Tipping: Tip The Scales In Your Server’s Favor
It’s A Hard Job, But Somebody’s Got To Do It
Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine walking around in a crowded room full of people stuffing their faces. You’re wearing clothes that you would absolutely never choose to wear of your own free will. It’s hot, it’s stuffy, and your hair has been permeated by the unrelenting stench of the deep-fryer and grilled chicken fajitas. You approach a middle-aged-brown-haired woman who is having dinner bought for her by her unpleasant-looking husband. They’re accompanied by three children ranging in age from four to twelve.
You introduce yourself as politely as you know how, and ask if you can get them something to drink. The husband/father is in a bad mood for some inexplicable reason. He is not only ready to tell you what he wants to drink, but also to bark out his food order. This turn of events doesn’t comply with your time-tested routine for food order optimization, but you can’t explain that to a grumpy man. You have to smile and pretend that he knows far more than you do about the subject.
You jot down the adults’ orders as well as those for the two younger children. Then you turn to the oldest child who is, come hell or high water, absolutely determined to order her own food. While you stand and wait for what seems like (and actually is) an eternity, you notice the hostess walking behind you to seat another table. You finish with the table you’re currently at, then go to briefly say hello to your new table. While you are introducing yourself and ruining Christmas (no matter how far off it might be), by explaining that you have to put in another order before you can get to theirs, you hear snapping behind you. The brown-haired woman, visibly frustrated that you’re talking to someone else instead of her, is calling your name. Her increasingly loud voice carries an undertone that seems to say, “How dare you continue speaking to others when I need your attention now?”
As you turn around, she begins to shout that her oldest daughter has changed her mind about what she wants to eat. You pretend like that’s absolutely no inconvenience whatsoever, but you notice that the father is glaring hard at you, as if it were your fault that his daughter changed her mind about what to eat. You hurry to place the orders. It’s taken you so long to get back to your new table that they’re all in a miserable mood as well. You continue to take care of your tables the best you can despite your circumstances. You don’t complain. You don’t make excuses. You just do your best.
When brown-haired lady and her crabby husband finally leave, there’s a scattered food war zone, left behind by the three children, that you’ll have to clean up. Amongst the debris there is a small, rectangular, black, faux-leather “book” waiting to be opened. It’s time to get paid.
Your Financial Well-Being In The Hands Of Strangers
Now imagine being twenty years old with rent, utility bills, and community college fees all due at the end of the month. Your financial well-being (at least for that week) is in the hands of a family that doesn’t know you, doesn’t care about you, and is now long gone. That’s some serious emotional stress. Your fingers tremble as you run your fingers down the opening of the book. Given everything they put you through, did brown-haired lady and crabby husband make it up to you with a decent tip?
As a server, scenarios like this happened to me every day. They happened so often that they literally haunted my dreams, keeping me awake through the night, whittling away even more unforgivingly at my sanity. To add insult to injury, you’d be surprised at the small tips I would find at the bottom of those credit card slips. While everyone loves a meal cooked and served by someone else, we don’t all love ponying up the extra dough for gratuity. I confess I’ve been guilty of this mindset myself. But a year and a half of unexpected serving work forced me to reconsider, and to dig a little deeper when it comes time to square up. I urge you to do the same. I’ve carefully laid out eight guidelines that will help you to arrive at the most appropriate amount to tack onto your tab the next time you go out to eat.
Basic Tips For Tipping And Behaving Like A Decent Human Being
- Yes, you have to. When a server performs adequately, we have a tendency to think “well, that’s what they get paid for.” Did you know that the federal minimum wage for servers is only $2.13 per hour*? The government expects YOU to make up the rest of any given server’s salary.
- Know what’s customary. Fifteen percent.
- Attitude counts. Though cash money is the most important way to tip, it also helps not to be an a-hole. Most servers go out of their way to be extra nice to you. Be a human being, and return the favor.
- Keep irrational blaming to a minimum. Before tipping, take account of the things your server did and didn’t have control over. For instance, the amount of time it took to cook the food, the wait to get a table, menu prices, and things of that nature- none of them are your server’s fault.
- Be aware of your server’s work load. Do your best to scope out the number of tables your server is also taking care of. Use this logic, too, when you come across a server that honestly just seems rude. Having been in their shoes before, I can confidently advise you to always give the benefit of the doubt. There’s a really good chance that there’s something else going on that your server is doing his or her best to keep from affecting you.
- Never touch your server. No tapping on the shoulder, no grabbing of the arm. If you look back on your dining experience and remember that you touched your server, add a few bucks to pay for the dignity you stole.
- Keep track of time. It may seem like just a table to you, but to a server, it’s the gateway to getting rent paid on time. The longer you camp out, the fewer opportunities a server will have to make money.
- Control your kids. I know that’s a harsh one, and personally I love children. But if your server is going to have to wrangle your children, keep them from hurting themselves, and clean up unreasonable messes they’ve made, then I suggest paying your server what you’d pay for an hour of childcare – in addition to your bill.
The bottom line is this: you don’t hear lots of stories of millionaire waiters and waitresses. If they were getting rich off restaurant patrons, then you’d be a server too. We all know that serving is a demanding and usually thankless job, but somebody has to do it. Therefore, I beg you to tip unto others as you’d have them tip unto you.