Here's a Tip for You


Scene 1: A coworker and I recently ended up going to our favorite buffalo wings restaurant, Three Dollar Cafe Junior, two days in a row. As happenstanceBuffalo_Wings_1 played its hand, we recognized our waitress from the day before and let her know we were back. It's not a big restaurant, and not only did she not remember us (or fake that she did), she let us know that "I don't ever make eye contact with customers."

Given, then, an opportunity to test this as a thesis, it was proven true through the course of our meal. She was careful to look at the drinks to see if they needed refilling or if the plates could be taken away. I think at one point she actually managed to look above the tabletop to perhaps my shoulder, but, clearly, there was no eye contact.

The previous day, we had left a pretty good tip. On balance, it makes sense that someone so extraordinarily focused on the state of the table has a great opportunity to provide exemplary service, though unnecessarily at the cost of making it impersonal.

So there's a conundrum. Do you reduce a tip for what is otherwise excellent service due to what is, if not an intentional slight, a disconcerting phobia?

Scene #2: There's a girl (with a purplish pink streak initalianbmt her hair, not that it matters) who works at a nearby Subway where my wife and I visit once to twice a week. Hey, $5 footlongs are a deal.

Still, each time she sees us, it's like she has never seen us before. As it happens, she does make eye contact...but it's the unseeing kind. We tend to order 4 sandwiches, fairly consistently, finishing with a relatively plain turkey/cheese/mayo sandwich for our son. You would think that there might be some familiarity about either us or the sandwiches. She obviously doesn't own the business, and her style for customer interaction may best be characterized as "just doing the time."

Curiously, prominently placed by the register, is a tip jar. I understand tipping, and I'm happy to do so where warranted. I don't know that making a Subway sandwich is such a personal service that tipping is appropriate, but there's ample evidence that tip jars are quite fashionable in places where they're not expected. As an experiment,tip-jar I added a buck or so to the tip jar a few visits in a row. Hey, maybe it would spark some recognition our next trip, right?

Wrong. Ultimately, just as she didn't recognize us, she failed to recognize a fairly conspicuous effort of placing money in the tip jar. The lights are on, but there's nobody home.

Scene #3: Sent on a last minute errand to Publix to pick up a boutonniere we had ordered for my daughter's Prom Night, there was a surprising scramble as people dashed into the store from the hard driving... mist. Admittedly, a driving rain would have made it play as a more overtly sacrificial effort of my time, energy, and potential melting, but I still managed to parlay the errand to a "Good Deed of the Day" Daily Double as I stopped to let a seasoned citizen pass by with her shopping cart.

Publix has a posted policy on not tipping their staff. That's obviously not applicable to racing formnon-employees, however. In her words, "That's very kind of you, sir. You deserve a tip. Bet on Slow Baby in the third race." And with a wink, she was gone.


  1. I too have experienced this common phenomena. It is almost like they are afraid they may have to try and pick you out of a line up later and need plausible deniablity. "Sorry Officer, I was so busy concentrating on the table, I never really noticed what those 2 guys looked like."

    On the other hand, there is really great customer service out there. Several months ago, I was frequenting a local subway twice a week for lunch. (My 2 out of town days). Since I am a creature of habit, I would order the same sandwich every time. By my 4th or 5th time there, the worker was making my sandwich as soon as she saw me in line. I just had to confirm the veggies. It always brought a smile to my face while we chatted as she made my sandwich.

    I should add though, that I can see the other side of the equation. There are some incredibly rude customers out there and they tend to wear down even the friendlist face after a while. I have been offended just standing in line behind them or sitting at a near by table. I swear I don't see how they don't end up wearing their food.

  2. People always seem to remember us... ESPECIALLY if we are with our friends, Lars and family. Maybe it is the kids... hmmm I don't know! They seem to remember me if I am by myself too. You, wifey and kids seem to be a little more mellow and less likely to cause a scene than I am LOL Seriously though, you all are much more reserved I think.