Cinfulcinnamon's Blog

The 25 cent Tip

Posted on: January 22, 2010

     When I was seventeen, the second job that I had was at HoJo’s, or Howard Johnsons. I was the counter girl. I made all the ice cream deserts for the other regular waitresses. I also had the counter area that was used primarily by the truck drivers that would come in while staying at the hotel, or just parking their rigs out in the lot. The drivers would come in, sometimes they would order dinner, but mostly it was for just a cup (or 12) of coffee. I used to hate to see them come in. Because I knew that no matter what they got, whether coffee or dinner, I was going to be stuck waiting on them, and talking with them for at least an hour, and all they would ever leave as a tip would be a quarter. I would beg the manager to let me go on the floor of the dining room and wait on other customers, but she always said no. She liked the way I made the deserts, and besides, I was only seventeen and I wasn’t old enough to carry drinks from the bar if someone ordered one. Soooo, I was stuck with the truckers. Every night, I’d come home grousing about how much money I hadn’t made, and if those dumb truckers would leave a decent tip, I might have made some money.

     My father, whom I loved with all my heart, was a trucker. He drove for 38 years before he retired. One night, he happened to hear me complaining about the truck drivers and how little they left me when I had waited on them, and been nice, and polite. How I listened to their dumb stories, and laughed even when I didn’t feel like it. He gave a look that I had grown to know so well.  It said, “You are about to be lectured to, so strap in and relax for a while”, and “Oh, by the way…it might hurt”.   He proceeded to teach me one of the most valuable lessons in my life. I got a few “life gems” as I call them out of this talk. And it has shaped how I deal with people from then on. 

     He told me about his life as a truck driver. How sometimes it was the greatest thing in the world. How the freedom of the open road made him feel on top of the world. How, depending on what he was hauling could make him feel the pressure of being safe and careful. How he could sing at the top of his lungs in his cab and didn’t have to worry about critics of his vocal abilities. He was a strong and confident man, my Dad. And I could feel everything that he was saying.  But then, he told me how lonely it could be sometimes. He drove at night the time that he was driving. He liked it because he said the truck ran better in the cool of the night and there was less traffic. But he also said that his mind sometimes would make him think on things that he didn’t want to. Was his family safe at home? Did his wife love him when he was gone? Would some idiot do something stupid that night and he wouldn’t make it home? All kinds of things.  And he said that most truckers drive by themselves. There were couples that drove together, and they had each other. But mostly, the only people who a truck driver would get to talk to were the people at his company, maybe someone in a fuel station, and you got it…..the waitresses that they would see in truck stops and diners and motels. And sometimes, it felt good just to sit in a regular chair or stool at a counter and talk to a pretty girl or woman.  They could connect with their families and find out about the latest news by talking with them. At this point, my mind was flashing back over all the conversations that I’d had with the truck drivers, and he was right. And how many of them had said that I reminded them of their daughters.  Then he got to the meat of the issue. He was really good at setting someone up for the lesson…LOL. He said that truckers usually drove either most of the day, or night and they had to eat out a lot. He told me to imagine what it would be like to have to eat out a couple of times a day, or to even stop for coffee and pay for the meal,  AND leave a sizable tip. It would be very expensive. I started to feel pretty bad about the stuff I had said about these guys. I hoped that no one was talking bad about the tip that my dad was leaving.  He told me that instead of dreading the sight of a trucker coming in, I should know that at least I could count on that twenty-five cents. I would always get that from them. Anything above that would be icing on the cake. And I should be grateful for that quarter.

     I have always remembered that lesson. When I had my bar in Georgia, and my restaurant in North Carolina, and all the bars that I worked in and managed. I tried to remember that it isn’t the big flashy groups or people that you should base your business, or your budget on. It’s the people who are “regulars”. The ones you see time after time. Those are the ones that pay your bills. Those are the ones that will get you the new piece of equipment or pay for an improvement that you want.

     In my time, I’ve had the misfortune of working for people who didn’t understand that lesson that I learned so long ago. They believed that it was always best to “put on the dog”, go after the new, the flashy, and the fleeting. They didn’t realize that if you take care of the regular customer, they would take care of you.  If you are always chasing the “new” you will always be trying to make that good first impression. You can’t count on that new customer to come back. Maybe they will maybe they won’t. But your electric bill will most definitely be there for you. And your water, and the people who help you run your business. Yes, you must give the customer variety. Try to keep things fresh. But there are some things that should never change. The customer service must always be good. The hours that you post must be adhered to. And your prices should never be a surprise. People want to know what they are getting for their dollar. They want something that they can count on. And it has to be a “feel good” environment. Why do you think that the booths in a McDonalds or Taco Bell are made of plastic? And the air conditioning is always so cold? Because they don’t want you to be comfortable. They don’t want you to linger there. They want your money, and then they want you gone so the next customer can get in that seat. So, if your business is “cold” and has a “hard” feel to it, your customers are not going to come back. Comfort means everything to people today. Make them feel good and welcome when they visit you and you will get that 25 cents every time !





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Goofy Me

I am: an Air Force vet, Mom, sister, friend, Lifestyler, and all-around smartass with a heart of gold. I have lived all over the far East and learned many things about people and cooking, art and true value. I like to share my experience with the rest of the world. I will be the most loyal friend or most annoying enemy you've ever known. Honest to a fault. My life has not always been easy, but it has never ever been boring.

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