I worked in the restaurant business for over seven years. It is not long in the scheme of things. But, it was long enough. During that time I often thought that as a restaurant manager and manager trainer, I was in “the wrong end of the business.” I thought that because I was working an incredible amount of hours for a set rate of pay. The servers were making a nominal rate of pay, but were sometimes doubling my salary – weekly or daily! Plus, when they left the restaurant, they left restaurant concerns in the restaurant.
One evening not long ago, I enjoyed a good meal at an Asian restaurant in Gaborone. We were well served by a Batswana server. When it came time to pay the bill, the server must have noticed me was trying to figure out her tip. She told me, “Don’t include the tip.”
I thought that I must have misheard her, so I asked her to repeat what she had said.
“Don’t put a tip. She keeps the tip.” I looked at her incredulously.
“You don’t receive the tip?”
“No”, she replied.
I could not believe what I had just heard. Nonetheless, I gave her the money for the bill and asked that she return the change to me. She did.
I had to ask, because I was flabbergasted, “How much do you make working here?”
Shyly she told me, “P900”.
I asked, “A week?” She said, “Each month.”
I almost lost it. I fought to hold back the tears. My heart was breaking. I just stared at her for a moment trying to process what she had said to me. Then I tried to hand her the money she had given me back as change,in addition to the money I already had in my hand to bring the total to 25% of my bill.
The server told me, “Give it to her”, gesturing toward the young woman who served as hostess, “She will give it to me. They are watching”, nodding towards some other people I assumed were employees of the restaurant as well.
“They will tell her.” This “her” was obviously the owner/manager. I felt so hurt. “Give it to her.” Again she gestured toward the hostess, “She will give it to me.” I did as I was told.
You see, P900 is about $122.00. That’s right, these servers are paid less in a month than what a server in the restaurant had managed over twenty years ago made in an hour – on a bad day. And, they were not allowed to keep their tips! Something must be done! I am not sure how to start, but I refuse to let this happen and not do something.
What would you do?