The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why We Tip

Being the bored person that I am, I came across this question on the "bitterwaitress" message board.

"I just wonder how it came about that a restaurant owner can expect to pay his staff much less than what their work is worth, and expect the customers to subsidize the rest?"

Thus questioning the reasons behind tipping, not withstanding if the service is good or bad, but why the customer is expected to pay tipped employees out of their own pockets in general.

Because some owner somewhere figured out that by government laws people getting tips already, would be eligible for a lower wage under the law.

Now I make between $18-25/ hour including both tips and my 3.09/hour.

To keep me working at a place without tips they would basically need to pay me the mean of this, say an even $20/hour.

Of course the pay for any service job is paid by the consumer, it's just figured into your bill, which you don't realize it much of the time.

ie: Half the cost of fixing your brakes is used to pay the mechanic, or part of the cost of going to the dentist pays his assistant and receptionist.

I bet you don't contest your dental bill because you waited, or will only pay for the parts on your mechanic bill because the service was rude, do you?

The problem with this is the employer can take as much as he wants out of this for himself, and pay the help as little as he wants to or can get away with to increase his profit margin.

That doesn't always happen, many receive their just due...

However, in the restaurant business most owners and managers would just keep the money for themselves if this happened, thus guaranteeing us a much lower wage.

Basically because this business is based on greed, be it a servers tips, a managers bonus, or an owners profit.

Perhaps 9 bucks/hour is what they would pay us if tipping were was nonexistent.

You may think that that pay is worthy of a job like waiting tables, after all in your mind anyone can do it. (Ha, you try it)

But see what kind of service you get if that happens, slow and uncaring, forgetful, and rude.

That is because any incentive is taken out of that work.

That is why you have a longer wait at the dentist, but a hotel receptionist is motivated by money, and will get you in a bit faster with less hassle, for a little grease on the wheels of course.

If you think your server is friendly and efficient because he likes you or loves his job, well you probably are wrong.

We do what we do for cash, do you do your job because you love it?

No, you do it mostly for the money, even though there are periods when you may enjoy it.

So the reason tipping is in existence, well its because no owner really wants to pay us, they expect you to.

If you don't, its really no skin off their backs, it doesn't cost them money.

But the general custom is you do tip for service, so they don't pay us a fair wage to live on without tips.

If you're one of those people who don't tip, or don't tip well just on principal you probably believe this...

That its not your problem what we get paid, we are there you service you, because that is our job.

Well expect shitty service...

Because we'll remember you and treat you accordingly...

And remember what Jesus said...

"Treat others as you would have them treat you."

You wouldn't want to make Jesus mad...

Would you?


At 5:43 PM , Anonymous Casey9C said...

An interesting piece, but you're missing half the equation.

You said: "Basically because this business is based on greed, be it a servers tips, a managers bonus, or an owners profit."

This is true of all capitalist businesses. What you are missing in your analysis is the other influence of greed.

You see, if we both have a restaurant with identical prices, decor, and service, how do I increase myrevenue? By LOWERING prices to lure some of your clientele!

Thus, in the capatalist market, greed is controlled by COMPETITION...which is why when the government allows monopolies, prices go to hell.

So, without tipping, equilibrium would re-settle after a time. Good waiters would find higher paying jobs (just as they find higher tipping jobs) and things would return to about as they are now.

At 5:49 PM , Anonymous the em said...

A bit of constructive criticism, if it's ok.

Your posts are interesting and you have a pretty good style. You could improve a bit by being careful with homonyms. In particular, I noticed "their" for "they're" a couple of times, and "breaks" for "brakes".


At 6:05 PM , Blogger Carl from L.A. said...

You tip because someone goes out of their way to work for you. It's the waiters' job to take your order and bring you the food, but it's not their job to help you "make your movie", or to help you celebrate a birthday, or to even treat you like their best friend. As a matter of fact, the waiters earn their tips just to get your food on your table, because you don't have to remind the cooks to get your order going, you don't have to slip and slide through the slippery kitchen floor, and you don't have to make sure that the food is run to your table, piping hot (where applicable).

At 7:22 PM , Anonymous TheInsaneServer said...

Casey9C, I'm afraid I'll have to respectfully disagre with you on your comment...

First if people were only worried about price, they would just go for fast food.

The catalyst I believe is service, that is the way to lure customers from a competitor.

High end restaurants like the one I work at get their clientel from a demographic that doesn't care about price, they care about both good food and great service. That's why they go there, they could go to Applebees and spent a third the price, but recieve a lower product and inferior service.

On the second point if all the good servers go to better jobs, who would be left? Shitty servers who would make your dining experience worthless.

The better servers would not stand for making a lower wage, and yes move to different jobs.

At 9:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i work in a restaurant in Australia. As a general rule, we dont tip here. Some people will leave spare change or tip if they had amazing service but tips are not standard. And you know what? It works. Service is usually fantastic. Everyone is paid a fair wage. The owner still makes money.

If the owner is not happy with the waitress' service/attitude or the waitress not happy with the money they receive, then the waitress is fired or quits.

At 9:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's pretty simple really...I tip based on my server. If it's busy and I have to wait a few extra minutes for my order, then so be it. If my server is running around serving their other tables, then they're doing their job. As long as my food gets there, they are respectful when they speak to me, and if there IS a long delay, they take a second to apologize and inform us, the server is going to get a tip.

On the other hand, if it's a slow night and I see my server standing around talking and my order is late...they might expect to get a couple dollars in pennies. Espeically, if they offer no reason for the food being late or make an attempt to refill beverages and the like.

I'm not picky, I've worked in a restaurant...if the server is respectful and doing THEIR best to see that we're taken care of, they're going to get a deserving tip, end of story.

At 12:02 AM , Anonymous TheInsaneWaiter said...


That's all I ask...

At 10:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

you sound like you think most people get paid your types of wages...
the people at McD's get paid min. wage, and they're still doing it.
if they didn't want to get that wage, they'd quit and move on.

paying you $8-$10/hour by the owners, instead of depending on tips from clients isn't a bad gig.
i know waiting is hard.
but don't degrade what people at McD's do, for a hell of a lot less...

as for the higher end resturants, they would be able to afford to pay their servers higher end wages.. if they want better servers, then they could pay for them.

people think they should automatically get a tip, even if the service is horrible, since you're only getting paid $3 an hour.
no thanks.

why not make the tip what it's supposed to be about?

At 6:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

People at McDonalds stand at a cash register and hand you a bag or tray of food. They don't come to you, take your order, bring you your beverages and appetizers, then bring you your meal and stop to check on you periodically getting you things you need. Then get you dessert if you want it and then figure your check for you.

A server has to be on their feet going back and forth from the kitchen to the tables all night, getting food, drinks, condiments and the like for customers. They do MUCH more than simpily punch in your order and send you on your way. Which is why it's POLITE to offer them a tip when they earn it.

That is by no means degrading people at McDonalds, just pointing out that standing at a register is much different than being a server.

At 7:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in Canada and had no idea that restaurant servers in the USA got such a low wage!!! I believe that the minimum wage here applies whether you work in a restaurant, retail, or whatever.

$3.09/hr really sucks and is clearly wrong, IMO.

At 10:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay, my McD's point was that there is much more to the job than just "standing at a register and punching stuff in"...

in actuality i was thinking more of coffee shop workers.. people at starbucks, and such..

there's much more involved in some jobs than meet the eye. it's not just about 'punching things in'..

it's about ensuring the cusotmer gets what they want. ensuring the place is clean, everything is stocked and line is moving quickly, staffed and efficiently...

my whole point though, was that people will do things for less money than $20 an hour (as the waiter expressed the only way he'd do his job...)
and do it well...for much, much less.
even if we don't tip them.

At 10:15 AM , Anonymous Some dude said...

A point that is overlooked many times in the tip, no tip, argument is that with no tips the food prices will go up way higher to afford your service staff that is now an hourly employee (they have to be paid when the restaurant is busy or not, and the customer will have to carry that burden).

Hey, I hate paying tips, I'm as cheap as they get, but I would rather directly reward a server 20 plus percent rather than pay a much higher dinner bill no matter what the service is like.

What's nice about tips is that the server will get a reward immediately for a good job, not after begging the restaurant manager for a raise and trying to build a case for a higher hourly wage.

At 3:59 PM , Blogger curious servant said...

I've been a dishwasher, busboy, head cook, and a waiter. Here's my take:

1. It's hard work.

2. It a team effort and the best situations the wait staff tip the kitchen staff.

3. People are jerks and saints. Like you said, they are remembered and tend to receive the service they pay for in the long run.

4. I like the tipping system as it rewards more fairly that an employer tends to do. I tend to tip higher than most, probably because I have been on the other side of the apron.

5. McD's is an entry level job. OK for teens saving for an iPod, but not for someone trying to make a living. In general the minimum wage should be raised so an eight hour day can pay for a crummy apartment and enough to eat.

6. If you dont feel you can afford to eat at your favorite restaurant considering a 20% tip, then you should go somewhere else (or eat at home) and save up for the big night out. Seriously folks, America is filled with people who truly do not understand how tough it is in the rest of the world and whining about a tip should be WAY DOWN on your pet peeve list.

At 3:14 AM , Anonymous TheInsaneServer said...

Wonderful!!! Comments!!

At 6:02 PM , Blogger Aliecat said...

I used to live in South Dakota and worked as a deli clerk in a restauraunt, and the norm in SD is to pay half of the minimum wage plus tips, plus the tips are taxed. Then I moved to Mnpls where servers are guaranteed minimum wage. I'm not less inclined to tip here than in SD. It's hard work to wait tables and I'm more than happy to tip. I even tip when the service is bad (although I don't tip very much in those situations). People who don't believe in tipping should try waiting tables, cutting hair, or being a valet, and see how they like getting a $30 paycheck at the end of the week.

At 4:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, I think everyone should have to work a service job at some point in their life. They'd be less asshole about things and tips would improve. I started tipping exorbitantly after I started bartending.

Secondly, I am in Australia as well, minimum wage is around 16/hour with tips on top of it. People seldom tip but at the same time I seldom get bad service. I give good service because I work hard and that's my job. Yes, if I think I'm going to get money, I might do a little bit extra, but you will always get courteous service and I will try and make your visit to my restaurant the best I can, because that's what I get paid to do and I take pride in my work. On a night I make 15 or a night I make 50 in tips, the service is usually pretty much even.

At 6:34 AM , Anonymous Clyde said...

If you think you are getting "service" at McD's then you must not dine out very much. Take that 16-year-old kid at McD's and put him/her in a busy high-end restaurant and have them wait on you and see what kind of service you get. Good luck.

At 5:12 PM , Anonymous LaughingJack said...

I used to have a boss (when I worked in a coffee shop) who would take us out to dinner. Now he was part owner of the shop along with his parents, but had never as long as I had known him (several years) actually interfaced with a customer. So, when we would go out to dinner after a long shift, say to Denny's or whatever, (ugh) he'd take along a roll of quarters.

When the waiter/waitress would show up to take our drink order he'd unroll the quarters on the table and say "This represents your tip, if my glass gets low, or I have to ask you for something twice, depending on the infraction, I will remove some of the money you see here. How much tip you get is up to you."

After about the 2nd time I realized he did this a lot and I stopped going out with him and the crew, because really I didn't think it was right and I was wondering what they did to his food, and mine. He was really a jerk after all and pretty soon his parents asked him to stop managing the employees and take over the books because the turn over rate was too high.

At 7:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i ALWAYS leave a great tip - if they're good, they'll remember me and if not, I'll remember them.

usually they remember and they also remember i'm not a difficult table to deal with.

At 7:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i ALWAYS leave a great tip - if they're good, they'll remember me and if not, I'll remember them.

usually they remember and they also remember i'm not a difficult table to deal with.

At 12:56 AM , Blogger Beth said...

I've been in the restaurant business for over ten years, most of those years as a server. Let me explain some things! Your tips pay my bills!! I receive $2.84 an hour, am offerded no insurance and work crazy hours on my feet waiting on inconsiderate, rude individuals with absoultely no concept of how hard my job really is! If you cannot afford to tip well then you should not be dining out at all. Please do not assume that restaurant workers are stupid or uneducated because the majority of us are serving as a side gig to our "professional" jobs or paying our way through college. Oh and I am a damn good server who does her job quite well. Please do not walk into my restaurant and critize my performance. I would never walk in your cubical and tell you to type faster or yell because you're scarfing down donuts while downloading "illegal" porn.

At 12:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been working in restaurants for a few years. It is HARD WORK! I am on your feet, walking or running for hours on end. I am carrying heavy trays of food, lifting buckets of ice, etc-- and I am a small girl. I burn yourself on hot plates of food constantly over the course of the night so that the guest does not. Most of the nerve endings in my fingers have been burned off. A server typically has to provide service to multiple tables at once, keep up with his or her sidework, and run food out to the tables. And during all of this, let me show one sign of discomfort, I am accused of being "unpleasant". At the end of a shift, I am sore, sweaty, and exhausted, and my face hurts from smiling in the faces of rude people. And for this, I get paid $2.13 an hour.

$2.13 an hour does not pay my car insurance, cell phone bill, or for my college education. You-- the restaurant guest-- do. So you may complain about how it's not your responsibilty to pay me, and leave a low (and FYI: 15% is an average tip. I consider "low" to be 10% or less) tip after I have provided excellent service, you are not making a statement to the industry, you are hurting ME, your server. The one who made sure your glass of tea was full, apologized profusely and corrected your order after it was made wrong, brought you bowl after bowl of bread, and smiled and said "Thank you, have a good night!" instead of "Go fornicate yourself with a hot poker" when you dicked me over on the tip.

Just something to think about.

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At 1:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shitty attitude!

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