Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why I Quit Chili's

My Brother-in-Law joined the Army Reserves and has been in Officer Medic Training in San Antonio for the past few months.  Every other weekend, we've been able to pick him and a buddy up and hit the town.  You know, get them off base and just have fun with us lowly civilians.  They are the "Old Married Men" in their squadron.  So instead of going out with the rest of the 19-year-olds and getting drunk and trying to get laid, they hang out with my family.  Their wives should be proud...seriously.

So on the drive back to base, B-i-L (funny enough, as I was typing that acronym, I realized it is also his real name so it doesn't matter.) ... So Bill and I were swapping "Quittin' Crap Jobs" stories.  I decided one of mine was a great one to share with you wonderful people.

Before I proceed, I need to forewarn you that there are things below that would be interpreted (and probably rightfully so) as racist.  IT IS NOT THE POINT OF THE STORY, but it is integral. 

I worked at Chili's as a waiter for a few months.  This particular one was designed with the old look.  Meaning it had no tables, only booths.  This was great in theory, because 95% of people who walk up to the hostess stand request a booth, or if you try to sit them at a table table, they will point at the first available booth they see and say "can we have the booth?"  The catch? Fat people and large parties were a problem.  So fat people got special placement at a handful of half booth half table and chair set ups.  There's one problem down.  So parties of 6 or more were screwed.  They automatically got split up.  Yeah I know, way to plan ahead Chili's.

The story.  I was working the short shift.  Come in late and leave early.  This was ideal if you wanted to party later on and I did.  I typically closed (meaning stayed til after everyone was gone making sure the place is ready for the morning).  I was stoked at the idea of an actual night out with cash in pocket.  (Yes, I just used stoked as a real term, bite me, I grew up in the 90's)  I arrived and they told me I had the 6 booths along the back side of the bar.  They also told me I had a party of 30 coming in in 20 minutes.  OK, so 6 booths designed for 4 people are supposed to fit 30 how?  Oh great, I get to cap the end of each booth with a chair.  This left me with roughly 6 inches to work with once bodies were in chairs to go up and down the aisle.  I was thin back then, but still!  I can survive this I thought.  Hopefully they just put the skinny people on the outside.

Then the party arrived. 

Before I go any further (I know, two warnings in one post, you're really in for it...or maybe I am.  Oh whatever) let me let you in on some insider secrets. 

1.) When you arrive at a restaurant and you have a party of 2, the staff will refer to it as a two top.  Party of 4, a four top and so forth. 

2.) There are some guests you DO NOT want at your table. 
  a.) Children (anyone under 21) without adults present.  They simply do not tip and soda refills will run you ragged.  Oh and they never order a real meal, the girl always does the "I'm watching my figure, I just have a salad" thing and the guy is like "I can't afford a salad! that cow!, I'll just have the cheapest thing I can find."

*Please don't forget waiters are in it for the money, kinda like a Neiman Marcus sales/stalker lady. 

  b.) Europeans were AWFUL.  Their waiters are paid a wage and the tip is built in.  Hello, you're across the friggin' pond.  Add a tip!  We got paid $2.13/hour (and this is the 21st century I'm writing about).
 
  c.) Separate check business women at lunch SUCK too! They are ungrateful, ugly (personality, not necessarily looks) and will all try to top the last one ordering by choosing a lower calorie entree.  I always started with the fat chick of the group, she'd at least do a soda, diet of course, and a sandwich.  If you started with the "water with EXTRA LEMON and a side salad with dressing ON THE SIDE" chick, you were screwed.  Then they'll all pay in $20's so you piss your bartender off by needing 4 twenties broken down on the first round of guests.  It was at the point they break out the calculators to figure 15% of $5.45 that you'd wish they could see their own insanity!

Wow, I forgot how many people used to irritate me when I wore an apron for a living. 

  d.) One of the worst were Canadians.  I know, what the hell did the Kanuks ever do to you Dorn?  Nothing actually.  Canadians is the "secret" code for a table full of African Americans.  (Gasp, Shield your eyes, chastise me.  Go ahead do it, but I will not apologize for being apart of an entire subculture of America.  Waiters that is.  What they deal with is unbelievable when you really stop to think about it.) So back to the whole two top, four top comment above.  It would be WAY to obvious to just call it a black top, so some one decades ago dubbed them Canadians and it has been restaurant verbiage ever since.  (Oh and in case the thought crossed your mind....my good friends who were both waiters AND African Americans felt the same way I did.) I'll not go into the details of why they are singled out, but you'll probably pick up on the stereotypes as you/if you continue to read.
        *The exception to this rule was if they were all female and I let my {nonexistent} Southern Drawl come out and flirt more than a little bit.  Brown Sugars LOVES thems some red head!  I worked any angle I could!

Back to my party who has just arrived (yes there was a story amidst the derogatory comments above).  They were Canadians.  HOLY CRAP!  They lined my booths young and old skinny and large (the larger ones of course took the outside chairs because that's Karma for you....the above came thoughts came back around to bite me big time here and what unfolds as the evening ensues). 

Things start out great, bar drinks for the adults and soda, lemonade or tea for everyone else.  At least one appetizer hit every table, sometimes more.  Hennessey, Pina Coladas, Amaretto Sours, Beer, and everything in between.  I was in for a decent chunk of change and was more than happy about it.  I weaved in and out of the microscopic aisle and everyone was happy and everything was going as planned.  I brought out all the food with the help of 5 other waiters.  We dropped the whole party at the same time because Chili's is actually great at maintaining food quality and preparation time during any size rush. 

Then comes the first crack in the dam.  One lady sent her ribs back because the mashed potatoes were cold (steam was still rising off them).  Then her friend across the table said her chicken strips were cold (Seriously? It's fried, those effers will scald you 20 minutes after you've had them!).  Then the table behind them sent back all of the kid's food because the fries were seasoned (Are you kidding me? No pun intended).  As the dam continued to crack over half of the party had sent back the food for inane reasons.  Great.  They of course wanted to see my manager.  The assistant manager and the general manager both came out to talk to the group.  They convinced my managers that the every person in the kitchen had screwed up in some way. 

The managers decided to take the meals off every single ticket.  This took my $400+ ticket down to a hundred some odd dollars.  We redelivered every single plate back to them with adjustments as "necessary."  Dessert was unwanted.  I split the orders into 10 or so bills.  As I delivered them, a 30 person murmur quickly grew into a couple of men yelling at me.  "Your manager said this was all going to be taken off the bill."  I replied that we took off every single meal.  But appetizers that were eaten and bar drinks still had to be paid for.  There was no complaint about any of it.  They had no leg to stand on, so they begrudgingly paid.  The kicker?  Chili's DOES NOT add gratuity like normal restaurants do for larger parties.  I literally got to keep the coin change from these tabs.

When it was all said and done I'd made roughly $11.  Well that sucked!  I go back to the manager to complain about the whole turn of events.  As an aside (like there haven't been half a million already) later in life as a manager of a much more prestigious restaurant, I  ran into a couple situations like this.  I comped off a few items after the fact so the waiter could leave with some money even though dignity had long left.  She informed me that it was the luck of the draw and I should be grateful they'd trust me with large parties to begin with.  (Chili's is a churn and burn business, large parties ALWAYS suck because they take up tables and don't eat and leave quickly like normal 2 and 4 tops!)  And then to ad insult to injury, she let me know I would still owe tip out on the total amount.  *Tip out is a percentage of sales a waiter owes back to the bus boys, food expediter (garnish plates and put on trays in order), and the bar. 

Tip out on $400 (because that's the ticket price regardless of additional discounts {remember that next time you dine with a coupon} is $12.  3%, one for each staff member who "assisted" you that evening.  I made $11 and I owe $12?  I don't think so.  I'm not going to PAY to work!  When I protested, the manager said, what's the big deal?  It's only a dollar?  To which I said the big deal is if I had called in to work tonight, I wouldn't owe any money and would be far happier and my soul wouldn't be annihilated!  She proceeded to tell me I would pay or they'd write me up for theft which would most likely result in my firing.  I laughed.  Handed her my apron and walked out the door. 

I certainly don't regret maintaining my dignity.  I just wish I'd left the restaurant industry altogether sooner than I did.  So for all of you out there who never paid their dues as a lowly service industry slave, know that these folks deserve a great deal of respect that they rarely receive.  Most importantly, ALWAYS TIP!  And never below 15% and never below one dollar!  If you can't afford the tip, go to a cheaper restaurant.  If you can't behave yourself, don't go out!

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