So I’m about to say something that is probably going to piss off a lot of people. At the same time, there will probably be a lot of other people nodding in agreement but won’t say anything because they don’t want to piss off a lot of people.
I have worked in the service industry. I have worked tipped jobs and I have worked jobs where my hourly wage actually made real world cents (also, sense, if you want to avoid the punny). My tipped jobs have left me with – apparently – a completely different view of the situation from everyone else who has ever worked a tipped job ever.
Let’s start here… I just read this other blog where the author expounded on the “art” of tipping and what you may or may not know about the subject. I knew pretty much everything in that article including the part where, despite President Clinton’s efforts to make life better for everyone, Herman Cain succeeded in convincing Congress to lock the federal tipped minimum wage at $2.13 “forever,” forcing the general public to pay the wages of the majority of service industry workers.
This is where my rant begins. First of all, in more than half of the states in the US, this is no longer the case. Seven states have no tipped minimum wage, meaning all workers, regardless of their industry, make at least minimum wage. Granted, that’s still not a living wage but it’s not the dismal figures that most service industry workers lament. In at least half of the remaining states, employers are required – by law – to make up the difference. That means if your state’s minimum wage is $10 per hour and you don’t make at least $7.87 per hour (or whatever it has to be to bridge the gap) in tips, your hourly wage has to be increased to make up the difference. Again, I understand that this isn’t a big improvement to the situation but it still isn’t slave labor.
Second, as the first paragraph of the above blogger’s post sarcastically decries, tipping IS IN FACT, about generosity and gratitude for good service. I remain firm in my belief that not every server automatically deserves 15% just because they only technically make $2.13 per hour and sometimes take home paychecks that have a big fat goose egg in the amount box, after income taxes. You start out with a clean slate, 15% because you haven’t done anything spectacular but you didn’t screw anything up yet. 15% is for C average service, the equivalent of 3 out of 5 stars. There are a few things you can do to raise that amount and a few things you can do to tank it.
Do keep my drink filled. There is a restaurant here with a line marked on their glasses that says refill. They’re 20 ounce glasses (without ice) so that line is probably somewhere around the 8 ounce level, when there’s approximately 1/3 of the drink remaining. I consider this to be the “you’re pushing it” zone. I, personally, see no reason (unless you are like a few people I know who guzzle five glasses of whatever before the appetizer is served….then you as a customer are setting ridiculously high standards and should tip according to your ability to be a pain in the server‘s arse) for the drink to dip much lower than the halfway point. The only exception might be coffee – for some people that coffee to sugar to cream ratio is a very sophisticated chemical formula and adding more coffee to it before they’re ready has disastrous results.
Don’t hover. If you are in a slow section or it’s a slow time in the day, hang out somewhere you can see me but I have to want to see you. Wait until I close and lay down my menu before coming back to ask if I’m ready to order for the fourteenth time in fifteen minutes. Wait until I’ve taken more than two sips off my drink before returning to refill it. Allow me to enjoy my meal and my company in peace. I didn’t come to this restaurant to hang out with the staff (unless I did). Being TOO helpful is a good way to lower your tip.
Do make sure I have everything I need. I understand that sometimes someone else might have to deliver my order. I’d much rather that than have it sit under the heat lamp for ten minutes and get rubbery or soggy until you can get to it. But if that happens, get back to me as soon as humanly possible to make sure I have everything I might need. It’s not your co-worker’s responsibility to bring me ketchup or refill my drink.
Don’t disappear. See above.
Do be prompt. I don’t time you but I will notice if I sit at an empty table for 10-15 minutes after you took the last plate away before you bring the check. Even worse is if after that 10 minutes you come back – without the check – to ask if I want dessert. I’m (probably) not in a hurry but you don’t know that and if you vanish, I will leave without the check (not without paying, I’ll leave something close to what I owe, within $2-3, but you might have to make up the difference).
Don’t rush me. I’ve had servers bring the food then, literally in the time it took to walk back to the POS to print it, bring the check back. I’ve had servers bring the appetizer and meal on the same tray. I don’t care what your intentions were when this happened, you best work your ass off for the rest of the meal if you have any hope of getting a tip.
Do be understanding. Sometimes people forget to ask for no onions on their salad. Sometimes people expect a bowl of lettuce and don’t know what to do with a real salad. Sometimes the menu doesn’t list every last ingredient and the meal comes out with something someone didn’t expect. If I send something back, it’s with good reason. If I ask for extra of something and send you back for more extra, it’s with good reason. Chances are it’s not your fault that my order isn’t what I expected but you’re the middle man so you get to listen to my complaint. I will be as cordial about complaining as you are about listening to me so if you give me attitude because I don’t want my “medium” steak cold and bleeding, I’m going to give you attitude in the form of a smaller tip.
I understand that working in the service industry sucks. I understand some people just don’t tip, regardless of the quality of service and that sucks. I understand that in some situations some people don’t know what to do (buffet restaurants, for example) so they don’t do anything and that sucks. I understand that Herman Cain and the restaurant owners whatever association he was in charge of at the time are assholes who don’t want to pay their employees and that sucks. I understand that, as a service worker, it is not my customer’s responsibility to pay my bills and that tips are a reward not a right and that’s life. I get so frustrated with the attitude of entitlement that service workers have, all because some bureaucrat decided they weren’t worth more and would never have a chance of being worth more (thank the gods state level bureaucrats didn’t agree, right?). Don’t get pissy with me (or post my receipt on the internet with all manner of disparaging comments) if you act like a jerk and I tip you accordingly. If you genuinely believe you busted your butt and I stiffed you or undertipped, suck it up, accept that some people suck and do the same quality job for the next person. Unfortunately, it doesn’t balance straight across but there will come a day when someone will give you a 50-100% tip and it will make up for at least a few of the creeps who didn’t give you anything.