On Tipping, or, “Give me your money or I spit in your salad!”

Posted: September 13, 2006 in Rants, Utter Inshanity!

“When that extra something isn’t quite enough”
Waiter groups try to get word out on the etiquette of proper tipping

I stumbled across the above article on MSNBC.com, and was a bit irked at some of the things I read. 

In some states, restaurants are only legally required to pay as little as $2 or $3 an hour. So if a server earns $30 in tips on a bad night, he could feasibly walk out having earned less than minimum wage after tipping out the bartender and busboys (a common practice in most restaurants). 

So then, if the practice is for the restaurant owner to pay such appallingly low wages based on the assumption that customer tips will make up the difference, then in essence, I am paying the bulk of my server’s wages.  In a way, I become his or her employer.  The money I pay on the bill itself is strictly for the food, beverages, and ambiance.  The expectation of an additional 15-20% in payment to my server, then, constitutes a payment for the actual service, separate from the food. An informal contract, if you will, between server and served.

While most restaurants already charge an automatic service fee for large parties, at least one restaurant began the practice of charging an automatic 20 percent gratuity, or “autograt,” as it is sometimes called, on every check. 

Making the gratuity mandatory takes away my latitude to decide what to pay based on the quality of service.  It is no longer a “tip,” it’s a “fee.” 

It wasn’t that long ago that a 10% tip was the going rate.  Then a few years ago, someone somewhere magically upped it to 15%.  Now the going rate is supposed to be a whopping 20% of the bill.  How is it that the people who are set to benefit the most from the policy are the ones who get to make it?  Sounds like the Federal Government or something. 

If I am paying for a service, then I expect service.  I expect my server to be solicitous and polite.  Courteous, friendly, and attentive.  I expect to have someone hand me menus or offer me water glasses within a few minutes of sitting down, if not immediately.  I expect to see my server at regular intervals, not just at ordering time.  I expect not to have to chase down the check after waiting for 20 minutes past when I am CLEARLY done with my meal.

I have long known that you don’t scrimp on a tip because the food was bad.  That isn’t the waiter’s fault.  But at the same time, I don’t hold for one second that I should fork over another 20% in gratuity “just because.”

If you are rude, or roll your eyes at me when I want the dressing on the side, your tip suffers.  If I watch tumbleweeds roll by my table before I ever see you again, the tip will reflect it.  If tips are a wage, then I expect you to be a good employee.

These days I see tip jars everwhere, from the latte stand to the counter at Baskin-Robbins.  I’m sorry, but if the grand total of your effort was to spend 2 minutes frothing up some hot milk and espresso, for which I am then charged $3.50, I don’t see dropping in a another dollar, and making my drink essentially cost $4.50, just because you managed to get me my order without burning yourself.  If I pay you a dollar for 2 minutes worth of work, that’s $30 an hour.  To. make. coffee.  Uh huh. Yeah.

However, if I take my coffee, and sample a drink, and find that it is piping hot without being scalding, that it’s well-brewed without tasting burnt, and that it was made to my exacting specifications, THEN, and ONLY then will I drop 50 cents in your tip jar.  On a $3.50 drink, that’s about 15%.  More than enough.

I realize and empathize with the fact that waiters and waitresses bust their collective humps to make a living, and that they rely heavily on what they make on tips to bring in a decent wage.  But the idea that I should fork over a $20 tip on a $100 dollar meal just because the United Waiter’s Union says so just doesn’t fly with me.  I pay good servers well; and if you suck, well then I’m going to send you a message with a whopping 10%, or less. 

Then there’s this: 

To level the playing field, waiters are taking action. Some are resorting to guerrilla tactics — it’s not uncommon for waiters to personally confront stingy tippers, or to blog about them on sites such as WaiterRant.Net. 

If I am required, on threat of physical confrontation, or my name on some web-stalking waiter’s blog because I didn’t tip enough, then that’s not payment; it’s extortion.  Protection money hidden beneath a thin veneer of respectability. 

You want my money?  Earn it.  Or find some other line of work, beyotch.


Now, I don’t want that it should be thought that I walk into the average eatery with a chip on my shoulder, like some arrogant, yuppie schmuck due his “entitlements.”  I walk in expecting good, solid service.  And I tip 15% as a baseline.  But good gawed, man.  For 20-effin-percent, I’d better also get a hot towel, a foot massage, and a delightful parting gift.  Sheesh.

  1. Joe says:

    Wow…I can find nothing to disagree with in this post! Good job and stick it to da man Steve!

  2. Two Dogs says:

    Oh, I see plenty with which to disagree. I think that if I ever went to a bistro that tried to charge me an automatic gratuity, I would pay cash and back out that percentage. Plus, I would most definitely say something to the manager. And this comes from someone that eats out every meal and has great relationships with all of my regular servers.

    Death to the minimum wage, baby.

  3. Joe says:

    I meant I agree with Steve.

    And viva la minimum wage bebe!

  4. Steve B says:

    I meant I agree with Steve.

    Whoa! Let me get a screen capture of THAT!

  5. Joe says:

    lol…my hands trembled as I typed that…tears welled up im my eyes…and I have yet to regain my sense of smell. Thanks a lot Steve! lol

  6. kontan says:

    put the stack of 1’s on the table…take one away for bad service…add one for good (forget what sitcom that was on, but sounds like a plan)

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