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It’s not easy being a waitress in the Philippines

Filipina waitress

Bad Reputation

Sadly there is often a stigma attached to being a waitress in the Philippines. The association with G.R.O.s that some restobars employ is one of the main reasons. Girls that work at respectable establishment that do not provide G.R.O.s, will often be viewed as prostitutes by many locals, or thought of as easy women. This is especially true for those that work at foreign operated establishments.

Sexual harassment

Equally disturbing is the attitude of some foreign customers to waitresses. Flirting is one thing but what I have often observed is nothing less than sexual harassment that would result in their arrest back in their own countries. The fact that some Filipinos are also abusive is no excuse.

Tip Jars

You have probably seen tip jars in many establishments. These are communal collections that in theory are shared out to all the staff including the kitchen hands out the back. Sounds fair enough but what you probably are not aware of is that it is the policy in many of these establishments for the owner to deduct any breakage or other such expenses from the tip jar before sharing with staff.

Wrong Change

We all hate it when we are short changed and we know that some of the time this is intentional. This is just an annoying part of the Philippines and something you need to just accept. If you don’t want to get ripped off then learn to check your change immediately.

How about when the mistake is in your favour? You might think that is a nice change and having spent a lot of money at the establishment feel inclined to say nothing. Did you know that waitresses are held accountable for such mistakes? That mistake may be deducted from her salary. For you it may only represent a beer or two, but for her it might cut her daily take home in half. Someone might go a little hungry for the sake of these few pesos.

Forced to wear uniforms?

I speak from experience when I talk about this. I am not talking about bikinis or overly sexy costumes by our standards.  Take a look at the image at the top of this post.  These are waitresses I employed for a cafe I opened as an annex to a Health and Fitness studio I opened in Cebu in 2007.

It did not occur to me that there would be any objection to wearing these uniforms but there was. The girl felt they were too sexy.  The theme was health and fitness and these were meant to be similar to some sports uniforms such as these that they might wear for basket ball.  They would not feel self conscious wearing them on a basket ball court but did so in a restaurant context.  I was able to re-assure them and once on in the group agreed the rest followed.

When they get the order wrong

If you have frequented Philippine restaurants more than a few times you will no doubt have experienced this. It’s very annoying and I can’t really think of any defence for the waitress. Only offer some ideas to reduce it from happening.

One surprisingly common reason for mistakes is that they are shy to ask you to repeat something they did not understand. With Filipino “hiya” (concept of shame or saving face) its all about escaping the embarrassment of the moment. They will push a potentially more embarrassing consequence into the future rather than subject themselves to embarrassment (loss of hiya) in the present.

Try being a fly on the wall next time you are at a restaurant and watch groups of people ordering. It is normal to go around the table but observe how many times others will interrupt to change their order or ask a question. Any changes to the original order are most likely to result in a mistake.

You need to make the order process simple. If there is a group of people then having one person place the order for all is better. This is not always possible or desirable. You can help the waitress out by clarifying anything you think might be confusing.

A well-trained waitress will repeat your order before leaving. If your waitress does not do this then the best thing is to ask them with a smile and friendly tone to repeat the order. This will help reduce mistakes but not eliminate them.

About the Author

I have been visiting the Philippines for the past 30 years and lived here full time for the past 10 years. I have travelled extensively around the Philippines and lived in many locations. I was married to a Filipina for over 20 years and been with my current girl friend for 8 years. I have also operated businesses in the Philippines including a Dance and Fitness Studio, Restaurant, Family karaoke and disco. My background is IT and my real interest is in online marketing and outsourcing and these are the areas I currently focus on. I have made heaps of mistakes along the way and I have always enjoyed helping others and passing on my experience so that they might avoid making many of the same mistakes. - Chris Bennetts
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