Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don't You Recognize Me?

Apologies for the lull. Money is tight and time is tighter.

Chow recently ran a column about how restaurant regulars should expect to be treated. The advice seeker said that he and his wife visit the same bistro about three times per month and leave a large tip. Not only does the staff not comp the occasional glass of wine, they also don't remember if his wife prefers sparkling or still water and show no sign of recognizing them. The advice seeker wanted to know if his expectations were valid.

While the advice giver was diplomatic and correct, as with most Internet forums, I found the comments to be the most entertaining and, more importantly in this case, spot-on. Most Chowhounds (including myself, nerd alert) are either industry or are very familiar with how it operates. Instead of posting a buttload of flames about some silly typo, Chowhounds provide helpful, thoughtful, and honest advice.

You can click-and-read them if you want, but because this is my blog, I'm sharing my own thoughts on the expectation that bothers me the most - that restaurant and bar staff should comp you just because you've been there before.

Okay, so I'm industry. I've spent 9 hours a night lugging cases of beer, reaching into slimy cooler depths, and dealing with drunken idiots who think I'm a waitress, wench, and mother in addition to the bartender. My boyfriend is industry, too. He stands behind a stove in a cramped, 104-degree kitchen. My friends are also industry. They make money by hustling between tables, slinging orders, parking cars, and all other manner of getting stuff down your throat and making sure you have a good night.

We have things to do.

Do not expect us to give you anything for free

No matter how frequent a customer may be, no one should ever enter an establishment expecting free stuff. It's presumptuous, rude, and totally contradictory to the whole commerce thing. Let's not forget Homer Simpson's brain's sage advice about how money can be exchanged for goods and services.
Sure, I might give out a free beer or two over the course of a night. I might not. Depends on my mood and how busy I am. Restaurants are the same way. Your server shouldn't be expected to give you a free glass of wine for coming in (especially considering how most people's booze preferences magically upgrade when they're not paying), but she might if there's only one glass left in a decent bottle. Might.

Tipping is certainly appreciated. But it's also expected. I don't work for free; tipping is part of my pay. It doesn't guarantee you free stuff. Also, an unusually large tip, while nice, is grounds for suspicion. No, you cannot stare at my boobs for money. No, I will not fall all over you with gratitude. No, you do not get top shelf for the price of rail every time. I'm more likely to pour heavily for you than the cheapskate who never tips, but giving away the bar is not in my job description.

I do believe that everyone should be recognized. It's just polite. I know I can't stand it when the power-tripping door guy at the place I go all the time acts like he has no idea who I am. He doesn't need to know my name, birthdate, or waive the cover, but still, dude, say hi like you've seen me before. Be reasonable, though. If I'm slammed and you unobtrusively order a couple of beers before leaving, I may not know your face the next time you come in. Nothing personal.

The bottom line here is that while regulars should be treated as they are -- valued customers -- there's no reason for anyone to expect restaurants, bars, valet lanes, etc. to be transformed into VIP gift suites at the sight of a familiar face.

No comments: