Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story.
That’s how I left things off last time.
I still feel the same over a year since my first post on this “issue.”And today, an extremely rude and biased waiter learned that the number 0 doesn’t lie, either.
I went to eat at a buffet with my mother recently. The only reason we ended up at said buffet in the first place was because the Sunday after-church crowds prevented us from going to our first choice for lunch. We were starving after a lengthy church service — desperate times called for desperate measures.
We went into said buffet. We weren’t greeted but I asked the host about the price. He didn’t answer my question and led us to our table — from his lack of understanding and his accent, I figured his English wasn’t very good and I let it go, although its an uneasy feeling eating at a restaurant and not having any idea what your bill may look like.
He took our drink orders. We both ordered water. He ended up being our “waiter.” Besides bringing the water that one time and taking our empty plates, we had virtually no service. It was surveillance that we had plenty of. The waiter kept circling around us. We saw him staring at us from other parts of the restaurant. Even when we were up at the buffet, he was right behind us, just lurking.
Not only were we subject to surveillance, we were also forced to watch him properly serve everyone else around us. “How is everything?” and “Need another Coke?” were the questions coming out of his mouth, addressing all parties….but ours. As we, the only black people in the section and basically in the entire establishment, sat there taking it all in, we realized we were yet again being served the okie doke. The same bull I’ve dealt with at restaurants here and there my entire life.
Then it was time for the tip.
The tip I decided to leave, you ask?
Some people I know tip high regardless of the service, because of the stigma and the stereotype that says black people don’t tip. They’re basically saying that even when we aren’t deemed worthy enough for adequate service, said waiter or waitress should be compensated as if he or she provided good service. To those that say that, I ask this: Why should we internalize their maltreatment? Why should we dehumanize oursevles along with all those racist waiter and waitresses out there who already dehumanize us? People who discriminate against black people in restaurants do it because they feel we don’t deserve to be treated fairly. Giving them a tip that they do not deserve justifies their actions. I don’t know about you, but I was raised to view myself just as deserving of decent treatment as the next person.
We left. As we both started to walk to the car, the waiter runs out the restaurant, following us. We were startled and a little taken back. He stopped us in the middle of the street. A walker-by in the distance stopped in his tracks to make sure we were okay. “You didn’t leave service pay! I need my service pay!” he exclaimed, directing his anger toward me. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe this classless act. To have the gumption to follow someone out of a restaurant for a tip? In a brief exchange, we told him our grievances. No refills. No service. Friendly engagement with all other tables except ours. “The nerve of you to follow us outside in the street and force us to tip you,” my mother remarked. He walked away, throwing his hands up in the air.
We were stunned.
We should have called the police. If we had men with us, it would have never happened. No more eating out. This happens a lot in this area. What a low life restaurant to condone chasing customers in the street. We should have. We could have.
These were some of the thoughts after the incident. I even thought back to when I paid for our meal. I realized I could have paid up front but he insisted on taking my money from the table. I guess he didn’t trust black money.
Out of such an unfortunate incident, I tapped into something very important: pride. Believe it or not, I was proud that I left no tip. I know they say black people never tip — well, this was the very first time this black person didn’t tip. It was exhilarating, if I’m completely honest. It felt so good because I’ve been the type of person I called out earlier in this piece. The type to leave a tip in exchange for lousy service. This time, I stood my ground and valued myself over trying to debunk a stupid stereotype.
This whole tipping thing is a complicated schema. Its far from black and white, literally. The waiter in this instance was a non-black person of color. So were most of the patrons of the restaurant. Its impossible and extremely ignorant to think you can label an entire race or an entire culture. Also, we have to consider the plight of the waiter or waitress. We know they’ve dealt with ignorance from patrons of all colors, creeds and cultures. They may be defensive from prior experiences. And when it comes to buffet-style eating, tipping is tricky, as you do much of your own service.
Zero is a number, but does it tell the whole story?
Zero is the tip many believe all black people leave to their waiter or waitress. Zero is the quality of service we often get, simply because of how we look. Yes, this black person left zero tip, and she is prouder than ever for it. She has 0 regret. Maybe that sleazy waiter learned a thing or two from his zero service.
Why, yes, BLACK PEOPLE DON’T TIP WHEN THEY AREN’T SERVED.
I guess sometimes, numbers do tell the whole story.