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Captain Fired to Accepting "Tips"


rich
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According to a recent article in the Albany Times Union, a restaurant captain employed by the New York Racing Association was fired for accepting a tip (they called it a bribe) to seat a group of undercover state racing authority agents at the Saratoga Race Course. The long-time employee (I won't mention his name) was immediately fired and is facing bribery/extortion charges (never stick).

The way this works: you visit the captain, tip him some money and he gets you a table for the day. At the table you can: watch the races, drink, have a harmless lunch, stay relatively comfortable and bet. I've been doing this since I was 18 years old and never saw a problem. It's similar to tipping the host or hostess for a "good" table at a fine restaurant.

Did they force people to do it? - No. Would you get a table if you didn't? - On most days (but it wouldn't a great one). And they pooled the tips with other hosts/hostesses.

Talk about setting a guy up - don't those people have anything better to do with their time?

Guess I won't be "palming" anyone at Pe Se in the near future. Oh that's right, they already get 20% of the bill.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Here's the link to the article.

The price has been at least $100 per person for a table for quite a while now.  The fact that NYRA allowed it to go on is ludicrous.  This is a practice for which many restaurants will fire their Maitre D's.

I have to respectfully disagree. I have never paid anything close to $100 per person and have always gotten a great table both upstairs and downstairs. Most of the time the going rate is somewhere between $20-40 a day (for a table, not a person) downstairs and $50 a day (for a table) upstairs. Weekends are a bit higher. The only day the $100 a person would come into play is Travers. And since NYRA raised admission this year, the crowd was smaller and tables went for less.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Interesting article. Although I go to the track once or twice a year, I'm not really a track person. As such, I've never really had the desire to dine there myself so can't personally attest to the practice there. Either way it is sad. Tipping a maitre d' for a table before or after is one of those practices that has turned a lot of people off to fine dining for a long time. Fortunately, I don't see it being prevalent any more.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Interesting article. Although I go to the track once or twice a year, I'm not really a track person. As such, I've never really had the desire to dine there myself so can't personally attest to the practice there. Either way it is sad. Tipping a maitre d' for a table before or after is one of those practices that has turned a lot of people off to fine dining for a long time. Fortunately, I don't see it being prevalent any more.

That's true Doc, but remember this is Saratoga and the meet lasts just 36 days. It's really tht only time those people can make money. They don't get much in the way of tips during the Belmont and Aqueduct meets. Supply and demand.

And no one forces them to tip. I've seen many people get a table without tipping - of course it's always near the rest rooms.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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say 20 tables @ $50/day $1000/day, Not bad!

There are a lot more than 20 tables - probably closer to 100 downstairs and 120 upstairs on three levels.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Interesting article. Although I go to the track once or twice a year, I'm not really a track person. As such, I've never really had the desire to dine there myself so can't personally attest to the practice there. Either way it is sad. Tipping a maitre d' for a table before or after is one of those practices that has turned a lot of people off to fine dining for a long time. Fortunately, I don't see it being prevalent any more.

That's true Doc, but remember this is Saratoga and the meet lasts just 36 days. It's really tht only time those people can make money. They don't get much in the way of tips during the Belmont and Aqueduct meets. Supply and demand.

And no one forces them to tip. I've seen many people get a table without tipping - of course it's always near the rest rooms.

No doubt it is a supply and demand issue. I still don't like the practice. If he was demanding the money for a table or even a "good" table, he got his just desserts IMO. If he wasn't, then he got set-up and screwed and I feel bad for him. Unfortunately for him though, the former is more believable.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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say 20 tables @ $50/day $1000/day, Not bad!

There are a lot more than 20 tables - probably closer to 100 downstairs and 120 upstairs on three levels.

At these numbers he wouldn't need to work more than 36 days per year :raz:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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say 20 tables @ $50/day $1000/day, Not bad!

There are a lot more than 20 tables - probably closer to 100 downstairs and 120 upstairs on three levels.

At these numbers he wouldn't need to work more than 36 days per year :raz:

You're right. But the money is split between several people. However, the upstairs Captain (his name was Duncan and has since passed) told me he made more money in the 24 days (the meet was shorter then) than the rest of the year combined - salary and all.

That job and the Track Photographer are the highest paid at the track.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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If he was demanding the money for a table or even a "good" table, he got his just desserts IMO. If he wasn't, then he got set-up and screwed and I feel bad for him. Unfortunately for him though, the former is more believable.

"Demanding" is a tough word. No one ever demands - it's common practice. Anyone who has requested a table just knows - common knowledge.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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If he was demanding the money for a table or even a "good" table, he got his just desserts IMO. If he wasn't, then he got set-up and screwed and I feel bad for him. Unfortunately for him though, the former is more believable.

"Demanding" is a tough word. No one ever demands - it's common practice. Anyone who has requested a table just knows - common knowledge.

That sounds exactly like the way bribery of the police and various officials works in a lot of corrupt countries.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I will not knowingly visit a place where that is common practice.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What seems to be forgotten in this is salary. These "captains" do not make a liveable wage. They rely on tips, so the money they make in Saratoga represents a very large portion of their yearly income. It's similar to the Per Se situation. If they just added a "service charge" at $50 per table, maybe it would be easier to accept.

However, the Saratoga Race meet is like no other in the country. It's a pure entertainment atmosphere. Tipping for a table there is the same as tipping for a good table at the shows in Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas.

And comparing it to the bribery of police officials is just a little over the top. Once again, the track is a big place with plenty of places to eat, drink and watch the races. If you don't want a table in those two areas, there are plenty of other places to choose that are "free."

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Didn't you just say that the captains and track photographers are the highest paid track employees?  Or was I missreading?  Or do they all make next to nothing?

Yes, they are - when you add in the tips for the captain and the amount of photos sold to owners by the track photographer. As far as base salaries - very low for the captains (actually paid as waiters by the concession firm) and the track photographer owns the "franchise."

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I worked the 1997 meet at Saratoga, in the main kitchen.

Being from the mid-west, I was damned surprised at the graft and corruption going on there. Not just the money captains were extorting from guests.

From what I was told, it was difficult doing business with the track unless there was some sort of consideration given to management.

I have only third hand knowledge of this activity, but all of the long time food service employees had similar stories.

It was a weird weird place to work.

I'm glad that I only had to work there for 4 weeks. :wacko:

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Water Boils Roughly

Cold Eggs Coagulating

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Gregg Robinson

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I worked the 1997 meet at Saratoga, in the main kitchen.

Being from the mid-west, I was damned surprised at the graft and corruption going on there.  Not just the money captains were extorting from guests. 

From what I was told, it was difficult doing business with the track unless there was some sort of consideration given to management.

I have only third hand knowledge of this activity, but all of the long time food service employees had similar stories.

It was a weird weird place to work.

I'm glad that I only had to work there for 4 weeks. :wacko:

It is the extortion aspect of this that really rankles me. If I got exceptional service and had a great day at the track and I felt like throwing some of that money around to people who took care of me very well so be it. But if I have to lay out a bribe under the table to get something that otherwise I couldn't get, that doesn't sit well with me. If the place is full, it's full and my tough luck. But if there are tables available, then I should be able to get one and spend my money legitimately.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I worked the 1997 meet at Saratoga... From what I was told, it was difficult doing business with the track unless there was some sort of consideration given to management.

Actually back in 1997, those stories were very true and I'm not talking about the two restaurant areas in Saratoga, but the management of the New York Racing Association.

The people that were running the track then have all been replaced and most left disgraced, but with little other punishment. Graft was so bad, that in order to get a concesssion or construction contract, management actually asked for kickbacks. This was the subject of a state and federal investigation and is the reason why NYRA may not get its franchise renewed when the current agreement expires at the end of 2007.

I want to make it clear, this had nothing to do with the integrity of the sport of Thoroughbred racing. While the Thoroughbred racing industry certainly had and has its share of cheats, Thoroughbred racing is and has been the cleanest sport in the country.

Thoroughbred racing has been closely monitored for years and has levied lifetime bans against proven cheaters. It's only recently, other sports have follwed suit.

Finally, paying for a table at the restaurants in Saratoga is not extortion. You call, make a reservation and tip the captain and get a better table to view the races. You don't have a reservation? Show up, slip the captain a few and maybe there will be a table - maybe there won't. I've done this in many restaurants over the years and I certainly don't consider it extortion - it's the cost of doing business.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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