Give them the eye You’re at a bar, it’s busy and you’re thirsty. Should you join the other patrons who are competing to get the bartender’s attention? No way. “The person who is polite, quiet and waiting her turn with money in her hand is the one I’m going to serve first,” says Mike Hibbits, senior bartender at My Apartment in Toronto.
Ask their name At the Daily Grind Café in Halifax, staffers say they’ll make special drinks or sandwiches and even have birthday parties for the regulars who take the time to get to know them. The same holds true for Clare Smyth, a veteran server at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, Ont. “Nothing is more rewarding for me than to have people remember my name,” she says. Treat her like a valued person and she might treat you to dessert.
Say please Asking for help rather than demanding it will always win you points. “I’m always taken aback when customers say, ‘Are you busy?’ before they ask a question,” says Ann-Marie Power, a concierge at the Marriott Hotel in Toronto. It makes her feel as if customers understand the demands of her job. And don’t forget: she’s the one who can get you last-minute dinner reservations, so it pays to make friends with her.
Pull out the plastic When you’re buying concert tickets, have your credit card number and expiry date on hand, says Patti Babin, national director of promotions and publicity for Ticketmaster Canada. The time it takes you to dig through your purse or check your calendar could make or break the ticket agent’s chance of getting you front-row-centre seats.
Make a note When planning a home reno project, have all the information, including measurements, in a portable file. If you’re purchasing a door, what size do you need? If you’re looking for paint, which room is it for? “Our suggestions are dictated by your circumstances,” says Murray Smith, a former manager at The Home Depot.
Take a picture When it’s time to update your do, know what you want and don’t want. Most stylists appreciate it when you show them a picture of the type of cut you’re after. “It’s hard when clients don’t know what they want but they expect you to figure it out for them,” says Johnny Cupello, owner of JC Salons in Toronto. So, start flipping through magazines several days before your appointment and you won’t end up hiding under a hat for weeks.
Spread the word There are three things a new client can say to John Steinberg, owner of John Steinberg and Associates salon in Toronto, that’ll make him give more than his usual knock-your-smock-off service: I’m returning to the workforce, I just lost a lot of weight or I was referred by a friend. “It’s an opening for discussion that shows the client is ready for something new,” he says.
Think small Loyalty is a big deal to the small retailer. Give her your regular business and reap the rewards. “It’s not a set system that if you spend this much you’ll get a deal,” says Kim Steed of Steed Cycles in northern Vancouver. “But if you keep coming back, you’ll start getting discounts.”
Speak up In restaurants, be clear with your server about your expectations. It’s as easy as saying, “We have tickets to the theatre so we need to be on our way by 7:15.” Or, “We’re really looking forward to an intimate and relaxing supper.” Build a rapport with your server and she can adjust the timing of the meal to meet your needs.
Beat the clock Show up on time or a few minutes early at the hair salon. “If you’re late and you put the hairdresser behind, she may rush the haircut or you might not get offered a coffee,” says Cupello. “Being on time gives us the opportunity to get it right.”
Stay on their good side When it comes to appointments or reservations, don’t phone half an hour before and cancel unless it’s an emergency. No-shows are a no go and you may be relegated to your manicurist’s, stylist’s or mechanic’s blacklist.
Do it now Don’t wait until you’re home to complain. “If the bruschetta was cold and you didn’t like it, don’t wait until after you’ve eaten to let me fix it,” says Mahalia Majdoub, a server at Panorama lounge in Toronto. “I’ll take it off your bill, get you a new one or get you something else.”
Take a memo If you feel uncomfortable confronting someone in person or if you’re too upset to be rational, take a moment the next day to write a letter or send an e-mail to the manager. When she is aware of the problem, she’ll likely go out of her way to compensate you for your bad experience. She’ll make amends with a sincere apology or maybe drinks or dinner on the house.
Now that you’ve completed your crash course in getting great service, how can you make sure you’re giving appropriate rewards? Check out these at-a-glance guidelines for savvy tipping practices.
At a restaurant
Server 15 per cent for average service; up to 25 per cent for exemplary service
Sommelier or wine steward 15 per cent of the cost of the bottle
Buffet server Five to 10 per cent, depending on the amount of service provided
Quick tip for you If you are considering not leaving a tip, ask yourself what part of the experience you’re unhappy with. Don’t shortchange the server if your meal wasn’t cooked properly. If you’re unhappy with your server but the food was delicious, consider leaving a partial tip with the manager for the kitchen staff.
At a salon
Stylist 15 to 20 per cent of the cost of the service
Assistant $2 to $5 or more, depending on the service provided
Owner Same as stylist. Note that some accept tips, while others don’t.
Quick tip for you Are you a regular customer or would you like to be one? If you get your hair styled by the same person each month, you might want to tip on the generous side.
At a hotel
Bellman or doorman $1 to $2 per bag
Concierge $1 to $2 for simple requests, such as dinner reservations; $5 to $10 for tougher assignments, such as last-minute theatre tickets
Housekeeper $1 to $3 per person, paid each day
Quick tip for you Recognize how much the person helped you. If the bellman carries your bags from the front desk to your room, tip the minimum. If he brings your bags inside, shows you how to work the TV and fills your ice bucket, add more.
At a bar
Bartender $1 to $2 per round, or 15 per cent of the total tab
Server $1 to $2 per drink
Coatroom attendant $1 per coat
Quick tip for you Consider the complexity of your order. Flipping the cap off a beer bottle doesn’t require the same effort as mixing a tray of pina coladas. Reward accordingly.