Dishin’ That: Sooner or later, tip karma will catch up to you

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It had been a long time since I’ve witnessed anyone swiping a tip off a vacated table. While not a common occurrence, once is too many, and the audacity of this most recent heist ruined my weekend.

The impulsive plan to get-the-heck-outta’-Dodge was drummed up by my Blue-Eyed Yankees Fan. “Come on, Doll,” he said in his thick Massachusetts accent. “How much longer yoose (are you) gonna’ have weekends off, huh? Big Head (his friend, John) is gone and we can hang at his place. I’ll be there by tree (three).”

Realizing he was right and my weekend choice of shoes will indeed be server Danskos over flip-flops, I agreed to meet him at Big Heads’ oceanfront A-frame in semi-deserted Hampton Beach. Calling for layered sweatshirts, the sunny weather was a spring tease, making the jaunt a good call.

As far as the tip stealing incident, it happened at a restaurant off the beach, frequented by locals. Lucky to get seats at the bar, my date was in a poor mood because I was delighted by a television display of Red Sox Spring Training. Looking at him to make a snarky comment, I saw the couple out of the corner of my eye.

While paying the check, the man put a stack of bills in a closed check minder and headed to the restroom. Within seconds, the woman opened it, counted the money, shook her head and put some of the bills in her pants pocket. It was a sickening moment.

In the past, I’ve seen servers swipe other servers’ tips and supposed team players holding out while pooling. I’ve seen people pick up a pen and reduce credit card tips, and modify the total, when the original signer stepped away to make a call. I’ve also been around when cash and charge slips (along with countless retainers and cheater eye glasses) were inadvertently thrown away by overzealous busing. But this time, the act, carried out so blatantly, really got to me.

As I watched the server clear the table and take the check minder to the wait station, her face fell as she counted the money and closed out the transaction. Granted, I don’t know how the service was, or what the couple’s relationship is around money. All I know is what I saw and none of the possible variables mattered.

Tip karma has it’s own special set of rules. That poor server will have a day when someone leaves her a mystery twenty-dollar bill. She’ll get five excellent comment cards in one night, and a large party will request her by name. As my Restaurant Creative Consulting Team used to say, “It all comes out in the wash.”

I believe that will be the karmic case for the shorted server. As for the woman who took the tip? She’ll never be able to wash her hands of the weekend-wrecking deed.

Peas & Q’s

Bids closed on Feb. 19 for a new food kiosk going into the Cumberland County Courthouse on Newbury Street. A reliable source tells me only four hats were thrown into the ring as of Feb. 18.

Restrictions and fine print aside, this future gold mine with dreamy hours had me half-jokingly scouting for a financial backer. With stressed-out lawyers buzzing around, and a captive audience (pun intended) providing lots of foot traffic, the opportunity is a no-brainer.

However, it calls for someone with restaurant-specific cost and overhead experience, an ability to partner with vendors, a serious work ethic, a clear vision and a sense of humor. Some will see it as a satellite expansion, but I believe the kiosk should stand on it’s own, both menu and character-wise.

Everything from Bailiff’s Blend coffee (Coffee By Design, of course) to overstuffed boxed lunches to extensive breakfast items, and way more, are in my hypothetical business plan. And let’s not forget the untapped, in-house catering possibilities.

Perhaps the bidding will reopen and the “Law and Your Order Cafe” can become a reality. Interested parties with deep pockets should reach out because one thing is certain: No one is going to swipe a tip in that venue.

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 nladd@theforecaster.net, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.

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