Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Keep The Change by Steve Dublanica ★★★★

Keep the ChangeI've had Waiter Rant on my radar for a long time, but for some reason just never got around to picking it up. I waitressed for a period of about 3 months back when I was 16, and even from such a short amount of time, I had some crazy stories! I've worked directly with customers in a service industry in some way or another since then (until last July anyhow), so the premise of Waiter Rant and all that it entailed was appealing to me. Sharing experience stories with people who've been there and who know what it's like to be on the receiving end of someone else's bad day with a smile plastered on your face is only one of the aspects that appealed to me about the book. But I'd also heard that it was funny, and I love funny. And then there's the added bonus of maybe people on the other side of life seeing a bit of perspective in the "people in the service industry are people not slaves" variety...

Anyway, when I saw that the author of Waiter Rant had a new book coming out, I requested a review copy. I worked in the service industry, as I mentioned, since I was about 16, but only the 3 month waitressing segment involved tipping. Still I considered myself to be a good tipper anyway... Until now. I've learned quite a lot from this book, and find that my tipping habits don't quite make the grade except in the case of restaurant gratuities. In almost every other category, I'm abysmally ignorant of correct tipping etiquette.

My tipping habits:
- I tip 20% of the total whenever we go out to a restaurant. (Grade: A)
{Industry standard is 15% of the bill, including drinks.}
- I tip $1 a drink at bars. (Grade: C)
{Should be approx. 20% of the bill. I do not give myself a lower grade here because drink prices are pretty reasonable in my area: $2-4/beer/shot or $7-9/mixed drink.}
- I did not know to tip the doorman at hotels. (Grade: F)
- I tip cabdrivers, but generally far below average. (Grade: D)
{Should be around 20% of the fare. But in my defense, I don't use cabs often!}
- I didn't know to tip car mechanics or detailers. (Grade: F)
{Should be $20-50 or so, depending on the work.}
... This is getting ugly, so I'm going to stop now.
If an A grade is 5 points, B is 4 points, C is 3 points, D is 1 point and F is 0, my average would be... 1.8 - D minus. Ouch.

So, needless to say, I feel like I've learned something from Steve here. I feel like I've been something of a tipping stiff in my life... and this despite the fact that I've worked for tips in my life and know how hard they are to come by and live on. But, the good thing is that Steve has given me the means to mend my ways, and I intend to follow them. I kind of feel like keeping this book with me at all times, kind of like a Tipping Bible, to be used in times of need (when stepping out of a cab, or into a hotel, etc) and containing words to live my life by.

That might seem a little extreme, but honestly I don't think so. Steve represents the facts of the working-for-tips way of life, and they aren't pretty. I knew that wait staff is usually underpaid, which is why I tip 20% rather than 15%, but I had no idea that was the case with so many other service jobs. It makes me rather ashamed of myself for not realizing this was the case, and corporate America for allowing and encouraging this kind of workforce exploitation. Steve presents the situation as he sees it, and in often brutally honest, no-holds-barred way, but still with an edge of wit and humor that makes the message a little easier to swallow. It still packs a wallop, at least for me it did, but it's a necessary evil to learn these things. Ignorance is bliss... for the ignorant. For the person on the other end, another's ignorance isn't going to put food on the table or a roof over their family's heads.

I found this book to be very informative and entertaining while still providing me with information I might never have learned on my own. I appreciate that. And not only did it serve both of these purposes, but Steve seems to also something of a philosopher and has an ability to understand human nature. Probably this is from so much time working with people, but it's refreshing to see a book about human nature that's not pretentious and not full of drivel. It's refreshing to see a book which doesn't feel like its author is above the reader somehow. This is just a regular guy, trying to understand a prevalent issue. I liked that.

So I will definitely be going out this weekend and picking up Waiter Rant. I know it's a little backwards, but better late than never, right? I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is confused by tipping (as I was!)... And remember - when in doubt, ask. :)

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