Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River: Gratuity

By Katie East

I like working in the service industry. I know that’s a sentiment that you don’t hear too often. With me, it’s true though. Just to be clear, I hate working in restaurants, and I hate working for tips. I’ve found I like serving people at more non-traditional venues and for more than $2.13 an hour.

When I worked as a server, I saw the worst side of people come out, usually from the other servers I worked with. Being a waiter can jade people pretty quickly. A fairly chill person can turn into this money-hungry phony who wears one face in the front of the house and immediately switches back to Mr. Hyde when just out of earshot of a customer; I wasn’t cut out for it.

For the most part, when I did a good job and connected with a table, they rewarded me. Even the times I worked my butt off and only got 10 percent I usually wasn’t pissed off. I could normally tell beforehand why they wouldn’t be tipping well. I still gave them good service and hoped I was wrong.

I always tried to look at the big picture. Sure, this cute older couple might have only left some change, but the guys from the car dealership would usually throw down a $20 on a light lunch. The seasoned servers spent their time insulting the elderly pair and calling them cheap just because they thought there was still value in a dollar. I was just happy they were nice to me.

That’s not to say there weren’t some horrible customers that didn’t make me question my faith in humanity. Every once in awhile there were those people who demanded a new lemon every three minutes and ate 70 percent of their burger before complaining and asking for their money back. Those people are a certain breed of terrible, and I never even cared if they tipped well. I just wanted them out of my restaurant.

I don’t understand why our country doesn’t just include gratuity in the price of the food. It would make for a much more enjoyable dining experience most of the time. When tips are demanded, it creates a weird energy that’s not necessary at the dinner table.

It always feels great to go into a store and get the best customer service ever only to realize they don’t work on commission. It makes you enjoy your experience that much more. Imagine: that person was helpful solely because they were nice and good at their job. What a concept.

I run a spa in a hotel and am constantly serving others. I get people drinks, bring them towels and even get things out of their pockets when their nails are wet. Where I work, we go the extra mile and do more than just that. At the front, our position title is “Spa Concierge” and we do just that: We print out maps, recommend restaurants and even make appointments at other spas if we are booked.

I love my job because I get to help people without having to expect money in return. On a daily basis I make someone’s day just by being overly helpful. People are so appreciative for what I do, and that’s enough of a reward for me.

Rarely, someone will be so grateful they feel compelled to tip. When that does happen, it makes my week. Five dollars might not sound like a lot but it’s the thought that counts.

Good customer service shouldn’t be contingent on if the customer will tip or not. When you take gratuity out of the equation the whole process feels less icky. When a tip is something extra and not mandated, it always feels more genuine.

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