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The Waiter has hung up his apron.
July 29, 2008 10:06 AM   Subscribe

The Waiter unmasked. After several years of consistently great writing about his experiences as a high-end waiter on his blog Waiter Rant (previously), Steve Dublanica has finally revealed his identity. With the release of his book, Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, he is trading in his apron for a book tour.
posted by kimdog (115 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bet he'll tip waiters that serve him on his book tour.
posted by dabitch at 10:11 AM on July 29, 2008


Not who I pictured at all.
posted by studentbaker at 10:12 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Me neither. But cool!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:16 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not who I pictured at all.

Heh, me neither. I always pictured him as slightly weathered Clive Owen.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:16 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not who I pictured at all.

Heh, me neither. I always pictured him as slightly weathered Clive Owen.


Yes, and not as Tom Arnold-y.
posted by starman at 10:18 AM on July 29, 2008


Agreed. I might go see his reading tonight.
posted by rmless at 10:19 AM on July 29, 2008


He's on Leonard Lopate right now.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:24 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not who I pictured at all.

Indeed not. I once went to see Louis de Bernieres do a reading at my college. From the author photos (and the writing) I'd expected a six-foot tall, bronzed chap with a booming voice. I got quite a small chap in a bobbly jumper with a squeaky Surrey accent.

But when he started reading, I didn't even see him. He just sort of... faded out.

Same with this guy - good writing can come from anywhere, and authors rarely match our mental pictures of them. I particularly urge people to go back and read Nunc Dimittis, which I've just read for the first time - beautiful.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:25 AM on July 29, 2008


Apparently, he does something called "crop dusting," where he farts on tables of customers who displease him. If he also farts on cakes, he might just get another book deal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


he does something called "crop dusting," where he farts on tables of customers who displease him

Wow, his was one of the first blogs I read regularly, and I don't remember him ever mentioning that. My opinion of him has plummeted.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:37 AM on July 29, 2008


I always enjoyed his blog. It will be interesting to see what the blog evolves into now that he is unmasked and has stated he is not likely to go back to being a waiter.
posted by pixlboi at 10:37 AM on July 29, 2008


It looks like he's poised to hit it big. The book is getting some major, major promotion. Would this be the first blog-derived best seller?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2008


Wariter
posted by optovox at 10:49 AM on July 29, 2008


a) Good for him - it was always a great read as a blog and I wish him well on the next phase of his life

b) oh lord please don't let this encourage more people to try to get book deals by starting blogs that are, in fact, really bad.
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stuff White People Like made it to the NY Times bestseller list.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:51 AM on July 29, 2008


That's not a real book. C'mon.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2008


Apparently, he does something called "crop dusting," where he farts on tables of customers who displease him.

People in the food industry are soooo mature.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2008


I still want to see a picture of Buster, the joint-custody pooch.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:55 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


go back and read Nunc Dimittis

Thanks for that. That's some nice writing.
posted by languagehat at 11:02 AM on July 29, 2008


I guess now he'll write an anonymous blog called "Writer Rant" in which he regales us with hilarious tales of farting at people who go to his book-signings if they don't fawn on him adequately.
posted by yoink at 11:02 AM on July 29, 2008


Alvy Ampersand: "Wow, his was one of the first blogs I read regularly, and I don't remember him ever mentioning that. My opinion of him has plummeted."

It looks like he "stopped doing that months ago" back in November 2005. And in February 2005 he has an entire entry about trying not to fart in front of a customer.
posted by WCityMike at 11:04 AM on July 29, 2008


Stuff White People Like is the best book ever.

I recommended it to a French lady at Barnes and Noble. She tut-tutted while reading it. I have never seen someone tut-tut before.

Thank you, Stuff White [Middle - and Upper-class East Coast Urban] People Like.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2008


I really enjoyed his blog and I was kinda bummed out when he stopped waitering and blogging about it. His misery was my entertainment.
posted by contessa at 11:14 AM on July 29, 2008


So what are the names of the restaurants where he worked?
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:15 AM on July 29, 2008


NY Magazine says that he worked at Lanterna Tuscan in Nyack, NY for six years.
posted by waxpancake at 11:23 AM on July 29, 2008


Waiter Rant is funny. But does anyone just "do" a mundane job anymore without one eye on parlaying it into a groovy media career? I swear I saw the guy who collects the garbage taking notes over the state of my bags the other day....
posted by rhymer at 11:58 AM on July 29, 2008


I began reading Waiter Rant waaay back in the day, and I loved his stories; even those that didn't always deal with waiting. But when he got the book deal, and quit waiting, the blog really wasn't worth reading any longer. His heavy-handed introspective pieces were annoying and felt like a high school creative writing assignment. When he spoke about waiting, it was now in a bitter, angry way. I eventually stopped reading, and forgot about him until now!

It is interesting to see what he looks like. I thought he'd be...older.
posted by thatbrunette at 12:55 PM on July 29, 2008


Not who I pictured at all.

hmm... yeah, the picture unmasks someone who initially was excrutiatingly funny and insightful and later became petty and repetitive as just another everyday schlob who hides his belly under terribly oversized dress shirts that only make him look even less shapely.

if you wish to establish an alter ego or write completely anonymously, stick to your choice. let your audience guess and wonder and enjoy watching them trying to figure out who you are. people are examining flash-photography shots of the stig that show a bit of his eyes and they ponder over images of crouched men convinced they may or may not be banksy. seeing rob the bouncer shifting uncomfortably on a bar stool in some studio was a letdown. suddenly the image I had made up in my head of who this guy must have been got replaced with the knowledge that yes, this was another meathead-looking bouncer. I don't like being reminded in such undeniable ways how shallow I am and I doubt too many children of gotham would be too happy to find out their masked hero was a rich prettyboy who lived not only one but two lives they could only dream about.
posted by krautland at 1:03 PM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wasn't aware of this blog until just now, and I've been enjoying the archives immensely, but I'm a touch confused. The archives start in April 2004, but then jump to September 2004, and there are a number of gaps in post numbers throughout. Did some entries get pulled down due to the book release or for other reasons? Do the archives survive anywhere? (archive.org is blocked from work, though I'll try that when I get home.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:11 PM on July 29, 2008


You know why there's an audience for something like "waiter rant"? It's because waiting is a job that nice middle-class people can imagine themselves doing, but which is in so many ways the antithesis of the nice middle-class identity. Waiting is a low-skill service job (yes, yes, I know that at the very highest end it can require real skills--let's leave that .0001% of the profession out of it and face the fact that it's a job you can walk into and perform perfectly adequately on the very day that you were hired). It's the kind of job that nice middle-class people normally think will be done by those people, not people like us.

But, of course, nice middle-class people don't actually want to be served by those people (scary, funny accents, might not be trustworthy with the credit card!) so it's in the restaurant's interest to high nice middle-class people as the waitstaff (those people get to be busboys etc.) and the nice middle-class people eating the restaurants give nice healthy tips to the nice middle-class "I'm-working-my-way-through-college-I'm-not-really-one-of-those-people-I'm-really-just-like-you-I'll-be-a-customer-here-myself-one-of-these-days" kids who serve them.

Then, of course, the nice middle-class waitstaff DO grow older and DO get through college and DO end up as customers in those restaurants and boy howdy how they congratulate themselves on giving big fat tips to the waitstaff, and boy howdy how they look down their noses at anybody who has the unmitigated gall to tip only the average amount and not whatever their personal minimum tip is. "I know how hard this job is" they'll say, "if you'd slaved away waiting tables for arrogant jerks (a.k.a "nice middle-class people") you'd be a bigger tipper too."

But, of course, the concern for the terrible, terrible sufferings of waitstaff is only minimally a matter of concern for poor working conditions. You don't tend to see these same people throwing a few extra bucks to the minimum-wage laborers who toil in the heat doing the landscaping outside their houses, for example. No, what gets under their skin about waiters is the class-contradiction. How can people like me be in a position where they're dependent on the grace and favor of the paying customers? It's the anxiety of a class contradiction that they're soothing by representing it to themselves as a matter of concern for the "working stiff."

Now I wait for all the nice middle-class people at Metafilter who remember the terrible, terrible labors of their summer waiting jobs when they were at college to tell me what a dickhead I am.
posted by yoink at 1:20 PM on July 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


And I thought we usually stuck to stereotyping blacks and political parties around here.

It's the kind of job that nice middle-class people normally think will be done by those people, not people like us.
I'm not really sure who those people were, because most the middle-class people I've known over the years worked as a waiter at some point.

(scary, funny accents, might not be trustworthy with the credit card!)
I'm more worried about them stealing cash off the tables when I've left.

so it's in the restaurant's interest to high nice middle-class people as the waitstaff (those people get to be busboys etc.)
I worked at a Mexican restaurant, so nope.

and boy howdy how they look down their noses at anybody who has the unmitigated gall to tip only the average amount and not whatever their personal minimum tip is.
Meh, 15-20% depending on service. And they still get shitty tips if the service is as such.

You don't tend to see these same people throwing a few extra bucks to the minimum-wage laborers who toil in the heat doing the landscaping outside their houses, for example.
That's why I don't own a house. And something about how they don't work on tips.

Now I wait for all the nice middle-class people at Metafilter who remember the terrible, terrible labors of their summer waiting jobs when they were at college
It was in high school and it was a period of terribly, terribly fun.
posted by jmd82 at 1:31 PM on July 29, 2008


I'm a nice middle-class white person. Waited tables in high school, serving roast beef to the regulars at a greasy spoon cafe. I rather liked it.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2008


I'm not really sure who those people were, because most the middle-class people I've known over the years worked as a waiter at some point.

Um...that's my point. In a nutshell.

I tried to think of a way to make it clearer, but then I realized I was just rewriting what I wrote above. What we have here is a failure to communicate.
posted by yoink at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2008


And something about how they don't work on tips.

Yeah--do those slackers ever have it easy!
posted by yoink at 1:46 PM on July 29, 2008


That picture is fail. I want to see the thousand yard stare.
posted by spec80 at 2:34 PM on July 29, 2008


Wow, yoink, you win the Bitter Class Rant with No Discernible Relevance Award for 2008, hands down. Don't know where that came from, but it was verrry interesting (as Arte Johnson would say).
posted by languagehat at 2:36 PM on July 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


I am going to start a blog about my experiences reading MetaFilter, and then a second blog about my experiences writing the blog about my experiences reading MetaFilter. Y'know, for kids.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:55 PM on July 29, 2008


yoink, I think what you don't realize is that most of the customers might have been waiters once, themselves.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:09 PM on July 29, 2008


Not who I pictured at all.

I always imagined a pudgy Sean Penn.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 3:10 PM on July 29, 2008


You don't tend to see these same people throwing a few extra bucks to the minimum-wage laborers who toil in the heat doing the landscaping outside their houses

So you're in the habit of following other restaurant patrons to their homes to inspect how much they tip landscape workers. Or am I mistaken, and you have a statistic to back up your angry rhetoric?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:17 PM on July 29, 2008


I waited tables and bartended for twenty years. I wasn't putting myself through college -- I just liked easy access to good drugs and cash in my pocket every night.

That said, there is something about it that really gets in your blood. Most people HATE waiting tables: the servility, the kowtowing, the constant demands for this and that, the cheap tippers, the little Napoleons running the place.

But I loved it.

There's something about a full section on a busy night in a good restaurant where you've got six different timers for four different tables running in your head simultaneously and you know your whole section is going to turn over again and the cooks are sweating and the bussers are running and you're gliding through the room with a full tray of cocktails, dodging patrons, and it's like ballet, and you never move faster than a walk and everything gets to everyone right on time and people are smiling and tipping....

I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I found it fun and exhilarating. I learned about food, I learned about wine, I learned that I could sell anything to anyone and talk to anyone about anything. I served CEOs and drug dealers, doctors, lawyers, and truck drivers. I can carry three full plates in each hand and never smudge a drop of that veal demi-glace looped so cleverly around the mushroom risotto. I can make you think you're the most important person in the room.

I bought a house and put a kid through college and never had to work a 9-to-5 job. I never had to go to the gym, because I walked twenty miles a day. I ate fine food, drank fine wine, and flirted shamelessly with beautiful women.

I don't regret waiting tables one bit. I don't miss rolling silverware, though.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:35 PM on July 29, 2008 [14 favorites]


Wow, yoink, you win the Bitter Class Rant with No Discernible Relevance Award for 2008, hands down. Don't know where that came from, but it was verrry interesting (as Arte Johnson would say).

Right. What possible relevance could an analysis of why people love "Waiter Rant" have to a thread about "Waiter Rant"? The mind simply boggles.

yoink, I think what you don't realize is that most of the customers might have been waiters once, themselves.

I'm beginning to think that my comment is showing up on other screens in a garbled form. I say middle-class kids become waiters, then grow up to be customers who feel disproportionate concern for the wellbeing of waiters and you tell me that the thing I'm overlooking is that these waiters-turned-customers used to be waiters. Er...thanks for the tip?
posted by yoink at 3:38 PM on July 29, 2008


So you're in the habit of following other restaurant patrons to their homes to inspect how much they tip landscape workers. Or am I mistaken, and you have a statistic to back up your angry rhetoric?

I can't count the number of online and real-life discussions I've seen (and participated in--including here on Metafilter) about how terribly downtrodden waiters are, about how despicably evil low-tippers are, about how thoroughly justified waiters are in taking revenge by spitting in food or "crop dusting" or what have you. I've never seen one discussion about tipping gardeners who work in community greenspaces. Now, you may think that's because everybody automatically does that and that therefore there is no argument to be had. I find that unlikely.

If your point is that there are people who go out and work tirelessly and selflessly for the improvement of worker's rights everywhere and some of those people also get up in arms about the terrible indignities inflicted upon waitstaff, then I'm sure you're right--but that's irrelevant to my argument. I'm not attempting to characterize every individual waiter and customer in the western world (of course there are working-class waitstaff, of course there are career waiters etc. etc.). I'm trying to understand (and, clearly, I think I have at least part of the puzzle figured out) why waiters--out of all the jobs that might earn our sympathetic concern--seem so disproportionately the object of empathetic solidarity among the nice middle-class folk at places like, well, Metafilter. Why is it so easy to find waiter blogs and waiter "horror stories" online and comparatively difficult to find "gardener blogs"(other than the work of hobbyist gardeners, of course) or "busboy blogs" or "janitor blogs" ? The answer lies--at least in part--in the paradoxical class status of waitstaff jobs that I described above.
posted by yoink at 3:55 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


yoink, I agree with you 100%. So many douchebag folks "once waited tables" and therefore are in touch with the working man, truly.
posted by sondrialiac at 4:10 PM on July 29, 2008


He looks exactly how I thought he would. Just like some dude. Some dude writing little commentary on everything because he probably doesn't talk much in person.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:56 PM on July 29, 2008


So yoink, I am unclear: should I be ashamed that I worked in a kitchen (line, not waiting) at one time? Or that I don't now? Or is it that I still feel like I have some sense of what it's like to work in a kitchen? Or is it that I am still interested in things like this waiter, or other foodies with a well-told stories?

Let me know, because I really want to do the right thing here!
posted by everichon at 5:02 PM on July 29, 2008


Yoink: I sure do see your outrage, but not your point. Maybe the better guess of what separates "tipped" positions from "non-tipped" positions isn't "class," but rather intimacy. Why else would we tip the bathroom attendant who hands us one of the paper towels that are 14 inches away from our own capable hands? Ditto waitstaff, pedicure-givers, hair-stylists, shoeshines, and most all "personal" service providers.

(Oh, and if you had ever waited tables you would know that busboys get tips from the waitstaff.)
posted by applemeat at 5:07 PM on July 29, 2008


So yoink, I am unclear: should I be ashamed that I worked in a kitchen (line, not waiting) at one time? Or that I don't now? Or is it that I still feel like I have some sense of what it's like to work in a kitchen? Or is it that I am still interested in things like this waiter, or other foodies with a well-told stories?

If you can point to the part of my post that makes you think I'd say that you should be "ashamed" for having worked in a kitchen, I might be able to explain it for you. As it is, your question makes as much sense to me as asking "so, should I be happy for having frooged the wongle?"

Seriously--is metafilter scrambling posts today? I'm getting the weirdest non-sequiturs in response to this post.
posted by yoink at 5:10 PM on July 29, 2008


That's probably because you have no idea how you come across to people who read your words, as opposed to the doubtless noble sentiments in your mind. I have no idea how to remedy that, but digging a bunker and attacking all comers is probably not the best response.
posted by languagehat at 5:14 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Any mention of waiting tables on the internet and no matter the context some dude has to wig out and offer up some windy defense of why he/she is such a shitty tipper. tis a rule
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:18 PM on July 29, 2008


Why else would we tip the bathroom attendant who hands us one of the paper towels that are 14 inches away from our own capable hands?

Hey, thanks for providing me with the perfect counter-example. Show me the "Restroom Attendant Rant" blog. Oh, wait--there isn't one. Nor are there sites that collect "horror stories" from restroom attendants (although by god I bet they have them!). There's a "tipped" profession that doesn't go to nice middle-class people--unlike waiting. So, we don't find long discussions on Metafilter of why it's justifiable for restroom attendants to spit on the towels that they had to non-tippers, or why they really ought to be tipped so much more than whatever is the going rate because it's really a terribly, terribly skilled job and ohmigod you have no idea how much hard work it is, and what assholes people are etc. etc. That's all I'm trying to explain here.

I'm really not "outraged" by this, by the way. I'm amused at what strikes me as an entirely understandable human foible. I think all these "ohmigod you're foaming at the mouth, you should chill out, dude" responses are a teensy bit defensive.
posted by yoink at 5:26 PM on July 29, 2008


That's probably because you have no idea how you come across to people who read your words, as opposed to the doubtless noble sentiments in your mind. I have no idea how to remedy that, but digging a bunker and attacking all comers is probably not the best response.

languagehat: you said that my comment had "no discernible relevance" to the thread. Now, my comment might be wrong, it might be poorly argued, it might be ill-expressed--there are all sorts of possible problems with it (it certainly has at least one typo). But I do not think that any competent reader of the English language could say of the comment as it appears on my screen that it has "no discernible relevance" to the thread. Hence--non-sequitur.

Perhaps if you have some valid criticism to make of the point I'm making you might, you know, offer it?
posted by yoink at 5:33 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


yoink, I think what's he's getting at is that people tend to tip waiters because they themselves might have once held a similar position. Like, when they were younger. So they tend to tip them generously as a result, remembering their former jobs.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:41 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


a) 'crop dusting' has a long and dishonourable history in the airline steward/ess business.
b) 'Belle de Jour' is a pretty successful book (and TV series) spin-off from a blog. This is by no means the first.
c) BitterOldPunk, I didn't stick with it as long as you did, but I waited tables, bar-tendered and was even once a floor manager at a restaurant. It is a great line of work if you have the right personality - it is not all drudgery, though yeah, I agree on the silverware bit.
posted by Megami at 6:46 PM on July 29, 2008


If your point is that there are people who go out and work tirelessly and selflessly for the improvement of worker's rights everywhere and some of those people also get up in arms about the terrible indignities inflicted upon waitstaff, then I'm sure you're right--but that's irrelevant to my argument.

My point is that your argument is based on many assumptions, and I'd like to see the evidence that has lead you to your conclusion. That is - tipping behavior, not number of blogs that exist for any given subject.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:05 PM on July 29, 2008


Greg Nog: yoink doesn't need you to repeat the base assumption of his own thesis back to him.
posted by blasdelf at 7:25 PM on July 29, 2008


If you're the kind of person who has to justify bad tipping on the internet, you go to a much darker circle of hell than plain ole bad tippers.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:36 PM on July 29, 2008


I, too, like Waiter Rant when it was full of waiter rants. Not such a big fan of the later stuff.

yoinks, you are coming across as outraged, though. (Data point: I have never waited tables, though I have worked retail.) You seem....angry that people like waiter rant and are happy to talk about it because they can relate to it, because they too have been waiters.

I am puzzled. People like to talk about stuff that they relate to, have done, or enjoy reading about. Um. Yes.
posted by rtha at 7:42 PM on July 29, 2008


Why is it so easy to find waiter blogs and waiter "horror stories" online and comparatively difficult to find "gardener blogs"(other than the work of hobbyist gardeners, of course) or "busboy blogs" or "janitor blogs" ? The answer lies--at least in part--in the paradoxical class status of waitstaff jobs that I described above.

Wow, it's like you read my CV! I grew up and worked on a farm, started as a busboy/host before moving up to floor manager, and am currently rocking teh broom as a custodian. In regards to your theory, I think applemeat nails it; none of those jobs regularly involve the type of intimate personal interaction that comes with waiting and don't lend themselves to the serialized storytelling* like interpersonal customer service (Most notably waiting, retail, and customer support) does.
I think I understand what you're saying about solidarity, that a lot of folks who empathize were tourists and their slog was the labour equivalent of LUG/BUG. And while I've made my share of jokes about how some well-off and well-educated MeFites are ready to turn into the Khmer Rouge and line capitalist pig-dogs up against the wall ("But not that wall, I don't want to get bullet holes in my diplomas!") at the slightest mention of conspicuous consumption, I do think you're barking up the wrong tree on this one.

*I do have a blog, but it's where I keep track of the shit I read. Last week, Ambush Bug took top honors with an 8/10 rating while Outer Dark received a middling 6/10! What will this week bring?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 PM on July 29, 2008


You don't tend to see these same people throwing a few extra bucks to the minimum-wage laborers who toil in the heat doing the landscaping outside their houses, for example.

I do my own landscaping, thank you.

Your comparison is odd, because waiting tables is based on having tips, to the extent that employers can legally pay them less than the minimum wage because they get tips.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:55 AM on July 30, 2008


Any mention of waiting tables on the internet and no matter the context some dude has to wig out and offer up some windy defense of why he/she is such a shitty tipper. tis a rule

If you're the kind of person who has to justify bad tipping on the internet, you go to a much darker circle of hell than plain ole bad tippers.

My argument has no bearing whatsoever on the question of how much one should tip waitstaff. The phenomenon I am trying to explain is the fact (to which you both afford me nice anecdotal proof) that there is a long and bitter history of arguing on the internet about how much to tip waitstaff (including here on Metafilter), when I cannot think of a single other profession whose rates of remuneration I have ever seen discussed.

When was the last time you saw an argument about how much to tip taxi drivers? Oh, I'm sure it comes up occasionally, but nowhere near as frequently, or with such passion, as about waitstaff. Why is that? Taxi drivers get lots of personal interaction--far more than waiters, actually. They really get a peak into people's lives. But taxi drivers are also not, typically, "nice middle-class people," they're more often those people.

So, what I'm trying to explain is why you guys care so passionately about waiter pay, but not so much about how much forklift drivers get paid, or how much bus drivers get paid, or how much janitorial staff get paid, etc. etc. etc. Oh, don't get me wrong--I'm sure you care in some abstract "hey, I vote Democratic party" way--but waitstaff pay gets you out insulting people on the internet; forklift operator pay doesn't.

And that, too, is the origin of my "outrage" (the tone I was trying to convey was ironic bemusement--I obviously failed at that). I find it amusing to see people framing their defenses of waitstaff pay as a kind of "solidarity with the working class" when it fact it is largely a self-interested defense of their own class interests.

Do you think the busboys sit around saying "gee, those waiters, they work so hard; I'm so grateful that they share such a generous portion of their tips with me"? Really?

But, you know--it's obviously easier to just make a wild guess at what I might be arguing about than it is to actually, you know, READ what I wrote.
posted by yoink at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2008


Do you think the busboys sit around saying "gee, those waiters, they work so hard; I'm so grateful that they share such a generous portion of their tips with me"? Really?

In my experience the busboys do appreciate getting a percentage.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:11 AM on July 30, 2008


Taxi drivers get lots of personal interaction--far more than waiters, actually. They really get a peak into people's lives. But taxi drivers are also not, typically, "nice middle-class people," they're more often those people.

Interestingly enough, there is a cab driver who also has a blog, which was also popular enough to end up with book deal. I wonder how that happened, since middle class people can't identify with cab drivers.
posted by kimdog at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2008


Ok, yoink, I see what you're saying now, and it's bilge. Can you produce these people who tip cab drivers, bellhops (hairstylists? coat-checkers? baristas?) et al more poorly than the more palatable bourgeois waiters? Can you cite any kind of source? I don't think you can, because I think you are pulling this idea out of your ass.

Anecdata: I tip 20% or as much as I can afford/have on me, because the vast majority of tipped work is a grind, and you don't need to have done it yourself to figure that out.
posted by everichon at 8:06 AM on July 30, 2008


yoinks, you are coming across as outraged, though. (Data point: I have never waited tables, though I have worked retail.) You seem....angry that people like waiter rant and are happy to talk about it because they can relate to it, because they too have been waiters.

Every time someone brings up something uncomfortable for metafilterites, especially in regards to race, someone feels the need to police his/her tone.

"I don't care if your message is right! I won't listen to something that might contain the most minor shred of emotion!"

See also: feminists, who are "manhating, "shrill", or just as bad, "angry"
posted by sondrialiac at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2008


Interestingly enough, there is a cab driver who also has a blog, which was also popular enough to end up with book deal. I wonder how that happened, since middle class people can't identify with cab drivers.


Do you think there's any reason they put her young, smiling, white face right on the cover?

If you want a better example of a white guy doing a shit job, grab Dishwasher by Pete Jordan. He, of course, never had a blog.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2008


Oh, and the author of Hack went to college long before she started her job. Not exactly the typical cabbie.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:35 AM on July 30, 2008


In my experience the busboys do appreciate getting a percentage.

I'm quite sure they do. I'm quite sure they'd appreciate getting an even bigger percentage. My point is that I don't see *that* issue being discussed ad nauseam on sites like Metafilter, or on "busboy rant" sites.

Ok, yoink, I see what you're saying now, and it's bilge. Can you produce these people who tip cab drivers, bellhops (hairstylists? coat-checkers? baristas?) et al more poorly than the more palatable bourgeois waiters?

So by "see what I'm saying" you mean "make up a point that you didn't actually say"? I don't say that people tip cab drivers "more poorly" than waiters; what I say is that it is easy to find angry discussions (like this one--despite the fact that no one in this thread is arguing for low tipping of waitstaff) about how much waitstaff should be tipped on places like Metafilter, and one would search in vain for angry, impassioned discussions about how much taxi-drivers should be tipped.

I wonder how that happened, since middle class people can't identify with cab drivers.


Um, what happened was that a white, middle-class, college-educated young woman took a class-atypical job. You're providing confirmation of my argument--thanks.

Oh, and sondrialiac--thanks for letting me know that I'm not just losing my mind and writing comments utterly unrelated to what I think I'm writing. I think the real insult I've perpetrated here is calling Mefites "nice middle class people." Of course, I'm a "nice middle class person" too (hey, here's funny idea for a joke--quote that phrase and strikethrough the "nice"--haw haw haw!), but like all nice middle class people I really, really, want to believe that I'm a working class hero. You know--I waited tables! I've been down and out in the West Village and the Upper East Side! I read "Nickled and Dimed" and it was like the story of my life.
posted by yoink at 11:31 AM on July 30, 2008


Oh, and sondrialiac--thanks for letting me know that I'm not just losing my mind and writing comments utterly unrelated to what I think I'm writing.

No problem--there is a huge blind spot here when it comes to race here and the defensive reactions are textbook.

--I don't like your tone. You're so angry.

--What are you talking about? Race/class has nothing to do with this. Your comment is completely irrelevant.

--Here's a single example to disprove your generalized claim (otherwise known as the "Oprah" argument, or, here, "Hack")

--If you don't cite something, your point is wrong, even though I feel no need to cite anything to back up my opinion.

It's always fun.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:54 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm quite sure they'd appreciate getting an even bigger percentage. My point is that I don't see *that* issue being discussed ad nauseam on sites like Metafilter, or on "busboy rant" sites.

Most of the busboy folks I've worked with appreciated that bonus because they recognized their position for what it was, a starting point. Despite the usual workplace gripes (Servers are pushy and cooks are crabby! Wow, that'd make for an awesome blog for all of about two posts.) they are aware that their payment is commensurate with the relative easiness of the job when compared to serving or cooking. While I'm sure there's some busboys out there who feel that they deserve a bigger slice of the pie, the majority that I've known and worked with would much rather prefer to move up the hierarchy rather than stick with the dull monotony of bussing. Maybe that doesn't jibe with your weird "reverse-snob class warrior/taking down the pretentions of bourgeosie from the inside" act, but that's what I've observed in nine years of working in a restaurant.

I think the real insult I've perpetrated here is calling Mefites "nice middle class people."

I've been called much worse by folks who were a lot more right than you, sorry.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:58 AM on July 30, 2008


Alvy--are you really arguing that there's no class (and race) distinction at all between the kinds of people who get waiting jobs and the kinds of people who get busboy jobs? Really? Is it your contention that all the busboys are just waiters-in-training?

I admit I have no statistics to prove you wrong, but it sure as hell doesn't jibe with what I see when I go out to restaurants. Maybe you live in some egalitarian utopia?
posted by yoink at 12:03 PM on July 30, 2008


P.S. A quick google lead me to this blogger's account of his experience (years ago) as a busboy. He doesn't seem to feel quite the same sense of worker-solidarity that you experience from your end of the social scale:

First, busboys have an interesting perspective on life. You see the crap people leave behind. Whereas waiters bring fresh, neat plates of food to the table, busboys see the leftovers of people and their habits.

Second, busboys are the "unseen, unheard" workers of the restaurant business. Just as you and I tend to not speak directly to our building sanitation staff or the groundskeepers of our buildings, busboys are treated the same way. There for a purpose, but not for interaction. That teaches you humility and the concept that there is a pecking order within everything.

Third and most importantly, a busboy's job let me quietly look at people and how they behaved towards each other. I got to see customers interacting with waiters. I got to see waiters and how they really felt about the customers. Even to waiters, we busboys were "those guys".

A quick aside: Busboys get tips from the waiters. At the end of each night, they'd give us 10% of their tips. How do we know if we were getting shorted? We didn't. We were working illegally (15 years old rather than the requisite 16 years), so who are we going to complain to?


So...you were saying?
posted by yoink at 12:07 PM on July 30, 2008


sondrialiac - not sure why you called out my comment specifically, here. I was responding to yoink saying I'm really not "outraged" by this, by the way, when it seemed to me that there was outrage. And I'm still puzzled by the point yoink is trying to make. I wasn't attempting to "police" yoink's tone - I was attempting to figure out/ask what s/he's objecting to.

As others (perhaps me, as well) are clearly reading something into yoink that s/he did not say, or mean, so you have done to me. I had hoped my comment would lead yoinks to explain more fully or clearly what s/he was getting at.

yoink seems angry (or puzzled) that there's lots of discussion about how much to tip waiters, but little discussion on how much to tip hairdressers, cabbies, etc. But yoink also points out that many mefites have been waiters (others have chimed in to support this).

So I'm not sure where yoink's confusion is coming from, because, as I said in my previous comment, people are happy to talk about stuff they're familiar with.* Many people here are familiar with waiting tables. Many people here are apparently unfamiliar with cutting hair or bussing tables or driving cabs, so that doesn't come up.

And bringing food is a much more "personal" action than driving someone somewhere. Food has all this cultural weight to it - its preparation, who makes it, how it's prepared - that taps into some deep psychic spot in a way that getting your hair cut or being driven somewhere doesn't. It's no wonder that we pay close attention to the people who bring us food.

*this being metafilter, people are obviously also willing to talk about stuff they don't know anything about - but apparently, not in this case.
posted by rtha at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2008


Alvy--are you really arguing that there's no class (and race) distinction at all between the kinds of people who get waiting jobs and the kinds of people who get busboy jobs? Really? Is it your contention that all the busboys are just waiters-in-training?

Like I said, in my almost a decade of working in a family-style international chain restaurant, that's how it's been. If they don't have any serving experience, they start with bussing and hosting and work their way up. If they want to cook, they start with dish and prep.

I admit I have no statistics to prove you wrong, but it sure as hell doesn't jibe with what I see when I go out to restaurants.

You have no statistics to refute the experiences and observations I've made over nine years of working in a restaurant, but they're still suspect because it doesn't mesh with your extensive research as a patron? I don't care what anyone says, you are a nice middle class person!

Maybe you live in some egalitarian utopia?
Yes, because I don't support your theory, I am most certainly living in make-believe land.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:24 PM on July 30, 2008


rtha: I'd be more willing to believe that this is simply a matter of people "caring about what they know" if kimdog hadn't shown me that when nice middle class white people go taxi-driving and blog about it, suddenly their blog gets a book-deal.

I suppose the argument will be that in the case of table-waiting, people care about what they know, and in the case of taxi-driving they're fascinated by a peak into a world they don't know?

And, by the bye, I'm neither angry nor puzzled. I do get a kind of sardonic amusement at the self-aggrandizement of the sufferings of the waiter. I'm not saying it's not hard work, but it's hard work that gets far more column inches and far more sympathy than many a much, much harder job. I'm not "angry" about it, but I think it's overblown. And I'm not "puzzled" because I think I've got a pretty good thesis to explain it (you know--the class-contradiction thing I outlined above--the thesis that nobody has bothered to offer a single argument against because they're all too busy countering claims that I didn't make).
posted by yoink at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2008


You have no statistics to refute the experiences and observations I've made over nine years of working in a restaurant, but they're still suspect because it doesn't mesh with your extensive research as a patron?

Actually, Alvy, your experience in one single restaurant that apparently has extremely rigorous equal opportunity hiring practices (and good for you!) really isn't anything like as indicative of what goes on in the restaurant trade in general as any individual patron's experience in a wide range of restaurants. You throw down that "nine years" as if it is significant, but as it's nine years experience of the same single restaurant it really doesn't mean very much other than that you work for good bosses.

In the restaurants I go to here in Southern California, waitstaff are overwhelmingly more likely to be anglo than the busboys--and all the more so the more upscale the restaurant is. But seeing as neither of us have actual survey statistics to back our positions up, we'll just have to leave it at that. I really would have thought that saying "busboys are typically from lower socio-economic backgrounds than waitstaff" would be a pretty uncontroversial claim, but as you argue that it is untrue and as I can't Google up any studies one way or the other all we can do is appeal to people's general experiences.
posted by yoink at 12:50 PM on July 30, 2008


I was responding to yoink saying I'm really not "outraged" by this, by the way, when it seemed to me that there was outrage. And I'm still puzzled by the point yoink is trying to make. I wasn't attempting to "police" yoink's tone - I was attempting to figure out/ask what s/he's objecting to.
Your comment pretty much entirely said "You're not saying that you're angry, but you seem so angry! Why are you so angry!"
yoink seems angry (or puzzled) that there's lots of discussion about how much to tip waiters, but little discussion on how much to tip hairdressers, cabbies, etc. But yoink also points out that many mefites have been waiters (others have chimed in to support this).

Many people here are familiar with waiting tables. Many people here are apparently unfamiliar with cutting hair or bussing tables or driving cabs, so that doesn't come up.
That. Is. His. Point. That is what he is saying. He is saying that the jobs we have are determined at least in part by our level of institutional power. He is saying that discourse about work conditions and pay is largely dominated by the white and middle/upper class, and that issues that do not affect them directly are often excluded from that discourse in favor of "let me tell you about that couple who tipped me less than 15%! It was awful!"
posted by sondrialiac at 12:52 PM on July 30, 2008


Uh, waiter.

I say, waiter!

Could you please take away my plate of beans. It's been overthought.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:02 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you don't cite something, your point is wrong, even though I feel no need to cite anything to back up my opinion.

I don't have an opinion in this thread. The only point I've made is that I'd like to see the evidence behind yoink's opinion. How is that an unreasonable request?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:06 PM on July 30, 2008


Could you please take away my plate of beans. It's been overthought.

Thank you for this dismissive and completely noncontributory comment.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:08 PM on July 30, 2008


I don't have an opinion in this thread.

Ah, yes, I must have been mistaken when I read your characterization of yoink's comment as "angry rhetoric" as a disagreement. Obviously you are on the side of truth.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2008


Okay, Alvy, I found one study that--while restricted to one area (Dallas) seems to pretty much confirm my impressions. Here's some relevant extracts:

Restaurants are “close organizations” (Fine 1996:113). That
is, workers are encouraged to think of themselves as part of
a family. Families, however, are not egalitarian institutions.
Rather, there is a hierarchy, and different statuses yield different
degrees of power. The various job positions in a restaurant
form a hierarchy, especially in the upscale eating establishments
where Yucatecan men are employed.3
All restaurants have front and back areas. The hierarchy
of employment is different in the front and back of the house,
but employees can switch from one to the other. One’s place
in the hierarchy is based on job experience, language skills,
gender, and ethnic/racial factors, although all but the first of
these considerations are more important for front of the house
employees, since they work directly with customers.


...

Front of the House

The front of the house positions are those in which customer
contact is an expected part of the job. From lowest to highest
in the hierarchy, the positions are bus boy, waiter, and maitre
d’/host.

Busboy

Busboy is the lowest of the front of the house positions. Because
busboys generally work for tips, remuneration depends
on the volume of business at the particular restaurant. In a
popular and expensive restaurant setting, busboys can earn
a considerable amount of money, rivaling the higher levels of
the back of the house positions. This is dependent, however,
on a host of factors including luck, skill, number of customers,
and the interpersonal dynamics between waiters and busboys,
because waiters are the ones who “tip out” to busboys. The
preference to be a busboy has something to do with personality
factors. Yucatecan men who have outgoing personalities and
are secure enough to interact with higher class, white people
will take busboy positions. Some men are intimidated by the
prospect of having to do this and so prefer the security of the
back of the house. Sometimes busboys are female, but there
were no Yucatecan women employed as busboys at the time
of the study.

Waiter

Waiters are the most visible front of the house employees,
with the most contact with clients. In the upscale restaurants
where the Yucatecans are employed, there are not many women
food servers. Yet there are few Yucatecan men who work as
waiters. This has to do with language ability, but it is also a
matter of ethnic and racial division. One of the few Yucatecan
men currently waiting tables happens to be employed at a
popular El Salvadoran restaurant. In this exceptional case,
although most of the patrons are upper class whites, all the
wait staff are Hispanic males. This contrasts sharply with the
other upscale restaurants in which the Yucatecans work. In
those cases, the wait staff is composed almost exclusively of
white males. Waiters earn a living from tips, so remuneration
depends on volume of business.


Not, I agree, conclusive evidence--but here at least we have an academic who specializes in the issue telling us that race and class are typically important factors in distinguishing busboys from waitstaff (for precisely the reasons I outlined in my initial post). I'd say that this at least puts the onus on you to find counter evidence other than your anecdotal experience of one extraordinarily egalitarian restaurant.
posted by yoink at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2008


Thank you for this dismissive and completely noncontributory comment.

Dismissive and noncontributory because the thread has devolved into a pissing match about who's less (or more, I can't tell) working class, middle class or whatever.

Cos, y'know, we could have been talking about the man's excellent writing, rather than rehashing the 'I don't tip' scene from Reservoir Dogs.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2008


Dismissive and noncontributory because the thread has devolved into a pissing match about who's less (or more, I can't tell) working class, middle class or whatever.

Cos, y'know, we could have been talking about the man's excellent writing, rather than rehashing the 'I don't tip' scene from Reservoir Dogs.


Just because people aren't talking about what you want them to talk about doesn't mean that they're talking about nothing.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:26 PM on July 30, 2008


The only point I've made is that I'd like to see the evidence behind yoink's opinion.

Solon--you want evidence for an argument I'm not making. You ask me to prove that people tip landscape gardeners less than they tip restaurant waitstaff. My argument is not about who tips who how much, it's about why people like MeFites get so riled up about how much waiters get tipped and what their working conditions are like, without getting equally riled up about any other single profession's remuneration or working conditions.

I would say, though, that the number of people in this thread who offered the "but landscape gardeners don't work for tips" argument offers strong anecdotal evidence that people don't tip them. I've also never heard of anybody tipping one, and never seen any "advice on tipping" column or page in a guidebook or anything else that suggested that one should tip them--so it seems a pretty quixotic point to have got yourself hung up on. I'd have thought we could take it as read that people don't typically tip landscape gardeners AND that it is entirely irrelevant to my point and move on?
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on July 30, 2008


rather than rehashing the 'I don't tip' scene from Reservoir Dogs.

And once more, with feeling, NOBODY IN THIS THREAD IS ARGUING AGAINST TIPPING OR ARGUING THAT PEOPLE SHOULDN'T TIP WELL!!! Please excuse the shouting, but it's getting really tiring.

I mean, I appreciate having you people prove over and over again what a well-worn script this is, but could you PLEASE try to notice that this isn't argument #27,569 on Metafilter about just how much money waitstaff deserve.
posted by yoink at 1:30 PM on July 30, 2008


Oh, and here's another suggestive piece of evidence. Anecdotal again, it's true, but of at least as much force as Alvy's nine year experience in his egalitarian wonderland. Here's what Phoebe Damrosch (white, middle-class--probably nice, too!) has to say on the subject of busboys, waiters and race in her account of years in the New York restaurant business, Service Included:

I was the only busboy not named Mohammed. Here, as in many restaurants around the city, any deviation from the distinct class/race hierarchy makes everyone uneasy. In most New York restaurants, the chef is Caucasian, the waiters are starving artists, the busboys are from Bangladesh, and the kitchen workers and dishwashers are from Latin America. I honestly think I was promoted so quickly from busboy to waiter because the chef and the waiters felt uncomfortable asking me to mop up their spills, take out the trash, and clean the windows. I certainly wasn't promoted for my skill or knowledge.


So, Alvy, is she just making crap up? Is the restaurant trade actually a beacon of tolerance and enlightenment, and somehow we patrons just don't notice all the young "I'm working on my screenplay" or "this is just my summer job" busboys? Or, is it predictable enough that a job that involves face-to-face contact with the customers (and which requires setting those customers at ease and making them feel welcome) will tend to go to people who are more similar in socioeconomic status to the customers than the people who fill menial jobs that do not require such face-to-face skills?
posted by yoink at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2008


Show me the "Restroom Attendant Rant" blog. Oh, wait--there isn't one.

Well there was. Am I seriously the only person who Googled this?
posted by desuetude at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2008


Well there was. Am I seriously the only person who Googled this?

From his very first post:

Yes, I am a restroom attendant. No, I do not stand next to the sink and hand out towels. Nor do I have a tray full of colognes and a big jar full of combs floating in a strange blue liquid. My job is to oversee a unisex restroom in a very nice restaurant.

"Yes I'm a restroom attendant--but no, I'm not that kind of restroom attendant, I'm a nice middle-class "just doing this so I can finish school" restroom attendant. Please read my blog!"

And despite that, no Metafilter threads full of outraged comments about how shittily people treat restroom attendants.
posted by yoink at 2:45 PM on July 30, 2008


Ah, yes, I must have been mistaken when I read your characterization of yoink's comment as "angry rhetoric" as a disagreement. Obviously you are on the side of truth.

The "side of truth." Really. Yes, I am definitely an evil-dooer who is against the side of truth. Let me in to the axis of evil right now. I'm not saying his argument is incorrect, just that it seems to contradict my personal experiences (which I know don't make grounds for an argument, so I didn't try) and I wanted to see where his reasoning was coming from.

It seemed angry for me, because immediately after typing out his argument he escalated it by saying "Now I wait for all the nice middle-class people at Metafilter who remember the terrible, terrible labors of their summer waiting jobs when they were at college to tell me what a dickhead I am."

That is, setting anyone who criticized him up as irrational (they'd use swears instead of an argument!) and "nice middle-class people" (which he clearly showed his disdain for in the previous paragraph. I recall the word "asshole" being used about them.) Thus, angry rhetoric. I'm a feminist, and if I finished up an argument for a relevant feminist point by saying "And now I wait for all the nice gentleman at Metafilter who personally haven't raped any women to tell me what a slutty bitch I am." it would be justified for someone to call that counter-productive angry rhetoric.

I would say, though, that the number of people in this thread who offered the "but landscape gardeners don't work for tips" argument offers strong anecdotal evidence that people don't tip them. I've also never heard of anybody tipping one, and never seen any "advice on tipping" column or page in a guidebook or anything else that suggested that one should tip them--so it seems a pretty quixotic point to have got yourself hung up on. I'd have thought we could take it as read that people don't typically tip landscape gardeners AND that it is entirely irrelevant to my point and move on?

I still think it's important to establish why people don't tip landscapers.

(You could at least make an attempt at Google to see if your ("never seen any advice") argument is supported.)
Here are the results for "how much to tip landscapers". So people obviously worry about it. Some of those people do make the argument that since landscapers work for a hefty commission, their work doesn't depend at all on tips and they shouldn't be. Actual landscaping companies also agree that landscapers don't necessarily need to be tipped, since they are "paid well." Whereas waiters are paid with the expectation that they should be tipped.

What do you think of the fact that plumbers don't get tipped, but painters should be?

Or, to put it in different thoughts, I work at a grocery store as a cashier. I don't ever get tipped. It's required that people drive their cars up to the store and have their groceries loaded in by someone who works in "parcel." That person usually gets tipped. We're both providing a service and we get paid the same, but tipping the person who puts your groceries in your car (which is required at my store) is a social norm whereas tipping the cashier who puts your groceries in bags is not. Both groups are made up of exactly similar people, who get placed in either department based on where openings are at the time. My point is that I think tipping is a largely arbitrary thing.

Why am I so fixed on this point? Because it seems like your main justification in your argument about class and race. It seems to me that you were claiming that people generally tip less or not at all for any profession which is made up primarily of non-middle-class white people, and not that they tip less or not at all for any profession which is not reliant on tips. Or that sometimes tipping is an extremely arbitrary process (unless the people who are professional painters are typically of a different race that plumbers?)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:20 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


On preview: "And despite that, no Metafilter threads full of outraged comments about how shittily people treat restroom attendants."

Because not a lot of people have experience being or interacting with restroom attendants, and don't have an anecdote or opinion to share? I personally can't remember the last time I ever saw a restroom attendant. I'd have very little to say that Whereas I, like everyone else, has interacted with a waiter on a regular basis. So I have something unique to talk about.

Isn't this similar to how there are so many Metafilter discussions on American politics and not many on obscure economic theories? A lot of people have experience with the former and not the latter, so they have something to say. No matter how important a topic is, it's only going to get a lot of people talking about it if a lot of people have an opinion on or experience with the topic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:38 PM on July 30, 2008


It seems to me that you were claiming that people generally tip less or not at all for any profession which is made up primarily of non-middle-class white people, and not that they tip less or not at all for any profession which is not reliant on tips.

So despite my saying over and over again and in so many words that my argument is NOT about who gets tipped or how much, it "seems to you" that my argument is about who gets tipped and how much.

I don't know where to go from here, Solon. Perhaps instead of just guessing at what my argument might be about you'd actually try reading what I wrote? Here's a hint: my argument is about why certain people (e.g. MeFites) care so much about the remuneration that waitstaff receive and about their working conditions. It is not an argument about how much waitstaff do in fact, or should, receive.
posted by yoink at 3:39 PM on July 30, 2008


Also, Solon, your links about the tipping of landscapers really just confirm my point. Most of the Google result refer to "landscaping tips" (i.e. "now here's a tip--plant your trees the right way up!). Yes, a couple of people have inquired about tipping particular landscape gardeners in their employ--if ever the phrase "the exception that proves the rule" was relevant, this is it. Try Googling "how much should I tip a waiter" for a comparison.

The other link you offer is from the owners of a landscaping company who are reassuring their clients that the people who they send out to do the work are "well paid" and that therefore tipping is "their choice." I suppose it's possible that this company actually does pay its laborers well--but if so, they're atypical. There's a reason that landscape gardening companies hire large numbers of illegal immigrants. Legal minimum wage is doing well.
posted by yoink at 3:50 PM on July 30, 2008


Yoink, I am disagreeing with a claim that you have made multiple times in support of your argument.

If you don't see the relevancy of this, it's fine to agree to disagree rather than say things like "...try reading what I wrote." "Here's a hint." I'm not an idiot, I simply have an issue with your premise. Although you seem to be suggesting that the two are mutual.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:53 PM on July 30, 2008


I always thought tipping was a behavior that occurs between an individual consumer (say, me) and a person performing a service as an individual for me (say, my barista, my paperboy, my landscaper), unless a corporate entity is involved, either positively or negatively sanctioning the tipping. This sanctioning occurs when employees are not permitted to accept tips, or when some are paid less so that they perform to a level that makes striving for tips rewarding.

I've worked at three different tipped jobs: waitstaff, party host, and tour guide, and I can tell you: tips are an unreliable source of income, and to get them, you bust ass, on a gamble every day. It's emotionally draining in a way bussing or landscaping is not, and this culture values phony emotional engagement enough to support that skillset. Them's the breaks. Yoink, if you have some evidence of race or class, not language skills or stylishness, impacting waitstaff hiring here in SoCal, please share.

My class status has nothing to do with my feelings about tipping. I avoid corporate interference with the income potential of all those I directly or indirectly employ, best I can, like choosing an independent house cleaner (if I could afford one), not a Merry Maid, but it's not easy.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:53 PM on July 30, 2008


I'm not an idiot, I simply have an issue with your premise. Although you seem to be suggesting that the two are mutual.

In retrospect, the second sentence in unfair and reading too much into your words.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:55 PM on July 30, 2008


The phenomenon I am trying to explain is the fact (to which you both afford me nice anecdotal proof) that there is a long and bitter history of arguing on the internet about how much to tip waitstaff (including here on Metafilter),

Again, the waitstaff is usually paid less than minium wage, so arguing about how much to tip them sounds reasonable, since that's their main source of income and it's unreliable. You want to talk abou the minimum wage day laborers and that's nice and all, but at least they're guaranteed that, whereas a waitperson can make more that and sometimes less. Seriously, it's fucking demoralizing sometimes to work your ass for a table and then get little or nothing for it, not because you're a bad person or you did a bad job, but because that person or group are cheap or snotty or jackasses.

I'm curious, have you ever waited tables?


when I cannot think of a single other profession whose rates of remuneration I have ever seen discussed

Really? Every year there's a US survey on how much graphic designers make, broken down into regions and different titles.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 PM on July 30, 2008


You throw down that "nine years" as if it is significant, but as it's nine years experience of the same single restaurant it really doesn't mean very much other than that you work for good bosses... Anecdotal again, it's true, but of at least as much force as Alvy's nine year experience in his egalitarian wonderland... So, Alvy, is she just making crap up?

You cite your rigorous experience as a customer in California, a study based in Texas, and an anecdote from New York to bolster your argument that the solidarity people here feel with servers is bogus and self-congratulatory , since they were tourist dilettantes who don't know what it's really like in the restaurant industry. But the three places you mention have some of the biggest populations of undocumented workers in the United States. You'll get no argument from me - or anyone else here, I'd wager - that those folks are far more vulnerable to exploitation than the average worker, and are routinely abused by shitty, shitty businesses (We read Fastfood Nation and listen to NPR too!). But it certainly isn't a universal practice and, while it may fit your reverse-snobbery, definitely doesn't invalidate the experiences of anyone here who has or is working in a restaurant.

No, none of my co-workers ever had to worry about a vengeful boss calling Immigration or having to forgo medical treatment because they can't afford to miss even half a day of dehumanizing labor for pocket change, but when they talk about a customer who made them feel an inch tall or how they woke up in a cold sweat again last night because they had that nightmare where they were in the weeds and couldn't catch up, I certainly wouldn't throw "You don't know how good you got it, pal," in their face.
Even I'm not that self-righteous a shitheel.

If you had said: "Y'know, restaurant horror stories are pretty lame when you consider the daily struggle experienced by the huge number of illegal immigrants who, in many places, are the backbone of the service industry. Sort of puts things in perspective when you're bitching about some old geezer who didn't like his tiramisu, doesn't it? " from the outset, we probably wouldn't be talking around each other so much, because:

a) No shit, Karl Marx.
b) This FPP isn't about undocumented workers. If you had articulated your point, I have no no doubt people would agree with you, and there'd probably be more than a few MeFites who could contribute really interesting and thought provoking comments on the topic, but instead you took the sneering elliptical jerk route. And here we are.

There may be kids in China who are starving*, but that doesn't mean I or anyone else has to eat your holier than thou lecturing.

*They probably built the machine you're typing on, by the way. How can you in all conscience set it to Sleep at night, sir? How can you?!?

I'm curious, have you ever waited tables?

It wouldn't appear to be the case.
But he's eaten at them extensively.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:30 PM on July 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yoink, if you have some evidence of race or class, not language skills or stylishness, impacting waitstaff hiring here in SoCal, please share.

"Language skills or stylishness." And of course we all know that what are considered appropriate "language skills" and what is considered acceptable forms of "stylishness" have absolutely NO connection to attitudes towards race or class.

I really am simply gobsmacked at the level of special pleading and willful blindness to class privilege that characterizes this thread. I was pretty sure I was onto something with my argument about the peculiar class status of waiting, the responses I've gotten in this thread have proved my thesis beyond my wildest dreams.

As I suspected, MeFites (nice, middle class people, for the most part) live in a world in which the remuneration received by waitstaff is a terrible, urgent, pressing concern. But the wages received by, say, landscape gardeners, or busboys, or restroom attendants is a subject of vague, generalized "oh wouldn't it be nice if everybody was comfortably off" concern. It also turns out that they live in a world where they will adopt almost any argument, no matter how absurd, to blind themselves to the fact that this is a complex matter of class allegiance and class privilege. They are deeply offended to be made aware, for example, that the waiting jobs that they got back in their student days (which they like to think of as their moment of solidarity with the workers) were actually a perquisite of their class status. They got the waiting job, not the shitty busboy job, because their "language skills and style" were middle-class "language skills and style" and not working class "language skills and style."

But we have people here demanding statistical fucking proof that landscaping laborers don't receive tips! (Oh yeah, how often one hears one gardener saying to another--"you know, it's a pretty shitty base pay, but at least there's the tips!") And we have Alvy of Egalitariansville USA soberly telling me that despite what happens in tiny little unimportant enclaves of the restaurant trade like New York, Southern California and Texas, actually the busboys are all just waiters-in-training, and there's really no aspect of class division (or class resentment) involved in this stuff at ALL and the busboys are so grateful for a tiny fraction of the tip money we send their way. (Hey Alvy--try searching for the string "Even to waiters, we busboys were "those guys"--yes, I did notice how you just ignored that--like you ignored that my "anecdote from New York" came from a highly successful career-waitress in New York). And we have people saying "oh, it's just that we have intimate contact with waiters." Yeah, no shit--you don't talk to the busboys, do you? But hey, they're cleaning up after you--what could be a more "intimate" service than that? I wonder what's going on? Could it have something to do with their "language skills or stylishness"?

There may be kids in China who are starving*, but that doesn't mean I or anyone else has to eat your holier than thou lecturing.

Alvy, where have I said I was "holier than thou"? I said that I'm a "nice middle class person" just like the rest of you. I know that it was easier for me to get my job because of my class background, and no I'm not going to chuck the job in because of that. I haven't asked anybody to DO anything differently in this thread at all--and yet, look at all the hysterical defensiveness! All I've done is point out how a certain quirk of the class system operates to raise the profile of one particular menial, low-skill job so that it gets a large amount of attention from places like Metafilter, whereas other menial, low-skill jobs get less attention. I haven't said that anybody should feel guilty about being a waiter or should be paid less than they are. The only thing I'd like is that when the next meeting of the "I waited tables in college and I'm here to tell ya just how terrible a job it is" society is convened that there's at least a shred of self-awareness that what for you was your terrible moment of slumming is for a lot of other people a plum job that they find unattainable because their "language skills or stylishness" don't happen to jibe with the "language skills or stylishness" of the nice middle-class people who eat at the restaurant. And I'd also like at least some awareness in people's minds that when they're getting so worked up about the remuneration and working conditions of waitstaff it's largely motivated by a kind of class anxiety (the kind described so well, actually, by Phoebe Damrosch when she tells how she got promoted from busboy simply because the kitchen staff felt uncomfortable seeing a white, middle class woman in that role). Even more, I'd like to see some iota of awareness in people that there are class-based reasons why we're not so viscerally concerned about, say, the percentage of the tip that busboys receive from waiters as we are concerned about, say, the percentage tip that waiters receive from customers. (Actually, based on the evidence of this thread I'd have to say that "we" don't care at all about the percentage of the tip-take that busboys receive).
posted by yoink at 11:32 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


You cite your rigorous experience as a customer in California, a study based in Texas, and an anecdote from New York to bolster your argument that the solidarity people here feel with servers is bogus and self-congratulatory , since they were tourist dilettantes who don't know what it's really like in the restaurant industry.

No, Alvy--I cited my experience, a study based in Texas and an account given by a successful career waitress from New York in support of my claim that busboys tend to be of a lower socio-economic status than waitstaff. That was the point you were disputing, remember? And although that study was based in Texas, his account (which I cut and pasted for your convenience--although I've noticed you read pretty selectively, so you probably skipped it) of the generalized hierarchy of the restaurant kitchen was not Texas-specific. So--I don't, and didn't claim, that these are conclusive evidence for my position. As my position is the commonsense one, however (you aren't, seriously, going to maintain that class status provides no advantage in a profession in which people deal directly with clientele--seriously?) and as I've now provided pretty good indicative evidence to support that commonsense position, I'd say the onus was on you to provide a single shred of evidence for your contrary (and frankly counterintuitive) position beyond your anecdotal claim that the one restaurant you work for makes no distinction between the people it hires as busboys and the people it hires as waiters.
posted by yoink at 11:39 AM on July 31, 2008


Yoink, I am disagreeing with a claim that you have made multiple times in support of your argument.

Actually, Solon, you're disagreeing with a point I made once in my argument, and which I promptly and repeatedly clarified as having no bearing whatsoever on my main thesis. It also happens that you're disagreeing on the basis of evidence which supports my claim and not yours. Why not read the pages you linked to if you can't be bothered reading what I've written in this thread? The very first hit on the Google search that you link to is someone posting the query "do you tip landscapers" and the consensus answer that person receives is...wait for it...wait for it...no. So. No--landscaper laborers don't get tips. What a shock. It doesn't affect my argument one way or the other, but it turns out that that throwaway comment in my initial post was right after all.

So...any other points I can clarify for you?
posted by yoink at 11:45 AM on July 31, 2008


language skills: multilngualism a plus.
stylishness: attractive and "appropriate" to the milieu a plus.

Ergo, I'm not hanging my hopes on cocktailing the Vietnamese Gay bar.

In what alternate universe does being working class or a racial minority stop you from getting a job waiting tables? IT'S WAITING TABLES, ffs.

Sure, there's indicvidual and institutionalized racism, but a tipping customs discussion and attendant discussion of low income jobs is pretty far flung from effective activism on that issue.

I'm not sure why you think we, the navelgazing intellectual brigade, are the problem. The customs of the consumer/corporate relationship is the problem. Go, vote with your dollar.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:23 PM on July 31, 2008


So...any other points I can clarify for you?

Yeah, have you ever waited tables or not?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:28 PM on July 31, 2008


I really am simply gobsmacked at the level of special pleading and willful blindness to class privilege that characterizes this thread. I was pretty sure I was onto something with my argument about the peculiar class status of waiting, the responses I've gotten in this thread have proved my thesis beyond my wildest dreams.

I'm a big gobsmacked myself. A quarter of the responses in this thread consist of you defending your rant regarding your brilliant observation that waiting tables is a fairly common middle-class job and that discussion on internet forums tends to favor the experiences of said discussants. This somehow "proves" to you a vast middle-class conspiracy of unfair sympathy.

This thread proves no such thing. Look up at the title. You're in a thread about a waiter. This is why we're not having a nuanced discussion comparing inequities between sundry low-wage jobs. To characterize Metafilter as The Place That Cares Naught For The Working Poor based on this discussion is bizarre.
posted by desuetude at 12:36 PM on July 31, 2008


his account (which I cut and pasted for your convenience--although I've noticed you read pretty selectively, so you probably skipped it) of the generalized hierarchy of the restaurant kitchen was not Texas-specific.

No, the restaurant pecking order isn't Texas/California/New York-specific. However, the prevalence of institutionalized discrimination in that hierarchy is directly proportional to the vulnerability of employees. Again, Texas/California/New York have some of the highest populations of undocumented workers in the United States, and therefore abuses are far more likely to happen there. But not everyone lives and works there, and the shitty things that are the rigeur in LA do not invalidate the experiences of a person working in St. Paul.

try searching for the string "Even to waiters, we busboys were "those guys"--yes, I did notice how you just ignored that--like you ignored that my "anecdote from New York" came from a highly successful career-waitress in New York

I didn't ignore anything, I acknowledged them when I said that your three examples were sourced from places with large populations of illegal immigrants. Again, not everyone lives there, and therefore, not everyone's experience will mesh with your argument. I've made it clear multiple times that my subjective observations have been just that and haven't contested your examples, only pointed out that they are contingent upon specific circumstances that are not as universal as your posturing requires them to be.

I don't, and didn't claim, that these are conclusive evidence for my position.

Hopefully this will stick this time: Your position requires making sweeping generalizations and cherry picking data from places with horrible records of employee abuse to prove it. It's like telling a farmer in Saskatchewan to shut up about a hailed-out crop because there are subsistence farmers in Sudan who would sell their families for such a bounty. Think globally act locally is a swell frame of mind, but coupling an incredibly broad view with a horribly narrow focus is a crappy way to have a discussion.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:45 PM on July 31, 2008


In what alternate universe does being working class or a racial minority stop you from getting a job waiting tables? IT'S WAITING TABLES, ffs.

Considering that yoink quoted a study THAT SAYS THAT BEING A RACIAL MINORITY STOPS SOME PEOPLE FROM WAITING TABLES,*

I guess it would be this alternate universe! You know, the one where people don't have white privilege to whisk them away from reality when it suits them.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:11 PM on July 31, 2008


Thanks to this post, and then reading on the linked blog, I've now learned the meaning of in the weeds. For which I must love the post.

No matter what blogs may say of waiters sharing tips with bus boys I have the sense that they and the kitchen staff don't see any of that tip money in most situations. Not sure I know a rememdy for that - unless we all ask to go into the kitchen at every eating establishment and tip that way. And let's not forget the people doing the dishes - that's a horrible, tedious, smelly job in itself. Depending on the restaurant sometimes busboys also help do the washing up. I think it's probably those of us who aren't regularly eating at those expensive restaurants that worry about this more often - but then, I probably only say that because I'm in that group.

I'd also hazard a guess that most people rarely if ever see a restroom attendant. I think it's a vanishing job. I've traveled a bit and only bumped into them at the really "high end" joints, or on the east coast or in other countries. Which is why you find many people who have no clue how to act around them or to tip them - "who was that lady sitting in the restroom?" The only reason I know? Someone explained ahead of time - a great aunt, or maybe I read it in Emily Post, I forget.

Meanwhile if only a few of the more beastly folk read such blogs and are embarrassed in hindsight by their own behavior and suddenly start to act like polite human beings in public, everyone from waiter to cashier at any store will benefit. (I'm not holding my breath.) But then there's something to be said for people who just don't know any better - when it comes to tipping, not the politeness part. (I've seen adults in public act in a manner that I was taught not to when I was a child - but then I had southern parents who felt politeness and courtesy were to be extended towards everyone, in all situations, and regardless of how they were treating you. Waitstaff, cashiers, plumbers, anyone - to be addressed as sir or m'am, in all cases.) As far as what's considered a proper tip I've found that it's different in Boston vs. Dallas vs. San Diego vs. Louisiana - in restaurants and hair salons anyhow. Each place I've moved had slightly different expectations - which left me over tipping in some places and under tipping in others (the hair salon - who knew it was so tricky? Potentially three people to tip, argh.).

And I'd agree that there does seem to be some racial preferance in who is hired to wait tables versus who's in the kitchen at some restaurants. Only basing that from my own observation and my friends who were waiters, so that's a wildly subjective call. All the more reason for me to spend money at the local restaurants, where the owner and family's doing both.
posted by batgrlHG at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2008


sondrialiac, by yoink's own admission, a single study in Dallas is not conclusive evidence.

The locally representative racial breakdown of waitstaff, when corrected for English fluency, at the restaurants where I've worked and eaten here in California has been absolutely consistent. Point taken: from my perspective, unnamed upscale retaurants in Dallas are an alternate universe.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:33 PM on July 31, 2008


You want to talk abou the minimum wage day laborers and that's nice and all, but at least they're guaranteed that, whereas a waitperson can make more that and sometimes less. Seriously, it's fucking demoralizing sometimes to work your ass for a table and then get little or nothing for it, not because you're a bad person or you did a bad job, but because that person or group are cheap or snotty or jackasses.

Yeah, have you ever waited tables or not?


Have you ever been a minimum wage day laborer? Your claim that waiting tables is somehow worse than being a minimum wage day laborer is ignorant to the point of being offensive.

You can simply google "day laborers work conditions" but I'll excerpt some quotes for you:
Advocates for day laborers say these workers are among the poorest, the most vulnerable and the most stigmatized.

Anti-illegal immigration activists routinely protest at the day labor sites, saying most of the men are illegal immigrants and should be deported.

In Escondido, Ramirez, who shares a two-bedroom apartment in the city with five other people to save money, said he used to get work two or three times a week.

Now, he counts himself lucky to be hired once a week. That means he has little money to spare after buying food, and none to send to his wife and 2-year-old daughter in Mexico.

Now, they say, they're lucky to get the state minimum wage of $8 an hour.

Because there is so little work, Ramirez said some day laborers are willing to accept less than the legal minimum.

"You can't be picky here," he said. "You do whatever work you can get and the employers decide how much they are going to pay."
[1]
From professors at the University of Washington:
Day laborers are exposed to numerous hazards at work, resulting in high injury rates. Multiple approaches including community based organizations which may provide some employment stability and social support for protection at work are needed to reduce occupational injury and illness risk among these vulnerable populations.
[2]
From another source:
Nearly half of 2,660 day laborers participating in the survey by three universities had been underpaid – or not paid at all – in the two months before being interviewed. Forty-four percent said they were denied food, water and breaks, and 18% said they were subjected to violence by their employer.

In addition, one-fifth of the workers interviewed said they had been injured on the job in the previous year, with the majority not receiving medical care.[3]
Now please, tell me again about those assholes who leave 10% tips? Because, really, your concern for the truly oppressed working man (who happens to look just like you) touches my heart.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:34 PM on July 31, 2008


sondrialiac, by yoink's own admission, a single study in Dallas is not conclusive evidence.

It's conclusive evidence that in this universe, "being working class or a racial minority [can] stop you from getting a job waiting tables". Which is what you said, and which is what I took issue with.

Point taken: from my perspective, unnamed upscale retaurants in Dallas are an alternate universe.

No, the point is that you should stop assuming that your perspective is THE perspective when it comes to issues about which you are ill-informed.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:40 PM on July 31, 2008


No matter what blogs may say of waiters sharing tips with bus boys I have the sense that they and the kitchen staff don't see any of that tip money in most situations

I tip out at least 15% of the tip money I get. Every night. I don't really like doing that, but I know that the hostess who seats my section, the busboy who cleans that section, and the bartenders who pour my drinks are counting on it. All of those people are paid an hourly wage that is several times as much as mine, but they accepted the job on the expectation that they're going to be tipped out. If someone helps me out a lot, then I adjust their tip out accordingly. We don't tip out the kitchen, because at our restaurant, they are paid significantly more than the front of the house staff. They don't expect to be tipped out, and they didn't take their jobs on the assumption that they would be. Tip out varies from restaurant to restaurant, and there is no rule at my restaurant. It's up to each server how much to tip out.

That being said, if you derive your income from tips and there is an expectation of tip out, you'd have to be a total dick to stiff your coworkers. Moreover, you'll soon feel the sting of working with disgruntled colleagues.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:46 PM on July 31, 2008


However, the prevalence of institutionalized discrimination in that hierarchy is directly proportional to the vulnerability of employees. Again, Texas/California/New York have some of the highest populations of undocumented workers in the United States, and therefore abuses are far more likely to happen there.

So you're saying that if St. Paulites had people to abuse, they'd do it, but since it's nice local white people, no one group of people is forced to do the dirty work for another group.

OK. Great. I don't see how that contradicts the theory that institutionalized racism exists in the restaurant world.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:46 PM on July 31, 2008


Institutionalized racism exists in the United States. Period.

I don't even think most of the people in this thread arguing actually disagree.

(While we're all busy tossing out random counterexamples, I'll point out that while St. Paul may have seemed a nice safe whiter-than-white choice, it's got its share of immigrant labor.)
posted by desuetude at 4:28 PM on July 31, 2008


Have you ever been a minimum wage day laborer?

Nope, but then again I'm not describing what that job is like, hence my question to yoinks.

Your claim that waiting tables is somehow worse than being a minimum wage day laborer is ignorant to the point of being offensive.

Never said that.

Oh, and thanks for the quotes about the hard life of day laborers, I had no idea and am now truly enlightened.

Because, really, your concern for the truly oppressed working man (who happens to look just like you) touches my heart.

Handsome men are oppressed? Or is this about being black and if so, are you going to talk how hard it is to be black man? Do share.

This has been one of the oddest threads I've read on Metafilter in a while. In the midst of talking about how a secret blogger actually looks once he reveals his apearance, yoink drags in past discussions (from both here and elsewhere on the web) on somewhat related subject, which no one in the thread is having., injects a class rant into it, while explaining exactly why this is that way and that is this way, never clarifying if he's actually done the job he insists on talking about and then waits for everyone to say he's dick, thus proving he was right. Talk about left field. Or drinking too much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:53 PM on July 31, 2008


I don't see how that contradicts the theory that institutionalized racism exists in the restaurant world.

For the last time, no one has disputed it doesn't exist. What they do disagree with is yoink's contention (And presumably yours too) that unless a person has experienced that sort of discrimination, any complaints they have about the job are just the whinings of entitled white tourists.

A friend of mine who waited for over ten years was often baited and mocked by homophobes, but since he was white, I guess he should have just shut his slightly lisping mouth. And the several women I know who've experienced sickening levels of sexual harassment should have just smiled and turned the other cheek for another slap because blondes really do have more fun, right, sondrialiac? Be honest - they had it coming, didn't they?*

*Wow, being deliberately obtuse and misrepresenting people's arguments is as much fun as you make it look! But all the same, I think I'm done. If you want to tell all your landscaper and bus boy friends how well you stuck up for them and kicked some serious internet ass, knock yourself out.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 PM on July 31, 2008


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