Before I even begin, please forgive my use of generalizations-I know they’re there but please, just go with it for a few minutes and focus on the overall point of the story. Thank you 🙂
I’ve been working at J. Alexander’s for a few months now. J. Alexander’s prides itself on selling the BEST cuts of beef (prime rib and filet mignon) as well as seafood (the company’s supplier of salmon is the same for the White House-it all comes from Norway. Seriously.). J. Alexander’s also has a lengthy employee handbook affectionately referred to as the “black and white book” that is easily 100+ pages with specifications on everything from employee attire, the multiple points of service, the spices and ingredients that are in the food, dressings and garnishments (they are all made from scratch) and the daily operations of the restaurant as a whole.
To become a server here, employees are subjected to a very intense and grueling process. It took me roughly a month to complete training myself. I was trained and tested on the “black and white book,” the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine (Champagne comes from Champagne, France-if it comes from anywhere else it’s ssparkling wine), the number of seconds it should take me to get drinks and appetizers delivered to my tables and a bevy of other tasks, large and small, that adds to the satisfaction of the guests.
With all of that training, information and testing assessments, it’s practically impossible to get bad service. Because the restaurant it built solidly on a “teamwork” model, it’s every server’s responsibility to get a random table a refill, food delivered, questions answered, etc. regardless of who the actual home-based server is. As a result, it is a standard expectation among the serving staff that the tables will tip us 20%. Honestly, it is rare that the expectation isn’t met…until you get a table of Black people.
I’ve noticed that as soon as a Black table arrives, they generally will have the most extra requests, will “run” the server around to death and generally show a lack of appreciation for the efforts that the server makes. Oftentimes the Black table will complain about bad service, a request not being met, or something being over-cooked, get their meal (or a portion of it) paid for and then RARELY leave a respectable tip.
I know this sounds so rude, ignorant, stereotypical and general. I hate it myself. I am the only Black server (well second now-another Black server finished training last week) and am constantly feeling the pressure-while I have an allegiance to the guests (there’s no denying my Blackness) I also have an allegiance to my fellow serving staff. The Black gentleman will peel the bills off of his ample roll of dollars, afterwards remarking to his White server, “keep the change.” And he literally means change. I’ve seen too many $69.92 checks be paid with $70. Seriously, I see or hear about several of these every week. It is rare that more than a few dollars is left.
On the other hand, whenever I personally get a Black table I notice they are nicer to me. They are more lighthearted, not as particular about their meal (I’ve never experienced a Black table being unsatisfied with their meal) and I’ve yet to be shorted on my tip once the final bill is paid. I am the only server working at my location who can honestly say that I’ve NEVER received a low tip from a Black table. The other servers have noticed this and I was once pulled aside to have an open conversation/dialogue about it. It was a small group of servers and one spoke up and asked me earnestly, “Do you think Black people purposefully don’t tip or are they not aware that they’re supposed to (like older people sometimes are)?” I offered her honest feedback. “While there are some who I believe aren’t aware that they’re expected to, I think the vast majority do it because they can. You see their pockets of money-they obviously have it to spend but are chosing not to. They see blonde hair and blue eyes and see it as a way to get back at a prejudiced system that has wronged them. Let’s be honest, as soon as he pulls his car out of our parking lot in this suburb, the police can and probably will pull him over. His offense will most likely be ‘driving while Black.’”
*Becky got quiet. Then a few others spoke up and it became a “Why can’t we all get along?” and “Racism still exists?” conversation. I didn’t have the patience to go there with them at the time but this is obviously extremely problematic. A lot of my coworkers are obviously developing jaded views of Blacks, assuming they never tip, are cheap and rude. Given the circumstances, can I blame them? I feel awful about all of this, I honestly do. What do you all think about this? Why don’t Black people tip?
*Sidenote: I know I used the example of a Black man, but Black women do it equally as much. They will pull their credit card out of their luxury purse and leave a tip that they might as well have kept.