Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The ugly truth about some ethnic restaurants

You want to try this small home-style Chinese restaurant around the corner. You go in, the lady who owns this place treat you with a welcoming smile. Because there are only a few tables in this restaurant, there are only two other waitresses in addition to the owner. You sit down, then the owner motions one of the waitress to bring you your tea. After eating for a while, you notice something strange. The owner lady has a perpetual welcoming smile, while the two staffs look neutral and almost rude, as if they don't want to be there.


That's because the two staffs who serve you do not get any of the tips that you leave at the end of the meal.

I have friends who worked as "staffs" (I call them "staff" because waitress and waiter get tips, but they don't) in a small restaurants. When the owners hire them, they tell them that they don't get any share of the gratitude fees. They took the job anyway because hourly wage without tips is better than being unemployed. But obviously they were not happy. Some of them told me they feel like they need not to socialize with the guests since they are not getting any tips in the end. So they adapted a stone face, as if it's a way of silent protest. One of them told me she still chats and socializes with the guests. One time the customer was feeling generous and left good tips, then she secretly told him to take some back because the owner gets all the tips, not her. It was her way of getting back at the owner.

I also know from friends who work in medium-scaled restaurants that tips is shared among the waiters/waitresses and the owner, of which the owner gets a large share (50%). So at the end of the day, the waiters and waitresses each don't get much.

The tipping-the-owner-only system, which is usually found in small-scaled restaurants, is not that widespread. But it does exists. Now you know.

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