I just had my morning média (coffee w/ milk) and pão na chapa (toasted bread roll w/ butter) at the local cafe and upon entering the establishment, I was given a small plaque which, while ordering, I have to show to the person behind the counter. They enter the number on the plaque into their computer system, along with my order. If I wish to order anything else, I have to show my plaque again. The person at the door who gave it to me fulfills a permanent position which I suppose is titled “The Plaque Giver”, which makes me wonder about the interview for the position (“So, on your resume, it says here you have experience holding things? Great! You’ve got the job!”). When going to pay, I take my plaque to the cash register and hand it over and they check the number and tell me my bill.
This technique is also used at restaurants where in place of a plaque is usually some sort of paper slip with options listed on it and this slip must be passed back and forth between you and various employees several times for them to check off what you are eating or drinking during your dining experience. These days, I don’t think much about it anymore but every once in a while I catch myself still finding the give-and-take a bit odd.
In case you are wondering why Brazilian businesses have a lot of employees, it’s because they are contracted for a certain amount of hours per month so cutting your staff when it’s a slow day doesn’t make a lot of sense as they will get paid anyways. It’s also not the easiest thing to fire an employee due to strict labor laws.
In the US, the restaurant or diner employee keeps track of your order and you pay that person directly when you are ready to leave/pay. If a cafe, you pay when you order. It’s no real secret that I think this method demands less brain power on behalf of the customer and the employee. That being said, I still don’t really get the job of a greeter (like at Walmart) or why in movie theaters, it’s one person’s sole job to rip your ticket (“I see on your resume you consider yourself an unmotivated anarchist, so I’d like to offer you a job tearing things, but only halfway.”).