It’s Thursday afternoon and I’ve just finished a quick lunch at a favorite local restaurant. When I pull out my wallet and lay it on the table, my waitress, a slender brunette in her early twenties, catches my signal and delivers the check.
“So you ready for Valentine’s Day?” I ask the waitress as I quickly examine the bill.
“Ugh!” the waitress says, rolling her eyes. “We’ve got reservations until midnight.”
“That’s a good thing,” I reply. “Right?”
“We’ve got ’em packed in like sardines.”
“I remember,” I say, shaking my head. “Are you keeping the regular menu?”
“No,” the waitress says. “We’ve got a small menu. Stuff no one’s ever heard of.”
“Mistake. The regulars won’t like that.”
“That’s the nature of the beast,” I say, handing the waitress my credit card.
“I guess,” she says, “I’ll be right back with this.”
As I watch the waitress walk away I shudder as I think about all the Valentine’s Days I worked as a server. After Mother’s Day, the great Cupidnal shakedown is one of the busiest days of the restaurant year. Owners and managers usually accept more reservations than their restaurants can comfortably hold while persisting in the profit driven delusion that customers will gladly eat their overpriced meals and exit the premises in under an hour. And don’t get me started about the seating plan. Because all the tables have been converted into two-tops, the traffic lanes waiters are forced to navigate become more constricted than the arteries inside a lard addicted six hundred pound man. If you’re eating out on February 14th, don’t be surprised if your server accidentally bumps his or her ass in your face. It gets that crowded. Then again, depending on the ass, it could be an enjoyable experience.
The waitress returns with my check. I sign it, count out a tip in cash, and hand it back to her.
“Thanks Steve,” the waitress says.
“So you going out on Valentine’s Day?” the waitress asks.
“I’m off the hook this year.”
“No special someone?”
“Even if there was, I’d cook her dinner at home.”
“That’s smart,” the waitress replies. “My boyfriend’s in the business too. We’re going out tonight.”
“You’ll have a better time.”
“But you know what sucks this year?” the waitress asks.
“Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday.”
“That does suck,” I reply, “It’s not like you get an extra big money day plus a Saturday. You’re just getting a crazy Saturday night.”
“And I could’ve used the extra big money day,” the waitress says. “Business has been really bad lately.”
“It’s off fifty percent.”
“How’s the tip percentage been holding up?”
“People used to tip eighteen to twenty percent,” the waitress replies. “Now they’re tipping fifteen to eighteen percent – on smaller checks.”
“So it’s a double whammy.”
“Where’s the stimulus package for waiters?” I ask. “Goddamn bankers are being paid billions in bonuses with our tax dollars. Why can’t waiters get a break?”
“And they’re the one who got us into this mess,” the waitress says.
“Maybe the government can give waiters across the country a payroll tax holiday for a month,” I say. “Put a little money back in their pockets.”
“That’s be nice.”
“Well,” I say, getting up from the table. “I hope everyone tips heavy on Valentine’s Day. Maybe that could be a sort of stimulus package for waiters.”
“Why don’t you write that up in your blog?” the waitress asks. “Get the word out.”
“You know what?” I say, “I will.”
“And when I come back,” I say. “You can tell me how many people you caught having Valentine’s Day sex in the ladies room.”
“Oh god,” the waitress exclaims. “There’s at least one every year!”
So you’ve heard it here folks. Waiters, bus people, bartenders, hostesses, and coat check girls are suffering terribly during this recession. If you are going out to eat tonight, please, despite the overcrowding, shrunken entrees, humping in the restrooms, and high prices, please give the restaurant staff a grassroots stimulus package – TIP HEAVY!