Through the years, I've only been served by a few demonstrably incompetent waiting staffers at restaurants. But I tend to give even those folks the benefit of the doubt.
Why? Because, together with dining room hosts and hostesses, serving staff are sandwiched uncomfortably in the middle, between managers, cooks, bussers, and customers. Each of those other people have their own sets of pressures and expectations, each of them likely to make the waiting staff the objects of loud criticism and nastiness.
Plus, it's hard work: Standing and scurrying for hours. Patiently explaining menu choices, dealing with customer choices that have nothing to do with the items on the menu, and toting large trays of hot food (or cold, if the kitchen is in slow gear), to name just a few things that make waiting tables hard work.
I have a set of simple rules that I try to follow in dealing with waiting staff:
1. Remember that they're human, just like you. Do unto them as you would want them to do unto you if your roles were reversed.Like Cooke, I don't know how much to trust a person who makes it a habit to mistreat waiters. I surely wouldn't trust a person like that to be my pastor, accountant, president, or friend. Bullying is never a compelling character trait.
2. Say, "Please" and "Thank you."
3. Ask them how they are, when, as they're trained, they ask you that question.
4. Care about the answer.
5. Unless the service was horrible, never tip less than 20%. Never. NEVER.
6. When you sign your receipt, add a little note. My notes usually go like this: "Thanks for the service. God bless you!" (I was delighted to learn recently that a guy I know has the same practice.) The person who waits on you may never see you again; but you can make a lasting impression by brightening their day, expressing appreciation, and helping to clean up the bad reputation some self-righteous prigs give Christianity, by writing a simple note like that.
7. If you can't do these things sincerely, fake your sincerity. Who knows? You might actually come to like behaving in these ways.
[Thanks to a Facebook friend for posting the Cooke article.]