originally written on April 9, 2016
I have supported myself through college by working as a server and one thing I have learned is that people love to teach you things.
I recently learned how to tell if a bottle of wine has sat opened for too long—hold a salt shaker to the drink edge and see if it’s brown. The gentlemen in this case was rather irked because his wine was stale and decided I needed to know just how he knew. He was mistaken in his analysis as I’d watched the bartender open a fresh bottle to pour for him, but that’s not important.
What is important is when you get a great table—and I’m not talking about wine guy here—who shares advice that, even when unsolicited, turns out to be amazingly truthful.
The guest I am referring to opened by asking me what a good tip is for me. I told him that 15-18% is about average and 20% is great. The man—we’ll call him Gray—proceeded to ask me if I thought I was a good server.
“Sure,” I said. “I think I gave great service, no?” He nodded.
“I think I deserve a good tip.”
“So let’s do the math,” Gray said.
“Ten percent of $66 is six-sixty, we’ll double that for a tip of about $13. You know what, let’s make it a fair 20.”
He’d given me just over 30%. (Inward cheer.)
Gray proceeded to let me know that if I’d asked for $100, he would have given it to me. In part because he was feeling generous, but also because I’d laid out a perception of my worth. Gray didn’t relate any of this specifically to waitressing, but he stressed how important it was for people to know their worth and promote that perception. In negotiating—we’d been talking post-grad job life—and in waitressing and in life.
Every other article in every lifestyle magazine and self-help novel tells us, especially young women, how vital understanding our worth and changing our perception of ourselves is. But sometimes you need someone to tell you this in person and in an unexpected way. I myself have fallen much too often into a place where I let another person decide my importance and place and base my decisions from that, but I’m looking to change that.
Had I said a good tip was $100 and I deserved it, I’d have gotten it from Gray. Had I told the last boy that I’d dated that I deserved more than to just be an option, I’d have saved myself the time and hurt. Maybe I would’ve gotten that last opportunity I wanted if I had pushed myself to get it.
Then again, maybe not. But at least I would have been able to say that I valued me highly enough to fight for myself. A good lesson to learn.