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Posted by : Anita Unmuted March 22, 2014


Well, I haven't written here in a while, so let's give it a go. Shall we?

UPDATE: Please read about a recent incident below.

I've noticed a little online uproar the past few weeks-- To tip or not to tip. I admit, I have my opinion as well, but I don't think it's as (shall we say) harsh.

First, I do believe in tipping, but not because it's owed or required. Instead, because it's deserved. I do go through a mental checklist, but good service is good service whether it's in a restaurant, a hair salon, or somewhere else. I'm appreciative when someone provides me with exceptional service. I don't expect a server to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect consistent, friendly (polite without snarkiness) service. I expect to be checked on periodically, and I expect servers to treat me with respect- respect that every customer should receive.

I say those things because I have come across some servers who say the right words, but they speak them with attitude, boredom, or complete disinterest. That doesn't go over well with me. Actually, it's a real turnoff. That being said, I do understand that being a server can be
quite a difficult job. It requires being on your feet constantly while running around dealing with customers who can often be rude and demanding. On top of that, servers have the added pressure of dealing with frustrated customers when there are problems in the kitchen. So, yes, I understand that being a server can be hectic and trying.

However, I must ask this question. When are people going to stop acting like servers are owed a tip because of their wage (some people even add) regardless of the quality of service? Let's face it, sometimes the only thing they do is set my food on the table. Sometimes, that's all that's required. Yep, I'm a pretty easy customer.

TheFreeDictionary.com calls a tip, "A small sum of money given to someone for performing a service; a gratuity." Uh, I call that the fee or charge for the food or service.

Dictionary.com refers to a tip as "a small present of money given directly to someone for performing a service or menial task; gratuity". I get the point, but I gotta disagree here, too.

Now, Wikipedia states, "A gratuity (also called a tip) is a sum of money customarily tendered to certain service sector workers for a service performed or anticipated. Tipping and the amount are a matter of social custom and social practices vary between countries and settings. In some locations tipping is discouraged and considered insulting and in some locations tipping is expected from customers." To digress a little, it was interesting to read about the varying tipping customs of different countries. If you're interested, follow the Wikipedia link.

As a matter of record, I tip. However, the server's actions and attitude determine that tip. In a way, I agree with those who say tipping in the U.S. is rather forced and expected. It's often automatically added to checks of large groups. If we don't leave a tip, employees look at us as if we've just strangled a patron.

I don't believe it should be expected. I believe it should be earned, and the amount, or whether or not it is given at all, should be determined by the patron. The word "gratuity" is not based on the word "owed".

So, what is part of the problem? The problem is that employers are not paying those employees minimum wage. Who's fault is that? I'm sorry, but it isn't my job as a customer who pays for the food or service to make up for an employee's paycheck. It just isn't, but this is where our society has us planted. I know that may sound harsh, but I am a consumer that visits an establishment for food and service. For one, I pay a flat rate. For the other, the amount I pay varies, and I am super happy to tip very well when I've been treated well.

It is true that some people who make tips make a lot of money per day or week. Some don't. Whether they make a lot of money or not, many servers have to live off their tips, and that can be a struggle. It is also true that many don't report all of their tips as is required, and this includes more professions than servers or bartenders.

I'd like to make one more point. What difference does the total make? This becomes especially relevant when we're talking about a super large tab or large groups. If my tab is $150.00, why does that automatically mean that my server should receive 15% (on average) of that? $22.50. What if a large group's tab is 647.29? Does that automatically mean that server deserves $97.09 at 15%? What does the amount I pay for food have to do with your quality of service to me? Yes, there is definitely more work involved when waiting on large groups, but attitude and quality of service still need to count for something.

Let's say a server brings nachos and water to me, but gives the table next to me lobster. Let's also say that server treated us exactly the same, and did the exact same amount of work. Why is the server automatically "owed" more from Mr Lobster because his tab is higher? Something is wrong with that system.

It may appear that I'm against tipping, but that is far from the truth. I don't tip according to my bill. I tip according to the service I receive, and the server's overall demeanor. However, that doesn't mean I want someone in my face every two seconds or someone trying to act like we're besties. That is irritating to no end, and will result in a lower or even zero tip depending on how bad the intrusions are. Also, back away from my kid, and stop trying to have a bonding conversation with her. That will get you hurt. No, I don't expect servers to be super upbeat all the time, and I know anyone can have a bad day. But, the effort counts.

If I could change the tipping world (in the U.S. that is), I would force all employers to pay all employees a fair wage for the position, and at least the minimum. Then, a server's paycheck wouldn't depend on the number of tables picked up, or the generosity of a customer. Then a tip would be exactly what it's supposed to be: A financial expression of gratitude for providing a pleasant dining (or spa or whatever) experience. This would likely cause an increase in already to high food prices, but an increase in wages would be much more fair to employees.

Post update: Just to clarify, as I mentioned in the comments below, I'm talking extremes in this post. I've had servers be complete (w)itches, and look at me like I'm crazy when I don't leave a tip. On the other hand, one server chased after me and asked if I left her too much money because she knew my dinner was a complete joke. My dinner was ridiculous, and my bill was zero. I said to her, "What does that have to do with you?" You were kind and attentive, and I know you felt bad about my order." Her wonderful service had nothing to do with the crappy nature of my meal. :) I even tipped her more because she tried so hard to make things right. I really appreciated her.

**I intended to provide links to three other posts on this topic, but after considering the foul language and complete ignorance in those posts, I decided it best to not promote them by linking to them.

Your comments are appreciated!
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

UPDATE (3/25/14): Late Friday night, an incident occurred. At a local Nashville, TN Applebee's restaurant. A customer, 19 year old Felishia Bridges and her companion, Daniel Humphrey fled the restaurant after allegedly leaving a tab for $28. Yep, a dine-n-dash. The server ran after the couple to confront them and get payment for the check. Witnesses say Bridges then intentionally hit the server with her car. The unnamed employee was injured and taken to the hospital, but she has since been released and is expected to make a full recovery.

Police said Bridges was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and theft of services. She was booked on a $30,000 bond and is awaiting trial in jail. Humphrey was charged with theft of services and with a violation of an order of protection. At the time of the arrest, Bridges had an active order of protection against Humphrey. Humphrey also remains in jail awaiting trial. They are scheduled to appear in court separately on Wednesday. Looks like Humphrey should have honored that order of protection.

Other than the server getting run over, the saddest part of this story is why she may have ran after them in the first place. Applebee's, or at least our local stores, has a rule: If a customer walks out without paying, the server is responsible for the bill. The server!! I can't tell you how much that irritates me, and it's another example of how servers are treated unfairly on the money front. Any employee could end up with a "customer" who chooses to walk out on a bill, and there is NO reason that employee should be held responsible for that persons actions. Sickening.

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