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To tip or not to tip

Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2007, at 12:46 PM

How much is a smile worth? What's the price of brightening someone's day?

On a recent trip to St. Louis, I had an interesting experience. On the first morning in town, had breakfast at a nice restaurant in the heart of the business district, close to our hotel room. Our server was an older woman, apparently a fixture in the restaurant. Before our arrival, she'd been having a bad day. She banged dishes about, was polite but I wouldn't say friendly, and could be heard defending her territory -- asserting she'd be the one to bring out our coffee, milk and breakfast -- in the back room. Other employees scurried out of her way, heads down as they went about the business of offering hospitality to others.

To her credit, though, she did make a valiant effort as time wore on to smile, to chat, to provide the service expected, to mask her disheartened mood, but with little success.

When the bill came I paused. You know, at the line where it says "tip." I signed the ticket, leaving the line blank, then reconsidered. I've worked in the restaurant industry, and I know that when you're having a bad day, a kind word, a nice gesture can make all the difference. So I decided it would cost me very little in cash and even less in pride to give her a tip. I jotted a figure on the line. It turned out to be the best $3 I've ever invested. What happed afterwards was priceless.

The next day we returned. The workers were happy -- no, joyful -- to see us. Smiles were genuine, including -- no, especially -- the smile from our server. She made the whole place glow with her high spirits and friendly demeanor. The service was grand, the meal a treat, and we saw that kind of service mirrored at the other tables in the restaurant as well. At the close of the meal, the server blessed us each with a big hug.

On the third day, we returned again and once again were treated to service that made each of us feel like the nicest, most important guests ever to eat in that restaurant. We know we were the nicest -- our server said so herself.

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This was a nice human interest story. You have a good spirit. I can't imagine you getting bad service anywhere and it being your fault.

Having spent 30 years in the restaurant industry I can tell you that it is very difficult at times for people to leave their troubles at home and deal with the public all day like you have no worries or pain inside.

On the other hand we encourage bad service by our own actions or omissions.There are two kinds of customers that do this; The first ones don't ever tip and wonder why they don't get good service in restaurants. The others tip even when the service is terrible. Both serve to teach the service person that quality of service is not important.

-- Posted by like2b_onree on Tue, Jul 17, 2007, at 2:17 PM

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Lynn Wade
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