Different perspectives and spirited opinions came in about last week’s Hampton Beach tale of tip money gained and unknowingly (by the server) lost.
The Reader’s Digest version is, my Blue Eyed Yankees Fan and I were in a townie restaurant on a balmy weekend evening, when I saw a guy put a stack of money in a check minder to pay a tab. As he left for the restroom, his female companion counted the money and without so much as a glance around, put some of the bills in her pocket.
Regardless of a possible prepayment conversation, or any motive behind her action, it sure looked sketchy from the bar stool where I was sitting. Especially so when I watched the dejected server count the money after they left.
However, many of you, including My Blue Eyed Yankees Fan, told me to MYOB.
“When did you become judge and jury?,” one reader wrote. “You don’t know how the dinner went, or if the guy is a gambler or something. Do you go over and look at people’s credit card receipts, too?”
”Maybe they had a conversation before hand, and the guy over-tips, and it’s also her money,” strongly suggested a newspaper colleague who was so quick to comment that I wonder if she had her own experience with similar story.
“Oh my Gaad (God), Doll,” said My Blue Eyed Yankees Fan after he read the column online. “Sometimes you gotta’ stay out of other people’s stuff when you don’t have all the facts. I know it’s tough for yoose (you) to do because you understand things other people don’t, but yoose jump to conclusions.”
Truthfully, his comments and our ensuing conversation about what I shooda (should have) written bothered me, because he has owned and operated restaurants and bahs (bars) for years.
Then, thankfully, stories and support from the other side started coming in.
“I actually had this happen to me when a couple came in a few New Year’s Eves ago,” said a veteran York Beach server. “Tax and gratuity were included in a package deal, so I was delighted when I saw the guy leave extra money under the salt shaker. The minute he headed for the door, his date reached over and grabbed it. I looked right at her and we made eye contact for a second. She just smiled and kept walking. Later, I told my boss she may as well have reached into my purse and taken my wallet, too.”
“Once the cash hits the bar, it’s off limits to anyone but me,” wrote a peeved bartender from Topsham. “Maybe it’s different because servers have other tasks, and have other tables, but when someone tries to pull that crap, I’m only feet away.
“I had something like that happen last summer,” he continued. “This time, it was the woman who left the tip and the guy tried to make her take some of it back. I thought he was going to replace it, but he didn’t. It was risky of me, but I asked if I could ‘make any change’ and the guy gave me the Jedi death stare. The woman put the money back on the bar, and they left.”
Apparently, touchy topics that open up discussion for differing points of view make for good reading. That must be the case here, because I received a verbal tip from my editor when he mumbled something about liking the Hampton Beach column.
Had I been on a bar stool, I would have fallen off. Some tips are priceless, and at least no one can pilfer that one.
Q — I recognized you at Merrill Auditorium a few weeks back and felt cheated. You write about all those different restaurant things, but you work at a concession stand? — Lloyd C., Portland.
A — Lloyd, Please send me a valid, working email address (I tried to answer you), and maybe I’ll send you my resume.
It’s the Maine Way to work a handful of jobs, and I’m no exception. Making easy money while people watching is a nice break from my other two (sometimes three) jobs.
For the umpteenth time, people may recognize me and I either deny I’m me and jokingly say “Don’t read that crap!” Or, I say, “Thank you for supporting the Forecaster,” and try and get away as quickly as possible.
I don’t like to reveal my primary serving job. It puts me under pressure to be the best server/bartender ever, all the time, and honestly, how am I supposed to dish dirty laundry if I do?
I’m all about transparency, but in this case, don’t ask, don’t tell.
Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.