Friday, September 28, 2007

I'm Not in Kansas Anymore

So I've moved into a new 'hood and things are a little different.

Today I went to the store and looked for bagels in the bakery section.
All the bagel bins were labeled except one and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what kind of bagels were in that bin. There was a possibility that they could be onion, and nothing would ruin my breakfast like discovering I'd purchased an onion bagel.

I stopped an employee who was heading my way from the back and asked if she knew.

"No," she said. "There is only one way to find out."

And with that, she picked up a bagel and broke into halves. She gave me one half and told me to taste it. I tried it. It wasn't onion.

"It looks like it might be plain," she commented. Apparently I had been mislead by the flecks on the outside. The bin above these bagels said "New York" and those bagels looked smooth.

Then she tried her half. "Fresh," was her pronouncement. Then took her half and went on her way.

In my old 'hood, all of the bagels would have been labeled, leaving no room for doubt. And no employee would have ever split a bagel with me for any reason.

I was left with a bagel half that I hadn't paid for but wanted to eat. I felt a little guilty--what if someone saw me? Would I look like one of those people who just eats stuff in stores? I hid the bagel half as a security guard walked past me. Who'd believe that I'd been given a taste test?

Then I thought that a child saw the quarter of a bagel that remained and gave me an envious look.

By the time I got to the fruit section with a bagel eighth and saw a woman munching on grapes, and not employee in sight. I figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I am used to hearing about how waitstaff at restaurants work hard only to find that uncaring customers leave them no tip. In a book I read unruly teenagers even left coins as a tip in the bottom of a milkshake glass. They laughed at the thought of their waitress having to fish down into the glass to get the much-needed money.

So while my recent experience does not compare, I have to say that I didn't expect to find myself stiffed by a waitress.

After a quick lunch, I returned the check with a bill that was more than the amount. The waitress asked if I wanted change, and I said yes. The service has been all well and good, but not getting change meant giving her an tip that was over 30% of the bill. I tip, but I wasn't feeling that generous.

She returned the check to the table and I didn't open it right away because I was typing away on my laptop. When I did open it, I was surprised to find two dollar bills and no receipt.

Now I had an idea of what the amount was, but did not remember exactly. And without a receipt, how could I be sure? I just knew that I had not been given all of my change. So when I approached her to point out that a) I had no receipt and more importantly b)she hadn't given me all of my change, she muttered some feeble excuses about making a mistake in rounding.

Maybe it was an "honest" mistake, I really don't know. I do know that a bigger tip comes by giving better service, not by skimming off the top.