Friday, July 04, 2003

How to Take 8 Friends to Olive Garden and Eat for $8

Yes, friends, it's true. You, too, can bring eight of your buddies out to Olive Garden and get your meal free! All you pay is whatever piddly excuse for a tip you leave for your server to compensate for mental pain and anguish.

I was all revved up to post about this earlier than now, but my computer does this fun thing recently where it will suddenly just restart, completely out of nowhere, for no reason. The excitement is never knowing whether I should save a copy of something to disk, or whether I'll be safe. Kind of like data Russian Roulette.

You see, I had a party of 9 come in yesterday. Usually I am all about the parties of eight or more, because we add an 18% gratuity to the checks. It can be hard work taking a large party, but if their bill is big, it can really pay off when tip time rolls around. And since nothing around here is a guarantee because everyone is cheap, no matter their walk of life, having that guaranteed gratuity makes it worth the hard work. You know that no matter what happens, you will be getting that 18%.

The party was pretty much half kids, so upon first glance, I kind of groaned inwardly. But the people seemed nice, and I started to get their drink order. Everything progressed fairly normally until I had brought the salad and breadsticks out. I tried to get everyone's attention at once to ask if they wanted cheese on the salad, but they were all busy talking to each other, so I had to ask several times before I got an answer from everyone. I finally asked if anyone did NOT want cheese on the salad.

A little boy raised his hand and said very politely that he didn't want cheese. Trying to be a good server and all, I started walking to the side of the table where the boy was sitting, with an un-cheesed salad, and asked him if he wanted some salad before I put cheese on it.

The boy didn't even have a chance to answer, when the goateed man sitting at the head of the table barked at me in a rude tone of voice, "Ma'am? Would you just put cheese on the salad and put it on the table? We have to get going with this thing."

At that point, I was staring at him, quite likely with a WTF! expression on my face. After few moments of letting it all sink in, I walked back to my salad tray, my hands in the air in defeat, and kind of shaking my head. I was in total disbelief that this guy had been so totally rude to me. I put the salad down, put cheese on it and tossed it, and placed both bowls on the table; one on the kids' side, and one directly in front of goatee man. All completely silently. They may have thanked me, but I didn't say anything and just walked away.

After that, I was completely normal with everyone else, who appeared somewhat embarrassed for the way goatee man had treated me, and were trying to be doubly polite and nice to me because of it. I appreciated that, so I was nice to them. I completely ignored the asshole. Inexplicably, he thanked me for everything, but I didn't respond.

They were going the fairly cheap route.. most of the adults had soup and salad and goatee man just had only soup. For the nine of them, the bill was only $55.. that's damn cheap, really. But you know, I was thinking about getting them their food and getting them the fuck out of there.

Salad, breadstick, and drink refills were given without problem while their food was cooking. I and another server brought their food out, and goatee man was gone. I wondered if he'd left, since he'd seemed in such a hurry, or if he'd only gone to the bathroom. I was hoping for the former, but I didn't figure I'd get that lucky.

To the contrary, things were just about to get even worse.

I went back into the alley for something for another table, and my GM comes up to me, looking pissed off. Bill is not a guy who is fun when he's pissed. I spend most of my time at OG trying to fly under the radar and keep Bill light with jokes and stuff. So I was thinking, Oh shit as he walked up to me. He said, "Alena. Alena. What is the problem." (he wasn't asking, he was demanding)

I looked at him blankly.. I had absolutely no idea WHAT he was talking about.. I hadn't done anything illegal except give my table a lot of breadsticks, but I didn't figure he'd gone out to count them (though that seems to be one of his favorite activities). I answered, "Uh... I don't know.. what problem?"

Then he told me goatee man from my party had gone up front and demanded to see a manager, then proceeded to rip into Bill about my shitty service and how they waited 22 minutes for salad, blah blah.. He fed Bill all this complete bullshit, was ripping into me, ripping into everything, creating a big scene.

I mean, I was thinking about it... 22 minutes.. and I figured out how the guy came up with that number (cause they did NOT wait 22 minutes for salad). See, 20 seems like a long time to wait. More than 20 would be more impressive, but 25 sounds too accurate. 22 is a pretty random number, so it might seem like he actually timed it.

Anyway, so Bill was telling me all of this, and was just going, "Uuuuhhhh..." and then Bill said, "I took care of it" and tapped the bill he was holding.

I stared at him incredulously, not wanting to believe. "What do you mean, you took care of it?"

He replied, "I comped it."

I continued to stare. "The whole thing??"

"The whole thing."

So at that point, I'm thinking, You complete fucking bastard, you won after all. Because with no balance on the check, no grat. And the only thing that was getting me through this entire ordeal with the table was knowing that at the end, no matter what the prick fucktard said, they still had to tip me. I wanted to win. It pissed me the hell off.

Bill walked away, and the other people in the alley were all just staring at me in disbelief, because they'd overheard. That was kind of the breaking point for me, I started swearing and saying 'God damn it' a lot, and then I finally started crying. I was crying because this asshole at my table pissed me off so much. If we'd been on the street and he spoke to me the way he did, I would have jumped all over his shit and told him about a hundred various things he could do to himself. But you know, it's the whole basic respect thing, that it kills me because he's rude to people and can hide behind the shield of being a customer. I doubt he'd dare speak to me or any of us the way he did, if he weren't protected by the idea that we might lose our jobs if we react.

I was also really pissed off that I wouldn't be getting any sort of compensation to make up for having to deal with this table. I was really fucking mad, let me tell you. I cried, and it felt good. I tend to usually only cry at work; I bottle everything up usually and then some asshole I'm waiting on will set me off and push me over that edge. Then I end up in tears.

I love my coworkers.. I can't say that enough. We're one huge family. And so a bunch of them all banded together to take care of the Table From Hell for me while I composed myself. Once I'd gotten my face less puffy and red, I went back out there. Instead of ignoring goatee pricktard, I was downright cold to him. If anyone else asked me for something, I was on it immediately. When he asked me for something, I took longer. At this point, I didn't care, and as long as I wasn't outright rude to him, I was pretty safe. So I kept my mouth shut and showed him what shitty service is really like.

Bill then came up to me and asked my why I was so upset, since it wasn't my fault. Now, when Bill says something nice to you, you know he means it, cause he really isn't too free with the compliments most of the time. So I knew he didn't blame me, and that he knew I hadn't been slow, nor had I given the table bad service. I explained to Bill that the guy was very rude to me from the beginning, but that I was still giving them all good service. I even showed him the ticket, which showed I sent their salads at 2:01.. and since it was 2:35 when the guy was complaining (and they'd just gotten their food), it was obvious the guy was using what I call 'customer time', which tends to vary from the real amount of time elapsed (in an expanded, exaggerated way, of course).

Bill said he'd comp the ticket because this guy wasn't going to be satisfied with anything less, and that he had to avoid the guy going to corporate and complaining. But Bill was really pissed off about it and said it was (and I quote) "bullshit".

Anyway, they finished their meals, I delivered boxes and mints, and then asshole goatee man asked for his check. I didn't even think about it until I got back into the sidestation. So I walked back out there, and he was sitting with some cash in his hand. I told him, "You don't have a check, so.. have a good afternoon."

All while thinking, Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out..

He then went to hand me the cash he was holding, and even though I was frankly quite surprised and a bit stunned that he was going to leave me a tip, I reached out to accept it. However, he wouldn't just let it be that easy, no. He held onto the cash as I went to take it from him, and started to talk to me about talking to Bill. I was thinking, Dude, you really don't want to get into this with me..

He told me some crap about how he didn't really think it was my fault and that was why he was giving me a tip, that he knew it was the kitchen, and blah blah blah. And I just couldn't even fucking believe this guy. He treated me (and a host and the General Manager) like insignificant crap, and then proceeds to get all magnanimous on me. Whatever. Just get the hell out of my restaurant, bye, seeya. And go fuck yourself while you're at it, kthx.

And there you have it, folks. How you, too, can bring eight people to Olive Garden and eat for $8.

And then there was tonight, which was just really random and bizarre. I started out my shift with a party of 12. Hurrah for the grat. I knew we'd be pretty slow because of the holiday, so I was happy to get a chance to make a nice chunk of a tip. They were pretty cool in general, though there was one guy that was just grumpy and evil the entire meal. He ordered a steak and proceeded to throw a minor fit when it came to the table and he discovered we didn't have worcestershire sauce, only A-1. Well, yeah, maybe we don't have a vast selection of steak sauces because we're an Italian restaurant and you're lucky to be even getting a steak? I swan, people. I'm going to kill someone one of these days.

The grat on that was $27, which was pretty good. Then I got a party of 9 shortly thereafter, of a bunch of really cool people. They had some smartasses at the table, so I had a lot of fun picking on and joking around with them. On top of it, I was doing my stupid wine glass trick, where I pile on like 10 glasses and hold them in one hand. I usually get them balanced perfectly and know they won't fall. Lately, I haven't been succeeding very well, and tonight, I had almost all the glasses, and then one broke! Yeah, it broke in my hands and also fell on one of the guys at the table. Ooooooops. I felt really bad about it, because it was the first time the glasses had broken, and you know, it probably isn't fun to be showered in glass shards.

They had a lot of water and soup and salad, so the grat wasn't huge, but not bad at about $16. That put me up at over $40 for only a couple of hours' work. And that wasn't including the other tables I'd run at the same time. So I was pretty pleased. And then, the kicker, after having broken the glass on the guy and all that, they left me $18 over the grat! I remember now that one guy had said their son was a waiter, but I didn't think much about it because a lot of people say things like that and it never reflects in their tip. But yeah, awesome table, awesome tip.

I was thinking I may have one non-closing Friday night, for once.. I got there second, the hosts designated April as the closer, I thought I would be out of there around 10 or 10:30. Ohhhhh no, no.. April got a call and had to go home because her house was on fire. The validity of that is up for discussion.

Yeah, so I got literally stuck into closing and didn't get out of there until 11:30. April had left in a rush and didn't do her sidework, so the rest of us had to take care of that. They let the busser and everyone go, so I had to bus my last table. The bartender, manager, and I were the last ones out; even the kitchen guys beat us! Garrgh.

But at least I made good money tonight -- walked out with 20%, and around here, that's an exceptional night. The coolest thing is that I have been seriously worried that I would not be able to make my rent this month (it's due on the 6th), because after having to buy groceries, gas, and cigarettes (the essentials), I didn't think I'd make enough money this weekend to be able to cover the rent. Especially with the way business has been fairly slow lately. I counted it all up tonight, and I have enough to make rent, as well as start paying on some of my late bills.

I have learned that the one thing I'm good at is scraping by. I never get ahead, but I do get by. When I lived in Santa Cruz, I remember thinking how amazing it was that I had enough money to cover everything every month. I never really had anything left over, but I was always able to get by with necessities and some small luxuries. While reading The Alchemist, I connected that with something said in the book, about having faith in the universe because it will always provide for you. So because I was so anxious about this rent payment coming up, I was also curious to see whether the universe would provide the luck I needed to make enough money.

And it did. Very cool. It's also a big relief!

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