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Tipping for takeout

Published August 09. 2014 09:00AM

I consider myself to be a decent tipper.

I have held two waitressing jobs in my lifetime and know full well what is involved and what should be expected as a food server.

I also know the poor hourly wage that they are paid.

I don't understand why food servers are exempt from the minimum wage laws since they also spend some of their time making salads, refilling condiment bottles, making coffee, cleaning tables and the restaurant itself, but since they are, I tip.

As a former waitress and as a paying customer, I feel that there are some very basic things one should expect from a waiter or waitress that is simply part of their job.

They should be pleasant and courteous and smile; even if it means they have to put on an Academy Award-winning performance.

They should be attentive and do so in an expeditious manner, checking back with you from time to time to see if everything is OK and if you need anything else.

They should be sure that your order is correct before they take it to the kitchen to be prepared and they should make sure your order is correct before they place your food in front of you.

They should prepare your check in a timely manner, insure that the figures are accurate and retrieve the check and payment from you in an equally timely manner if you aren't paying at the counter.

If a server has met all of these requirements, then they should receive at the very least 20 percent of the total bill.

There are some instances when they should get more, such as if you or your party is a pain-in-the-butt, or if you or your children spill and make a mess which makes them have to stop what they are doing and clean up after you, and then get back to their other customers.

If they go out of their way for any reason to accommodate you, it should be taken into consideration.

My friends and I once tipped a waiter close to 75 percent of our very large bill at an all- you-can-eat seafood house that used to be in Langhorne.

This guy was top notch.

The place was packed and unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet, the wait staff would just keep bringing more of whatever you wanted to your table.

There were four of us and we were hungry.

Really hungry, in fact, from not eating at all that day to make room for the many Alaskan king crab legs we planned to devour.

Despite the numerous tables our waiter was in charge of, this guy kept a watchful eye on us from across the room and made sure we never had to ask for more crabs, drawn butter or hush puppies, and to be sure that our glasses were always full.

We were there for two hours and this guy earned every penny of that tip.

Recently, however, I have encountered something that has puzzled me a bit: tipping on takeout.

When using my credit card to pay my bill for a takeout order at a restaurant (not fast food joints) I have always noticed the blank line on the slip that gives you the opportunity to leave a tip, but disregarded it as I felt it was not applicable.

Apparently it is because a couple of restaurants that I happen to frequent have begun to visually and verbally draw my attention to that tip line.

At one place, I wasn't asked if I wanted to leave a tip for my takeout order, the question was how much of a tip did I want to leave.

I remembered feeling puzzled the first time I heard it because I watched the cook place my order on the counter at which point the waitress, who had just been standing around, grabbed it, placed it in the bag and walked a few steps to the cash register, where someone else rung it up.

In my honest opinion, I don't believe that the waitress should be tipped for less than 30 seconds of "work," but I succumbed to the pressure and tipped her the 20 percent, only to find out when I got home that part of my order was missing as she never bothered to check to be sure that all of it was there and there were no napkins or plastic utensils in the bag either.

I had to go back a couple days later so they could put the cost of the item back on my credit card, but what I really wanted was my tip back.

The same thing happened at another place, only this time before finalizing payment, they swing the touch screen around which has several tip amounts listed for you to choose from with the words under each amount suggested such as good and better, which I am unsure is to rate your service or your tip.

In any event, I succumbed to the pressure once again and tipped on my takeout order, only to later find that my order was incomplete and yes, I wanted my tip back.

I should have learned after the first experience to open up the Styrofoam containers before I left to be sure everything I had just paid for was there, but I figured that making sure an order is correct is part of every server's job and so therefore, I shouldn't have to.

These two incidents only serve to give credence to my reasons for not feeling the whole tipping for takeout thing.

The very little "service" one gets doesn't warrant it and in my opinion it falls into the "part of your job" category.

Barring an exceptional takeout experience (whatever that may be) or feeling generous during the holiday season, I think I'm going to have to go back to disregarding that tip line for takeout.

On second thought, after possibly inciting wrath among any food service staff who may have read this column, I should maybe just eat at home.

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