Someday, You're absolutely right; familiarity is the word I was searching for. I haven't changed my feelings toward familiarity by those in the service industry be they waiters, cashiers, counter people, or bank tellers, or for that matter, head chefs or loan officers. If that makes me a snob, so be it.
I don't mean to say that they are beneath me socially, economically, or otherwise, only that they are serving me at that particular time and I have a right to expect professionalism from them. If one more person in the service industry calls me "dear" or "hon", I will scream!
I require those who work for me to call those we serve "Ma'am" and "Sir". We're not doing that to be subservient to them, but to keep things professional, and conversely, I will NOT allow customers to treat them with disrespect. In fact, I have confronted those who have.
We don't always eat in 3 star establishments. We're just like everyone else; we eat out too often and often in local restaurants. We don't frequent chains, though. No, not because of the mediocre food or overtly familiar service, but because we choose to spend our dining out dollars in places not corporately owned. We'd prefer to keep our dollars local, so we eat in the diner that's been family owned for 40 years or the Italian place run by the same folks since 1946. We (mostly) refuse to go to Walmart, too. When corporately owned businesses move in, family owned ones go out of business.
And as far as the food goes, I'd prefer a soup prepared that day over one shipped in in a plastic bag from the Midwest. It's not a simple, inexpensive, hot meal that you get in the chains. It's simple and hot, but it will cost close to $30 dollars for 2 people. Locally, I can get a simple, homecooked, hot meal for half that for 2 of us, and in the diner, we can bring our own wine...
Why would you treat a 4 top of businessmen with more professionalism than a family? You said you'd use your own discretion, and I believe from your post that you would. Not all service professionals have that sensitivity. Some are downright intrusive. Haven't you been out with your wife, date, good friend and been put off by "familiar" servers? Sometimes it's fine, but other times, you'd prefer to focus on the people in your own party, wouldn't you? A good server should know when show up at the table and when to buzz off.
I know that it's a marketing gimmick. And yes, I am probably hung up on it. I have a friend who works in a chain. She's forced to introduce herself to every table and God forbid she lets her guard down and lets the wide smile fade. Eating there is a lot like being part of a performance; I can't imagine ever working there! She does because the chains offer benefits that small businesses can no longer afford, but because of corporate mandated overstaffing, there are many days where she only has 4 or 5 parties from 10:30 to 4.
I don't perceive servers to be "lowly". I've been a server and still work for the public. My daughter waitresses during the summers and works in retail during the school year. I love working in the food industry, and even though I've done other jobs, I always end up back here. But, I'd prefer to keep things on a professional level BECAUSE it commands more respect and because it's more real. Face it, being familiar with perfect strangers is a little fake, isn't it?
I'm going to try the solidarity squatting thing at my next dinner party. I think it will go over well.
It's been nice talking with you,