Injustice of a Different Kind: Restaurants, Servers, Tips, and YOU

As this blog’s primary purpose is to discuss issues related in some way or another to history, culture, colleges, and civil rights/injustices, I want to bring attention to another issue in this posting. One that receives far too little attention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning I had lunch at a busy restaurant. When we got to the table,  the tip was still on the table, and I couldn’t help noticing the tip was only $2. As I desire to bring attention to issues of injustice, this posting will focus on restaurants and their workers.

When you eat at a restaurant, you really need to tip generously–whether or not the service was good. Servers make far below minimum wage (and even regular minimum wage is far too low). They make around $2 an hour. At most places, servers do not get to keep all of their tips. If the restaurant has a bar, a set percentage of the tip goes there. If the restaurant has a dedicated group of people who clean the table or bring chips when you first sit down, they get part of the tip. If your server is training someone, they get part of the tip, too. This money is directly withdrawn from the server’s check regardless of whether or not they sold alcohol, regardless of whether or not they cleaned their own tables, and regardless of the total tips they received or didn’t. In addition, some restaurants require all servers pool and divide their tips.

Furthermore, for tax purposes, it is frequently assumed you leave “x” percentage of tip depending on the restaurant and applicable laws, so your server loses even more when you don’t tip according to expectation.

I recommended tipping at least 15% always, preferably 20%. If the service is exceptional, add some. If you order an alcoholic beverage, add $2-3. If you take longer than most people take eating at that restaurant, add $4-5 per 30 minutes, especially if they are busy. If you are dining alone, always leave a minimum of $6-7. If you have quirky requests (see #8 in this list) like me, leave extra.

Those are the things I doregardless of the service. If the service is good, I’m likely to leave 25-30% in gratuity, and I will be a repeat customer for that same restaurant and server.

Why? Because people in restaurants work hard. Part of the cost of eating out is the tip. People in restaurants are frequently asked (read: required) to work long, hard hours with little appreciation and little voice. Always remember that they have families and lives to live, too. They are saving money for college or for their kids or for something.

If the service is bad: ask to speak to a manager or write and tell them or just request not to have that person next time. Since I reside in “the middle of nowhere,” there are only four different restaurants that I eat at. At each of these places, I eat there when someone I know will be there, and I always request them (or make reservations with them), even if it requires waiting. This makes the dining experience much more enjoyable, and you know everything will be fine.

From all of my dear friends and students who work or have worked in restaurants, I know it is a tough world. When I first learned about the set amounts taken out of servers’ checks, I couldn’t believe such an unethical practice could continue. It never ceases to surprise me how often I’ll hear something like: “I had a table of 5 adults and 1 child, several special requests, they were at the table 90 minutes, and only left $3 for a ticket that was $100.”

It happens. Often. And this hurts your server.

If customers walk out without paying, the server has to pay the bill regardless, and it could cost them their job regardless. It happens more than you think. How is this fair at all?

Studies show that the richest people tend to be the worst tippers, and Sunday lunch eaters tend to be the second-worst tippers (the same people who tend to sit in church wondering why there aren’t more people and then go out-to-eat where a team waits on them and cooks for them). The working people tend to be the best.

Why do people in general leave tips that are too small? I don’t know. Some theories relate to all of the “tip jars” everywhere. Money is tight for the vast majority – really tight. In many other countries, tips are built into the price of the meal. Frequently people just don’t know; I didn’t until the last several years.

People working in restaurants have a difficult job. I couldn’t do it. They also have a very important job too – they are serving you and taking care of you while you eat. They work hard so you can have a nice leisurely meal.

If you eat out, please remember to always tip generously.

LSP Brasa DiningRoom-500

See also: This is our Democracy: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Issues on Sexism and Racism

See also: 

Please “follow” this blog if you are a WordPress user, and/or please sign up for email updates at the top right of the homepage. Thanks for reading. Check out my other articles, too. 🙂 



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

Tags: , , , , , ,

125 replies

  1. Nice post! Thanks for the tips. 🙂

    Like

  2. It’s unfortunate that people don’t understand that servers make their living off of the tips that are left. It’s not just supposed to be a “oh, by the way, thanks for the service”. When a table says to me “They should give you a raise!” I respond with: “You determine how much I make”. I had a large party a few weeks ago, I applied the gratuity that my restaurant allows, and then delivered the check. One gentleman in the group asked for the gratuity to be removed and said to me “I’ll tip if I want to tip”. Unfortunately, added gratuity on a check at my restaurant is optional, so my manager had to remove it. Thankfully the other people at the table saw this and generously overcompensated for their douchebag table-mate.

    Like

  3. If I could afford the extra 6 or 7 dollars, I WOULD! As it is, if my daughter and I eat somewhereand leave a 10 percent tip, they are lucky to get it. A 6 dollar TIP is almost equal the the meal price as it IS!

    Like

    • Don’t eat a sit-down restaurants if you can’t afford the tip. Go to fast food or buffet-style spots, where the tips aren’t expected (or are much smaller).

      Like

    • I was a server. All the “extras” this guy is talking about are very generous, and while appreciated, not expected. We are grateful for the 20%. Anything over that, as I said, is appreciated, but not expected. And if you are just coming in for a quick bite, don’t “camp” at the table through the whole lunch/dinner rush. That can really mess up a servers total income more than anything. If you sit at a table all through the busy period you take away their ability to get a new table that might leave another tip. After the busy period, the opportunity to make any money is really gone.

      Like

    • If you can’t afford to tip more than 10%, don’t go out to eat.

      Like

    • I am with you Laura. As a college student I can only afford to tip around $2, but for a $10-$15 meal I think that is fair. I think the restaurant should be forced to pay them minimum wage or add a tip into the entree’s price. Also, if the waitor is rude/slow I will MOST DEFINITELY not leave an 18% tip. I am thankful for their service, but they know what they are getting into when they apply for the job.

      Like

    • Wes, rude is clearly the server’s doing, and I imagine many of us deduct from the tip. But slow may be because staff fail to show up, management didn’t book enough staff, a cook spoils a meal — many things not the waiter’s fault. (And your “they know what they are getting into” sounds very Republican. “If they want more money, why aren’t they architects?”)

      Like

    • If servers made $7.25 an hour as opposed to $2.13 an hour, menu prices would go up dramatically, as the line between profit and loss in a restaurant is tiny. Then you cheap-ass people would complain about that. Tip well or cook it yourself. It’s really that simple.

      Like

    • Yes, the employees SHOULD be paid more than they are, but they are NOT, and you know this. So don’t try to pass the buck.

      Like

    • I’m a college student as well. And a bartender. And a server. And I’ve seen all colors of the spectrum. It’s not always the server’s fault if he/she is slow. He or she may have 7 or 8 other tables all asking them different things, such as “May I please have some ranch dressing” or ” This tea is too sweet for my liking, may I have a water instead”. The location where I work, we require manager approval for coupons and discounts that some customers have. So while managing my tables, I have to deal with that on top of everything. There is so much more than just getting drink orders and bringing you chips and salsa. And “they know what they are getting into…” No. That’s just ignorant. The restaurants are never going to pay us minimum wage + tips. Why? Then everyone would want to be a server, and then NO ONE WOULD TIP. Because everyone would be a server, hence the excuse, “They are already getting paid minimum wage, why tip them? I mean, he like only like brought me like one drink…like whatever.” It’s strictly recommended by law that you tip when going and spending money in this kind of industry. So don’t be an asshole. Just help your fellow human beings out. Or go to the drive thru at McDonald’s.

      Like

    • I don’t think I could keep up with all yall have to do!

      Like

    • I would much rather go out to eat/drink/whatever knowing my server gets paid a living wage and does not require my tip to survive. I would really rather tip as a form of telling my server, “I appreciate what you have done for me today”.

      I always tip 20% minimum, no matter the service. For a couple of reasons, the main one is that I have done this before and some of the “clients” are real pigs. I may be the one person that shows some appreciation that day.

      Like

    • “Strictly recommended by law that you tip”…. that is absurd.

      Tipping is absurd, but customary. Pay your employees what they’re worth, charge a customer what the experience is worth, and end the charade. Much of the rest of the world runs that way.

      But as it is the custom, 20% for unastounding service, 15% for fair service, and a detailed note and no tip when servers hang around the foyer talking about last night’s game and have to be told to bring silverware.

      Like

    • If they add the tip to the price of the entrée- you’re $15 meal would be $18- Duh! you would be paying the same amount. I guess math isn’t your strong area. haha

      Like

    • Laura,
      As a restaurant employee I am appalled. Please do not eat ANYWHERE another individual is serving you. The smiles you see and questions about “how you are doing” are not authentic, they are simply to make a decent enough tip to pay their electric bill. Your predisposition is a waste of time to anyone who depends on tips for an income.

      Like

    • Laura,

      If you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford to eat in restaurants where employees are paid in tips, plain and simple.

      While tips may have at one point been considered something a little extra, the restaurant industry has lobbied hard to maintain low wages for its employees across the board. Tip income has become an easy excuse for them to not pay their wait staff fairly.

      I don’t know what you do for a living, but I’m sure you consider your paycheck well deserved. Imagine for a moment that 90% of your paycheck is given to you by a complete stranger that doesn’t work for your company, has little or no expertise in your field, and only interacts with you for about an hour – and they get to decide how much $$$ you deserve. If you are grossly underpaid, it could be for any number of things that are unreasonable or out of your control – and you have no HR department or supervisor to negotiate with if you think it’s unfair.

      You could say that’s how it goes when you work in customer service, but food service is not a high-margin business like most commission-based sales jobs. Skimping on your server’s tip has more of an effect on their pay than you think it does, and more people do it than you realize.

      Like

    • I have been a server/bartender for the past 17 years. Laura – you are who we are all talking about. If you are too cheap/broke to tip a good server then stay home or go to a fast food establishment. We arent expecting a ridiculously large tip – just a fair one. Heres a tip for you – if you always tip shitty and frequent the same places they WILL remember you. I wouldn’t trust what you are eating. I do not condone this behavior but have seen what some servers/cooks do. Just a friendly heads up!

      Like

    • I think the important point here is that food and eating out are expensive and that jobs across the board with exceptions for the top 1 or 2 % pay far too little. Thanks for your comments, Laura, and doing what you can! 🙂

      Like

    • If you can’t afford the tip, but still feel the need to eat the food, at least order to go so you can leave a small tip and not screw over a server…but if you can’t afford to eat out, maybe you shouldn’t!

      Like

    • Really as everyone else has said please skip eating at restaurants if you can’t afford the tip that goes with the meal. Go to McDonald’s or Burger King or even Chucky Cheese if you don’t want to tip your server. I’m sure you won’t be missed in a restaurant anyway. And if you bring your daughter who do you think cleans up after the screaming brats?? Please my family has been in the restaurant business for years. Managing and waiting tables. It is incredibly hard work. shame on you for thinking 10% is adequate. What that was maybe in the 80’s.

      Like

    • Honey if you cant afford it then don’t go. Your misfortune should not be passed on to a server.

      Like

  4. THANK YOU! I have been a server for ten years now and people will never understand unless they already have worked in the industry.

    Like

  5. I try to leave cash, as a means to keep it out of the manager’s control. My tip is for the person who served me, not the establishment. I paid them for their food.

    Like

    • That is all well and good and we appreciate that however now most restaurants require you to claim a percentage of your sales no matter how much you actually got tipped. That is why it really stinks when you have to claim more than what you actually made especially after tip out for bar, hostess, and food runners!

      Like

    • Brittany,

      Depending on the state you live in, you only have to claim 8%-11% of your sales. This is a state regulated thing not a restaurant thing. Check your laws. You should never have to claim ANYTHING you didn’t make.

      Like

    • They get their hands in your pocket no matter what! I thought I was getting around them.

      Like

    • Try never to leave a tip on a credit card. There are places that take over a week to get the staff their tips to them.

      Like

    • I also makes it easier for the establishment to keep a % of the tip. Cross out the tip on the CC receipt and leave cash. I learned this from my ex-wife. She worked her way through college at an “up-scale” restaurant. Rich people are the worst tippers!

      Like

    • Yeah sorry, I never carry cash. Not going to inconvenience myself so it’s convenient for you.

      Like

  6. Good ideas here. My only experience as a server was at a restort in northern WI many years ago. The owners kept all tips and distributed them at the end of the season based on whom they liked best. Several suck-ups got over $1200; I got maybe $600. We were paid minimum wage, out of which the owners took “room and board,” for wasp-infested cabins and food that caused peritonitis in one busboy who had to leave before the season was finished and thus relinquished his claim to his share of the tips. I have since believed in tipping generously!

    Like

    • Wow. Thanks for sharing. It never stops surprising me all the things that happen.

      I heard from someone yesterday that their place of employment doesn’t even pay minimum wage, so they always get a check for $0.

      Like

    • I worked as a server, bartender, and restaurant manager for several years. The minimum wage, in PA is $2.83 (I think it still is, anyway), and is meant to cover the taxes on employees’ tips. I almost never got a paycheck higher than $0 as a tipped employee, but it didn’t matter because you were making a lot in tips. I also worked at a place that took your credit card AND cash tips, and gave you a check for them, minus applicable taxes.

      Like

  7. Thanks for the post, One small correction, servers do not pay anything out of their “checks” since they make 2.13 per hour and are expected to claim at least 10% of their sales as tips (usually all of the cc tips plus some cash) if you claim less than 10% you can get an audit and the restaurant will fire you. The taxes taken out will eat pretty much the entire check. When I was a server my biweekly paycheck was between 10-20 dollars but it did pay my taxes so not totally useless.

    The tip share you refer is also based on sales, if you tip out the bar it may be 5-10% of drink sales for food runners and people helping clean tables 2-5% of overall sales so in the case of a table with a 100 tab, 20 of which is wine the server pays around:

    2.50 in taxes (10% tip 25% tax rate), this is the only fee taken from the paycheck.
    3.00 tip share with support staff
    1.50 bar tip out

    It makes absolutely no difference what the client actually tips, if they tip nothing you still pay the above fees, if they tip 25.00 you keep more…

    All that being said if you are a server and dont avg 18% or more at the end of the day then you are doing something wrong. It is an extremely hard job but the money can be good.

    Like

    • Some of these rules can vary restaurant to restaurant. The place I worked forced us to report a whopping 14% f our SALES in tips. Then we were required to tip the bartender 1%, busser 2%, and expediter (food runner) 1% of our sales. So if we didn’t AVERAGE 18%, we were walking out with less money than we reported. Talk about robbing the poor!

      Like

    • Oh, and the something “wrong” you’re doing could just be the restaurant you choose to work at. Clientele makes a big difference. I had plenty of people who told me and/or my mgrs. “what great service” they received but still left 10% or less. Just a cheap/low income crowd.

      Like

    • I’m learning more and more how much the waiter is really just one part of a larger team.

      Like

    • A restaurant might “force” you to report a certain percentage of sales for a pay period, but they can’t “force” you to declare to the IRS more than you actually made on your tax return. If you keep an accurate record of your tips, you can declare your actual income on your return regardless of what your W-2 says. You’ll get the money you overpaid in taxes back in your tax refund.

      Like

    • But then you can get into trouble (until it is straightened out, if that ever could happen) for declaring a different amount that the restaurant sent to the IRS. It’s a messy situation.

      Like

  8. Problem with this is in a lot of restaurants today the waitress or waiter only takes the order, then the food and drinks are delivered by someone else. Who are you tipping? I always leave 15-20 %, but when I have personalized service. I can be more generous with really good service, but an attitude or expectation can ruin it for some.

    Like

    • It depends on the size and volume of the restaurant. A server can only be in one place at a time, so you’d be sacrificing food freshness for personalized service if the server had to retrieve it themselves from the kitchen (which may be far away). At places like this, the server generally keeps a lower percentage of his/her tips, but is in charge of a bigger section of tables. So in that case the 15-20% would be going to the service staff as a whole, not the individual server.

      Like

  9. Minimum wage laws require the employer to pay the minimum wage including tips. In other words, the employer must make up the difference if the tips plus the hourly wage don’t equal the statutory minimum wage. If they are not, then complaints should be filed with the appropriate authority and the employer hels accountable. That being said, the minimum wage should be more then $11.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment. In Texas and in more and more places workers have almost zero rights – the employer can do anything and everything – sadly.

      Like

    • Organize, fight and stop voting Republican

      Like

    • Texas is turning blue quickly! 🙂

      Like

    • I hope I live to see it.

      Like

    • Um yeah, where I am min wage is less than 8%. And while that sucks, raising min wage only makes everything more expensive. And if you expect to get good service from someone working min wage, good luck!`
      .

      Like

    • Higher minimum wage could raise the cost. An employer will try to raise the prices. That will be moderated by the increased prices driving away customers to less expensive restaurants. They may try to reduce staffing, that will be moderated by customers going were they receive better service. Right now I get good service from people receiving less then minimum wage, so your last comment doesn’t make much sense.

      Like

    • That is not true. Apply Co. is a prime example. Their phones were made here (higher labor costs), now they are made in China (VERY cheap labor costs). The prices of their phones have only increased. According to your logic iPhones shold be cheap! The same applies here.

      Like

    • As far as I know, iPhones were never made here

      My example illustrates pricing based on supply and demand. Apple’s pricing of the iPhone does as well. Regardless of labor costs, so long as demand for iPhones remains high, so will their prices. As demand for the current iPhone falls with the anticipation of a new iPhone, so does the price of the current iPhone. That price remains low because at a higher price consumers will demand the newer model. The low labor costs of China allow Apple to make greater profits then they would with domestic labor.

      No matter what it costs to manufacture something, consumers must be willing to buy it at the price asked or it doesn’t sell and the price is lowered. If buyers will not buy it at a price that covers the cost of manufacturing plus an acceptable profit, the manufacturer must find something else to make or close the business.

      Like

  10. oops- I meant $8

    Like

  11. we need to have the employer pay fair wages, and let shoppers know the price without negotiating. it is ridiculous to expect the CUSTOMER to pay the bill and the help as well. who pays the hostess, the cook, the dishwasher? keep it simple and let everyone earn a living without scamming the government on tip reporting, and feeling abused on tips not left, often because they don’t know how much, or why it is their responsibility to pay the help of the restaurant. not every country does business this way, and since tourists make up a large part of income, the only risk takers are the servers.

    Like

  12. sorry guys in Australia we don’t tip as a matter of course as the staff don’t need to rely on charity to earn a living, we have a minimum wage that covers all workers, if we tip it is because we enjoyed the service or it was exemplary

    Like

  13. I am very annoyed by waitpersons that say, “Do you want your change?” Lazy and presumptuous. If they want a tip at all, they should be saying something like, “I’ll be right back with your change.” I will tell them if they should keep the change.

    I tip 20% rounded up to the next dollar, 25% – 30% for exceptional service. If when they bring my change, they have already kept the coins, that will be all they get.This has happened several times.

    Like

    • That is low. I would be too ashamed to admit such a thing… I’ll put this out there though, any server who brings you the coins thinks that you are the kind of looser who doesn’t tip at all. Otherwise they don’t bother. I’ve never had a server bring me coins, because at the end of my meal they know I could care less about that. And if you pay in cash and consider yourself a decent human being you would tell them how much to bring back and not just sit and wait to pass judgement on such a nominal act.

      Like

    • I have always trained servers to say, ” I will be right back with your change”, and then the guest might say, “That is your yours”,,,if not I have the bills broken down, and then if they say to keep it…I consider it money they I have broken down for the next table…it is all how a server is trained..I tell all servers I train not to look at people as a dollar sign, but to look at what you make at the end of the shift as a whole…it is karma..and take the stress out of it all….I have been at the same place for 33 years this month…..:-)

      Like

  14. Fine dining .. 25% of tips off the top
    Casual dining … % of sales
    Must be disclosed at hire, if not call labor atty.

    Like

  15. I’d love to see tipping eliminated and workers all paid a living wage. A few restaurants have gone that route, like this sushi place in NYC: http://thepricehike.com/post/52308734397/nycs-sushi-yasuda-eliminates-tipping-gratuities-no
    As a HuffPost story about this said, “The workers no longer have to worry about making boatloads of tips on busy Friday nights and pennies on sleepy Tuesdays, and there’s no longer tension between tipped and non-tipped employees.”

    Like

  16. Sorry but it does matter if I get good service or terrible service. Cause when I get good service I tip well. It’s my call.

    Like

    • It is your call..no one has to leave a tip….I say this in my training…we are sales people working on commission…bottom line..

      Like

  17. Most if not all of the scare tactics about higher minimum wage and businesses going out of business are just that, and have been proven over and over to be mainly BS. Other countries do quite well with a living wage for all workers, and have lower unemployment than we do,. We unfortunately have had the corporate controlled coingress since ronnie.the destroyer.

    Like

  18. Anyone on here ever read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich? Just wondering what some thought about this book.

    Like

    • I need to read that book! I’ve heard about it. How was it?

      Like

    • I read it over a year ago. For those not familiar with it, it was about woman who basically went under-cover taking minimum wage jobs. When I say “under-cover” I mean that she didn’t let on that she had a college degree and was a journalist. (At least, that’s what I think she was). In a sense she shed light on how hard different workers’ lives are but then in a sense it bothered me that she was “playing poor” and duping her co-workers and bosses.

      Like

    • Sounds like a great book. Thanks for telling us about it.

      Like

  19. “Why do people in general leave tips that are too small?”
    As an economist, I’m puzzled by the opposite side: why does anyone tip at all? The rational thing to do is to tip precisely $0–why would you pay more for a service than the minimum you can get away with? The fact that people do tip is a testament to either the power of social convention, or the sheer kindness of human generosity.

    At any rate, the tip system is basically a redistributionary tax away from kind and generous people to stingy heartless people. We need to extend the minimum wage law to all service jobs, protect servers from all on-the-job liability (ie, non-paying customers), and clarify that the cost of service must be presented to customers as part of their bill (whether in the price of the food items or as a separate mandatory gratuity–I don’t care).

    Like

    • You are telling me I shouldn’t tip and at the same time I should be forced to tip by adding a mandatory gratuity to my bill? Please make up your mind!

      Like

    • I’m saying that if you behaved the way the people do in a standard neo-classical model, you wouldn’t tip. Tipping violates the rationality assumption. That part was devoid of moral implication.

      That said, paying workers fairly is the right thing to do, even if it isn’t rational in a self-interested sense. Hence, this is an area where regulation can do some good.

      Like

    • Very interesting points, Matthew. Thanks.

      Like

    • There is self interest i n tipping. It is to insure promptness, a.k.a. getting service. The problem is that people believe that they are entitled to good service the moment they walk through the door. This is not the case. The restaurant knows it but is happy to pretend otherwise if that’s what you desire. They know your service will suffer though and they’re fine with it because they don’t care about you. The guy that comes in three times a week and tips well already got the good table and the best server and a free glass of wine. You got nothing because you though service was included. You aren’t a very good economist if you can’t find the self-interest in tipping. Taxation of service pay will just result in overall price increase. Be glad that you can buy quality service without having to pay a restaurant or Uncle Sam

      Like

  20. Tipping just doesn’t work. I would gladly pay more to the restaurant instead of dealing with “commissioned sales people” (a/k/a waitstaff). It shouldn’t affect my service, or server, if I order a lobster and a bottle of wine or a grilled cheese and ice water?

    Like

    • It does work and it should affect your service. If you are cheap that is the service you will get. Tip someone 50% and see if they don’t treat you well. The crap that a restaurant gives you is a far bigger rip-off than the service you are expected to pay for. I would much rather give the service money directly to the server than have the establishment tax me on the cost of service the way that they do food and drink.

      Like

  21. I absolutely agree with generous tipping…if the service is good. It doesn’t have to be “great” or “outstanding” (in which case I am ‘very’ generous), just good. However, I don’t feel obligated to leave a big tip if I am treated rudely, or made to sit and wait on an order while watching the wait staff stand around chatting or with their noses plastered to an iPhone. I have never walked out without leaving something, but a small tip can send an effective message. I, too, have heard stories of large groups with big tabs leaving paltry tips. I can only hope Karma will visit those folks soon.

    If I can offer 3 “non-monetary” tips to all restaurant wait staff: Be Attentive, Try to smile, Don’t goof off in the front of the House. This will go a long way toward improving your tips across the board.

    For customers: You are not your Waitress’s only customer; be patient, Your Waitress is not your Mommy, Your Waitress doesn’t cook your food or mix your drink, if these items are sub-standard ask to see the Manager. Finally, 20% is now considered the “standard” tip for acceptable service. Don’t be stingy!

    Like

  22. Tipping should be a thing of the past. The restaurant should assume responsibility that their employees are paid enough.

    Like

  23. I suppose the bottom line may be that some kind of free market system exists. Both the customers and service providers enter the marketplace with expectations and intentions. The server expects to be rewarded for services rendered by way of wages (guraranteed) and tips (uncertain); and the customer expects to be served and intends to reward (or not reward) the server with a payment in excess of that required by the establishment (a tip).
    Both parties understand the “rules” and are free parties in the transaction. Ideally, the customer has the upper hand as the actual level of service shouldn’t vary based on the anticipated reward; but many — perhaps all — servers are certainly affected by circumstances (such as a single party ordering lower-priced items versus a couple or group going “all out.”
    As has been noted, within the marketplace, some wait personnel do quite well (notably at high-end establishments) while others struggle (fast food joints, buffets, etc.).
    Some customers certainly punish their server when they’re unhappy with the food, or with the condition of the restrooms — or when they’re just having a bad day.
    Within all of this context, the “system” works and is somewhat efficient. Cheerful, attentive and hard-working waitpersons certainly tend to be treated better both by customers and management and those who fail to please no doubt go less well rewarded. Ambitious and skilled workers probably tend to land better positions where income is higher — though there is clearly a problem with age and appearcsnce discrimination (see Hooters, etc.).
    We live in a free country where many workers spend some time in the service industry. Most transition out after a period for one reason or another. Those who enter and those who choose to stay operate in a dynamic, but basically predictable environment where free will prevails and service providers are guided by tradition and culture, peer pressure and common decency rather than by contracts or other more formal agreements.
    It’s not a field for the faint fo heart. It may be a vestige of earlier times when the distinction between nobilty and the servant class was more well defined. At the end of the day (and at the end of the meal), it’s not fair and there are no hard and fast rules: it is what it is.
    To the extent that this system works in a macro sense, every individual “gratuitous decision” is absolutely correct because it generates a tiny influence on the overall marketplace and, thus, tends to encourage better service and higher rewards therefore and to discourage the opposite.
    It is therefore inappropriate and unproductive to condemn the conduct of individual customers; based on the system now in place (which puts the matter at their discretion in nearly all cases), each decision is exactly right and has its required impact on the whole.

    Like

    • Until your reply and a few others, I hadn’t thought about it in terms of economic theory. Very interesting. I’ll have to think about it more.

      Also, just curious, how do you define “free country.”

      Thanks for the reply.

      Like

    • A T.I.P. is to insure promptness. Therefore by mere definition, your service should go down as you tip less. Anyone with an objective sense of how the world works knows that this is appropriate, even when the establishment acts as though it isn’t. It’s like someone going to a strip club and asking “why does that guy have two girls on his lap?” The answer is somehow always the same. He paid more than you! That’s how service works! I’d like to see these bad tippers go to a strip club and ask for a dance to which you will determine a fair price after the dance is provided. See how long yo make it there.

      Like

    • I do think there is something to being a regular some place, always tipping well, and getting great service.

      Like

  24. This expectation of generousity, whether by the customer or by the owner of the establishment, is unfair to the server. Sure, some of them make a decent salary; others have good & bad days, but the only fair way to do this is to have a living wage built into the cost of what is being served, with the clear understanding that a tip is only an act of generousity, not part of the server’s wage. People cannot be in contropl of womeone living wage while at the same time having mispeceptions that “the service was slow” or “the staff was rude” or the “portions were small” and subsequentially leave a smaller gratuity. A tipo should only be something extra, above and beyond the fair compensation for the order and the service. Unfortunately, unless our politicians get involved and authorize the industry to change their compensatory practives, the only ones who can force the issue are the servers themselves. By taking the job and accepting the conditions, they allow this potential mistreatment to continue. By reading this article, one is reminded how ignaorant and wrong-minded many of the customers are, and we also see how quick owners are to cheat their employees. I agree with the other poster- quite voting republican- they are protecting management, not the worker. They help destroy unions and weaken emplyment regulations. Don’t hold your breath, though- people are desparate for work, we are right where they want us to be, and if you don’t like the job, thye’ll find someone else to serve patrons for 2 bucks an hour a,d hope you leave 12% on the table after you’re done.

    Like

  25. People are way too concerned with what they are “made” to do. The opportunity to tip well is your biggest asset as a customer. I always get great service. Generally better than the other patrons in the restaurant. Even when I get a server that is having a bad day, I get great service. How do you bad tippers think I do that? I TIP WELL. I tip better when servers are doing a bad job to show them why they’re going to do better. I try to tip at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so they know I;m worth their time. Servers wait on you because they want to get paid. When you are not getting good service its usually because you are a cheap and not worth the servers time. The way I see it the restaurant is already screwing me bad enough that the amount it takes to tip well and get good service is a minuscule addition. The establishment isn’t going to pay a server enough to treat me well because they don’t care about me. They don’t have to do anything for you. Many servers leave their job because one day they decide it’s not worth it and walk out. Sometimes if a server is not coming around I walk to the bar and tip $5 for a drink, the server knows who to pay attention to after that. I’m never rude to wait staff even if they’re horrible. These are already the lowest paid people in our economy. Bottom line is the server isn’t paid to treat you well unless you pull that money from you pocket, and if you aren’t paying for good service don’t expect it. I’m scared to eat half that garbage before the guy getting it for me copped an attitude. I don’t expect being a stingy jerk will better my food or my experience. We always get what we pay for, and it’s not hard to get good service, you just have to pay for it. If you can’t bring yourself to give freely and generously to those that server you and your will to not prepare you own food than you should probably spend that money on a shrink. This applies to whoever feeds and cleans up after you at home as well. Next time you think all someone does is cook and clean, think about how far you would get without cooking or cleaning.

    Like

  26. Great, to-the-point article. I was told it was illegal for a restaurant to force a server to pay for a walk-out. Of course a lot of things go on that are illegal, and if you dare challenge it, say goodbye to your job. But maybe you were better off anyway.. I hear people argue that the employer is supposed to make up your hourly wage to federal minimum when your tips do not get you there, but in my 9 years of restaurant experience I have never received this kind of compensation. And I have certainly had my share dead shifts.

    Like

  27. It often bothers me as a patron of restaurants that when a manager comps or discounts a check for poor food quality, that often means that the server gets less of a tip (less sale at the end of the visit) or no tip at all, though the service was absolutely fine.

    Like

    • I actually don’t think I’ve ever had this happen. Couldn’t one still leave a higher tip regardless of the final meal price?

      Like

    • One could, but how many do? Most of the time, it’s a scenario that the manager goes over, talks to the table, tells the guest they’re (the restaurant) is covering/discounting the check, and the guest gets up, pays, and leaves. Not a second thought to tipping the server.

      Like

    • Yeah – I can see that. Like how some people tip after the coupon or gift card is taken off.

      Like

    • Even though it was due to the kitchen staff possibly. So even though your waiter did everything correct, he will be the one to lose out on a good tip for all the running around he did.

      Like

  28. I wish they taught actual economics in school. The opportunity to pay a server directly advantages everyone except the government. It keeps reported wage income down, which down taxes for the server and the restaurant, It keeps the price of a meal down which would otherwise increase to pay the additional taxation. It gives greater purchasing power to the patron whose money goes farther without being taxed on the cost of service. Which is legally how it should be. Labor services are not taxed in this country the way goods are. That’s why it is easier for the restaurant to allow the patron to pay for services on their own. Delivery restaurants apply a delivery fee which is not taxed because it is a service not a product. The service fee is not paid to the individual performing the service either. They still expect you to pay for service still after that fee. Legally an argument could be made that servers should be hired as self-contractors and left to their own discretion on what is fair for their time. Servers are looked at by too many as slaves rather than service providers.

    Like

  29. In Washington State, everyone makes minimum wage. If you are a server at a nice place, you make a living wage and sometimes a decent wage. That is how it should be. No one deserves to run a business that can pay less than minimum wage. Labor is a fixed cost and every owner is required to pay the same rates, regardless of the state. Can’t compete? Then you should find a new business. Plenty of places in Washington serve great food with great service and are making money. Your experiment in owning any business should not depend on paying your workers any less than minimum wage. In states where they can pay servers or anyone less than minimum wage: Change the laws. I agree that if you can’t tip at least 15%, then eat fast food or stay home.

    Like

  30. I’ve been a server…sorry but there are a LOT of lazy servers. Yes–it’s hard work. Yes, you share your tips but come on–if I can see the server flirting with the hostess instead of re-filling my drinks, if I can see them standing around the drink station while all their tables have empty glasses on them they are NOT working for their tip. If my meal is burnt and running late, stop at my table and tell me. If the expediter screwed up my order, stop at my table and tell me. If I ask for extra ranch, don’t take 15 min to bring it to me because by then my family is almost done with their meal and I don’t want to make them wait while I eat. People act like it’s a complicated job. Hardly. I never under-tip my server if they take the time to inform me of what is going on. It’s not their fault the kitchen messed up. It IS their fault if they don’t tell me.

    Like

  31. I understand frustration over perceived “poor” service. However, please keep in mind in addition to what’s already been mentioned there are things beyond a server’s control. Understaffing. Zero control over the timeliness or accuracy of your order from the kitchen. We only control how it is put into the computer system. From there it’s beyond our control. We may not always directly tell you that it was the kitchen that messed up rather than us. It’s called professionalism. Not to mention that in certain cases this could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from the employer. I mention this also as a special note in regard to website reviews and/or complaints to a manager. If you make a general complaint to the manager regarding timeliness and/or general demeanor this may be well meaning on your part to evoke better change without directly financially impacting the server. However, please be aware that this too can very severely effect a server’s life and livelihood. There are situations where a server can lose their job based on one bad comment/review from a guest. Unless a server was blatantly rude or offensive, please bear that in mind. When you put their name on that bad review or comment to the manager perfectly well meaning to enact better training or help in a way that is not the tip itself, you could in all actuality be getting that person fired and leaving them with zero income and a bad reference.

    Oh. ….. And it might take me a minute to get your ranch if I have a new table to say hi to and get drinks for, hot food ready to be taken out, another order to get into the computer so they’re not waiting too long, etc. ….. If you know that you like extra ranch with everything and it will irk you for it to take a while to get, then ORDER IT WITH THE FOOD. That way it comes out with the food. It’s there when you need it. There are not extra trips having to be made. And face it, you know when you order if you’re the guy who eats ranch with everything and will always ask for a side of it after the food arrives. Skip the extra time, steps, and drama and be proactive in your request made at the time of ordering rather than after arrival of the meal.

    Thank you that is all.

    Like

  32. I have really enjoyed reading all of your posts,, thanks for the honesty..this month, I celebrate my 33rd year working in the same restaurant…I started here at 19 and will be 53 in the fall..I have raised two kids, and paid for my first college degree as a server…..I still love my job as I did the first day I started…..

    Nancy Key Pearson
    El Chico

    LJ, Texas

    Like

  33. I find a few things wrong with this article, but I want to start by saying I’ve worked in restaurants for going on 14 years now, in every position, serving, bussing, hosting, bartending, cooking, washing dishes. I have worked in major corporate chains as well as small, locally owned establishments.

    I will never, ever tip “generously” for poor service. I do not care that servers make $2-4 an hour, if they want a good tip, they need to provide good service. That is their job. It is not hard to be polite to your customers, and if ticket times, etc cause a long wait for your food or a table, it is not hard to be honest about what is going on to cause a delay. Customers appreciate honesty. That being said, yes, some people are extremely, unnecessarily rude, and refuse to be pleased no matter what you do, but I’ve found those people to be in the vast minority. And yes, some people will stiff you regardless of the service, but… Well, shit happens. Suck it up and move on.

    Another thing, at every restaurant I’ve worked in, tip outs have never gone more than ten percent of that day’s total tips, if the restaurant even required it at all. A lot pay bussers/hosts/cashiers $8-10 an hour so they don’t really need to be tipped out.

    Server shifts tend to be short, five to six hours or less, unless they work a double. They can make well over a hundred dollars in that time. So you’re saying making over $20 is underpaid? I don’t think so.

    Lastly, no one is forced to work in a restaurant. If you don’t like it, quit.

    Like

  34. Good write-up. I absolutely appreciate this website. Thanks!
    streetdirectory

    Like

  35. Well it’s so unfair that the customer has to care about their salary and financial burdens. we pay extra amount of money to eat out, shouldn’t the restaurants pay more to their staff?? I mean we get charge pretty good money like $3 for a glass of coke or any soda…

    Like

  36. 2$ an hour? I call bullshit.

    Like

  37. I work at a restaurant as well, and while I agree with everything you said, I also think it’s important for these big restaurants to be forced to pay servers more than $2.13 an hour + tips. If the tips aren’t well, there should be a hell of a lot more to fall back on.

    Like

  38. Thank you so much for this post.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. This is our Democracy: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Issues on Sexism and Racism | Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  2. How to Piss Off Your Server | In Thought Knots
  3. Happy Hour | Master Procraster
  4. FIFTY THOUSAND “THANK YOUS” | Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  5. Exploring: What does it mean to see history everywhere? How do people have a “voice” in everyday life? | Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.

Please Comment While You're Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: