I originally posted this on July 9, 2012. This week, Handsome Hippie Hubby tells me the world needs a reminder, so I’m doing my share. Hopefully this will be helpful to those who wonder about how much to leave and those who wonder why people aren’t leaving enough. Happy eating!
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 humanly possible to create a wonderful experience for someone and then have them stiff you.
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. The tip should be considered part of the bill. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat.
* 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 very 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.