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Ask The Salty Waitress: Know Any Jedi Mind Tricks For Servers To Get Bigger Tips?

Dear Salty: I just graduated from college and I'm waitressing this summer. I'm good at serving (at least that's what my boss says), I enjoy the customers, and I consider my job fun. So please know I'm slightly embarrassed to ask this question: Do you have any special techniques for getting a bigger tip? For example, I've heard that if you write your name on the receipt, your customers may find the server more personable, and maybe that leads to a larger tip. Do you know of any other Jedi mind tricks?



Don't be embarrassed by this question. I don't know why some people turn red when it comes to money matters... of course we want to be paid more! A bigger tip means we did an exceptional job, and that's a win-win for both customer and server.

I think what you're trying to say, hon, is about how to better establish rapport. I can think of a few ways, but know that your mileage may vary.

One idea we've tackled before in this column is the friendly touch on the shoulder. Some say a 2 to 4-second touch on the shoulder (back of the hands) may increase familiarity, and maybe, that turns into a bigger tip. Look, Ol' Salty's comfortable enough with her customers, and I'll even plant a kiss on the regulars, but I can see why even a light touch may be controversial. If it works for you, congratulations. You just gotta be able to read your customer.

Another idea is sending a piece of candy out with the bill. There's this study from Cornell University that says when customers were handed their checks with a small piece of chocolate, they typically tipped more than customers who didn't receive the unexpected sweet. It has to do with reciprocity—you know, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. From that study: "People often feel obligated to reciprocate acts of generosity even if those acts were not requested or anticipated." Free chocolate = generous!

My final tip for you is gonna sound a bit out there, but stay with me. It comes from a former FBI negotiator who wrote this book called Never Split The Difference, and it's about negotiating techniques. My nephew Keith photocopied this one passage for me that he thought was relevant to Aunt Salty's interests. It was about a technique the FBI uses called "mirroring," which boils down to repeating the last few words a person just said in order to establish rapport. Let's say your customer says: "I'd like the house special patty melt," instead of saying "sure," you repeat back the order. What happens if you do? Oh hell, I hope the book publisher doesn't mind if I just put up the passage:

Seventy percent! Even if you don't believe that figure, mirroring costs nothing to use, so Salty sure as heck is gonna try this. And maybe you should too, Katie. Let me know how it goes.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com