Act like a drunk acting sober
August 24, 2004 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Tricks of the Trade. In an article in The Morning News, Defective Yeti asked readers to reveal the secrets of their profession:

Attorney: Do whatever it takes to fit your contracts onto a single page. Even sophisticated negotiators can be charmed by the lack of a staple.

Auto Mechanic: Always put copper grease on the battery terminals after servicing a car. The performance benefit is negligible, but when customers look under the hood they will immediately see that something’s changed and thus feel happy to pay you.

Handyman: If you have to change a light bulb where the glass is broken, you can press a potato into the metal base to unscrew the remains of the bulb from the fixture. Got any secrets to success or even just survival in your racket?
posted by planetkyoto (130 comments total)
Metafilter: Always think of something interesting to say. Otherwise, spend all morning searching the archives for a duplicate post, or at least be the first to reply.
posted by devbrain at 8:39 AM on August 24, 2004

Regarding this one:

Patients will occasionally pretend to be unconscious. A surefire way to find them out is to pick up their hand, hold it above their face, and let go. If they smack themselves, they’re most likely unconscious; if not, they’re faking."

I'm puzzled. Maybe it's because I've never been hospitalized, but: why would you want to pretend to be unconscious?
posted by kozad at 8:41 AM on August 24, 2004

Wow.... A great read, PlanetK. Interesting to see which tips are common sense and helpful and which are just creepily "tricky." And, now that I've typed that, I wonder if my reaction to the "Attorney" tip and others like it in the link is colored by a previous bias (culturally embedded in Americans)?
posted by mmahaffie at 8:44 AM on August 24, 2004

Why did you change "mechanic" to "handyman"?
posted by kenko at 8:46 AM on August 24, 2004

Ha! When I saw this post, before I read the article, I immediately thought: Just say 'XML'.
posted by jpoulos at 8:47 AM on August 24, 2004

why would you want to pretend to be unconscious?

Because you don't want the nurse to stick you with that big scary needle or ave the med student jam the catheter into your willy at 7 a.m.I can answer this one because I did this many times, having spent far too much of my childhood in the hospital.

On preview: Sorry, Kenko, I'm an editor, and it made more sense. Shouldn't have done it.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:48 AM on August 24, 2004

For more like this: Trade Secrets
I can reccomend it.

Vinyl Archivists:

You can get some clicks and pops out of old vinyl records by running a needle through them backwards. Put a coin on the headshell and use an old or unwanted needle, as it will become caked in matter.
posted by asok at 8:49 AM on August 24, 2004

In US speech, "mechanic" is rarely used to denote those who fix things around the house. I, for one, would have been puzzled to hear that the potato trick came from a "mechanic".

That potato trick makes me so happy--I have never been able to figure out how to remove broken lightbulbs easily. This is one of the most personally useful FPPs ever...thanks, planetkyoto!
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2004

Oooo, I like the auto mechanic one.

I think from now on I'll set user's computers to a different theme each time they get them serviced. Heh. :-)
posted by shepd at 9:37 AM on August 24, 2004

why would you want to pretend to be unconscious?

Or, you're a bum who doesn't want to be sent home. They frequently "sleep off" whatever they're on at emergency rooms, and are sent away when they wake up in the a.m.

Great link, btw!
posted by mkultra at 9:39 AM on August 24, 2004

I don't disagree that "handyman" is better than "mechanic". Hell, I learned that trick from my decidedly unmechanical, unhandy mother.
posted by kenko at 9:39 AM on August 24, 2004

I submitted this one. Way back in a former life when I was in medical school I was seeing patients with a wise old family doctor in a small town. One guy came in--he was well known as always being willing to avoid work if he could get a note from the doctor attesting to some physical problem. This time he swore he was deaf. The G.P., while discussing unrelated local matters with the patient, surreptitiously took a dime out of his pocket and tossed it toward the corner of the room behind the man's back. As soon as it hit the floor with a faint but recognizable tinkle the 'deaf' patient's head whipped around. It seems that turning your head in response to the sound of a dropped coin is a reflex which is difficult or impossible to consciously override. So, no note.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:43 AM on August 24, 2004

heh. Fortunately as a web developer my "software" source isn't usually examined but if it were no doubt the tester would find stuff like "//HACK MUST FIX LATER" all over the place.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:44 AM on August 24, 2004

Journalists: Since people are usually careful/guarded during an interview, leave lots of quiet spaces in between your questions. Many people have a natural urge to fill the silence, and this makes them say more than they originally planned to.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:49 AM on August 24, 2004

Cancer research functionary: Routinely fail to cure cancer.
posted by Skot at 9:53 AM on August 24, 2004

Help Desk: Have user reboot. Resume GameBoy activities.
posted by adampsyche at 9:56 AM on August 24, 2004

I'll vouch for the mechanic-to-handyman switch. It would've tripped a lot of us up to have "mechanic" right after "auto mechanic." Unfortunately, none of the other tips seemed to live up to the high standard set by the potato-light-socket one.
posted by soyjoy at 9:56 AM on August 24, 2004

White Collar Flunky: Carry a clipboard and walk fast. People will assume you are working very hard.
posted by etc. at 10:01 AM on August 24, 2004

posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:02 AM on August 24, 2004

when djing (with turntables and vinyl records) and you are getting sound problems out of one turntable like it's only coming out of the left side. 9 times out of 10 if you unscrew the needle and lick the back of the connectors of the cartridge this will fix the problem.
posted by LouieLoco at 10:02 AM on August 24, 2004

Help Desk: Have user reboot while you complete your notes.

Technical Writer: To see if you like the way a document is formatted, look at it upside down. White-space problems are more obvious that way.
posted by alumshubby at 10:03 AM on August 24, 2004

Waiter: Kneel down at the table when saying "hi" to be at eye level with the patrons; this makes them feel like you care. Stand back up when taking their order; this makes them feel like you're professional. Bring candy with the check. If the pay with a credit card, use their name, as in "Here's your check, Mr. Idiot." Make physical contact, like quick taps to the arm or pats of the shoulder. For instance, if they point to the menu as they order (many mouth-breathers will do this) place your hand on their shoulder and lean your cheek towards theirs so you can look at their menu and see what their pointing at, as if it wasn't a job requirement to have every word memorized. Smile. Alot. Laugh at their stupid fucking jokes. Don't stack dishes up your arm like you work at a diner: use a tray. Always tell someone who agonizes over the wine list that he made an excellent choice; especially if he's on a date.

Anybody who orders white zin will not tip; chalk this table up as a loss and spend your time with the tables likely to pay you. If someone asks you for a wine recomendation, the formula is age = price of bottle. You will kill yourself for the first few days trying to keep track of people's kids in an attempt to make the parents happy so they give you a good tip. Anybody who brings their kids to the resturaunt is too cheap for a babysitter and therefore certainly too cheap to tip well. They will give you a line like "sorry my stupid brat is such a stupid fucking brat, but its so hard to find a good babysitter." This is bullshit. Some people will drink lots of water as a way to punish you, because they are passive agressive assholes. Leave the pitcher on their table, as an act of passive aggressive defiance. Memorize the specials. People eat that up, for some reason. You will ring 5-10% more just by memorizing the specials; its unbelievable. Make a recomendation and a non-recomendation: "The duck is good, but I wouldn't serve the seviche to my dog." This makes people think you care.

Anybody tipping less than 15% clearly needs the money more than you do; the kind thing to do is to tell them so and give them their "tip" back. Not only is this charitable, but it sets an example for your other tables. As the waiter, you are the ringmaster, the cattle herder. Its important to keep the flock in line.
posted by ChasFile at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2004 [1 favorite]


1.) Never start a speech with a joke.
2.) If you do nothing else, flatter your audience.
3.) No one has ever complained that a speech was too short.
posted by Faze at 10:08 AM on August 24, 2004

Here's another medical one. In treating cataracts, the implantation of an artificial lens leaves the patient with vision that is suboptimal but better than what they'd have with advanced cataracts. If the operation is performed on a patient with early, mild cataracts that patient will notice that their vision is suddenly worse, and will be pissed off. So the patient is told the operation has to wait until the cataracts 'ripen'. There's no such thing as ripening of cataracts. But by the time the operation is finally done their vision will have deteriorated much further, so postoperatively the patient will experience their vision suddenly improved, and they will be satisfied.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:08 AM on August 24, 2004

A bar of soap works as well as the potato, and tends to be easier to find outside of a house with a well-stocked kitchen.
posted by bondcliff at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2004

I've used the "Graphic Designer" trick they suggest -- many, many times. And it works. But they're wrong about one thing: you shouldn't intentionally make the logo too large. The client always wants it bigger, so start out with it too small.

[on preview:] Damn, chas; I don't know what restaurant you used to work at, but it sure seems to have scarred you for life.
posted by ook at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2004

Chas - what the hell, that is weird. Two big paragraphs of the standard issue service-industry misanthropy and then "but give the tip money back to the po' people!"


Fun link, though!
posted by kavasa at 10:17 AM on August 24, 2004

ChasFile, There are pros and there are hacks.
posted by stbalbach at 10:18 AM on August 24, 2004

Here's another medical one. In treating cataracts, the implantation of an artificial lens leaves the patient with vision that is suboptimal but better than what they'd have with advanced cataracts. If the operation is performed on a patient with early, mild cataracts that patient will notice that their vision is suddenly worse, and will be pissed off. So the patient is told the operation has to wait until the cataracts 'ripen'.

OK, I'm missing something here...why the lie? Why would the doctor want to do the operation at an earlier time, when the surgery makes the vision worse? Why not just tell the patient, "we won't do the surgery now, becuase it would make your vision worse than what it is now, but your vision will get worse with time and at some point we'll want to do the lens replacement"?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:21 AM on August 24, 2004

People complained that the Gettysburg Address was too short.
posted by kenko at 10:22 AM on August 24, 2004

And how can you give the tip back? Track them down as they're leaving?
posted by kenko at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2004

Computer programmer: This is from a friend of a friend. He would insert short pauses into the code. Once it was rolled out, they would inevitably want to see what could be done to speed things up. Take out the pauses and voila.
posted by hootch at 10:29 AM on August 24, 2004

I am delighted when waitstaff leaves the pitcher of water on my table. I don't ask for more water to punish or annoy anyone--I do it because I'm thirsty.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:29 AM on August 24, 2004

DevilsAdvocate: that's probably what a lot of doctors say. Maybe I overgeneralized, but in some cases, with patients who are usually quite elderly, some physicians use the ripening explanation because they think the patient will find it easier to understand. Paternalism? Probably. And as I said in the previous comment my medical experience was a long time ago. Maybe it's gone by the wayside.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:34 AM on August 24, 2004

People complained that the Gettysburg Address was too short.
I think they were more puzzled than upset. They were anticipating something on the order of Edward Everett's two-hour stemwinder, and couldn't figure out why Lincoln didn't follow the conventional practice. But I don't think he lost any votes for being brief.
posted by Faze at 10:38 AM on August 24, 2004

I don't mind the water pitcher neither. I was out (with a mefite friend) a couple of weeks ago, and I asked the waitress for an extra-large glass of water, and the waitress literally laughed at me. (Note: This is bad form.)

I've chased people down to return low tips. If they're genuinely poor, it's only mildly embarrassing, but if the customer feels the restaurant didn't do a good job, you can at least get a why-and-wherefore out of them, which gives them the impression you actually give a shit.

It takes a bit of nerve, but there's not a lot of downside.

Another waiter's tip: always, always, always bring back change. Unless the customer specifically says to keep the tip, assume the financial transaction is not complete. In North America at least, the gratuity may be customary, but it is not a given. People generally know this, and you pointing it out removes the illusion, again, that you care about this particular customer.

You want to keep that lie going as long as possible.
posted by chicobangs at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2004

Web designers--always, always check grammar and spelling on prototypes. Users are incapable of looking past small errors and instead commenting on over-all concept and design elements.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:41 AM on August 24, 2004

White Collar Flunky: Carry a clipboard and walk fast. People will assume you are working very hard.

Similarly, from experience:

Factory maintenance worker: Always carry a wrench so you look like you're doing something, not goofing off.

Locksmith: If all you have to do is open their locked door with a credit card in five seconds flat, waste some time pretending to fiddle with the lock so it looks like you actually did something skillful. That way they'll be happier about paying the $$ you that have to charge for any service call.

Manual laborer with a stupid boss: Suggest doing the job the way you don't want to do it first, so your boss will tell you No. Then suggest the right way of doing the job in such a way that he thinks it was his idea.
posted by Shane at 10:45 AM on August 24, 2004

MrMoonPie: Or, just use Latin or Greek text. Keeps the nitpickers from magically becoming copy editors. It lets them focus on why they hate the color blue, or why the logo doesn't have a swish on it. :^)
posted by absquatulate at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2004

is it me, or does turtle's story sound a lot like the ending to an Encyclopedia Brown mystery?

and, i must say, that chas' first tip re: the eye level of patron to waiter, is a tip i also offer to all the high school teachers out there when they come to their students' individual aid or when they want to offer personal instruction during class.

it's something that was illustrated and suggested consistently by one of my professors in grad school and, while it was off- putting for me as a student at first, many of my students have commented on its equalizing value in the classroom.

(it also allows for a certain level of privacy during tests, quizzes if you don't want clarify without giving away a potential answer to the class).

i'll think of more teaching tricks soon...for now though, i'm going to get back to my end-of-the summer denial and this iced coffee.
posted by ronv at 10:54 AM on August 24, 2004

chicobangs - how in the world do you phrase it "Hey, it looks like you need this more than me, keep it"?

I can't imagine that would go over well.
posted by kavasa at 10:58 AM on August 24, 2004

kavasa, it's all in the delivery. Too much sarcasm or fuck-you and you might as well not bother.
posted by chicobangs at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2004

Exterminators: Go to a ritzy neighborhood, and find a house where there'll having a big party with a lot of swells. Sneak inside, and put cockroaches and mice all over the place. Wait out on the sidewalk, and when you start hearing screams from inside, ring the doorbell and offer your services. I got this from the Three Stooges.
posted by Faze at 11:08 AM on August 24, 2004


Half of your suggestions would, as a customer, piss me off, not make me tip you more. Your contempt for your customers is showing.
posted by jpoulos at 11:12 AM on August 24, 2004

Video clerk: Abuse the hand sanitizer.
posted by delapohl at 11:14 AM on August 24, 2004

Hrmm, if I didn't tip you, Chas, it's not because I need the money more than you, it's because you apparently got your waiter training at Applebees. And also because you touched me. Eww. Keep your hands to yourself.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2004

bondcliff: A bar of soap works as well as the potato, and tends to be easier to find outside of a house with a well-stocked kitchen.

I keep a well-stocked kitchen and, like you, store my soap in the garden. What a coincidence!!
posted by devbrain at 11:21 AM on August 24, 2004

MrMoonPie/absquatulate: Also, Lorem Ipsum works wonders.

Another waiter's tip: always, always, always bring back change.

Amen, chico. On at least one occasion, I've reduced a tip to zero because the waiter "assumed" I was including it when I paid (which amounted to a very generous tip). Ask, dammit, or just bring my change.
posted by mkultra at 11:24 AM on August 24, 2004

I remember reading that exact 'ripening cataract' story in one of the best Travis McGee novels, but written in the early 70's. Cataract treatment hasn''t progressed any since then?
posted by mojohand at 11:25 AM on August 24, 2004

Very Basic Speechwriting:

1. Tell them what you are going to tell them.
2. Tell them.
3. Tell them what you told them.

In addition I like to open with A Gripping Anecdote and close with The Gripping Anecdote's Ending And Moral.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2004

Ahhh, but devbrain, how often do you need to change lightbulbs in your garden?
posted by bondcliff at 11:30 AM on August 24, 2004

I worked at a radio station, and we had to open hundreds of obnoxiously sealed CDs per week. The trick to opening them fast is to take the CD by one of the ridged sides, and slide the other ridged side quickly against the edge of a desk or table. Nine times out of ten, the ridges will open the plastic for you without harming the case.

Then, if your CD has that white label with the name of the artist on the top edge, you can remove that quickly as well. The trick is to open the CD towards you while it is still "sealed" by the label. You do it by pulling gently on the tab that attaches the clear cover to the black tray on the bottom of the case. Pull out the tab, then pull the bottom of the clear cover up and over the top, which will still be attached to the case by the label. At this point you can easily peel off the label, using the clear cover as leverage.

With practice, you can get to where you can do both of these tricks in less than 5 seconds total.
posted by vorfeed at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2004

It takes a bit of nerve, but there's not a lot of downside.

I believe the Two Tony's would disagree with that assessment.
posted by sixpack at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2004

Used CD Store Clerk or DVD/Video store Rental:

1. Use Pledge and a soft rag to remove most dirt (fingerprints, smudges, etc.) Will fix 99% of skipping problems. (Remember to wipe the Pledge away by stroking from the center of the disc to the rim.)

2. Use lighter fluid to remove anything sticky (price tags from other stores, please rewind stickers, etc.).

3. Always open the case of the thing you're selling/renting to make sure the correct title is inside. Nothing is more infuriating to customers than getting home excited to watch 8 1/2 and finding 9 1/2 Weeks in the case. Check when titles are returned as well. Smart customers will also do this.

4. Do not play music or movies in the store with foul language or nudity. It makes the people browsing uncomfortable.
posted by dobbs at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2004

chas those are the worst 'tips' I've ever heard in my life. No wonder you're so obsessed with bad tips, it's because you're a terrible waiter.

You bad tipped the 'filter.
posted by cell divide at 11:43 AM on August 24, 2004


1. "Leveled" is much more important than "centered". If one has to be compromised, it should be the latter.
2. Pick out your best sign and stack it on top when the customer comes to take delivery. They will never, ever look at the second.
3. When going to install a sign, carry a black Sharpie. 85% of all cosmetic imperfections can be completely mollified with this one tool.
posted by cadastral at 11:45 AM on August 24, 2004

In re: The Potato Trick.

That which I tell you three times is true.
Make sure that the lamp is unplugged before using the Potato Trick.
Make sure that the lamp is unplugged before using the Potato Trick.
Make sure that the lamp is unplugged before using the Potato Trick. (live and learn, eh?)
posted by leapfrog at 11:46 AM on August 24, 2004

mojohand: I haven't been in medicine for a long, long time, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But it seems that cataract treatment has improved significantly in the past 20 or so years. The artificial lenses that are implanted are foldable, so they can be inserted via a much smaller incision, and they are multifocal; earlier lenses only worked at one distance, so that anything closer or farther was out of focus.

So maybe the cataract ripening tale can by resigned to the bin of hoary old chestnuts. Like the story that before the advent of thin rubber gloves physicians would scrape their fingernails across a bar of soap before doing rectal exams so as not to accumulate unwanted material under them...
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2004

posted by PigAlien at 12:01 PM on August 24, 2004

road tripper:

sleep at rest stops during the day in the winter and at night in the summer. stop for gas before the tank is empty. bring adequate water, soap or sanitizer for the gas stations without soap, and flip flops for the public showers.
posted by register at 12:10 PM on August 24, 2004

Chas -- I really hope your post was intended to be sarcastic. Your 'tips' are exactly the sorts of things that'll get you a big fat 50 cent tip if I'm your customer.

Taps on the arm or pats on the shoulder? Ick -- all I can say is you better be one seriously hot chick, or you're gonna end up with a sharp elbow to the groin in return.

posted by spilon at 12:16 PM on August 24, 2004

Thank you, leapfrog, you just made my day.
posted by kahboom at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2004

Journalist: If you want to write for a magazine, and you're wondering how you can get in, do NOT randomly email a writer or editor there and say, "Hey, I hear [insert magazine] is really cool -- what kinda articles do you guys run anyway?"

Read ten issues, familiarize yourself with the tone and purview of the magazine, come up with a specific idea for a piece that you could accurately predict would appear in the magazine even without you suggesting it, and then write that letter.
posted by digaman at 12:26 PM on August 24, 2004

Bookseller tip: If someone asks where a particular section is, ask what book they're looking for, because odds are, they won't be able to find the book and will have to come back to ask again later.
posted by drezdn at 12:29 PM on August 24, 2004

I'm with everyone else on the waiter-touching. When I waited tables, at several different restaurants, we were always told expressly NOT to touch the customers. I'm not a terribly touchy person anyway, but strangers giving me little familiar touches and taps kind of skeeve me.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:37 PM on August 24, 2004

I kid you not: if a server kneels when they come to my table, I automatically deduct five percent from their tip. I waited tables for three years during college. I eat at a lot of restaurants. Kneeling — or worse, sitting next to a customer at a table or booth — is tacky and, in many cases, condescending. There's never a need for it.

The best tip I can give foodservice personnel is to bring the customer what they order in a timely manner. Nothing else matters. I don't give a rat's ass if you look like you care about me and my order; I just want my food, and quickly.

Other sure-fire deductions from your tip: if I ask for "no butter" (which I do all the time) and you bring me butter, you're not doing your job. Don't blame the cook/chef. If I ask for a pitcher of water (which I do all the time) and you don't do it, you're not doing your job. If you don't come back to my table within a couple minutes of delivering the food, you're really not doing your job.

I tip well, but not to bozos.
posted by jdroth at 12:39 PM on August 24, 2004

Nothing pisses me off like a waitress who sits at my table. It's one step away from, "Wow, most of the guys in here are losers, but you guys look really cool!"
posted by jon_kill at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2004

digaman - Good advice. I've been trying to decide whether or not I think Salon would go for my new collection of short stories entitled "National Public Lunch Meat" - often vicious parodies that revolve around the commercialization and rightward drift of American public radio. But heck - Alterman's been working the territory. Why not ?
posted by troutfishing at 12:48 PM on August 24, 2004

No, the real waitron trick is to append "for you" to every sentence possible when you talk to the customer. Greatly increases tipping.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2004

Oh — and don't forget to say "we" every time you address your customers. "What are we having today?" That's a gem. Everyone loves that.
posted by jdroth at 1:09 PM on August 24, 2004

dude. the gratuity system doesn't exist for you to use it as a means for punishment.

it's there because *you owe* for the services that you received.

sadly, many people make excuses about the quality of the services they received to justify paying way under what they owe.

and even if you disagree with that, hey, why not cut servers a break, eh? why not give a little benefit of the doubt? if the service sucked, don't stiff them on the tip -- just resolve not to return.

what if your effective hourly wage was determined by perpetual job evaluations every five minutes?

I'm guessing there'd be a lot less posts in this thread, for one.

posted by fishfucker at 1:25 PM on August 24, 2004

perpetual probably should be a different word there. I'm guessing "recurring" or something of the sort.

oh. and interesting thread, folks.
posted by fishfucker at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2004


1. A woman decides within the first two minutes of meeting you whether or not she likes you "that way." Once this decision is made, there is nothing you can do to alter it, either way.

2. You get no extra points for being a feminist.
posted by Faze at 1:34 PM on August 24, 2004

To all the folks harshing on Chas, there was a study that proved most the points, particularly the eye level and the touching. Each little thing can actually increase your tip potential and many servers would agree.

"The golden touch In this golden age of political correctness, we may be taught to keep our distance and avoid even minor physical contact. But in the tipping game a gentle touch i.e. on the shoulder, was found to be good for the wallet, as were other non-verbal communication signs of liking such as crouching next to the table. In fact a Cornell University study found that when wait staff used slight touching, their tips averaged around 14.9% versus 11.5% where no touching was involved. The difference was even more pronounced among younger paying customers. " (also and here)
posted by shoepal at 1:36 PM on August 24, 2004

am i the only one that hates it when a waiter-type asks me if the food 'tastes alright' or 'how does everything taste' ? it makes me feel like screaming for some reason. almost like they want a sample or something. i want to stick my finger in it and go 'want some!@' wait-people, never ever say this please (to me at least) UGHHH!!
posted by c at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2004

my brother told me this one a few weeks ago...

hairstylist: when introducing a new cut/style/color to a client, always mention it three times. let him/her politely decline the first two times, and the third time they will invariably agree to go for it. also, touch the client when making the suggestions. it makes an intimate connection and they will trust you more.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2004

I enjoyed the article and followup comments here. For some reason I couldn't help but re-interpret the original tips, although I'm not sure what I've learned by doing so:

Actor - Do someting against intuition
Attorney - create false sense of simplicity
Auto Mechanic - Create false visual indicator of work done
Balloon-Twister - Let kids imagine things
Botanist - Duct tape as pest control, inaccurate measuring, no monkeys
Butcher - Gossip about customers
Cardboard Box Flattener - whack don't punch
Cartographer - falsify data to catch copycats
Clarinetist - make sure you can see what you're doing
Desktop Support - insult customers
Forester - let others get stung and do the work
Graphic Designer - create false sense of involvement
Jeweler - add foil for sparkle
Juggler - mess-up so you seem earnest
Landscape Architect - mislead with terminology
Lounge Pianist - avoid drunks
Massage Therapist - don't make clients nude
Mechanic - potato as tool
Newspaper Headline Writer - use a verb
Nurse - make non-fakers hit themselves
Paramedic - avoid paperwork
Photographer - call dogs "cats"
Piano Salesman - try to guess favorite song
Proofreader - read upsidedown
Software Tester - look at code
Street Performer - no need to perform
Technical Support - falsify suggestions to avoid patronizing
Waitress - lie to customers
Wedding Coordinator - people swell when nervous
posted by tr3pleshot at 1:52 PM on August 24, 2004

"How is everything for you tonight?"

Sweet Baal, how I hate it when a wait-one says that.

"I'm not happy about the poor people in Portugal, and I've got a bad twinge in my right hip, but THANK GOD my pork tenderloin isn't maggotty..."

No, I don't say that.

Faze, 1) is so absolutely wrong in my experience and those of my close female friends. I didn't decide about my husband until halfway through our second date, which was the third time we met each other.

And 2) isn't quite accurate, either. Men do get points from intelligent women for treating women with the same respect they treat men. They don't, however, get points for spouting feminist dogma while expecting their mother to do their laundry.

posted by Sidhedevil at 1:54 PM on August 24, 2004

Music journalist: Lester Bangs, Nick Kent et al wrote and interviewed while under the influence. You, however, should not.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:13 PM on August 24, 2004

Hmm, I don't know if I want to weigh in on the waiting tables issue. It seems that this thread is as extreme as the last time anyone critiqued the interaction between servers and customers. Servers seem to come off as scarred and jaded while customers sound over-expectant and demanding. I recently vented about waiting tables and I was surprised how negative the reaction was.

Everyone has been a customer, and as a customer they judge the server's performance. Any attempt to reverse that relationship is vehemently contested. The truth is, however, that many people are bad at being customers. They don't have the capacity to really judge what the quality of the server's work. So they nitpick. They use tips as a punishment and reward system. They rationalize their behavior and say "I spend alot of money here" even if they don't.

While many people are bad customers, most are really quite nice and in return, receive a nice experience. Being a customer is one of those situations where you get what you gave. Just as the server must gain some trust from the customer, the customer must gain the trust of the server. The relationship between the server and the customer isn't a top down hierarchy - it's a symmetrical one. The server has information, the customer has the desire to use the information. This is all off-the-cuff here, but think of Jacques and his Master by Diderot.

So servers, don't touch the customers. Customers, don't ask the server's name. The server should let the customer get the meal they want, while the customer should allow the server to do their job in an efficient manner.

At the end of the day It's not about tips or who is doing who's job; it's about good meals in a positive atmosphere.

But this thread is about tips, as in hints, so

•Don't touch
•Smile and make eye contact
•Repeat the order back to the customer to avoid misunderstanding
•If you are being flagged down, but are busy with other tables, duties, etc, let the customer know you see them and will be coming to their assistance
•Try not to look at the tips until the end of the shift, it doesn't help anything and only serves to distract. At the end of the night you'll have made money even if the crotchety tables undertip

•Don't ask for names
•Ask questions about things you are interested in ordering, but if the place is busy, do not ask about every item on the menu
•If you are in a nice place, let the server suggest dishes and wines - they often know what is fresh and well prepared, as well as what wines are best matched to the meals and are ready to drink.
•Tip according to the bill. %15 is fine. %20 if you really liked the service. Don't use tips passive aggressively. If service is so bad you feel compelled to stiff the server, ask for a manager or a card from the restaurant and write a letter.

I hope this doesn't come off as too bitter. I'm just putting forth my opinion on the issue.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:42 PM on August 24, 2004

A bar of soap works as well as the potato, and tends to be easier to find outside of a house with a well-stocked kitchen.

Er...what would you consider a poorly-stocked kitchen, then?
posted by waldo at 2:48 PM on August 24, 2004

My tips:

1. Home Painter: When painting, remember that many mops and brooms have sticks which can be unscrewed from their heads and screwed into a paint roller. This can save you money if you don't mind a paint-speckled mop handle, or can help you out if your landlord gives you paint supplies, but not quite enough (which happened to me).

2. Newspaper Boy or Office Worker: If you have to take the (usually yellow) plastic band off of a stack of newspapers or a box copier/printer of paper, find where the two ends of the band are glued together and twist the band so that you can now see its underside. It's much easier to grab one end of the band from there and yank it apart because there's usually more of a lip underneath and because the twist gives the band more tension than doing it from the top. Also, it's much, much better than trying to shimmy the whole still-connected band down the length of the bundle or box.

3. Computer Consultant: If a user complains about a computer being slow, you can make them think you sped it up by increasing the mouse tracking speed, increasing the key repeat rate, and increasing the cursor blink rate. You can also often get away with reducing the monitors colors, which can make screen elements redraw faster.

4. Dictionary-Makers: Users are interested in new words even though most words are new to most people. This is why dictionary makers put things like "10,000 New Words!" on the cover. However, "10,000 New Words!" doesn't necessarily mean "10,000 more words." It usually means, "We also took 10,000 words out to make room for the new ones." Also, you can quickly judge the quality of a dictionary by looking up two words: "fuck" and "Internet." Fuck will ensure that the dictionary does not shy aware from controversial subjects, that it has not been bowdlerized, and that it's fairly comprehensive. "Internet" will help ensure the dictionary is recent, since a surprising number of cheap dictionaries, particularly pocket dictionaries are merely reprints of the out-of-copyright 1913 Webster's or other not-recent dictionaries. (You might substitute "computer" for "Internet", but many dictionaries from the Seventies will also have that word.)

5. Wine Connoisseur: Knowing nothing else about a wine, you can improve your chances of it being decent if you check the label to make sure the wine was bottled by the same people who grew the grapes. If the name of the vintner and the "bottled by" are not the same, don't buy it.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:55 PM on August 24, 2004

Technical Support - falsify suggestions to avoid patronizing

It's more like: avoid allowing users to lie to you. The number one rule of tech support is that users lie(either intentionally or through omission). Not all users but enough to make you want to pull your hair.

Therefor if you suspect the users printer is unplugged have them unplug and plug in both ends to "reset the connectors". At which point they find that the quick glance they gave the unplugged cable was insufficient. They get to save face by pretending the cable reseat was all that was required and you didn't have to spend ten minutes to walk across campus to plug in a printer cable.
posted by Mitheral at 2:58 PM on August 24, 2004

Ha! When I saw this post, before I read the article, I immediately thought: Just say 'XML'.

And then explain that there is a yet another Java framework that handles the abstraction layer.
posted by Ayn Marx at 3:13 PM on August 24, 2004

To all the folks harshing on Chas, there was a study that proved most the points

The level of service in most restaurants is so bad. There are pros and there are hacks. Most are hacks. Pros get professional training.
posted by stbalbach at 3:14 PM on August 24, 2004

i agree with Sidhevil over Faze on point 1 (women can definitely be convinced in any time after 2 minutes, but certainly, some men might be completely SOL in that time (or less).)

and i like it when a waitress sits down next to me. i mean, what the fuck is she doing? "hey, how's it going?" how can anyone not like that? (i'm serious.) it's like "you guys thought you were having lunch? i'm fucking crashing the party!" i wish i knew that trick when i waited. it's a genuine stunner.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:15 PM on August 24, 2004

Advice for technical writers:

Write everything in active, present tense. i.e. "Do this. This happens."

Break complex tasks down into steps which contain a location, task, and result, such as "On the navigation console, press and hold the Engage button for three seconds. The Engaged light illuminates."

The concept of "chunking" is essential. Large writing projects are intimidating, so the first, best step is to break the project down into smaller steps by creating a rough outline.

If creating an outline has you stumped, find documentation for something similar and document its outline... then replace and add sections, as needed.

You'll need to get feedback from SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) in a timely manner -- a fact that must be stressed at all project meetings, the earlier into a project, the better. Establish a timeline that keeps them responsible and accountable for your success. Make it clear that failure to provide you with X by Y equals Z.

Learn what kind of snacks, drinks, and food that your SMEs like. Casually arrive at their desks with appropriate bribes, and stock your desk with appropriate treats. Soon they'll start seeking you out instead.

If SMEs seem to have no time, schedule a work lunch. Get something that they like, but order the food in. Work lunches in restaurants usually aren't.

Be sure to Google the subject matter ahead of time. This will help you to ask SMEs good questions proactively and promptly.

Don't depend on SMEs to be detail-oriented -- or, indeed, accurate -- about how the product works. The documentation only works when you can sit down with the documentation and the product and easily, reliably make it work.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:23 PM on August 24, 2004

Medical professionals:

Sit down when listening to patient, it makes it seem to them like you're spending more time with them. Most often you end up spending less time with them.

Don't let a patient walk away without them having a sense that something was accomplished. Even if it just means telling them an aspirin or applying a band-aid when they don't need it.
posted by McBain at 3:34 PM on August 24, 2004

The eye-level trick also works well when meeting small children.

Also, Lorem Ipsum works wonders.

I used Lorem Ipsum on a web site comp recently and my client freaked out. They were angry that I didn't use the actual text of the page the comp represented, even though it was being revised along with the redesign.

If the pay with a credit card, use their name, as in "Here's your check, Mr. Idiot."

I'm aware of this trick so it normally wouldn't affect how I tip, although the most recent time someone did this they awkwardly read my name to me off the credit card and mispronounced it.

Tip according to the bill. %15 is fine. %20 if you really liked the service

That's what I do, but what the difference between tipping more if the service is good and less if the service is bad?
posted by kirkaracha at 3:47 PM on August 24, 2004

Moving? Can't find and pick the end of that thin plastic tape free to start unwinding it? Get a sharp knife or razor blade and cut anywhere across the tape two or three layers. Then dig into the cut with your fingernails and start peeling. The first part will be more than one layer thick, but once you reach single tape layer you can cut that off.

(I am justly proud of this stupid little household hint because I invented it two weeks ago.)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:56 PM on August 24, 2004

1. A woman decides within the first two minutes of meeting you whether or not she likes you "that way." Once this decision is made, there is nothing you can do to alter it, either way.

I couldn't disagree more with the second sentence. Utterly false.

The eye-level trick also works well when meeting small children.

Dogs, too.
posted by dobbs at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2004

Ok, as far as opening CD wrappers goes, just get the magic tool and you'll not only never break a CD, but you'll open them faster than ever before. Don't bitch that your college radio station can't afford it. You should be able to beg $2 from someone to buy that.

As far as tips go, you, as a waiter, aren't paid well. We know that as customers. That's why we pay extra. However, if you give crap service, then you don't get much tip. Don't like it? QUIT!

And, if you don't ask me during my meal if I like it / need anything / whatever, you get a crap tip. I tend to drink a lot during a meal, and rarely does it look good to just order two drinks for yourself. So, I always ask for a refill. If you didn't ask me if I needed service during the meal, though, I end up thirsty, since it's tough to flag you down.

Thirsty people pay poorly.

And I'm not being passive agressive. I just like to drink lots of water/soda/juice/whatever. I drink the same amount in your restaurant as I drink at home.

If you want more than 15% tip, just leave the water pitcher with me. :-)

Please, if I didn't leave a tip, ASK ME WHY instead of spitting in my next meal. I'm human, and sometimes it's because I actually forgot. Because I'll be embarassed I'll probably leave a whole lot more than 25% to cover up for my mistake. If it's because you were a poor waiter, you'll be told what you need to do if you want to get my money next time.

insomnia_lj, you are so right on technical books. Can you talk to the people at the various semiconductor companies and get them to write datasheets like that? I'm tired of things like:

"If input X is connected with a +5 volt level from output Y, during which time input CLK receives 25 negative edge clock pulses, and neither input /ENA or /ENB are active, the output Z should repeat the same result as found on output P XORed with output Q, when input D is in an active state."

Must. Pull. Hair. Out.

There's exceptions to the credit card rule. For example, one of our customers is named "Assman". Better to avoid saying it than finding out how he pronounced it to get through high school. [For the record, he pronounced it "Azzmun'].
posted by shepd at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2004

Copy editors: Memorize and quote John Benbow's "If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad." It's both true and disarming.

I was going to take ChasFile to task, but jpoulos, jacquilynne, cell divide, spilon, and others did a good job, so: what they said. And just for emphasis: don't touch me.

(And I don't understand all the bitter waiters who keep saying how much they hate customers and how customers should give them huge tips because they fucking deserve it. You may very strongly feel that way, but my reaction as a non-waiter is to think "Fuck you, buddy." Don't worry, I tip 15%-20%, but you don't make it easier.)

Mo Nickels: I understand what you're trying to say, but it's about on the same level of brute approximation as "don't order French wines" -- which is probably good advice for the novice but could give a very wrong idea.
posted by languagehat at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2004

I should point out that, in the US, the minimum salary for waitstaff is set below other minimum wages under the assumption that the waitstaff will be getting tips of "10-15%".

So, "tipping less for bad service" actually means "reducing the waitperson's salary", whereas "tipping more for good service" represents an actual reward.

I, for one, would prefer it if waitstaff were paid a decent salary and this whole "tip" business disappeared forever, but until that happens, I always tip 15% unless I am so angry about the bad service I received that I want to complain to the manager.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:14 PM on August 24, 2004

"insomnia_lj, you are so right on technical books . . . I'm tired of things like "If input X is connected with a +5 volt level from output Y, during which time input CLK receives 25 negative edge clock pulses..."

The best way to handle IF statements in technical writing is usually to refer people to other steps or charts for the correct information. Charts are especially useful when you are dealing with multiple IF/AND/OR statements like you are referencing.

Most documentation I've seen like that occurs when engineers are assumed to be capable of writing about the products that they create. They usually lack the skills, however. Then again, there are plenty of technical writers who can write, but who don't understand enough about technology to spot potential problems and errors in what they write.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:56 PM on August 24, 2004

am i the only one that hates it when a waiter-type asks me if the food 'tastes alright' or 'how does everything taste' ?

I hate that! It implies that there is a need to check that things are okay. IMO, if they're doing their job back there in the kitchen, they should know that it is okay.

Any waiter/waitress that slides into my booth had best be prepared to pay the bill. WTF?! Get outta here, you're not my goddamn friend!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 PM on August 24, 2004

I should point out that, in the US, the minimum salary for waitstaff is set below other minimum wages under the assumption that the waitstaff will be getting tips of "10-15%".

Well, if they're just making minimum wage, they make 3.02 less than other minimum wage earners. If they have 3 tables an hour with an average meal cost of $20(and if you're not doing at least that much then there's really no excuse for bad service), they only need to make 5% in tips to get up to minimum wage. At 15%, they're actually making more than $11/hour or more than twice what most wage slaves are pulling in. Plus in my experience most wait staff don't report and so don't get taxed on all of their tips (though I've heard the feds have been going after them on that).

Those wages still aren't all that great, and I wouldn't sign up to be a waiter if I had an option that appealed to me more, but if you can't keep my water glass full or leave me sitting there for 10 minutes waiting for you to bring me my check well, let's not forget that Tips are To Insure Prompt Service, and I'm not crying to hard if your inability to perform the task means you make 1 1/2 times what the gardener makes instead of twice.
posted by willnot at 5:12 PM on August 24, 2004

Computer Hardware Technician: You'd be stunned how many hardware problems go away just by re-seating stuff. If that doesn't work, try plugging the cards or RAM into a different slot.

Oh, and "Cardboard Box Flattener" -- WTF kind of job is that?
posted by krisjohn at 5:34 PM on August 24, 2004

See also The Two Things.
posted by abcde at 5:46 PM on August 24, 2004

Plus in my experience most wait staff don't report and so don't get taxed on all of their tips (though I've heard the feds have been going after them on that).

from an anecdotal source (my friend, who makes his living as a server): in california at least, it's assumed that you make 15% -- if you leave less than that, it's possible that your server is actually losing money by waiting on you. Tips aren't a free tax break.

well, let's not forget that Tips are To Insure Prompt Service

No. (snopes).
posted by fishfucker at 8:09 PM on August 24, 2004

i should mention that the taxing of tips is relatively new -- within the last ten years, at least, so some people might not be familar with it. To give you an idea of how important tips are to a servers take-home think about this: typically my friend's actual wages go entirely to taxes -- he gets a check for about $50 or so every two weeks. Most of the money that actually winds up in his bank account are from tips. Apparently, servers at more expensive restaurants will actually get pay stubs that show them OWING money because the taxes ended up being greater than their wages.

Servers *could* get another job, i suppose, but then you'd have to get your own damn water, right? 'course, maybe that's why you're getting bad service already -- because waiting tables isn't paying enough for people to really make sure they do a stand-out job. think about how hard a job serving actually is -- already in this thread we've had folks say that servers won't get a tip if they don't bother to ask how everything is, and folks say that they won't get a tip if they do.

anyhow. i'll shut up now. sorry for the digression.
posted by fishfucker at 8:18 PM on August 24, 2004

Bartender: If the customer doesn't taste the alcohol on the first sip, they will think you poured a weak drink. When making a drink for a woman, first pour the liquor and then the mix. For a man pour the mix first and float the liquor on top. Generally, women will drink through the straw and men will ditch the straw and drink from the rim of the glass. Also, unless it would be just wrong, ie. G&T or martini, ladies love a cherry.
posted by roboto at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2004

Biopharmaceutical Associate: Don't get phosphoric acid in your eye. Just don't.
posted by iamck at 9:04 PM on August 24, 2004

Porn: Don't ask your partner out on a date while working. It's bad form and likely will turn them off and ruin the scene.

Condoms: Put lube on the inside of a condom, a few drops will do ya, before putting it on. The lube will increase the sensation for the guy and make him less likely to get distracted by the condom.
posted by filchyboy at 10:03 PM on August 24, 2004

I may not agree with everything said about waiting tables, but I will agree with the statement that everyone who eats out in a resturant should work in one for a week or two.

Tech support: When you are out of ideas, ask more questions.

When was the last time it worked correctly?
What changed since then?
Did you install any new software/hardware?
Did you sign-up for or click "yes" to anything while surfing the internet?

Because people don't understand computers as well as most techs (I find this to be the case more often than the lying), they need more prompts to remind them of things they have done that might have broken something. Usually, this line of questioning will lead you to the answer post-haste.

And msconfig is your friend. Startup items suck.
posted by jopreacher at 10:29 PM on August 24, 2004

Music: For wall warts for keyboards, permanently attach them to an extension cord with duct tape.

For Video Editing: Always tell your boss that it will take at least an 25% as long as you think it will probably take. If it takes longer, blame the computer.

Freelance writing: Don't drink sparks when you do it.
posted by drezdn at 11:04 PM on August 24, 2004

I don't give a damn, for the most part, what my waitron does — he/she gets 20% rounded up, unless maybe it takes more than 20 minutes to get my check (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on the food and assume it's the kitchen's fault). However ... touching me? Are there places where waiters actually do this? I have never had a waiter touch me and if I did, we wouldn't be talking about the motherfucking tip because I'd be walking out. My friends don't touch me, my fucking grandma doesn't touch me, and you sure as hell don't touch me.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:05 PM on August 24, 2004

Whoa. No hugs for Ishmael any more!

I spent this evening waiting an hour and a half for my dinner order to be fulfilled. I was not a happy camper.

Housebuying: Cough up the bucks for a home inspection. I recommend Post to Pillar, whom I just dealt with. Wowser. Money and time well spent!

Cooking: Ignore the recipe and do what feels right. And add more garlic.

Sex: Unless you've mutually agreed on a quick fuck, more foreplay is more better.

Laminate Flooring: Tap gently. Do Not Bang.

Wiring: Wear dry leather gloves. Can't hurt you, might prevent you from hurt.

Hanging Pictures: When in doubt, eye-level. Don't make your viewers strain their necks.

Life: Be mellow. It's all good.

Oh, and the one I learned tonight: In Thai cooking, that thing that looks like a large okra just might be a large bloody hot chili. I'ma pay for that one tomorrow morning...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 PM on August 24, 2004

Everything - never underestimate the motivational power of candy. As a programmer, I had a group of users who wouldn't give me feedback if i stuck burning bamboo skewers under their fingernails. Then I offered a bounty of one candy bar per bug reported in a beta test and suddenly had 20 people avidly trying to break my product.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:06 AM on August 25, 2004

tungstenchef wins!
posted by joedan at 4:24 AM on August 25, 2004

am i the only one that hates it when a waiter-type asks me if the food 'tastes alright' or 'how does everything taste' ?

In all fairness, having worked in as a server for eight years, we were REQUIRED to ask that. I hated asking as much as people hate being asked, but we had secret shoppers who came in regularly and if we did not asked, we were docked points. In the restaurants where we did NOT have secret shoppers, we were required to ask, because if we did not ask on even just ONE table, that table would eat up ALL of their food and then COMPLAIN, saying it was cold, not fresh, sucked, whatever, and they wanted their money back. The manager would ask the server, did you check back on that table? And if the server had not done so, the manager was basically required to refund the money as the patron had no chance to get theire food reheated, exchanged, whatever. Asking if everything is okay is a way of insuring ourselves against the many people who are just looking for a free meal (and believe me, they are out there).

Just go easy on your servers. I have made shit wages at some jobs, and obscene amounts of money at others, but regardless, it's hard fucking work.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:53 AM on August 25, 2004

This whole tipping thing in the US is bizarre. Effectively, the management of a restaurant are pulling a fast one and they are the ones to blame for underpaying waiting staff, knowing they will then browbeat or shame customers into parting with more money.

I would rather a waiter was paid well enough and the price of my food was put up accordingly - at least then I could judge the restaurants I can afford to live it. (Of course, given the general mark-up on restaurant meals, restaurant managers are just ripping the piss anyhow, can comfortably afford to pay waiters what they're worth but don't.)

In the UK (where I used to live) and here in Spain, it's different - waiters are paid enough (debatably, of course - but they're not paid lowly with the *expectation* that customers will pay the rest of their salary) and a tip is a bonus for good service.

Oh, and touch me, lose your hand...
posted by benzo8 at 5:12 AM on August 25, 2004

Of course, given the general mark-up on restaurant meals, restaurant managers are just ripping the piss anyhow

This is a common misunderstanding. Food is typically around 25% of the cost of running a restaurant; rent, labor costs, garbage collection, &c &c are in aggregate far more significant. But the only income they have is from your meal, so of course they have to mark it up considerably. What gripes me is the wine markup, typically at least 200%, which is not only offensive but unproductive -- restaurants that take a more reasonable markup on wine (and offer a good selection under $30 a bottle, and offer a good selection by the glass, and even the occasional half-bottle) find they sell more of it.

five fresh fish: I couldn't help noticing that some of your other tips could apply to sex as well.
Ignore the recipe and do what feels right.
Tap gently. Do Not Bang.
Be mellow. It's all good.

I dunno about the dry leather gloves, though.

everyone who eats out in a resturant should work in one for a week or two

Oh, don't be ridiculous. What, and everyone who reads a newspaper should spend a week or two as a reporter, an editor, a photographer, and a delivery boy before being allowed to enjoy the product? If you're working in a restaurant, your job is to serve people their meal and keep them reasonably happy while doing so. Their only reciprocal obligation is to tip you decently and not be an asshole to you. They do not need to understand the intricacy and difficulty of your task; they do not, in fact, need to think about you at all. They're there to eat (and maybe get laid later on). If you want to be understood and cared about, get a Significant Other.
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on August 25, 2004

If an attractive member of the opposite sex has established rapport with you, is it then ok for them to touch in a non-threatening manner? I live in Bermuda. Beyond touching, it is socially acceptable to call members of the opposite sex 'Sweetheart', 'Honeybunch', 'Darling', etc. Both men and women do this in a non-patronizing / non-sexist manner. It is flattering, unthreatening, and simply fun.

What I am more concerned about is what the chef / cook has been touching.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:43 AM on August 25, 2004

jopreacher I agree totally. What I was getting at was users often need prompting to tell you "Oh ya, now that you mention it, I did install Gator the day before my internet broke" Which refutes the original "My internet is broken. It just stopped working".
posted by Mitheral at 7:58 AM on August 25, 2004

Jesus God. Maybe the proliferation of bad restaurant service out there is directly related to how many drama queen diners are freaking out over really silly things.
posted by Skot at 8:43 AM on August 25, 2004

I hate [waiters asking if food is OK]! It implies that there is a need to check that things are okay. IMO, if they're doing their job back there in the kitchen, they should know that it is okay.

I couldn't disagree more. Taste is a subjective thing. What is a perfect crawfish etouffee to me is far too spicy for my mother; the one that she likes seems bland to me. Chefs, no matter how good, do not know the individual tastes of the diners in the restaurant. Thus, it is necessary for the waiter to ask if the food is OK, no matter how good your chefs are.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:18 AM on August 25, 2004

I certainly see the point of the "dry leather gloves," but my all-purpose hand covering of choice is still latex gloves. The kind that you get at Home Depot in boxes of a hundred for less than $10. Not only do they protect your hands, but you can feel what you are handling. I like this for gardening, cleaning, and whatnot.

Oh, and should I discover something too spikey for latex gloves, leather gloves can slip right over them.
posted by ilsa at 9:23 AM on August 25, 2004

CD opening: a thumbtack/pushpin will work in a pinch.
posted by timothompson at 10:57 AM on August 25, 2004

I think that a lot of the issues about touching, kneeling, sitting down, etc. are really dependent on what kind of restaurant you are at. Noisy sportsbar/hotspot? The waiter may need to get right next to you to be able to hear your order, which is the first step towards not screwing it up. Quiet, upscale restaurant? On a date? A cute waitress getting too friendly with the guy (or a waiter with the girl) could ruin the whole evening. Waiters probably wouldn't be very welcome at any sort of professional/business meals either. Cheapo chain restaurant? i.e Applebees, Chilis, Tchotchkes, Hooters?!? if you walk into one of these places and expect not to be patronized, touched, flirted with, etc. then you are clearly in the wrong restaurant. Actually, if you want decent food, service, ambiance, etc. you are in the wrong restaurant. And i've never been a server but I bet they don't want to be your buddy any more than you want to be theirs, so be sympathetic, you're the one that chose to eat there - they may not have been able to get a job anywhere else.

FWIW I generally tip 20-25%, and here are my tricks:

Bar Patron: If you are staying for more than one drink, always use a credit/debit card and keep an open tab. Doing the mental tip calculation once at the end of the night is way easier than trying to find the right number of singles every time you want a new drink, especially in a dark/crowded bar. It also makes the bartender remember you, as he has to ask (or remember) your name everytime you get a drink.

Bartenders - If a customer asks for change, give them enough singles to tip you well. I recently gave a $20 bill for a 13 dollar tab, and the bartender gave back two ones and a five. Normally I would have left a $3 tip but instead I just gave them back the two ones.

Bar/Restaurant Patron - When calculating your tip at the end of the night, double the total, divide by ten, then round up. e.g.
total: 23.62
doubled: ~47
/10: 4.7
rounded up: $5 tip
Don't bother worrying what percentage it ends up being, just know that it's over 20. If service is especially good, add another dollar or two for good measure. For poor service, you can round down and you'll usually end up somewhere in the 15% range.
posted by rorycberger at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2004

shepd: We had several of the magic tools. Your mileage may vary, but we found that when opening many CDs, the desk trick is faster.
posted by vorfeed at 1:18 PM on August 25, 2004

you can press a potato into the metal base to unscrew the remains of the bulb from the fixture.

Having seen this yesterday, I was thrilled when my kid, getting ready for bed, just came and told me the light bulb had broken off in his bedside lamp. After (yes, leapfrog) unplugging everything, I tried and tried and tried but couldn't get the potato to work — maybe because the bulb was completely broken off.

I ended up bending back the top of the screw thread with a Vise-Grip, and that did the trick. Only now my kid has a bedside light that smells like a potato.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:39 PM on August 25, 2004

...we were REQUIRED to ask that. I hated asking as much as people hate being asked, but we had secret shoppers who came in regularly and if we did not asked, we were docked points.

This is true in retail chains as well. I worked at a Waldenbooks way back when and we were instructed to walk the floor and approach customers, asking them "Can I help you with anything?" As a customer, I always found this insulting and intrusive - like the salesperson thinks you're trying to steal something. As a salesperson, it made me feel intrusive and stalker-ish.

My approach to customers is to say "Hello, if you need any help finding anything, let me know". Try to give people as much space as possible and only approach them when they had that puzzled look on their face. Circulate the store a bit when you have an actual task to do (like putting books on the shelf) and while doing that, scan for people who seem to be intently searching for something and ask them if they need help. All of the other folks, the ones who seem to be casually browsing, give them their space. If someone is upset or angry about another salesperson's service, apologize and ask if you can help them with what they need.

This generally did the trick when the secret shoppers did their rounds. The only thing I ever got dinged on was wearing a blank nametag, which I did because I was constantly getting hit on by male customers, some of whom would occasionally call the store asking for me, come by on my off days looking for me etc.. A blank name tag let people know that I worked there while repelling letches like garlic repels vampires.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:10 PM on August 25, 2004

I assure all waitstaff, if there is something so wrong with my meal that I would respond with a complaint when asked if everything is OK, I will let you know about it even if you don't ask me!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:53 PM on August 25, 2004

Ask, dammit, or just bring my change.

No. Don't ask. Just bring my change, dammit.

I was out (with a mefite friend) a couple of weeks ago, and the waitress, who had been brusque and 'tude-laden all evening, asked "Do you need change?"

My instinctual response to that is something along the lines of "Goddamn right I do -- that's my money, and it's my decision how much of it to give to you. Don't presume it to be yours."

(Fortunately I have learned to control some of my instincts.)

But it's still obnoxious. I'm a pretty good tipper, but a tip, even though expected, is still up to me to determine. If you ask me if I need my change, the tip amount will go down.

Trust me -- if I've calculated your tip and given you enough cash for the bill + tip, I will either a.) let you know that I don't need change, or b.) leave the cash and bill on the table, catching your eye as I go out the door.
posted by Vidiot at 11:03 PM on August 25, 2004

Asking if the customer wants change is basically saying, "am I all done with you now?" I get really annoyed when, after paying, the waitperson no longer pays any attention to me. Particularly after I have tipped him or her well. I am a good tipper and usually tip 20% minimum. I have also worked as a waitstaff. Until your customer walks out of the restaurant, he is still your customer. Like Vidiot says, I will tell the waitron if they need to bring me change or not.
posted by PigAlien at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2004

Yesterday I bought a carton of milk at the PDQ. It came to $.99, and I gave the clerk a dollar. He took it, said thank you, and then just stood their. When I gave him a quizzical look, he asked, "Oh, do you want your penny?" before he gave it to me.

Now, I recognize that many people don't want their one cent back, and only put it into the leave a penny/take a penny jar. I've no problem with that. My pennies just end up in a change jar until I can get to the bank. But what shocked me is that he just made the assumption not to give it to me. I've never been not offered my change before, no matter how paltry the amount.
posted by kayjay at 1:45 PM on August 26, 2004


Carry a lighter and use it to light your patrons' ciggs. We smokers like that and remember it when it comes to settling the bill.

Make sure that your tables/bar has ashtrays. We smokers hate to use the floor, especially when we know that you have a stock of ashtrays available for our use. Bringing an ashtray with a pack of matches will be remembered.

Remember what your customers like. If I come to your bar often, then you should know what I drink and how to make it my way. For some reason it's easier to remember what someone drinks than remembering their name.

Do not bring the bill and say "I just want to let you know that gratuity is not included" like the biatch at The Newsroom (Minneapolis). What you are really saying is you think that I'm cheap and/or tacky enough not to tip. What you've accomplished is insulting me and not getting a tip.
posted by Juicylicious at 1:19 PM on August 27, 2004

Two things about film / video production:
1. Sound is the most important technical element.
2. Tell a story.
posted by jazzkat11 at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2004

Only now my kid has a bedside light that smells like a potato.

That gave me a good laugh.
posted by jazzkat11 at 11:50 AM on August 28, 2004

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