A Case For Tipping Your Server

Don't have a cow, tip your server. Also someone please start using that pepper.
Don’t have a cow, tip your server. Also someone please start using that pepper.

Just recently I was shown an article called “5 reasons why I won’t tip you if you’re a waiter.” The content doesn’t sound much better than the title; if anything, it sounds worse. The author lists five reasons why not only will he not tip, but that anyone who feels they should get one is an awful person.

This article was written back in 2009, but having just discovered it, I feel like responding to it. Despite the article being years old, I feel like this is a way a lot of people still think. So I’ll take this point by point. Please note that I am not a waiter, nor have I ever worked as one; I write this as a fellow diner, just another guest, but one who is currently looking at this author like I’ve just discovered the reason people hate any jobs where they have to deal with customers.

1. You act as if you’re my best friend

Christ, you offend me – kneeling down next to my table, pretending to like me and chatting as if you’re my best friend when it’s obvious that all you’re after is the tip! I’m not a bloody money bag you know. I will pay the bill which includes the cost of the food, the environment and the salaries of the people involved – nothing more.

Some patrons like to be left alone while others will complain about the lack of personality or attention. Some just want their food while others go for an experience. Some are extroverts who love chatting with the staff while others have trouble looking up from their menus. The point is that you never know what kind of customer you’re going to get, and how much you make depends on how happy the customer is.

Beyond that this whole post is centered around not giving a tip anyway, so regardless of what waiters do around you they’re doomed from the start. For that reason alone I’m hoping the next waiter you meet is as in-your-face and obnoxiously sociable as possible.

But your observation was certainly keen. They are doing it for the tip. You’d think that was their job or something.

2. You don’t get paid enough

And this is my problem how exactly? It’s astonishing that customers are expected to make up for your employer’s cheapness in not paying you a decent wage. Please include the full cost in everyone’s bill thank you very much. I’ll pay it because I have to and the charge is there for me to see.

There’s a valid point in there, and it’s a point many people have been making for a while now. And sure, employers are asked to make up the difference to make sure their waitstaff is making at least minimum wage, but to my knowledge they don’t always do this.

What’s really funny here is that no one seems to criticize the employers! All criticism is reserved for non tipping customers instead of the owners of the restaurant for not paying a decent wage. Wtf! Could it possibly be because you guys know you can make much more by tips and under report your income to the IRS?

The debate over income equality has been going on for a long, long time. People are angry, but unfortunately anger doesn’t pay the bills. A note that says “I’m not leaving you a tip tonight, but if it’s any consolation I’m unhappy with your employer” probably won’t be accepted at banks and credit unions. And, as far as I’m aware, negative emotions cannot yet be converted into legal currency (though to be fair I wish they could).

The fact of the matter is, while we fight to try to make sure people can make a decent wage, some people go without. And while I have yet to hear a single story about a wealthy waiter buying their new mansion with the money they saved from unreported tips, I’ve heard far too many stories from those who have to choose between paying the bills and eating. But I’m sure your anger at their employer helps them out just as much.

3. You’ll spit in my food if I don’t tip you?

And I’ll shoot your kid if you don’t give me a million dollars. Seriously, am I even hearing this right? You’re actually using the threat of blackmail to make me pay you? Well as long as you’re openly claiming to be a criminal it’s all right I guess.

I’ll agree with this one, though admittedly I haven’t heard too many instances where this has actually been threatened. Never mind it being completely illegal, I think most waiters and waitresses might realize that threatening someone generally wouldn’t work out too well for them. But again, not having worked in the business, this is just how I think.

4. Bringing me my food isn’t worthy of being paid extra

Did you cook it? Did you invent it? No. You picked it up and brought it to me. While it might not be easy, there are plenty of jobs which are much worse – shop floor workers for example. And I’ve been a shop floor manager, so I know. Face it – compared to other jobs, being a waiter is unskilled. You get paid what the market will think your services are worth. You don’t deserve more for your work over and above what your employer should pay you.

The problem is what you just mentioned earlier: that some employers aren’t paying enough. You believe that this is something problematic enough to get angry about, so surely they do deserve more for their work than what they’re being paid. At least, of course, if they have you as a customer.

Along with bringing you your food, they’re also the recipient of all your complaints. They make sure your glasses stay full and your tables stay clean, and when you make a total mess of yourself, they clean up after you. They walk between children and adults screaming with equal ferocity, manage multiple tables at once and keep a smile on their face despite dealing with people like you all day.

If you don’t think that someone servicing you takes much effort, serve yourself at home. You are fully aware of how the system works and yet you choose to go out anyway. The fact of the matter is someone is taking care of you the entire time you’re there, and regardless of whether you think it takes skill or not, it’s something you are willingly taking advantage of.

5. Money doesn’t grow on trees

I expect you to be grateful and pray for me at night if I tip you 10%. Be happy I gave you anything at all. I worked for the money in my wallet and by giving you some I didn’t have to, I’m doing you a favor. Learn to remember that when people give you something they don’t need to, it’s a favor. You don’t complain that they didn’t give you more!

With your nose that high in the air it’s a wonder you haven’t drowned yourself in a rainstorm by now.

But yes, money is valuable. Extremely valuable. And you worked hard for it. You went to your job and you worked, doing whatever it is you do, when you could easily be doing something else. And in return you were paid for it. That’s how the system works, and as part of the workforce, you seem to appreciate that. And based on your response, you feel entitled to the money that you earned. You feel like you deserve that money.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

But your title is exactly right. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Which is why many people working as waiters and waitresses hope for tips. I’m assuming you have the luxury of steady pay, which makes your situation a little different. And that’s fine. But it means you can’t treat these jobs the same way you treat your own.

Of course, I could be completely off base. Not having worked in the industry, I’m lacking a certain perspective, though I’ve heard enough stories from people who have. But I do know that if I was sitting at a table next to you and heard you going off on this type of tirade, either to your friends or to your server, I would think you an awful, selfish person. And I would probably leave an extra large tip to make up for it.

My advice: stay home. Sure, tipping is a courtesy and not an obligation. But when you enter a restaurant with the mentality you do, it’s no longer just your idea; it ends up negatively influencing others because you believe they’re undeserving. So stay home, eat your own food, and let a more generous person sit in the spot you would have otherwise taken up.

You might believe that you shouldn’t avoid going out, that you shouldn’t have to stop eating out just because the system is bad. But if you think the system is wrong and make use of it anyway, then protest it by depriving your servers of tips, you aren’t making a grand statement or inciting change—you’re getting a cheap meal at someone else’s expense.

Photo credit: Mr_Stein/Flickr

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