7 Tips for Tipping Well

Quick! What’s the most contentious issue one could bring up at a dinner party that will cause men to shriek in terror and the vein in a woman’s forehead to bulge in anger? What about the topic that’s sure to sever families, to divide nations, and to end civilizations? What is the talking point that is truly the darkest in all of human conversation? That’s right. Tipping.

I told you.

I warned you.

What is it about tipping that infuriates so many people? Make a post about tipping on a popular website with a comments section, and you’re sure to attract a diverse crowd eager to tell you why you are wrong.

This is what happens. A server tells a friend that she thinks people should tip her well for offering good service (a comment that in itself isn’t inherently bad). That friend immediately thinks of the worst server he has ever possibly had where the server messed up orders, was slow bringing food out and had a rotten attitude. The server then requests 20% for doing absolutely no work. He gets angry responding back that she shouldn’t feel entitled to his money.

She immediately thinks of the worst customer she’s ever had involving more rudeness, demanding attitudes, demeaning commands and vulgar complaints. Essentially, she thinks of the one table she had in the past where she was over the top polite, where everything was perfectly on time, where she did no wrong, and she was still left no tip. She gets angry and yells back that he shouldn’t act entitled where he’s the master of the universe and she’s his slave. And so it begins.

Unfortunately, these raging arguments obscure a lot of the real information about tipping and end up deepening the division between the server and the customer.  So listen up, and I’ll share with you some tips to help you tip well.

1. Servers Earn Less Than Minimum Wage

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but servers don’t earn minimum wage, and, in fact, the federal minimum wage for servers is actually $2.13 an hour. How is that possible you say? Because the server is expected to earn tips, his employer is legally allowed to pay him less than minimum wage. Servers don’t take your tip and turn around and make the same minimum wage that everyone else does. In fact, this minimum wage is typically just enough to cover taxes and nothing more. Therefore, the server is even more dependent on your tip.

2. Serving is Actually Pretty Stressful

Rare are the days where servers stand around waiting for customers to walk in the door. On a given weekend, a server juggles 20+ jobs attempting to pace your meal, to refill your drinks, to clear your plates, to assure the accuracy of your order, to make you happy,  and….on and on. They deal with the public one minute, and then have to deal with the kitchen to get your food out. Servers deal with kitchen staff yelling at them and their own customers yelling at them. It’s emotionally draining.

3. Tip on the Gross

I understand. You looked at the biggest number on your check, and wishing to be a good person and help your server out, you tipped 20% on the biggest number you saw. Unfortunately, you may have actually just tipped your server a lot less than that. When you use gift cards and coupons or when items are taken off your bill, it does indeed cut down the price of the bill you have to pay but it doesn’t change the amount of food you ordered and the cost to the company. This can be potentially bad for the server if the restaurant uses…

4. Tip Share

In some restaurants, the servers don’t get to take home the entire tip you give them. At the place I work, servers have to give their hosts, bussers, and bartenders 3% of their sales regardless of how much the customer paid. Let’s say you had a $90 check. Because of a combination of coupons and comps, you, as the customer, only have to pay $40. You quickly jot down a tip of $4 and rush out the door. Because of the server’s tip share, he has to tip $2.70 out for your table, leaving him with $1.30 on a $90 check.

5. Tipping isn’t Required; But it’s Highly Expected

It should come as no surprise to anyone that tipping is not required. Despite what other servers may have you believe, you do not have to tip a certain percentage to get great service or even just to go out and to eat. A great server should give you great service regardless of whether you tip well or not. However, do understand that because of the minimum wage I mentioned earlier, they rely on your tip to make a living. It’s very important to leave something, because…

6. When You Don’t Tip, It Also Hurts Our Self-Esteem

While it’s not the most masculine thing to say, it is probably the most truthful. Do you remember that nerdy guy in high school who followed the popular girl around? He would hold her books for her, laugh at all of her jokes, and give her all the compliments he could possibly come up with just so that she might give him the time of day. But it never happened. That’s what being a server is like. When servers pour out all of their effort to make you happy and you return the favor by leaving no tip, it eats us up inside, and it’s mainly due to the fact that we are trained to believe…

7. A 20% Tip is Standard for Excellent Service

As much as you may dislike it, this is what the majority of Americans follow as a guideline for tipping. 20% for excellent service and 15% for standard service. Unfortunately, this means that when servers get less than 20%, they immediately attempt to figure out where they went wrong in the service, often over analyzing mistakes and shortcomings.

I give you all this information not to force you into tipping your server more than he/she deserves, but rather, because I believe that a lot of bad tipping is made out of ignorance. Hopefully, you will understand what servers go through to give you a great dining experience and you will feel good about leaving a great tip.

Photo Credit: Alex Akopyan via Compfight cc

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3 responses to “7 Tips for Tipping Well

  1. Pingback: 10 Little Things Servers Want You To Know | A Crown for Ashes·

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