The Stereotype in the Restaurant Industry That Needs to End

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Tipping While Asian

Panel 1

[Image] An Asian man in a server’s uniform, holding two dishes of food. He is smiling and in the process of putting the food down in front of a smiling diner.

[Caption] When I was a server…

Panel 2

[Image] The server looking at two Caucasian female servers, who are speaking to each other. They are facing away from an elderly, smiling Asian couple who have just entered the restaurant.

[Caption] I used to hear my coworkers say this all the time:

White server 1: Damn. Asians! There goes MY tip!

Panel 3

[Image] One of the white servers is walking away from the Asian server, but with her head turned, as if still addressing him. Her hand is raised dismissively.

White server: No offence, but you know.

Panel 4

[Image] The elderly couple sitting at a table, looking downward and frowning. The two white servers are tending to other tables – with white diners – in the background.

[Caption] They paid closer attention to everyone but the Asian guests.

Panel 5

[Image] An empty plate with a few crumbs left over, fork in the middle of the plate, and a half-drunk cup of coffee. Next to the plate is the restaurant bill, and a few coins on top.

[Caption] When the guests left…

White server: That’s it???

Panel 6

[Image] The two white female servers, looking unhappy. One has her arms crossed, and the other has her hand on her hip.

White server 1: God, I hate serving Asians.
White server 2: Horrible tippers.

Panel 7

[Caption] No offence.

Panel 8

[Image] The Asian server looking disappointed.

[Caption] The worst part was that I brushed it off…Maybe better service would get better tips? Maybe saying this to me, an Asian, is actually offensive?

Panel 9

[Image] A mobile payment terminal. On the screen it says:

Select tip: 1 – Tip freely according to service
2 – Tip enough to not be stereotyped
3 – Tip enough to break stereotype

[Caption] To this day, it sometimes feels like this. I tip regardless of service (also because waiters deserve more pay, but that’s another issue) and I tip more. I know the stereotype precedes me wherever I go.

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I worked as a server for many years. I worked in chain restaurants serving food to people stumbling out the bar…as well as pricier joints serving things I could never afford. One thing that all these places had in common (among the wait staff) was the persistent stereotype about Asians as low tippers. Everyone I worked with knew it was “kind of offensive” but would always say “…but it’s true”.

At least when they said it in my presence they would usually say “no offense, but…you know”.

I would often see my co-workers make an annoyed face as Asian guests came in. Obviously it wasn’t every single time, or every single co-worker, but it happened, especially during busy hours. They then paid closer attention to everyone but the Asian guests. Once the guests left, a bad tip would be left, and it would reinforce their belief, and say out loud “SEE? This is why…”

Maybe better service would get better tips?

Maybe saying this to me, an Asian, is actually offensive?

The worst part was that I brushed it off.

To this day, when I go to a restaurant it feels like I have three options for tipping: tip freely according to service, tip enough to not be stereotyped, or tip enough to break stereotype. I always tip regardless of service (also because waiters deserve more pay, but that’s another issue), and I tip more – because years and years of working in the industry has taught me that there’s a good chance that the stereotype precedes me.

This week’s comic is illustrated by Amanda Elbeck. Check out more of her illustrations here.

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