In recent days, there’ve been Facebook stories (including pix) of people allegedly walking out on their bills, at restaurants. I don’t repost those stories because we all know we need be super-careful about accusing people. A picture that appeared with said story could be a shot of couple behind the real perpetrators and that would malign a perfectly nice couple…
In America (much as it infuriates me at times): One’s innocent ‘til proven guilty.
But I’ll share my own “Walk Out on the Waitress Story:”
It happened when I was 21, at a swank place called Wickford Marina, in Rhode Island, where the boats came in after a leisure day at sea. These were mostly-moneyed folk who had the wherewithal to moor their boats and amble up to our prettily-situated restaurant, up two flights of stairs, with broad, sweeping windows and glass, sliding doors, kept open in lovely weather.
It was just that, that night.
Temps hovered in the 70’s. It was my very first night as cocktail waitress there. How’d I get the job? I’d been working banquets at a big restaurant in Galilee RI, and that had given me experience.
Unfortunately, that experience hadn’t allowed me to become expert at reading people.
He and she came in…They sat at a corner table, right near an exit door. She was a tall, stately blonde…definitely on the curvy side. He was tall, too. They were dressed in other-than-the-usual boating attire. In fact, she looked a bit over-the-top cheap. Dress a bit too tight. Cleavage a bit too exposed (oh, not by today’s standards, but definitely inappropriate then.)
Anyway, all night long, he sent me on errands: “Bring me another Dewar’s and water.” “She’ll have a daiquiri”…”We need a snack. Got any onion rings?” (“I’ll get you the appetizer menu, sir.”) “Oh, get us more napkins.” (What’d you do…eat the last batch?” I wanted to say…)..”I need a pack of Malboros” (this was era when customers filled the place with smoke and wait-staff obliged them by going to vending machines, pumping in the change, and getting packs for them.)
They ordered again and again…and I was running my backside off all night, when I had 6 other tables, all occupied.
Then, it happened. I looked up and they were gone. No one was at the table. I looked out at the dance floor and they weren’t there, either.
I panicked (a little), considering all the scenario that could explain: Maybe they both went to the rest room (possible, if unusual)…Maybe they needed to retrieve his billfold from the car (both needed to go?)…Maybe someone got sick (illogical.)
I never considered: “Maybe these two who’d been playing me all night had just boldly walked out on their considerable check…leaving me, the poor waitress to face the music.” Nope—I never considered that.
But that’s what happened. And as waiters and waitresses all fear: “I might be responsible for that check.” It isn’t enough that waitstaff get paid terrible wages ($2.50 an hour, as restaurant server, maybe, if that) since the IRS and restaurant figure they make up for low wages with hefty tips (and that doesn’t always happen)…
So, a waiter/waitress/bartender can’t count on tips.
As fate would have it, I’d meet up with them again, two years later, in a club, where I, as a young woman, went, with friends, purely with the intent of meeting young men.
How’d I know him? I didn’t mention his most bizarre feature: He had a hook for a hand.
Naively, I determined to confront him (“No one walks on me and stiffs me with his check.”)
In silly/bold fashion, I walked over to his table and said: “How’d you like that night at the Wickford Marina, when you walked out on me, stiffing me with your check?”
He stared coldly at me….She hyperventilated.
I left his table. But then he called others over and nodded in my direction. Over the next hour or so, a number of sketchy men approached, asking me to dance. I declined but I quaked, inside, fearing what would happen when we left.
About that time, the doors burst open and state police swarmed. This was my lucky night, indeed. My one-armed bandit was apparently one of the tough characters in this place. There’d apparently been illegal activity happening there, and the state police had been monitoring it for weeks. Tonight they made their raid.. ‘
Left to my own devices, I would have had far more to fear at his hand (remember, he had only one) than the bill he walked out on…
Unsavory types who’d stiff restaurant workers are probably doing a whole lot more bad stuff to others…They don’t operate with the same behavior code the rest of us have.
Now, tell us: “Have you been the victim of ‘Stiff the Waiter” or know of someone (besides me) who was? Did you/he/she have to pay?
Now, here’s a story that just developed whereby a waittress got fired for posting to Facebook, a customer’s response to the auto-tip Applebee’s added to her bill. Your thoughts?