Monday, February 25, 2008

Good Wine, Depressing Pens, and Ethics

Last week, Owner 1 came to eat with some friends. He brought with him a large bottle of Opus One. The bottle size is either called a Methusalem or Imperial; I think one refers to wine, and one to champagne, but maybe they are interchangeable terms, I don’t know. It held the equivalent of eight standard bottles of wine and I think I will call it a Methusalem, because I think that is accurate and I like that word better.

I like O1 (Owner 1; I do like the wine, Opus One too, though). Waiting on him can be a gamble. Sometimes, he has a temper and is very particular. Sometimes he can be very fun to serve and has left me the most generous tips I have ever received. Sometimes he has left without tipping me at all. So, it is really hard to know what to expect.

On this night, the party of six had a few cocktails before dinner and started to work on the Methusalem with dinner. There was wine flowing aplenty. O1 generously offered Bread Boy and me each a glass, and we graciously accepted. After several hours of wining and dining, the Methusalem was emptied. One of the guests offered pay the dinner tab if O1 left the tip. Another vomited red wine all over the bathroom floor. Everyone (well, except for Bread Boy and me) was very intoxicated.

I have worked for O1 (in other establishments) for almost eight years. As unpredictable as he is, I know his “unhappy intoxicated glare”. When I saw this dazed look on his face, I whispered to Bread Boy that I was not feeling hopeful about the tip situation. Bread Boy said he thinks O1 heard me because when I was in the kitchen, he threw money on the bar and left. My husband thinks maybe he thought the (expensive) glass of wine should have been considered a tip. I don’t think he heard me, and I think he was just being generous and wanted us to try his wine. Yes, that is probably it.

The next night, there were two reservations at the same time. One was a pharmaceutical rep and his clients. The other was a medical equipment supply rep and his clients. I took the pharm party and Bread Boy took the equipment party. My table turned out to be a Pfizer rep, talking about Alzheimer’s, which was kind of depressing for me. I decided, though, it was better than having to listen to the conversation at Bread Boy’s table, a group of colorectal surgeons discussing exactly what features they look for in instruments to perforate and clamp the bowel (WHILE EATING DINNER).

There were seven people at my table. The Restaurant allows us to add an automatic gratuity to parties of six or more. I prefer not to do this. It seems pretentious to assume that I deserve a certain tip based solely on the number of people at the table. So I did not add the gratuity. The gentleman pulled out his calculator to figure the tip, which was lower than what the autograt would have been. This was fine; it was my choice to take that chance and I understand that many companies only allow their employees to tip a certain amount. He seemed to think he was tipping me very generously though. He asked if I got to keep the full tip amount and told me I had “a good gig going”. He also left an Aricept (Alzheimer’s medicine) pen with the check. I tried to return it to him, but he told me it was a gift, for my good service.

I am not sure what to do in the future about the auto gratuity situation. I am not very comfortable doing it. But maybe for company-sponsored dinners it would be accepted and advantageous to me? I also worry about inconsistencies; if I don’t do it, but another server does in the future, the customer may not appreciate it and think “well, they didn’t add a gratuity last time”. I really want to do what is best for the customer, the restaurant, and myself, not just financially, but supporting my sense of integrity.


Katie said...

I think you did the right thing by not adding the gratuity. I usually tip much higher than what is automatically added when the service is good. It aggravates me when the tip is already figured because the service was usually crappy to begin with. It's too bad you had such a poop that decided to treat you like that. Maybe he 'forgot' what it was like to be a decent guest!

Jennifer said...

Gosh, what a crazy week. A glass of wine as a tip? Ummm, yah. Does Owner1 not realize you work because you, uh, need the money? And I'm sure the douche bag pharma rep makes more than you, but probably wouldn't appreciate you implying that he's overpaid.