Accepting a Gift–With Grace

It’s done so smoothly on screen. The maitre d’ of a fine-dining establishment acknowledges a last-minute, important customer and provides the perfect table for him and his guests. A subtle, brief hand shake is exchanged. The maitre d’ nods once more toward his guest and wishes everyone a nice evening–with a 20-spot or higher in his palm.

Here’s how that scenario usually plays out: The restaurant is slammed, the back-pocket table I try to have–just in case–is still a ten-minute wait away. One customer says to another, blatantly loud enough so I can hear, “Maybe she’d have a table if you gave her ten bucks.” Then we all laugh when I turn to them and say, “If only I had that ten-dollar table for you. I am so sorry you have to wait.” Then I go back to grinding my teeth as I hand out pagers and the aforementioned customers lurk at my elbow.

Now and then, however, a customer truly appreciates a host’s efforts to do right by them.

Hostess Jo asks:

When is accepting a gratuity bad form? I am a hostess at a small country inn. Occasionally, I will get a tip, usually when its super busy and I dont have time to be embarrassed. Unfortunately, when I get some of these tips, it’s because I have had to pick up to cover one of my servers who may or may not be in the weeds. Once in a while I feel like I may be taking part of my servers tip from them. So when is it bad form?

Thanks RG!

Hostess Jo, if you are actually waiting on the table for most of the customer’s meal, that server owes you at least a portion of the tip. If the customer tips you separately for stepping in and providing much of the service, accepting it is not cheating the server at all. Now, if all you did was pour water and put bread on the table (something I routinely do every day for my weeds-laden servers), that’s helpful and wonderful, but I would never expect the server to tip out to me for that.

When a customer wants to tip you for being a good host, I think it feels more awkward, because tipping hosts is not a standard part of our country’s tipping culture. I weigh the situation. If I sense the customer sincerely wants to thank me after the fact, but is fumbling with a dollar or such, I always say thank you and add, “That’s not necessary, but I appreciate the thought.” The customer is usually relieved.

But on occasion, I have experienced the smooth handshake exchange of a 20. I have also received a tip a day later from a tourist getting ready to leave town. You can just sense that accepting that tip is the right thing to do, with a genuine thank you.

Happy hostessing!






4 responses to “Accepting a Gift–With Grace”

  1. Chef JoAnna Avatar

    How can it ever be bad form to accept a tip? I often tip people who don’t expect it, and it’s VERY awkward when they refuse. I want to do something nice for you to let you know I appreciate your effort. I’m not coming by tomorrow with a batch of cookies or a gift (because if I were on the receiving end of that, it would be creeeeeeepy!)

    The way I see it, I can tell your boss you’re doing a good job, (and I often do!) but if I feel like dropping a few bucks in your hand, just say “Thanks!” or even, “Wow! Thanks!” but I can’t understand why anyone would refuse it, except if it’s company policy. (I tried to tip the baggers who help me out to my car, and finally one guy explained that he could get in trouble.)

    I guess if you felt bad about taking a tip, blame it on company policy and you wouldn’t hurt my feelings. 🙂

  2. Wayne Murphy Avatar

    Dear Gal,
    As background allow me to say that I deal poker for a living. My hourly wage is $5.85. Obviously, I depend on tokes in order to eat, let alone pay for housing and utilities.

    There are times when a customer will throw me a dollar or two for doing things such as bringing them a rack of chips, clearing their general area of empty beverage containers/trash or emptying an ashtray. Some will also tip on ridiculously small pots and/or blind steals. If this terminology is foreign, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that when people give you money, they do it for a reason. Either they like you and appreciate what you do and how you do it or they tip because it makes THEM feel good/important.

    Yes, I have politely refused tips by telling the giver that I appreciate it, but it isn’t necessary ( I would prefer that they toke me generously after winning a decent pot) HOWEVER, it isn’t the right thing to do.

    So, do as I say and not as I sometimes do.

    Simply and graciously thank anyone who puts money into your pocket. They wouldn’t give it if they didn’t want to. It’s IS as simple as that.

    Best Regards,

  3. Hostess Jo Avatar
    Hostess Jo

    thank you RG, Murph and Chef Joanna! Having had this weeknd off, I have no gripes (but given a few minutes I could dredge some stuff up, lol). I will no longer feel like a shmuck when I am tipped at the podium.

  4. Moi Avatar

    I realize I’m jumping in late with this, but I just discovered this blog!
    As a waitress I often tip out extra to the cooks when they’ve gone above and beyond for me, and I do it because then they’re remember that the next time I have someone screaming for something from the kitchen because they forgot to order it, and thought I was able to read minds….sorry, it was a long day today! 🙂