An Honest Opinion on Tipping
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An Honest Opinion on Tipping

From inside the walls of the food service industry.

An Honest Opinion on Tipping

Last Tuesday, I was picking up a coffee before class when I heard two women having a conversation. One of the women said she never knew how much to tip at a restaurant, and asked her friend what she usually does.

“Oh, I don’t ever tip really,” her friend replied, claiming the restaurant pays servers a salary anyway. “Why should I pay them more for just doing their job? Especially at a pricey restaurant,” she asked as she sipped her coffee.

I didn’t know these women, so I picked up my hazelnut latte, zipped up my jacket, and started to make my way to English class across town. But as I walked, I started to get really frustrated. My parents raised me to not only to tip, but also to tip well for good service. On top of that, I’ve spent the past two summers working 65-hour weeks waitressing at a nice restaurant. People who don’t work in a restaurant may not understand why tipping is important. But there are some definitive reasons why, for good service, it is absolutely necessary.

Restaurants don’t pay a livable salary.

I’m currently staring at one of my paychecks from this past summer. I worked 89 hours, and made $107. Restaurants assume that their servers will earn 15% of their sales in tips, and take that into account when bookkeeping. So technically servers are paid minimum wage, but deductions are made for taxes, the family meal the kitchen makes before a shift, and the assumed tips. Absolutely no one could live on a restaurant’s paycheck alone.

Most waiters need the money to support themselves or their families.

I feel like there’s this common misconception that waitressing is always a side job. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked a coworker or myself what our “real job” is, I wouldn’t need to work. Waiting tables is a real job. I’m not a girl working at a restaurant to buy myself a Lexus while my parents foot every bill I have. I take almost every dollar my customers tip me to the bank, and use it to pay my tuition or support myself while at school. Whatever doesn’t go in the bank is probably used to put gas in my 1999 Nissan Altima or maybe get a haircut. Some of my co-workers use tips to pay their rent or lease their car. It’s not just extra money. We use it to live.

Restaurants usually pool their tips.

When I give you great service and you leave me a 10% tip, you’re actually taking money out of my pocket. Here’s how it breaks down: We need to tip everyone involved in the process of keeping the restaurant functioning. That means busboys, baristas, food runners and servers all split tips. So at the end up my night, I take 15% of my sales and put that money into a pool that will tip everyone based on an allocated points system. I’m entitled to keep anything extra in surplus of that15%. So if every table tips me 20%, and you leave 10%, you’re forcing me to make up the difference to the required 15% for your check by taking it out of the money I’ve worked really hard to earn with my other tables. Does that seem fair?

If you don’t have the money to tip properly, you don't go to an expensive restaurant.

Someone once told me that they don’t tip well because they can’t afford it. To be painfully honest, if you can’t afford to leave at least a 15% tip, you should not be splurging on a dinner out. An average bill at my restaurant for two people is usually around $120 if they have appetizers, dinner, desert, and a couple rounds of drinks. A 15% tip on that bill is $18, bringing the bill’s total to $138. If $18 is making or breaking your bank, then please don’t spend $120 on dinner.

We work really hard to give you good service.

While I will always leave a minimum of a 15% tip because of said pool system, I honestly understand not tipping if your service is horrible. If it’s my fault, I really do get it. What I don’t understand is people who watch me work really hard to get them everything they need in a timely fashion, all the while wearing a million-dollar smile, who still don’t tip adequately. I put every ounce of my effort into making sure every customer gets phenomenal service, even though my bra is covered in sweat, my feet are on fire, and all I’ve had time to eat in the past seven hours is a piece of bread as I walked through the coffee station. It is hard work, truly. And I always mean it when I say, “it was a pleasure serving you this evening.” I never lie, because it really is my pleasure. If you had a positive experience at my restaurant because of me, then I’m doing my job right, and that makes me happy. However, please respect my hard work, and pay me adequately for it.

While I couldn’t say anything to the women in the coffee shop, I feel that the concept that tipping your server is paying them extra is just wrong. In no way is this meant to seem obnoxious, whiny, or ungrateful. I love my job, and am consistently grateful for every customer’s business, compassion, and frequent generosity. But there are just some things you only understand when you’ve worked within the walls of a restaurant, like how to chug a glass of water in fifteen seconds between tables, how to live on two pieces of bread for twelve hours, and the importance of tipping properly.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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