By Steve DiGioia, Featured Contributor
You know the drill…money is tight so your spouse tells you to not spend too much money. So you start ‘brown-bagging-it” to work. You feel a little foolish, maybe a little humiliated, that you’re forced to do this but you have no other choice. So you make up some story for your co-workers like, “I’m trying a special diet” or “My wife made me do it” so you don’t look like a cheap-skate.
But after a few days or weeks your co-workers don’t even notice anymore. So you’re in the clear. Soon, your money situation will be better and you can go out to eat again. You can’t wait.
You’re tired of those baloney sandwiches, the leftovers, and those stale rolls you have been trying to use up before they get moldy. Now the misses says she found a way to squeeze a few dollars out of this week’s paycheck so you can go to a restaurant for a basic dinner just to celebrate how well you have been doing with your budget and this special day. But “don’t go crazy with your ordering” she says.
At last that long-hoped-for day arrives. You rush home from work, wash up fast and hop in the car. Off you go with you wife to the restaurant, you know, the one with all the photos of the famous celebrities, memorabilia and appliances hanging on the wall. Well, that’s another story.
The waitress comes quickly and greets you with the warmest and most sincere smile you have ever received. She introduces herself and lets you know that you will have a wonderful meal tonight and that it is her JOB to make sure you are taken care of. Wow, you’re now thinking “this girl is great”. “I bet she makes a lot of tips” you say to yourself. Your wife gives you a big smile and says “She’s nice”. You agree, and she’s even cute, but you will never let on about that.
Your waitress takes your order, recommends a good wine to go with your entrée—-WAIT, you can’t have wine, that’s not in your budget. This needs to be a basic meal, just eat and go home; there is not that much money to spend. You don’t order a salad, just the entrée, and probably won’t even get dessert. This doesn’t faze the waitress; she is too polite and pleasant. She even was able to change your vegetables to the asparagus that you love. She thanks you for your order and quickly enters it into the computer so the kitchen can prepare the food.
So now, as you wait to be served, your wife is running through your finances, accounting for every penny. “We need to hold off for a week or so with the dry cleaning, maybe wear your suits a few times more first” she says. “You can’t go out bowling with your buddies for awhile until things get better. And don’t even think about the movies…five dollars for popcorn is ridiculous!” So as a good husband you do as you’re told and prepare for a few more weeks without spending any money…except for tonight.
Just as you are getting tired of hearing this stuff from your wife the waitress comes by, and she is carrying a basket of bread. Not just any bread but some special garlic bread and warm rolls. She even brought a small plate of extra virgin olive oil to dip the bread into. Apparently, when she was taking your order, you casually mentioned the smell of warm garlic bread from the table behind you and how you love it. But you didn’t order the garlic bread because that was an extra charge. But what did this waitress do? She surprised you with a complimentary order just to make your day! Do you believe that! This girl is great!
Your wife loved the surprise and thanked her. “She’s nice” the misses says again. You devour that garlic bread and olive oil quicker than you ever had because it tasted better – because it was free. The waitress comes by quickly to check on you and make sure you are happy and of course you say yes. She refills your water glasses; remember…this was a cheap meal so no soda or alcohol was ordered, just water. She offers to refill the bread basket but your wife politely declines; she doesn’t want to take advantage of the situation. What a bummer, you did want some more.
So now your food comes, the food that you had enough money for. Your waitress presents the food correctly in front of you and gives you a few more napkins just in case. Just as you were thinking that fresh ground pepper would be great she is right there with a wooden pepper mill and is happily twisting the top over your plate. This girl is great! Before she leaves she asks if there is anything else she can help you with and you can’t even think of anything because she has taken care of all your dining needs. You enjoy your meal, especially the asparagus.
Your plates are cleared quickly and you sit back after enjoying the first meal in a restaurant that you’ve had for a long time. Life is good. You see your waitress coming by and ask her for the check because coffee and dessert is not in the budget, what a shame. Your check is about to come but there is a surprise in store for you. A warm piece of chocolate lava cake with ice cream is placed in front of you with two spoons! You see, you also mentioned to your waitress when she was first greeting you that you were out for your anniversary dinner, nothing fancy, just a quick dinner. This was your way of down-playing the amount of food and drink you had planned to order. But that didn’t matter to her. She remembered this special day for you. And even though you didn’t order dessert your waitress presented you with a special item that really made your evening (it’s a good thing that restaurant has a special promotion for any guest celebrating a special occasion).
You can’t thank her enough and race through your dessert, wipe your lips and reach for your wallet. Now, what do you do? Just leave her with a basic 15% tip? That’s all that is in your budget, and barely. But no way, you can’t do that! She was the most pleasant, efficient and customer-focused server you ever had. She was able to create a memory for you tonight and must be compensated for this.
So you leave her a big tip, 30% and thank her for her attention and thoughtfulness. You get up to leave and as one final gesture, she offers to help you on with your coat. It doesn’t get better than this. Out the restaurant door you go and quickly slide into the car. You and your wife sit back into the seats and reflect on your dining experience. It was great, couldn’t be better. You felt like a king. Good service will do that for you.
I guess it’s the brown-bag lunch for a few more weeks.