Happy New Year’s Eve 2009

I hope everyone’s Christmas was fine, safe and happy. It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, but as we all know, it’s a busy time of year – even more so for waiters than other professions.

I visited my sister in Northern California for the holidays. A perfect storm developed that allowed me to have an amazing one full week of time off from both jobs, ending tonight at Carney’s. I spent four days with the family in No. Cal. then returned here for some relaxation and bill paying.

Christmas was fun. The family scaled back quite a bit this year, and it turned out much better, in my opinion. For the first time in years, I was finished with my shopping early. I spent the majority of the days before the holiday quite relaxed and happy. It was much more like the days of my youth when Christmas was a season of free time, pleasant thoughts, and anticipation.

Looking back now, money was down in the biz quite a bit. The lunch job at Michael’s maintained about a $120 per shift average, which isn’t bad. However, years past, I made more than $200 for a couple weeks running. Dinners at Carney’s were pretty much the same for the weekends, but the weekday and Sunday shifts I worked were off 20% or so over previous years.

I’ve switched in the main from my credit card ways to a predominantly cash basis for purchases. Not that I’ve always racked up a lot of credit card debt before – I usually put as much as I could on the Amex to amass miles. The problem was that then the bill would come due and I’d have trouble paying, which caused late fees and rolling over to revolving credit, which would also spill over into difficulty handling the mortgage. The last six months or so I’ve enjoyed getting small Amex bills. Sure, I missed out on some miles, but the certainty of being able to pay that bill has been a plus.

Something singular happened at Carney’s one night a couple weeks ago. Maybe other waiters out there have seen it before, but not me.

A guest ‘re-gifted’ the change from a gift certificate. Yes. Re-gifting is a time-honored white lie amongst people, and I have no problem with it. As long as the gift is appropriate to the new receiver. If it’s a dog gift for a friend or relative that always gets you a dog (or nothing) in return, perfect. If it’s something nice for some special people, perfect also. I think you must also do your best to maintain the illusion that the gift is ‘fresh.’

This couple had the cheapest meal possible at Carney’s: split a house salad, split an entrée, drank only water, no coffee or dessert. With the check, they gave me a $100 gift certificate and some cash, with the instructions to use the cash to make sure the ‘change’ from the gift certificate was exactly $50. (It’s common policy for gift certificate change above a certain amount to be reissued in another gift certificate. In this case, $20 or more.) The particulars of dollars and cents escape me now, but the cash left over from this gift certificate derivative was around what would have been a 20% tip. I returned everything as directed. And the couple pulled back a couple of the dollars change, leaving me just 15%.

Now, they didn’t say what they were doing, but a little deduction made it obvious. If they intended to return later with the new gift certificate, why would they care what the dollar value was? Why go through the rigmarole? Further, it was made all the more clear by their stingy tipping, that their ordering strategy was based on cheapness, not on what they really wanted to eat. They had to keep the bill under or close to $50.

As I said, this was a first for me. Sheesh.

By way of update, I understand that the cloud has lifted off of Ciera. She was under daily strafing from Carney as punishment for her cowardly gambit in covering her shift without Carney’s OK when on vacation several weeks earlier. As a reminder, I didn’t condone how Carney freaked out about it, but I still held Ciera responsible because, good or bad, that’s just the way it is there. Our owners are crazy and we all know it and for our own survival we have to account for it.

Anyway, after Christmas Ciera and Carney apparently made up and things are back to normal strange.

Tonight’s the big night. I actually don’t have huge hopes for the money this evening. There’s an extra server scheduled, combined with 1) we lose a few tables because of the entertainment, and 2) we have to pool with Frank the bartender. He probably will make a lot of money, but he’s a snake and all of us are sure he’ll hold back whatever he can.

One year we pooled with him and he turned in 50% of what we each did (he wasn’t allowed to have diners at the bar that year – this year he is allowed). While we were settling up the money, someone ordered seven shots of Louis XIII cognac, $200 a shot. The high roller and his pals camped out at the bar and kept drinking and us waiters went home. Frank tried to keep all the tip money from that tab, $300, until a couple of us reamed him in front of the owners. He claimed he had it set aside for us but left it at home.

Does he sound like anyone you know?

Happy New Year!


One thought on “Happy New Year’s Eve 2009

  1. foodserviceninja Tue, March 10, 2009 / 9:10 am

    lmao yeah we all work with at least one shifty coworker.

    I prefer it when they do the split pooling to avoid that situation. All credit card tips are pooled and any cash tips get kept by the server. This is usually done when checks are auto grat’ed.

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