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Friday, December 11, 2015

Message to Spanish-Speaking Servers and Wait Staff


I tipped this amiable server quite handsomely while visiting the Pino Suarez District of Mexico City even though she had no choice but to address me in Spanish.



If you are a Spanish speaker and have a job where tips are a big portion of your income, there is something I would like for you to consider.

One evening in New York City, as I was about to leave a restaurant owned and staffed by immigrants from the Dominican Republic, the waitress expressed deep emotional gratitude for the tip that I leftwell over 20% of the bill.

Besides the food being very good along with great jazz, salsa, and bachata music in the background, and not to mention the high-end customer service; everybody, including my waitress, spoke to me in Spanish! As a customer constantly seizing every opportunity to improve my Spanish, that was a real treat.

However, at a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco, California, I placed my order in Spanish, and the waitress immediately displayed her annoyance, and asked me in loud, perfect English, “WITH RICE and BEANS?” Surprised by her response, I continued placing my order in English. I don't remember the tip that I left, or if I left anything at all, but it was nothing like the tip I left in that Dominican restaurant in New York.

A lot of Spanish speakers seem to have issues with speaking Spanish to those whom they “perceive” to be non-native speakers. I don't know if it is shame of their heritage in our racist society, or if they simply don't want to be stereotyped, or perhaps, they are more comfortable with English from being born and raised in the U.S., but any of those negative attitudes can potentially affect their tips if they are in a service industry.

As I pointed out in my blog post, “What Do Spanish-Speakers Look Like?,“ I've personally met native Spanish speakers who are Asian, black, Indigenous, Jewish, Middle Eastern, white, and of course, a mixture of some of the aforementioned in my travels through nine Spanish-speaking countries, and from living in New York and California.

In a town near El Paso, Texas, a black woman went out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant with several other woman who fit the stereotypical profile of “Latinas.” Although the black woman demonstrated her fluency in Spanish while ordering, the waitress continued to speak to this woman in English and the other women in Spanish. Had I been in that black woman's place, I would have spoken to the management in Spanish about the blatant prejudice of that waitress, and explained why I left no tip.

There are a lot of customers who, like I, enjoy speaking Spanish as a second language, and it's just good, plain, professional courtesy for someone in customer service to respond likewise, and not get defensive. If the customers have any class, they are likely to leave bigger tips. So, my advice is to go for it.

Finally, let me clear something up just in case you didn't know; there is nothing wrong with the Spanish language. It was spoken in the United States of America almost 100 years before English. It survived and thrived during centuries of persecution, and is now the second most widely spoken language out of over 100 spoken in this country. So, please chill out, stand up, and be proud!