Servers Never Forget Bad Tippers
It’s often said that “an elephant never forgets.” With a brain that weighs ten pounds or more, it’s a pretty good assumption that some of those folds of cerebrum are dedicated to remembering a watering hole within a thousand square miles of an African desert. You know who else never forgets? Servers. Well, let’s say servers have a fantastic selective memory. While it may be difficult to remember the side of Ranch dressing that Table 21 asked for two minutes ago, the memory of the face of the man who left a 5% tip on a $125 check two years ago is etched permanently into the brain for all of eternity.
In case you haven’t heard, servers make their living from tips. It’s possible to work for 70 hours and end up with a paycheck for a whopping $9. Tips aren’t just the bread and butter for waiters and waitresses, they’re also the other groceries, car payments, rent, phone bill, and every other expense needed to live. It’s no wonder servers have the memory of an elephant when it comes to remembering who’s going to leave a good tip and who isn’t.
At my restaurant, there’s a woman who orders a cheeseburger and a Caesar salad for takeout every couple of weeks. The only thing she ever leaves me is the scent of her perfume and a view of her backside as she walks out the door. I’m not expecting a huge tip for putting her order together, but after two times, I recognized her name when it came up on caller ID. If I was busy doing something else for a customer who, you know, was going to leave me a tip, I didn’t rush to pick up the phone to place her order. She’ll call back in a few minutes. When she does come in to pick up her food, I’m pleasant enough to her, but I dial it down. No need to engage in excessive small talk or pleasantries when the end result is going to be the same: zero tip.
On the other hand, I have another customer who consistently leaves me a 100% tip. The generosity is partly because he’s a kind person and partly because he sees the struggle of a pandemic era waiter. After the first time he tipped me so well, I learned his name from his credit card and scanned his face to be a permanent fixture in my brain right next to the other things I’ll never forget, like my childhood telephone number and the name of my first grade teacher. I also memorized what he likes to drink, how he likes his food served, which is his favorite table, and random bits of conversation we had so I can bring it up again if he comes back in. And when he did come back, I used my elephant-like reflexes to impress him. “Hello, Justin. I saved Table 7 for you. You want a glass of Pinot Grigio?” Needless to say, he was impressed and he tipped generously once again. And again. And again.
If you have ever treated a server poorly, never go back to that restaurant. I can guarantee you that the server has the equivalent of a screenshot of you somewhere in their frontal lobe just waiting to download that image in case you slink back into the their section. And don’t think you can just get a different waiter, because it won’t matter. Servers take care of each other. “Hey, Charles. That guy that just got seated at Table 25? I served him six months ago. He’s a dick and doesn’t tip. Don’t waste your time.”
Servers never forget. Our memories are like steel traps that hold everything in it except requests for Ranch dressing, extra napkins, and early morning staff meetings. If we were crossing the African desert with a herd of elephants, they would remember how to take us to get some water and we would remember a woman who was rude to us when we stopped for a cocktail at the Midnight at the Oasis Bar and Grille.