Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mono v. Mono

Throughout our lives there are specific battles that each of us participate in as both a means of self defense as well as out right preemptive violent aggression. These battles are hard-fought epic scale smack down sessions that typically result in both parties being permanently scarred and mangled with the loser either being utterly destroyed or put into a vegetative state until the sequel. In some cases, the villain finds redemption and thus avoids destruction when out-matched by the hero. Conversely, when the hero becomes the loser, he may defect his heroism and accept villainy in order to be spared the aforementioned destruction. In these cases, the villain usually destroys the hero anyway because he’s pure evil and relishes the fact that the hero compromised everything he’d been fighting for, for nothing.

So who are these heroes and villains? As a means of example, I will list some of the greatest most epic mono v. mono fighting match ups in history – you will have to decide who the heroes and villains are and who the winners and losers are.

01. Scorpion vs. Tarantula
02. Godzilla vs. King Kong
03. Bottle-nosed Dolphin vs. Great White Shark
04. Louis Pasteur vs. Rabies
05. Mario vs. Sonic
06. Seth Green vs. Chris Crocker
07. Thomas Edison vs. Darkness
08. Dunder-Mifflin vs. Trees
09. Norman Bates vs. Norman Bates
10. King Cobra vs. Mongoose
11. Henry Ford vs. Horses
12. Johnny Storm vs. Bobby Drake
13. Alexander Graham Bell vs. Carrier Pigeons
14. Charmander vs. Squirtle
15. Paper vs. Plastic
16. Captain Planet vs. Halliburton

Epic battles indeed, but not all wars have such pomp and circus-dance…we all have personal wars that we struggle with, sometimes on a daily basis. For me, it seems it will always be Stewart vs. Mr. Pibb until that fateful day when Dr. Pepper reigns supreme over the entire carbonated beverage universe. Until such time, I will press on – taking the punches as they come and fighting back with all the passion and angst I can muster.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tips on Tips

In today’s culture it has become normal for human beings to be expected…nay, required to pay a tip to restaurant servers in addition to the cost of the meal regardless of their performance in executing their services.

The word ‘Gratuity’ is cited on as meaning:

1. A gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip.
2. Something given without claim or demand.

Isn’t it interesting to know that when “gratuity” is added to the check because of the size of your group, it immediately ceases to be gratuity? Rather it becomes a “you require a larger table” tax, but restaurants misuse the former because it sounds nicer. From a customer’s stand point they are bringing business to the eatery by inviting their friends who will no doubt all buy something…yet, rather than a group discount we receive an overpopulation tax by being required to pay a predetermined tip regardless of the quality of service.

Now, what merits a legitimate tip then? If a server is polite, doesn’t interrupt, keeps everyone’s glasses full, keeps the all-you-can-eat dishes coming, brings the food quickly, as ordered and hot, always gives correct change, doesn’t ramble on about nobody knows what….then he or she is likely deserving of a tip. Remember, tips are over and above and are a means of rewarding hard work – if a server does a good job, you should tip them…but only then. If the service is bad and they are tipped anyway, what motivation do they have to do better next time? It’s like every aspect of our society’s tipping philosophy is about rewarding mediocrity and getting free hand outs without earning them. This not only destroys people’s drive to excel but also creates a dependence on hand-outs.

So, what if it’s not the server’s fault such as when a cook is being slow or not thorough? I see the two as one in the same. The server still represents the restaurant and if they are missing out on tips because of the cook, they should take it up with management. If the server gets tipped anyway because “it’s not their fault” then the status quo is maintained and the cook will continue to be slow or un-thorough the next time you come to eat there.

I hear this argument a lot: “servers can’t make ends meat on the minimum wage that the restaurant pays and they rely on tips for their livelihood.” Obviously restaurants have realized that many people tip regardless of service so they can get away with paying servers as little as possible. The truth is, no one forced you to take the job and no one is forcing you to stay at the job. If you can’t live off what you’re paid get a new job or lower your cost of living. This goes for any realm of employment not just food services. If people would stop tipping for no reason, servers would require more money and the restaurants will have to pay whatever the market will bear. As long as we the customer pay the stupidity tax, restaurants will let us fit the bill.

Now what about gratuity amounts? Social standards are to tip 10%-25% of whatever your bill was…What kind of messed up system is that? Using percentages? “Hmm, let’s look at the menu…hamburger $9.95……ribs $19.95….both come on one plate…both require one trip from the kitchen to my table – the server does the exact same amount of work regardless of what I order…yet, if I get the ribs I will pay twice the amount of gratuity than if I get the hamburger…” As you can see from this scenario, using percentages is a ridiculous way to calculate tips. If anything the higher my bill is, the better my discount should be because I am bringing much more business to the restaurant. So what should be done then? If you ask me, the standard for tips should be determined on a case by case, dollar by dollar basis determined solely by the customer’s overall experience in the subject establishment.

From an internal point of view, many restaurants require their servers to pool their tips and divide them equally among the other servers. The thinking behind this was to make it fair for those who may not have gotten a table with as many people or just not as high a tab. Again, here we go with rewarding mediocre service by allowing servers to slack off and let one of their fellow servers make their tips for them. If I do a really great job serving and get a really nice tip, I deserve that tip because I earned it and it shouldn’t be taken from me and given to a server who didn’t do such a great job. In the same way, if I have a great experience and the service is amazing, I want my tip to go to the person who served me and created that experience by going over and above the status quo. Sharing tips is simply practical communism masked in the disguise of fairness.

Where does it end? If gratuity is to be expected, then it is no longer gratuity. Will corporations start paying their computer programmers next to nothing and let the software consumers cover the rest of their payroll by tipping? This may sound ridiculous but that’s not to say that it could never happen. If people like you and me are willing to pay “over and above” for services that are “under and below” there’s no telling what else we might pay for.

In closing, I am not saying you should never tip…quite the contrary, tip as often as you can. There are many servers who are great at what they do and work hard to earn that reward and I don’t want to take anything away from those people. Give gratuity where gratuity is due and not where it is unwarranted. If you received crappy service, the server should expect to be compensated accordingly and hopefully they will strive to improve should you ever come back to their restaurant.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Don't Thank You Notes

Anyone who has graduated or been married understands the pain and agony of writing so-called ‘Thank You’ notes. On its surface the idea of a Thank You note is perfectly harmless and is in fact a very polite gesture afforded to the giver, having been the recipient of their selfless generosity. My qualm with these notes of appreciation is introduced as a reaction to the idea that Thank You notes are something to be expected and anticipated by the gift giver. I have actually had people ask me why they did not receive a Thank You note for a particular gift – the cold hard truth is that I didn’t write one, plain and simple.

It isn’t that I was not grateful for the gift, I almost always thank the giver in person because it is much more personal this way and not carbon copied and signed out of fake gratitude because it is required…yet, this somehow isn’t enough. It seems that these people need something tangible that they can hold in their hands, read once, and throw away. In reality, thank you notes are really just a form of Indian giving…giving a gift and expecting something in return, in this case it is a frilly piece of folded card stock with some scribbled ink on it. Why can’t we just give someone a gift and be done with it? If they then choose to write a thank you note, so be it. But doesn’t the fact that it is required or expected take away the significance of the gesture?

Many people use the requesting of a thank you note as a front for making sure that the intended recipient actually received the gift. The only instance I can think of where this would apply is if the gift was mailed. If you went to the wedding/graduation then it’s the same as hand delivering the gift and you can be 99.9% certain that the right person got the gift, with those odds you have no business suspecting that the gift "got lost on the gift table." However, even if the gift was mailed…how hard is it to call the person on the phone and ask if they received it? The receiver may then thank you vocally and not have to worry about the time and money that goes into writing and mailing an actual note.

So what is the solution? Gift recipients are between a rock and a hard place as they try to express their gratefulness but also not waste time and money on meaningless thank you notes. I propose that from now on, the giver is responsible for giving a true gift…in addition to whatever the gift is, also give the recipient freedom from the bonds of thank you note writing. Include a piece of paper with the gift explaining that you do not want a thank you note. Better yet, include a pre-written note with a stamped envelope with the gift that can easily be dropped in the mailbox with little or no effort. This way the gift receiver will have a clear conscience having met the requirement of writing you a thank you note and the gift giver can get a tangible thank you note with whatever self centered boastful flattery they wish because they wrote it themselves.