Having worked my way through college in the food industry, I know all too well the perils and pitfalls of a business that is completely dependent upon the general public. The demands are high, the appreciation is low, and more often than not your pay is roughly calculated by some demonic patron who subjectively judges you on a scale of arbitrary displeasure. I understand these things better than most, and am particularly given to the drain on one's pride and sanity, not to mention perception of humanity, that a job in food service can ostensibly dole out.
At the close of my education and upon retiring my aprons for good, I came to a decision. Because of my newfound mode of employ, I told myself that I would help out those people struggling their way around the world of inappreciative ass-hats that constitute restaurant patrons. So, after having established a rank and file for my monetary gains, I began my quest. Roughly every six weeks, on a random day when I feel hungry for something out of the ordinary, I flip through the phone book (yes, an actual honest-to-God paper phone book) and choose a restaurant at random. I try to stay away from the middling chains like Chili's or Cheddar's or Applebee's, though sometimes I will go there as well because it's nostalgic, having worked at all three in my college career. For the most part though, I try to choose somewhere that might be considered a little more posh, a bit more pricey.
The biggest question I get for my expensive choices is, "Why?". The easiest answer is that I have very expensive tastes, but the truth is that in my experience people who work at the more expensive restaurants are the biggest bunch of whiny, crybaby, narcissistic assholes the world has to offer. Granted they have to be to deal with customers who clearly expect nothing but the best of everything. Now, I am not one of those hoity-toity, high brow, looking down the nose types, I simply enjoy good food at ridiculous prices. As such, I always go to these places alone and take a book to read. The book serves as a test for the staffer delegated to serve me. In a restaurant, people who come in groups are typically more sociable, they will chat with the wait staff, be somewhat polite (unless they are the wives of the wealthy, in which case there is no helping that they are insufferable bitches with nothing better to do than berate those below them), whereas someone alone will tend to want to remain so and have the bare minimum of interaction and interruption from outsiders.
I, however, take the book with me to see if I can get the server to break through my clever facade. Most times they do not attempt, but every now and again I get one who is just looking to provide the best service for the greatest return in a tip. I love the tip whores, they crack me up. I once asked a tip whore to dance an Irish jig for me just for the pleasure of feeling as if I were the supreme ruler of the establishment. Poor girl was a terrible dancer, but rather entertaining and we dated for a time after that.
Anyway, so when I go out alone to these restaurants I will do the whole thing -- drinks, dinner, dessert, and one more drink to cleanse the palate. I typically will have 3-4 drinks in total, order the most expensive menu item and the same follows with the dessert, the more expensive, the better. Most people think I do this as a way to show my affluence, but such is not the case. My intentions are to better the day of a stranger. You see, by ordering the most expensive things the restaurant has to offer, I run up a hefty tab. A large tab increases the nominal, customary 15% tip that is socially acceptable when dining out. And while most people barely part with 10% based on the quality of service, I find that my server then is only expecting a few paltry dollars but will still work just as well for it.
I care nothing for service on these outings of mine. They could sit me in a corner near a bathroom and ignore me so long as my food is brought at some point because at the end of the night I am still going to make their day infinitely better for the work they have to do because I understand their plight, their anger and resentment. So, at the end of the meal when they bring the ticket, I usually will sit for a few minutes pouring over the bill as if I cannot believe that these thieves would dare to charge me such an outrageous amount for so little food. My act sometimes draws the attention of the server who offers to get the manager to speak to me. I have only once asked to speak to the manager (the dancing server whom I dated) and only to tell him of my plans for paying my bill which he thought was a clever idea and was much appreciated.
The acting done, I will reach into my wallet and produce cold, hard cash to settle my tab. I do not call the server back, I simply place the money on the table and leave hastily lest the server try to speak to me. The reason I leave so quickly is because I want them only to remember the tip, not the person. On these excursions of mine, I tip 100% of the total bill, tax inclusive. That's right, I pay double.
Servers are people that degrade themselves for meager wages and inconsistent tip shares while dealing with the stress of their own life and the bullshit others dump on them while they are at work. Having been there, I know what it's like and I feel for them so I do what little I can to bring a smile to some stranger's face for a day. Call me insane, call me philanthropic, call me ostentatious, but it would certainly be a better place if more people at least tried to understand the bottom instead of look down and bark demands.