Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why bad tippers cost us money and should be shot. (just kidding.)

This is a post dedicated to Anonymous, from Mass who left a comment on my "Adventures in Fairly Poor Service" blog. (she/he will know why!)

Going home exhausted and broke at the end of a long restaurant shift filed with poor tippers is a rough story. It happens to all of us, and the uninitiated will say "Get a REAL JOB!" or "You waitresses don't have to claim any of your tips so it's still like working under the table!"

While I have no pleasant response for answer one I am going to try to shed some light on answer #2.

Why bad tippers cost servers money at the end of the day:

We'll make this easy. (almost) everything in this day & age is computerized and almost everyone pays with a credit card. Therefore, "Hiding" money/tips from your restaurant is almost impossible and rather frowned upon.

So, say on any given night you make $500 in sales and hit the jackpot with 20% tippers. You have $100 in your pocket. "Sweet" you say to yourself, "A decent night!"

WAIT. That's not all for you, clever server.

Let's hand off 10% to the service bar (those drinks come from somebody, no?) And then throw another 5-10% at your bus-person (if you are blessed to have one.) At some restaurants there are more people on the tip out list- food expeditors, coffee prep people- essentially, anyone who is not paid minimum wage can be "tipped out."

So, you tip out your people and you are down 10-20%. BUT- all your sales were in credit cards so even if you wanted to say that you left with $85 you could not. You have to claim the whole lump of $100- and get taxed on it.

Which brings us to an evening of bad tippers and what happens then. Say you make $500 in sales, and one table leaves you $0 due to their profound dislike of Italian food (your fault!) then you get a few more tables who tip in the 12-15% range. You finish up the evening with $60. You still have to tip out all your helpers- and then things get a bit tricky. It will show in the "books" that you made $500 in sales. If you "claim" that you only left with $45 that is going to raise eyebrows both from your boss in the backroom and the IRS. (one's boss will usually expect to see a server claim 15-18% of their total sales. and WILL say something if the total consistently looks low.) So once again, you "claim" the full amount- knowing that even at $60 your tips are possibly going to raise some eyebrows.

Back in the good old days a 15% tip was considered the norm to reward good service.

THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE (go ahead and flame me. I really don't care! Badasssss!!)

20% rewards good service and is also pleasantly easy to factor into your bill! YAY for the "easy" button!!

15%- honestly means that something was lacking. Slow service (not always the servers fault- but sometimes) forgotten items,

Less than 15 percent means that there was a major problem.

As a server I consistently tip much higher than 20%, as a sign of solidarity in a cruel, unfortunate world. If things are complete crap I'll still usually leave close to 18%- because I consider that to be bad!

This is not a post meant to be snooty. However, being that I am a lifelong server and it IS HARD WORK I feel that perhaps I can help my fellow restaurant employees by throwing out handy tidbits of info. I'm cool like that.

(and BTW. I have a REAL job. OH, and BTW again? Serving is a REAL job which requires a very specialized skill set, high energy and endless patience.)

OH! Almost forgot. For those of you who think that we take home a paycheck at the end of the week- WELL, we do. If being paid 3.63 an hour (before taxes) counts for anything. So... I'm just sayin'.


  1. I agree with you completely. I went on a date with a guy once who didn't leave a tip. That guy never got a 2nd date. If I get good service, I tip 20%, and by good I really mean average. If I get great service, I just figure out 20% and add on a few more dollars. If I get bad service, I leave 15%. I have only left 10% once in my life and I believe it was well deserved. And I would never leave nothing, ever.

    My husband is of the old school mindset that 15% is a good tip. I told him exactly what you said, that if I was a server (which i was for a few months) and I got a 15% tip, I wondered what I did wrong. I think I'm turning him around (or I just grab the bill and leave the tip for him).

  2. I always leave a good tip and then throw in a few extra bucks. At the end of the day my wallet doesn't notice that it's 3 bucks lighter. But I can tell you- I always appriciate a good tip and so I'm sure my server/s do too!
    Tara: Waitstaff everywhere appriciate people like you!

  3. I'm going to use this post if that's okay with you....and tell the world! TIP HIGHER!! :)

  4. Feel free to post links to my blog, or just copy away! Use my words of wisdom to improve the world!!

  5. I feel your pain. I used to waitress in a diner for a low wage, because the management expected the waitresses to make it up in tips. Unfortunately, no matter how great the service/food/one woman show was, the senior based clientele always tipped everyone two dollars per bill, and the occasional canned ham coupon. Needless to say Revenue Canada and I did not see eye to eye.