Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Throwback: Black People Don't Tip
I'm mainly reposting this because, since I posted it back in May, I am still receiving comments on it regularly--mainly from frustrated, non-black servers. Turns out that if you've had a bad day on the job at a restaurant and type in "Black People Don't Tip" in google to find some sort of support group this post pops up. So you can imagine some of the feedback in the comments section. Check it out.
...So it's my last day in Las Vegas. It's about 2:36 PM. Me and my remaining two friends fly out in six hours. We check out of our room and make our way to the taxi line in front of the casino. The plan is to grab some grub, check out some casinos that we haven't been in over the last three days, and lose more money on the Big Six table.
Soooo... what do we want to eat? Some place where we can sit down, watch the game, and have a beer... a place that is nice and classy. A place where we'll receive Grade-A service and where they will appreciate our business. A place that is all of these things, yet delightfully tacky. So we head on over to Hooters... yes, I know.
So we hop in the cab.
"Where can I take you guys?"
"The Hooters over by the MGM Grand"
"You got it, boss!" He quickly weaves through the traffic on The Strip and takes us to the front of the Hooters casino, which is literally about three minutes away. We hop out, pay the fare, and tip him 5 or 6 bucks.
We make our way through the dealer tables and slot machines and find the small line to the restaurant. So there we are, waiting to sit down at the tackiest casino on Las Vegas Blvd. (relatively) and dressed the part. Are we in button-ups, slacks and dress shoes like we usually wear? No! We have on polo shirts, jeans and sneakers. Comfortable, like everyone else in this town.
When we get to the front, a beautiful girl in a tacky uniform looks at us, puts on her fakest smile and asks how many in our party.
With the smile on her face, she turns to a pretty Black waitress and says "They're all yours Kristen."
"Gee... Thanks!" she replies sarcastically.
This semi-rubbed us the wrong way, but we let it slide. Besides, this is nothing new. Black people don't tip, right? There's no way she would've guessed that the party consisted of a Regional Territory Manager, a Corporate Marketing Specialist, and a federal-employed Electrical Engineer...but should that matter? She takes us to our bench-styled table and asks for our drink order.
"Water and a Corona... Water and a Heineken... Water with a lemon for now, I'll probably get a beer later."
She's off. So me and my boys sit there and start discussing which casinos we're going to hit afterwards and the money that we have already lost thus far (Thanks for the gambling tips guys... you really came through in the clutch! *cough*).
Fifteen minutes of all this talking has my throat parched. I reach down for my... wait... She's still not back with our drinks? We see our waitress tending to another table and get her attention. We make the universal "I'm thirsty motion" and she walks to the back and emerges with a tray of drinks.
Waitress: "Sorry guys... here you are!" No explanation. "So what will you guys be having?"
Us: "Wings... Fingers and salad... The wing platter."
Waitress: "We're out of coleslaw and baked potatoes for that platter," she says to my boy.
My boy: "Well can you substitute fries?"...
My boy: "Oookay?"
Waitress: "Sooo... you want fries with it?"
My boy: "Can you substitute it?"
Waitress: "No... but I'll work it out."
My boy: "OK."
She's off again. For another 20 minutes, we don't see this chick. We came here to watch the game, so we're looking around to see if we can find her to have the channel changed. She's nowhere to be found, so we flag down the hostess that gave Kristen our table to see if she can change the channel. She did so, reluctantly.
A couple minutes later, a waitress that I haven't seen before comes with my salad. After she walks off I realize there's no silverware on our table. I walk over to the hostess to see where I can get a fork. She looks around for Kristen and then says "Ummm...I guess I'll get it for you."
When she comes back to the table with my fork, Kristen is right behind her.
"Kristen," she says playfully as she looks at us with Hooters-flirty eyes. "Your table is demanding. You should be taking care of these guys." She said it jokingly, but she was serious. We were asking her for too much.
Kristen tells us the food is on the way out. It quickly follows, but not by Kristen, but by the cook and another waitress.
Food was good. No Kristen. Drinks low. No Kristen.
Naturally our conversation shifts from the game to our horrible service. Was she just a bad waitress? Was it because we are young, black males (*Smacks down the ol' race card on the table*)? Was she just having a bad day? The "Gee... thanks" comment she made when she got our table kinda cemented our thoughts on the issue.
When we finally see her, it's with the unsplit bill. "Sorry guys, I just got busy all of a sudden," she said as she looked down to avoid eye contact. She tells us she'll take the bill when we're ready. We ask her to split the bill. She didn't even remember what we had ordered individually so she starts looking over the bill and asking us who had what.
Then she pulls out the ol' patented Hooters "let-me-sit-down-and-let-them-flirt-with-me-so-they-will-give-me-a-good-tip" move. We didn't flirt with her. It was awkward. She went to split it.
When we look the bill over, it looks like she charged my boy extra for fries that she had agreed to substitute. He was going to let it slide, but we tell him that the LEAST she could do was make sure that the bill was right. Besides, she hadn't done anything else.
She comes back, he brings up the discrepancy. She tells him that she told him she couldn't substitute. He reminds her that she did say she "would take care of it" and that she would essentially be charging him full price for half of a meal. Annoyed, she smiled, took his receipt and said she'd see what she could do.
She came back with the correct charges. She thanked us and bounced.
We sat there disgusted and disrespected by the lack of good service and started discussing what we should tip her. So there we are having a Rainbow Coalition meeting in Hooters.
We decided that she had made her mind up about the service she was going to give us when she saw us. Of all of her tables, we were obviously the most neglected. After researching stereotypes about tipping habits, the overwhelming majority of waiters and waitresses hate getting black tables because "we don't tip," according to them. Message board after message board characterizes Blacks as cheap tippers and as chronic complainers (which we do apparently because we want to have a reason to not leave a good tip). I've personally seen good and bad tippers across the board.
So herein lies the dilemma: Do we tip her based on the service she gave, which was worth week-old cow dung, or do we tip her like we would normally tip a decent waitress (I usually do 20-25%)?
If we tip her poorly, we buy into the self-fulfilling stereotype. She will feel justified in giving us bad service and will do the same to the next group of casually dressed young, black males--not realizing that we tipped her poorly for a reason and not because we're black.
If we tip her properly, JUST MAYBE we will get the point across that stereotypes are just that...stereotypes. And maybe she will be more conscious of how she treats Black people in the future. If you can reach just one...
We left 8 bucks. Not the best tip, but definitely more than she deserved.
Has anybody else faced this situation? Should we be forced to think in a group mentality and tip on behalf of an entire race? It's getting old. The more I think about it, the more I realize that acting on behalf of your race does little to change ingrained stereotypes.
Does the stereotype have any merit? What would you have done?