Lazy Hippie Mama’s Guide To Tipping


This post isn’t especially hippie-ish.  I was talking with the Handsome Hippie Husband this morning on the subject of tipping and he said, “you should blog about this.”  So I am. Because I am empress of this particular web page and I can. (Heeheehee.  I have been wanting to declare myself empress of something for a VERY long time!)

We, here at the Hippie Household, pay our bills (theoretically speaking) with money made from tips.  HHH is a server in a fancy-pants restaurant. It’s the kind of place where it’s not only possible but probable that a couple will run up a $100-200 bill for dinner and drinks.  It is a place that prides itself on providing extraordinary food and service.  They hired him because he is the rare server who actually cares that his guests have a great experience, he’s not in it just for the tip.  It’s a true joy to him when someone leaves smiling from ear to ear.  That said, true joy doesn’t pay the rent, and it’s incredibly discouraging to do everything humanely possible to create a wonderful experience for someone and then have them stiff you.

He expects to average 20% of his sales in tips every evening, as do most of his co-workers.

Does that seem extravagant to you?

Consider this:  servers in Michigan earn an average hourly pay of $2-3.   That’s right, at the end of a 40 hour work week their paycheck is about $80, or just enough to pay the taxes on their hourly wage + tips.  Yes, contrary to popular opinion, tips must be declared to the IRS and servers are frequently audited.  The state (as does every state that I know of, except California) expects servers to make the majority of their pay in tips so they do not fall under the minimum wage rule.

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant you may not understand that certain things are not under your server’s control in any way shape or form and should never effect how much you leave in a tip.  In a lot of restaurants (including the one where HHH works) the server is not allowed to ever say, “I’m sorry that xyz happened, but it’s really all the kitchen’s (bartender, busser, etc) fault.”

To make it a little easier for you to keep straight what is or is not your server’s responsibility, here is a helpful list of reasons why NOT to stiff your server.

*  Your food is over/under cooked, too hot, too cold, badly seasoned, etc. This is the kitchen’s mistake.

*  Your alcoholic drink or “mocktail”  takes forever or isn’t made correctly. This is the bartender’s mistake.

*  The restaurant is too hot, too cold, too crowded, too noisy, too bright, too dark, etc. This may be up to the host(ess), or manager to fix.

*  You are mad at your date. That is his/her fault.

*  The menu isn’t to your liking.  Go somewhere else.

* Your food is taking forever. This is usually due to any number of problems in the kitchen.

*  You don’t get seated as quickly as you like.  Go somewhere else.

*  You had a bad day.  Order an extra drink, or a high-carb appetizer, right off the bat to fix this problem.

*  The silverware/glassware is spotty.  The busser usually sets the table.

*  The host(ess), busser, or other restaurant staff are unpleasant.  Speak with a manager about the person’s inappropriate actions.

*  Your server looks like the ex that treated you like dog poo on the bottom of his/her shoe.  Refer to “bad day” advice, or ask to be seated in a different section.

*  The food is more expensive than you expected.  Do your research.

*  You are cheap.  Uhm… well… maybe you should just eat at home.

Keep in mind that every other employee of a restaurant collects their pay whether you leave happy or not.  If you are upset because of something an hourly employee did, speak to the manager.  Leaving a crappy tip doesn’t hurt anyone but the server, who was probably just as frustrated as you by the slow kitchen, shoddy busser, etc.  If you have a bad experience because of something an hourly employee did and your server was trying hard to appease you, perhaps you should consider asking the manager for a discount on your bill because of the trouble and then leaving some of that extra cash for the waiter.  After all, he (or she) was not only being your servant, but kissing your rump to make up for the jerk who wasn’t doing their job.

By all means, keep in mind the old adage that TIPS are “To Insure Proper Service.”  If you get poor service the tip should be adjusted accordingly.  Unless your server spit in your food and purposely threw your drink in your lap you should never shaft them entirely.  Even if they’re not good at their job they are putting in an effort to SERVE YOU, and they’re (for all practical purposes) not being paid by their employer to do that.

Good reasons to dock a servers tip.

* Your server was texting, flirting, gossiping, smoking, etc. instead of filling your empty drink as you nearly perished from the first bite of your five-alarm burger.

*  Your server was rude, vulgar, or disrespectful in any way.

*  Your server failed to take care of multiple things you asked for (ketchup, cream, a clean spoon, a to-go box, etc).

*  Your server is the ex who treated you like dog poo on the bottom of his/her shoe.

Other random tidbits:

*  If you are paying with a gift card or coupon, your server is still doing as much work as if you were paying in cash and should be tipped on the full amount of the bill – not the discounted total.

*  If you order a lot of “fussy things” – milkshakes, half-caff coffee, hot tea with lemon on the side, deserts that require assembly or special presentation, etc – please give your server a few extra moments to accommodate your special request.

*  If something is not right, your server can do nothing to fix it if you don’t communicate with them.  Perhaps it is, indeed, the servers fault.  But we all make mistakes and deserve the chance to correct them to the best of our ability.

So, there you have it.  This Hippie’s guide to being nice to my husband…. uhm… I mean… your server.  Now kick the new week off right.  Go to your favorite restaurant, order the best thing on the menu, savor every single bite of it, and tip your server well.


36 responses »

  1. Can I just add an additional point cousin lazy hippie mama? If you are inclined to not want the government to get a portion of an already overworked an underpaid wait person’s wages, pay your bill with your creidt card, but tip them with cash. I find it is always most appreciated. Not that I’m trying to stiff the U.S. government. . .

    • Indeed! Cash tips still have to be declared, but not 100% of them. Also, if you tip in cash, the server gets the money right away. Many places will hold credit card tips until payday. So cash tips are a double bonus!

  2. Tips are very this..I always tip well…in Europe/ Germany, the tip is usually included but we tip a little extra anyway and in Euro , cash….good job!

    • When he worked in Tombstone, Arizona there were many visitors from Germany and other European nations and they were always very gracious. Many of them were confused by the American tipping system, but they would ask and they were always very kind. Someday we will get to travel there and repay all of that kindness! 🙂

  3. This post should be required reading in high school, so that everyone understands the basic working of a restaurant by the time they strike out on their own to dine. I admit that I was oblivious to most of this before I waited tables for a year. Now, I am so sympathetic to the serving staff no matter where I go. I tip every single waiter 20% unless there is some gross negligence on the server’s part. Even then, I still do at least 15-18%.

    So many people do not understand how a restaurant works, so thank you for posting!

    • I love that idea! It would be infinitely more useful than 90% of the stuff I learned (and have since forgotten) in high school! Working in a restaurant really will change your perception of the whole process!

  4. 20% is my motto! When I go out to eat with others, split the bill and they tip less than 20, I increase my tip so that the server will get the 20 or get more than the 20.

    One time when my husband and I were in SanFran’s Chinatown, our waiter was working so hard. We were there for a couple of hours and noticed how poorly his manager was treating him. When we talked with him throughout our meal he mentioned that any tips the wait staff get are put into a pot and the manager takes a cut of it. What?!?! We were beside ourselves. Before we left we didn’t put the tip in the bill pocket, we handed it to our waiter to ensure he would get his tip. It’s unbelievable how some wait staff are treated!

  5. Reblogged this on TheBrabbleRabble and commented:
    I have been a service-industry worker for many years. These are great pointers from lazyhippiemama. The only thing I eally want to add, is that people who leave religious tracts that look like money are the scum of the earth. God has a plan for YOU, cheap-asses!

    • LOL. My husband came home with one of those one night exhibiting the very wrath of God. He was NOT happy or in any way impressed by these folks’ religion! Thanks for the reblog! 🙂

  6. I came over from BrabbleRabble. This was very well done. As someone who dines out often, in part because I travel often and in part because I am lazy when I am home and would rather spend my time not cleaning the kitchen, I agree 100% with every single think you have said.

    When I was in university I worked as a bartender and cocktail waitress in some pretty rowdy spots. Tips? What? Oh yeah the quarters they sometimes threw on the floor to see if we would bend over and pick them up, not.

    I always tip 20%, if the service is extraordinary 25-30%. I try to tip in cash in the higher end restaurants when it is just hubby and I, or when it is a big group. I don’t carry cash when I travel.

    I always take issues up with the management rather than out on the server.

    I hate when people scream at servers in restaurants, it shows such a distinct lack of respect and class.

    Anyway, great job.

    • Thank you for the support! It’s heartening to see how many people are passionate about treating servers well. Bartenders too…. the abuse they put up with is a whole other post!

  7. Reblogged this on musings of a kitchen witch and commented:
    This, this, this, this, this!!!!

    Or, as we say in our family, if you can’t afford to tip well, why the heck are you going out to eat at a sit-down restaurant? Hie your cheap-arse to McDonald’s.

  8. We were on the same wave-length yesterday. I just posted this on my facebook:
    (i don’t know if that link is going to work in the comments – but it’s an excellent quick video on worker exploitationi in the restaurant industry).

    Great post. I think everyone who ever wants to eat in a restaurant should first be required to work in a restaurant.

    • I think that people who never have worked in a restaurant really can’t understand how hard it is. There are jobs that are mentally difficult and jobs that are physically difficult but serving is very much both of those.

    • It is hard work, for sure – both physically and mentally! I did it for about 10 minutes. I was awful. It gave me a lot of respect for what hubby does and how good he is at it.

  9. Pingback: Friday Round-Up: July 13, 2012 – The Midwest Maven

  10. I loved being a waitress….. However, I think tipping is very different in the UK, it’s not generally expected… and thankfully I had a minimum wage that did not include tips. Thank you for the advice though, because when I do go to the US, I will be sure to think 20% 😀 x

  11. Thumbs up! I know some Christians think it is good stewardship to go light on their tips. If only they would realize what kind of impression they are giving of the faith they profess to represent! Years ago, a deacon of our church said that if you can’t afford a decent tip, you can’t afford to eat in a restaurant.
    The situation in Canada is slightly different than what you describe. Here in Saskatchewan the minimum wage of $9.25 applies to wait staff. I know some provinces have two-tier minimum wages. Still, fast food restaurants here have to pay more than minimum wage or they wouldn’t have any workers. A waiter who works hard to make the meal an enjoyable experience for everybody at the table should definitely earn a lot more than the till operator in a fast food restaurant.
    I believe that 15% is generally considered a minimum tip in Canada.

    • Thanks for the compliment and I couldn’t agree more about Christianity and tipping. Thanks, also, for the info about Canada – we are less than 2 hours away and will, no doubt, find ourselves there one of these days and it will be good to know how things work there.

  12. Pingback: Lazy Hippie Mama’s Guide To Tipping | lazyhippiemama

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