A couple of years ago after receiving poor service at a bar from an indifferent waitress I had words with the manager and after apologizing to me, he explained how the waitresses who earned minimum wage depended on tips big time. Turns out South Asians are notoriously bad tippers. Not only did they demand service, some weren’t above snapping their fingers to get the attention of a waitress and after all that, many times they didn’t even leave a tip. Needless to say, the waitress stuck with serving a table full of South Asian received condolences from the other staff. Often times new waitresses or bad waitresses are tasked with serving customers who may fit the profile.
Initially I was angry at being stereotyped as an uncouth South Asian who was made to feel like a second-class citizen, but then I was speaking to a second-gen South Asian who worked at a high-end retail store who said she hated having to serve South Asian customers because they were ‘cheap’ and oftentimes rude. And needless to say they would often buy something expensive on a Friday and return it on a Monday having used it to impress their dinner guests. Another South Asian foreign student working at an Indian restaurant had this to say: “Our desi people don’t tip and sometimes they leave tips that have been 50 cents. Goras on the other hand are the best tippers.”
This fact was echoed once by a Indian entrepreneur who had opened a restaurant. He said his Indian staff all fought to serve white patrons knowing they could expect great tips. South Asian diners tended to talk down to his staff, complain because they are trying to get a break on the bill and often left next to no tip.
Speaking with a friend who frequents bars, he said he always tips $5 after the waitress brings the first drink and from then on it is smooth sailing and he leaves a reasonable tip at the end of it. That is how he overcomes any poor service he may encounter.
Now here’s another observation. A friend from Texas who travels frequently on work noticed that the service he receives in small towns or places with fewer immigrants was far superior than what he had received in immigrant-rich places that includes Mississauga and Brampton.
Dealing with one bad customer or diner belonging to any ethnicity may not result in that waitress or store associate typecasting South Asian immigrants, but when these mostly young workers repeatedly encounter such negative encounters, a pattern emerges, word spreads and suddenly brown customers and diners end up receiving poor customer service at establishments who have seen their generous return policies abused and good service not rewarded by a decent tip or a smile. And it is not just white or other ethnicities who notice this, our own young brown children entering the workforce are often treated with a degree of disrespect by immigrants from the sub-continent. “Indian people are cheap,” one of them said to me, totally unstruck by the irony of her Indian background. It was as though she was talking about another ethnicity. It may have to do with the perception that somehow those working in restaurants or retail stores belong to a lower class in need of money which means they have lower social status and back in South Asia, we all know how badly maids, drivers and people in the service industry are treated. Back in the old country, such behavior could fly, but here it is met by coolness, indifference and all of a sudden South Asians are negatively stereotyped. – CINEWS