In my experience, there are very few excuses for not tipping someone in the service industry. If someone did something for you that you could have done for yourself, they have just enacted a service. As a result, in order to acknowledge that you understand that their actions are a luxury and not your personal privilege, it makes sense to pay them for their services.
Now, you may be thinking, "a tip is merely an incentive, not a server’s actual wage." Unfortunately, there are many issues with that mindset. I asked several people in Texas who are currently or have worked as servers in the past about their experiences with tipping. Their answers shed a bit of light on the stigma associated with a "tip as an incentive" perspective.
"It’s not illegal for me to leave without tipping my waiter."
True, it’s also not illegal for waiters and waitresses to be paid less than minimum wage by federal law. People who work in the service industry often have an adjusted hourly wage that can go as low as $2.13 an hour because of tipping culture. As a result, they aren’t guaranteed the same wage as their coworkers or even the same wage every day.
Former waitress, Carolina Gonzalez states, "Minimum wage was at $3.35 an hour back in the late 80's and I was a starving student. I needed more than that and I figured I would work extra hard for those tips. Of course, there were good days and bad days..."
Even when a server receives a generous amount of tips, they must also pay taxes on everything earned. On top of this deduction, some establishments take tip money from a server to disperse amongst busboys/girls, bartenders, and sometimes the kitchen and dishwashing staff.
"There was once a party of 20 that I had that were extremely demanding and very rude... I did my best to be happy and even my managers agreed that I was doing good and I still got no tip." says current waitress, Melanie Sanchez. "Their tab was over $200. It was especially hard for me because I could have used that $30 to pay for my light bill and now I didn't have that. I tried so hard and did so much work for literally nothing."
It goes to show that when you don't tip, you're depriving your servers of their livelihood.
"What about if you receive poor service?"
You are still expected to tip them. Whether the service is to your liking or not, if your server took your order and brought you your food, they did their job. Now, on top of paying for the food you consume, you are also expected to pay for this convenience with at least 15% gratuity. The total on your food bill is not paying for the service your received.
"My paychecks are literally my gas money and that's it," says server Sarah Salinas.
"What if I don’t agree with the tipping culture in the US?"
Take that up with your local representative, not your server. People that work in the service industry are merely trying to do their jobs. They do not decide how much they get paid. In this case, you do.
"My last check was $12 and that was for two 40 hour weeks," says waitress Monica Vargas.
If you have an issue with paying an extra 15% (at least), you can join the fight to gain a living wage for every American worker.
"I go to a restaurant for good food AND good service. Why should I expect so little of people that are intended to cater to me?"
It might be helpful to remember that everyone working in the service industry is still just a human being doing their job, not your servant awaiting your every beck and call. They may have their off days or their own reasons for not being as attentive as they should.
It is also important to consider that many of the things that can go wrong during your dining experience are out of the server’s control. If your food is taking a long time or your plate isn’t exactly what you ordered, many times, it could be the kitchen’s fault. Take a deep breath, consider all the factors that could have contributed to this snag in your dining experience, and always remember, this is a privilege, not your natural born right.
"I earned this money and I reserve the right to determine how I spend it."
This claim is absolutely true. If you’ve worked hard enough to obtain a fortunate lifestyle that affords you the privilege to eat out once and a while, you should take advantage of it. The key word here being "afford."
Think about it this way: If you wanted to go to Disney World, you wouldn’t plan on just paying the ticket entrance fee for the experience, would you?
You also have to think about paying for gas or plane tickets to get to the park. Then, once you’re there, you need hotel accommodations and food for the duration of your stay. You may even want to buy a souvenir or two before you leave.
The point is, if you really want the full “Disney World experience,” you should realize that you’re going to have to pay more than just the standard fee advertised. This same mentality is needed when eating out (or with basically any other possible luxury experience you can think of).
Choosing to eat at a restaurant means you’re paying for much more than a meal. You’re paying for an experience.
The responsible thing to do: don’t expect to just pay ticket price. If the extra charges seem like too much, maybe you really can’t afford to eat out after all…
"If you’re not happy with your pay, just get another job."
I don’t know what alternate universe some people live in where this seems like a viable solution, but if a worker is unpleased with their job, but comes into work every morning anyway, chances are, they really don’t have many other options. Servers generally require no formal education or previous experience.
Considering that there are about 46.5 million individual food stamp recipients in the United States to date, it makes sense that many people are looking for financial stability that will at least cover the basic necessities of life. Currently, one of the biggest contributors to jobs in the US are positions in low-wage food services.
Some of these workers may range from a single parent supporting an entire family, to a college student struggling to simply support themselves. So unfortunately in this economy, choosing a job that’s just a bit easier isn’t possible.
"I recently had a party that tipped me over $50 and their tab was probably about $170 or so in total. They thanked me and bought me a rose, telling me how nice and patient I was. That money paid for both my water and electricity bill and I had some money to buy some groceries," says waitress Suzette Cubria. "I cried in the restroom because I was running extremely low on money and I have a daughter that I didn't know how to feed. I felt truly appreciated."
On top of considering an alternate occupation, there is the chance that a waiter actually enjoys working in the service industry.
"The perks are definitely the people I work with," says Sanchez. "These people aren't my friends, they're my family."
In cases where a worker genuinely enjoys their job, why should they have to find another when they feel they are being treated unfairly? In a free country, a worker should be able to stand up for themselves in an unjust situation without being seen as ungrateful for the opportunities presented to them.
So the next time you decide to eat out, remember that someone is literally waiting on you. This person answers your every whim with a simple wave of your hand. They refill your drink, bring your food, get a high chair for your little one, clean up that plate your toddler spilled, all with a smile. And in the end, you're not even obligated to pay them for their service.
Be responsible, tip your waiters.
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