I need some help for my next Durham News column, so I thought I would ask Pandapeeps for help -- specifically if you have waited tables over the years. It can be restaurants large and small, chain or local.
I'm writing an article about tipping here in Durham, as told to us by some of the waitstaff at different restaurants. As I mentioned in the first post I did on this back in 2006, Kate and I are always generous tippers, so much so that in the places we regularly go, waiters and waitresses (or is it waitron, now?) always remember us, sometimes after only being there once -- which I cannot figure out, must be my locs) and want us to sit in their sections, and even chat with us about their day, their families, etc. We treat them like human beings -- and watch in horror as we see so many patrons skip out without tipping, or become the demanding table from hell.
Q of the day, -- who are the cheapskate tippers?
In doing my not-so-scientific research of five servers at very different eateries, a disturbing trend was common. In every case the diners deemed among the 1) most demanding and 2) worst tippers were...drumroll please...
The Sunday post-church crowd that comes in starting around noon, usually in fairly large groups of families. I kid you not, each server has interesting tales of torture tables.
I'll share the best two, because the waiters both receive not just a crap tip, but something in lieu of money. One received -- I sh*t you not, a bible. The other one is probably even worse - the church ladies left him what looked like a $20 bill, but it was a mockup of one that if you unfolded it gave their church address and had scripture on it. Damn, that's cheaptastic.
A reader pointed me to two sites to check out that confirmed this is a well-known industry phenomenon. 1) Waiter Rant; the site of a waiter/blogger who is currently working on a book about tipping; there's a recent post about "Tipping Anxiety" that's worth the click; 2) Richard Beck at Experimental Theology, a Christian who called out his cheapskate brethren in a slam-dunk:
The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories.
Take, for example, how Christians tip and behave in restaurants. If you have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know the reputation of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth.
I exaggerate of course. But I hope you see my point. Rather than pouring our efforts into two hours of worship, bible study and Christian fellowship on Sunday why don't we just take a moment and a few extra bucks to act like a decent human being when we go to lunch afterwards? Just think about it. What if the entire restaurant industry actually began to look forward to working Sunday lunch? If they said amongst themselves, "I love the church crowd. They are kind, patient and very generous. It's my favorite part of the week waiting on Christians." How might such a change affect the way the world sees us? Think about it. Just being a decent human being for one hour each Sunday and the world sees us in a whole new way.
But it's not going to happen. Because behavior at lunch isn't considered to be "working on your relationship with God." Behavior at lunch isn't spiritual. Going to church, well, that is working on your relationship with God. But, as we all know, any jerk can sit in a pew. But you can't be a jerk if you take the time to treat your waitress as if she were a friend, daughter or mother.
My point in all this is that contemporary Christianity has lost its way. Christians don't wake up every morning thinking about how to become a more decent human being. Instead, they wake up trying to "work on their relationship with God" which very often has nothing to do with treating people better. How could such a confusion have occurred? How did we end up going so wrong?