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Omnivore - A server with balls: 'You did not order that'

When the server puts you in your place

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  • Annick Foucault/WIkimedia Commons

Monday's New York Times devoted its "Room for Debate" column to tipping. We're not talking how much to tip, but whether the practice needs to be eliminated altogether. Servers rarely earn even minimum wage. Tips form the bulk of their pay. As the debate column points out, many servers live near the poverty level.

When I first started writing "Grazing" nearly 30 years ago, I had a pretty disrespectful attitude towards servers. But every issue, I picked a "Waitron of the Week." Most liked receiving the designation. But other servers were sometimes offended by the term "waitron." It was widely used in the culture then as a sarcastic gender-free designation. But some servers objected to it so much that they circulated a petition to fire me or ban the word's usage.

I got it pretty soon: servers must be the most patient people alive. I've heard story after story of being stiffed by diners, dealing with coked-up chefs, and seeing their paychecks shorted. I've watched dining room dramas that would make me dump plates on the customers. Yes, good servers in fine-dining venues can make a pile of money - if they get the hours they need.

But then...