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Bribes to the Maitre D'


Dignan
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I think this stuff happens a lot more-- and is less controversial-- in places like Vegas and Tahoe. More people are tourists and have less chance to become favored regulars. Plus, some people are already being favored way out of proportion by being heavy gamblers. People tip/bribe for everything.

The perfect example of situational morality that I mentioned above.

Rich Schulhoff

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

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I don't think it's immoral to offer someone money for a better table, a better spot in the parking lot etc. etc. That's a choice I make freely. If the person accepts, fine (and that's not immoral either because all they're doing is exchanging a service for goods - in this case money), if they don't, that's fine as well.

If it's not immoral, or at least, well, sleazy, then why is it hidden? Why would one bother to palm the bill, or make an effort to be nonchalant about the transaction?

Do the service people who accept bribes declare them on their taxes? Is the perk that he is selling actually his to sell in the first place?

Heh. Since when did service people ever pay taxes on tips?

Never.

You may like it or not, but that is the reality. The mandatory 8% of sales claimed did nothing to resolve this issue. If anything, it made the situation worse, considering the customary 20% of sales that is tipped. Of course, there are those stiffs who wouldn't tip a single mother on her feet all night busting her bottom to serve them if their life depended upon it. It is the nature of the industry, and the risk you take when you knowingly accept a service position.

Service people are paid less than minimum because they make tips. I cannot make a moral judgement one way or the other concerning the exchange of cash for service, because it is a private transaction between the two parties.

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Somehow I forgot -- forgive me, my extreme beauty distracts even me -- to tell you all exactly why my nice guy friend should never have attempted a Smooth Move.  After he handed the neatly folded but highly visible bill to the MD, the MD handed it back to him.  Without a single word but a silence hung heavily with meaning.

*wince* That had to leave a mark. In my very limited experience that simply meant the folded up bill was too small to garner attention. :biggrin:

Edited by NYC Mike (log)

-Mike & Andrea

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For 40 years I traveled and entertained for business throughout the states. It must have taken me 5 years to learn all the nuances and tipping habits of different areas of the country. Some areas were very low to no tippers and some just didn’t know any better. Of course who and how much I would grease in NYC was a whole lot different then in the south or northwest. I didn’t arbitrarily throw money around. It was used to provide their absolute best, no less. In the major cities, in a top restaurant you take care of all the key people so you have excellent seating, impeccable service and perfection in food. I always considered the entire experience as an aid in solidifying business relationships or closing the deal. It’s a small price to pay for many thousands of dollars down the road.

Oh how I miss my expense account!

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I recently ran across an ancient Gourmet magazine (mid-nineties) about a writer who set out to bribe his way into the busiest restaurants in NYC. Not only do you get a hilarious personal account, but tips for how to bribe should you want to attempt the feat yourself. I wonder if I can still find it...

Edited to add: Duh, I should have read the article first. It's the same one Walsh is talking about, and I think the year was 1997.

Edited by Blanche Davidian (log)
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At least if it's done as a private transaction, there's no sense of embarrassment to the people who can't afford the premium table. It could make for an uncomfortable start to the evening, as in "Gee, honey why couldn't we afford to sit anywhere else but next to the rest rooms? Is that what you think of me?"

How does making the transaction "secret" make being seated next to the rest rooms any more acceptable? Maybe she'll just assume that they've been given a bad table because she looks too dowdy.

I do have this one very cool method of avoiding being seated next to the rest rooms: when shown to this or any other table that I might not like for some reason (and taste in tables is very individual---I'm a little claustrophobic so I might not like a table that somebody else would find perfect) I ask for another. So as to make it clear exactly what I'm interested in table-wise I'll often indicate one or two that I find acceptable. This method works really well.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Is it morally reprehensible to pay more money for a Maserati (The comfy table by the window) than not spend the extra money for the Yugo? (The table right next to the busser station, by the kitchen, and mens room.) Not being miserly is not a sin.

People in the restaurant industry are routinely treated better than the general public. And part of that is that bartenders and waiters tip better than John Q. Public. I have seen chefs, waiters, and bartenders seated before, get cocktails before, other people just on the guess that they will be tipping heavily. So is it morally reprehensible to be in the service industry, and get these perks?

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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How does making the transaction "secret" make being seated next to the rest rooms any more acceptable? Maybe she'll just assume that they've been given a bad table because she looks too dowdy.

I

Please take my word on this based on years of experience - if you make a transaction, secret or not, you won't be seated next to the rest rooms. Unless of course the rest rooms are huge and all the tables are next to them.

However if it's posted what tables cost and you wind up next to the rest room - everyone will know you decided to go "economy." Hence the problem with posting table rates in restaurants.

Rich Schulhoff

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

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When I was a waiter in a swank joint an occasional twenty or fifty would be pressed into the captain's palm (not the maitre d', which we didn't have) with the explanation that "we'd like this to be a very special evening."

We always did our best to make sure that it was.

I think that is where my boyfriend learned it -- he was a captain at swank New Orleans restaurant a dozen years ago. His own palm would be pressed and getting the other waiters and kitchen to provide a special evening would be his job, thereby assuring happy customers who would return.

I don't see the problem with that. Just like valet parking -- many people tip the valet ahead of time to assure their car is parked well and safely. We tip our hairdressers to assure a good cut. There are tip jars on the counters of Starbucks! What's the gripe here?

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If it's not immoral, or at least, well, sleazy, then why is it hidden? Why would one bother to palm the bill, or make an effort to be nonchalant about the transaction?

Do the service people who accept bribes declare them on their taxes? Is the perk that he is selling actually his to sell in the first place?

I think here you've put a finger on one reason the whole idea bothers me. It isn't the hostess or M D's item to sell, so why should they benefit? Shall we extend the practice to busboys to insure clean silverware and refilled waterglasses? No, because it's something we feel we are entitled to when we decided to patronize the restaurant, and busboys have no power anyway. But when it comes to the part when I actually come through the door and ask for a seat, I've got to grease this one person to get there? It's the restaurants seat to give, not the Hostess' or M D's to sell or deny.

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If it's not immoral, or at least, well, sleazy, then why is it hidden? Why would one bother to palm the bill, or make an effort to be nonchalant about the transaction?

Do the service people who accept bribes declare them on their taxes? Is the perk that he is selling actually his to sell in the first place?

I think here you've put a finger on one reason the whole idea bothers me. It isn't the hostess or M D's item to sell, so why should they benefit? Shall we extend the practice to busboys to insure clean silverware and refilled waterglasses? No, because it's something we feel we are entitled to when we decided to patronize the restaurant, and busboys have no power anyway. But when it comes to the part when I actually come through the door and ask for a seat, I've got to grease this one person to get there? It's the restaurants seat to give, not the Hostess' or M D's to sell or deny.

If a bartender gives you "one on the house" do you tip on it?

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I have actually seen this in Vegas myself firsthand. Way back in the dot.com heyday I was at a conference in Vegas in which there was a pretty large group of us, all senior technologist (maybe 15) and a headhunter who was trying to recruit us desperately. He really wanted to pull out all the stops and impress us and after he gave us drinks at some private room at the House of Blues (can't remember the name, Tribute room?) at the top of Mandalay bay he decided to take us to Rum Jungle which was the hot club at the time.

There was a huge line waiting to get in and two rather large bouncers controlling the flow, this guy walked right up to them pulled out a wad of bills, peeled off 2 hundreds, gave one to each bouncer and gestured over his shoulder that he and his friends want to come in.

Without a word, the ropes parted and we entered, escorted by a bouncer who took us in. Once inside the the headhunter walked over to the roped off VIP section and did the same thing, peeling off another hundred, handed it to the bouncer and said we wanted to sit there, pointing to a group of large booths in the corner vip section. At that point my memory fades as I was mortified -- especially since the booths he was pointing to we occupied by people. Next thing I remember we were sitting in the booths, and bottle upon bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey were deposited on the table. Not exactly my style, but it was impressive to watch.

John

My friend's and I were dining at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Cesar's Palace last year. We asked the server about were we should go after the meal, she said this new club called Pure just opened on the other side of the casino. We looked out the window of Mesa Grill only to see hundreds of people in line waiting to pay the $30 cover to get in. We slipped her a hundred dollar bill and asked her if she could get us in. She made a phone call, and after we paid our bill, some guy walked across the casino to get us, and escorted us into the club. We tipped him $20 and the doorman $20 for a grand total of $140 spent. $40 less than the cover (there were 6 of us.)  I've learned that in places like Vegas and NY, this technique works great. In Seattle, it doesn't buy you much more than a dirty look.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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However if it's posted what tables cost and you wind up next to the rest room - everyone will know you decided to go "economy." Hence the problem with posting table rates in restaurants.

If you're seated next to the rest room (and it's obviously a crappy table) it's going to be pretty obvious that you're going "economy" whether prices are posted or not, isn't it?

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Without a word, the ropes parted and we entered, escorted by a bouncer who took us in.  Once inside the the headhunter walked over to the roped off VIP section and did the same thing, peeling off another hundred, handed it to the bouncer and said we wanted to sit there, pointing to a group of large booths in the corner vip section.  At that point my memory fades as I was mortified --  especially since the booths he was pointing to we occupied by people.  Next thing I remember we were sitting in the booths, and bottle upon bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey were deposited on the table.  Not exactly my style, but it was impressive to watch.

Impressive enough to get you to take the job?

I'm beginning to think that the fact that I've spent so little time in Las Vegas is not entirely a coincidence.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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If it's not immoral, or at least, well, sleazy, then why is it hidden? Why would one bother to palm the bill, or make an effort to be nonchalant about the transaction?

Do the service people who accept bribes declare them on their taxes? Is the perk that he is selling actually his to sell in the first place?

I think here you've put a finger on one reason the whole idea bothers me. It isn't the hostess or M D's item to sell, so why should they benefit? Shall we extend the practice to busboys to insure clean silverware and refilled waterglasses? No, because it's something we feel we are entitled to when we decided to patronize the restaurant, and busboys have no power anyway. But when it comes to the part when I actually come through the door and ask for a seat, I've got to grease this one person to get there? It's the restaurants seat to give, not the Hostess' or M D's to sell or deny.

If you're getting one on the house, you've been tipping right all along. Just keep it up.

If a bartender gives you "one on the house" do you tip on it?

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If it's not immoral, or at least, well, sleazy, then why is it hidden? Why would one bother to palm the bill, or make an effort to be nonchalant about the transaction?

Do the service people who accept bribes declare them on their taxes? Is the perk that he is selling actually his to sell in the first place?

I think here you've put a finger on one reason the whole idea bothers me. It isn't the hostess or M D's item to sell, so why should they benefit? Shall we extend the practice to busboys to insure clean silverware and refilled waterglasses? No, because it's something we feel we are entitled to when we decided to patronize the restaurant, and busboys have no power anyway. But when it comes to the part when I actually come through the door and ask for a seat, I've got to grease this one person to get there? It's the restaurants seat to give, not the Hostess' or M D's to sell or deny.

If a bartender gives you "one on the house" do you tip on it?

I partially addressed this briefly up thread, and yes, I do. My first tip to a bartender who is not already a familiar is overly generous to help make me memorable. If a bartender "buys me one," which is the euphemism in these parts, they receive the same tip I would have made if I had been charged. And I realize that goes to the point about whether it's theirs to sell and admitted in my earlier post that, though I never thought of it as such, my intention is to influence their behavior and thus it is a parrallel to which I do subscribe.

I've asked bartenders about comping drinks and been told various things about having a certain allowance for it, and spillage, and whatnot. In other words, the implication was that it was an accepted, planned for practice and occurred as part of the course of running a bar. Is this a point that can be made with regard to the Hostess/M D'? (And I admit my point is only anecdotal and therefor would need more support from someone in the industry -- Katie?) And I would have, in the normal course of events, tipped these bartenders anyway, after they gave me what I asked for.

But your point is taken.

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The hostess/MD looks at the customer and decides where to seat them, so in that sense, yes it is theirs to sell.

I can change the way I am received at a restaurant by changing the way I dress. A good suit and heels gets a nicer table than frumpy. I wonder what frumpy plus a pre-tip would get.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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No -- he didn't get any of us as far as I know. This was at the peak of the dot.com crazy so we were in high demand, and at that time we were all in jobs we liked.

Ah the good old dot.com days. *sigh*

Without a word, the ropes parted and we entered, escorted by a bouncer who took us in.  Once inside the the headhunter walked over to the roped off VIP section and did the same thing, peeling off another hundred, handed it to the bouncer and said we wanted to sit there, pointing to a group of large booths in the corner vip section.  At that point my memory fades as I was mortified --  especially since the booths he was pointing to we occupied by people.  Next thing I remember we were sitting in the booths, and bottle upon bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey were deposited on the table.  Not exactly my style, but it was impressive to watch.

Impressive enough to get you to take the job?

I'm beginning to think that the fact that I've spent so little time in Las Vegas is not entirely a coincidence.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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When I was a waiter in a swank joint an occasional twenty or fifty would be pressed into the captain's palm (not the maitre d', which we didn't have) with the explanation that "we'd like this to be a very special evening."

We always did our best to make sure that it was.

I think that is where my boyfriend learned it -- he was a captain at swank New Orleans restaurant a dozen years ago. His own palm would be pressed and getting the other waiters and kitchen to provide a special evening would be his job, thereby assuring happy customers who would return.

I don't see the problem with that. Just like valet parking -- many people tip the valet ahead of time to assure their car is parked well and safely. We tip our hairdressers to assure a good cut. There are tip jars on the counters of Starbucks! What's the gripe here?

I tip the valet after I get my car back safe and sound. I have had my tips and regularity combine for preferential treatment that I did not ask for, usually in the form of by-the-door-parking, and I've gratefully accepted. That's a result of being an appreciated customer. And this happens inside the restaurants and bars too. I admit, I have less of a problem in the M d' situation of a regular customer being given special treatment because of what in essence is an ongoing relationship that rewards both the restaurant and the diner. I think that is a different situation. In those cases, folks often end up on a friendly basis with one another and that can have its own rewards, which IMO is different than outright graft.

I can see someone wanting an expensive car taken care of, and don't see how that negatively impacts others if it happens. But I've never pulled to the front of a line of cars waiting to valet park with a $20 in my hand expecting to get parked first while everyone else moves back one position in the pecking order. I would consider that an offense to others, and it would anger me if someone did that to me. Likewise with starbucks. We don't push to the front of the line at the counter and palm the help as we order a latte. At least, I've not seen that. I see folks wait their turn, and sometimes place some money in the jar after the order. These are not, as I opined in the OP, things one does in polite society.

And who tips a hairdresser up front? For what? To make sure you don't get the "table by the kitchen" haircut special?

I don't really see your examples as parallels.

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The hostess/MD looks at the customer and decides where to seat them, so in that sense, yes it is theirs to sell.

I can change the way I am received at a restaurant by changing the way I dress. A good suit and heels gets a nicer table than frumpy. I wonder what frumpy plus a pre-tip would get.

Or what nicely dressed and no pre-tip gets. Oh, hold it, I already know the answer to that one.

That the MD gets to decide where different diners are seated does not mean that these are his seats to sell. His job is (or I think it is) to make sure that the maximum number of people are comfortable and that the dining room runs smoothly. To that end he may put the underdressed in an area where passers-by don't see them and thereby gain a poor impression of the establishment, just as he may put families with children in an area where they are less likely to disturb other diners.

Taking bribes means that he has an incentive to do something that will not necessarily contribute to the comfort of the maximum number of guests. It may increase the comfort of the guest who has offered the bribe (though not necessarily---just how much fawning can a person take?) but may well decrease the comfort of the guest who has not (who has, for instance, booked a table at Chez Swanky a month in advance only to be told that there's a delay while Mr. Bigbootay and his rent-a-date swoosh by).

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Ick, ick, ick. Talk about slimy! I don't care how you spin it, bribes are wrong.

If a server can't do their best work without being handed cash ... if a restaurant has sucky tables just so they can favor someone who comes in ready to bribe ... that says a lot to me. I don't do it and I've seen it very few times over the years. I don't go back and am sure to tell the owner -- not the manager -- why.

I prefer my "strategy" -- treat the FOH with respect and stand up for yourself. Tables can be switched before or after you're seated. I've never had anyone fuss at me or try to make me sit somewhere I didn't like. And if the bartender is giving the boss' booze away, he doesn't get tipped. If he is told to give free cocktails while we're waiting for the better table to be ready ... he does.

I've been known to do something even more crazy than pre-dinner bribes: A round of drinks for the kitchen AND FOH staff, after closing, when an experience was really great. Talk about being treated like royalty!

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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The hostess/MD looks at the customer and decides where to seat them, so in that sense, yes it is theirs to sell.

I can change the way I am received at a restaurant by changing the way I dress. A good suit and heels gets a nicer table than frumpy. I wonder what frumpy plus a pre-tip would get.

In a sense, but I think that's my point. Isn't it really their job to grant, gratis, a seat at their discretion, which they are then subverting to their own benefit? I think that's how I see it, but others don't.

I'm not in the industry. Do restaurant owners and managers want to chime in? Is it acceptable, encouraged, winked at, discouraged? What is Policy with a captial P? Are the owners of restaurant reviewed in the article linked in the OP going to be happy, mad, or indifferent? How 'bout the club and restaurant managers in Vegas, if they read these stories?

Can I call the French Laundry today and offer a gratuity for a table saturday night? Should they accept it?

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We don't push to the front of the line at the counter and palm the help as we order a latte. 

No, but wouldn't it be fun to see the reaction? Particularly if there were a big crowd waiting?

Can you pee in the ocean?

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How 'bout the club and restaurant managers in Vegas, if they read these stories?

I'm guessing that clubs in Vegas are perfectly happy with the practice. They know that the guy splashing out C-notes to get his crowd in the door (no palming required) is also going to be delighted to buy that crowd huge amounts of exorbitantly priced liquor.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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