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December 15, 2011

Is it 2011? Applebee’s server: I Only Got Black Tables. Plus a Q of the day

Posted in: Race,racism

And a Q of the day: waitstaff out there — how many of you have received a bible or bible tract as a tip, and what was your worst customer experience?


It wasn’t that long ago (1994) that the restaurant chain Denny’s got into hot water for refusing to seat and serve black customers. Around the same time, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the “family” restaurant, had a policy of hiring only heterosexuals and firing gay staff if their orientation was disclosed or discovered. Cracker Barrel also came under fire for discriminating against black customers.

Fast forward to 2011, and yet another restaurant is accused of a bizarre form of discrimination.

23 year-old Courtney Haywood started working at the Towson Applebee’s in 2007 as a server and bartender.

In May of 2011, she claims new management at the restaurant allowed her to serve food only to black patrons.

According to the thetowerlight.com , Haywood said “I talked to a manager, who kept saying, ‘I will take care of it, don’t worry about it.’ And nothing was taken care of.”

After filing several complaints with the company, Haywood said she was given a termination letter in October 2011.

This was Applebee’s statement:

“We take these allegations very seriously. We’re fully committed to creating a fair work environment for all of our team members. We have not received a copy of the alleged complaint, so we do not have any further information to offer at this time.”

What is this is all about? It’s not just about some racist idea of pairing black waitstaff with black patrons; my first thought was that this is about the reputation of black customers for tipping poorly. I wasn’t the only one who went there. Field Negro:

There’s No Place Like The Neighborhood.”

That is Applebee’s slogan these days.

But Lord have mercy, what is wrong with you Negroes? Now your reputation for not tipping is affecting even other Negroes who are trying to get their grind on. I honestly don’t know what to make of this story.

…Anywhoo, there are some folks who just aren’t comfortable having you Negroes serve them in restaurants, and maybe the manager was just aware of that fact.

I have to wonder about my girl Courtney as well. Did she buy into the black folks don’t tip stereotype? Hmmmmm. And were there other black waiters and waitresses in the joint? Who did they serve? The Hispanic and Asian customers?

Still, if what Courtney alleges is true; it doesn’t excuse the Manager from playing social engineer with his lousy food joint“Courtney, you serve the black folks, I think they will feel more comfortable if they see a black face.” Unbelievable!

But back to the tipping deal. Is it true? In 1993, NPR did a piece, The Tipping Divide, citing research by Michael Lynn at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, “Black-White Differences in Tipping of Various Service Providers.”

Data from a national telephone survey revealed four general patterns in the tipping behaviors of Blacks and Whites. First, Blacks appear more likely than Whites to stiff commonly encountered service providers, but not less commonly encountered ones. Second, Blacks appear more likely than Whites to leave flat tip amounts to service providers who are commonly tipped a percentage of the bill, but not to service providers who are more rarely tipped a percentage of the bill.  Third, black percentage tippers leave a smaller average percentage of the bill than white percentage tippers across many service contexts. Finally, black flat tippers leave larger average dollar tips than white flat tippers across many service contexts.

“The average tip from a black customer is about 13 percent of the bill. The average tip from a white customer is about 16.5 percent of the bill.”

In the NPR report, one explanation was given for this:

Jerry Fernandez, president of the Multicultural Food Alliance, which represents food servers and restaurateurs, says the expectations of a lower tip from blacks can often lead to poor service.

“If a [waiter] says, ‘I don’t want to wait on that table because they’re black or they’re Hispanic, then they tend to give less service and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Fernandez explains.

He says cultural elements — blacks have avoided sit-down restaurants in favor of take out or self-service eateries — institutionalized racism that exists in the restaurant industry and education about tipping are all behind the discrepancy. “How do people learn about tipping? If you don’t go, you don’t know.”

I’ll grant that the above may serve as part of the reason, but for god’s sake, I’m a native Southerner who was educated by my family about tipping for service. We can’t keep blaming everything on the Jim Crow past. And in any case there isn’t one “black culture” — that’s lazy thinking.

Now what I do know, and I’ll grant it’s anecdotal evidence, is that from conversations with waitstaff at various restaurants in my area (we like chatting them up because we know it’s hard work), in high-end to family style eateries, the universal truth from the horse’s mouth  is that the Sunday church crowd people are the worst tippers. Every server I’ve spoken to has told me a tale about being stiffed, or better yet, being left a bible tract or even a bible as a tip. Some say that in their restaurants people actually draw straws to avoid that Sunday lunch shift.

Perhaps Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration needs to do a study on that to see if the church crowd phenomenon bears out.

Meanwhile, Courtney Haywood has filed a complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; we’ll see where that goes.

Below the fold, some of the answers I received from the Q of the day on Facebook.

UPDATE: Look at what one server, with 9 years under his belt, has received instead of a tip:


    •  

      Matt McNeil I once received a tract whose title was “Here’s Your Tip!” Grrrrr. 

      40 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Matt McNeil The church groups (after church on Sunday) were always the most niggardly and demanding, too. Without fail. 

      40 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Matt McNeil Not even secretaries on their lunch hour could begin to compare (in terms of cheapness and bad behavior) to church folks fresh out of services. 

      37 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Cindy Sulaiman Matt- what it the one that looks like a folded up bill? I got that one 30 years ago 

      34 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Pam Spaulding ‎@Matt: Wow. That’s ballsy, a pre-made tip stiffer tract! 

      33 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Matt McNeil I found a place online where you can actually buy such tracts (!) in bulk. 

      32 minutes ago · 
    •  

      So true. But to be fair…they probably just coughed up their 10% tithes and are too broke to give anymore! I HATE the way my childhood church group treated waitstaff, back at the pizza places in Hutchinson! Selfish, the whole lot of them, including me! Hopefully I’ve learned better now, though.

      32 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Matt McNeil Hateful, pathetic, cheap and tawdry — custom-tailored for fundies everywhere. 

      32 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Tony Pelliccio Were I a waiter and someone left that, I would be sure to stuff it so far up their ass that they would shit confetti for weeks! 

      31 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil I once had a female customer who left her phone number for me on pieces of paper all over the table. Little did she know which team I pitch for. 

      30 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Matt McNeil But I was flattered.
      Terribly flattered. 

      30 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Cindy Sulaiman Tony – their usually gone by the time you get to your table to get your “tip” .. which my asshole boss was kind enough to double tax us on 

      30 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Cindy Sulaiman Matt- my best tippers were drunk truck drivers who liked “southern” accents (which I normally don’t have) but would effect for a greater tip (especially late at night) .. got a $50 tip once … in 1982 that was huge. 

      28 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Jo LeGall Oh Pam, Pam, Pam, Pam, Pam.. lol I had a lady do a sermon at the register and I kept trying to cut her off to get her to pay. In the end I had to yell “I don’t have a tab for Jesus.” Then there was a food delivery I did at a hotel. This lady tells me to put the food on the coffee table while she grabs her purse. As I’m walking over to the little coffee table I hear the door slam shut. I spin around and there she is standing with her back to the door and her arms spread. I’m like “WTF!?” Then she smiles this creepy smile and starts stalking me asking “Have you been saved?” 

      Was like something out of a horror movie. She materialises a bible out of thin air Pam and starts waving it around quoting all sorts of biblical shit I don’t understand. Her purse in on one of those cheap armchairs, so I grab her purse, yank enough to cover the bill and run for the door. She gets there before I do. I whip out my phone and yell “Kidnapping, you psycho bitch! I’m calling the cops!” That finally moved her out of the way. I got out of there. I could hear her praying for my soul when I popped open the stairwell. The front desk was laughing their asses off. What a nutter! And they say you should watch out for “strange men”? HA! Try nutty religious psycho freaks!

      I’d much rather put up with the naked people, hookers, drunks and those pot heads who want to pat you down for wires before asking “You know where I can get some weed?”

      24 minutes ago ·  ·  4
    •  

      Matt McNeil Freaky wonderful/awful! 

      22 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Pam Spaulding ‎@Jo: WTF was that about? Good grief, these proselytizers are out of control. Makes me think of Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mom. http://youtu.be/2aUzos0VZzk 

       

      www.youtube.com

      Academy award nominated actress PIPER LAURIE, in her outrageous and crazy portra…See More
      20 minutes ago ·  ·  2 · 
    •  

      Matt McNeil Cindy Sulaiman: Funny — I’ve worked all my life to rid myself of my Southern accent. At 34 (I’m now 44), I just gave up and said, “What the hell . . . “ 

      What I hated most about waiting tables (well, after church folks and lunching secretaries, that is) was working my ass off for someone my great-grandmother’s age only to be handed a quarter or fifty cents at the end of the meal.

      20 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil Margaret White — YES! 

      19 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Dennis Lensing My favorites were those after-church folk who would like up stacks of quarters on the edge of the table and tell me, “This is your tip, and every time you mess up, I’m taking some of it away.” They always got EXCELLENT service from me. 

      19 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Matt McNeil Wow — that’s a new one on me, Dennis. WOW. Just . . . wow. 

      18 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Lisa Wood · Friends with Matt McNeil

      I had 2 busses come in full of baseball players. Another waiter stayed after with me to help. They left nothing. Then the following week I had a man come in and leave a very large tip. While I was in the kitchen he robbed the place at gun point. True story. Then I once got a huge tip after waiting on a really big group and a glass of milk slid across my tray tipped over and spilled on a little boys head. I told them I felt so bad I couldn’t possibly take a tip. They laughed and said it was the best laugh they’d had in a long time and insisted I take the tip. LOL!!

      18 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Daña Alder Dennis–I hope they get a “sneeze muffin” as well. But you’re probably a better person than I. 

      17 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Dennis Lensing Of course I meant “line up” but yeah, it was rather a jaw-dropper for me as well. Good old Dixie Cafe in NLR, AR. 

      17 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Cindy Sulaiman Matt- the elderly I excused // the after church folk coming in with their families and their “I can’t make up my damned mind, even though I’ve come to this place every Sunday for 5 years” to only I tip at 3- 5% OR leave teh fauzx bill tract (Assemble of God ppl did this alot) then there was the good ole boy who clammed his little daughter’s head against the table because she was whining 

      16 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil I worked at a Mexican restaurant in which the (largely illegal, or at least questionably legit) kitchen staff would get revenge for the busboys. I daren’t go into details, but suffice it to say that bodily fluids were reputed to be involved from time to time. 

      15 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Amy Ruth Buchanan Two dads and their young soccer team charges came in, took up two large tables, ran me ragged, were baffled that I could not offer them a sports team discount (this was a locally owned pizza place–Pepper’s in CH–not Pizza Hut), and left me ONE DOLLAR. I chased them down Franklin Street screaming “I think you left something behind” and thrust their stupid dollar back at them. 

      15 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil We waiters and waitress got OUR revenge by keeping magnets in our apron pockets. Give me an execrable tip for good service? Or no tip at all? Prepare to have your credit card swiped over a strong magnet several times in succession. 

      15 minutes ago ·  ·  3
    •  

      Cindy Sulaiman clammed = slammed .. dang 

      14 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Lisa Wood · Friends with Matt McNeil

      Ewww!!

      14 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Matt McNeil We knew what you meant, sugar. :) 

      14 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Dennis Lensing Amy–I too have chased customers down in such circumstances. 

      13 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Pam Spaulding Oh, Amy: one dollar! They might as well have left a penny. That’s shameful. 

      12 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Jo LeGall Let’s see. Worse customer moment? I had a delivery at, you guessed it, another hotel. There were these two pastors or reverends or whatever the hell you call ‘em. They had a couple hookers, paid only the bill, no tip and then had the nerve if they could ask me to stay. Okay, maybe that was just the “most offensive” customer. What’s worse is that you could HEAR them fu*king as soon as the elevator opened. I mean LOUD. They got complaints from some of the guests. I’ve got a ton of stories. lol I was a waitress, short order cook, delivery person and THEN a cabbie. I don’t take religious people seriously after what I’ve seen. 

      12 minutes ago ·  ·  2
    •  

      Dennis Lensing I’ve had people leave a penny, Pam. 

      12 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Matt McNeil I’m a VERY generous tipper, but have been known to stiff wait staff members who didn’t come to my table at all, or came only to take my order and then proceed to leave me high and dry. Oh, well — their loss. I’m the kind of customer you WANT to leave a tip, as I’m very generous. 

      10 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Jo LeGall There is a saying we have about drunks. They either pay you twice or swear they’ve already paid you. lol I had one hand over four sticks of double mint gum in the green wrappers and ask “That cover it?” I had a bodyguard by then and he’s like “Dude. That’s gum.” 

      10 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil I once had no money for a tip and told the waitress I’d come back with her tip. (She didn’t believe me, I’m sure.) An hour later and there I was with a five dollar bill. (For an eight dollar meal, no less. 

      10 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Pam Spaulding Jo: I need brain bleach. 

      9 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil Bwahahaha! 

      8 minutes ago · 
    •  

      Jo LeGall lmao What about me!? 

      8 minutes ago ·  ·  1
    •  

      Matt McNeil The gum story is really just too rich, Jo. (Can you believe that someone out there actually has cojones that freakin’ big?) 

      7 minutes ago · 



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