Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Tipping Etiquette Revistited
Those outside of Utah may be surprised to know that Utahns are OBSESSED with Mexican food.
Now before you non-Utahns allow your heads to explode, I'll qualify that statement with the KIND of Mexican food we 'Tahns love: we love practically spice-free, cheese-laden, super-cheap "Mexican" food. We line up in herds each night for tortillas you could wrap around your head and "salads" with enough melted cheese on it to make nachos blush. This classification is such a far cry form the original goodness of foods like carne asada and carnitas, a "true" Mexican food fan would tear up and throw their plate of Mexican-Wannabe food to the ground.
So in my hankering the other night for some quality Mexican-Wannabe food, Shug and I found ourselves at a local fave, La Puente. La Puente is the kind of place where for under $20, you and your date can eat enough to last until next Thursday. If you drink the firewater, you'll still get outta there for under $20, with just a few less leftovers.
There's a little quirk about many Utahns: they don't know/don't want to know/pretend not to know how to tip. The average gratuity for a meal of, oh say, $20 is around 2 bucks...yes, 200 pennies...for waiting on a table of Utahns whose sour cream needs could not be satiated with five extra sides brought throughout the course of their meal.
Those who know me well also know of my dependence on the service industry. I've paid my way through school a few times with tips and gratuities. I'm STILL a slave to this industry even as I reach the end of my twenties and a graduate degree. Those who are in the service industry alongside me also know there is a code of tipping that shan't be deviated from...25% is where you START and you can go up from there if the service was better than expected. This really isn't such a jump from the standard 15-20% that regular janes and joes are supposed to tip...but in Utah, it's leaps and bounds above the standard 5-10% tippage.
Our server at La Puente was AMAZING. He had at least 12 tables accommodated and served their extra sour cream in a jiffy. He brought out my margarita with a sidecar of extra goodness and ice saying he "didn't want to waste the rest, so you might as well drink it!" Our chips were bottomless, as was our salsa. Honestly, he was the best server I'd had the pleasure of encountering in awhile.
So, in accordance to service industry tipping etiquette, I left him $8 for our staggering $25 bill.
While I was finishing my margarita, he returned to our table and removed his wallet and started fishing through a thick pile of business cards. He removed a card that looked like it had been taken in and out of his packed wallet a number if times, the corners of the card burnished down to rounded, fuzzy edges. It was his own "Buy 10 meals, get the 11th free" card to La Puente. He sheepishly explained that we, "could get a meal if it were under $7 for free the next time we came in," as he slid the card across the table to me. He gave us a quick smile and hurried off to another table in dire need of its third bucket o' chips refill.
It was such a sweet gesture, I was speechless. Shug and I looked at each other and we shook our heads. We didn't tip so we could get our server's free meal card. We looked out at the other tables in the restaurant and could tell it had been a lean night of tips before we'd arrived.