I’m working at a Greek restaurant, and to be honest, it’s not very fun. People can be awful to waitstaff. Some people are rude, some people are mean, and some people seem to believe that you’re ServerBot 3000, not a person. Working for tips is awful stuff…federal minimum wage for employees receiving tips hasn’t changed from $2.13 an hour in over 15 years! That means there’s been a shift in perspective. Patrons of restaurants are expected to compensate the staff for their services, instead of simply rewarding them for a job well done. Gratuities are no longer gratuitous. That means if you eat at a restaurant, you should leave a tip. I could end it there, but since most people don’t seem to understand that complex idea, I’ll elaborate. All of these examples are anecdotal. I deal with this nonsense, I know what I’m talking about.
When to leave a tip
If someone brings you your food, refills your drinks, and clears your table after you leave, leave a tip. It’s really that simple. If you have a server, tip them. However, we’re much more likely to dislike you if you don’t leave a tip and you’re a “difficult customer.” There is nothing worse than a customer that makes you run laps for no pay. For example, if I have to sweep up your kid’s Goldfish crackers, make four trips to bus your table, refill my pitchers several times because you haven’t yet seen a doctor for the excessive thirstiness that is often an indicator of serious health issues, explain to the kitchen that you accidentally ordered food you didn’t want and we should make a substitution for free, or clean Sharpie off of your table, I would really, really like to be compensated.
Also, it doesn’t matter if you’re a regular customer. If I see you four times a week and I’ve memorized your order, and you never leave a tip, I don’t put on my party hat when you walk in the door. A customer that never tips me is not usually my favorite, no matter how often I see them.
What kind of tip you should leave
Some people like to say that any tip is better than none, but that’s not true. A few pennies on the table translates as an insult. Most people leave a larger tip if they receive better-than-expected service, so what does four pennies say about my job performance? Yeah, we might miss a couple of refills if we’re incredibly busy, but I don’t think I’ve ever done such an awful job that I only deserved four cents. Generally people leave around 15%. Honestly, I don’t mind finding a dollar on the table, or even a pile of loose change, but I don’t quite understand why anyone would leave four pennies.
Tips should generally be monetary. A pile of lettuce that fell from your sandwich is not a good tip. Neither is the message of Christ. I can’t pay my rent with a giant fake coin with John 3:16 printed on it. No offense to the Gospel, but if the Good News and money were interchangeable I probably wouldn’t be working in a restaurant. I’d be trading Bible verses for Dom Perignon.
How Tipped Employees (or pretty much all people ever) want to be treated
First, there is no reason to be rude to anyone, ever. If you want good service, don’t start your encounter with restaurant staff by complaining or treating us like we are stupid. When you said you wanted extra lemons, we heard you. When we apologized for making you wait in line behind other customers, we meant it. Your snarkiness is not appreciated.
Second, we are people too. Holding your drink in the air next to your table and assuming we remember what kind of tea you want while you gossip with your girlfriends and act like we don’t exist might make you feel like Carrie Bradshaw, but it makes you look like a bitch. I understand that filling your drink is my job. If you’re, for example, a dentist, cleaning my teeth is your job, but I don’t go to your office, sit in the chair, point to my mouth, and assume you’ll get drilling. You can use your words, or smile, or nod when we ask if you’d like another drink. Eye contact goes a long way too. If you act decent to us, you’ll get better service, I promise.
Third, while we appreciate your niceness, we only have so much time to devote to each customer. A few friendly words are great. Your life story is not. Some things should not be shared with people you don’t know. We don’t really care what you think about Obamacare, we just need to know if you’d like ranch or Greek dressing with your salad.
I’m not bitchy about my tips. I understand that while it is appropriate socially to leave a tip, it is not required. I also understand that not everyone is going to leave wads of cash lying on my tables, and that’s okay. But, sometimes, it would be nice to see that social contract adhered to, especially since I make $2.13 an hour otherwise.
BE NICE TO YOUR WAITSTAFF AND TIP THEM. The end.