At the cafe recently, two baristas ignored me for seven minutes to chat up the guy ahead of me. This is normal in Portland. When I travel, I'm stunned by how much better the service is, even in New York. I'm nice, I tip well…what gives?

—No Goddamned Respect

I'd be more sympathetic to your story, Respect, if it weren't for that suspiciously specific "seven minutes." It's almost like you timed the interaction in anticipation of complaining about it later.

But let's give you the benefit of the doubt and say you got dissed. Congratulations! You've been gored on the horns of a service-industry dilemma as old as Sysco itself.

Here's the pattern, as related to me by a midlevel restaurant manager who didn't want to see her name in the paper.

First, someone on Yelp—maybe even you!—grouses that the servers at Groat-Cluster Hut aren't friendly. Management resolves to hire friendly, engaging people!

Unfortunately, friendly engagement is time-consuming. (Say what you will about surly contempt, it's over in a hurry.) Soon, everybody in line behind the engaged party—maybe even you!—is on Yelp complaining about the chatty, slow service. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Theoretically, you could just hire people who can engage and be fast at the same time. But let's be realistic: Anybody who can kiss that many asses, that quickly, is so primed for success in the American workplace that they don't need your crappy restaurant job.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course—but mostly in high-tipping markets where a restaurant job can compete with other professions. (New York City, for the record, was the highest-tipping city in America in a 2013 survey.)

Count your blessings, Respect. Soon enough, the Mr. Pinks of the world will abolish tipping, and your cafe experience will combine the charm of a bail hearing with the blistering efficiency of a trip to the DMV. Live the now.


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