There is no secret in saying that having a job and getting paid is a crucial factor for the life of the average person. People go to work to earn their well-deserved salary and sustain themselves. Simple enough, right? The idea changes, though, when tipping becomes a large part of a profession’s pay. The job becomes more demanding, the pressure increases, and chances often play a bigger role than they should in their salary.
Waiters are the most common example of this. Their pay is never secured because tipping makes up most of it. Since their job has a risky and unpredictable nature, one night they might encounter amazing tippers or big parties that are splurging on food, but the next they might be faced with a minimum amount of tables or bad tips from unaware customers.
The biggest issue with tipping is that it is underestimated. For waiters, tips are not something extra or a bonus that they should get for being good. Most customers act as if tipping is a reward given for good service, when in reality, it makes up the majority of their salaries. The whole idea that someone only leaves good tips if the server was excellent is shallow and outdated. In drive-thru’s, department stores, customer service, and attention centers, the workers get paid their set salary regardless of their friendliness or cooperativeness. If the workers are rude and offer bad service, the customers talk to the manager or supervisor and they take it from there. Their salary does not suffer. Waiters should be treated the same way. Instead of judging how much we tip according to our scale of “good service,” we should understand that, as customers, being served food comes with an additional price besides the one of the food.
This urgency for raising the tipping standards isn’t because I feel that it would be nice for waiters to get a higher salary, but because they must be paid a higher salary. The waiter’s minimum wage has stayed the same for over a decade while inflation and minimum wage has risen. Since 1991, the minimum for waiters has stayed at $2.13 an hour. The regular minimum wage was last raised in 2009 to $7.25 and even since then, the cost of living has increased by nearly 12%. If tips do not compensate enough to reach a minimum wage paycheck, restaurants are supposed to provide what is missing, but a vast majority of restaurants ignore this and do not strictly follow these rules. In fact, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor conducted a study between 2010 and 2012 of over 9,000 investigations in the restaurant industry and discovered that 83.8% had either a wage or hour violation. With that being said, inflation has tackled the serving industry and has left waiters more dependent on tips and struggling to cover their basic needs. Customers should always tip with the mindset that their tip is the waiter’s salary. For a whole one to two hours, that waiter has given up his or her time to serve you and meet all of your needs.
Their job is harder and more strenuous than what it appears to be. Waiters need to always be on their feet, have a good memory to take orders, socialize with their customers, place the orders in complicated operational systems, be attentive to every table, constantly go back and forth to get all of their customers’ needs met, carry heavy trays and dishes, make sure the cooks make their orders and don’t mess up, deliver the food fast and adjust the payment methods when needed to. It is an exhausting job and one that can be very frustrating. Waiters have to always put on a smile and swallow their opinions even when their world might be tumbling down. Once the restaurant closes and they think that it is over, they are left having to clean all of their tables and floors and do any additional side jobs their restaurant requires in order to clock out and go home.
For a long time, there has been a misconception that a good tip, and one that customers should strive to tip, is 15%. While this awareness is good to spread, the percentage is outdated and miscalculated. The average tip currently is between 18-20% and people should strive to tip so. Now, this isn’t to say that you should tip if the waiter gives no effort to please you or do his or her job right; if the service really does not meet your expectations then, by all means, let the manager know and consider tipping them 15%. Often times clients do not understand that what they get mad about and lower the tips for is beyond the waiter’s control. The food being late is many times the kitchen’s or the busser’s fault; when an order has a mistake, it could easily be that the cook did not read carefully and did it wrong or the delay of a check could be a common malfunction on the system, etc. It is important to take these possibilities into consideration at the end of the meal.
To top it all off, the serving industry does little to help their workers. The majority of waiters get no benefits from their jobs. In other words, no 401k, no health insurance, no vacations, no help. Everything is on them and comes out of their own pocket. If they break a leg or have a surgery which does not allow them to work, most time no sort of income will be received until they can work once again.
While servers in foreign countries have a high salary that allows them to not require gratuity fees, America is stuck in their ways and are hurting their servers. Countries like Canada tend to pay the waiters a starting salary of $9 an hour plus tip. Our industry needs to understand that raising the paycheck is a necessity, but until then, we have to do something ourselves. We need to unite and rise against the serving industry. We must spread the word and the knowledge, making sure that while the standards stay the same, we ourselves do our part and contribute everytime we eat out. We have to make it a common courtesy to make sure waiters are tipped correctly. When tight on budget, people should consider the amount they need to tip when selecting their meal and adjust accordingly. People should have the mindset that tipping is mandatory and crucial to a waiter’s salary. When an issue is presented while dining out, I strongly recommend either talking it through with the waiter or speaking to the manager instead of reflecting it on a low tip. I wish to instill a new perspective in tippers and create a new generation in which tipping is seen as a custom instead of a burden.
Photo Credits: Calvin College Newspaper, Chimes