Occasionally on The 12 Angry Men, we will post rants from invited guests. In lieu of our normally scheduled segment, today we feature our first invited rant, from an Angry Guest Woman. Our guest in this article had a run in with customer service which was so severe that she couldn’t help but rant about the situation, proving once again that not only men can be angry.
– The Staff of The 12 Angry Men

This morning I had an early morning flight from Oakland Airport. Since I had to leave so early in the morning, I had booked an airport shuttle from my downtown San Francisco hotel the day before. In my early-morning groggy state I asked for directions to the shuttle pick-up point from the hotel bellman. I found the shuttle exactly where it should be. The driver immediately asked for my name, remind me there was a strict policy of “reservations only.” He said he had checked me off on his electronic manifest, took my bag, and asked for my receipt. I should mention here that my receipt said “OAK” across the top and that the concierge had circled this for extra emphasis as well. After waiting for about 10 or 15 minutes, another shuttle arrived. The people on my shuttle were annoyed that we were so late another shuttle had arrived already. The other shuttle driver was looking for someone to pick up, compared manifests with my shuttle driver as they were each missing a passenger, and eventually both decided they should leave anyway after one last check of the lobby. I overheard them stating that someone with my name was going to be left behind then.”Wait!” I yelled out at them. Did you just call my name? “No” they replied in unison and then the other shuttle driver stated there was no one matching his passenger’s name in my shuttle. I got out and argued with them for a bit, finally discovering I was supposed to be on the other shuttle. (The one I had been on was leaving for SFO.) We were already late and still had to pick up other passengers. At at least one other hotel, my shuttle driver parked in the wrong spot and had to drive around the block and change locations. At one point, we were waiting around in front of a hotel and I expressed concern that we were behind schedule and asked to pay the remainder of my balance while we waited. My request was denied.

When we got to the airport and the driver noticed I had paid him the exact balance (with no tip) he approached me and asked for more. “I got you here before your flight” he said, “how can you be unhappy with my service?”

I reiterated to him: the shuttle to Oakland was late to begin with and both drivers missed the obvious signs of my name and receipt which indicated where I was to go. They very nearly made me miss my flight — I would have ended up in the wrong place had I not eavesdropped on their conversation! “But that was the other driver’s fault” insisted my driver. “At this point, I don’t care whose fault all of this is” I told him. This is not behavior worthy of reward.

Since when did “I didn’t screw up as badly as I could have” become the sole merit for a juicy tip? Maybe in the eyes of my fellow Americans this makes me a soul-less cheapskate but if someone proves to be incapable at doing the basic job for which they are being paid, they do not deserve a bonus for their incompetence. Sure, as my driver pointed out, things could have been much worse. He could have showed up significantly late instead of just a bit late. There could have been horrible traffic (although I doubt there is horrible traffic anywhere at 5am on Sunday). He could have gotten lost on the way to the airport when in fact he took a fairly efficient route. And the shuttle service didn’t actually drive me to the wrong place and cause me to miss my flight, they just almost did.

But those things are irrelevant! The shuttle driver’s job was to pick up pre-booked passengers on-time and deliver them to the airport. Just approximately completing this task is doing your job. Going the extra mile and doing it well is what earns you a tip. And before all of you living-wage-liberals out there jump down my throat about the driver needing to eat, I’ll remind you of the real details of this situation. This shuttle carries 6-8 pre-booked people at $25/head for the 20-30 minute drive to the airport then picks up a waiting crowd for the return trip. Do the math and it’s pulling in at least $300/hour; they can certainly afford to pay the driver. And if he really wants a tip from me, it’s not that hard to do a better job.

We do the same thing with waiters at restaurants. How many waiters take your order, drop off the food, and then ignore you for the next hour? Frequently they get your order wrong or you finish your drink and need a refill or you decide to order something else and they are no where to be found. Yet they still expect a 20% tip! Restaurant prices seem to grow exponentially each year yet the food doesn’t improve, the service slowly gets worse, and the tips go up with the food prices. Has no one else noticed what’s wrong with this picture? And I can’t remember the last time someone actually thanked me for a tip as if it were a gift instead of a requirement.

Perhaps I’m just more critical because I just moved here from a college town in England were a generous tip was 5% and groups of students frequently just emptied the change from their pockets onto the table at the end of a meal. In this country that would be considered an insult but over there the waitress always thanked us sincerely for whatever we left. It was nice.

In France, people in service industries take so much pride in their work, I’ve even had a tip returned to me because the restaurant staff said it was too generous. I thought the food was excellent but the chef felt he hadn’t done as well as he could have that night. This would absolutely never happen in the US.

So the moral of this story is, if you’re hired into a service position, do your job. And if you want a tip, go the extra mile. Streamline your work and be efficient and attentive. Add those little extra touches. Throw in some humorous retorts if that’s your style. If nothing else, good, old-fashioned courtesy goes a long way with me. But don’t ever tell me I should gift you my hard-earned cash just because during our brief encounter you weren’t as incompetent as you could have been. Band together with me, my fellow Americans, to bring tipping back into its proper place. Tips need once again to be an incentive for doing well, a reward for excellence, an expression of the customer’s gratitude which must be earned. They are not just an un-written tax to be paid to whomever shows up for work independently of whether or not the job gets done.
– Angry East Coast Guest Woman