Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tip Sensitivity Training

As a server, I should be making a lot more money than I do .However, thanks to a wide range of reasons; tipping 20% is still the exception and not the rule. Previous misconceptions about servers have led people to believe that bad service is intentional, often resulting in poor tipping habits. Due to the current economic climate, thousands of college graduates have no other option than to earn a living in the service industry.  Combined with a desire to remain profitable and stay open, the standard level of service in restaurants across the country has improved. And yet, tipping habits have not.

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales are projected to total $660.5 billion for 2013, demonstrating that Americans are willing to spend their hard earned money on food but not on tips. Because if everyone tipped around 20%, the 13.1 million servers across the country would accumulate over $1.2 trillion in tips. My math stops here, but I think its safe to say, there aren’t many, if any, rich servers.
The economy is an easy scapegoat for bad tippers. However, in my experience; poor tipping habits are the product of selfishness and ignorance.  Yes, the economy is responsible for smaller budgets but the numbers prove that people are not willing to give up the experience and convenience of dining out. But instead of choosing less expensive entrees or going out one less time a week, people selfishly accommodate their budgets through the tip to the server, because this is the part of their experience that affects them the least. Less offensive, but just as damaging, is the practice of ignorantly justifying a bad tip because of poor service.  Tight budgets are making people less empathetic and more likely to look for reasons to decrease the tip.
Servers are working hard to ensure that you feel good about spending your hard earned money. It is a selfish and ignorant decision to reward that hard work with a bad tip. This problem would be solved ( so would world peace) if everyone was required to work in the service industry for at least one week. Much to the disappointment of bad tippers everywhere, I was unable to get this enforced. Servers are trained to provide a pleasantly memorable experience to everyone they serve. But are people trained to be good guests? I think if there was a poll, most servers would agree, a lot of people are very difficult to wait on. Given all the training servers have to go through for a job they are more than likely over qualified for, maybe people would benefit from a servers perspective.
Tipping Sensitivity Training
Many people are under the false impression that despite having never worked in any type of service industry, the Food Network has clued them in all things restaurant and service related. Unless you are willing to try serving for even just one day, please accept that you do not and will not ever understand. More so now than ever, people are relying on tips to make a living; so despite what you might believe, most people are striving to provide you with perfect service. Often, things that are out of your servers control will be misconstrued as bad service. However, there are times when unfortunantly, you just get really bad service.
The most important thing to remember is just like you rely on your paycheck to survive, servers rely on tips. Similarly, they should be earned. After this, you should be able to differentiate between bad service and busy service.
Why 20% Should Be Everyone’s Baseline Tip
  1. In general, a servers base pay is $2.13 an hour.
  2. Depending on the restaurant, most servers will never take home 100% of the tips they make. There are other employees (food runners, service bar, the host staff) that will get a share of their tips. This is called tip share.
  3. Often, tip share is based on a servers total food sales. This means that even if they received no tip at all from some tables, they still have to tip out on those sales. Basically, if you leave no tip, the server just paid to wait on you.
Outstanding service deserves more. Bad service deserves less. Based on the standards restaurants are trying to hold their servers to, bad service should not be something you frequently encounter. Bad service and busy service can look similar. If it’s a busy shift, look around and see if you see your server stopping by a lot of tables. If that’s the case, try and be a little understanding that your drink is getting low. More than likely, there are guests engaging in irritating behaviors described below. If its not busy, and you never see your server…
There are a lot of things going on in the back of the restaurant that servers are responsible for despite the popular opinion that we are back there doing nothing. Just keep that in mind if you need something and your server isn’t readily available. Attitude(caring/helpful but appears busy or lethargic/lack of empathy) can determine if you think you're getting bad service or busy service.

Irritating Guest Behaviors
Although they might seem insignificant, here are some behaviors to avoid that drive servers crazy no matter where you are eating and what kind of response or reaction to expect
  1. Don’t give me drink order and ask for peanuts/bread/rolls before you even allow me to say my name.
That’s fine, but since my name isn’t important, I won’t be repeating it and I don’t answer to finger snapping, keys jingling or hand waving.
  1. Don’t try to get my attention by snapping your fingers, jingling your keys, or waving your hand.
I am required to introduce myself. Either you weren’t listening or you interrupted me. If you ask, I will repeat my name…or a fake one.
  1. Don’t tell me you and your 5 guests are ready to order and then you aren’t.
I have no problem answering your questions. And as much as you believe you are…you are not my only table. But unfortunately, I do not have time to list the 12 sides and 12 salad dressings to Every. Single. Person.  I will point them out to you on the menu and tell you I’ll be right back. There is someone snapping her fingers at me.
  1. If I ask you if you would like an appetizer or a starter, don’t ask for the free bread/peanuts/rolls.
Appetizers are something you pay for that not everyone gets. The bread/peanuts/rolls are guaranteed…but it might take longer for you to get them now.
  1. Don’t hold my table for 3 hours, especially on a Friday or Saturday.
I appreciated your business but Starbucks has nicer chairs. Unless you want to pay rent. And in that case, its 20-30 an hour. Which is what I could have made if YOU HADNT BEEN TALKING ABOUT NOTHING 3 HOURS AFTER YOU ATE! And no, you will not be getting a refill. The coffee is cold because I poured it 3 hours ago.
  1. Don’t berate me because your favorite dish was removed from the menu.
Although my server apron and matching staff uniform makes me look dignified, I actually have no direct connection to the important person who makes those decisions. But yes, I will make sure that the VIP gets your complaint Mr. Smith
  1. Don’t tell that I cooked your entrĂ©e wrong.
I’m sorry I cooked it wrong. I forgot about it while I was out in the dining room waiting on you.
  1. Don’t hand me a credit card and a gift card and tell me to do the gift card first.
SHUT UP!!!! AND THIS WHOLE TIME….I’ve been running the credit card for a random amount hoping that the gift card would have enough to cover the balance! THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION.

Like any profession, waiting on tables is not something everyone can do. The communication skills I have learned are invaluable and it has given me a deeper appreciation for genuinely decent people. Most importantly I have learned how just a few dollars can make or break you. The next time you go out to eat and you think about leaving $8 instead of $10, ask yourself if you’ll ever miss that $2. Despite good service, your server may have been getting undertipped all day and its not their fault you really didn’t need to come out and eat today. All those $2 dollars add up fast.
Because I am a server, there are a lot of things I do, but really don’t need to be spending money on. However, every time I consider keeping that extra $2 or $3 dollars, I have to remind myself that it was my decision to eat out and my server shouldn’t be punished for my irresponsibility.

Ugh. Budgets, Diets, and Exercise. The Typical Millennial Nightmares

I relish the freedom that growing up has given me, but navigating through the unknown terrain of adulthood can often feel like a never ending trek through a land-mine of unforeseen costs and bigger scarier issues. Even though I am trying to adapt, I still envy the blissful unawareness and trivial problems of a 6 year old. Giving up is not an option, but sometimes I wish I could stop, stick my lip out, and kick and scream until someone brings me some ice cream and points me in the right direction.
RELATED: Generation Miley
Through all of the struggles, I have developed a new respect for the importance of budgeting, exercising, and healthy eating. These represent  some of the things I can actually control and make simple. Because in the chaotic and stressful world that characterizes adulthood, I have found that most things rarely offer that luxury. Multiple interviews don’t guarantee a job, the check engine light actually indicates a car problem, taxes take the fun out of paychecks, and relationships seldom end with happily ever after.
There are many variables that I have little to no control over, but that does not apply to my diet, my workouts, and my ability to stay within a budget. To maintain a grip on these important aspects of my life, I have to keep them simple because this keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. Instead of following a strict diet or training schedule,  I use these simple tricks below to keep my body and my bank account healthy.
Exercise Simply
  1. I prefer a workout routine that I put together myself. Running, although high impact, is a great way to exercise if you don’t like gyms or your budget isn’t ready for one yet.
  2. To work out my arms, I stick with the classics: push ups, dips, and I own a couple of 10 and 15 pound weights.
  3. To add extra tone to my legs: I do lunges after my run.
  4. Wall sits are another easy way to work out your legs.

How to Exercise in an Apartment and Forever Asleep demonstrate a few of these exercises and offer a few more.
My advice: Pick out a few of the exercises you like best and stick with them for a while. Get comfortable doing those and then incorporate other exercises. Don’t complicate your routine. It’s something you should look forward too, not dread.
Again, these are all simple, old school workouts that don’t require a gym membership and are often easy to do in and around wherever you live.
Diet Simply
I did weight watchers off and on for my first couple of year in college, after gaining the freshman 15 and adding the sophomore 10. Although that was further back then I care to admit, I still keep an eye on the amount of fat, calories, and fiber in a food while grocery shopping. Obviously sodium, sugar, and a host of other things affect the nutrition content of a food, that’s a quick way to check myself before buying something totally detrimental to my waistline.
Diets are complicated. It can be as simple as portion control. Don’t completely deny yourself of the foods you love, because more than likely, you’ll end up bingeing, and eating way more than you ever intended.
Try using this budget friendly list of healthy foods next time you go grocery shopping. It provides you with simple options for a healthier diet:

Craving something bad?!?! Take a bite of your secret pleasure, quickly drink a glass of water, wait a minute, take another small bite, and then again quickly drink another glass of water…you’ll feel full without having to completely lose yourself in your favorite treat.
If you forget to pack your lunch or just tired of eating at home, ignore your inner devil and don’t order the Big Mac. Instead, try one of these healthier fast food options:

Even when I am having an unhealthy day or week…I always feel a little bit better about myself by drinking water. Duh, its one of the simplest healthiest tidbits known to mankind. But drinking water really isn’t that easy, is it? No, not when there are cokes, and smoothies, Starbucks, and wine that can just as easily satisfy your thirst, albeit temporarily.
I have always struggled with drinking water...until I discovered it wasn’t the water I had a problem with, it was more often what I was drinking it out of. I don’t like drinking bottled water, except for smart water…which is definitely not budget friendly. The smart water bottle is my absolute favorite drinking receptacle which I still splurge on occasionally (weird yes, but effective). In order to stay hydrated without smart water, I found a large tervis tumbler with a straw holder that I can drink water out of. Because if I can’t have a smart water…I have to have a straw. If you struggle with water intake…try to discover your favorite water drinking receptacle. I found that the bigger, the better…less refills.
RELATED: Debating Obesity
Also, when eating out…drink water!!
Yes, its friendlier on your budget (a soft drink can add $3-4 dollars to your bill), but also think of it this way…it is your opportunity to have someone else prepare and refill your water as many times as you desire!! Drink up! PS..water is one of the few things I have absolutely no problem refilling numerous times as a server…CONGRATS!! You are being healthy!!!

Budgeting Made Easy
Budgets OVERWHELM me, especially complicated ones. Its difficult to sit down and actually see how much money you spend. And although it sucks, its much better than trying to guess how much money you MIGHT have at the end of the month.
After trying a few (the Bank of America budget template sent me straight to the wine bottle), I found this budget guide that fit me best:
Life After College also offers great suggestions and other templates for a complicated life:
I will forever and always, love fast food. It is definitely my guilty pleasure. In order to save my waistline and my bank account, I employ this FANTASTIC TRICK:
And Last But Not Least: The Simplest And Cheapest Thing Of All
Argue all you want, but Americans, especially our generation, are lazy. YAY..Mexico has become a fatter nation than us! But that shouldn’t make anyone feel better. Obesity is an EPIDEMIC! The health risks associated with being obese and overweight are not a secret to anyone anymore. I believe, that in order to truly change your lifestyle habits, you have to find your motivation. My motivation: I was 105 pounds entering my freshman year of college in 2003. In 2009, when I graduated, I was 130 pounds. A…yes.. I partied and I took some time to graduate…happy hour was always more fun than studying or even going to a class..duh! B…the partying obviously directly contributed to my weight gain…not just the alcohol…but the greasy foods I craved for my hangover and the total inability to exercise after a night of shots. PS…although 25 pounds may not seem like an extreme amount…I am barely 5 feet tall and it certainly added up on my petite frame.
Consequently, when I graduated and moved in with my parents for a year..the weight just fell off with little effort on my part. Although, without the ever present hangover…I could stomach healthier food options and found the energy to start exercising again.
My Point: I motivate myself to stay healthy with this saying:
It was acceptable to gain weight in college, and it was great that I lost weight after college…and it will be embarrassing to me if I gain that college weight back. That is my motivation…it works better than knowing the health benefits of exercise, because sometimes that knowledge just isn’t going to get your ass to work out.

The Not So Affordable Care Act

AFFORDABLE. Defined by the Webster's College Dictionary as: Considered to be within one's financial means.
Guess what?! A $72.68 increase IS NOT within my financial means. So already, this government program designed to "affordably insure" the vast majority of Americans has Pissed.Me.Off.
Normally, I try to stay blissfully ignorant when it comes to all things governmental, especially since Obama was elected and then reelected. If you ask me what party I associate myself with, I proudly say "Republican" but will walk away should the conversation delve any deeper into politics. Not because I can't defend my allegiance, but because I refuse to argue with an Obama loving liberal. No one ever wins, friendships can be compromised, and Obama will still be President. I would rather move to Canada then vote for a Democrat or a woman. Should I have ever have to choose between voting for a Democratic Man or Republican Woman, I will move to Canada. Playing ice hockey without a helmet sounds more appealing than enduring 4 years with either as President.
Silver Lining: Should I return, any residual injuries or side effects I suffer from my helmetless adventure would have to be covered under the new ACA.
I digress.
Prior to receiving the letter, I was unaware and slightly unconcerned with how "Obamacare" would effect me. After all, I have great insurance that I am able to afford on my own and will cover me in the event of an accident or medical emergency which, I know now, is exactly what the Affordable Care Act(ACA) is offering to everyone. So even though I hand picked my old plan because it worked for me, it fails to comply with the new regulations set by the ACA. And these new regulations are exactly what is now making my new plan totally unaffordable. According to an article in Forbes, there are many others who will be affected in a similar way:
 Middle-class Americans face the double-whammy of higher insurance premiums, and higher taxes to pay for other people’s subsidies. Most people with average incomes will pay more under Obamacare for individually-purchased insurance than they did before. The overall results make clear that most people will not receive enough in subsidies to counteract the degree to which Obamacare drives premiums upward.
Remember that nearly two-thirds of the uninsured are under the age of 40. And that young and healthy people are essential to Obamacare; unless these individuals are willing to pay more for health insurance to subsidize everyone else, the exchanges will not serve the goal of providing coverage to the uninsured. For months, we’ve heard about how Obamacare’s trillions in health care subsidies were going to save America from rate shock. It’s not true. If you shop for coverage on your own, you’re likely to see your rates go up, even after accounting for the impact of pre-existing conditions, even after accounting for the impact of subsidies.
Rates are going higher. And if you’re healthy, or you’re young, the Obama administration expects you to do your duty and pay up.
Many 27-year-olds will face steep increases in the underlying cost of individually-purchased insurance under Obamacare: rates will go up for men by an average of 97 percent; for women, 55 percent.
HealthLawHelper estimates that around 51% of all Americans are confused about how the new health laws affect them. Well Duh. Because this is the first thing I read about the “Affordable Care Act”:
According to ObamaCareFacts:
ObamaCare's goal is give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance and to reduce the growth in health care spending in the U.S
The ObamaCare fact is the average American will save money under ObamaCare. In fact, many Americans are already paying less for health care services.
Wrong. An EIGHT HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO DOLLAR ANNUAL INCREASE in my insurance is not AFFORDABLE. This also means that I am NOT SAVING MONEY and clearly NOT PAYING LESS for my health care services. WTF.
I am aware that prior to ObamaCare, over 48 million Americans were uninsured and I believe that they are entitled to receive affordable health care. But this is not the way to do it.
The premise of the ACA,which I will now refer to as the NSACA (not so ACA,) is to provide nearly every American with affordable health insurance with a focus on preventative care. The NSACA even names ten essential health benefits that all plans must cover. However, there are roughly 315 million people in the United States and of those, 154.7 million adults and 23.9 children are overweight or obese. Data from the National Survey of Childrens Health shows:
The obesity epidemic is disproportionally more rampant among children living in low income, low education, and higher unemployment households.
Statistics from PfizerFacts show that the uninsured share similar demographics:
  • Low income is a risk factor for not having insurance.
  • Service workers, along with blue-collar and farm workers, make up the bulk of the 24 million uninsured employer-based workers.
  • One third of uninsured children live in families with annual household incomes below $25,000; 19% of children living in such households are uninsured.
Would it be wrong to assume that many of the uninsured now covered by the NSACA will need far more than just preventative care? Meaning that, from the statistics, it could be assumed that a significant amount of uninsured people are also overweight or obese and will require secondary or tertiary care that is far more expensive than preventative care. According to the CDC:
The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion
What will it cost now?
Concerned about my increase, I called the lifelong family friend from whom I bought my insurance. When I discussed the letter and the increase with him, he laughed sarcastically but told me that $250 was incredibly reasonable. He encouraged me to take it because premiums were expected to triple. I discussed with him the "marketplace" but we both knew that it was not a reasonable alternative because of the limited number of doctors and medical networks.
Also, currently, I am not eligible to receive the "subsidies" that makes the NSACA so attractive to many of the currently uninsured. Why? Because my employer offers health insurance but I chose to buy my own. I work for Longhorn Steakhouse which is owned by Darden Restaurants. Even before the NSACA, they offered their non salaried employees a very limited list of insurance options. I tried it, but the coverage was inadequate and it affected my taxes at the end of the year, so I chose to find my own independent insurancee, which prior to the increase, was only 30 dollars more  and I was well covered.
Although I am not sure how the Darden insurance has adapted to the laws of the NSACA, I have no desire to receive coverage from my employer. Because of this, under the new laws, if I were to buy from the marketplace, I can't receive any subsidies and decrease my premium.
Another law under the NSACA states that full time equates to 30 hours or more. Many people who relied on 30 hours or even overtime are finding themselves unable to make ends meet because they are no longer able to work more than 28.5 hours. According to an article from the TheBrennerBrief:
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), one of its most lasting and far-reaching (and unintended) consequences is already emerging. Employers who have numerous, relatively low-pay employees are changing their practices to employ these workers only 30 hours per week. This keeps them below the threshold for full-time employment, and relieves employers of the economic burden of paying for health insurance — or paying a penalty for not doing so.
There are over 13.1 million food and beverage workers in the United States. Many of them work well over 30 hours. However, their hours have been cut so that their employers do not have to offer them health insurance. An article in Forbes describes Obamacare's Acute Affliction on Restaurant Workers:
Put plainly, the ACA undermines the flexibility of scheduling that has helped ensure a quality dining experience for customers, not to mention provided employees the convenience of flexible schedules and the ability to earn more income as their time permits.   Employees throughout the restaurant industry have embraced and enjoyed this benefit for decades, and they are about to lose it.  As it stands, the net effect of these requirements will be a limitation of the earning potential of the millions of Americans who work in the restaurant industry.
It just keeps getting better and better. Increased premium rates but less hours to earn the money to pay for it.
After discussing it with my insurance man further and lots of exhausting and confusing research, I decided to lock myself into the increased rate of $250 good through January 2015. This is currently my best option as it is obvious that rates will go up far beyond this as early as May 2014.
Congratulations: You survived Bush, but will our wallets survive Obama?