I’ve been a server in several different locations and I’ve also been a customer at various restaurants. I also live in the Philadelphia area, which is the highest-tipping city in the United States. I was raised with the philosophy that you shouldn’t go out to eat if you can’t afford a high tip in the case of good service. When I receive good service, I do provide high tips.
Here are some problems I noticed with the tipping system recently and how people approach it:
Tips are supposed to be additional funds provided by customers for exceptional service. As a customer, I have the right not to tip you (and even complain about you) if you are rude or neglect to attend to the needs of my table. As a server and barista, I needed tips. Therefore, I worked for them. However, there is a certain danger in expecting tips because tips are supposed to be an extra appreciation for a job well done. If I did a poor job, I didn’t expect a tip.
Servers can do really well, but most of their money usually comes from tips. This is something that customers understand, but what they don’t realize is that it’s actually legal for restaurants to pay servers just a few dollars per hour because their tips are so high and that servers are also legally required to report their tips. If everyone is operating legally, that means your server probably isn’t making as much as you think. Considering most people tip poorly, I think restaurants should be required to pay minimum wage to servers who do not make a living wage when tips are included-per day. If a server is there for an eight-hour shift and it’s a slow day, she should at least make a living wage.
Gratuity Added in for Large Parties
This is one idea that I can’t stand. When I was younger, I remember dining out at the Jersey Shore with my relatives. My grandfather and great uncle would usually fight with each other over paying the check and one of them would end up covering it while the other would leave a substantial tip if the service was good.
The amount they left was probably usually 20 percent or over. However, I still believe that a tip is still a tip (and reserved for exceptional service), so I think it is offensive to the customer when restaurants automatically charge for additional gratuity. I understand that restaurants are trying to protect their servers, but I consider it offensive, especially when I am collecting everyone’s cash and putting the full bill on my credit card.
My husband and I also used to frequent a Japanese hibachi restaurant that offered serious discounts. The restaurant’s literature politely reminded us to consider tipping servers before discount price. Because this was printed on all of the checks and literature, I felt it to be inoffensive. It wasn’t automatically added in at the register; there was a restaurant-customer trust there because the decision was still left to the customer.
Bad Service, Bad Tip
In my entire dining life as a customer, I’ve stiffed servers twice (as I write restaurant reviews, I also dine out more than most). I’ve also left tips below 15 percent. This is because I firmly believe in leaving tips consistent with the level of service. Things that decrease the tip include: inattentive service, flirtation with my date or me though we are obviously on a date, failure to refill beverages and serving multiple other tables first that were seated after mine. If you want to get stiffed, act completely rude and inattentive. If a server is rude, he does not expect or deserve a tip.
If there is a separate bus-person, you should be sure to hand the manager a tip for her when discussing the problematic server. Also, if your problems were not related to the server (food was bad, other customers were disruptive), tip her based on her performance and how she handled the negative situations. If she removes an item from the menu because it was made wrong, be sure to consider the full amount of the check on the tip.
As a former server and present customer, I feel that tipping is very democratic. It’s extremely merit-based-though there are always exceptions and unhappy customers, you will generally receive higher pay for harder work. At most jobs, you’re required to wait a year or more for a performance evaluation and a pay increase. At a restaurant, you can decide to improve your attitude or service ability on any given day and receive a raise.
Customers also get to have an opinion because they determine the tip amount. As the ‘boss,’ you essentially have the opportunity to provide a performance review on every instance with the power of your wallet.
As long as servers don’t expect tips for sub-par service and customers accept the responsibility of tipping well for exceptional service, I believe the tipping system is beneficial to both parties.