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What Your Server Really Thinks

Looking at my coworkers, I would say in the serving world, I’m still considered a baby. I have been working as a server for a little over a year now and I have dealt with a lot of different types of customers. There are guests you love having, who you can’t wait to have come back, who make your very long shift just a little easier. Then there are guests you wish had never even heard of your restaurant. The guests you don’t even understand why they come out if they insist on being so miserable. The guests that will never be satisfied, even if you are bending over backwards to meet their very specific demands.

A food service establishment and its employees are dependent on people coming in, eating their food, and enjoying their atmosphere. As a server, my $3.70 an hour salary is dependent on tips to supplement the rest of my paycheck. So most places will go the distance to meet a customer’s needs and keep them happy.

I’m saying it’s a two-way road. I will get you that eighth refill in the past ten minutes, reheat the soup until it’s at the precise temperature you want it, and get you a fork with all the tongs in line with a smile on my face and a hop in my step if you treat me like a human being. Any other treatment may result in less than perky service.

Here are some ways to keep everyone happy and ensure a great night:

  • Having to wait: Many times there’s a wait to get a table at a restaurant. As frustrating this is for you as the customer, it’s just as frustrating for us as servers. This means that we are probably overloaded with guests, the kitchen is backed up, we’re running low on utensils and cups, and we know we have to work extra hard to make you happy since you have been waiting. Once your name has been called, the hostess should apologize for the wait and thank you for sticking around. This is not the time to berate him or her with how annoyed you are. Unless you feel like they committed a serious error in their job (not explaining how long the wait was, skipping over your name etc.), you don’t need to make her feel worse about something that is not her fault, and is completely out of her control. And if you do feel like she has done something wrong, speak to a manager once you’re at your table, calmly and respectfully. Having to wait for a table is almost inevitable in the game of eating out, remember that you chose to stay.
  • Greeting: There is this really awkward time between when a table sits down and when a server greets the table. Most greeting times are expected to be within a minute of when the customer sits down. I know at the restaurant I work at, servers are almost immediately at a table due to the small dining area. There is typically some sort of script that you’re going to hear from the server– let them do it. Even if you know what you want. Even if you get the same thing every time never and it’s never going to change. We are told by our managers, who are told by their bosses, what to say when we greet a table. This includes listing the specials, telling you any changes on the menus, and alerting you if we have run out of something. Cutting us off creates a tense atmosphere and when you inevitably ask a question we would have answered in our greeting, we think you’re an idiot. Be kind. We’ve probably had a long day and smiling face that actually looks us in the eye makes a world of difference.
  • Ordering: Okay, this is a big one. There are a lot of choices, which means we don’t know how long you’re going to take to decide what you want. I know as a customer it sometimes feels as if the server has forgotten about you because they have been gone so long. As a server, I know that is rarely the case (although not never the case). It’s okay to ask for a few more minutes, but please try not to get annoyed with me when I come back to take your order. I have other things that need to get done but I want to make sure that your order is put in as soon as possible. I also don’t want you thinking I forgot about you. If you have questions about the menu, ask them. If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who does; it doesn’t mean that I’m bad at my job, it just means it’s a big menu with a lot of options, and things change all the time. If you think a server may have copied your order down wrong, especially if you are a picky eater with lots of changes, ask them to repeat it back to you before they put it into the computer. It’s much easier to correct something before it goes to the kitchen than after the food arrives at the table.
  • Getting the food: Most places have food runners or operate on a system where everyone helps out. Meaning that if I don’t have something going on and I see food in the window, I check out the ticket, make sure everything that’s on the ticket is on the plate, and take it to the table. This means that I probably don’t know who ordered what. Whenever food arrives at the table, no matter who is bringing it, try to avoid getting that common glazed-over look; it’s the look every customer gets when food is brought to the table. It reads: “I don’t know who you are, what you’re holding, or where I am.” That leaves an awkward couple of sentences where the server is holding several plates, sometimes very hot or heavy plates, while everyone is turning their brains back on. Remember what you ordered, listen to the server as they call out the food, be present and helpful.
  • Refills/Dining Experience: People go out to eat because they want to socialize, catch up, enjoy good food, and not clean up when they leave. Going out to eat is a luxury and should be fun. I understand it can be annoying when you’re trying to have a conversation and a server interrupts, but there is no need to be rude. Every time that server “interrupts,” he or she is trying to make sure you receive the best possible service. This includes making sure your drink is never empty, your table isn’t cluttered by empty dishes, and that if you desire to put in another order you have an opportunity to do so. If you think they are being too attentive, a polite, “I think we are fine for a while, just here to chat and hang out,” will do. That’s a major hint to us that says we can give you some space and you won’t hate us for it later. NOTE: IF YOU TELL A SERVER TO BACK OFF AND THEY DO SO, YOU CANNOT COMPLAIN THAT THEY WEREN’T AROUND ENOUGH. If they seem to disappear, just politely ask another server to grab yours.
  • Tipping: This is the big one. My dad holds firm to the 15% rule, 18% if a server was good. My sister and I repeatedly take the signed receipt and make sure he’s left the appropriate amount. Consider this while you leave the tip: you arrived at a place where your server brought you drinks, a kitchen crew cooked you food, a server brought the food to your table, refills were given without you having to do anything, and when the meal is over you won’t be the one cleaning anything up. You sat down and hopefully had a comfortable dinner with friends or family, while having servers at your call. Now consider the server: They are not only taking care of you but at least four other tables (sometimes more). They work long hours that either start before the restaurant even opens or end long after it closes. They clean up the food thrown on the ground and those tiny pieces of straw paper that are the products of hands trying to keep busy. They are single parents trying to support their family, students working toward their education, people who need a second chance, someone trying to fulfill a dream, people just like you trying to get by. This server says 20% is the right thing to do.

I could go on and on about this but these are the basics. Also, these are the basic rules for interacting with a good server. Many times a good customer makes a good server. However, I am very aware there are some servers out there who just plain suck. I have worked with a few of them. If that’s the case, calmly and politely state your woes to a manager who will hopefully work to improve that server’s work ethic. Other than that, please keep these in mind as you dine!

28 replies on “What Your Server Really Thinks”

Just something I’d like to add: in some states, servers have a percentage of daily sales taken out of their wages as a form of income tax on presumed gratuity. (Hello, Oregon) So if you tip less than that based on your own frugality or ass-hole-itude, your server is paying to bring you extra hollandaise.

I think it’s all well and good to say that we (the U.S.) “shouldn’t” operate on a tipping system, but at the moment, we do. People may not like it, but servers are reliant on tips in order to make a living wage. Unfair? Absolutely. Still true? Yup. So if you’re morally opposed to tipping, or think that the waitstaff should bend over backward and you can still be an asshole, and then not tip on top of it, well, stay home. Don’t go somewhere that tipping is expected/the norm/how the staff pays their bills. The system may suck (and as someone who has had to make their living under said system, trust me, it SUCKS), and you may be opposed to it, but taking a stance and making a point by not tipping doesn’t mean you’re fighting the system. It just means you’re punishing the employee for something completely beyond her control. Don’t want to be expected to tip anymore? Help in the fight to raise the server minimum wage to actual minimum wage. Don’t patronize restaurants where tipping is expected, and let the owners, not the waitstaff know why. Don’t go out to eat and then stiff your server. That’s just rude.

I think everyone should be required to wait tables for six months before they’re allowed to call themselves grown-ups.
Restaurants have one of the lowest profit margins of any type of company, which is one of the reasons servers are paid a laughable wage. Most of my checks went to taxes, so I’d usually bring home like $5 every two weeks. The IRS assumes everyone tips, so a server who doesn’t report at least 10% of his/her sales as tips is setting themselves up for an audit. I worked at a place that served pancakes with baseball metaphors, on the night shift, so more than once I was tipped with an empty shot glass or beer vomit under the table.
I waited tables a LONG time ago, right around the time Reservoir Dogs came out, so at least three times a week some funny dipshit would leave me “Learn to fucking type” on a napkin in lieu of a tip.
Grace is right, when you’re sitting there in the restaurant with people following your orders, remember that those people are working stiffs just like you, and how much you’d like somebody, anybody to make your job just a tiny bit easier. Be that somebody to the person who remembers you like your Diet Coke with no ice and a slice of lime.

This is an interesting article. On the one hand, I think you have valid points, but on the other hand, I think your article is probably wasted on the people who probably most need to adhere to it.

It should be common knowledge that how a person treats a waiter/waitress, maid or anyone in a serving position or a pet let’s you know a lot about their character.

It’s basic kindergarten stuff, be polite, considerate respectful. If they don’t have it, they don’t have it.

I’m saying it’s a two-way road. I will get you that eighth refill in the past ten minutes, reheat the soup until it’s at the precise temperature you want it, and get you a fork with all the tongs in line with a smile on my face and a hop in my step if you treat me like a human being. Any other treatment may result in less than perky service.

I think this is the wrong approach, respectfully. It shouldn’t be conditional. You should do it because that it your job. I agree with you, it works both ways. If people don’t come to a restaurant to eat, you don’t have a job. It is very important that a waitress/waiter is friendly, attentive, respectful, polite and considerate. Period. Will you always get a nice, respectful customer?

Hell no. Do you know what your customer has been through, what kind of day they’ve had; why THEY chose to come out and drop fifty, sixty, hundred dollars on a meal rather than cook? As much as you’d like a person to consider your circumstances, well, you know, what about their circumstances. And if you decide to be less than perky in retaliation, then you’ve also decided to risk your tip. I guess that’s a decision you or any waiter/waitress might make, but it doesn’t seem economically sound.

Plus, you know what happens nine times out of ten when you’re nice to someone who is being an ass? They change their behavior.

Now I’m not saying this is easy. You might have to go in the kitchen and hold your breath or kick a wall. This was something I had to learn how to do, and it was damn hard, which is why I won’t work as a waiter/waitress.

If a waiter/waitress cannot always treat their customer with consideration IMO, they should acknowledge that this job is not for them and find another line of work. I’m always amazed that a woman/man who is not a people person goes into a job that requires dealing with people — why torture yourself? Work on a computer so that when people start getting on your nerves, you can turn it off.

When a waitress comes to my table with an attitude, or who doesn’t treat me as a human being, you better believe she’s not getting a tip. I really don’t care how hard her job is or what kind of day she’s had. If her attitude is I have to treat HER well to get good service, then I want another waitress.

I deserve to be treated well and with respect, even if I’m not paying for it. I’m worthy of that; every human being is. Now, come on, if I am paying for it?

So basically, these are the reasons why I am NEVER rude to a waitress or waiter.

The bottom line is you can’t teach/dictate good manners, but I understand the frustration you have that lead you to write this.

When I waited tables, long ago and far away in the early 90’s, I’d go out of my way to help a customer who was nice/polite/didn’t intentionally leave ketchup under all the plates. A customer who was an ass to me from the get go still got good service, but they didn’t get my best. I think that’s what Grace is saying here – not that she gives rotten customers shitty service, she just doesn’t go the extra mile, like she would for a great table.

Oh, I get what Grace is saying. I just think asshole customers are just assholes period. They won’t read an article and say, wow, I need to change.

Plus, I’ve got to be a devil’s advocate and ad, you know times are hard, some people just don’t have money. Tipping is seemed as an “added” price (I went out for Mother’s Day, the bill was $84 or something like that. With the tip — which they addded automatically, it came up to $84.

I also kinda feel likes this discussion caters to the wealthy. Because the poor or middle class are figuring out what they’re going to eat and how much they can spend on it, while those who have it, are figuring out what should they tip. If you don’t have any money, tipping is not an option. Maybe it shouldn’t be an option? *shrugs*

I also kinda feel likes this discussion caters to the wealthy. Because the poor or middle class are figuring out what they’re going to eat and how much they can spend on it, while those who have it, are figuring out what should they tip.

I think that’s a really disingenuous statement. Its not like tipping in restaurants is some sort of surprise– if you’re going to a place with table service, you know to factor in the cost of tipping. I’m on the working poor side myself, raising a family on one income that hasn’t seen a raise in 4 years, but that’s not really justification for me to screw someone over on a service they’ve provided me. I tip the waitress/ers, the guy that drops off my every-other-friday pizza, my hairdresser when I finally scrape together enough cash to get it cut. If the tip is really what pushes the meal from ‘affordable’ to ‘not affordable’, then maybe fast food or quasi-fast food is the way to go.

I’m not saying tipping is a surprise, I’m saying that some people don’t have money like that.

Imagine saving to take your family out and getting to the restaurant, the kids and you order, the bill comes and $20 has been added/is expected, that you don’t just have.

Are we saying families like this just should never get to experience and enjoy a meal in a restaurant?

If the tip is really what pushes the meal from ‘affordable’ to ‘not affordable’, then maybe fast food or quasi-fast food is the way to go.

O-O So poor folks, you go to McDonalds? Wow. I mean we’re talking about people who are making half of minimum wage and wanting tips to supplement their income and there’s no understanding that $10, $20 is a big deal to someone making $7.00 an hour.

People like that don’t deserve a nice dinner, too?

Anyway, you’re talking to a person who has her kids put the books right back where they found them in Barnes & Nobles. I don’t stiff anyone on tips. [b] But I do understand poverty. [/b]

Ooops, I realize I wrote above that the tip for my Mother’s Day Meal came up to the same amount that it was before tip. With tip they charged me $104 — $20.

I also want to say: I tip the waitress/ers, the guy that drops off my every-other-friday pizza, my hairdresser when I finally scrape together enough cash to get it cut.

The poor people I’m talking about don’t order in pizza or go to the hairdresser. They might go out ONCE a year, maybe.

Who said they don’t deserve a nice meal out? But why does their economics take priority over the waitresses? The cost of going out to a meal at a sit down restaurant includes the cost of the tip. It’s not a ‘law’. No one is gonna come arrest you if you stiff your server. But I’ll bet there’s not many 7/hr workers going to eat at the kind of restaurant your father brought home hundreds of dollars a night in tips in — and are those kind of places that tend to auto-calculate and add the tip the check. I just don’t think that tipping is only a consideration for the wealthy as you seem to suggest.

If you don’t pay the tip that’s your choice, but I don’t think that’s a divide between the poor and the well off, and to pretend that’s really the issue here is a sleight of hand. This article isn’t directed at frou-frou high end restaurants or privileged individuals fretting over the proper gratuity to give their fancy dog groomers. Its basic service stuff here — you know, the people down at your local diner who are trying to make their rent too.

Wow. I mean we’re talking about people who are making half of minimum wage and wanting tips to supplement their income and there’s no understanding that $10, $20 is a big deal to someone making $7.00 an hour.

So stiffing someone who makes less than 7.00 an hour is ok?

You’re not the only one who understands poverty. I certainly went out to eat when my family was living below the poverty line. The cost of the meal — including tip and the general price of the food — was always a consideration. Sometimes it meant that I could afford to hit up the local diner and splurge on grape leaves. Plenty of times it meant fast food.

Are you still playing Devil’s Advocate? Because I think your argument is losing ground. Does anyone deserve a meal in a fancy restaurant?

If I can counter with a little Devil’s advocation of my own, if we stop tipping the servers and restaurants started paying them a living wage and the associated benefits, the cost of meals in a restaurant would go up. At least as much as a typical tip, I would think, because it would triple each restaurant’s overhead to start paying servers like everyone else. So unless we stop tipping AND restaurant owners refuse to pay servers a minimum wage, the hypothetical family you speak of will be priced out of the fancy meal.

Tipping is also a social contract. It’s not required to get your food as a restaurant customer, although it’s expected. Unlike sales tax or the delivery charge most pizza places will charge. (That may be used to reimburse drivers for gas, but I’m pretty sure most pizza places don’t do that, either.) Most servers don’t even know they’ve been stiffed until the customers are out the door, so there’s not even a real threat of getting a dirty look or a harsh word from a stiffed server. I’m not sure something that’s set up to be so conveniently optional is the reason poor people don’t go to fancy restaurants. Most servers can’t afford to go to fancy restaurants, I’m not sure asking them to survive on $3 and some change per hour so more people can eat a Bloomin Onion will be something they’d want to do.

SELENA: I’m not sure something that’s set up to be so conveniently optional is the reason poor people don’t go to fancy restaurants.

Wow, I think you guys are missing my point.

I am saying that in general the poor/middle class don’t sit around discussing what is a fair tipping amount, because they usually have bigger things on their plate, pun intended.

SLAY BELLE: If you don’t pay the tip that’s your choice, but I don’t think that’s a divide between the poor and the well off, and to pretend that’s really the issue here is a sleight of hand. This article isn’t directed at frou-frou high end restaurants or privileged individuals fretting over the proper gratuity to give their fancy dog groomers. Its basic service stuff here — you know, the people down at your local diner who are trying to make their rent too.

Let me reiterate, my primary response to the article is that an inconsiderate customer is usually an inconsiderate person who no matter their socio-economic status, would dismiss this article after the first paragraph.

As an aside, I’ve also said that some people just don’t have a lot of extra cash, so if their tip falls below the 20% it might be — MIGHT BE because they didn’t have that much money to begin with.

I am saying it’s something to consider, and if a server/person doesn’t want to consider that very valid reality, than that’s fine, but it speaks of elitism to me.

On the one hand one can’t say, I’m trying to make a living, and need this extra money,consider ME — (and that is what it IS as of right now, putting aside individualized opinion, it’s extra money on top of the bill) — and then at the same time say, Screw other people who don’t have extra money, who are also trying to make a living. I don’t want to consider their plight. I want, I deserve, I REQUIRE! To me that’s selfish thinking. You should treat others the way you also want to be treated.

I am saying servers should consider that a lack of a tip may not be personal but sometimes economic. I really can’t see how this is a debatable premise.

SLAY BELLE: So stiffing someone who makes less than 7.00 an hour is ok? . . Who said they don’t deserve a nice meal out? But why does their economics take priority over the waitresses?

I never made a definitive statement, I asked you questions. No one’s economic status should take priority over the other. It should work both ways. A server who takes the position that I want other people to consider that I need to make a living, should also understand that there are many people out there struggling to make a living as well, and we all want to eat. When I stated that maybe tipping shouldn’t be an option, I meant maybe it should become part of the bill in all sit down/serve eating scenarios, and that would do away with the need to discuss what’s an appropriate tip. I pretty much always tip and I thank God and I am very grateful that I can afford to do so. I’ve also eaten in establishments who add the tip to my bill, and then when they bring me the credit card slip, there’s another space for tip, so I ended up paying twice the tip w/o knowing. (I think that’s dishonest).

SLAY BELLE: You’re not the only one who understands poverty. I certainly went out to eat when my family was living below the poverty line. The cost of the meal — including tip and the general price of the food — was always a consideration. Sometimes it meant that I could afford to hit up the local diner and splurge on grape leaves. Plenty of times it meant fast food.

Though my father worked as a waiter for years (until he developed Diabetes and could no longer work on his feet) we NEVER went out to eat at a restaurant and rarely ate fast food. By the way, he didn’t work at a restaurant that included the tip in the bill – isn’t that a new concept? I don’t remember that being the case back in the day.

Anyway, I think I first went to a restaurant on a class trip, and then regularly when maybe I was like in my 20s. I didn’t taste McDonalds until my sister started working there. There just was no money for dinner out (and also to be fair, no motivation to either but that’s a whole other story.)

I do know today, right now, many people who have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to celebrate a graduation or a birthday, and they do so to make their children happy, and it’s a struggle. If a server in this case gets, let’s say, a 10% tip rather than 15% it’s not because they didn’t appreciate the server or the service, its because they didn’t have the money.

I brought up this point just to speak on behalf of these hard working people who do exist and to add a little balance to the conversation.

SELENA: If I can counter with a little Devil’s advocation of my own, if we stop tipping the servers and restaurants started paying them a living wage and the associated benefits, the cost of meals in a restaurant would go up. . . .so unless we stop tipping AND restaurant owners refuse to pay servers a minimum wage, the hypothetical family you speak of will be priced out of the fancy meal.

They’re pretty much screwed either way, aren’t they? My neighborhood is going through serious gentrification. The NETS are coming to town. The first thing we saw after the new buildings went up and the poor folks moved out, was the new restaurants, and the happy yuppies eating there.

If what you meant was ‘sometimes people don’t leave 20% tips because they just can’t handle 20%’ you didn’t do a very good job of explaining it. Because this is what you said in your comment:

Plus, I’ve got to be a devil’s advocate and ad, you know times are hard, some people just don’t have money. Tipping is seemed as an “added” price (I went out for Mother’s Day, the bill was $84 or something like that. With the tip — which they addded automatically, it came up to $84.

I also kinda feel likes this discussion caters to the wealthy. Because the poor or middle class are figuring out what they’re going to eat and how much they can spend on it, while those who have it, are figuring out what should they tip. If you don’t have any money, tipping is not an option

That’s not ‘we only tip 10%’ or ”we can’t tip a full 20%’, that’s a comment that says ‘tipping is for rich people, because poor people can’t afford to tip at all. Which seems to be exactly the message Selena and I both took away from your comments.

As for tips included in the bills, for many years its been standard at certain places and on certain occasions — I know many restaurants auto-calculate tips on holidays (like Mother’s Day) to keep their servers from being boned on their busiest days, on parties over a certain size (usually 8 or more), and at some very high end places — all with the eye towards making sure the servers get properly compensated. (There’s been a couple of studies that note that wealthier patrons are worse tippers than middle and lower class patrons.)

It’s okay to ask for clarification to ensure you’re getting me. I explained it further in my ensuing responses and I think you are at least understanding me better now?

That’s not ‘we only tip 10%’ or ”we can’t tip a full 20%’, that’s a comment that says ‘tipping is for rich people, because poor people can’t afford to tip at all. Which seems to be exactly the message Selena and I both took away from your comments.

I’m not responsible for the way you or anyone else took the comment. I can attempt to explain better but you can always take it any way you choose. Also, I’m not sure who you’re referring to by “we” in that sentence. If I wanted to say tipping is for rich people, I would have said that.

I was remarking that poor/middle class don’t usually discuss how much they SHOULD tip, they just tip what they have, which is exactly what I said, but it seems you were reading into it. I usually just say what I mean.

At the risk of being redundant, some people don’t tip 20, 15, 10, 5 or even 1% because they don’t have it. Maybe not consistently or regularly, but maybe on a particular day they just didn’t have it. Some people don’t always have it.

(There’s been a couple of studies that note that wealthier patrons are worse tippers than middle and lower class patrons.)

That doesn’t surprise me. Those same studies show that middle/poor pay their bills more consistently than the rich, (which is why they are often targeted for high risk loans and high rate credit cards ).

I worked in the legal field for over 20 years. IMO, attorneys are the worst — many refuse to pay their bills and my observation of some rich is they seem to be so used to being compt’ed and given perks, that they’ve developed this expectation that they shouldn’t have to pay their fair share of anything.

Thus leads me back to my main point, the people who should listen to this article will most likely not even read it, because they just don’t care. They have a sense of entitlement and they expect to get a lot for a little.

As the author of the article I would first say that I am FLOORED by the conversation that this has started up.

I would definitely like to make myself clear on some points. Personally, I don’t do what I do for a table because of the tips. At the place I work now, we split tips between every waiter who is on staff, so even if you do tip me 20% I might only receive 5% of it. I enjoy making a table feel comfortable. I enjoy making sure that their meal and their experience is what they want. I wasn’t necessarily speaking to people who don’t tip because I know full and well that some people (and I can spot them from a mile away) that don’t tip well no matter what. This past Sunday I had a group of 9 elderly women who all made sure that I knew I had exactly 9 dollars waiting for me at the table (they each left me a dollar). But they said it with kindness and serving them was very enjoyable, despite the lousy tip.

I think if any person-no matter class standing-is going out to eat where they will be served, they should know that a tip (of any amount) is expected. I think this standard especially applies to those who work minimum wage jobs and are working hard to keep a balanced budget and maintain a household. If anything they should relate to and empathize with the person who is taking care of them. I don’t expect 20%. I would feel better about being treated like a person and getting a 10% tip then snarling at me and then leaving a hefty tip.

I had a woman who sent me to get her a different fork 4 times because the middle tine was just barely out of line with the other. She declared that “all of our forks” were like that and when I politely said I would get her another she brushed me off and gave me a passive aggressive “No it’s fine.” It was her friend, who I’m pretty sure was embarrassed by her friends behavior, that said, “Yes please bring her another.” These women were rude and made me feel small. However, they left a satisfactory tip. But I didn’t care. I never wanted them to come back. And I definitely wanted to poke her in the arm with the out of line fork.

I work and live in a small college town. It’s not a four star restaurant but a locally owned and operated place where they serve breakfast all day and specialty dinners at night. It’s a place where they not only have us split tips but they take 3% off of our credit card tips as a punishment for “past theft from the drawer.” It’s not all about the tips. It’s about treating people like people. It’s an idea that should transcend all positions, classes, races, religions etc. etc. But alas, I’m falling too far into idealism…

I’ve been a server for over 5 years now and am firmly in the 20% tip range but I understand those who’ve never been servers still being in the traditional 15%. The thing that irritates me the most are customers who fail to make the distinction between server and servant. These are the customers who treat you like someone less than human with sub par intelligence.I’ve actually had a woman say to me that I could wrap up her leftover scraps and give them to the bus boy to eat for his dinner(p.s. the dinners here average about $8, so swanky it ain’t). Or why yes I heard your drink order at the table I even wrote it down but thanks for yelling it across the restaurant. Or people who yell for something and or come and tap my shoulder when I am with another customer getting their order, I mean its not like I was standing around doing nothing and/or purposefully ignoring them. Or people who are floored that the extra sides they ordered have an extra price and then demand I change the price for them. I know this apron and men’s sized polo gives the illusion of power but I am not actually in charge of anything including how much an extra side of salsa costs
Lately I’ve found it hard to switch gears from my new job teaching in the AM back to serving in the PM. As a teacher I’m constantly correcting students on their rude or obnoxious behaviors but as a server I have to not only tolerate it but smile about it too. I find myself biting my tongue from telling the customers the appropriate way to act, so far so good but I’ve been real close. Any one else been in a situation like this? Tips for switching gears?

This is a little off topic, but does anyone else think that the system is flawed if we’ve gone from a 15% rule to a 20% rule on tipping? I totally understand that servers are underpaid and need the 20% to make a decent living. But at least where I live the menu prices have pretty much doubled on everything in most restaurants, rising much faster than inflation. If they’re charging $20 for a hamburger, why are these profits not being passed on to the servers? I personally wouldn’t mind high restaurant prices (and the ability to tip at my discretion) if I knew that the servers were making a decent wage prior to tips.

I agree with you there, seems like servers are getting screwed by the restaurant. Maybe it’s just that the economy is so bad, and that’s why the restaurant doesn’t pass on the profit to the servers??? I don’t know. Maybe the whole salary based on tip thing might be out dated. However, my father was a server in a five star Italian restaurant for over 30 years. On certain nights he’d make over hundreds of dollars in tips. His motto was if you give the customer what they want, they will tip you.

I agree with this, and I think it’s particularly difficult in the US where I often struggle to remember the high-tipping culture (tipping bartenders, for example; I’ve never lived anywhere else where one is expected to tip bartenders). Here in the UK, people tend only to go above 10% for particularly good service, and I’ve lived in some countries where tipping isn’t expected at all unless the service is exceptional. I would much rather pay higher prices upfront and know that all restaurant staff are paid a living wage, than feel blackmailed into giving what (to a non-American) feels like gigantic tip for even mediocre service. It’s frankly cruel to force servers to live on earnings that they can’t possibly guarantee, since tipping remains totally up to the whim of the individual customer. You can’t run out of a restaurant without paying a bill (well, you can, though I did once see a waiter in a Parisian restaurant chase a non-paying patron down a crowded street), but you can certainly leave without tipping.

I think what makes me so uncomfortable is this whole social etiquette system, in which tipping has become (socially) mandatory and the Right Thing To Do. This is a damn good thing for servers in the short term, but in the long term I feel like it actually serves to justify an inherently unfair, cruel system by putting all the onus on individuals rather than on the company (ie the restaurant) to treat its employees humanely. We blame the mean customers who don’t tip, when the real fault lies with a system that expects servers to work their butts off for practically nothing and to be grateful for it, too, lest they annoy the gracious tip-giving customers. Damn capitalism!

Tipping bartenders is a new one for me, too. I’ll admit i don’t often find myself in bars but tipping in general is by no means the same here (UK) as it appears to be in the US. I’d definitely feel more comfortable paying more in a restaurant than having to figure out a suitable tip.

On that note, my husband and i were on a date last year and surprised when the bill came and there was a space left on the bill specifically for the tip. We did leave 10% but it took a few minutes of discussion to get there.

Out of interest, for those from a culture where tipping is a non-negotiable expectation, is tipping expected in every food serving situation?

Pretty much. Many people don’t tip for take-out orders, but 10% is often stated as the “suggested” amount. You tip delivery drivers, waitstaff, and bartenders. Counter service restaurants and coffee shops (like Subway or Starbucks) may have tip jars out, but those employees are generally paid the regualr minimum wage ($7.40/hr. in my state right now) as opposed to the server minimum wage ($2.89/hr in my state).

The Mister refuses to tip delivery people, under the theory that a) where we live they don’t make waiter/waitress wages, they at least get minimum wage, and b) pretty much everywhere includes a “delivery charge” that he assumes gets passed on to the delivery person. If I greet them at the door, I always try to slip them at least a couple of bucks because a) they’re coming all the way to our house, not just a table at the restaurant, b) knowing the way capitalism works, the delivery charge probably goes right back to the company and not to the actual drivers, c) it’s usually rainy or crappy, which is why we’ve gotten delivery instead of picking it up ourselves, and d) they take way longer to get to our house if I don’t tip them regularly.

I definitely see his point about delivery people, but on the same token, it’s expected. (My particular pet peeve is tipping bartenders. A dollar a drink, when I’ve ordered a club soda with lime that took three seconds to pour and only costs a dollar itself?!) The Mister a pretty stingy tipper in general, though, because he thinks the system is not fair. He’s not cheap, and I know he wouldn’t mind an extra $10 tacked onto the bill for overhead costs to go to salary; it’s the principle of forced tipping that bugs him. And he’s right – it’s not fair! But it’s how the system works. I feel like if enough people stopped tipping, then there would be a critical mass for waitstaff to rise up and call for major changes, on a scale that’s not happening now. And yet, in the interim, it’s not fair to do that to them.

That’s totally how I feel as well. I always wind up tipping, because it’s cruel to the individual server if I don’t, but I hate the system that makes it my responsibility (rather than, you know, the employer’s) to ensure that the server earns a fair wage. It benefits the restaurant, but it sure as hell doesn’t benefit either the server or the customer.

Not only that, we now tip hair stylists, massage therapists, babysitters and just about anyone else who provides a service. It’s confusing and ends up being unfair to the person providing the service if their employers expect them to be tipped but their customers aren’t sure of those expectations. I really think we should just pay people what they’re worth and do away with all of this business.

I totally agree. Personal is political and all. I would much rather pay a higher upfront cost, and then tip for good service, than feel responsible for paying a server’s wages, which is essentially what the US culture is. (I’d also rather pay higher taxes and guarantee a social welfare net, but that’s an argument for another day…).

Tipping a barperson was bizarre to me, too, when I lived in the US.

Here (Ireland), I tip 10% for good service at a sit-down restaurant, maybe 15% if it’s a big table or they did something extra. I also round up a taxi fare or delivery food order, and I’ll tip my hairdresser for a major cut/colour. Otherwise, no, and it’s not really expected.

Thanks for this. I’ve never worked in food service, and it seems that those who have are more generous tippers. I had always heard the 15% rule (18-20% if I think the service was exceptional) and I’m only recently hearing servers say that 20% is what’s expected/needed by servers, so I am trying to adjust in my mind that 20% is more appropriate.
I never reduce my tip for poor or mediocre food, since it’s my understanding that it’s pretty much never the server’s fault. And that’s one that I think is important, because I hear people a lot of time blaming a server or not tipping bc food was bad, and that seems unfair.

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