Porteño Corner: Cafe Retiro Waiter, ‘Charly’ Castillo

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Carlos ‘Charly’ Castillo
Waiter, Café Retiro, Retiro Station
Age: 48
From: Colghan

Q:How long have you worked at Cafe Retiro?

A year and a half, but I’m not really a waiter. I used to be a salesman for Nescafé and also worked in administration. I also used to teach a martial art called Sipalki.

• What are your work hours?

I work from 12 until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and every other Saturday.

• What are the customers like here in Retiro Station?

We get a bit of everything here. There are people who come everyday, people who come just once. Some people are polite, some people are rude. Nothing a smile can’t fix!

• What kind of tips do people leave you?

Around 10%, or sometimes less. The foreigners always ask if tips are paid separately from the bill and they do often give higher tips.

• You’re a friendly waiter but many waiters in Buenos Aires are very serious and aloof, how come?

They believe a waiter should be that way, it’s traditional, they don’t interact with the customers. But it’s the old waiters that are that way — I’m not that old!

• Isn’t it difficult to always have a good mood at work?

It’s not difficult for me. For one thing I take my time in the morning before coming to work. I get up in the morning and go to the gym to lift weights or do aerobics. I take my time getting ready, so I’m not rushed. It’s equally as difficult to be polite as it is to be rude, and anyway you get better tips if you’re friendly.

• Is your wage enough to live on?

It’s sufficient. I walk home with cash everyday and it’s en negro (under the table) so it’s not too bad.

• It’s under the table, here? How do they manage that?

Don’t ask me!

• What do you do in your free time?

I like to dance, salsa, rock and roll, americana, meringue. I’d like to learn tango too.

• Is there anything out there you want our readers to know?

Sometimes you can still trust some Argentines. Foreigners here sometimes have bad experiences because everybody is trying to get something from them.

They think: ‘Oh they have dollars or Euros,’ so they try to take advantage, but we’re not all like that.