Sunday, April 22, 2007

Coupons Suck


Yes, we as servers hate coupons. Our corporate leadership continually feels the need to torture us with coupons. It's an epidemic across our industry, but especially bad in the Darden fleet (primarily with Olive Garden and Red Lobster as the "big" companies under that umbrella).

Our corporate leaders have no clue about the type of customers these coupons bring into our stores. Worse, our leadership doesn't really care. It pads the bottom line, and at the end of their day that is all the care about. Not a moment's thought is ever given to the impact that it has on those in the trenches, the people's on whose backs their bonuses and six plus figure salaries are earned upon. When you have paid vacations, full benefits, corporate expense accounts, bonuses and high salaries, what do you care about some disposable server drone? Servers are completely replaceable. The only thing they don't like about replacing servers is the training costs, and even that is NEVER a deterrent in their decision making process.

So out come the coupons in the local papers, like a tool to scourge those of us eeking out an existence the bare minimum they are allowed by law to pay us. So out come the coupons, and in comes the trashy tables, and in comes the old cheap grumps.

There is something about the coupons and cheap old people in particular. Servers will all be able to relate to this. The grumpy old ladies whip these things out like badges of pride. Their arm movement to thrust a coupon to the very edge of their table upon sitting down defies their gravity laden bodies. Their arms move so quickly that they almost bend time. Remember though, this is the same lady it took 12 minutes to walk in from the host podium to the second table inside the dining room. It took her 8 minutes of back and forth to get her car into the double wide handicap parking spot. This is the same woman who eats a bale of fiber today for a movement sometime next week (and maybe that's why the old people are always so grumpy). And yes, it is almost always the old lady.

The old men will keep it in their pocket or wallet until time to pay comes, and then they'll be confused about how to use the coupon (men generally are coupon resistant, so they aren't as experienced). They will struggle with the concept that you can both take the coupon off and run their credit card all in one swift transaction.

The other great customers that coupons generally bring in are the kind that view dental check ups as an optional part of life. Generally an option they aren't exercising. They also unfortunately view tipping in a similar fashion. There's no doubt they withheld no expense on their fishing boat and truck with glass packs, but to leave a livable tip at a restaurant would be unthinkable. With the price of smokes constantly going up, and chewing tobacco isn't getting cheaper either, they have to save somewhere. BTW ladies, there are simply somethings a woman should never do in public. Chewing tobacco is one of those things. You don't have facial hair (well most of you don't anyhow...) that will hide the dribbles when you spit.

I'd love to fund a study (yeah right, on Lobster earnings?!?) where someone would track the percentage of tip given on a coupon using table. My experience tells me that it would be at or below 12%. The reason I put that so high is all the large parties that use coupons have a gratuity added in skewing the total. My experience tells me I earn 8-12% on average on a coupon wielding table. What worsens this is that the coupons users are the ones who also seek out the very cheapest option on the menu, so 8% of two orders of broiled Flounder and two waters with lemon earns me less than crap. Not enough to even get a Big Mac.

So if you use your $4 coupon on your $20 check and leave me $1.50 and sit in my section for two hours, don't be surprised to find all your tires deflated on your car, or all the wheels loosened on your walker.

21 comments:

Tiffany said...

Well see you can get a 4$ tip out of the 4$ coupon.
I've cheated the system.
This works only if they pay in cash.
Take the money enter the price of the meal w/ the 4$ deduction. and presto, you have 4.00$
The key is to scan the local papers and clip out the coupons. Have the coupons on you, use them to make you money. SO it's like RL is giving money away. There's no way you can loose your job either.

shady dem said...

You can lose your job. I've seen it happen. Managers have a report that shows the % of coupons that you redeem. If it's above "normal", and if they're smart, they'll ask you about it and then they'll watch you at your tables. Then they'll ask you to make sure the customer signs it. And if they REALLY know you're doing it, they'll approach your tables to make sure that they did indeed use a coupon.

Again, only if they're smart.

Former RL manager here. Fired 4 servers for coupon fraud in one week.Clipped out of all their friends' newspapers. I could give a rat's ass what happens now, just wanted to let you know it's NOT as easy as it sounds.

Lobster Boy said...

Dem is right on this one, it's not a game you want to play for very long. I've seen the coupon reports, they do exist, and I've seen people loose their jobs over them. While a few extra bucks here and there would certainly be nice, the risks outweigh the rewards for me. YMMV.

Lobster Boy

Steve said...

I'll admit I look through the coupon book I get in the mail and use them at restaurants. However, I always, ALWAYS make sure to tip based on the original price, not the price after the coupon. That's just cheap.

Steve
Liquor Store Stories

Suz said...

Kudos to you, Steve! You are the exception to the rule. The bane of my existence is in the "Birthday Club" whereby anyone with a photo i.d. who comes in ON his birthday receives a free meal from our limited birthday menu. They inevitably choose the $17.00 meal and tip 10-12% (just as LB points out) on the total after the free meal.

Just once I wish I could say, "Ya know, we just GAVE you a $17.00 meal, do you think you might be able to cough up more than three bucks for a tip?" Arrrrgh. I feel your pain...

Steven said...

I don't remember where I heard it, but it's been said that there are three types of servers. There is the server who doesn't know how to scam extra tips out of his establishment. He never lasts long because he's dumb. There is the server who knows how to scam extra tips and does. He never lasts long because he's a thief. And finally, there is the server who knows how to scam extra tips, but doesn't because stealing is wrong. Don't get me wrong I'm a server who would love to make a few extra bucks on each table, but I'm not desperate enough to resort to thievery.

Steven said...

regardless of whether or not I'll get fired for it.

Katie said...

I hate coupons, kids eat free promos. Pretty much anything corporate comes up with to make our lives miserable.

D said...

At least you get a tip. Whenever customers give me coupons, they never leave a tip.

The only exception was a table of grandparents taking their baby granddaughter to lunch. They left me £2 because I made the baby stop crying and laugh (I was a little bit rushed and my hair, normally tied back, had come loose making me look a bit like a clown).

riva0060 said...

aww coupon scams and stealing from the darden beast, takes me back (wiping a tear from my eye), surveys are another way to make few extra bucks off a cheap ass...

Kevin said...

I hate coupons as well! A few extra dollars off and they don't even give us the 3 dollars or the 4 dollars to the server. Cheap people and yea, our managers make the guests have to "sign" the coupon so they make sure we don't do fraud.

SkippyMom said...

ah...the old people with the "twofer" coupons and waters. if i had to serve one more 2 for 1 prime rib or lobster dinner [the butter, for the love of GOD, the reruns for butter] and receive a tip on ONE dinner.....i am so glad i don't wait at that place anymore...and management said "Well we use them to get repeat business!" I NEVER EVER saw a person come back to order off of our regular menu after the couponage was over...they never even LOOKED at our menus....sigh...

Nichole Hacha-Thomas said...

I will admit to getting a little creative to score tips after waiting on freaks who bolted without leaving a cent. Whether it was "returning" a Maine tail or a crab leg add-on, or using a coupon or two. I make 2.13 per hour, theivery or not - Darden can afford it. The look (more like smirk) on my manager's face when he'd hear a sob story about a three top leaving $2 on a $73 bill. He didn't care - he just wanted to turn tables. So, if his bottom line was a little short - oh well. I have to feed my kids.
I never scammed more than $10 or so, but I did do it on more than one occasion. Didn't get fired for anything like that - just decided I'd had enough serving for a LONG time.

Marc said...

Cry me a river.

I have family who work as waiters and they make more than I do after 4 years of college.

Their income EACH was over 100k for the year for a job that takes no formal education.

Yea, You deserve more money than a fireman, police officer, engineer, etc.

And yet you want more and more of a percentage as your tip. If you want higher wages, go to school and until your out of school take your 10% which still nets you a VERY high salary.

Lobster Boy said...

Marc,
That's a remarkably ignorant comment. I have more than one higher education degree, as do a number of my fellow co-workers. The vast majority of the servers I work with are college student, but a few are not. We DON'T make $100K, there are very few restaurants where a server can make that kind of coin outside a few select big cities with very busy high end restaurants. 10% at my restaurant would net you roughly $40-$60 most nights of the week. Even if you worked 6 nights a week you aren't coming close to the crack pipe numbers you are throwing around. Get back to us when reality pays you a visit.

Lobster Boy

B-Man said...

I used to wait tables. I understand the tip thing some times really sucks, but that is the way it is and complaining about it only makes it worse for yourself. Go find another job if you do not like to deal with cheap bastards, but understand you will find it in all jobs at some angle. I worked at a chain in not a large city. It was a college town not a big city or a place with a lot of money. But i still pulled in 40k a year working 5 days a week while going to school. If you are at the wrong restaurant then go to another. I worked my butt off to get the best section and schedule and then it was not hard at all to make the money. I never worked longer then 6-7 hours a day. Also learn to bartend and find an upscale bar or location to make money. It is out there if you go find it. Some have no options they live in a place where they can not make money. So move, or commute to a location that has better clients coming in the door. I have seen tips in the $1000 or a model that was working at cocktail, but hell I have made $500 on a check of $1200 for a party. It is possible so stop complaining and change your situation. If you do not then no one really cares about your complaints. I also used to manage, and cheaters are easy to catch. Why cheat in your life becuase it will catch you, especially if it is a small enough town where the manager can pick up the phone can call all of the other restaurants and let them know you where fired for stealing.

If you are handed crap in your life drop it and find the place that works. If you try you will find a better place.

Whiner-buster said...

If your expecting to get rich working at red lobster then I think your expectations to be a little high and with someone with your obvious qualifications and education should know this. b-man said it best get a job in an upscale restaurant or bar and stop the bitching and whining. I am sure that you gave the same great service to the customer with the coupon that you gave to the guy without the coupon, that couldn't have had something to do with it I'm sure. Sounds like your a victim of prejudging your clients and you get what you expect to get. It sounds like your the last person on earth that should be serving anyone why dont you get a job cleaning bed pans at least you will be in the same company.

Katie said...

Lobster Boy,
If you have more than one degree, why on earth are you working as a waiter for $40- $60 a night?
You claim to be educated but that is just plain dumb.

Jeff said...

I hate that people stereotype. If I ever decide to go out, I look for coupons ahead of time. It doesnt mean I dont tip 20% all the time, because I do. I just like to save money while I do it. I think you may not get goo tips from people with coupons, is because if this is your crappy attitude you give off, towards people who use coupons, then they obviously arent going to give you a good tip.

Kristin said...

I use those 4 dollar coupons all the time! However my fiance and I always leave a minimum of 20% tip, based on the original price...it's usually higher than that if we get good service! However I have seen people come in with coupons and sit down for hours ordering that all you can eat shrimp and then not leave a tip....so rude!!!!

Jeff said...

I think some people are just in the wrong line of work. Its 2011. People use coupons. It doesnt mean you're not going to get a tip. If you think negatively about it, then chances are, customers are going to sense it and not tip you properly. IfI can save 5-10 bucks on a meal using a coupon, I will. If you are a good server, I tip appropriately, BEFORE the coupon is taken off. There is nothing wrong with people trying to save a little bit of money.