Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Low-Down on Tipping

Waitressing and bartending are a time honored tradition in which a lady or gentleman serve a customer food and beverage and in return the customer shows their gratitude for the service by leaving a gift of cash known as a "tip". Having been in this line of work for a number of years now, I have noticed all sorts of mentality behind tipping and several misconceptions among customers. I have also noticed in these difficult economic times that tipping is really taking a nose dive. So please remember that waiters and waitresses are doing this FOR MONEY, and you may be feeling some financial strain right now, but if you have the money to eat in a full service, then you need to tip. Here is the truth about tipping, and a guide for how you should determine how much to leave.
The very key point that you as the customer that you should be aware of is the following: servers have to pay for you to eat. The IRS expects for a server to make a minimum of 10% of their food and beverage sales. A server has to claim at least that much in tips and be taxed for it. So, if your total bill is $11.87, then I am expected to claim that I made at least a $1.18 tip and then of that the IRS will take approximately %30 of that for themselves. This is the fundamental reason behind tipping and why it is seen as so incredibly rude not to tip. They take money out of our checks whether you leave something or not. This is also why the minimum appropriate tip is perceived as %10 of your total bill. %10 is also a good amount because if this is how you're figuring your tip, it's easy to figure out. It's simply moving the decimal point one place to the left. %10 of a $128.59 bill = $12.85. %10 of a $9.87 bill = $0.99. See, simple. However, read on to gain more insight on reasons why more than %10 is more than fine.
I was once waiting on a grandfather and grandson dining on ice cream sundaes on a Saturday afternoon. I was kind of evesdropping on them, as I often do with my customers, especially since they were cute. The little boy had expressed interest in my job to his grandfather and the gentleman was explaining to the boy how I make my money. "When she waits on people, when they get ready to leave, they leave her a tip. A tip is money. Most people say that a tip which is %10 of the bill is good, but actually, servers expect at least %16. %16 is the actual appropriate and polite amount to leave." Although the little boy really didn't get the percentage business, I actually fell a little in love with that old man. Clearly he had experience in the restaurant business, or a wife, daughter, mother, someone had given him the low down. If you are a person that goes off the bill to determine tip, %16 is the number. This has been the number ever since I've been in this business, but sad few people are aware of that. If you want an easy math trick for figuring it, just go with %20, find the %10 amount and double it. So, for a $128.59 bill, leave about $25.70 or a little less. This will assure that servers talk about what an absolutely fabulous human being you are, and will fall over themselves fighting over who will wait on you next time, and you will get unimaginably great service forever and ever in the future.
Please don't misunderstand that you are expected to tip well regardless of the kind of service that you receive. We're not greedy assholes that expect you to lavish us with gratuity regardless of how we treat you. Just be aware that there is almost no excuse for no tipping. Unless a server is just out right rude to you, then you need to leave a tip. If you receive poor service, ask yourself if there was a reason for it. Was the server really swamped? Was the server clearly new? Was the server being tied up by another problem customer who basically "stole" the server's attention from you? Please take into consideration that most servers are doing absolutely everything in their power to give you great service because they want that tip, and if you don't get the best service there was probably a factor beyond their control involved. So you still really need to tip, maybe just not as much as you normally would. Also, it seems to be a common misconception that if you don't like the food, or if something was wrong with your food that caused you to get your food for free, that you don't need to tip. This is COMPLETELY FALSE. Whether or not the cook screwed up your food has absolutely nothing to do with the server. The cook will still get paid, the server won't if you don't tip. Also, if your bill get's comped, that is probably because the server went to the manager and demanded that your bill get's comped because the cook screwed up, and so really your server got you a free meal. For you to thank her by not tipping is %100 inexcusable. Leave a tip, a big one. Just the other night a customer had to wait a ridiculously long time for a steak because, well, my cook is a lazy prick. I went to the manager and demanded she comp that check before I even took the guy his steak, before he even complained. So when I gave him his steak, I was able to let him know there was no charge. This fabulous man wound up leaving me $6.00. Unfortunately this is usually not the case. Usually they think, "Oh, no bill, no tip!" This is incorrect thinking. The way you should be looking at it is "No bill, big tip!"
Now let us explore shades of gray of tipping and why most servers really don't even abide by the percentage code of tipping ethics anymore. I get $5.00 from parties of one very frequently. Many tipping customers would laugh right out loud if you suggest tipping $5.00 to a waitress for a cheesburger and fries. However, those of you who make a big fanfare out of presenting a one dollar bill to a server as if they should just be eternally grateful to you should know that there are a lot of really good tippers out there and you making your big deal just kind of makes you look like a moron. On average, I receive a minimum of $2 per person at the table. And usually if there is only one, they leave me on average, $3.00. I know, cheap skate tippers are probably reading this and going, "Wow!". Yep it's true, when you leave a dollar, although we are grateful, we think you're a tight ass. For one thing, rarely is $1.00 even ten percent of anyone's bill. For another, other people tip a lot more than that. So at least, if you are going to tip a dollar or less, then skip the fanfare, because we are only snickering behind your back about it.
Here is why people tip so much. Waitressing has become a proffession for teenie boppers. There aren't a lot of us veteran waitresses left that have chosen this as their actual career. Many people doing this are just funding their education to go get another career. So those of us that stick around to do this with our life are very serious about it because we're feeding our kids, we're saving for their college, we're scraping by to pay the mortgage... So, we get exceptionally good at it. We stand out in the sea of bad servers. Sometimes all it takes for me to secure a five dollar tip is to shoot of with the right hilarious comment to the right customer. Or recognizing that someone is lonely or sad and cheering them up. Or making sure that crappy food never even gets to their table. It's all about standing out in the crowd. When you have a stand out waitress, tip her well.
Also, sometimes people are picky, and they know it. I run all over God's green earth for people, some more than others. Usually, people understand that they have been pretty demanding and that I went over and above, or they realize that they didn't have to ask for anything, because I anticipated their every need, then they reward me handsomely. But then there are the others... You know who you are... You ordered with water with 87 lemons so you wouldn't have to pay for lemonade. You ordered toast, with extra butter and peanut butter and jelly... You ordered as many cheap things that come with condiments for free (soup, so you could gorge on crackers, etc.) so that your bill would be as low as possible. You ran me all over the restaurant getting you tea bags, extra napkins, your hot water mug had brown stains in it (wow fancy that, a receptical holding coffee every day for the last forty years having brown stains, amazing), oh you meant to order wheat toast, but you'll keep this white toast while your waiting... And then at the end of this transaction, you know I'm getting a $0.76 tip. Come on, if you are a ridiculous customer, the %10 rule is OUT THE WINDOW. Leave a big tip, or stay home and indulge yourself in your own neurosis privately! PLEASE. Do us all a favor.
One thing I have not yet figured out and that completely blows my mind is the philosophy behind the tipping of people with children. Children are difficult customers. We love them, they're cute and sweet, but they're a pain in the neck to wait on. For one, they ALWAYS leave behind one hell of a mess. They are the pickiest customers out there. They are often noisy and annoy other customers in the section which can affect tipping. Also, parents often allow them to run unattended around the restaurant and we abandon role of waitress and assumed role of parent. I once had a child running wild around my section while I was in the middle of a dead rush who's parents would not say anything to her, and I was forced to try and work around her. However, she ran out under my feet, I dropped my tray, and almost stepped on her. Her parents screamed at me. I wanted to knock the shit out of her mother. And it never fails, parents allow their children to torment you and turn your life into a living hell and then leave $1.00. If that.
I can't figure this out. I have no idea why parents feel like they don't need to tip well just because they have their kids with them. Your kids don't make you a GOOD customer, they make you a BAD customer. Especially if you allow your kids to run wild and exibit absolutely no manners. You will probably cost us tips from other customers as well. So, you need to leave a very good tip, or at very very least, keep your little bundle of joy planted securely in their seat. I have actually had parents who laugh when their child bangs his glass on the table and screams "WAITRESS WAITRESS." Seriously. Get a grip or stay home. My kids wouldn't DARE act like that.
In short, if you'd like to go by a different rule of thumb than the price percentage, leave $2.00 per person at the table and leave your waitress happy. Or leave $2.00 and $1.00 per child (since their bills are less). If you are at a table for a very long time, then you need to leave more money based on the time you spent there, because remember, the server has lost tips because they could've turned that table over were you not there occupying it. If you are just drinking coffee or a beverage, you still need to tip for the service you received and the time you tied up the table. In my particular restaurant, if you occupy the booth for more than a half hour, you cost me, so bare that in mind. No tip is too much. I have been tipped up to $100. So if a server really impresses you, than by all means, let them know! Show them what they're worth!
In conclusion, I'll leave you with this little story. I once over heard one customer tell his companion, who was trying to fish some loose change out of his pocket for a tip "don't leave her loose change, they think that's insulting, they'd rather you not leave anything." That is the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. Are you insane? Not tipping is insulting. Even if it's $0.18, a piece of lint and a mento, LEAVE A TIP!