic salary here, in asia like im sure you know, there is almost no tipping culture! So that's something I'm going to have to learn more about!

  8. I know what you mean by hating people. I worked at a fast food joint for a little over 2 years when I was in school. I hated every minute of it. People would come in and they would demand that I get their food out. And it was frustrating because I always worked the morning to afternoon shift.

  9. I had this experience at a Japanese cafe here in the Philippines when there was this some kind of a delay in the food serving at the other table... The table consists of a whole family and because they got very impatient with the order, the dad started making a scene at the cafe. Shouted at the servers and was cursing...

    It was unappetizing in my part, the server was really embarrassed and worst, he has kids with him. Crap. If I were the server I would spit on his food. lol. Thank God I'm not. Hahaha!


  10. I try very hard to be a decent tipper, my father drove a cab all of his life and lived off tips and my sister was a waitress for many years, she lived off her tips... I understand the importance :)

  11. sigh...Ideally everyone would just work hard and all restaurants would pay their servers a solid minimum wage.... I didn't know you had such a rough time of it back then... But I'm glad you think of Mexico so fondly ;)

  12. I think waiters and waitresses should be paid well, I mean, it's not that easy job as people think. Sure, you don't need a degree to wait tables, but you need major social skills, lot of patience and carrying all the stuff and being on your feet ain't that easy to your body. I totally respect everyone who can handle that job, even for a while. I'm not sure if I'd be up for that. ♥

  13. I can understand you perfectly, waiting tables is very hard ... good thinking though .... work for the general public is very hard! In any profession. Love your writing, you made ​​me laugh with your story. Kisses.

  14. god bless you for being a server. I don't think I would have the patience to do. I would def. don't think I'd make it a day. I mean I'm a people person but I hate people at the same time. Esp when it comes to them paying me. Like ppl just don't give a shit. I always tip well unless you are a total dick and it takes a lot for me to think you are a total dick when serving my food, but I've had some bad experiences. Anyway I love that this post is totally real.


  15. Great detailed story :) I certainly don't think serving is ever easy! Dealing with people outside esp those we don't know is hard & can be such a pain. Love how honest u were in this post!

  16. YOu could not be more right about Westboro, and since i lived there for a year I feel like I am qualified to understand, ha. I've never worked as a waitress but I can only imagine how stressful and often unpleasant it must be.

  17. I didn't realize it had gotten so tight during the summer. I knew you were working really hard, but...I'm glad you were able to work your way through that and come out on top. I have a few relatives who treat wait staff like servants and they're really rude to them. That makes for a long dinner with me insulting the relatives and apologizing to the server. I'm determined to teach them manners. Anyway, I start at 20% and go up or down depending on how it went.

  18. I really enjoyed reading this. As someone who used to wait tables in university, I totally understand your pain. It's hard! And people don't understand how hectic it can be. I always try to leave between a 15-25% tip because I've been there and I was always grateful for whatever kindness people would offer.
    Anyways, great post! :]

    xo Deborah
    Coffee, Prose, and Pretty Clothes

  19. Wow, I don't think I could ever be a waitress or server! That night sounded pretty crazy, but at least you got through it alive! This story actually makes me want to be a better tipper (I always go for the standard 15%, unless the service is really, really horrible), but when I start dishing out $60+ just for the meal, I end up being more frugal with my tips.

  20. All sounds too familiar... I was in the restaurant biz for awhile. No longer working as a server and am thankful everyday I have a fun job. However, my years of being a server has turned me into a big tipper (because we KNOW!).