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Tips from behind the counter
May 23, 2006 6:21 PM   Subscribe

The view (with humour) from two people who serve you drinks. One a cocktail waitress in Vegas, the other a bartender in Cincinnati.
posted by tellurian (62 comments total)

 
This reads just a lee-tle bit like a car buying guide from a dealership.
posted by Mr. Six at 6:54 PM on May 23, 2006


The cincinatti tavernwench blog is amusing. It's no Tard Blog, but hey.
posted by undule at 7:01 PM on May 23, 2006


As a restaurant worker, they'll tell you a standard tip is 20 percent. Ask anyone else, it's 14-15 percent.

When I meet someone in the service profession whose advice isn't exclusively self-serving, I'll trust their opinion a little more.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 PM on May 23, 2006


Ask a restaurant worker, more properly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:14 PM on May 23, 2006


Unfortunately I can't find them now, but I've seen far better treatments of this topic elsewhere.
posted by intermod at 7:25 PM on May 23, 2006


"Ask a restaurant worker, they'll tell you a standard tip is 20 percent. Ask anyone else, it's 14-15 percent."

Know why? Because restaurant workers are trying to pay the bills on a tiny paycheck. The "Anyone else" you refer to probably aren't.
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 7:26 PM on May 23, 2006


Oh God, another waiter rant. I could have studied art in college too, but I studied physics. So, go fetch my drink.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 7:26 PM on May 23, 2006


"far better treatments of this topic elsewhere"

You can't beat Waiter Rant, it's really funny.
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 7:28 PM on May 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


A wise man once told me that TIPS stands for To Insure Proper Service, and that a smart person tips beforehand.

I got in a huge fight with a coworker of mine before. I think thjis chick is saying it metaphorically, but the kid thought it literally stood for that. But for this to be the case, would't one tip at the beginning of a meal? Also, wouldn't the word ensure be used? (Seriously, I am curious)
posted by piratebowling at 7:31 PM on May 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


oh, nevermind, I looked up the answer to my own question.
posted by piratebowling at 7:36 PM on May 23, 2006


Know why? Because restaurant workers are trying to pay the bills on a tiny paycheck.

Ah, but the question isn't "how much do you want" or "how much do you think you need to pay the bills." It's "how much is the standard tip." To alter the response based on the waiter's cost of living versus his wage is a bit dishonest.

I went to a restaurant once with a guy who slipped the waiters, bussers, etc. a $100 bill every time they came around, from the moment he walked in the door. I had two observations: 1) We got really amazing service; 2) That pretty much explained why the guy is constantly building fortunes and then soon ending up completely broke wondering where the money all went.
posted by JekPorkins at 7:37 PM on May 23, 2006


"Ah, but the question isn't "how much do you want" or "how much do you think you need to pay the bills." It's "how much is the standard tip." To alter the response based on the waiter's cost of living versus his wage is a bit dishonest."

Okay, I do see what you're saying. But really, the question of a 'standard' tip isn't a factual matter, it's more of an opinion. My point is, the people who need tips are probably of the opinion that tips should be more. And they would know, wouldn't they?
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2006


Which means they tend to answer the question "how much should you be tipped" rather than "how much are you usually tipped". So their advice is worthless.
posted by smackfu at 8:09 PM on May 23, 2006


As a restaurant worker, they'll tell you a standard tip is 20 percent. Ask anyone else, it's 14-15 percent.

Well, I've spent one night of my life busing tables at a restaurant, but otherwise I'd qualify as "anyone else" and to me, 20% is standard and 15% is cheap. (And 14%? Do you really sit there and figure out what exactly 14% works out to?)
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:21 PM on May 23, 2006


Or if you ask my old boss, he'll tell you tips are optional.

To me 20% is excellent service, 15% is adequate and 10% is "I'm not coming back here for a while!"

Also what I dont get is tip jars at places like Subway or Quiznos. What am I giving you a tip for? The small fucking sandwich you gave me was $5 and I could make it at home for $1. Ooooh you toasted it, big whoop. You arent bringing the food to my table, you're just all standing there in assembly line fashion making sandwiches. Do I tip people at McDonalds? No. Why would I tip you?
posted by SirOmega at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2006


20% is standard and 15% is cheap? When the fuck did this happen? 10% used to be standard. Somewhere along the lines 10% became cheap. What's next, 50%?

How delightful it must be to live in one of those civilized places where they simply charge enough for the meal to pay their staff a decent living wage without resorting to the nail-biting emotional flumoxxory of trying to figure out the fucking tip.

Was the service ok? Was it terrible? Maybe the server is just having a shitty day - and a big fat tip is just the thing to make them smile? Maybe the server is just a complete schmuck and we should leave an upside-down penny?

This is why I loath most sit down places. I wish someone would open up a nice take out place with really good cooking.

I don't want or need a dining experience that comes complete with an old-world servant/peon archetype waiting on me hand and foot like I'm some kind of Sovereign or plantation owner. It does nothing for me. It doesn't make me feel superior, or pleased, or pampered. It just makes me feel emotionally burdened, flustered and even annoyed.

I just want to eat some good food, damnit.
posted by loquacious at 9:14 PM on May 23, 2006


I tip between 15 and 20%, picking the easiest number in between that range.

I'm with SirOmega on non-restaurant tipping, though. Those damn tip jars pop up everywhere!

One question: do you tip your delivery people a flat rate, or a percentage of your bill?
posted by danb at 9:40 PM on May 23, 2006


"Also what I dont get is tip jars at places like Subway or Quiznos. What am I giving you a tip for? The small fucking sandwich you gave me was $5 and I could make it at home for $1. Ooooh you toasted it, big whoop. You arent bringing the food to my table, you're just all standing there in assembly line fashion making sandwiches. Do I tip people at McDonalds? No. Why would I tip you?"

THANK YOU. As a former waitress and bartender who worked for mainly for tips, I can understand the reason to tip for service. But ... today I was in a coffee shop where I poured my own coffee and noticed a tip cup near the register. WHAT? OK, in Starbuck's where they make me a $4 latte, ok, I'll throw in some change (usually too much), but in a sandwich shop or where I am pumping coffee into a cup? NO WAY.
posted by WaterSprite at 9:40 PM on May 23, 2006


Oh, and for danb - i know for a fact that delivery people don't make squat. No offense, please, but if you're too lazy to pick it up, pay the poor guy 20%.
posted by WaterSprite at 9:42 PM on May 23, 2006


And 14%? Do you really sit there and figure out what exactly 14% works out to?

I once watched my stepfather (who is quite good with numbers) calculate a tip, sotto voce. He divided the total by 7, which works out to between 14% and 15%. Not as tricky as one might think -- and IMO as clever as any other shortcut method...and definitely easier to use than the "divide by ten and add half of that" when the bill is approximately a multiple of seven.
posted by timing at 9:43 PM on May 23, 2006


In my family, we always tip between 15-20%, unless the service was absolutely godawful or the server was an asshole for no good reason.

(Of course, this turns out to be a bitch and a half for me personally, but that is because I am retarded at math. Hence why I dig some overseas restaurants that have a little chart at the bottom of the reciept that tell you how much tip you would give based on the amount of the bill for different percentages.)
posted by sperose at 9:49 PM on May 23, 2006


At one stage we had a Japanese boarder staying with us. She learned English during the day and worked in a Japanese restaurant at night. The majority of the staff at the restaurant were in the same situation as her. The owner kept all of the tips for himself.
posted by tellurian at 10:29 PM on May 23, 2006


I don't tip.
posted by DonnieSticks at 10:33 PM on May 23, 2006


Previous FPP on tipping, which, like a lovely sequence of Russian Dolls, links to even earlier MeFi tipping discussions...
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:35 PM on May 23, 2006


Oh Christ, not another MeFi "how much to tip" slugfest. This really should be added to the fat/circumcision/declawing list.

to me, 20% is standard and 15% is cheap

Yeah, like the workers Astro Zombie talks about, you seem to think "standard" means "ideal." I've been in a lot of restaurants with a lot of people, and I can tell you 20% is not "standard" in any sense of the word normal people would recognize. Whether the world should be the way it is is an interesting philosophical question, but it's not the way waiters think it should be, no matter how you alter the definitions of words.
posted by languagehat at 5:48 AM on May 24, 2006


If you think picking up 20% on a $20 tab is an "ideal" world, I gotta move to where you're at.
posted by yerfatma at 6:02 AM on May 24, 2006


I could have studied art in college too, but I studied physics. So, go fetch my drink.

And I tended bar while studying physics in college. Wrap your head around that.

I should never have changed fields. When did knowing physics become a license to print money?
posted by Gamblor at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2006


When you built that time machine and went back and invested in Microsoft. Did you forget? Check your screen for rips in the continuum.
posted by yerfatma at 8:38 AM on May 24, 2006


If you think picking up 20% on a $20 tab is an "ideal" world, I gotta move to where you're at.

OK, obviously "ideal" was not the right world. In an ideal world (for waiters), all customers would order easy items, cause no problems, and tip 100% (at minimum). How about "you seem to think standard means 'what I can get away with trying to convince civilians to leave'"?

And what do you think people should leave on a $20 tab? Let me guess: twenty more bucks! Because waiters work hard, dammit!
posted by languagehat at 9:02 AM on May 24, 2006


gra·tu·i·ty (gr-t-t, -ty-) n.
A favor or gift, usually in the form of money, given in return for service.

[French gratuité, from Old French gratuite, from Medieval Latingrtuts, probably from Latin grtutus, voluntary. See gratuitous.

It's later defined as:
2: an award (as for meritorious service) given without claim or obligation
'Nuff said.
posted by Eideteker at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2006


Thanks poorlydrawnplato, that was a nice diversion. Thanks DonnieSticks too.

As for the rest of this, please kill me.
posted by intermod at 9:20 AM on May 24, 2006


And what do you think people should leave on a $20 tab? Let me guess: twenty more bucks! Because waiters work hard, dammit!

Do you want to have the rest of the argument for me too? Please feel free to stake out whatever whackjob position you feel most undermines my credibility as a poster.
posted by yerfatma at 9:59 AM on May 24, 2006


Being that a lottery win is all that seperates me from being a profesional wino, I really enjoy reading the various barstaff service blogs. Since getting the kegerator at home, it's hard for me to justify frequenting a bar long enough to be counted amoungst the regulars as I once was and these blogs help see me through the darkness.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2006


Having been raised in a county that regarded tipping as an insult ("I'm doing an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, mate, I'm not begging for your favours") and now living in a tipping country, I can tell you that I MUCH prefer the former. The whole psychodrama of tipping (do I "punish" bad service and have the wait staff think I'm a jerk? If I'm out with a party and we're collectively calculating a tip do I tell my friend who wants to tip 10 percent that he's a cheapskate? Do I admit to my friend who wants to tip 20 percent that I'm one of those 15 percent cheapskates?) actually discourages me from going out to dinner in the first place. Just charge me a fucking service fee. Put it on the menu and let me decide before I enter the restaurant if I think that's a "fair" amount to pay or not.

One other thing--service in my non-tipping homeland is on average just as friendly, just as helpful, just as solicitous as it is here. And the added benefit is that waitstaff don't have to feel that they're performing animals being judged by each individual customer on just how willing they are to jump when the customer tells them to.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2006


the people who need tips are probably of the opinion that tips should be more. And they would know, wouldn't they?

I tried that argument on my boss, but I didn't get a raise...
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:51 AM on May 24, 2006


Rule #28: If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to drink in a bar. Go to the liquor store.

I don't know about food, because I don't eat at 'tip for your food' places, but at a bar it's very easy to buy some good karma by leaving a little more at the end of the night than the asshole who pulls out a tip calculator to figure out how much he 'owes' his bartender. You owe them nothing and what you do give is literally gratuity. If you don't appreciate what they do, you shouldn't be there in the first place. But if you do, and you leave a little extra, you'll get someone who remembers your name, knows what you like to drink, and treats you like a friend the next time you show up.

On preview: this is in the US, my experience, I've gone drinking with Czechs and Poles before too, in the US, and they drove the waitstaff crazy because they came in twenty together, drank for four hours and left a couple dollars for their disappointed waiter.
posted by airguitar at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2006


Oh, and for danb - i know for a fact that delivery people don't make squat. No offense, please, but if you're too lazy to pick it up, pay the poor guy 20%.

I think you misunderstood where I was coming from.

20% seems stingy if you order, say, $8 of food (which I do). Because I don't want to give a dollar and change, I usually just tip three dollars. If I've ordered a lot of food -- then I give a percentage. But it doesn't seem like bringing three pizzas is any more work than bringing five, you know? That's why I was asking.
posted by danb at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2006


I'm surprised no one has mentioned mefi's own BitterOldPunk.
posted by bardic at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2006


The whole psychodrama of tipping (do I "punish" bad service and have the wait staff think I'm a jerk?

I've heard this before and it's fascinating. People from non-tipping cultures stress over the tip way more than natives. 15%? 20%? Whatever. The waiter's not going to run down the street after you for "only" 15%, and they aren't going to lavish praise on you for 20%. The only tips that really stand out are 0% and 50%. Everything else is just noise.
posted by smackfu at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2006


I've heard this before and it's fascinating. People from non-tipping cultures stress over the tip way more than natives. 15%? 20%? Whatever. The waiter's not going to run down the street after you for "only" 15%, and they aren't going to lavish praise on you for 20%. The only tips that really stand out are 0% and 50%. Everything else is just noise.

Maybe, Smackfu. This thread suggests otherwise, though. We've already had one wait-person say that s/he thinks people who give 15% are "cheap." It's not that one fears actual retaliation, but no one wants to do something that will make others think they're "cheap."

And when I describe my experience of the social embarrassment of a group having collective disagreement over the "proper" amount to tip, I'm talking about groups that are mostly native-born Americans. As this thread shows, it's a topic that raises the hackles on those to the manner born.

While I'm on my soapbox: I also find the moralistic attitude people develop about tipping strange. Take, for example, the "I'm happy to tip my waiter, but why am I being asked to tip the counter staff at Subway or Starbucks?" line. Huh? If the point about tipping is that you *ought* to do it because the waiter is overworked and underpaid, why doesn't that apply to counterstaff? Aren't they underpaid too? If the argument is "well, what work does it take to hand me my coffee" then how do we avoid the bizarre irrationality of "percentage" based tipping? Why do I pay the person who brings me a $5 meal so much less than the person who brings me a $50 meal? Did it take any less work? Was it any more difficult for the waiter to bring me that $50 meal? What has that waiter done for me that "deserves" so much more reward than what the other waiter did?

Let's face it. Tipping has nothing whatsoever to do with being generous to underpaid workers. The same person who hectors you about tipping 20% rather that 15% would never dream of slipping an extra $20 to the cashier at the local 7/11 because that kid is "underpaid." Tipping is not an "ethical" issue, it's a clearly demarcated cultural space in which one gets to make a certain kind of statement about yourself. It's a potlatch moment--a way of getting status for yourself as a big-shot by showing that you're capable of giving a generous gift to a lowly serving-minion. I'll bet that there's almost no correlation between tipping practices and, say, political support for higher minimum wages (something that would show a genuine concern about the "underpaid").

My suspicion, actually, is that waitstaff are paid a little more than typical low-wage jobs (after all, waitstaff are often white, well-spoken, well-presented; it's not typically a job for America's semi-permanent underclass). If you're really worried about the "underpaid and overworked" shouldn't you find your way into the kitchen and slip $20 into the pocket of the poor sod washing your dirty dishes?
posted by yoink at 1:23 PM on May 24, 2006


If the point about tipping is that you *ought* to do it because the waiter is overworked and underpaid, why doesn't that apply to counterstaff?

Because the counterstaff are paid at least minimum wage, while the waitstaff at many restaurants are paid a wage far below minimum wage, with the assumption that they will receive tips to make up the difference.

My suspicion, actually, is that waitstaff are paid a little more than typical low-wage jobs (after all, waitstaff are often white, well-spoken, well-presented; it's not typically a job for America's semi-permanent underclass).


You assume, because of their race, appearance, and verbal skills that they must be paid more than others? Woah.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:34 PM on May 24, 2006


Because the counterstaff are paid at least minimum wage, while the waitstaff at many restaurants are paid a wage far below minimum wage, with the assumption that they will receive tips to make up the difference.

So the aim of tipping is to give just enough to get the waitstaff up to minimum wage? If so, I'm misreading many people's arguments here. Do you really think that if everyone tipped 20% most waiters would be earning minimum wage?

You assume, because of their race, appearance, and verbal skills that they must be paid more than others? Woah.

Do you live in a country where race, appearance and verbal skills don't correlate with higher wages? I didn't know metafilter was read off-planet.
posted by yoink at 1:44 PM on May 24, 2006


Do you live in a country where race, appearance and verbal skills don't correlate with higher wages?

Yes, I do. In my country, the waiters get paid the same wage regardless of their race, and their appearance is largely due to job requirements.

Do you really think that if everyone tipped 20% most waiters would be earning minimum wage?

No. I really think that if everyone tipped 20%, virtually all waiters would be earning far more than minimum wage. I don't think there's anything wrong with people making more than minimum wage, though. I'm suggesting that the guy behind the counter at Subway is earning a higher hourly rate than a waiter at Chili's, and that the difference in their hourly base rate is based in part on the fact that the waiter is expected to get tips, while the Subway sandwich technician is not.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:52 PM on May 24, 2006


I work as a server. The average % I receive on any given night falls between 17-19%. The only reason it's not above 20% is because of certain foreigners and low-income types that drag the % down with their classic 0-10% tips. So yeah, from a nominal stand-point, 15% is definitely at the low end of the spectrum. I'm not going to call the 15% tippers cheap, but stubbornly holding onto 15% as a standard is like going the speed limit in the fast lane: you're right, but....you're wrong.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2006


I don't think there's anything wrong with people making more than minimum wage, though.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that either. I just wonder why some people feel we have a strong ethical obligation to ensure that waitstaff are spared the indignity of suffering minimum wage, but do not feel any such obligation to any other worker who also provides them with a valuable service. I suspect that the "ethical" argument (you "should" pay x%) is in fact a post-hoc rationalization of somewhat different motivations (it makes me feel good to be identified as the kind of person who tips x%).

And here's a pretty interesting Slate piece on the practice of tipping.

By "pretty interesting" I mean, of course, that the author--an American with experience in the field--agrees with me, marvellous me:

"Lynn has also performed a cross-cultural study of tipping and national personality traits. Americans tip more often than others because we're more likely to be extroverts and/or neurotics, he suggests. Extroverts tip because they like the attention, while neurotics tip to reduce their anxiety and guilt about being served."

Here's a small excerpt from another piece about the expert the Slate article is citing, by the way:

"Asked to sum up his findings on the subject, Lynn offered these tips on tipping:

1) Tip percentages are only weakly related to customers' ratings of service quality in restaurant settings. This finding suggests that restaurant tips are poor measures of customer satisfaction with service and that they provide weak incentives for delivering good service.

2) Nonverbal server behaviors that communicate liking for the customer, such as lightly touching the customer and crouching next to the table when interacting with the customer, substantially increase the tips restaurant servers receive. These findings suggest that managers can significantly increase their employees' compensation without adversely affecting the company's bottom line by encouraging their servers to touch customers and to display other nonverbal signs of liking for the customer.

3) Tipping is more prevalent in countries whose populations are achievement-oriented, status-seeking, extroverted, neurotic and tenderhearted. These findings suggest that tipping exists to serve several functions, i.e., to increase the social attention/esteem that servers give customers, to reduce consumers' anxieties about being served by others and to allow consumers to financially help servers."
posted by yoink at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2006


My suspicion, actually, is that waitstaff are paid a little more than typical low-wage jobs (after all, waitstaff are often white, well-spoken, well-presented; it's not typically a job for America's semi-permanent underclass). If you're really worried about the "underpaid and overworked" shouldn't you find your way into the kitchen and slip $20 into the pocket of the poor sod washing your dirty dishes?

In most parts of Canada and the U.S., the waitstaff make significantly less than minimum wage. This is because it is assumed that we'll be taking home, in tips, an amount at least equal to a shift's hourly pay. So tips, while "voluntary", are considered a given part of our income. Also, waitstaff tip out a percentage of their tips (or sales) to the kitchen staff. So the dishwasher does get a portion of the tip.
posted by Tomatillo at 2:06 PM on May 24, 2006


It's a potlatch moment--a way of getting status for yourself as a big-shot by showing that you're capable of giving a generous gift to a lowly serving-minion.

Wrong. Rule #64: The people with the most money are rarely the best tippers.

If so, I'm misreading many people's arguments here.

I agree.
posted by airguitar at 2:07 PM on May 24, 2006


So, Mach3avelli, about how much is your hourly wage on average then (if you don't mind sharing that info)?

Two questions:

1/ How does your hourly wage compare to the hourly wage of the restaurant's dishwashers (after any percentage of the tips that they may share in)? Is that "fair"?

2/ If the restaurant management said "we're going to abolish tipping, and charge a standard 20% service fee" AND ensured that you in fact received the full amount of that fee, would you support such a move, or would you rather hold out for the possibility of the big payoff from the statistically improbable tipper?
posted by yoink at 2:18 PM on May 24, 2006


Hey airguitar, thanks for the snark.

As for your "rules"--they're irrelevant. The fact that someone wants to feel (and mark themselves socially as) magnanimous has nothing to do with whether they are in fact rich. I'm saying that tipping is about making the statement "I've got money to burn, baby." I'm not saying that that statement is typically true.

You think I've misunderstood someone's argument. Could you be specific? Or did you just get confused about the difference between me understanding you and you disagreeing with me?
posted by yoink at 2:23 PM on May 24, 2006


In most parts of Canada and the U.S., the waitstaff make significantly less than minimum wage.

Just to be clear, when I said that waitstaff were "paid more than minimum wage" I meant "once tips were taken into account." That is, I recognize that in tip-based industries the law permits people to be paid less than minimum wage. I very much doubt that waitstaff *typically* get paid less than minimum wage once their average tip amount is factored in.
posted by yoink at 2:28 PM on May 24, 2006


What Tomatillo said. In American restaurants, it's rarely cut and dried between servers and bartenders who make 2$/hr plus tips and cooks and dishwashers make hourly wage. It's more complicated than that, and usually bent towards making sure as much cash exchange is off the owner's and manager's books as possible.

And in the spirit of impotent outrage, YOU FORGOT THE BUSSERS! (How I spent two summers of college.) At big, touristy places you usually have just as many of these people whose sole job is to clean the tables, pour water, take out the trash, etc. I made 2$/hour (funny how minimum wage hasn't changed in ten years, unlike Congressional salaries) and no tips--I had to rely on the beneficence of the wait-staff, meaning I had to chase many of them to their cars as they tried to sneak off without "tipping out" me, the other bussers, and the bartenders. Bartenders--now those guys have it easy, but they're more critical than cooks in a lot of places in terms of total revenue. Hostesses? Those whores got tipped out by everybody simply for being able to figure out what tables were seated and which ones were full. And they didn't sleep with the bussers, only the bartenders. Ahh, the drama of being 21.

FWIW, I worked in a few places where the dishwashers were paid in cash, literally, and often had an apartment paid for by the owner where five or six of the guys lived--I'm sure they were screwed every step of the way in terms of rent, utilities, groceries, and pay. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--America wouldn't have an illegal labor situation if it wasn't for the unscrupulous business owners (possibly getting a "Businessperson of the Year" Award at your local Chamber of Commerce this evening) who thrive on cutting corners by hiring illegals so they can save money on actual pay, health insurance, safety standards, and payroll taxes.

In short, waiting and especially bartending gigs (the latter are much harder to get than people seem to think they are) are good for quick cash, and for people who don't mind working non-traditional hours, putting up with the assholes who constitute a majority of the American populace, and so on. While I don't shed many tears for the long-term servers who have figured out how to play the game well, I will say that restaurants and bars are, moreso than many examples of micro-capitalism, the ultimate divide-and-conquer scheme. Show me a joint, low or high-end, where the bartenders are scheming against the waiters are scheming against the cooks are scheming against the bussers are scheming against that bitch of a hostess, and you've got the recipe for a place that'll make the managers and owners money. Or just go read some Tony Bourdain.
posted by bardic at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2006


1/ How does your hourly wage compare to the hourly wage of the restaurant's dishwashers (after any percentage of the tips that they may share in)? Is that "fair"?

How fair it is usually depends on the labour market. In smaller cities, or in the middle of the continent (like here in Saskatchewan) the dishwasher is usually the newest, and often the youngest, member of the staff. Washing dishes is a much, much easier job than cooking or serving (though just as labour-intensive) so it's a good way for someone to a) make some odd-hours money, or b) get a start in the business. Most cooks start out in the dishpit, just as most servers start out bussing or making lattes.

In this situation, the pay disparity is absolutely fair: the job requiring the least experience, training, and ability pays the lowest wage, and upward mobilty is possible.

In larger cities, the dishwasher, and most of the kitchen staff, are more likely to be recent immigrants with fewer job prospects. As such, they are less likely to be properly paid, ($7.50 Canadian an hour for a sous-chef?) less likely to be promoted for the better jobs in the restaurant, less likely to get tipped out at all.

This situation is fucking unfair. But other than try to patronize restaurants that you know are ethicaly managed, I can't think of how to deal with restaurants like these.

Eating at such a place anyway, but stiffing the servers? Won't help.


And as for your second question:
2/ If the restaurant management said "we're going to abolish tipping, and charge a standard 20% service fee" AND ensured that you in fact received the full amount of that fee, would you support such a move, or would you rather hold out for the possibility of the big payoff from the statistically improbable tipper?

Hell yes, I'd go along with it. I'd lose a few, blue-moon "big payoffs", but have no more $2.75 tips on a seventy dollar tab. It'd more than even out, and I'd have a way easier time budgeting my (now very unpredictable) income.
posted by Tomatillo at 2:56 PM on May 24, 2006


Whew! Have I learned a lesson today! When determining the correct amount to tip, it is vitally important to determine whether your server has a blog. Thanks, Metafilter.
posted by Sparx at 3:20 PM on May 24, 2006


Tomatillo,

but stiffing the servers? Won't help


I've never once advocated "stiffing the servers." As I say, I tip 15% (on the after-tax amount, so that's actually about 23% on the actual bill). I've googled around a bit and from the studies that have been done that turns out to be somewhat larger than the average tip--so I'm not making my waitstaff any poorer than they would otherwise be (except that every time I think "I'd rather eat in than eat out"--and all this tipping drama plays a role in that decision--I'm depriving everyone in the restaurant of some earnings--tip or not).

My point is that I would MUCH rather go to a restaurant that said "Do not tip--we pay all our staff a living, fair wage" and charged accordingly, than to go to a restaurant where I have to go through all the psychodrama of being judged adequately or inadequately magnanimous.

Of course, a restaurant that paid EVERYONE a living wage would undoubtedly have to pay its waiters rather less than usual, and pay its busboys and sous-chefs and dishwashers rather more than usual. The waiters would probably be of a "lower" socio-economic background than is typical (your typical college grad / actor / still-finding-myself type would opt to work for tips at a less "fair" establishment...)
posted by yoink at 3:21 PM on May 24, 2006


When determining the correct amount to tip, it is vitally important to determine whether your server has a blog. Thanks, Metafilter.

This is more true than you know, and probably preferable to the stiffed servers who don't have a blog. Even in good restaurants, it's not uncommon for "complimentary" additions like saliva, urine, floor sweepings, pubic hair, etc. to make it into your dish if you're cheap and/or annoying. Not to condone the behavior myself, but it's funny how people tend to assume that just because you're paying a lot for a meal means that the basic laws of human nature, i.e., revenge, are, ahem, "off the table." Another reason to learn to how to cook for yourself, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by bardic at 3:46 PM on May 24, 2006


So, Mach3avelli, about how much is your hourly wage on average then (if you don't mind sharing that info)?

It really depends on the station, day, weather, etc., but on average, anywhere from between $10-25/hr. (min. wage + tips).

There's one more point I haven't really seen addressed here, so let me make a note of it with an anecdote that'll make me appear like an asshole....

This man came in to our restaurant, and instead of settling for a table for two, insisted on a booth fit for four to himself. He was a nice, pleasant fellow with interesting stories to share. He ordered a burger and a soda. His bill was $13. After two hours, he paid the bill, and after tipping $2, he scratched it out while handing it to me and said, "No, you gave me excellent service, I'll give you 20%," and wrote $2.50 instead.

In his eyes, he's "hooking me up." In my eyes, he occupied a table for four I could have easily turned over twice within his time and made at least $15-30. The fact that he made a note of marking my tip up 50 cents enraged me to no end.

Anyway, point is, servers could care less if you tip 10 or 20%, as long you spend, spend, spend. I'd rather have shitty/average tippers on a $300 bill than marvellous tippers on a $50 bill. Please choose the steaks, the Hennessey XO, the desserts...in the end, it's how much $$ I walk away with, not what % I bring home.
posted by Mach3avelli at 3:48 PM on May 24, 2006


servers could care less if you tip 10 or 20%

Oh, if this thread proves nothing else, it proves that that's not really true. The point of all those waitstaff blogs is always "the bastard stiffed me on the tip." Indeed, the higher the bill, the higher the outrage ("the bastard could afford a $200 bottle of wine, but tipped me just 10%!!").

The logical stance to take, based on your argument, would be a flat-rate tip of x-dollars per hour (or half-hour), regardless of the expense of the items you're buying. I'm sure the waiter who brought me a $10 meal and received a $10 tip would be thrilled. The waiter who brought me a $200 meal and got the same tip would be heading for their blog.
posted by yoink at 4:19 PM on May 24, 2006


The logical stance to take, based on your argument, would be a flat-rate tip of x-dollars per hour (or half-hour), regardless of the expense of the items you're buying. I'm sure the waiter who brought me a $10 meal and received a $10 tip would be thrilled. The waiter who brought me a $200 meal and got the same tip would be heading for their blog.

You're neglecting one element: tip-out. To the bussers, hosts, food-runners, etc. At my restaurant, 5% of sales go out to the rest of the staff, so a $10 tip on $200 means you've made $0. Naturally, you'd of course prefer the same tip on a $10 check.

I think some of these servers have it all wrong if they're more worried about tip % then they are about take home $$.
posted by Mach3avelli at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2006


The point of all those waitstaff blogs is always "the bastard stiffed me on the tip."

I have to say I respected waiters a lot more before I started reading their blogs (and comments on MeFi). I still tip the same as ever, because the work they do deserves it, but I think of them as an insufferably whiny lot.
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on May 24, 2006


The logical stance to take...

It's really not that difficult. You're making it a psychodrama. Suspicious of people who bring you food, afraid of being judged, feeling pressured to show off. It's a meal. Relax. Be a good sport. Don't act like your money is more important than the the people you give it to. Having been raised to regard tipping as an insult must make this confusing, but it would serve you well to drop the assumption that every waiter is casting judement upon you. Do what feels right. If you're just cheap, and you don't want to tip, that's your problem. If you do tip, do it because you want to and leave whatever you want. It's a subjective expression of gratitude, you either have it or you don't. No one can logically say you tipped incorrectly.
posted by airguitar at 5:06 PM on May 24, 2006


If you're just cheap, and you don't want to tip, that's your problem. If you do tip, do it because you want to and leave whatever you want. It's a subjective expression of gratitude, you either have it or you don't. No one can logically say you tipped incorrectly.

Hee hee. That's great. "Hey dude, relax, no one's judging you. Just leave whatever you want. Oh, sure, I'll call you "just cheap" if you don't leave the amount I think is appropriate. But that judging thing? All in your head, dude..."
posted by yoink at 5:20 PM on May 24, 2006


The only tips that really stand out are 0% and 50%. Everything else is just noise.

You're not that important.
posted by airguitar at 5:52 PM on May 24, 2006


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