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DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently started working in a restaurant in my town. The other day, I was excited to see that a friend of mine came by. I went out of my way to make sure she felt comfortable and had a great time. I gave her a bunch of freebies, too. In the end, she left me a skimpy tip. Should I confront her? — Skimpy Tip
DEAR SKIMPY TIP: This is tricky and should be handled delicately. Next time you talk to your friend, ease into the conversation. Thank her for coming to your restaurant. Ask her if she enjoyed the food. Ask her if she thought you took good care of her. This is a new job, after all, so you want to make sure you are taking care of the customers well. If she acknowledges that she enjoyed her meal and your attention to her, tell her you have an uncomfortable question to ask. With her blessing, ask her why she left such a small tip. There’s a very good chance that she doesn’t know the art of tipping. This could have been an honest error. These days, 15% of the bill is a standard tip. A generous tip would be 20% and over. Since you gave her a bunch of freebies, their value would not have been added onto the final bill, so she would need to have a sense of what they cost or of how far beyond the call of duty you went for her in order to calculate a good tip.
This may end up being a moment of education for your friend; I bet she thought she was doing right by you in patronizing your restaurant — which she was. It is likely simple naivete regarding tips rather than an intentional diss at play. By gently educating your friend, you should be able to resolve this.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My biracial friend confessed to me that her mother is racist. I am Black, and her white mother has always been nice to me, but now I feel uncomfortable speaking to her. I’m conflicted about continuing to visit her home. What should I do? — Friend’s Mom Is Racist
DEAR FRIEND’S MOM IS RACIST: Step back for a moment and think about the big picture. Your biracial friend has a racist mother. She probably told you this to protect you from anything her mother might blurt out in your company. But more, think about your friend. This is her mother. Since your friend is biracial, she must be feeling deeply conflicted; perhaps her mom even says racist things to and about her. Out of com- passion for your friend, do not abandon her right now. Listen to her and learn what her concerns are. Don’t stop visiting. Assume that the mom will continue to be kind to you unless she does otherwise.
Be a sounding board for your friend, but also tell her that some of the things she is sharing with you are disturbing. Pay attention. If her mother actually says or does something in front of you that is upsetting, that’s when you can decide to stop visiting. For now, continue to maintain your composure. Know that your friend is going through internal difficulty now. Don’t try to become her unofficial therapist. Be her friend. If you ever do need to create distance between you, that’s OK.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAM- LEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and acti- vate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.