Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't Kill the Family Dog!

Dogs die. We all know that. But most of us don't want to think about it during the 10-15 years our dogs are alive.

I guess that's why it really bothered me that The Family Guy producers decided to "shake things up" this week by killing off the family dog, Brian. The show has been on since 1999--12 seasons, due to a 2001 cancellation by Fox that they later took back. Twelve years is plenty of time for a dog to live, many are saying. Never mind that nobody else on the show has aged, including the baby.

Here's the problem with the show's decision to kill off the dog. Have you ever heard the term jump the shark, Family Guy producers? (Yeah, as if they'll ever read this!) Killing off a major character is a top sign of jumping the shark, according to TVTropes, who writes as an example of jumping the shark that, "A popular character is removed from the show, or even killed off. Especially true if the method of removal is unsatisfying or mean-spirited."

Brian the dog is more than a family dog. He was the voice of reason in the crazy family, often grounding the head of the household, who was a little shaky at times. Now he's been replaced by an Italian-accented dog named Vinny, voiced by some actor from The Sopranos that Seth McFarlane has a guy-crush on.

But the biggest problem for me is that Family Guy is perpetually in reruns. Somehow our TV always ends up on TBS on weeknights. (As it was at the time I was writing this!) Just seeing the dog makes me sad now. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but a comedy isn't supposed to make us sad, right?

Did I mention the dog on the Family Guy is a writer?

I don't think he was really a dog. Dogs don't have thumbs, right?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't Mess with the People Who Handle Your Food

Nothing seems to get people riled up like a good discussion about tipping in restaurants. Over the years, I've witnessed some of the most heated discussions about tipping and poor restaurant behavior, with a clear divide between people who believe you should tip well and people who think servers make far too much money and we should all tip less.

One thing I've noticed? No matter what you say, people who tip 0%-10% at sit-down restaurants are not going to budge, no matter what you say.

Recently, my longtime friend Jilly re-posted a photo on Facebook that had gone viral. Apparently a pastor in St. Louis marked out an automatic 18% gratuity with the comment, "I give God 10%. Why should I give you 18%?"

Two things jumped out at me right away:

  • The woman gives 10% of her SALARY to God. The restaurant is adding 18% of the food she ate. Big difference.
  • Haven't restaurant workers learned by now that if you post a customer receipt online, you're going to be fired?
But I digress. The whole incident ignited a storm everywhere it was posted, with thousands of consumers offering their opinions. Most felt that the pastor should be ashamed of herself, especially since she called the restaurant and got the server who posted the receipt fired before issuing a public relations-guided apology to save her reputation.

However, a small minority came forward to agree with the pastor, saying 10% is a fair tip for a server. Those comments incited the usual, "You've obviously never waited tables" argument, along with, "If you don't want to tip, stay home and cook your own meals."

Another thing I've found over the years--people who don't believe in tipping 15%-20% are not going to change their minds. They're also not going to stop eating at Applebee's and Chili's, no matter how many times you tell them they should. They have their reasons and they don't think they should stop eating where they want to eat. They also don't believe a server will ever spit in their food. I hope they're right!

The tipped minimum wage has barely budged since 1966, when it was initiated at 50% of the minimum wage at the time. Currently, it's at $2.13 an hour, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. $2.13 is not 50 percent of $7.25, no matter how you crunch the numbers. Reportedly restaurant industry lobbyists work hard to keep the tipped wage the same--but if it ever increases to 50% of the federal minimum wage, you can bet that extra expense will be added to the menu prices.

The answer is clear. If you disagree with paying 15%-20%, don't punish hard-working servers. Punish the restaurant industry that makes sure the tipped hourly wage stays the same, decade after decade. By dining at home or choosing restaurants that pay their workers at least $7.25 an hour (i.e. fast food and fast casual restaurants), you'll make a statement to the national restaurant chains. You may very well be making your 0%-10% statement by keeping a server from providing food for his/her children that week.