Winging Tips

What to do when "The Ground Rules" aren't clear

It's so nice to have a slave -- um, a server -- to cater to our whims as we watch the Philadelphia Phillies kick the Diamondbacks' butts on a Friday night. In-seat food and beverage service is just one of the amenities of scoring a Clubhouse ticket, the $70-per-seat grouping that takes up seven sections on the lower level directly behind home plate.

A bounty of snacks awaits us, to be ordered from a server who stops by with a hand-held computer, sending our request to the kitchen, to be delivered promptly by another server. Cocktails? We can have pretty much anything we desire, brought to our seats by yet another server. The penalty for this star treatment, the menu tells us under a slightly obnoxious-titled category called "The Ground Rules," is a 19 percent service charge.

This charge includes tips all around, of course. Or does it? A service charge isn't necessarily a gratuity, and there's a line to write in tips on receipts. But only the order-taker handles the receipt. Who takes care of the food runner, bounding up the stairs with boxes of burgers, and the cocktail runner, balancing ice-cold frozen margaritas and Smirnoff screwdrivers as she scrambles to our seats?

The short answer: It depends. According to Maggie Dunn, marketing director for Bank One Ballpark's food service management company, Levy Restaurants, that 19 percent covers all tips. She says it's pooled at the end of a game, and distributed among all of the club seating's service staff. Corporate policy, in fact, does not allow servers to request tips.

According to our servers, however, Levy does not tell them what becomes of that money, how, or even if, it's divvied up. Our order-taker sighs that she only gets $2.50 an hour, and while the food runners earn $8 an hour, fans more often give them a few extra dollars. It's habit, she guesses, for people to tip the person who brings them their meals.

When the second server comes with our food, she has the same answer, but adds that she splits her windfalls with the drink server. The drink server, meanwhile, deposits our beverages and dashes away with nary a word.

Neither of our servers budges when I ask them what a typical tip might be. "Whatever you'd like, only if you'd like," is the polite response.

We do like. An extra dollar here or there, for a server to bring us our $8.50 Sicilian flatbread sandwich and $8.50 Heineken seems like a small price for luxury. Our order-taker gets 10 percent; our cocktail waitress gets $1.

It seems like the right thing to do.

 
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