Monday, March 18, 2019

Mitzi The Jersey Diner Waitress

It's amazing when I think about all of the services Ross and I use.

Here in the US it has become customary to tip at least 20 percent of the tab to
those hardworking people who provide all the services we enjoy.

The two newspapers we get daily are delivered by the same two persons.  There is a driver and his helper.  The driver hardly slows down while the helper tosses the papers out the window, where they land on the driveway on the same spot each time.  How do they do that?
We pay for the papers automatically out of our checking account each month.  We tip the two guys at the end of the year.

The garbage collectors leave a Christmas card in our mailbox.  Sometimes, when we don't get our garbage out on time, they will come back later on in the day and pick it up.  I would say that is going above and beyond, wouldn't you?

Doesn't everyone receive an Amazon package at least once a month?  We do.  To be perfectly honest, though, I've never tipped the UPS guy.  Anyway, he doesn't hang around long enough.  He rings the bell and runs back to his truck.

The lovely ladies who come once a month to clean our house receive a nice cash Christmas present each year.
I'm never quite sure what to do for the woman I go to for my manicure and pedicure.  I don't get my nails done on a regular basis.  Usually, it's for a special occasion, the holidays and then a couple of times a year in between.  The charge is $71 and I leave her a $15.00 tip.
Does that warrant an extra something at Christmas time?
Last year I gave her a lovely hand made shawl.   She didn't open it in front of me and never thanked me for it.   This year, I wished her a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Was that okay?

This post though is about the waitress, Mitzi, who served us our meal yesterday.

The brilliant blue sky day was demanding that we go out and be in it.   The only plan we had was to take a car trip, leisurely meandering the back country roads.
We eventually made our way out to a highway where we spotted a diner and decided to stop for a bite to eat.  The parking lot was full.  That's when we remembered it was St. Patricks day.
Around here, there are three times a year when it's never a good idea to eat out.  Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.

Before I start on my litany of complaints of yesterday's experience,  I do have empathy for wait staff.  All of my children worked in the food service industry.  My son-in-law still does.
I will concede and take into account that because of the holiday, the restaurant was unusually busy yesterday  Should that have effected the level of service?

New Jersey is famous for its diners.
According to a July 2015 article on Bon :

"New Jersey is called the diner capital, mostly because of the sheer number of diners in the state. ... "Diners filled that need—and our location between New York and Philadelphia along with this road network through New Jersey becomes part of the reason why there were so many."

One of the remarkable things about Jersey diners is the size of the menu.  It's a book, with several chapters.  And then there are the daily specials which are listed in a separate mini book.

I mention this because it takes more than a few minutes to "read" the menu.
Typically, when we eat in one of the Jersey diners, our experience, for the most part, is that our server gives us enough time to look over the menu before they approach.   They then wold politely ask if we need a few more minutes before we order.

First, our table did not have a set up.  No placemat, no flatware.  When the pleasant enough gentleman came over to set the table, he had a fistful of flatware.  I hoped he washed his hands before handling the forks, spoons and knives we were about to put into our mouths. Yes, I'm personally, extremely germ aware.

We waited more than a few minutes for our server to come over to our table.  We read through the menu at least twice.

Our server, Mitzi,  was a tiny middle-aged woman with frizzy "blond" hair.   By her demeanor and harried look, I am sure she had already put in a long day.   When she finally got around to our table, we got no preamble greeting or hint of a smile.
She asked if we were ready to order.  I was, Ross looked unsure.
It was clear that she did not want to wait for Ross to make up his mind and quickly said, "I can take their order,"  pointing to the table next to us.
Since we had waited for a time already, we did not want her to leave before she took our order.
I told her what I wanted, giving Ross a few more minutes.
When it was his turn, he hesitated, which apparently annoyed her. I say that because of the significant size of the sigh she pushed out.
He ordered.  He chose the St Paddy's day special corned beef and cabbage, I the roast chicken.
When Mitzi brought us our basket of bread and bread plates, she hastily dropped them, with a clatter, onto the side of table closest to her.
She brought the soup and salad out at the same time.  Shouldn't the soup have come first, then cleared away, then the salad?
Am I being too picky?
I could go on with other little infractions, but let me get to the main "course".
Remember Ross ordered the Corned beef, cabbage, boiled potato special.
Mitzi handed us (not placed in front of us) our meals and then quickly ran off.
I looked at his and said, "That doesn't look like corned beef."   It wasn't.  It was ham.
Since she was like the "Flash" swooshing past, eyes straight ahead, it took a few tries for us to get her attention.
When we finally got her to notice us, Ross politely said "Did they run out of corned beef?"
With another big sigh, she grabbed up his plate, and "flashed" into the kitchen.
Side note, although, she got my order correct, it was hardly edible.
By the time Ross' meal came back out, we were done, ready to go, had had enough.
Mitzy mumbled something about the cook giving her the wrong meal.  But why didn't Mitzy notice this before she brought it out?
We asked for the check, and  take out boxes for our salads, which we never had time to eat.
She threw the boxes onto the table, no seriously she did.   We then had to ask for a bag to put the boxes in.
Now, again I am empathetic towards the hard, demanding job of wait staff.  I'm sure I would not be able to do it.  Dealing with the public is not easy.

Isn't a tip, though,
supposed to be an indication of the level of satisfaction with the service?

I did not want to leave Mitzy a 20% tip.  Ross disagreed.

What would you have done?


  1. This is too funny. I was thinking of writing a post about tipping based on something that happened yesterday with us I probably still will. We are generous tippers and if the service is up and beyond we tip up and beyond sometimes up to 50% of what a fine meal will cost. We went out yesterday to a new to us restaurant and the food was good but the waitress never came back to check in on us after the food arrived nor came around with any coffee to fill up our cups. It was a lunch meal we were eating which totaled about $20.00. At times we have left a $10 tip, but yesterday I told hubby to leave a less generous one. He was going to do $2.00 but I told him %5.00 which was clearly over 20%. Here in parts in Scottsdale, the affluent area, the waitresses "expect" 20% to 25% from what our son told us and he is a cook working in that city. Anyway, in your case I would have tipped between 15% to 20% and then would have written a review on Yelp or another site. Sometimes I think someone is having a bad day and try to be generous in tipping, but I think the service you received from Mitzi went beyond her having a bad day and was just rude on her part. I'll be curious what others say.


    1. You are a generous tipper! That's nice. Serving the public is not easy I'm sure. To be honest I have to say that 99% of the people who serve us are pleasant. Since it was a busy holiday, we gave Mitzi the benefit of the doubt and tipped her appropriately. :)

  2. Hari OM
    Tipping in British and Australian culture (my 'home base') is very much on merit and not an expected option. Then again, the minimum wage policy in these countries is such that servers and other service workers are adequately and appropriately remunerated. I believe this to be different in the US... but when I travelled there and in Canada three years ago, I was taken aback at the demands for a tip I got from several folk. Yes, actual "you can leave me x amount of dollars"!!! Sorry. That just cancelled any chance. I DO tip, when I am satisfied that I have, in fact, been attended to over and above the value of the standard set by the establishment/service being used. I will also write comments and letters when suitably impressed (or not) to ensure recognition for the employees concerned. In Australia, many places actually discourage tipping of wait staff and include a 'service charge' of between ten and fifteen percent on the bill. That is fine, but if I feel the service didn't live up to it, I will also let management know. Your manicurist, for example, I would be drawing in my "+reward" to her! As for Mitzi; I would have had the manager called out long before getting to bill time and, frankly, would not be considering any kind of tip. I can be surprisingly hard that way. Despite having spent a fair bit of early life in the food service industry myself. Then again - I was one of those who actually earned her tips. YAM xx

    1. Yes, you are right, here in the US food servers are paid only a couple of dollars an hour. Tipping is important for these folks. Your method of dealing with tips is the way the tipping system is supposed to work. Because my children were and are still in the server business, we gave Mitizi a break and tipped her appropriately. We will not be going back to that diner again, though. Not because of Mitzi, but because the food was not good.

  3. The minimum wage for tip earners is $2.13 an hour. (That's federal. It could be more in New Jersy, but I doubt it.) They get taxed based on the tips they should have received. I'm talking income tax here.

    This whole system started during the Great Depression. It was a way that restaurants wouldn't have to pay staff that they couldn't afford. Like many remnants of that era, it needs to be done away with.

    So, I tip no matter what. I know in many cases that's the money these people live on. (Although, in my state I think things are a bit different now.) I'd've complained to management, written a Yelp review, and never returned to the establishment. But I'd've still tipped her 15% as that's likely what she lives on.

    1. Yes, the wage situation for servers is the same in New Jersey. That's an interesting fact about why the wage for food servers is set so low. And I agree, that should be changed.
      We did give Mitzi 15% but we will not be going back to that diner. Not because of Mitzi, but because the food was not good.

  4. I mentioned this to hubby tonight. He said he would have tipped 5%. I did write a post about tipping as my tipping had to do with tipping jars at the cashiers' counters where all they were doing were ringing up people's purchases and bagging them, like at Walmart or similar. We didn't tip.


  5. I usually leave 20%. For this I would have left 15%, or maybe only 10%. Generally NJ diner waitresses are great. I give them 25%, or only 20% if they don't call me "Honey" which is almost never.

    People love to make fun of NJ, but no other state can touch our Diners! I think your waitress was probably having a bad day, and may have been stiffed a few times, but throwing stuff on the table is never ok.

    1. Oh, I would never make fun of NJ. I am a true Jersey girl. I was born, raised and still live here. And I agree about the diners, they are the best.

  6. Throwing stuff on the table, along with no apology for bringing the wrong meal, is inexcusable, bad day or not. I would have only left 10% just to let her know that service was poor.

    1. You know I really thought about a less tip. I couldn't leave a no tip. But in the end we left the customary tip.

  7. I have empathy for wait staff too but she should have had empathy for her customers. From your experience I wouldn't have tipped. I have had a few bad experiences with a pizza place that delivers to the hotel I have been staying in while on a business trip. One undercooked order and twice their not giving me receipts which I need for expense reports. I wasn't rude when I called those few times, the first I requested they replace the undercooked chicken they had delivered, the two other times I merely asked they fax or email me a pic of the receipts. I tip generously, but got grief from the delivery man and received a call from the owner who complained to me. Frankly, I'm more than a bit fed up with unreasonably poor service

    1. I'm sorry you had that experience. Unfortunately, I guess we all have had unsatisfactory experiences with those who work in the public.
      But when I think about it, overall, most of those I come into contact with who are servers of the public are respectful and do a good job.

  8. I've had many conversations about tipping with people. We don't usually agree. A tip is supposed to be for good service. Right? If you don't get good service, and yours didn't even sound adequate, then NO tip. I wish the government would step in and force these restaurants to pay at least minimum wage to their help so we could once again give tips based on service. Now when it comes to others (like hairdressers, mailmen, etc) they are paid well and I give tips according to how well they have taken care of me.

    1. I do agree with you. If these wait staffers were paid appropriately tipping would be for better than average service.
      I give tips all through the year for others so I don't feel it necessary to give extra at the holidays.