Wednesday, June 17, 2009

#86 Leaving a gospel tract with the tip

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Christian culture is historically known for leaving a gospel tract when they tip in restaurants. Oftentimes they leave a tract along with actual money, but in severe cases they'll leave only the tract.


Every Sunday around noon, waiters and waitresses throughout the Bible belt and other densely churched areas of North America brace themselves for the church crowd* to roll in. In a flurry of khaki and hairspray, they become visibly nervous if presented with a wine list and they loudly discuss which of them will pray over the food. Once they leave, heartily clapping each other on the back and taking an awful long time to exit, their server often finds with the tip a pamphlet that outlines the presumptuously-titled four spiritual laws.



Maybe Christian culture's logic is: what better way to care for the immediate physical needs of others as mandated by Jesus? How about giving them some fire insurance! Insurance from the fires of hell, that is.

[Mr. Pink has got at least one thing in common with Christian culture.]

*Church crowd is the term for the large influx of people coming fresh from a Sunday morning church service and into restaurants. There is an unwritten rule that they must go out for lunch post-church. The chain restaurants they favor are The Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebee's, Cracker Barrel and Chili's.

57 comments:

Until... said...

my in-laws do this. they do leave money as well. i always wondered why just being there wasn't enough. the ones who don't leave money drive me nuts.

jmarinara said...

As a Christian who likes to eat out with his friends after church, I have stopped eating with some folks who refuse to tip.

I was raised to tip 15% minimum and I put myself through college waiting tables. Not tipping a good server is just disgusting to me.

Yes, I do leave a tract with my tip. So?

stephy said...

I would hope anyone who left tracts with tips would ask themselves, is it okay to proseletyze to people via pamphlet without any context of relationship?
Something else that I think is important to know is that many servers who are left tracts feel condescended to.

kami said...

My family went to Red Lobster every Sunday after church. But at least we didn't leave any tracks in our wake.

RodeoClown said...

You guys need to live in a country where tipping isn't expected.

It's much better - you only tip if you think the service was great, and so there is no pressure to leave a tacky tract instead of real money.

I think Australian Christians are more likely to drink beer and wine too, so no awkward wine list returns!

Don Heatley said...

Don't they realize they're all going to Hell anyway since they're going out to eat on a Sunday?:p

Chris said...

"Is there anyone who ever remembers / changing their mind from the paint on a sign? / Is there anyone who really recalls / ever breaking rank at all for something someone yelled real loud one time?" ~John Mayer

Yep. Jesus didn't call a bunch of tracts the body of Christ, as though some paper could change the world; the Church is a bunch of people imitating the character of Christ ... in person ...

Steve said...

The "Stuff Christians Like" blog covered a very similar topic (fake money tracts, sometimes left as tips) just last week. Very similar attitudes.

Aaron said...

I, and others from the youth group, would always go to Taco Bell after church. Have you covered how much Christians love Mountain Dew?

James said...

I've actually never seen this happen. Maybe I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd. haha.

And in response to Aaron-- love of Mountain Dew is a trans-cultural phenomenon, with no research-backed explanation... yet.

seriouslylovingthisblog said...

I was a waitress in college and ALL of the waiters and waitresses would indeed dread the Church crowd and we'd try as hard as we could not to work Sunday mornings because everyone knew that Christians/churchgoers are the worst tippers and many don't tip at all. Its very sad but its the truth.

Melissa said...

I hate how my in-laws do this even more than the passing of the antibacterial gel before meals at restaurants.

Amy said...

I was a waitress for a long time, and it infuriated me to be left a tract and some pennies. It also embarrassed me to realize there are christians who think that leaving someone a tract will save their soul. All it makes them think is that Christians are cheap and don't want to get to know them, just leave the token tract so they've done their duty by them.

Mon said...

W.o.w. Now, coming from a bible-belt subsidiary, this is one that I've never heard before. I was flabbergasted and almost in disbelief when I first read this post and did a google search cross-reference (not to undermine your impeccable observations Steph!). Ha, I came across this page that tells a Christian server's side of the story:

http://www.guymalone.com/tipping.htm

Poor guy, even he's disappointed by his own people.

Maybe I take this more personally since I used to be a waitress. If I ever got one of these with a measly few cents, I would've gone all "do unto others" or "give to Caesar what is Caesar's..." on their ass! Then again I was actually a cocktail waitress, at a strip club. Can't say I ever saw the church crowd there!

pure_light said...

Mountain Dew is Christian crack

Mary said...

Hey Stephy-

I've been following your blogs here and there too ;-) I was a waitress at Shoney's back East and HATED working Sundays. Since I was the Christian, I always had the one man who would leave a tract and a buck. I stopped working Sundays-

Anonymous said...

This blog seems to be devoted to evangelical Christians, not Christians as a whole. My Presbyterian father is very active in his church and has never done something this obnoxious. Neither has my Catholic mother. Catholics are also Christians. Anyone who doesn't tip a waitress is pretty UN-CHRISTIAN, considering what they make.

Ann said...

Unrelated to this post, but I just remembered something I haven't thought of before related to Christian culture...praying as a group is THE most awkward thing as a Christian. It becomes especially awkward when there's a meeting, and after a false start someone has to say, "Guys, we should actually begin this with a prayer." Guilt! Then, there's the awkward handholding. And then when you're praying over a person, and there are so many other people around them that you can't get your hand on any part of their body, so you just stand around awkwardly.
Just ideas.

Emma said...

I just found this blog, and it makes me laugh. I would like to point out, however, that this is better at describing "Stuff White Evangelicals Like" as opposed to Christian culture in general. Christianity is a drastically vast thing. It's unfortunately that a lot of what people associate with Chirstianity really does have nothing to do with Christ. But much of that also has to do with American culture and the development of our society. Not all Christians get nervous when presented with a wine list (just look at the Catholics) and not all Christians have a stage to get barefoot on (check out the Orthodox). Generalizations are fun sometimes, just remember that they are, in fact, generalizations.

Emma said...

And now I'm going to try to pry the foot out of my mouth, as I didn't read the sub-heading for the name of the blog...

Carry on! :)

Mike said...

Don't worry, Emma! You're among friends here.

I sympathize with the restaurant staff on this, because when I was a kid my uncle would give me (longer, book-length) tracts for my birthday. I'm convinced that alone kept me out of the faith for fifteen years or more. And if you open the cover of one of them, the only possible reaction is, "If that's the best argument you can put forward, then thank you, but I'll stay agnostic."

For all the stories about "how reading a tract won my heart for Christ," there must be thousands on the other side.

jeremy said...

Deep inside, all Christians have a little Mr. Pink in them.

Mary DeMuth said...

I have to say this blog totally entertained me tonight. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Magnus said...

I swear like Mr. Pink, but I do tip. I also don't leave tracts/ But then I am also the last example of a Christian anyone would want to point to.
The tract thing is just so tacky. I was in a restaurant and someone had left a tract in lieu of a tip. The servers face was one of exasperated disgust.

Former Waitress said...

One of my first jobs when I was a teenager was at a little diner that had HUGE church crowds. You'd have 5 waitresses and after a 5 hour shift you might have $25 between the lot of us. It got to the point where everyone refused to work Sundays that the diner manager started adding automatic gratuities to the checks.

It was funny to explain the reason to the customers when we had to explain it. "Well, I NEVER did that!" Um, no ma'am, you didn't...

Anastasia said...

I used to have a job as a cashier at Panera Bread, and during a lunch rush one day (NOT on Sunday, though! Amazing!), a very perky twentysomething female customer slipped me a tract and whispered "Look this over when you have the time, it'll be good for you."
My knee-jerk reaction was "How about I stab you in the forehead with a fork? I think that would be good for you."
But I didn't say it.
Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit, you know ;)

Hillside Community Church in Crown Point, IN said...

Isn't that why Mr. Pink got it in the end?

eva said...

If you haven't done it already, one thing Christian culture really likes is building a "family life center" - basically some type of gym/event center. And they like having building campaigns to get this paid for.

This website is suspiciously like another one with a very similar titled concerning white people... I'm quite observant, aren't I!

stephy said...

Eva, totally! (the family life center, and this site being a ripoff. I link to it at the top. :)

wearypilgrim said...

To add to what Eva said, Christian culture really likes family, period --- to the point where, IMHO, it has become an idol. There are evangelical churches in which I would sure hate to be single or, worse still, gay or an unwed mother.

Ann said...

I agree with wearypilgrim. I was at a wedding where the pastor said, "God loves marriage," (true) "He said that it's the best thing you can do" (not true). Maybe there is a verse out there that says that, but St. Paul isn't enthusiastic about marriage at all. Jesus isn't even enthusiastic about marriage. In any case, marriage and courtship are very different nowadays from what they were in the BIble.

Billy said...

Really think your blog is running it's course. Most Christians I know are very generous tippers. When I was in college, my Christian professor told the class that a Christian should always tip well, otherwise we set a very bad example. I never tip any less than 20%. My mother (who is a Christian) tips close to 40% since I told her that tips are the majority of the wait staff's income. If you want something to blog about, how about over weight preachers telling the laymen that drinking alcohol is a sin or anything else for that matter.

stephy said...

Billy,
I'm really glad you know some Christians who are good tippers. My blog has truly run its course because I've already written about the clergymen and alcohol!

Lori Danelle Wilson said...

AHHH! I find this both funny and sad! As a person who put herself through school waiting on table I have definitely seen this scenerio play out in person.

I used to get so mad at fellow believers who would do this. That stupid tract did more damage than it ever did good. I'm sure there are stories of how some random person saw the tract and it changed their life, but I've seen dozens of people put off to God and church more and more because of this gesture.

If you feel you MUST leave a tract, you'd better leave a tip above and beyond what you normally would because otherwise you are telling that server that you don't care about them, their bills and their obligations. You just want to make yourself feel better and force your views on them.

I realize that if you're reading stuff on this site, there's a very good chance I'm preaching to the choir, but this is one issue that really hits a nerve with me!! :)

Daniel Kirk said...

Awesome. Worked at Olive Garden for a couple years. Made me want to stab myself when I had to serve Christians. I'm a Christian, 30 seconds of convo would have covered that. Save your tract, give me the cash!

Anonymous said...

IMHO, none of this behavior is Holy Spirit induced! Christians who are serious about their faith will listen to the Spirit as He leads them to do good deeds, not these kinds of insensitive, offensive, hypocritical acts. These so-called Christians should be ashamed of their behavior!

None of these events that interfere with people's faith will escape the Lord's ultimate judgement and those who perpetrate them will answer to Him for them.

Matthew 18:6 -7 - ....whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

"Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!"

Geosomin said...

I remember having to work sundays to pay bills in university and people from my church would come in to where I work an dfrown. Some were great and understood. Otehrs made me feel guilty for orking, and then left no tip...why waste a tract on someone who is already "converted". I've only ever seen wait staff crumple up tracts in disggust when they get them as a tip.
You tip for service. Period.
If my service sucked, would you give me instructions to hell? No :)

This has always bothered me...

Gombojav Tribe said...

Tipping is good. Leaving a tract with your tip is good, too!

I know several people who came to Christ because someone left them a tract.

Jona said...

I worked at McDonald's in high school, and was on almost every single Sunday night shift. It was great not to have to get up early on Sunday morning, but I came to dread the moment that a certain church let the congregation loose to re-convene in the McDonald's lobby. These people were not only loud and disrespectful, as most McDonald's diners are, but they were just about the unhappiest bunch of people any of us had ever handled. We often commented on the fact that these people were supposed to be fresh from a session of worship, but acted more like they'd been at a losing ball game. Every single Sunday there was an issue, and someone demanded that one of us be fired and that they get something for free. It was awful.

The worst, however, was the preacher, who never made eye contact with any of us, and would actually move his hand away from yours to drop his money on the counter rather than hand it to you (we conducted a series of tests and compiled data over several Sunday nights). He was condescending to say the least. One night after the rush, I was struggling to put my stupid McDonald's hat back on, and I was tired and smelly and frustrated. The preacher got my attention by rapping his coffee cup against the counter and saying, "Hey, Girly, you can primp later." I dutifully poured him another cup of coffee, and he fished in his pocket for something. He pulled out one of those pamphlets about The Way or The Light or something, and dropped it on the counter. "Here ya go," he said. I remember picking it up and thinking, ugh, if that's The Way, I don't ever want to go.

I realize that this situation never involved the expectation of a tip. But I think that, in general, people should be more mindful of the jobs that people in service positions do, and be more grateful for their time and patience, especially during times of rush, when these things are in short supply. I can attest to the feeling of condescension felt when handed one of these tracts as a thank you, because it made me wonder if these people weren't assuming that I didn't know, forward and backwards, the verses featured within it. That made me feel pretty low, at the time.

Also, I wonder, if the word of God is so sacred, doesn't it cheapen it just a little to mass produce it and drop it on the McDonald's counters and Ruby Tuesday's salad bars of the world?

Ashley said...

Thanks for the blog; it's great. As a Christian, I think it's sad that there is a "culture" of Christianity, rather than people who love Jesus (and are passionate about showing others that love by the way they act and live, not with a few trite words) and immersing themselves in all cultures. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments and opinions (negative or positive) because I think it's important for Christians (or any person/group of people for that matter) not be ignorant to how they're perceived. Thanks everyone!

obviousfront said...

What would Jesus do as a waiter?

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_lUDogWjS4vQ/Sn32Px4lb7I/AAAAAAAAADE/oG61b_06rBQ/s1600-h/MJ+20A.jpg

jaigner said...

Great thoughts. Check out my blog for my take.

Blessings.

http://jaaigner.blogspot.com/

Alex said...

Don't forget Carrow's, Denny's, or IHOP!

Mel T said...

When I worked at Denny's in the mid 70s, lots of xns left Jack Chick (sp) tracts, scary little eve of destruction comic books that portrayed only the grisly and gruesome death wishes the author found in Revelations' account of end times. Neighborhood guillotine golf carts, sinners on fire, drooling bestiality and skin-melting plague ran rampant in their pages. Apparently these well-meaning tippers didn't realize it was too late, all this stuff was already happening in the dishwasher's station.

Mel T said...

p.s. I find it a delicious coincidence that this entry on the fate of tracts in restaurants is #86.

Anonymous said...

This hits the nail on the head. I went to college in a small, south Georgia town and was a waitress for several years. Everyone working Sunday morning dreaded the church "rush". The vast majority of people coming from church were rude and condescending. Those who left pamphlets never bothered to ask about my faith and simply assumed I needed the word of God. Their overall attitudes served to dissuade me from Christianity rather than draw me to it. In retrospect, maybe I should have taken their offerings a little more seriously. If I followed their examples, I could have saved a ton of money going out to eat by leaving terrible tips. In this economy, I can use all the extra cash I can get.

Mel T said...

Anonymous? Are you the waitress who put a tract in my grilled cheese sandwich?

The Nerd said...

I had a frightening experience with this once. When I worked at Kmart, a man wouldn't leave after he paid; instead he stood and stared at me and looked nervous. Then he started reaching into his trench coat. I thought "oh god, he's either pulling out a gun or his penis!".

To my immense relief, he instead pulled out a small bible, and asked me if I have one. I said "yes". Then he asked if I read it. I thought "hello, if I don't read mine, why would I read yours?" but I said "yes" to get him to leave.

I also would be handed tracts with payments. I'd stick them in the cash bag at the end of the day, just to annoy the money counter (cuz let's face it - tracts are annoying).

Anonymous said...

Around my NC city they tend to leave these things lying around in public restrooms as well. Unfortunately the paper is to stiff to be of any practical value.

Mel T said...

Good one, Anony, I be laffin!

Anonymous said...

Didn't Sundays used to be "the Lord's Day" -- a kind of sabbath where Christians didn't go to work or support businesses?

Maybe the death of the sabbath (in favor of instant gratification via addiction to capitalism) can be mentioned.

Mel T said...

Also perhaps we should mention how tunafish now comes in a 7 oz can (in favor of 17% more mercury consumption and instant sterilization of 17% more would-be socialist vegetarian parents).

Beylita said...

Followed a link over from Pandagon.

I've waited tables and definitely experienced this, even from Christians who tip when they get food during the week. It's like they don't need to put %20 under the salad plate because they put %10 in the collection plate just a couple hours ago.

Chrissy said...

Servers, I may have a solution for repeat offenders. When you drop off the bill, leave a tract with it. It will only work if you know they plan to leave you one. Otherwise, you risk offense by presumption. Or write "Have a blessed day!" on it. Knowing you're "saved" may inspire them to tip more, or it will at least relieve you from being a victim of their need to add insult to injury. Applying these methods may provide a way to at least avoid the dehumanizing tract factor. Dunno. Could be worth a shot :)

Mel T said...

The best way to avoid being a victim is to kill them before they come in the door. If this seems risky, give someone else their table. If there's no one else waiting and you have to seat them, strip search them and throw their tracts on the broiler.

Cassie said...

Oi this is so true. I never worked on Sundays but I did work at 5 different restaurants and the general consensus I heard from my co-workers was that the Sunday "church crowd" was awful, terrible tippers and very impatient. That said, I did get several tracts from customers. I was never quite sure how to take it. It made me think "Hm, do I really appear to be that sinful?!" and then I also was amused so I usually tried to laugh it off.

Analyst said...

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/04/19/fake-money-gospel-tracts/

!!!!!