Here’s a tip you can bet on

I witnessed a crime a short time ago and the eight-member gang that perpetrated the heartless outrage got away clean.

Chances are, they’ll never be brought to justice or even scolded by a judge.

The offense?

They stiffed their hardworking waitress. On Thanksgiving, no less.

After having their every dinnertime whim catered to by an overworked young woman for more than an hour, the unscrupulous gang scuttled into the night without leaving her a dime.

Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t a dine-and-dash caper.

The gang coolly paid for their towering table of Thanksgiving bounty with a credit card and then brazenly told the cashier that “the tip’s on the table” before making their getaway.

Unless the tip was a crumpled napkin and a puddle of congealed gravy, the server who’d been waiting on them hand and foot received nothing for her devoted Thanksgiving service.

Admittedly, this crime is not defined in the California State Penal Code. Nor can it be found among federal statutes.

It is, however, a clear-cut violation of simple thoughtfulness. It falls somewhere between failing to say “thank you” and cutting into line at an Oakland Raiders game.

(The latter offense, it should be noted, can result in a near-death penalty if perpetrated during a home game. Raiders fans make their own law …)

Sorry. There’s just no excuse for not tipping your waiter or waitress if you’ve received adequate service from them. (Exemplary service, reasonably enough, deserves an exemplary tip.)

I’ve heard all the old, tired excuses:

“Hey, they’re getting paid for what they do.”

“I’m not a charitable institution.”

“They don’t work for me.”

Ah, but they do, and that tip is an important part of their livelihood. Nobody gets rich on restaurant servers’ wages. That tip helps make up for long hours, obnoxious customers, screeching children and the occasional pinched buttock.

Anybody who’s ever worked in a busy restaurant – or taken the time to observe someone working in a busy restaurant – knows it’s not an easy job. There are orders to juggle, special requests to be catered to, customer diet restrictions to be observed and the occasional half-gallon of spilled corn chowder to be mopped up.

In today’s world it also helps to be multilingual, have a degree in psychology and, perhaps, be proficient in at least one martial art.

If you’re going to do the job right, you’ve got to have brains, brawn and a good sense of humor.

Think about it: When you go out to dine at your favorite restaurant, chances are your server treats you better than most of your relatives.

And if you have six too many martinis and go face down in your rigatoni, she’ll probably clean you up and call a cab.

Is that worth a few extra bucks before you leave the table?

You bet it is.

Originally published December 15, 2002

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