Four Letter Word

The second sentence in the preface to my book Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip — Confessions of a Cynical Waiter contains a four-letter word. No, not the usual F-bomb or scatological epithet you’d expect from a harried, ill-tempered server about to drop a bolus of sputum into your soup. The word in question appears in this sentence — “I bring food to tables in exchange for tips.” You don’t see the four-lettered culprit, you say? Dear reader, it’s staring you in the face! It’s the word tips.

We all know what tips are. Tips are a “gift of money for a service, especially as an amount above what is owed.” Say you eat at Café Fancy Schmancy and the bill is $100. If you want to avoid washing dishes under the supervision of a socially maladjusted ex-con after you’ve finished eating, you’re going to fork over that $100. And, if the server wasn’t a demented serial killer and refrained from dumping food on your head, tradition dictates that you leave them between $15-$20 as payment for explaining the menu, taking your order, and delivering your food. What could be simpler? Sadly, it isn’t simple. Some customers regard the word “tips” the way other people regard F-bombs or, gasp, the dreaded “C word.” It’s a hard, cold fact that many restaurant patrons loathe the very concept of tipping.

I think one of the reasons people don’t like tipping is because of the sticker shock. Let’s face it, when you go to a restaurant in the New York City, the menu prices only tell part of the story. Buying food in a restaurant is not like buying gasoline at a service station where taxes and fuel delivery charges are rolled into a single posted price. By the time you add 8.375% in local taxes and a minimum pre-tax 15% tip, the true cost of your $100 restaurant snack has risen to $123.78! That’s an almost 24% increase over what you initially thought you’d pay! Brutal!

But you’ll almost never hear customers quibbling about paying Caesar his due. That’s probably because the State comes equipped with cops, guns, and reinforced concrete extended stay facilities. You know the government’s getting its money, so who’s left to crab to? Who’s left to skim? The waiter, that’s who! Legally a “gratuity” is a gift. Unless the restaurant writes on menu that patrons must pay a “service charge” on top of the bill, a customer’s under no legal obligation to leave anything. Trust me, there are customers who are aware of this loophole and skimp on the tip in order to save themselves a few bucks. Here’s a tip for them. If you can’t afford the gratuity, you can’t afford to go out to eat. Oh, you may get away with stiffing waiters for a while, but eventually every waiter in the Metropolitan area will have your number and you’ll need a toxicology team from Johns Hopkins to sort through the nastiness we’ve been dumping into your food.

But people hate tipping for another reason. They’re aghast that they have to subsidize a restaurant’s employment costs. I recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek story for a UK magazine that poked fun at British people for being bad tippers. The Queen’s subjects are nice enough human beings but, when visiting the US, they’re usually unaware that the customary tip at a restaurant is 15-20% of the bill and unwittingly leave a substandard gratuity. When you explain this to a Briton (or any other member of the European Union) they’re shocked that American waiters depend on tips for the bulk of their income. They raise a hue and cry and say it’s not their fault American restaurant owners fail to us a pay “living wage.” Instead of just acknowledging the system for what it is and giving us our money, they tell us waiters to man the barricades, exhort us to unionize, fight for our rights, and, if that’s too much effort, stop whining and find other jobs. An English woman, however, wryly noted that English men patronizing American strip clubs don’t raise a similar ruckus regarding the cash gratuities they slip into a dancer’s G-string. I’d love to see some European tell Uncle Tony to pay his girls “a living wage.” Ha!

Sadly, many American’s believe in this “save the waiter” nonsense as well. The word “tips” conjures up visions of economic injustice waiting to be vanquished in the space of a Sunday afternoon complete with an Andrew Lloyd Weber sound track and half-assed choreography. Spare me the Che Guevara nonsense. Just pay what you owe me! The tipping system in the US is here to stay. Why? Look at the numbers!

Waiters, unlike servers in Europe, are not paid a salary. In the state of New York, for instance, servers are paid $4.60 an hour. That’s below the state’s minimum wage of $7.15 an hour. The expectation is that our tips, coupled with a small hourly wage, will raise our compensation to the minimum wage level or above. If you work in a good restaurant you can clear $200 a night. But that’s not the norm for most servers. Under the current system, a restaurant owner in NY only has to pay a waiter working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, a mere $8,832 per annum (before taxes). Owners count on the customers to leave tips and raise the waiter’s income to the minimum wage level and hopefully above it. But the NY owners only have to pay their workers $4.60 an hour!

So let’s look at that “living wage” scenario our socialist brethren in Europe and at home are advocating. Let’s pretend that our full-time US waiter working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, will now get paid a salary. Let’s further assume that the waiter averaged, with his shift pay and tips, $100 per day. $100 a day or $12.50 an hour is now established as his salary. Let’s toss in a bare-bones health care plan that costs the employer $300 per month. That’s an additional $3,600 a year. And, since we’re being generous, let’s throw in 3 sick days and 2 weeks vacation. (Waiters normally never get health insurance, sick days, or vacation.) That’s an additional $1,300.

The breakdown? Our “living wage” server is now earning $25,000 a year. He has a health care benefit costing $3,600 a year. He has a $1,300 benefit for vacation and sick days. The yearly cost to the restaurant for one full time waiter is now $29,900 per year! That’s an increase of $21,068! The cost for that one waiter has more than tripled! Can you think of any business that can survive its labor costs going up threefold? And who would bear those new costs if it happened? You, the consumer! Restaurateurs would pass along the higher labor costs in the form of higher prices and going out to eat would suddenly get a lot more expensive. And, since water always seeks its own level, most restaurant owners will game the system by only hiring part-time servers ineligible for benefits and pay them something like $8 an hour. Good waiters will leave the business in droves and service standards will plunge. Every restaurant in America will transform into a fast food joint staffed by the dumbed-down version of the French waiter from hell. Heck, owners will tack on a 20% service charge, pay their waiters as little as possible, and then pocket the difference. You think I’m being cynical? The precedent has already been set by catering outfits! What do you think happens to that automatic gratuity catering halls tack on to a wedding party? The owners use that money to pay banquet servers a low hourly wage and then pocket the difference. With few exceptions, letting management be the sole determinant of what waiters should get paid is asking for trouble. I think it’s in the American restaurant customer’s best interest to keep the current payment system afloat. Just what do you think will happen when servers know they’re going to get paid no matter what level of service they provide? Yep, it’s back to the French waiter from hell thing again.

There’s no way I can cover all the history, nuances, and issues regarding tipping in a single blog post. Suffice to say, tips is a hot button word like sex, politics, or veganism. Everyone’s got an opinion on it, but no one truly understands it either. Whenever I mentioned tipping on my blog Waiter Rant, my traffic numbers soared and the number of comments would go through the roof. Sometimes, when I had my own version of a slow news day, I’d just throw the topic out there and start a little brush war in the comments section. And you know what? People, in typical knee-jerk reactionary fashion, would fall right into my trap and start raging away. It was so easy. Tips is a powerful four letter word that can stir up the strangest passions in the most unlikely places.

And don’t forget folks, tips spelled backwards is spit!

This post originally appeared as a guest blog entry on Powells.com


Comments

Four Letter Word — 222 Comments

  1. “Restaurateurs would pass along the higher labor costs in the form of higher prices and going out to eat would suddenly get a lot more expensive.”

    Hmm… really? Isn’t the whole premise here that the “true cost” would remain unchanged? That is, the menu price would rise, but with the tipping expectation removed, the consumer impact would be nothing or close to it?

    Or are you arguing that fewer people would eat out because the menus look more expensive? If that’s the case, then low menu prices are being used as a false draw, no different from cell phones with hidden fees.

    Either way, plenty of places (like Australia, for example) have no tipping expectation at all—even leaving a few percent is considered unnecessary except in cases of exceptional service.

  2. amazing!! So well written I agree 100%.

    I hate being told to “get a better job” or to start a revolution. Just tip me!

  3. Things are aren’t going to change, so just leave the tip. It’s just the way it is!!

    If you raise the price of the food and no tip is required, I’d like to know how a restaurant would deal with an unhappy customer…What if the food was great but the service was horrible? Or the food was awful but the service was awesome? I suppose good service should just be expected but well, I give up. It’s not quite like retail after all, I’m getting a headache thinking about it.

  4. I’m a waitress at a casual burger joint and I cannot agree with this enough. If your total bill was $40, please leave me more than $3 tip. I had a table of 3 separate women that each had 2 kids apiece with them and all together I was tipped five dollars from that table. And yes, I do remember what they look like and I do remember watching them drive off in Lexuses. And yes, the next time they came in I did left their food sit under heat lamps for a while and I did pour water into your milkshake. Your kids don’t need all the fat anyway.

    Also, I’m from Georgia, my wage is $2.13 pre tax.

  5. It’s part of the cultural decline in America. People don’t read, don’t know history, etc. They aren’t taught much by their parent, who, to be quite fair, are working two jobs and sleeping six hours a night, if they’re an average American, but if they’re a 20th percentile American, are working perhaps 3 jobs (if they’re lucky) and sleeping four hours a night. Not much time to teach their kids, who are generally working as well. Maybe as waiters.

    I was surprised you mentioned only a little about your European siblings. I wish you’d gather some more information about them, as my understanding is that every legally employed waiter in most EU and other European nations gets several paid weeks of vacation per year, a reasonable salaried wage, protection against arbitrary firing, health insurance, and a pension (the latter two through the state paid from wage taxes).

    Nancy, it’s almost impossible for me to believe that Georgia can pay you such a criminal wage. It makes me want to spit. In Washington State, minimum wage for everyone now tops $7 and is indexed to inflation.

    It’s economic slavery, not much different, what they’re paying you. When my wife and I go out with our kids, we tip at worst 15% if the service is mediocre, and often 20 to 25% (and we drive an Subaru and an old Honda), because the good servers of which there are many are worth their weight in gold. We almost tipped nothing at a TGIFs we went to out of desperation a year ago. The servers abandoned us after delivering the food (in an empty restaurant at noon taking a long time to deliver it), and it took us 20 minutes after asking the hostess and three servers to get our check. We saw our server HIDING. Our children are actually pretty pleasant. No screaming, no food throwing, etc.

    Separately, we’ve made friends with servers at a few restaurants, partly because they’re so lovely to our children.

    Mr Waiter Rant, I have had this problem at Starbucks recently, in that the staff often provides good service, I know they’re paid on the low said, and I want to tip them. (They do get some relatively affordable health care options, at least.) But with a Starbucks stored-value card, there is NO WAY TO TIP THEM WITH THE CARD. I’ve asked several *$ staffers about this, and they’re all, don’t worry, it’s fine, etc., and I’m thinking, this is just ridiculous. The Card is sucking tips out of their pockets if someone doesn’t think about it, or, like I am sometimes, have no small bills or coins.

  6. I don’t think it would be too much of a disaster if tipping disappeared; there are still avenues of communication through managers, word of mouth, etc etc, besides that any decent supervisor should have SOME idea of whats going on, so it’s not like waiters would be free to be rampantly terrible.

    I find the tipping system unfair simply because so much factors into a person’s overall impression of the meal — the quality of the food, the decor/atmosphere, everything in their own life, etc — that the tip will never actually reflect service.

    http://charlotte-faulkner.blogspot.com/

  7. jrh456: Do you mean that $8.50 an hour is too little or too much as a flat wage? Around Seattle, employment rates are still high enough that what used to be $7 to $8 per hour jobs pay $10 to $12 (which doesn’t make up the increase in that time for health insurance costs, of course), and I hear from folks looking to fill those jobs that people don’t last long even at that wage.

  8. Those Guardian commenters were so STOOOOPID! Did they seriously think that if America suddenly took their advice and “paid a living wage”, the restaurants would just absorb the cost!? Anyway, the cost of a sandwich in the UK is like $20 nowadays, so its not like they can’t afford it when they’re on their “cheap” vacations here.

  9. Some American firms in Europe are trying to get around the minimum wage row with the whole supplementary tip thing. Hard Rock Cafe is involved in a legal battle here in the UK over it.

  10. I’ve gotta say, as a self-described “good tipper” who’s married to a former waitress, I cringe every time I hear wait staff threaten the ol’ “surprise ingredient”, and I’ve stopped giving business to restaurants that employ people who brag of it.

    I get the anger of being stiffed, I get the helpless feeling of doing your job well and getting no recognition, but the “revenge” disgusts me. Any kitchen that allows that level of immature behaviour ain’t one I want to sample the wares of.

    So, do I just eat at home all of the time? No, I frequent known establishments with enforced gratuities, and leave a few bucks above that for good service.

    Maybe you should save the moisture in your mouth to talk your place into adopting mandatory gratuities?

  11. I ran right out and grabbed your book, being a huge fan of this blog, and was dismayed to discover I am a “Average Joe” pain in the ass for tipping 20%.

    Forgive my further mystification when on page 295, tip 35 states that you should tip 15-20 percent, which understandably confused me when previously stated in your book to be a pain in the ass, and something 70% of the population here in the states does.

    I certainly have no intent to lower my tips for excellent service, nor will I discontinue reading your blog, but I certainly am interested at how such a alarming contradiction got past you…and your editors.

  12. Excellent as always Waiter!I once chased some Europeans out onto the street and asked them if something had been wrong with my service,they hadn’t tipped.A woman with them said they knew better but were acting dumb.(I had no shame)So next time they hopefully knew not to mess with a NYC waiter.
    I no longer live in NYC but in Europe where the waiters are very well taken care of and when I travel I always try to check the customs of the country I am visiting.
    I just came back from NYC and I was in the Time Warner building but I didn’t know you were having a book signing!Boohoo.Thanks so much for all your writing and congrats on all your success.I hope Oprah picks your book!

  13. Whatever goes on in upper scale restaurants is fine by me — I eat at greasy spoons and chains.
    I don’t think the same rules apply. Nobody ever tipped me! Times are tough and a $2 tip ain’t bad.

  14. I dislike the concept of tipping–I would much rather the food cost 15% more. I still tip pretty close to 15%, because it isn’t fair to use my dislike as an excuse to cheat a server.

    If tipping were discontinued, the industry would adapt. Stupid owners would pay minimum wage, get lousy servers and go out of business. Smart owners would pay servers decent wages, keep the good ones and continue to prosper. I wouldn’t be annoyed when the serve-yourself smorgasbord puts the drink machines in the kitchen and makes the bussers bring refills so they can call them servers.

  15. People can’t grasp the concept of American tipping, even Americans! Atcleast it’s a good way to weed out shitty people from the pond. When I read the crazy commenters around here it makes me glad I live in New York, surrounded by a peer group of smart, empathetic, reasonable people who would never dream of stiffing a waiter :) Miserable gits! Although, I do still have to sneak back into restaurants to properly tip after my Mom picks up the check! A few weeks ago I even had to go home, get some cash, and return to the restaurant after my mother left $40 on $37.50 and wouldn’t hear a word on how unacceptable it was. (She’s a Brit, of course)

  16. Ya, same goes for my hotel room service job. This old broad (real leathery tanned skin and white pale hair) with at least 10k worth of jewelry strewn about her desk and two bottles of her own cristal (other high brand hard liquors around also) purchased a burger and fries from room service. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but she refused to pay 15 bucks for an angus burger and fries ($2.00 trip charge and 20% service charge displayed in bold on the room service menu). She thought a 3/4- 1 lb burger patty from a well-known cattle ranch in our area with all the fixings would be more like 3 or 4 bucks. Plus she expected the fries to come included in the price of the burger, even though the menu specifically stated they did not. First of all, read the goddamned prices on your food, what ingredients come with it BEFORE YOU CALL, and make sure you can afford it….and secondly, if you can afford it, like this Capital B, then make sure you don’t complain about the price when the quality of food you’re getting is above and beyond even the best fast food chain we have out here (burgerville for organic and non-processed burgers, cheeses, breads and veggies). The next day I got a complaint card saying I didn’t inform her of the menu price (she used my name) even though I didn’t even take the order, I just rang it in and delivered it. There’s no need to give a call-back to a room with the total charge anyway unless they don’t have a card for their room which covers incidentals, and they need to give a card or pay cash. I should’ve just swiped one of her three diamond studded bracelets, wound it up twice and use it as a C-Ring. ;-)

  17. Mike- Let me explain what would happen if the cost of tipping was put into the price on the menu and servers were paid a flat rate.

    You say “but with the tipping expectation removed, the consumer impact would be nothing or close to it”… Are you kidding me? The consumer impact would be huge. Now that the server is not working hard to make you happy(to get your money), please explain to me how you quality of service will stay at the same level it is now. Where is the incentive for the server to kiss your pompous ass? Without the lure of making more money for giving better service, the quality of the restaurant experience will suffer greatly.

    Labor costs will rise in another way. What server is now willing to run extra tables? Your getting paid the same amount to run one or five tables so why work harder? In short, more servers need to be on the floor.

    Most servers are smart and educated people. Who in their right minds will do this incredibly stressful and demeaning job for a lousy $8 an hour? I will tell you right now that all the intelligent, hard working, good servers will go get a desk job and you’ll be left with the fast food work force dropping off your pasta and steaks. Trust me, no server is giving you great service because they want to be your friend.

    THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES THIS JOB WORTH PUTTING UP WITH THE SCUM OF THE EARTH IS THE FACT THAT WE HAVE A CHANCE TO MAKE MORE THAN MINIMUM WAGE VIA TIPS!

  18. You took the words right out of my mouth – my Scottish husband and I have this debate all the time. He says *exactly* what you summarized for British people.

    However, I do think retail people and fast food cashiers should unionize. That has potential.

  19. Matt, you said just about everything to Mike That I wanted to say.

    But: The Waiter says cost for one server would triple. So that goes for every server there. We are talking about costs orders of magnitude higher. Of course that will be reflected in the what they charge for food. We’d see a lot more than 24% mark-up (with tax and tip and the waiter showed us).

    I really don’t know what the big deal about tipping is.

  20. My Mom was a waitress at sushi bar for almost 15 years. She got below minimum and her tips were put in a communal jar to be split three ways: the chef/owner, the waitresses, the kitchen staff. I had no problem with the waitresses and the kitchen staff being in on the kitty but the owner… It’s not an easy job to do and I gotta agree about not going out if you’re not going to tip decently. I get really upset when I’m with bad tippers but it’s hard to slip in an extra buck or five without getting your ass tore out.

  21. I used to be skeptical of those “tip” portions of the check too — until my years in the trenches. Back in college I spent 2 yrs in the “fine dining” industry, and before that, a couple of summers in a greasy-spoon style chain restaurant during high school, and a few months in catering. After experiencing BOTH ends of the service industry, I feel that I came out of my time slinging platters with (a) much higher expectations for what constitutes “good” service; (b) a greater tolerance of, and insight into reasons to explain, why “bad” service may occur, even to the best of servers, and (c) an unapologetically generous tipping policy, at all costs.

    I know how much it stung to give a table exemplary service and walk away with 15% or less (in a high-end restaurant where 20% is the norm), let alone when I’d be stiffed a tip ENTIRELY, or occasionally “tipped” with items such as a package of cigarettes, reception favors from the event in the room next door, or pocket change (yes, this has all happened to me).

    Now, when a server provides me with EXEMPLARY service, I have enough experience to appreciate the skill that was necessary to make my dining experience a success — and I tip accordingly (25% to 30% depending on the check total and how flush I am that day), knowing how grateful I, myself was when receiving an unexpectedly large gratuity. In restaurants where the service was crappy, I will still provide the minimum of 15% to 20%, as I know what other forces could be at work that are wholly outside of the server’s control, and feel too guilty to “penalize” anyone from their expected living wage. On a very rare occasion, I experience truly offensive, negligent, or terrible service. In these situations, I tip 10% and leave it at that. Only in a truly extraordinary circumstance would I ever leave NOTHING. And such a circumstance would likely require the server to be openly hostile or abusive towards me.

    I have ordered your book from Amazon and I intend to press it into my more stingy friends’ and family member’s hands so that they might understand what life is like for waitstaff behind those kitchen doors, and loosen their purse strings accordingly.

    Thank you for your writing, I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

  22. I worked both front of the house and back before having the total lapse of judgment that resulted in owning a couple of food establishments. What bothers me about your take on tipping is that it assumes that service is a one-sided contract. I have known and been served by some very professional waiters/waitresses. I have also met some who were absolute jerks. If I have a duty to tip you just because you eventually showed up at the table, then you have a duty to act as professional as you would want me to act if you came into my place of business. I should not have to tip you “15% for mediocre service” just because you are underpaid. Just as well, I should tip you 20% – 25% for excellent service. If you are as introspective as I trained my staff to be, you will ask yourself whether that bad tip was a reflection of the customer’s penury or whether there really was a reason for the customer to think the service sucked. There are two ways to deal with poor service (for example, when the waitress decided to spray windex on the lights over the table we were eating at, in order to not have to stay late to do her post-closing chores). Should I express it in my tip, or complain to the Manager?

    Yes, Natalie, I’m sure those ladies learned their lesson when you retaliated against them. I know that their kids sat in the back seat of the Lexus thinking, “Wow! If mom had tipped well enough last time, my milkshake wouldn’t have tasted like crap. I’ll have to discuss that with her” Just knowing that you harbored such retaliatory feeling was, no doubt, the very reason the moms did everything in their power to over-tip you the next time. Right?

    Even when I managed at a private club, where the members thought that Lincoln hadn’t really freed the slaves, the game wasn’t to spit in the food. It was to see what it took to get even the a**holes to tip well. Some of them were hopeless. Some new the drill. Most of those in between could be pushed upward with a few doses of dazzling service. Can’t imagine what it would have been like if we left the food under the lights.

  23. I’ve waited tables in the past, and I dine out a fair amount today, so I think I understand both points of view.

    I’m not opposed to the concept of tipping. I think it’s kind of weird, but I do it, and I do it well. However, I don’t agree that we would all be dining in Soviet-style restaurants if the practice were abolished and business owners were required to pay a living wage.

    As Waiter says, there would be some owners who would game the system…screw their staff, raise their prices, etc. And there would also be owners who would decide that it’s just too hard to find good help for the prevailing wage, and would hire untrainable idiots who would provide indifferent service.

    However…

    There would also be owners who would pay a decent wage, hire the best available servers, train them well, and expect the best performance from them.

    Guess who would succeed? Guess where I (and everyone else) would eat?

    I’m not being pie-in-the-sky. When I was in college, I worked at a couple of places like this (not waiting tables, but locally-owned retail, specifically sporting goods). We weren’t paid significantly more than the minimum wage, but we were trained well and treated well. We were also made aware of our store owners’ expectations; not in a brutal Dickensian way, but in a matter-of-fact, friendly, supportive fashion. And we took no small degree of pride in the fact that we were the best, most knowledgeable staff of any establishment in the entire city. We also took pride in the service that we provided to our customers.

    Were our bosses unusual? Yes. But they were also successful. So successful that the owners opened two more in the three years that I worked there, and are still thriving more than 20 years later. (Boy am I old.)

    I guess I’m saying that tipping isn’t the only way to guarantee good service, and doing away with the model won’t stop the earth from spinning on its axis.

  24. I still dont get some of the ‘logic’ behind tipping.

    You need to get paid – one way or the other. We agree here. If you’re good (provides excellent service) you should get paid more than someone offering basic service. I wonder if you agree here, since that would mean not 15-20% for all. Less for some, more for others.

    Finally – if one table have you bring a $40 bottle of wine and another table asks for a $80 bottle – why must the latter table pay you twice the tips for the same work/effort/service? If the wine is bad, do you have to pay for it ? Then I guess it makes sense for you to get paid more for taking greater risk – but if not then how on earth can you justify getting paid more to open, bring and pour a more expensive bottle? Is it harder to pour the cheap one?

    I’m really just trying to understand the reasoning here.

  25. When it comes down to it, the difference between a good tip and a crappy tip is usually just a couple of dollars. So really, why do people complain so much about letting go of 2 or 3 extra dollars?

    I work at a small restaurant in a summer tourist town that does alright… one of my co workers the other day got a compliment from one of the tables but it went something like this… the guy was explaining to our boss that he loved the server so much he left him a 30% tip, which is really great… however he followed by saying that was even greater than we thought because he never tips servers… it took everything my boss had not to reach over and slap him!

    We also had this table of 16 walk in without a reservation on a busy night and asked specifically for 4 tables of 4. It was in different servers sections and they said it was ok they were splitting the check. When their server came over and told them that he had 3 of their tables and that they could push it together they said no thanks we dont want to have to pay a forced gratuity. when that server told them that our restaurant didnt do that, they all pushed together and left a total of an 11% tip.

    Remember… its really just a few dollars difference to the patron, and they may say well its just a couple of bucks they can live without it… well its just a couple bucks to the patron but if every table in a servers section in a night gave a couple extra bucks, then that server may actually be able to pay his bills that month.

  26. I have worked in restaurants first as a busboy at 15 then in several dinner houses as bartender. The wife has 25 years in the business, waitress, manager, chef. Just started collecting Social Security. Can not afford to dine out much anymore. When we do we tip 20% unless the service is BAD. One thing that has helped us is restaurant.com. We can buy a $25.00 gift certificate for $4.00 to $5.00 depending on the day, recently they sold them for $2.00 for a couple days. generally this results in approx. a $20.00 savings. Normally our bill for two is about $100.00. We save $20.00 with the certificate then tip the waiter/waitress $20.00. In reality the house is covering our 20% tip. restaurant.com for us has been a great way to eat out and take proper care of the wait staff while being easier on our limited budget.

  27. Speaking from the mom & pop coffee shop POV, you aren’t required to use the tip jar, I get minimum wage. But putting you extra pennies or nickles in there is just insulting. You aren’t tipping me for a job well done, you’re emptying loose change you don’t want to haul around. I see you bastards saving the quarters and nickles. At least quarters add up to something.

    Really, it just makes actually sorting the tip jar a pain in the ass.

    25 cents or more, otherwise, keep the change.

  28. Personally, I don’t think tipping should be necessary at restaurants; I’d love it if the tip were built into the price of the meal, as it means less math for the average joe, and if the waiters got decent wages by default. On the other hand, as long as society mandates it, I will tip generously for good service, average for average service, etc, because ideals don’t simply change reality like that; if the waiter gets a lower paycheck on the assumption of tips, then I’m damn well going to tip regardless of how I feel about the necessity of the practice.

  29. I just went out to lunch with a friend the other day and he left 10%. I begged for him to let me leave the tip and he said, “No I’m going to.” When I questioned the 10% (because I’m just that bitchy) he said, “What did he do really? He brought us drinks, took our order, brought it back, cleared the table. He got paid for that already.” Ugh. I wanted to scream. And people wonder why I want to pay when I go out for dinner.

  30. I’m a waitress who works for $8/hour, no tips. I could get insurance (GOOD insurance) and paid time off if I wanted, but I’m also a full-time student, so I can’t work the 30 hours/week necessary to qualify for benefits.

    The catch is that I work for an assisted living home for older people (not quite the elderly). We do have a much smaller menu than your average restaurant, but the menu changes every day. We only serve 80-100 people per meal, but these are people with dementia or altheizmers (sp?) who can be very hard to work with. Some are very demanding, while others will try to hit us and throw food because they want something we aren’t serving that night. They can’t always remember stuff, so us servers have to keep track of what they like/dislike/are allergic to/can’t eat because of health problems. (Yes, I can list 100 different people’s favorite drink and dessert orders from memory.)

  31. However, if the server gives me all my change back (45 cents) in dimes and nickels, then should I not tip? I am a regular at the coffee shop, for some reason I often get 45 cents back as dimes and nickels. (My coffee is 1.55, I pay with 2$). I assume this is because they want me to throw the lot in the tip jar, and it often works. If it was 2 quarters and a nickel, I wouldnt be so annoyed at having the change in my pocket.
    I figure I don’t have to tip anything for $1.55 coffee, especially since I bring my own cup, and pour it myself from the coffee bar. What service am I paying for, the service of your ringing me up? And now you’re telling me that my 30% tip is a bad thing? I give up, I will never understand the finer points of tipping etiquette.

  32. Can’t do basic math. A quarter and two dimes, not two quarters and a nickel (They raised all the prices by 10 cents about a month ago, still getting used to it). Even when my change was 55cents it was usually 5 dimes and a nickel, now it’s 4 dimes and a nickel.

  33. So… out of curiousity, how do European restaurants not go out of business? I’m assuming that they ARE paying their waiters a living wage (is this not a true assumption?).

    If the Europeans can do it, America can do it. We are the best nation in the world, are we not?

  34. I always prefigure the tip into my choice of dining. I have been known to tip fast food servers for their service and personality when they have both. A little encouragement can go a long way.

    I even tip the taxi drivers. (shock of shocks) when they don’t act like entitled jerks. If I am too broke to tip, as previously stated in the blog entry above, I’m too broke to eat out. Home cooking suffices and I’m a terrific cook at that.

    I got roundly vilified for paying my wait staff more than any other eatery in town. You should have seen some of the hate mail I turned over to the police! Of course, my popularity among restauranteurs in that town plummeted after that gambit as well. I didn’t care. I treated my workers like human beings and diners didn’t hesitate to pay my prices because they loved the high quality of service we had to offer.

    I love the book so far! I haven’t had much time to read it but I’m getting there.

    Best wishes!

  35. this sucks(sorry) i read the first 10 or so comments and i saw numbers like $8 and $10 an hour, i wish i got paid that much(im a waiter/cook in a new york restaurant) i get paid $4.65 an hour as a waiter and $7.75 an hour as a cook.

  36. I always tip as expected when in the US, but it’s a stupid way of doing it. I think waiter must feel the same way, else he wouldn’t be so defensive about it.

  37. Congrats on your success!!!! I love the book!!!!

    One small gripe from me… Please don’t generalize all caterers as money hogging fiends. My wife and I have a small catering business that we run for fun. It lets us be creative and do something we love. We hire helpers and they usually walk away from the evening with as much in their pockets as we do. It isn’t uncommon for a server to make $400 to $500 for a night’s work (four or five hours) with us. There are some generous people out here and we don’t want to be thrown in the barrel with the bad ones…

    Again, it is great to see your dream becoming a reality! I have been a loyal fan for a couple years. How soon will the book tour be in Florida? Let us know and we can fix dinner and serve you!!!

    All our best

    D & L

  38. here’s a tip waiter: keep posting never before written stuff….using a post from another blog, magazine or editorial is kind of like cheating, isn’t it?

  39. This all seems unfair. If all waiters assume all customers are obligated to tip and will do so, then what is the difference between that and salary? They already think they’ll get that little bit extra no matter what. While I think it’s a flawed system, I tip according to service and very firmly feel that bad service deserves a zero tip. I have been waited on by the drunks and drug addicts you speak of and they don’t deserve a dime. I have also walked out of a restaurant after they removed all of the inedible food from our bill only to be chased by the waitress demanding a tip. If she is not capable of seeing and smelling that the food is not fit for rats then why on earth should I give her a fraction of a cent? On the other hand I have tipped 50% for outstanding service. Everyone else in the world has to do their job “just” for what they get paid by their employer and guess what – everyone hates their job some days. There’s ups and downs to every job. In many of my jobs where I made under $10 an hour I would have been fired on the spot for accepting a tip. And I worked my butt off despite that. Why are waiters so special?
    PS~I NEVER give a cash tip because of my waiter friends whining about not taking enough home each day. I have to wait two weeks between paychecks, why can’t you?

  40. Thank you Old Geezer, for a voice of reason. I enjoy Waiter’s writing, and I wish he’d pick a horse and stay on it: either tipping is always mandatory AND waiters always behave as professionals (this, of course, would mean not farting on/burning/drugging/fill in other petty revenge customers), or, tips are earned through excellent service and dealing with assholes who try to cheat the system is part of the package. Reading this post, it sounds (much like the book) as though Waiter would like it both ways….. Which doesn’t make any sense to me at all, and frustrates me as a consumer who feels that tipping 20% is part of the package of eating out — provided I receive service up to a reasonable par.

  41. Pingback: tips spelled backwards is spit | salty

  42. In Maryland, servers are paid just over $3 an hour. No benefits – we’re on our own if we get sick or need vacation time. I’ve worked part time as a server around full time office jobs and going to college for about 12 years now.

    I think the overall problem with paying servers a flat wage vs. tipping is that you’ll end up with so many servers basically behaving like McDonald’s staff. Here’s your food and don’t bother me. Sadly, that attitude isn’t uncommon in most mid-range restaurants even now.

    I work in fine dining. Beyond the obvious get you drinks & food aspect of my job, I’ve also spent a great deal of time making sure I have a thorough knowledge of the menu. Allergic to something? Sure, I can help you find something you can eat. Have questions about how a menu item is prepared? I can walk you through it. Want to know where we’re getting our fresh tuna? Sure, I know. I know what Scotches, vodkas, rums, and other assorted alcohols we have behind the bar. I know what goes into most of your mixed drinks. I have a good knowledge of the wine list and have tried many of them (but let’s face it – I’m a college student and server – I am NOT drinking the $100 bottles of wine so don’t ask what I think of them, mmm k?). I can walk you through making a selection off the menu, out of the bar, and off the wine list that will suite YOUR palette. I can help you find a wine that will go with both the filet mignon AND the rockfish special. I can deal with Gramma and Grampa who are looking to get out as cheap as possible, I can make that first date or thirtieth anniversary a special occasion to remember, and I can deal with Mr. Grabby Hands who thinks that I’m going to give him my phone number because he’s soooo cute when he’s slobbering drunk on 2 Mai Tai’s. I can work a 14 top, making sure every drink and plate gets to the right person and everyone always has what they need while juggling a two top and two other four tops.

    My point? My job is a helluva lot more complicated than writing down your order and getting it to your table.

    TIP me, and don’t bitch about it.

  43. Waiting tables should be required before age 22. At least for three months. In that time you could probably run the gamut of all walks of life.
    I did it once for less than a year. An extreme eye-opener that was. I turned into a great tipper from that experience, and I’ve never waited tables again.

  44. “gift of money for a service, especially as an amount above what is owed.”

    It’s a gift! Above what is owed. Therefore I don’t have to pay it.

    You crazy Americans. Why am I paying your salary? It should be included in the price of the meal.

    A tip should be if I feel like I have recieved better than average service. You are employed in the restaurant, they should include your salary in the overheads.

    Tips are not mandatory !!!

  45. I believe you have it all wrong. Not only should tipping be stopped. We should not pay servers at all in monetary wages. They should be paid only in room and board. Now we’ll have to force them to do this, first we’ll have to get some bills passed. This way it’s legal to imprison the servers. Then we have to make sure the food and housing they get is substandard. This will break their spirit.

    You may ask, but won’t the service be horrible? No because if you get bad service then the server is punished, usually right there at your table. Corporeal punishment will be the most effective. Also servers can be bought and sold, so the better restuaruants will have better servers.

    Just thought I would add another idea to the pot instead of the old worn out flat wage.

  46. Actually, your system is wrong. This is not the way the rest of the world works.

    You are very convoluted in explaining the hours, the law, the restaurant owners attitude, but in the end, it’s too complicated and maybe, just maybe, you need to change.

    Seems to me that a 15 to 20% tip in a decent restaurant puts you well over minimum wage.

    Maybe a fairer system would be 15 to 20 percent in a cheap restaurant, but the more expensive the bill, the lower the percentage that should be tipped?

  47. Joel you crazy Chinese! It’s the same reason we pay your salary, because its a trade in service.

    If you don’t want to respect the cultural of our country (and I’m sure you expect us to do the same for your country) then stay out! If you don’t want to tip American waiters then don’t go to American restaurants. Even better I would like to go to dinner with you some time. We’ll go to a Chinese restaruant here in America. Before we sit down to eat we must let them know that you are not going to tip them. Let’s see what kind of response that gets.

  48. Y’know, I never thought about it that way, that a good wage would mean higher prices on the menus. Given that, it’s really better that waiters get tips, ’cause that way, the customer has some control over a system that, as a bonus, is merit-based — good waiters get good tips, but really crappy waiters get squat. (And for the record, I always tip 15 or 20 percent… unless the service sucks, which is really rare. If it sucks, they get 10 percent. And if it’s just wretchedly horrible, they get nothing, but I’ve only done that once, ever.)

  49. Here in PA the waiter wage is 2.83 an hour which I believe is the national minimum wage for servers. Also I was always told that “tips” was initially an anagram for “TO INSURE PROPER SERVICE.” I don’t know how much truth there is to that but it is good to remember. Especially because (according to your book) good waiters can see a percentage floating above each customer’s head.

  50. So, Waiter, you just threw this out to watch the flames? Should’a waited until a colder season, at least then thye could have kept you warm. It’s too hot right now for flames. :) Cheers and congrats on your book. I got it the other day and started reading it while waiting in line to pay.

  51. I waited tables for 2 years in Singapore. We don’t practice tipping. Believe me, the general service standard here is, at best, “okay”. There is no incentive for us to work harder, like what Matt said.

    And we don’t even have a minimum wage. So I’ve seen waiters working for $3.50-$4 per hour. Well, people can get by with any amount of money here. I am one of the luckiest waiters in the country to be earning $7 per hour + personal tips. The price of a meal at McDonald’s is $6 here. Cigarettes? $11. But I still liked the job because compared to most part-time ones ($5-6 per hour), it pays better.

    The service charge they include in the checks all goes to the restaurants. Bastards. :(

    I’d love for the practice of tipping here to be implemented because 1) we will earn more money 2) restaurants can stop “lying” to the guests that the s.c are distributed to the waiters 3) it will definitely increase the standard of service we have here in Singapore.

    I am just ranting, but what I’m trying to say is… tipping = better service. Definitely.

  52. I wish I got 4.60/hr!! In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, both where I have worked, I make 2.13/hr plus tips. Maybe I should move to New York…

  53. I’m so glad you posted this. Unfortunately, since this website primarily appeals to other servers, I think it might fall on deaf ears :( . Waiting isn’t rocket science, but it’s not ridiculously easy, either. I wait tables part-time while I go to college, so it’s not like “getting another job” is a great option if I already have a secure position at a job with coworkers that are fair. I wish poor tippers would think about how they would feel if their wages were cut in half and dependant on their customers before they give me a poor tip. It’s not that hard to throw in another buck or two.

  54. I think the argument is self defeating, you state that there is a 24% increase in the bill for the customer because of tipping and then say that customers wouldn’t pay it if it was included. Well they do, however they are instead socially obliged to pay something which is as you say by definition a gratuity.

    I live in Europe and I travel globally a great deal on business and pleasure. I tip with respect to the location I am in, however I always tip generously (even in Greece where I keep getting told off for being too generous). I’ve had wait staff in England ask me if I am sure I want to tip them so much (because they get paid properly) and I assure them it is recognition of special service. I like to make them feel valued because it makes me feel good.

    All systems are open to abuse, however the American system makes customers feel indignant and the waiter feel entitled. In Europe a top waiter in a top hotel will get paid a living wage and still probably receive (some/many) excellent tips from the patrons (and yes, many will be skinflints). A simple server in a small dinner will receive enough of a wage to get by on from her minimum wage and her tips will be a modest bonus.

    It seems your leaving the wages to live by to chance and the good will of your employers and customers. You already know that many restaurant owners aren’t generous and you know customers will stiff you, so why live on the knife edge?! As was pointed out American restaurants in the UK have tried to abuse the system and have ended up in court very quickly over it.

    Waiters should be paid a proper wage, tipping should remain a gratuity which is somewhat expected and the level between 0-15% should be feedback to the whole service. I shouldn’t give a gift to the wait-staff for service which is substandard as I shouldn’t pay for a dish which is substandard.

    It works for hundreds of millions of people around the world outside of the US and the arguments as to why it wouldn’t work in the US don’t hold up. “It’s not me who’s crazy it’s the rest of them.”

  55. Maybe I’m missing something fundamental here, but something about the system seems a little unfair here.

    Suppose I tip 15% for adequate service and 25% for excellent service.

    Suppose I have a meal with quick, attentive, and otherwise excellent service, but at an inexpensive restaurant where the tab comes out to $40. A 25% tip would be $10.

    Say I have dinner at a local upscale restaurant on a quiet night where the service is slow, the waiters are never around, and the tab comes out to $100. A 15% tip would be $15.

    Why should the inattentive waiter at the fancy restaurant make more money than the attentive waiter at the inexpensive restaurant?

    One could say that I should have just tipped the waiter at the inexpensive restaurant a little more, say $20, but does a 50% tip really sound reasonable?

    One could say that I could have just tipped the inattentive waiter less than 15%, but I don’t think that approach would fare well on this site.

    One could say that restaurants with faster table turnovers and higher menu prices draw the best waiters, since they know they’ll earn the highest tips there, but that still disadvantages the good waiters at cheap restaurants who might not be able to work at upscale places (maybe problems with the commute or with the timing of the shifts).

    So what am I missing?

  56. “”It works for hundreds of millions of people around the world outside of the US and the arguments as to why it wouldn’t work in the US don’t hold up. “It’s not me who’s crazy it’s the rest of them.””

    Riiiiiggghhhht…. So does communism, buddy. Sometimes the one guy everyone thinks is wrong turns out to be the only one who knows how things work. No one belived Copernicus when he told them they weren’t the center of the universe. Hell, they still don’t want to admit it…

    And I totally agree that serving should be a mandatory experience. At least for a couple of months. You may be surprised how many people with “real jobs” couldn’t hack it. I’d like to see an investment banker tend bar on New Year’s.

    The way I see it, this system is not broken, and therefore should not be fixed. Coming from the people who are intimately familiar with how it REALLY works (p.s. My experience includes dishwasher, server, bartender, cook, and manager, sometimes at the same time, over a ten year period), not how the general public seem to think it works, I’ve never met a single one of us who would sacrifice our tips for $8-10 an hour, not when we can average much more than that. There are plenty of people who seem to think that our work is worth paying for. Those who don’t should either get used to eating/drinking at home, or getting substandard (sometimes overtly dramaticly decreased) service. I’ll not put anything unpleasant in your drink, but it won’t be more than a standard pour, nor will they come in anything like a timely fashion. Giving a bartender a quarter puts you exactly dead last on the priority list.

    Of course all the critics here also seem to think that a person can live on eight bucks an hour in America.

  57. The UK is supposedly bringing in legislation next year, which will mean that tips can not be used to take wages up to the minimum wage levels.

    However one of the side effects of this, is that tips will be subject to both PAYE and NI taxes which will mean that some people will be worse off.

    Other than some people just being tight, I think the reluctance of tipping, at least in the UK, is due to the lack of transparency of where the tip goes… e.g. is it straight into the owners pocket, or will your server actually get the cash?

    Also, people don’t want to look stupid in front of their friends, e.g. I get a hard time for wanting to leave a 20% tip by my friends when they just want to round it up to the next tenner, or wanting to tip when there is a service charge already on the bill.

  58. Somewhere, somewhen, someone is making a blog called “I Can Haz Tips?” filled with pictures of waiters with funny comments typed on them. And then just after that, another blog will appear with pictures of annoying customers looking cranky or surprised and that blog will be called, “I Can Haz Spit”?

    It could work either way. Don’t like what’s going on? Take a picture, my friend, and start another blog. Just the thought of all that makes me want to be a better customer.

  59. Just putting it out there, seeing as this is how it works down under: Tips arn’t manditory, they get payed liivng wage. Tip excellent service, *complain about poor service*. They get fired. There is your incentive to do it well. And over here, if service is good-excelent tipping is expected, but ONLY if it is abover average. It works well as far as I can see.

    @BartenderOutlaw: Communism works well, for the ruling (and definitively corupt) elite. (That is, if they are a ruling *elite* they are corrupt in a communist system.) It works pretty shite for everyone else. However the world seems to go pretty well with the tipping thing, I notice that I never hear about aussie or european waiters struggling to make a living – just the American ones.

    All that said, I would tip in America – it is expected, they do need it, wheather or not they should is annother matter.

  60. Ok, I’m confused here. I’ll start out saying that I tip 20% under normal circumstances, 25% for exceptional service and 15% for sucky service. I understand the system as it presently works, a degree in rocket science isn’t required to understand the tipping system in the US.

    Personally, I think increasing the price of paying servers a standard wage would be good. It won’t reduce service, the server is either a professional or not. If the server, working with the public isn’t a professional, maybe they need to get another job. Providing excellent service is a core requirement for the job. The same way that it is in any job these days. Long-gone are the days where mediocre service, for anything, is tolerated.

    A thought occurred to me while writing this post…. wait-staff aren’t your average joe’s and janes doing a job, they are sales people. Is this true? If so, it would influence my tipping in a very negative direction. I normally think about a wait-staff’s possible family and financial commitments, stuck in an under-paid job, but if wait-staff truly are sales people, then my empathy quickly runs out. Is this where the real resistance is for the raising the per hour wage? I’m really confused around the “I have a sucky job, please supplement my wages” and then “but I won’t make as much money if I get paid a customary wage and get benefits.” Or, is the fear of changing the wage system merely fear of change with a bunch of excuses made on why it wouldn’t work? I can understand the later, I can’t understand the former contradictory statements if they aren’t grounded in the fundamental fear of change. I would appreciate a few comments about that from people here.

    I have read your entire book Waiter and it is an excellent book, the message of going from an under-achiever to someone willing to take a risk is an astounding one and one I am now looking at doing that in my own life.

    Confused

  61. Tipping to me feels like giving alms. It is faintly embarrassing. But I don’t eat out that much. I have to tell you about tipping the two strolling musicians in a Mexican restaurant a few years ago. They came to our table, I requested Malaguena (can’t make a tilda), they didn’t know that one. Estrellita? They never heard of it. I told them to play whatever they liked; it was godawful. The singer could not sing. He yelled. Mexican rock? Anyway, I had $1s in my wallet, a $5 and some $20s. When they were done I handed the singer the $5, his little eyes lit up, and they proceeded to play/yell two more songs. How do you turn them off?

  62. I agree with you, although I didn’t always. I used to think they should raise the price of the meal 15% and then I don’t have to do math after a few wines. I just came back after living in France for two years. This has changed my mind.
    You can see the difference in the waiters demeanor. There were great waiters and lousy ones. But what was missing was the extra service. In the U.S. I’m a good tipper if the service was good. What this got me that I didn’t realize before was that we are treated like VIP’s when we returned to our favorite restaurants. Even developing a re pour with individual waiters who “took care of us” when we came in. Maybe because I’m getting older this enhances the dinning experience for me. I say leave it alone – It works.

  63. In good old North Carolina, our minimum wage for tipped employees jumped up to $3.13. Then the restaurants lobby got it chopped back down to $2.43. now I just looked at my $7.00 paycheck and saw it was $2.13. That $7.00 dollars was after taxes and after my mandatory claiming of my tips. Payday is a sad day for me.

    Tip the waitstaff!!!

  64. Defition of tip: a small present of money given directly to someone for performing a service or menial task; gratuity

    It’s not a requirement! It’s to acknowledge the effort of the waitstaff to go above and beyond their regular duties. Taking drink and food orders and delivering the food in a timely manner are all regular duties – that’s the bare minimum I expect when I go to a restaurant.

    Want more tips? Provide service beyond that.

  65. “Maybe I’m missing something fundamental here, but something about the system seems a little unfair here.

    Suppose I tip 15% for adequate service and 25% for excellent service.

    Suppose I have a meal with quick, attentive, and otherwise excellent service, but at an inexpensive restaurant where the tab comes out to $40. A 25% tip would be $10.

    Say I have dinner at a local upscale restaurant on a quiet night where the service is slow, the waiters are never around, and the tab comes out to $100. A 15% tip would be $15.

    Why should the inattentive waiter at the fancy restaurant make more money than the attentive waiter at the inexpensive restaurant?

    One could say that I should have just tipped the waiter at the inexpensive restaurant a little more, say $20, but does a 50% tip really sound reasonable?

    One could say that I could have just tipped the inattentive waiter less than 15%, but I don’t think that approach would fare well on this site.

    One could say that restaurants with faster table turnovers and higher menu prices draw the best waiters, since they know they’ll earn the highest tips there, but that still disadvantages the good waiters at cheap restaurants who might not be able to work at upscale places (maybe problems with the commute or with the timing of the shifts).

    So what am I missing”?

    You’re missing the difference in volume between the two restaurants. In the inexpensive restaurant, the server will be waiting on twice to four times the number of tables as in the more expensive restaurant. Using your example, your $15 tip might represent one tip out of 6 for the night in the “expensive restaurant”, whereas, the $10 might only represent one tip out of 12. Assuming your example of an inattentive waiter vs a great waiter and assuming that each table tipped the same as your example, the latter server would actually make $30 more at the end of the shift if that ratio of tables was constant.

    I realize that this is unlikely, but it illustrates what you “missed”. In my previous restaurant, I would wait on 30 (slow night) – 60 people a night at an check average per person of around $20. In my current restaurant with around $75 a person, I wait on between 8 and 20 – 25 people (on a really strong night). If a single table tips me poorly, then I take a far bigger hit on the night than I did in my previous restaurant (of course, if I provided bad service, I deserved it!).

    It’s all about the volume. It’s why a server in an expensive restaurant can actually make less money than one in a really strong casual place, although the server in the exclusive place *usually* does better because their experience level is usually greater than the average server in a churn and burn place, and the higher prices help make up for the fewer bodies. However, an excellent server in the high volume place can easily outpace a mediocre server in an expensive place (although you usually don’t find too many “mediocre” servers in such environments because they usually don’t get hired in the first place without a lot of experience).

    Finally, in my previous restaurant, the average diner would spend about 1.25 hours whereas my current diners spend an average of 2 hours plus. I can count on one hand the number of tables that I’ve been able to turn three times in the past two years (and it’s always been a deuce or a three top at the most). In my old restaurant, it was a rare night that I didn’t turn at least part of my section three times.

  66. funny… in Canada waiters get the minimum wage (my province+ $8/hour) and get tips! Prices aren’t unreasonable, even in places like TGIF’s, where it’s not an upscale restaurant.

    yes they don’t get medical or sick days or even vacation time, but are paid 4% in lieu at least for the vacation. This is all by law. People still go out to eat, still tip and restaurants still make money. Servers still hustle, as they know that while they are making minimum wage, that amount is just barely adequate and they can make so much more by being a decent server.

    So to those who say it would never work: :P

  67. I have had jobs where I was on my feet all day running around like a maniac, I didn’t get tips, though I wanted some.

    I don’t get sticker shock when I dine out, I can see the prices on the menu, I can add them up, and I tip BEFORE taxes and before any discount, if something gets comped,

    I tip as if I paid for the comp item. When I dine out, I normally am getting food I can’t/won’t make at home, so I expect to pay for the benefit if that makes sense.

    Why should a server suffer just because I got a freebie? I actually *like* tipping, it makes me feel good. I had a good meal, I’m happy, here, have some money!

    Serving looks to me like a tough gig, and it is. I know what dealing with the ‘general public’ is like, a lot of them suck and servers deserve their tips.

    I generally *like* the servers I get, I’m hardly any trouble and I’m happy and I say ‘thanks’ and I mean it. There have been a large number of memorable people, and I have rarely had any issue.

    FWIW, I love the book and I’ve sent copies to everyone I know! Great book!!!

  68. So true and so funny. What’s so bizarre is that this system isn’t new. Tips have always been the way waiters make any living. I wish that we could wear a button that says, “I make $2.15 an hour – ASSHOLE!” I got so worried about the economy and gas prices that I got out of waiting tables. Then a few months later, down goes Bennigans and Steak and Ale. When things get tight or people really don’t have the means to begin with, the waiter gets screwed. It’s so sad too, because like you said, there are no benefits, stock options, retirement, etc. It’s an almost thankless job for the majority. You’re treated as a slave sometimes and on your feet for hours, sweating and stressed. I’m just so glad that you could take all that and turn it into a NY Times bestseller. I can’t wait to get my copy and laugh my way through it.

  69. “funny… in Canada waiters get the minimum wage (my province+ $8/hour) and get tips! Prices aren’t unreasonable, even in places like TGIF’s, where it’s not an upscale restaurant.

    yes they don’t get medical or sick days or even vacation time, but are paid 4% in lieu at least for the vacation. This is all by law. People still go out to eat, still tip and restaurants still make money. Servers still hustle, as they know that while they are making minimum wage, that amount is just barely adequate and they can make so much more by being a decent server.

    So to those who say it would never work: :P ””

    12 oz Ribeye in Edmonton – $23.99
    12 oz Ribeye in Nashville – $15.49

    ’nuff said.

    Well, not really. I realize that we have issues such as exchange rates to consider. I realize that they float (something that you didn’t really address) However, I note that today’s exchange rate means that my $15.49 ribeye should cost you $16.40. So, you’re paying a 32% surcharge. What a bargain.

  70. “12 oz Ribeye in Edmonton – $23.99
    12 oz Ribeye in Nashville – $15.49

    ’nuff said.

    Well, not really. I realize that we have issues such as exchange rates to consider. I realize that they float (something that you didn’t really address) However, I note that today’s exchange rate means that my $15.49 ribeye should cost you $16.40. So, you’re paying a 32% surcharge. What a bargain”.

    I should have noted that this is Chili’s Grill and Bar, with prices taken directly off of the online menus of the respective restaurants. Basically the same type of restaurant as TGiF.

  71. Also, an Oriental Chicken Salad at Applebee’s in Edmonton costs 27% more than here in Nashville, even factoring in the current exchange rate. An 8.99 salad here would cost $12.22 in US dollars there ($12.99 CND).

    These are just random examples.

  72. yes, but at least waiters here can live (although barely) on their actual salary. You also forget that just because the exchange isn’t that much, there are also stupid things like import duties, provincial taxes etc that contribute to the prices of meals in Canada. However, in spite of that, restaurants are still here, still serving people, still paying servers $8/hr and still making money.

  73. So what you arte saying is that the European system of paying a living wage to waiters means that all the restaurants will close ? Well they haven’t – I can still eat out at loads of places in town. Because they all have to pay the same for staff the prices are comparible between establishments.

    Yes I still tip a bit but only for good service and only in cash so it goes to the server.

    Lets face it, if money is the ONLY consideration you don’t eat out at all. Perhaps the problem is that lots of people in the USA think they have the right to eat for no money. To me the system you have seems very unfair and I’m glad we have a more civilised one.

  74. Really, the only thing to do is to abolish tipping, and increase the price of meals.

    When cheap bastards find that refusing to pay the extra money no longer results in facing the glares of outraged wait-staff, but the guns, billies, and pepper spray of the local fuzz, they will pay, trembling and ashen-faced, the first time, and then stay home, where they will either learn to cook for themselves of die of starvation.

  75. I have to completely agree with Waiter today, and say well spoken. I currently wait tables 5-6 nights a week in a very high volume restaurant that is not “fine dining” but has an exemplary menu/drink list. I don’t understand why patrons cannot take in EVERY aspect of my job into their dining experience. If there is a problem with your food, tell me! I’ll get the problem fixed ASAP. However, if you don’t speak up, then I don’t know there is a problem. However, these same customers have no problem leaving less to NO tip because of something out of my control. I sit in the seat from both point of views. I dine out frequently. I believe that those of us in the service industry are possibly harsher critics than those who are not of the service we receive because well, we know what to look for! We know what our server is really supposed to be doing! We also know that there are extenuating factors for why, for example, maybe my server said “i’ll be right with you” and it took him/her a few moments to get back. Pay attention to how many tables your server is waiting on!!! As much as we want it to be, EVERYTHING does not revolve around JUST your table in this restaurant! 20% is absolutely acceptable for good service. Generally, i’ll tip 15% for mediocre and 10% for poor service. If you were one of the best servers i’ve had, you’ve struck gold! :) For all those who say to push for our companies to automatically add gratuity.. c’mon! you know if they don’t already do it, they won’t. But in my area, most restaurants including the one i work in, add a 18% gratuity for parties of 8 or more. This is not necessarily the solution to non-tippers! I’ve had completely outraged customers merely because a gratuity was added to their large party’s check. They will speak to a manager to have it taken off (we can’t refuse even if it is written on the menu). I’ve had these tables leave less than their total on the check to get out of paying the gratuity. There’s nothin a server can do about it. While we’re talking about appropriate tips.. if you’re a 10% tipper or a stiffer.. think about this.. if you leave me $10 on a $100 check, i’m actually only seeing $5 of that money!! I have to tip out 5% or more to my bartenders, food runners, and bus boys so that they can get paid too! and they make more an hour than i do!
    There are so many factors in tipping, i don’t believe that anyone is justified in not tipping well for good service in a culture that demands it for the employees survival. Like Waiter said, If you can’t afford to tip, the you really can’t afford to eat out! Go catch some fast food! or better yet, cook and serve your own damn food at home!

  76. Question: There’s a popular lunch buffet here, Middle Eastern style food. They have wonderful, well-prepared food served in a pleasant environment.

    The lunch buffet costs $10 for all-you-can-eat, plus drinks. You pay as you enter the restaurant. A ‘waiter’ indicates which table will be yours, but before sitting down you go to the buffet line, get a plate from a sideboard and serve yourself. Most people make a second trip to the buffet line. No specific waiter is assigned to the table, although someone is usually around to refill tea & water.

    How do you tip that sort of meal? Basically the customer is doing most of the serving work, but there is definitely some effort on the part of the wait staff.

    What is fair?

  77. “yes, but at least waiters here can live (although barely) on their actual salary. You also forget that just because the exchange isn’t that much, there are also stupid things like import duties, provincial taxes etc that contribute to the prices of meals in Canada. However, in spite of that, restaurants are still here, still serving people, still paying servers $8/hr and still making money”.

    Well, when I worked at a comparable restaurant here, I averaged $15 an hour in tips after tipout and that wasn’t even counting my 2.13 an hour. At my current high end restaurant, I’m averaging well over $20 an hour.

    I haven’t ever made less than around $12 an hour, even when I was only working lunches.

    Yep, I don’t get paid vacation but I only work around 30 -35 hours a week anyway (and I can structure my job to get whatever time off I need – on my own dime, of course). Vacations in the US service sector aren’t particularly lucrative anyway – it’s not limited to restaurants here. I pay $30 a month for health insurance (yeah, I know that’s the exception, not the rule). and yet, we can debate all day about the general screwed up state of the health care system here in the States. It’s not unique to restaurants that health care is hard to get and many times out of reach of the worker.

    You can’t count the provincial taxes because that’s not part of the listed price. Our tax here in Nashville is 9.25% so we get hit here too. As far as import duties, it’s probably a fairly small factor. I’d be willing to bet that much of the product there is locally sourced. I doubt that Edmonton needs to ship steak from the States. I think that Alberta and Canada in general has a few cows.

    I wouldn’t work in a restaurant for $8 an hour plus token tips. I’d rather work at some department store. It’s far less hassle.

    BTW, Canadians are considered very poor tippers here in general. They usually tip 10% or less regardless of service. You can’t tell me that most of them don’t know better. It’s pretty shameful, if you ask me (although the last Canadians I waited on tipped 15% – good on them – but they are in the music biz and know what is expected here in the States). I’ve had Canadians leave 5%. Not cool.

    I don’t care about “actual salary”. I care about my bottom line. I’m not willing to take a hit just to get a “paycheck” and you shouldn’t have to give double what you would normally have to give if you tipped directly as a percentage of the bill. It’s YOU that’s getting reamed, not the US diner. And it’s YOUR servers that are living on a minimum subsistence just barely above what the minimum wage is here in the US.

    Just so you know, I work in a $6 mil high end steakhouse and I earned $41,500 last year. That works out to be close to $30 an hour including my 2.13 an hour plus about $300 in “bonuses”. I’m figuring an average of 27 hours a week, because I normally work around 30 – 34 hours a week but I also occasionally take some extra days off to create a spread out “vacation”.

    Even when I worked in the high volume casual restaurant and made $4.50 an hour as head trainer, I made $33k. Using the same hourly metric, that’s a little over $20 an hour (which means that I averaged about $16 an hour in tips). I watch my tip/hour ratio quite closely as you would expect (I’m sure you look at your paycheck pretty closely, right)? In the 15 years I’ve been in the biz, I’ve never averaged less than $12 an hour over any period more than a week and that’s when I was working mostly lunches during my first few months at a restaurant. Whenever I’ve had over 50% dinner shifts, I’ve never averaged less than $14 an hour. EVER. Most servers average close to $15 an hour if they work dinner shifts. If they only work lunch, they’ll still average over $10 an hour.

  78. “So what you arte saying is that the European system of paying a living wage to waiters means that all the restaurants will close ? Well they haven’t – I can still eat out at loads of places in town. Because they all have to pay the same for staff the prices are comparible between establishments.

    Yes I still tip a bit but only for good service and only in cash so it goes to the server.

    Lets face it, if money is the ONLY consideration you don’t eat out at all. Perhaps the problem is that lots of people in the USA think they have the right to eat for no money. To me the system you have seems very unfair and I’m glad we have a more civilised one”.

    Well, I know that a ribeye steak in Reading at Chili’s that costs me $15.99 here in Nashville is going to cost the equivalent of $28! Yes, I know that the VAT is rolled into the price. If you add the 9.25% tax that I have to pay, that’s still only 17.99. Double the tax to bring it up to your 17%, it’s still less than $20. That’s still about 30% more than I pay here. I realize that it’s hard to generalize about prices here vs. there because of the low dollar, but I find it interesting that even though the dollar is not as low (relatively speaking, that is) against the Canadian dollar as it is against the British pound). The percentage increase in the menu price is almost identical (and almost double what the US diner pays for “average service”). This leads me to believe that paying your service staff a “wage” and excluding tips as a major part of the income only hurts you the diner and doesn’t really do much to help the server.

    How much do your servers make an hour there? Just curious.

    Believe me, you might find it “unfair” but I don’t. And haven’t for the 15 years that I’ve worked in the biz. Of course, I don’t wait on a lot of Brits, but I know that in places that serve a high proportion of foreign diners, they usually add an automatic 18 – 20% gratuity on everyone.

  79. “Finally – if one table have you bring a $40 bottle of wine and another table asks for a $80 bottle – why must the latter table pay you twice the tips for the same work/effort/service? If the wine is bad, do you have to pay for it ? Then I guess it makes sense for you to get paid more for taking greater risk – but if not then how on earth can you justify getting paid more to open, bring and pour a more expensive bottle? Is it harder to pour the cheap one?

    I’m really just trying to understand the reasoning here”.

    Try thinking of it as a commission. You’re going to pay your BMW salesperson quite a bit more than you are going to pay your Kia saleperson (generally speaking). The BMW salesperson probably sells far fewer cars than the KIA salesperson (and servers sell far fewer $80 bottles than $40 bottles) The tipping system is based on a percentage of the sale, not on the amount of work done (although you can adjust the percentage based on the level of service (and don’t forget, many servers pay a tipout to their support staff based on the amount of SALES they do – fortunately, I don’t – I pay a percentage of my actual tips). You don’t tip less of a percentage on a burger as you do on a steak, do you? You don’t tip a smaller percentage on a beer over a Grey Goose martini, do you?

    I realize that it stings to pay a percentage on a $100 bottle of wine vs. a $25 bottle, but nobody is twisting your arm to buy the more expensive bottle. You know going in that you are expected to tip a percentage on the final bill, not use a sliding scale on each individual item that you have consumed.

  80. “You don’t tip a smaller percentage on a beer over a Grey Goose martini”

    I meant a smaller percentage on the martini over the beer just because the beer costs half as much.

  81. Finally, the definition of a tip is actually incorrect. A tip is NOT a “gift”. Gifts are not taxable up to $12,000 a year from any one person to another person. Tips are taxable income, not “gifts”. This is a “legal” distinction but one worth noting. I don’t get to consider my tips “gifts”. They are “income”.

  82. The origin of the word “TIPS” is:
    – To
    – Insure
    – Prompt/Proper
    – Service
    That being said, if I get prompt service, I tip and likewise, if I don’t get prompt service I still tip but not as well (it’s not always the wait staff’s fault for poor or late service). Too bad we don’t tip before the meal so that we can truly insure that we get the proper service, if we did, then those of us who tip well would get great service.

  83. Not sure if this was addressed in the comments, but if raising wages and removing tips would be such a disaster, how come there are restaurants in Europe and Australia?

    I’m not trying to be snarky – it’s an honest question.

  84. “The origin of the word “TIPS” is:
    - To
    - Insure
    - Prompt/Proper
    - Service
    That being said, if I get prompt service, I tip and likewise, if I don’t get prompt service I still tip but not as well (it’s not always the wait staff’s fault for poor or late service). Too bad we don’t tip before the meal so that we can truly insure that we get the proper service, if we did, then those of us who tip well would get great service”.

    This is an urban myth:

    http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/tip.asp

    It’s as valid as Ford being an acronym for “Fix or Repair Daily”. Yeah, it might fit, but it’s a clever play on the letters, not what it actually “stands for”.

    Note that Snopes also addresses the potential fallacy about tipping at the beginning of the meal insuring great service. I’ll say one thing – known great tippers get my best efforts, that’s for sure. Doesn’t mean that I can’t misfire with their service though.

    Tipping well as a regular is just smart business! It certainly greases the wheels. And while we’re not always right, experienced servers can often figure out by the behavior of an unknown diner how they are going to tip simply based on their behavior and demeanor. Still, I try not to prejudge too much because I can be pleasantly (or conversely and sadly, unpleasantly) surprised.

  85. Waiter, speaking of children in restaurants, I don’t know how anyone can stand the coddling parents/shrieking food throwing brats–waiting on them would be ABSOLUTE HELL IMO. And when a person thinks it couldn’t get worse, imagine looking over only to see the lazy ass mother change her kids diaper ON THE DINNER TABLE. YUCK!

    No matter how bad things ever get in life I realize it could be MUCH worse–I could be a waiter waiting on snotty yuppies who coddle their food throwing brats AND leave NO tip….

  86. “Not sure if this was addressed in the comments, but if raising wages and removing tips would be such a disaster, how come there are restaurants in Europe and Australia?

    I’m not trying to be snarky – it’s an honest question”.

    The density of restaurants/seats in the States is much higher than in Europe and Australia. Restaurants are more common and usually much larger. A mass market casual dining restaurant in the States is usually over 125 seats.

    Here in Nashville, a town of about a 800,000, we have hundreds of restaurants, not counting kiosk-type places. Within a 5 mile radius of my house, I can count close to 50 restaurants that seat at least 150 people.

    We as Americans dine out far more often than our brethern overseas. It’s not an admirable thing to be sure, as we tend to eat out more than we dine with our families at home.

    If restaurants here had to pay “prevailing wage”, the ones that would suffer would be the independents, the restaurants that don’t have deep pockets.

    In my previous mass market place (a busy 5.5 mil. dollar restaurant), it would cost over $500,000 in additional wages to cover staff wages. Since the bottom line profit was probably hovering around 10%, you can imagine the effect that it would have on menu prices, especially if you factored in the additional payroll taxes that restaurants have to have.

    Oh yeah, most restaurants here keep between 7 and 12 servers on the floor during the rush. When I lived in Germany, most restaurants usually only had 2 – 5 servers working the floor. They could get away with it because dining there is more leisurely than it is here in the States. We have to “overstaff” to cover the rush hours.

  87. I don’t understand why everyone thinks that simply getting the servers together and unionizing would work. That only works when everyone in the area agrees to not work there. In the United States there are a lot of people who are willing to work for the slave wages alone, much less the tips. You know what else would work, probably better then the waiters unionizing and trying to picket the system? If everyone who honestly feels that underpaying wait staff in hopes that the tips will make the difference
    in their living wages is wrong, boycotts all restaurants until the system is changed. If you don’t like it, do not go out to eat! Don’t even get take out if they have an eat in option. Just get fast food or make it yourself. Put your money where your mouth is.

  88. I work at tourist restaurant near the beach and we are busy every night in the summer. The wait time is usually 3 to 4 hours to get a seat, so you can imagine how piss off people are when they finally sit down to eat. We have to deal with parents wanting balloon hats from our stiltwalkers. They dont understand that the “walkers” are 16 to 17 year olds who are making 15 bucks an hour and really dont care b/c they are getting paid regardless. I’m juggling four tables while a live band is going on in the background and still having to provide good service. I dont mind this b/c money is good, but I want people to work in this Environment for a week and then come back and see why we want decent tips.People the job is hard, we are not just sitting on our asses doing nothing. If we dont do our job then we are not going to get good tips. That’s the #1 reason we are working at this particular place.

    If you think the service is awful then you need talk to the manager and try to get problem solve. Dont wait until the end of the meal and notice that its 18 % graduity added to 8 or more and then complain about the food.

  89. sorry repost.. I was typing too fast

    I work at tourist restaurant near the beach and we are busy every night in the summer. The wait time is usually 3 to 4 hours to get a seat, so you can imagine how piss off people are when they finally sit down to eat. We have to deal with parents wanting balloon hats from our stiltwalkers. They dont understand that the “walkers” are 16 to 17 year olds who are making 15 bucks an hour and really dont care b/c they are getting paid regardless. I’m juggling four tables while a Live band is going on in the background and still having to provide good service. I dont mind this b/c the money is good, but I want people to work in this Environment for a week and then come back and see why we want decent tips. People the job is hard, we are not just sitting on our asses doing nothing. If we dont do our job then we are not going to get tips. That’s the #1 reason we are working at this particular place.

    If you think the service is awful then you need to talk to the manager and try to get the problem solve. Dont wait until the end of the meal and notice that its 18 % graduity added to 8 or more and then complain about the food or the service

    ~Lost shaker of salt

  90. I don’t directly pay the commission to the BMW salesperson. I pay it to the dealership, who ultimately pays the salesperson. A tip is a commission, but it’s weird for a customer to pay a company’s employees directly, and it distorts the relationship. Even independent contractors are often paid by a broker of some kind.

    Please understand, I participate in the custom as it exists, but my international students find the custom weird, uncomfortable, and disconcerting, and so do many people outside the restaurant profession. Most of the rest of the working world is paid by their employers, not directly by the person they serve. My students don’t pay a basic level of tuition, then tip me based on their perception of my performance. Nor should they; it distorts the relationship. Please, just admit it’s a weird stupid custom, even if it’s not going away.

    As for what would happen if the price were built into the price of the product/service itself, it’s the same thing that happens in every other industry or profession. You do a good job because you want people to continue to desire your product or service in general.If you don’t, the industry falters, and everybody is SOL.

  91. Hubby waited on a rather well-known sports figure. Gentleman’s check was around $300. His tip was $2. Mr. Sports Figure then went out to valet and tipped $20.00 for bringing his car around!

    (Yes, I know several readers will comment that hubby must have provided lousy service – but do note that the next several times this particular gentleman came into the restaurant he requested that my hubby be his server. And no, his tips didn’t improve at all unless someone else picked up the tab.)

  92. “I don’t directly pay the commission to the BMW salesperson. I pay it to the dealership, who ultimately pays the salesperson. A tip is a commission, but it’s weird for a customer to pay a company’s employees directly”

    It’s virtually the same thing though. It’s simply passed along by the business. The business isn’t paying them the commission out of their own money – they’re paying them from the money that you have given them in excess of the price of the car. In fact, they are sitting on the commission for as long as a month – sitting on YOUR money. They’re actually making money on the salesperson’s money.

    It’s actually a very economically efficient way to pay someone through tipping. You pay what you think the service is worth, based on a rough guideline that everyone is traditionally following. The server receives the benefit without the “distortion” of the company getting their hands on the money and being able to play with the money however they want. It’s a very transparent and actually non-distorted transaction. Everything is right up front. No uncertainty about how much extra you are paying the salesman for the privilege of them selling you the car. No worries that the next person that buys the exact same car from them might pay $500 less because the salesperson is trying to hit a quota and get a spiff. I don’t get what’s so bad about this. Just because there are other models of employment and payment doesn’t mean that this method isn’t a good one. You pay for the service that you perceive you get. What’s wrong with that? Would you rather pay regardless of the level of the service (within reason, of course)?

    “Please understand, I participate in the custom as it exists, but my international students find the custom weird, uncomfortable, and disconcerting”

    I’d say, “So what”? I find many customs in other countries weird, uncomfortable and disconcerting as well. Take my shoes off before I enter a house? Yikes! Can’t cut my grass on Saturday afternoon or Sunday? No way! Can’t drink liquor? C’mon! But guess what? I’m going to fall in line with the local customs as long as it doesn’t offend my sense of absolute right or wrong (I’m not going to cut off the left hand of a thief, for instance).

    “Most of the rest of the working world is paid by their employers, not directly by the person they serve”.

    And? Does this make it intrinsically better? Perhaps if more industries in the States operated by tips paid directly by the consumer, service would be better. Telephone reps wouldn’t be so snooty and rude, you wouldn’t get scowls at the return desk of a department store – heck, you might even be able to find someone on the floor of a supermarket that knew about the products on the shelves that they stock. Heck, you might even find someone on the floor of the department store.

    Finally, there are plenty of workers who are actually independent contractors that aren’t actually “paid” by their “employers”. They simply get the fee passed along. Sure, they get a check with the employer’s name on it. But it’s not the employer who’s actually paying them – they’re simply transferring money from the end consumer to the contractor. And back to car salespeople (or wine salespeople, or most salespeople for that matter) don’t get any “salary” at all. They work strictly on commission. They can work 80 hours a week but if they don’t sell a car (or a case of wine, or high yield munis) they don’t make a cent from their employers.

  93. This may have already been posted. I did not want to read through 99 comments, but…you should move to California. Not only do our waiters make minimum wage ($8.00), they are tipped the customary 15 – 20 percent.

    Of course, now that you’re a big time writer (I love the book) that won’t be necessary, will it? ;-)

  94. “This may have already been posted. I did not want to read through 99 comments, but…you should move to California. Not only do our waiters make minimum wage ($8.00), they are tipped the customary 15 – 20 percent”.

    I know you’re speaking to Steve, but I only make 2.13 an hour. However, I bought my house for $60,000. Almost impossible to get even close to that in many parts of California. I’ll take the less than minimum wage over not being able to buy a house for less than $200,000 in much of the state, or being so upside down in equity due to the housing crisis there that I have to give my house up for repossession. It’s all about tradeoffs, I suppose. An extra $8400 a year would be nice, but if it’s eaten up in higher gas bills (our average price for gallon is always lower than yours), being priced out of buying a house, higher cost of living, longer commutes, well, I’ll stay put at 2.13 an hour. However, California IS the land of milk and honey and is a little slice of paradise, so I guess I give that up as well…

    The only real advantage to me of getting more wages in such a scenario is that I wouldn’t owe money at tax time because the wages would cover all of the withholding (which mine doesn’t even come close to doing). of course, i don’t have to pay state income taxes either, so I’m ahead there as well.

    I realize that NYC-area servers like Steve/Waiter aren’t as lucky as I am though…although I think they generally have higher sales due to even busier restaurants and higher menu prices.

  95. “This may have already been posted. I did not want to read through 99 comments, but…you should move to California. Not only do our waiters make minimum wage ($8.00), they are tipped the customary 15 – 20 percent.”

    I love it when people bring this up. Try being a server in Southern California and see if that $8 an hour makes a difference. My 2 week paychecks average $150 after i get taxed on the tips i make, so thats about $300 a month in paychecks. Now take into consideration that my rent is $700 for just my bedroom (sharing an apt with roomates), gas costs $4.50, the commutes are long, bla bla bla im sure you know where im going with this. The cost of living is astronomical here.

    The one thing i see all the anti-servers missing here is the fact that this job is very physically and extremely mentally demanding. This is not an easy job. Really, next time you go into a busy restaurant look at how the servers are working. Now realize that they are doing this non stop for usually 7-8 hours with maybe a small 30 minute break. I am not saying this job is harder than anything else out there, but the jobs that are just as demanding are not making $8-$12 an hour. I average around $20 an hour with tips and i would NEVER consider doing this job for anything less than that. Any other self respecting server i have ever talked to would say the same thing. It is to physically and emotionally demanding for anything less. To anyone who disagrees with this, i double dog dare you to go serve tables for 3 months and report back.

  96. Down here in Georgia, servers are also taxed at their expected tip haul. I forget if it is 10 or 15%. So many servers get a weekly check for zero dollars.

  97. i’ll say this… tips are not a ‘gift’. Basically for the time you are sitting at that table you have hired that person to be your indentured servant, to do all that you request and bring all that you ask for… you are hiring them for that time being, you are their boss. and as that you are hiring them to do a job for you, you owe them a salary, so stop bitching and tip your wait staff…

    and even if the tip was included in the bill, people would still bitch about it just as people bitch about gratuity for parties of 8 or more. people dont like being told how much money to give.

    Also, keep in mind, even if you do tip 20% that is not all going to the server. i worked in a restaurant where 3% of my total sales got taken in tipshare which went to the hosts, bussers, expo, bartenders, silverware rollers, mucker, and yes even the owner. So we are already down to 17% and then you have to tip the foodrunner that night $20 which is usually another 2-3% so now you are down to 14% and then taxes get taken out of your tips. All of my paychecks are void because after all the taxes i incur i have to still claim at least 15% which is sometimes more than i go home with, so the tips are my only paycheck.

    You are hiring me to do a job for you, so pay me accordingly cheapskate!

  98. I totally agree with you. I live in Singapore, a metropolitan city which has a standard, 10% “service charge” fee included in our bill at restaurants/cafes and so on.

    The service standard is horribly atrocious. There is no sense of pride in doing a decent job among the waiters in my country. In fact, it regularly pisses me off when I go out to eat good food and expect average service at best. Instead, I get waiters who ignore us, take forever to bring us water etc etc.

    This is in contrast to the awesome service I’ve received around the States, even in average places like the Cheesecake Factory and BW3s. I felt like I was warmly invited by caring waiters who took the time to explain what certain things on the menu where when asked.

    I felt great and consistently left a 20-25% tip because I felt it was worth it. Never before have I had such a great experience eating out.

    To all the Americans/tourists who still think tipping is a four-letter word – my advice would be to tip well now before you have to suffer the consequences like I do. Cheers!

  99. I figured it out!

    If you suck as a waiter, you don’t get a tip. If you are good, you get one.

    TADA!

    Don’t DEMAND tips, don’t talk about what we ‘owe’ you. Work for them. Don’t try and tell me how complicated your job is or how well you can deal with a 14 top, it’s me and my wife. If you didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it. If you earned it, then you have nothing to say here, if you didn’t earn it, suck it up and try better next time.

  100. Just for the record, Australia is not completely free from the concept of tipping. While we do have a high minimum wage, if you are dining in a restaurant that you have had to make a reservation for and you get good service, a tip of %5 – %10 is considered appropriate. Not compulsory – just appropriate.
    Good service is hard to find – complain all you like about tipping – but if there is no incentive for the best of us to stay around, we will use our more than capable minds for other uses. Say bye bye good service and wonderful nights out where everything just seems to happen and hello to HEY WAITER! WAITER?! WAITER!????

  101. At the end of the day the objective is for the waiters to have a living wage. In Europe this is enforced by law. In the US they have to rely on tips. Either way the customer has to pay the same amount at the end of the meal.

    Of course the European way means the tips get taxed. In the UK this pays for the healthcare etc. In the US presumably the waiter has to fund thier own insurance, or not and suffer the consequences. That’s not an option in the UK and so an entirely tip based system would reply on the waiters becoming self-employed (a legal term) with all the extra paperwork that involves OR not contributing to the system they can then benefit from when required. That’s not fair on the rest of us.

    There is a third way though. I know of a couple of restaurants where the waiters buy the food from the kitchen and then sell it on the the customer. Effectivly they are self-employed food sellers that work in an establishment. That is rare and it sounds complicated but it happens. Now THAT really is a challenge to extract a living wage from – different waiters can sell the same meal for different amounts of money !

  102. “I figured it out!

    If you suck as a waiter, you don’t get a tip. If you are good, you get one.

    TADA!

    Don’t DEMAND tips, don’t talk about what we ‘owe’ you. Work for them. Don’t try and tell me how complicated your job is or how well you can deal with a 14 top, it’s me and my wife. If you didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it. If you earned it, then you have nothing to say here, if you didn’t earn it, suck it up and try better next time”.

    Good enough. As a customer, don’t demand or expect good service if you aren’t willing to pay for it. Don’t try to expect me to make your rotten day better by being your toady unless you’re willing to pony up for it. If you don’t act right and are rude, or are demanding, or don’t pay for the service that you’re receiving (since your menu cost is only a fraction of the cost of providing a willing server for you), or have unreasonable demands, or demand that the chef completely rewrite their recipe just for you, or demand the best table just because “you deserve it”, ignore me and your wife by talking on your cell phone, or demand that the server serve only you and ignore the rest of the paying guests, then you get the service that you deserve and don’t bitch about how badly you and your wife was treated. If you are polite, attentive, eager to have a nice dinner with your wife, don’t act like a cheapskate, then tip appropriately (if I screw up your evening, by all means dock me, but if I make you feel welcome and turn your shitty day around, then tip me generously) and don’t bitch about having to tip. If you want to kick something because your boss was mean to you or the traffic that day was murder, kick your sofa, not me or the dog or your wife.

    Sorry, but YOU OWE US FOR THE SERVICE THAT WE PROVIDE. Sorry for shouting, but you and some of the other folks on this forum don’t seem to get that you aren’t paying for it through your menu prices. If you DO want to roll them into the menu prices, then feel free to pay 30% more for food, like they do in Canada or Europe. You’re getting a bargain at 15 – 20% now, so suck it up and do the right thing.

    PS, funny how the act of tipping is really only an issue on the internet. I’ve never had anyone come up to me when they find I’m a server and say, “What’s the deal on tipping? I think the act of tipping is weird and bizarre and it sucks and I don’t understand it”. I’ve never had a single guest question the act of tipping, although obviously I’ve had people either not do the right thing when it came to tipping and leave too little or be overgenerous when it came to tipping. The other 98% of people seem to tip precisely what they should.

  103. @dave: I think the issue is that every server has had customers who think that they have the right to be rude and arrogant and not leave a tip and every customer has had rude, inattentive servers who demand a tip as a sort of birthright. The semi-anonymous nature of the internet leads most people to say things they wouldn’t if they were in a room with the others in a conversation.

    I will say that I was one of the delivery guys at a restaurant that had the laziest, rudest waitstaff I think I’ve ever seen. They saw good tips as some kind of entitlement. However, they were rude to the customers, not very knowledgeable about the menu and spent more time in the back flirting with the cooks or outside the kitchen door smoking than actually waiting on their tables. If I ate at that restaurant as a customer, I would have complained to the management about the service. Of course, that place was managed poorly and it’s no longer open. It’s a shame, because the food was pretty good and the prices were reasonable.

    I’ve had my share of poor service, but I can only think of two times that I didn’t leave a tip. One was in Buffalo at a diner where the waitress was unbelievably rude. Two of us left a penny and the third left 5 or 10%. The other was in merry olde England, home of the worst service I’ve ever gotten in my life. I love London, but I have to say that the best service I got in eating establishments were always pubs or chip shops. In that case, the service was so bad that we complained to the management who were unsympathetic. That is the only time I have crossed a service charge off the bill.

    On the other hand, I can think of numerous times I’ve been with my parents (notoriously bad tippers, although they’re getting better) and slipped a few dollars under a plate when no one was looking.

  104. People say things on a blog on the Internet because an opinion has been put out there and comments have been enabled. It is an appropriate forum for respectful discussion and disagreement. If people aren’t calling names,or cursing, and just saying, “Hey, I think this is weird and doesn’t make sense because of X, Y, and Z,” it is not out of line. It would be inappropriate to challenge someone in person at their workplace or in many social situations, and it would be especially inappropriate to stiff one’s server.

    I think this is an appropriate and safe forum for questioning. By having such a forum to release one’s frustration, confusion or disagreement, and taking a look at others’ point of view, even if one still disagrees, handing over that tip actually becomes easier.

  105. In Slovenia it is customary not to tip.

    Sometimes, to avoid having 5, 2 or 1 eurocent coins, people leave those behind, but obviously it never comes to more than 9 cents! Naturally, I do as the Americans do when I am in America, however notice that it is indeed possible to have profitable non-tipping establishments.

    Having dined in many countries and states, I have to admit, the service is much better where tipping is not expected. I break this down into three parts:

    1) Servers are friendly and informative because they enjoy their job, not flirtatious and invasive because they are desperate for tips. If you are a regular, you can expect some conversation, some jokes, or even some teasing, and this can be the reason you are a regular, but you never have that nasty feeling that this friendliness is fake. I am NOT looking for a paid companion!

    2) On busy days, service is faster in a non-tipping restaurant. This is because servers there do not spend excessive amounts of time trying to appease ‘difficult’ tables. In the states, it was highly irritating to me that I would have to wait 15 minutes to see a server, while listening to some hippy yuppi health freak quarrel over whether or not it was possible that some dairy found its way into her tofu the next table over. In non-tipping restaurants, she would get a swift “no” or a very swift referral to the manager.

    3) There is no need for that horrid table conversation at the end of the meal if the bill is split. This might sound trivial, but it was very annoying to me. The bill would come, people would find their meal and pay for it the usual way, but then the total would be counted, and the drama would begin. First, they would try to decide what the tip should be. This is uncomfortable for me, because I don’t like penalizing or rewarding someone who is not my employee. If it was too short, someone needed to make up the difference, If it came out over 20% someone always wanted to have a couple dollars back. This conversation generally lasted 10 agonizing minutes. It is much better when the waiter comes when called to pay, immediately takes money and gives change for each person, and then swiftly leaves so that the diners can pick up their things and close their conversation. In my opinion, haggling over money is exactly the right way to ruin an otherwise pleasant meal.

    Oh! And, I think I should let you in on the secret of the laws in your country. It is not against the law not to tip, it is against the law to contaminate food. This is not a very classy threat.

  106. To Mary and Bob,

    I understand what you are saying. However, the most outrageous things are said under the cloak of the internet that wouldn’t be said in person either but I wouldn’t necessarily use that as proof that people actually believe that my parents weren’t married when I was born or that there’s a new world order conspiracy or that John Edwards had an affai…oh, wait… And yet, I personally hear things about how bad car salepeople can be, how bad service is in department stores (why can’t you find anyone to help you?), yes, how bad service in restaurants can be sometimes, how bad the food in restaurants is sometimes, how long you have to wait just to get a table, how bad people are treated on the telephone, how rude it is for people to cuss in public, the employment of corkage fees, etc. I’m not always known as a server when participating in such discussions (in fact, rarely do I randomly announce that I’m a server) and yet I’ve never heard even the most random comment about the act and tradition of tipping in any conversation ever. I would think that if it were a serious issue, it would have come up sometime in my 54 years, especially if I weren’t known as a server (and yes, I’ve been a stealth observer of comments about restaurants when people didn’t know I worked in one.

    When I am known as a server among a group of civilians, I have had people ask me how much money I make (seems like something that most would consider an “inappropriate” question to ask), ask about the behavior of people while dining, ask if I have any celebrity stories or if I’ve waited on celebrities (I do just about every day), ask what it’s like to wait tables, etc. Never once have I had someone ask the most reasonable question, “Why do we tip servers but not doctors, or department store people, or police or firemen or teachers”? Nor has anyone ever commented, “I tip because I feel like I have to, but I don’t believe in it. Can you explain why tipping is expected”? Nor have I had express the opinion that tipping isn’t done in other professions so it must be wrong or illogical to do it in restaurants.

    From observing tens of thousands of tables, it seems like tipping is almost an automatic response from 99.9% of people. Rarely is there much of a hesitation or apparent confusion about what to do next. And I’ve only been totally stiffed twice in those tens of thousands of tables (and once was clearly an oversight by the guest). I have to conclude from the fairly large sampling that it’s almost statistically non-existant that anyone ever considers not tipping anything regardless of service and that most people consider it a social contract to be fulfilled. How they fulfill it is the big variable, not the actual act of tipping.

  107. We don’t tip in my country (New Zealand). People can afford to eat at nice restaurants – I do, and I’m not “wealthy”. The waiters are reasonably paid (all depends on where they work, of course), people pay for the meal, no tips are needed.

    By the logic of your argument, absolutely every service industry worker is underpaid and makes up their income via tips. None of this happens in my country and everyone seems to be surviving a hell of a lot better than in the US (yes, I’ve visited and seen the living conditions for myself).

    It’s a non-valid illogical argument for tipping. Sorry to be that blunt, but other countries don’t have the “need” to do this.

  108. I’m a conflicted tipper.

    Locally (in Australia) I’ll throw five to ten bucks into the jar at the counter after an enjoyable meal. Doesn’t matter if the meal cost $30 or $110. Percentage schmercentage.

    On the very rare occasion I’ve been stateside (or anywhere else in the world on holidays), my holiday mood ensures that all service staff are well looked after. Example: a nice meal at the Cheescake Factory in Waikiki totaled about $90, and I forked over $150.

    However (and this is a big however), I still can’t help but agree with Steve Buscemi’s character in the first scene at the diner in Reservoir Dogs. In particular the fact that people don’t tip McDonald’s employees, who do a pretty similar job to those in the waiting industry.

    I don’t think that affects my karma, does it?

  109. Don’t most states require a restaurant owner to make up the difference between the hourly wage and minimum wage if tips for the shift do not exceed minimum wage?

  110. My wife dined in one of our regular restaurants this past week, with an obviously new server. We waited and waited for our salad, and then he showed up with the spaghetti. We explained we never got our salad, so back went the spaghetti and a minute later our salad appeared. Once done, he brought out the spaghetti, with the wrong sauce. We left him 15%. Yes, he screwed it up, but he was new and nervous, and didn’t know the routine yet.

  111. “Good waiters will leave the business in droves and service standards will plunge. Every restaurant in America will transform into a fast food joint staffed by the dumbed-down version of the French waiter from hell.”

    I must have completely imagined going to a restaurant last weekend and being served by a polite, helpful waiter, because obviously here in Australia where we don’t tip waiters, that can’t possibly happen.

    And yet, I remember it happening pretty much every time I’ve eaten at a restaurant. Strange.

  112. “We don’t tip in my country (New Zealand). People can afford to eat at nice restaurants – I do, and I’m not “wealthy”. The waiters are reasonably paid (all depends on where they work, of course), people pay for the meal, no tips are needed.

    By the logic of your argument, absolutely every service industry worker is underpaid and makes up their income via tips. None of this happens in my country and everyone seems to be surviving a hell of a lot better than in the US (yes, I’ve visited and seen the living conditions for myself).

    It’s a non-valid illogical argument for tipping. Sorry to be that blunt, but other countries don’t have the “need” to do this”.

    It’s just as illogical for you to claim that just because they do it in YOUR country, it must be done that way in THIS country. The only logical argument against it would be if the system didn’t work. The system clearly works and has worked for almost a century.

    Do you have salespeople in your country that work solely on commission? Are you equally concerned about THEIR welfare because they aren’t paid a “wage” by their companies? To me, it’s illogical to demand that “paid wages” is the only economic model that works. There are clearly plenty of professions that don’t follow this paradigm. For instance, real estate agents often pay a an office rental fee to their company for the privilege of operating under the company umbrella and pay a percentage of their sales as part of the pay scheme. If you think of servers as independent contractors who are provided the tools to generate commissions (tables, food product, freedom from having to provide operating capital to run a business, etc.), it might make more sense to you.

    You can talk about “living conditions” in the States, but they aren’t “inferior” because of the tipping system. I think that you’re guessing because you haven’t directly compared salaries from our two countries. I’m guessing that the main part of what you’re referring to is health care. Well, that’s a general US problem, not a “tip-based employment” situation (the difficulty in getting affordable health insurance is present in “paycheck” jobs as well). Don’t get me started on the US failure to ensure affordable health care for all of our citizens. You’re preaching to the chior here.

    It’s hard to compare “living conditions” in a small, fairly homogenous (class-wise) country like New Zealand and the US. I bet if we compare you to Monaco, they are “surviving far better” than you are. It’s a matter of scale, social diversity and economics.

    You are comparing apples to oranges when you compare the restaurant industry in New Zealand with the restaurant industry in the US.

    Finally, know very many servers there making the equivalent of $42,000 a year and paying $29 a month for health insurance? No, I don’t get a paid vacation, but I also have a very flexible schedule. In fact, last night, someone wanted to pick up my scheduled shift so I took the night off. It’s much harder to do that when everyone is paid a salary. There are always tradeoffs.

    As to Aussie Ben, thanks for doing the right thing.

    As far as comparing to McDonald’s, there are quite a few obvious differences, the main one being that your personal service (if any) there is limited to about 2 minutes. You also receive all of your food at the same time (hopefully) and you hopefully dump your own tray after you eat. That’s a big difference from having a service staff spend 1 – 3 hours with you serving you as many as 4 or 5 courses (and juggling your needs with a restaurant full of other tables with competing needs). McDonald’s serves people from start to finish one at a time (or how ever many cashier lines there are).

    There is certainly an argument to be made for improving the low wages of people who work there, but there’s not much there to tie tips as a possible solution and have people pay tips on top of the menu prices. Not much “personal service” at McDonald’s.

  113. I work in a busy restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, where the minimum wage is $8.00 an hour. It certainly is not enough to make a decent living in this expensive city, so servers definitely depend on their tips in order to survive. I didn’t read all the comments posted here, but I read a lot of them, and I didn’t see one person say anything about the tip out in many restaurants. In my restaurant, we have to tip 1% of our total sales to the bartender(s), and 4% to the kitchen, for a total of 5% of our total sales.

    Scenario: Let’s say you sell $1000 one busy Saturday night. And let’s say that all night, you make 10% in tips, (which is the “average” tip left by most customers). That means that after tip out, you walk away with $50 for yourself, tax free, in addition to the $8.00 hourly wage. Fair enough. Now, however, let’s say that all night, nobody tips you anything (unlikely, but for the sake of argument, imagine it). So you’ve sold $1000, and now you have to tip out 5% to the bartender and kitchen. That’s $50 of your OWN money that you have to give away to someone. Simply put, you’re paying for cheap customers to sit and eat in your section.

    That’s what I think some people don’t understand when they leave no tip. Very rarely have I ever been left with nothing, but the two or three times that I have, it took all the willpower in me to not go run after the customers and say, “THANKS ASSHOLES, I JUST PAID FOR YOU TO SIT IN MY SECTION!” That’s why I don’t think it’s unreasonable to leave a minimum of 10% to your server, because otherwise, they’re paying out of their own pocket for your lack of gratuity.

    My rant is mostly aimed at those people out there who say a tip is merely a “gift” to the server. Seriously? We bust our butts every night to make you happy, and you retaliate by leaving nothing? Get real.

  114. Dave, when I pay for my BMW does the sales person then demand I pay 20% commission on top? Or does it come out of the amount I’ve already paid?

    Or is it only food & drink, in which case do you tip Airline Stewards for bringing your food & drinks?

    I know you have to make the best of the given situation. But that doesn’t mean it’s beyond question. Or the best way of doing it.

  115. “Dave, when I pay for my BMW does the sales person then demand I pay 20% commission on top? Or does it come out of the amount I’ve already paid”?

    Of course they don’t. It comes out of the amount that you’ve already paid. However, the paycheck that they get (assuming that they haven’t gotten any extra money for hitting a sales quota, or received a bonus for selling you undercoating or financing) doesn’t come from the company. It comes directly from the amount that you paid. IOW, the company doesn’t pay a “wage” at all, and this is the same thing that people seem to be demanding that restaurants do because of some feeling that the employer “should pay the wage”. The employer of the BMW salesman isn’t paying the wage of the salesman, YOU are. They simply provide a cubicle, sales material, advertising and the product. If they don’t sell a single car for the whole month, they make ZERO dollars for the whole month regardless of how many hours they work. There are a few places like Automax that do a pay a salary and a small commission per car that they sell, and there are some restaurants like Pei Wei or Boston Market where there’s very little tipping because it’s mostly self-service (they are almost like an upscale fast food joint). At least you, as a diner, are knowing how much commission you’re paying, because rarely do you know how much of the price of the car is commission (the same could be said for the bag of crisps, or chips to us ‘mericans that hits the shelf because of some route saleman that gets most of their money from commission).

    “Or is it only food & drink, in which case do you tip Airline Stewards for bringing your food & drinks”?

    Nope, because they are paid a substantial salary (although tipping isn’t unheard of there either – mostly businessmen trying to “fly” the friendly skies, if you catch my drift). It’s probably because of the mechanics of the job that makes tipping unwieldy and kept it from evolving like it has in restaurants. It’s just not an environment that would support it very easily.

    “I know you have to make the best of the given situation. But that doesn’t mean it’s beyond question. Or the best way of doing it”.

    But just because you don’t understand that it’s just basically a commission-based job that has the commission paid separately and directly doesn’t mean that it’s a deficient way of doing it either. I wish people would stop telling me that “I’m making the best of the given situation” or that I’m “making do with an oppressive system”. I’m not. I’m doing far better by being paid directly by my consumer and the consumer is also benefiting by paying less overall than they would if restaurants had to pay me what I’m making now. It’s one of the most efficient economic systems ever accidentally devised. Why this is such a sticking point, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we servers tend to bitch about the very few guests who screw us through the tip. Overall, we do quite well, unless we suck as servers of course. Then, we need to get out of the biz entirely. For every bad guest, there’s are 20 good ones. We mock the former and cherish the latter.

    STOP FEELING SORRY FOR US. Sorry, but shouting seems to be the only way to get the message through.

  116. “Scenario: Let’s say you sell $1000 one busy Saturday night. And let’s say that all night, you make 10% in tips, (which is the “average” tip left by most customers). That means that after tip out, you walk away with $50 for yourself, tax free”

    Canada doesn’t consider tips “income”?

    That’s interesting. I guess tips in Canada *are* gifts. Not in the States though. Our tips are taxable income.

  117. But I thought the issue often brought up on this blog was that (many? most?) CUSTOMERS TIP INADEQUATELY. Why leave your life’s earnings up to the whim of some overprivileged wealthy diners who could tip you 8% even if their meal is beautifully and deftly served? Isn’t that in itself an argument for a flat service fee and higher wages?

  118. Waiter as sales person (commission based)

    or

    Waiter as employee in service industry (tips for above and beyond)

    Those are the 2 economic models then. US uses the first one, and Europe(and RotW) uses the second one. Unfortunately on the surface they use the same words in the same way, hence the confusion.

    I wonder if “tips” were called “commission” how that would change things. And if it is commission, why should kitchen staff get any tips? The waiter is doing all the selling.

    The air steward could only get “commission” then on drinks (and duty free?), as the meal is paid for in advance. No selling at all.

    But even then, I think there’s a mix of the 2 models at work typically. Is it clear to the customer how much of each there is?

    But in the end, none of these arguments seem to hold water. They all sound like post-hoc rationalizations: “20% is how it is man, I don’t know why! Just STFU and give me my tip!”

    Anybody got any history of the 20% “tip”?

  119. It’s certainly not my fault that the system is screwed up. However, that’s not particularly important. What matters is that if I refuse to tip, then it does nothing to change the system, and the waiter gets screwed out of part of his pay.

    I don’t like the system, but when I eat out in the US, I tip 15-20% (generally I’ll make the cost into a round number) because it’s how things are done. Find a better way to change the system. Refusing to tip is only going to work.

  120. This probably explains why service in Europe (ok, my experience in Holland) was atrocious! We actually waited for our bill for 40 minutes and the waiter didn’t think that was any problem! And eating out in Europe is expensive! sigh…

  121. No, I think there is a cultural difference. I tend to agree with the Slovenian poster. True wait service, when you’re relaxed, a regular, etc., is far more convivial than the tip-driven behavior of American waiters.

    But certain cultures have a surly service attitude, and that probably shows itself in other service trades not paid by tips.

    I’m surprised by the closed-mindedness on this thread. Shouldn’t you be railing against your bosses and the state – or individuals collectively who tip poorly – rather than other countries? At least in France, they don’t have to cuss at low-tipping clients after the fact.

    The sheer frustration with the current system should indicate it’s not quite ideal.

  122. I have been a server for about 10 years now, and generally make good money…BECAUSE of the tips I get for doing my job well. I have worked in every kind of restaurant… national chains where you have to divied tip between busser (10%), bartender (5%) and the rest is yours; mom and pop cafes, even a buffet where the tips were actully better and much more consistant for doing much less work.
    When I get patrons who either don’t tip or tip less than 15% I wonder what I did wrong, was the service I gave really that bad? Unless your server gave you horrific service or you grew up in the depression and have one of those dreaded TIP Cards…please leave something, we depend on it.

  123. You’re right about the math, but not so right about catering companies– I’ve waited for several, and they always paid a high hourly salary AND added on the 18 or 20% service charge, so my income was always way more than my restaurant tips were. But it is silly that customers don’t realize that without having to pay for tips, the prices listed on the menu would dramatically increase by necessity.

  124. To S:

    “No, I think there is a cultural difference. I tend to agree with the Slovenian poster. True wait service, when you’re relaxed, a regular, etc., is far more convivial than the tip-driven behavior of American waiters”.

    The problem is actually that American diners generally want everything yesterday. If they wait more than 7 minutes for their entree after the salads are picked up, they are figeting, asking their server where their food is, complaing to management that they had to wait excessively for their food. The dining culture here is rush rush rush (a broad generalization of course, but more common than you’d think). In order to feed the masses of people that we have to deal with, we don’t always have the time to be “convivial”, although regulars who tip well are usually treated just like the Slovenian poster mentions. I doubt that Americans overseas are treated as well as hometown regulars either. I saw this happen as I became better known in the German town that I lived in. I stopped being less “the American” and more Dave, the friendly guy whose German got better and better and who always left a little more tip (but never enough to insult the server).

    “Shouldn’t you be railing against your bosses and the state – or individuals collectively who tip poorly – rather than other countries? At least in France, they don’t have to cuss at low-tipping clients after the fact.

    The sheer frustration with the current system should indicate it’s not quite ideal”.

    You’re over-reacting. I’ve been in the biz for 15 years and I’ve never sensed anything close to “sheer frustration”. You’re reacting to some venting on the internet, a phenomenon that is well-known when it comes to just about any topic. In real life, it’s not nearly the issue that you folks say it is. Plus, it’s not me who’s “railing against other countries’ systems” (or culture). I’m simply saying it’s different and I’ve tried to explain HOW it’s different. If you travel to Japan and visit someone’s home, hopefully you’ve taken the time to read up on the culture so that you know that you’re expected to take your shoes off. That’s all I’m saying – if you’re going to visit the States, you should know what the standards are. Ignore them, and you’re going to be excoriated, just like “The Ugly American” is when we go abroad and act inappropriately.

    Tim, yes the term tip is misleading in a way. It’s different here than it is in Europe and other countries. But it’s a trivial thing to do a little research before you come here to find out what the difference is. Presumably, most people DO study up on a country before they visit it. As an American, I knew that it’s common practice to only “round up the bill” to the next even amount even before I moved there (and before my recent 15 year stint in the biz). And I knew the reason – because German servers were paid a monthly salary and considered a big tip an insult that they weren’t making much money and that it was “charity”. Yes, it’s a cultural (and economic) issue.

    And, just so you know, it’s very rare (and actually illegal) to require servers in the US to tip out kitchen personnel and salaried management. Tipouts are limited to those people who interact directly with the public. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s wrong when it does (and I’ve never seen it in any restaurant that I’ve worked in).

  125. “Canada doesn’t consider tips “income”?

    That’s interesting. I guess tips in Canada *are* gifts. Not in the States though. Our tips are taxable income.”

    Is that the only thing you got out of the entire post I wrote? Did you happen to miss the part where I wrote that an $8.00 hourly wage is NOT enough to live off of in Vancouver? This is an extremely expensive city to live in (just google the price of a home, to rent or to own, and you’ll see what I mean), and there is the neverending issue with our pathetic minimum wage. Servers never get increases in their hourly wage, so if you work as a server for ten years in the same restaurant, you will never get paid more than $8.00 an hour. That is why tips are so crucial. I certainly don’t plan on being a server for the rest of my life, but as of now, the generous tips left by many people who are served by me are helping me pay my way through university.

    So no, Dave, tips aren’t merely “gifts”. They’re the lifeline for many people who can’t make a living off $8.00 an hour. I think that if someone is too cheap to leave a generous tip for a server or bartender, they shouldn’t be eating out at all. Simple.

  126. ““Canada doesn’t consider tips “income”?

    That’s interesting. I guess tips in Canada *are* gifts. Not in the States though. Our tips are taxable income.”

    Is that the only thing you got out of the entire post I wrote”?

    No, that was the only thing that seemed remarkable to me, so I thought I’d mention it.

    I made that comment because of the quote that Waiter himself used when defining tips, i.e a “gift”. I was pointing out that here in the States, it’s not technically a “gift”. I thought it was also considered income in Canada too. I was surprised that you don’t have to report it as income – that’s all.

    Your experience reinforces my idea that the system in the US is a strong one, not only for the server (who seems to come out better) but also for the guest, who has to pay substantially more money for menu items for the “luxury” of paying a server minimum wage (paying 30% more for the exact same item is what I’ve said would happen here if tipping were abolished – and people just don’t seem to believe it).

    Also, someone else wrote that in Canada, servers seem to do fine without having a higher percentage of tips expected because they’re paid at least minimum wage, and your post backed up my skepticism of that idea. I just didn’t talk about that in that post because I was drawn by the non-income nature of tips in Canada.

    I wasn’t minimizing your experience, just limiting my comment. I apologize if you thought I was giving you short shrift.

  127. old geezer post #26 above says …”for example, when the waitress decided to spray windex on the lights over the table we were eating at, in order to not have to stay late to do her post-closing chores.”

    LOL , i’m glad to see i’m NOT the only one this stuff happens to !

    frankD

  128. RE WHAT DO SERVERS THINK ABOUT OTHER SERVERS SERVICE ?

    i read a lot of frustration above, but i don’t see many solutions, from either side, customer or server.

    what i would like to read is how servers, WHEN THEY BECOME CUSTOMERS THEMSELVES, and are on the receiving end, honestly feel about the “complaints” registered by customers who are not in the service industry.

    i think the results would reveal may customer “complaints” to be valid.

    i also think may of the findings will indicate customers leave tips more times when they were NOT warranted than times customers did not leave tips when they should have.

    i think servers will short-cut service when they can and they will still expect the full tip eventhough that server knows their service was not up to par.

    i think servers will also plan to compromise customer service by prefering to arrange work shifts with fewer other servers, so their tips generated, (or tables), can be divided among fewer servers, even if this means spreading themselves too thin.

    i think that most servers do NOT have any formal training or education in being servers and that such knowledge would benefit most servers who take the job seriously.

    there should be qualifications to be met, that as a minumium requirement, provide the basic skills each server must attain to be a server.

    i would have restaurants post the qualifications of each of their staff servers, same as is available for their menus and food preparations.

    this way customers will know in advance WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SERVICE and not be surprised with potential poor service and therefore be put in position to “take it out” on the tip, disappointing the server and embarrasing the customer.

    frankD

  129. Sorry Waiter, but I’m calling bullshit on this one. Firstly your calculations exaggerate the case. If an employer paid the $7.15 minimum wage instead of the substandard (should be illegal) $4.60 they do pay, the total per annum would be $13728. You’ve added other stuff that isn’t common in a minimum wage situation. Tips might in reality raise the amount higher, but it wouldn’t be a given. It would depend on the service. Secondly, the extra cost only flows through to the customer if the restaurant owner is determined to make the same profit and that is kind of the point – the problem with the tipping system is that the owner is taking expenses that should be incurred by that owner and passing them on to someone else who may or may not pay them in order to secure more of what should be someone else’s money.

    The tipping system in the US is an economic injustice. Not only that, but it hurts the customer more than financially. A customer is guilted into paying a tip, even when the service is shit, because they feel like they are taking away that waiter’s livelihood if they don’t pay it. What should be an effective way to comment on someone’s level of service is taken away. Tips are extra. Tips are for extra service, better service. The only reason they were ever considered part of a wage calculation is because restaurant owners decided that a waiter should not be rewarded for good service – that that money was better in their pockets, not the waiters. So instead waiters bust their ass just to get what they should always have been entitled to. The customer is paying a ‘tip’ that isn’t a tip at all.

    When the goods and services tax was introduced into Australia, the government indicated that any business that was shown to be artificially raising prices and pretending it was a rise due to GST would be prosecuted. In a right world, the law in the US would ensure that waiters were paid at least the minimum wage free and clear without assumptions that someone else will make up the shortfall. In addition, any owner raising their prices to account for lost profit that should never have been theirs in the first place, should be fined.

    If I visit the US I will pay tips. I know what I’m going to and I won’t disadvantage the waiter in order to make a point. But that’s a far cry from saying that the system is just the way it is and not worth complaining about. You have no idea how much of a joy it is to tip in Australia. When a waiter is just excellent, I love leaving a tip. It feels right to leave a tip, like calling someone’s boss and telling them what great customer service you received. I will pay tips in the US, but it will diminish that experience of going out to eat, because I will always feel angry at the restaurant owner, every single time I have to add that 25%. I’ve only experienced that once and it made me feel like I was tricked into supporting something criminal. ‘Tips’ used to be just a word with four letters. It’s the US that turned it into a ‘four-letter word’. Like all injustice, it doesn’t become less unjust just because people give up and stop complaining. You saying ‘stop whining and pay the tip’ is actually kind of infuriating. It would be more fair to say, ‘be angry if you must, just don’t take it out on the waiter, because they didn’t create the system in which they work’.

  130. In the UK we are not obliged to leave a tip but I have never been for a meal with anyone who left no tip, not ever.

    You seem to believe it is an either or situation here in the UK, but it isn’t. Waiting staff are paid a living wage AND get tips. It’s just that the level of tip is truly a reflection of the quality of the service, not an obligatory 20%.

    We don’t have terrible servers just because tips aren’t expected, there are varying levels of service, which are tipped accordingly. At the end of the night, the servers are grateful for whatever bonus they get, and the customers feel empowered having been able to honestly show their appreciation for the service received.

    The increased costs are probably passed on to the patrons, you are quite correct, but again, in the UK we do not pay extortionate prices for restaurant meals. Yes they seem that way to our friends in the US, but only because of the favourable exchange rate. As a percentage of an average persons take home wage, eating out here and eating out in the US are about the same.

    So our waiting staff have paid holidays, sick days, a living wage and get a bonus if they do well at their job, and in the US they are paid less than minimum wage, with no holidays or sick days, and have to kiss the behind of their customers to be able to pay their bills…why is it again that it is the waiters who are so against changing the system??

  131. “Yes they seem that way to our friends in the US, but only because of the favourable exchange rate. As a percentage of an average persons take home wage, eating out here and eating out in the US are about the same”.

    No, it’s not ONLY the favorable exchange rate. It’s a contributing factor. But unless you guys have some magical ability to change the economics of running a restaurant, there is no way that your restaurants can pay a full service staff huge salaries and survive. Food costs are food costs. Fixed costs are fixed costs. In scanning some of the listings for waiter positions in the UK, I find that I’m making the same amount of money as a head waiter in a 2-star Michelin restaurant. Pretty cool, since I work in a steakhouse (admittedly a fairly nice one). Of course, I don’t have to run a wait staff as part of my job either. Most of the more ordinary listings seem to be more like in the range of $18,000 a year (and since tipping is very minute there (toss a couple of quid on the pile), the average server can’t be making all that much extra at the end of the day. Once would think that with the favorable exchange rate, your salaries would translate into higher amounts. Here in the states, it’s pretty routine to make $22-25k with tips included for working around 30 hours.

    “So our waiting staff have paid holidays, sick days, a living wage and get a bonus if they do well at their job, and in the US they are paid less than minimum wage, with no holidays or sick days, and have to kiss the behind of their customers to be able to pay their bills…why is it again that it is the waiters who are so against changing the system”??

    Because we make lots of money, have a very flexible schedule where we can take off (or pick up extra shifts) whenever we want to, jobs are plentiful and we really don’t feel like we’re “kissing the behind” of our guests for the most part. We look at the tipping scheme as a prime motivator to continually improve our service knowledge.

    I am not “paid less than minimum wage”. I am “paid” about $28 an hour for working no more than 30 -35 hours a week. Most servers are “paid” at least $15 an hour.

    The States is also different when it comes to holiday than in Europe (although I can only speak for Germany). Germans are aghast to learn that most Americans only get 1 – 2 weeks vacations max, no matter how long they are at the job. We don’t get the 30 days plus Christmas pay that they get (don’t know what the standard is in the UK).

    Of course, our tax burden is also considerably lower than yours, which makes the spread of incomes different as well.

    It’s all tradeoffs, my friend. I give up paid vacations in order to have a very flexible schedule. If I didn’t want to work tonight, I could easily get someone to work for me. If I want to take a month off, I just work a few extra shifts over a month to make up for it.

    I know that it’s a hard concept to understand for people outside the US, but tipping is so ingrained and part of dining culture, that there is no real “crapshoot” involved. It’s not the risk that you seem to think it is. We don’t have to pucker up to pry money out of our rapacious guests’ hands. We simply have to do our job well. And, in a way, it’s nice to be able to determine how much money we make by working extra shifts if we want, or working fewer shifts if money isn’t as much of a priority.

    It’s a great world where variety reigns supreme, isn’t it?

  132. hey waiter,

    my silverware is spotty

    my table is sticky

    you yell from across another table would i want something to drink

    i don’t get a menu

    i inquiry of the specials but you don’t know them and you have to go ask someone else

    my order comes and is wrong but the runner who delivered it says they will get you but you don’t arrive in time so i eat what i didn’t order

    my soda need refilling

    i want to move away from the screaming little kid in the next booth but your not around (out having a cigarette break) to ask

    you bring the check while i’m eating and say you are changing shifts so would i mind settling now so you can go home

    i check the bill which includes the soup you forgot to bring

    you pick up my credit card and bill and do not offer dessert or a refill

    or take away any of the used plates.

    what tip should i leave ??

    frankD

  133. “hey waiter,

    my silverware is spotty

    my table is sticky

    you yell from across another table would i want something to drink

    i don’t get a menu

    i inquiry of the specials but you don’t know them and you have to go ask someone else

    my order comes and is wrong but the runner who delivered it says they will get you but you don’t arrive in time so i eat what i didn’t order

    my soda need refilling

    i want to move away from the screaming little kid in the next booth but your not around (out having a cigarette break) to ask

    you bring the check while i’m eating and say you are changing shifts so would i mind settling now so you can go home

    i check the bill which includes the soup you forgot to bring

    you pick up my credit card and bill and do not offer dessert or a refill

    or take away any of the used plates.

    what tip should i leave”??

    A penny, maybe?

    Hey FrankD:

    I approach your table and you’re talking on your cell phone. So I leave and greet the other table that just got sat at the same time. I greet them, get their drink order and glance over at you. You’re still on your cell phone not even looking up. So I put in the drink order for my new table and run my entrees to my 3rd table and drop off the dessert menu to my 4th table. I look over at you and you’re still on your cell phone but you brusquely wave me over. “Give me a double scotch” you tell me, before I can open my mouth. When I bring you your drink, your companion has arrived. “It’s about time, Waiter”, you intone, “my friend is thirsty – get them a Pina Colada”. As I start to go, you ask, “What is the soup of the day”? I tell you and I make a pass through my section to make sure everyone else is in good shape”. I bring back the drink and you complain, “This drink seems short. Get me another”. So I negotiate with the manager to get a replacement. When I get back, your companion asks, “What’s the soup of the day”. I repeat it and then I start to tell you the specials, and you interrupt me and say, “We’re ready to order”. I say, “Very good sir” and I’m prepared to write. “Tell me Waiter, is there garlic in the marinara sauce”? “Well, yes sir, garlic is a standard component in marinara”. “Oh, can I get marinara without garlic”? I’m sorry sir, but our marinara has garlic”. “Can you make some that doesn’t have garlic”? “No, I’m sorry sir, we can’t”. “Why not, it should be pretty easy”? “Because I’m afraid that marinara takes time to cook. I’m sorry sir”. “Tell me about the grouper dish”. I do and you ask if we can leave the butter out of the beurre blanc. I shake my head and offer a different sauce. “no, I”ll take it” and I glance around my section, realizing that my second table is getting a little figety because I need to take THEIR order as well. “Waiter, do you have any specials?”, your companion asks. I sigh to myself and go through the specials. “Have you made any decisions”? Your companion is going up and down the menu – “I just can’t decide”. I say, “Very well, I’ll give you a minute”. “No no, stay here – I’ll make up my mind”. After a couple of minutes of prying with my mental crowbar, I finally ease an order out of you. “Oh, and Waiter, give me another drink”. I turn to your companion and ask, “Would you like another drink”? No, I’m fine”. I put in your order, take the other order, get a dessert order from my 4th table, check on the 3rd table’s entrees and see if they’re to their satisfaction and come back with your drink. “Waiter, give me another drink”, your companion says. Sigh. I bring your salads and your companion says, “I wanted my dressing on the side”. Stiffling the impulse to point out that you might have told me that little fact, I go and exhange your companion’s salad. At this point you say, “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want any butter. Get me the steak instead”. Now I’ve got to tell my manager and my chef to ditch the half-cooked grouper and put the steak on on the fly. After a while, with your companion still picking at the salad, you call me over and say, “Where are our entrees. We’ve been waiting a while”. “I’m sorry sir, I wait until the previous course is finished before I bring the next course. I’ll be happy to bring them now if you’d like”. “Yes, we’d like . We’ve been waiting 20 minutes for our entrees”. Pointing out that you’ve also had two rounds of drinks and a salad course and you’ve changed your entree order in the middle of your salad course seems pointless, so I bring them out as soon as the steak is ready. Everytime I come to the table, you need something new. You need extra dressing. You need another drink, but only one of you at a time. Your pasta isn’t soft enough (we serve al dente pasta). “Is your steak cooked to your liking?”. (Passive-aggressively) “It’s OK”. As I’m removing your plates, there’s a matchbox sized piece of steak left on the plate. “Waiter, my steak was overcooked. I want it taken off my bill”. Sigh. “Would you like coffee”? Yes. “Would you like regular or decaf”? “Decaf”. And make sure that it’s decaf”. “Yes sir”. Turning to the companion – “Would you like coffee”? “No. I don’t drink coffee this late”. I return with the coffee and you say, “Are you sure this is decaf? I don’t want to have to call you at 3am”. I start to present the dessert menu and you say, “No dessert”. Just bring me the bill, we’re in a hurry to make the movie. Dinner has taken longer than we expected”. I bring the bill and your companion says, “I’ve changed my mind – I’d like a coffee”. “Yes ma’am, decaf, right”? “Oh, heavens no, regular. I don’t drink decaf coffee. It has no taste”. Sigh. You give me the check and I go back, get the coffee and ring it up and I reprint the check and run your card. It’s declined. I go back and say, “Sir, I’m having trouble getting your card to go through. Do you have another card”? “That’s impossible, run it again”. Even though I knew it was fruitless because I DID run it again even though if it’s declined once, it stays declined until after the cows come home, but I go back and run it a third time just for your satisfaction. I come back and say, “I’m still having problems”. You grab the check and say, “OK, I’ll just pay cash”. You look at the check and say, “Waiter, this check has a different amount than the one you originally gave me”. “Sir, I had to ring up your companion’s coffee”. You look at me with disdain and grumble, “Oh, I don’t see the big deal about one coffee, but OK”. You look at the check one more time and say, “I only had 2 drinks. Why are there 4 drinks listed”? “Well sir, if you look at the prices, they are for single drinks. I have to ring up doubles as two shots. I realize that it might be confusing. I’m sorry”. You peer at the charges and mentaly try to figure out through the haze of two double J&Bs whether I’m telling the truth. Finally, you accept the fact that a double drink costs more than a single. I say, “Thank you for dining with us tonight”. You just keep fumbling with your wallet while your companion is pointing to her watch saying, “We’re almost late for the movie. Can you believe the service in this joint”? I look over while you’re leaving and I see you talking to the manager. I wonder whether you’re complimenting me on my tact and awesome serving skills. I tend to cast a little doubt on that though.

    What kind of tip should I expect from you? Probably the same amount as the number of please and thank yous, right? Should I hope that you didn’t subtract the cost of the last coffee from your payment?

  134. dear dave,

    may i suggest your place do the same as many restaurants i am familiar with in the NYC theater district (assuming your problematic patrons are those having a meal prior to a movie) –

    i) tie your seating times to the schedule of the attraction,

    ii) train the staff to inquire of the time perameters involved and establish UP FRONT if they are realistic,

    iii) limit the menu (no one does FISH, STEAK, PASTA well all at once anyway),

    iv) do NOT post drink prices on the menu,

    v) a manager should visit each table DURING the meal (and have a manager handle settlement problems !),

    vi) don’t ask – just bring the coffee, both pots caf and de-caf, then suggest dessert

    vii) do NOT allow cellphones in the main dining room !!!!

    remember – for every problem there is an opportunity

    frankD

    PS you didn’t answer on my question but FYI i left my usual 20 percent, but i’ll never go back (of course except to close them up, just like ROADHOUSE GRILL and BENNIGANS and STEAK and ALE etc)

  135. FrankD, I actually DID answer your question if you look at the beginning.

    If you left your usual 20%, then you didn’t do anyone any favors. You just validated the slipshod performance. Contrary to what some people seem to think is the tipping standard in the US, we aren’t automatically entitled to a great tip if we don’t provide great service. Most of us who consider ourselves professionals expect tips, but we expect to be held to a certain standard. I just don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to expect to be fairly compensated for our services, but we shouldn’t be surprised if we get docked for substandard behavior. Believe it or not, most of us know when we screw up. However, your experience shows a restaurant that has no concept of even close to average service. It’s a drop of the ball at every single level. That’s pretty rare these days.

    Your suggestions are just fine, except that they don’t always apply. Forbidding cell phones in the dining room is a recipe for a customer relations disaster. There are a few exclusive restaurants that could get away with it, but really, we must rely on the discretion of the guest to use common sense etiquette.

    We don’t have “seatings”, nor do the vast majority of restaurants, so it’s important for guests to tell us if they have firm time limits. Plus, we have no way to know if someone is going to a movie unless they tell us. Obviously, if we have a concert or hockey match or symphony performance around the block, we are very proactive and aggressive in asking the guest. But movies are an “anytime, anyday” sort of thing (plus, in my restaurant, there isn’t a movie theater within 7 miles). It’s not always appropriate for us to ask every guest if they are going to a show, since a majority of people probably aren’t going to a movie. Part of being a good server is knowing how to read a table, so we have SOME responsibility as well, I don’t deny that.

    I don’t really get the “limit the menu” comment as a way to fix what I addressed. Drink prices aren’t “printed on the menu” in most restaurants (except for wine and beer, and in our restaurant beer prices aren’t posted).

    Yes, our managers visit each table. However, my theoretical self-absorbed guest might or might not address issues at that point.

    Bringing coffee in pitchers might be appropriate in some situations, but it’s not a normal service point, even at Shoney’s. Pitchers are usually reserved for refills. Some restaurants might be different, but it’s rare. Guests normally expect to have a nice fresh cup of coffee brought to them and they expect to be asked which kind they’d like.

    Yes, there are plenty of opportunites to create a great dining experience and sometimes difficulties CAN provide an opportunity. However, the guest has a major hand and a certain responsibility as well and there are “opportunities” for them to be cooperative guests as well.

    Thanks for your comments about your horrible experience. Hopefully, it’s almost a one-in-a-lifetime sort of event. My account was a composite of many of the issues that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Thankfully, few patrons are THAT clueless, but we get snatches of that sort of behavior all of the time.

  136. I’m from SC. And Just like Georgia or min wage is $2.13. And when you are a waiter and you have worked at that place forever. You don’t get a raise. It just doesn’t happen.

  137. yeah okay, well anyhow – here is my food / beverage server tips summary

    – private country club servers get the worst treatment with certain magnanimous exceptions (like a member sponsoring a servers child through college).

    – resort industry servers typically get shafted as either a)their mandatory tips go to the house or b)the tourist travler guest knows they will never see that server person again – although remembering my days at marriott, young barmaids with nice legs and high hems didn’t do bad typically but in the long run may have the resdual benefit of employment with a major corporate employer.

    – restaurant food servers are the mixed bag -for example, some of my friends at joes stone crab miami bch claim to make six figure incomes for ten months work and yet most other servers i know personally are slaving away in from greasy spoons to upscale from national chains to one-shop mom and pop, either just scrape by or make moderate incomes, but need the work and flexible hours typically because of their child-care obligations, with the real financial problem being there is no road to advancement (no fried green tomatoes movie ending) and years of experience later your still at the mercy of dumb asses for your earnings.

    – restaurant beverage servers certainly make the highest income from tips as a group but are typically so immersed in the collateral damage of the industry their personal livestyles consume a required larger portion of their income (drugs alimony child-support expensive hobbies bad investments etc) that its a wash as far as accumulating a benefit and typically lose their health before amassing any wealth.

    unless of course, you keep a journal and eventually WRITE A BOOK !

    frankD

  138. I totally agree the thing I’ve noticed sense I started waiting is a lot of servers have a short attention span (witch is why it works so well for me) we know we work better and harder and are more polite if we can see the result of it (a wad of ones and fives at the end of the night) and some times people have life styles that don’t allow them to wait on a large sum of money every 2 weeks like people with kids or people like me who are trying to take care of 2 very sick people and might need a little money for the unexpected, I say leave it alone I like knowing if I work hard I’ll be paid for it, or if I half ass it I wont make anything

  139. I’m a waitress in Australia. I get paid Au$21 and hour (US$18.4), this is a casual job that fits in with my studies, career waiters probably get more. I disagree that without tips there is no incentive to provide good service. I LIKE my job and I LIKE serving people well. Most of my friends in this job are the same, and if not, they lose their job.

    I often get tipped (a few weeks ago I got an AU$100 tip), but this is a reward for exceptional service, not an expected thing. So it’s very exciting when it happens.

    Why should the service people receive in a restaurant be based on how much money they have? I treat all my customers equally. I also dislike this idea of sucking up to tables to get better tips. I enjoy my work and if I get a tip, great, if not, the customers have gone home happy anyway.

    Why do Americans have to be so bloody competitive?

  140. Aussiewaiter wrote:

    “Why do Americans have to be so bloody competitive”?

    I’d respond (competitively, of course) – “Why don’t Australians study up on the local customs before they travel”? I know that if I went to Australia, I’d be aware of the lesser need to tip because I’d check out a guidebook or two before I left.

    There are factors that you don’t take into account when talking about your system vs. ours. First of all, the percentage of restaurants serving the population there is much smaller than here in the States. You have about 15,000 total restaurants serving 20 mil people. Here in the States, we have 900,000 serving 300,000,000. The difference in percentage is .0007 vs .003. While you might say, “But shouldn’t this mean that seats are scarcer? Shouldn’t this mean that more people per capita are dining out there than in the US”? I don’t think so. I think this indicates that the demand for dining out is actually far greater in the States and that it’s harder for American restaurants to keep up with the demand. The fact that in any normal city, the wait for a seat during the rush is around 20 – 45 minutes.

    I’d be interested to know a couple of things about your restaurants there (snce I’m always willing to be educated about things I don’t know). The answer to these questions might provide some insight as to whether US restaurants are simply inefficient in serving the masses or if they are doing the best they can to keep up with the crush of business that can happen. What is your normal staffing for the average casual restaurant in your city? What is the average number of seats? What is the average wait time for guests during lunch and dinner? How long is the period during which people are expected to have to wait for a table (IOW, total time of the “rush”).

    I’m not looking for “industry stats”, just an honest appraisal of what you’ve seen in your time in the business. I found it interesting that, according to AU government statistics:

    “Larger businesses (those employing 50 persons or more) on the other hand accounted for only 1.2% of all businesses” whereas, “The graph below shows that the majority (63.4%) of businesses in cafe and restaurant services employed less than 10 persons”. that means, out of the 15,000 restaurants in Australia, only 180 restaurants in all of Australia only have 50 employees total. That’s a pretty telling stat. At my restaurant, we have 25 servers alone; we have 8 bartenders and barbacks and 10 server assistants. That’s 43 tipped employees on the payroll. Obviously, once you include the 4 full-time managers, 2 part time managers and 20 kitchen employees, we have about 70 employees. Just in a square mile of my restaurant, we have at least 6 restaurants that I can be sure of having 50 employees or more. Looking at Nashville total, I’m pretty sure we have close to 50 restaurants, if not more, that have to employ at least 50 people in order to meet demand. In fact, in my last restaurant, we had about 85 total employees, and that was a casual dining restaurant with about 200 seats including the bar. Nashville only has about 700,000 people in the city proper. This is an indication of the fact that we Americans tend to eat out more often than in other parts of the country but don’t tend to dine much outside of the 3-4 hours of lunch and dinner rush. If we had elastic restaurants that could automatically epand and contract with the demand, we might be able to do the salary thing. It’s just not practical from a payroll standpoint however.

    Looking at average sales per unit, you see a much smaller average establishment. In Australia, average sales of restaurants was about $589,000(US) overall. (http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyReleaseDate/F08C74DBDF59A792CA25743500118C3B?OpenDocument) In the US, “average unit sales in 2005 were $833,000 at fullservice restaurants and $694,000 at limited-service restaurants”. (http://www.restaurant.org/research/ind_glance.cfm

    If sales were evenly distributed over the operating hours, one might think that the higher sales would make it easier to pay a higher payroll. And yet, even given the disparity in size, profit margins are similar in both countries – 4% in AU vs. 4.1 – 5.6% (depending on market segment) in the US. This shows that US operators aren’t just raking in the cash by stiffing their employees. This erosion in profits comes from the overstaffing that US operators have to employ to get through the rush. They have to be aggressive with cutting staff during the rest of the day, but you still have to front and back-load your hours so that all of the opening and closing sidework can be done. So, the bast you can do is to lop off a couple of hours off of most of your lunch staff and maybe, if you’re lucky, you can lop about half an hour to an hour off of your dinner staff.

    Just so you know, I compared the price of a standard Outback burger in Australia with a standard Outback burger in Nashville and the Australian burger cost almost 35% more ($13.19 vs. $8.49). Sorry to use Outback (possibly a bit of a sore spot to our Aussie friends) but it was the only chain that I could find an online menu that could be directly compared to a US menu. Sure, some of that is the rate of exchange, but most of it is the cost of payroll.

    I know that this is all a bit arcane and unwieldy, but I’m trying to show that comparing the system in one country to another is bit like comparing a bloomin’ onion with a rose.

    Oh yeah, finally, I heard on the radio today that almost 25% of American workers have NO paid vacation. Since only 9% of Americans are employed in restaurants, and not all of those are tipped employees, obviously, the paid vacation thing is a symptom of America in general, not necessarily a consequence of being a tipped employee. Yes, it’s a shame, but it’s dangerous to lay it on the doorstep of the restaurant industry.

  141. Dave,

    Thanks for your posts. I loved reading them. You hit the nail on the head, again and again and again.

    Do you have formal training in economics? Because that’s how your comments read.

    On related note . . .

    I wish all you son-of-bitches who have issues with tipping had the courage of your convictions.

    How about informing your server the first time he approaches your table that you won’t be tipping?

    No, not until you scum have paid and left does the server find out you’ve stiffed him.

    Which is to say, you allowed that server to bust his ass on your behalf without having the courage and decency to tell him not to bother.

    Oh, wait, you do want top-notch service? You just have issues with paying for it.

    Fuck people like you.

    I hope everyone of you chokes on your food and die. Because you’re nothing but thieves.

  142. Auto, if you read most of these posts carefully you will notice that most of us who question the practice DO still leave 15-20%. Most of us on these posts participate in tipping (and appropriately); we just think it’s a bad system.

    Even my international students who think it’s a strange and frustrating practice still do it; they understand what’s expected.

  143. Tipping is a sore point with anyone these days. No matter where they are, what they do or how they feel about the matter.

    But in the good ol’ USA, tipping is the norm. Period. Being ignorant of this widely acknowleged cultural norm is unacceptable in this country, whether you are from here or not. Americans are often said to be the most obnoxious of tourists, but at least I can say that I conscientiously check out the local customs regarding this sensitive topic before I travel.

    In Pennsylvania, the minimum tipped employee wage is $2.83 an hour. Everytime you stiff me at the bar, I think about this: chances are, you do not work for free, so why should I? If you stiff me, then expect terrible or even negligent service every time you approach my bar after said stiffing. You receive the kind of attention you pay for. I sympathize with resataurant servers who toil away and strive to give great service, only to find after two hours, it was a wasted effort.

    I am not a fan of punishing guests with “contaminated” food or drinks. No matter how poorly a regular tips me, I still do not advocate spitting in his drink (tempted as I may be). Karma is a bitch and I don’t want to tempt her.

    If you are dining or drinking in the States, just tip the people serving you. Be aware of establishments that put an automatic gratuity on your bill, whether it’s the size of your party, the fact that you’re participating in bottle service, or you’re vacationing in Miami and they’re sick of everyone(uh, I think they’re targeting the international tourist clientele) stiffing their staff. I am fed up with all those people that love to play victim and I cry “I didn’t know!” Read the damn menu. You were drunk, yet aware enough to send your app back because it was missing a dot of the listed mango sauce; yet, when your party of eight receives the bill, you “didn’t know” that an 18% service charge was automatically included. If you have a problem with the system, why in god’s name are you punishing the “little guy”? What the hell did the server or bartender ever do to you? Or the busser, or anyone else that said tip trickles down to? Man up and say something. To the owner. To the manager. To the local restaurant association. To the COO of the crap chain restaurant you’re patronizing. They all work on salary anyway.

  144. please help me find the discussion RE – WHAT DO SERVERS THINK ABOUT OTHER SERVERS SERVICE ?

    it’s one thing to pit customer v server in endless debate about service BUT i really would like to know what the servers, when they occassionally are the customer (and being served) think of the service provided

    frankD

  145. It might be a little tough, since most of us are more forgiving of slackness in service. I know I am. When I go out to eat, I’m a pretty easy guest. This doesn’t mean that I don’t cast a “professional eye” to my surroundings. I’m always interested in the way a restaurant operates from the viewpoint of a table. I’m also interested in all of the style points such as the spiel, the bearing and demeanor of the server and the way the food’s presented. And, of course, I’m always interested in the way that a server “handles” my table. However, if my steak has to be recooked, or they’re off by one with the entrees (they try to give me my neighbor’s dish), or if it takes the server 7 minutes to get me my drink instead of 4 minutes, I’m not really interested in it casting a pall over my meal. Therefore, I usually find I get good service, because my expectations aren’t particularly demanding. I suspect that this is the same for most of my colleagues, although I’ve never polled them about it. Occasionally, you might get a report from somebody during lineup. It’s normally the same as accounts on the internet – it’s hardly ever about the great experience, but about the lousy one, and it’s usually mentioned to compare us favorably with that restaurant. Plus, it’s a reinforcement of the things we do right and a caution about the traps of not giving your job its full attention.

    There has only been one meal in the past 15 years where I thought the service was so bad that, had I been a civilian, I would have not only left a penny but I would have complained to the management. I actually left 12% (normally would have been 30% – and NO, I’m not saying that civilians have to leave that much, but I’m a server). This server was actually sitting down across the room (a small sushi/Japanese restaurant) talking on the phone. I kept trying to catch her eye so that I could pay because we had a concert to go to. Finally I held up my arm and she actually held up her index finger to tell me, “Wait a minute, can’t you see I’m on the phone”? She had really pretty much sucked throughout the whole meal. Didn’t do much of anything correctly. Sulked when we needed separate checks (I usually try to avoid that as a server dining out, but I was dining with people I had just met and felt uncomfortable demanding it, especially since they were from out of town and several of us had to pay with their own credit cards).

    Boy, was it hard for me to write in that 12% tip (not because it was hard to tip at all, but because it was hard for me not to tip at least 15% – once again, this runs well against the grain of any server). Frankly, that’s the most of a message as I could muster, partly because I had never seen such incompetence and I was a bit stunned. I didn’t really even have much of a chance to get worked up about it, because Elvis Costello was beckoning .

    Most servers I know sort of start at 20% for mediocre service and drop a tip from 30 – 50% for most good to great service. Of course, I don’t really go out to dinner very often because I’m working most nights and frankly, a dinner out in a restaurant is a bit of a busman’s holiday for me. Frankly, I’m more interested in being OUT of a restaurant on my nights off.

    Hope this helps.

  146. I should probably add that when I do go out, most of the time, I find service very good, with no errors and a seemingly sincere attempt to make my serving experience the best it can be. And I don’t ever tell my server that I’m in the biz. I wouldn’t think of bringing it up in order to get better treatment, although some servers don’t mind mentioning that they work at X restaurant. When I wait on such a person, I usually try to get them a complimentary appetizer as a professional courtesy and, of course, I try to provide the best service that I can muster, although that’s what I try to do with every table.

  147. Do servers change their service when they wait on tables with 8 people where the standard gratuity is applied to the bill in most restaurants? So, why not apply that concept to every party regardless of the numbers? We still have the option to tip a little bit extra for great service. And if the service is really poor, we always have the option to give the restaurant feedback via a face to face complaint to the manager or a comment card.

    You get rid of STANDARD TIPPING for STANDARD SERVICE, there is no need for a waiter to prejudge a table and wonder if he or she will get a fair tip. Example: If I go out with friends, and we get excellent service, under my system, the standard tip will be added to the bill automatically. So let’s say the bill is 100 bucks. I will add another 5 -10 bucks if the service was very good or excellent.

    Or you can change the receipts to indicate to the customer “Your standard tip is 2.55. Please feel free to enter a higher tip here if you wish to” or something like that. One can always fix the wording.

  148. You are aware that the hospitality industries in, oh, THE REST OF THE DEVELOPED WORLD don’t seem to have collapsed despite paying a living wage to their employees?

    It’s like the argument over universal healthcare, where the thought of guaranteeing basic standards for everyone is met with hysterical Chicken Little sentiments, nevermind that pretty much every first world country is managing just fine.

    The concept of optional tipping as an off-the-books wage subsidy is just silly. If it’s expected that you tip 15%, increase the menu prices accordingly and at least people will easily understand what their total cost will be. If everybody followed the custom then their total cost won’t change anyway, the only difference would be to guarantee that hospitality staff aren’t ripped off or underpaid.

    Think about it, you’d be avoiding a whole lot of unnecessary angst from servers with no recourse for unpaid wages other than bad karma over a social nicety, and I strongly suspect you’d find a reduction in the overblown sense of entitlement from patrons demanding that you leap through fiery hoops before they’ll deign to pay your basic wage. I’m all for good service (which can still be rewarded by tipping) but the current system provides sweet bugger all by way of support – financial and managerial – to staff dependent on the whims of the public.

  149. And yet, the system works just fine here. It’s adapted to the pecularities of THIS developed country. Most of us are doing even better than our counterparts in the “rest of the developed world”. Well, except for health care, which is an issue for another forum.

    It’s all a matter of balance. When the rest of “the developed countries” have to support a huge dining infrastructure as th one you find in the US, come back and we’ll talk. Meanwhile, you can enjoy your rather small and quaint restaurants with leisurely dining pace. i know that I enjoy the change of pace when I visit abroad. It’s nice to sit in a restaurant that can be served by 3 or 4 servers and sit at my table for 3 hours because servers don’t have to hit any particular time standards. I’m certainly not knocking it at all.

    I just wish that the “rest of you in the developed countries” would take 5 minutes to consider the cultural differences here. The fact that you don’t sort of puts you in the same light as the “Ugly American” trampling every culture that they encounter.

    PS, don’t get me wrong – I use the same argument about what “developed countries” do when I argue against capital punishment here in the US. But this isn’t life and death stuff here.

  150. Back to the California minimum wage and tipping.

    I have to tell non-Californian’s (and Los Angeles natives) that California is a big state. It’s not only Los Angeles. Really. They are lovely mountainous places with beautiful creeks and lakes in Northern California, where you can buy a house for well under $200,000.00. The gas prices still suck…but, what can you do? (I paid $3.89 a gallon yesterday, and was happy about it!)

    Of course, the population is much smaller then New York, but then again, there are a lot less restaurants.

  151. Yeah, that’s the tradeoff. The places where you can buy lesser expensive houses are places that don’t have the normal working opportunities for servers (it’s the same here in TN – I can buy a house sitting on 5 acres for the same amount of money that I could pay for a nice 1/4 acre lot in the city, but I’d have a 40 mile commute). I’m sure that there are exceptions to the rule, but I think that most vibrant urban areas keep servers priced out of the home market. Of course, there are places like Lancaster where people are so upside down in their houses, you might be able to steal a repo. I wonder how Sacramento is. There might be some affordable houses there, right?

  152. I for one am grateful to you, Waiter, for opening my eyes to the dynamics of your industry. In the past year or so I’ve been reading your blog I have come to the conclusion that anyone who stiffs any but the most incompetent and/or psychotic of servers, deserves to be served spit. And now not only do I *always* tip appropriately – and insist that people I’m with do the same – but I look them in the eye and thank them. The surprise and relief I often see in their faces when I do this says a lot.

    And besides that, I understand that the server shouldn’t be punished for mistakes in the kitchen. When bad food happens, I have a little chat with the manager about it. Normally, that’s all it takes.

    For this education, and for your many compelling and interesting stories, thank you. I hope you’ll be blogging the next phase of your journey, too. I’ll be reading!

  153. Nathan, you got it, it is not all about “me, myself and I”. It is and should be a human interaction of mutual respect.

  154. Why not throw in a couple of extra bucks? Are you really so damn stingy that you you can’t justify spending an extra $7 on dinner?

    You don’t know your waiter personally. Maybe they can barely make rent as it is and your tip is a huge help. Maybe that 5 bucks you left will pay for school supplies for their kids.

    Swallow your “tipping is NOT mandatory” crap, tip your waiter, and smile.

  155. As a waitress in South Africa, I think you guys (American waiters) actually have it pretty good. 15-20 % as a MINIMUM average tip?! Damn you are lucky! Here, the expected tip is a meagre 10%. I feel happy if I get 15% & I’m damn elated if its 20! And not all restuarants pay a minimum wage either- where I work, we get a 3% commission on our turnovers in lieu of this, which really sucks if it’s a slow night. Hence why we all fall over feet to serve our occasional American customers! As for the Brits… they know they have to tip and we always liberally apply our special “10% service charge is not included” stamp to their bills; despite this and despite the fact that our high rand/pound exchange rate means they’re paying almost half of what they’d pay for a meal at home they still think it’s perfectly ok to tip 5 or 6%! That said I don’t believe tipping should be done away with under any circumstances- sevice levels would decline horribly & waiters would lose the motivation to actually deliver good service. All I’m saying is next time you’re fuming about a 15% tip, spare a thought for us poor SA waiters- we’re a lot worse off than you!

  156. maybe i can rephrase the question to –

    “WHAT SERVICE DO YOU PROVIDE THAT MAKES MY EXPERIENCE BETTER THAN ELSEWHERE ?”

    i’m not trying to be argumentative, i just want to know, from servers, what they do that they see as providing “proper service”.

    frankD

  157. What you said about the British and members of the COmmonwealth of Nations is too true.

    I lived and worked in Hong Kong from February 2001 to July 2001. While I was there I ate out every day/night, developed an affinity for certain restaurents, and frequented them on a regular basis.

    Compared to the U.S., it is cheap to eat in Hong Kong (there is a 7:1 exchange rate). Many places I ate at I would leave a tip equal to the check, because when you can get a beer and a meal for about US $5.00 what is the big deal to leave $5.00 tip? I was also getting an excellent per-diem rate…

    Anyway there was a Thai restaurent that I loved in the Lan Kwai Fong section of HK (this is a section of HK where the ex-pats hung out).

    It was an outdoor restaurent, across from an Indian place, a Mandarin restaurent, etc. It had some of the best Thai food in the area. I ate there every Thursday or Friday night and the staff was always very pleasant. I would chat with the waitress’s, the owner, the chef loved to bring me new things to try, and I have to admit I always compensated them above and beyond my 100% tip when I left. The owner mentioned one time how HORRIBLE the Brits were regarding tips.

    One night, I will never forget this, I got there when the Hong Kong Sevens (http://www.hksevens.com/index.html) was playing.

    The Hong Kong Sevens is like the Superbowl/World Series. Members of all the Commonwealth nations, as well as other countries not part of the Commonwealth (like the U.S.) come to play in Hong Kong over a 3 or 4 day period.

    There many members of the British Commonwealth of Nations there, and the restaurents/hotels/bars ARE WALL TO WALL with people.

    I show up on Friday and my favorite Thai restaurent is PACKED! I am just about to leave, because I am standing at the back of the line of 20 people, and I am thinking there are a few restaurents in Kowloon I can go to just by hopping on the subway down street.

    The owner sees me and says “HEY! MR. DANNY! Where are you going?”

    I tell him I will be back, I figure I will comeback for a beer at around closing time and we can watch something on his satellite TV at the bar.

    He says wait, he has some seats opening up…now mind you I am at the BACK of line of about 20 people…he walks over to a table with 6 people sitting at it…

    “You done! Leave now!”

    Apparently these people had paid there check and were just sitting there, not ordering anything, not eating or drinking, just taking up space…

  158. Sorry, I hit the submit button too soon!

    Any way he makes them leave! He then seats me and takes my order!

    People started to complain he told them I was Jackie Chan’s manager!

    I did the right thing that night for sure!

    Bottom line, act like a good and decent person, leave a good tip consistently at your favorite restaurent, and they will treat you like family.

  159. “maybe i can rephrase the question to –

    “WHAT SERVICE DO YOU PROVIDE THAT MAKES MY EXPERIENCE BETTER THAN ELSEWHERE ?”

    i’m not trying to be argumentative, i just want to know, from servers, what they do that they see as providing “proper service”.

    I like to call it “appropriate service”. If you are a businessperson entertaining important clients, you don’t need an entertainer or a hoverer interrupting you every 5 minutes to make sure everything is OK. If you are on your first date, you don’t need the server flirting with you or your date. You also want someone who can offer sympathetic service that eases the nervousness. If you are celebrating your anniversary, you want someone who makes it seem like it’s a special occasion. If you have kids, you want someone who plays to them. If you are a jovial person, you want someone you can kid with. If you are a testy, anal person, you want someone who can deal with you without being testy themselves.

    Hopefully, you get what you ordered in an appropriate time frame (this can mean 5 minutes between courses for someone in a hurry or 20 minutes between courses for a table that doesn’t want to be rushed and a good server can figure out what kind of table you are, even if they have to ask you – the mediocre server won’t care one way or another, you’ll get your food whenever it’s convenient for the server). However, if a mistake happens, you want the server to take care of things in a positive and apologetic fashion and do everything from that point to make sure that you feel good about your dining experience. And, most of all, you simply want to get the feeling that the server cares about your dining experience and isn’t just “going through the motions”. If a server is simply there to take your order and get your food to the table in a reasonable fashion without any errors, this is what I call “average service”.

    However, if a server has a personality that fits with your particular occasion, and goes out of their way not only to make you feel comfortable and welcome but guide you through the menu and make you feel like you’re REALLY being served (or does things like find out that you have a birthday without you’re having told anyone and they get you a free dessert), well, that’s the sort of service that deserves more than 15%.

    A good way to judge would be how you feel at the end of the meal. Do you feel like you were just another notch on the belt of the server and that you weren’t much more than just fed, or did they turn your dining experience into a pleasure? Did the meal go smoothly or was the service jerky, hurried, “obligatory”? Did they take APPROPRIATE care of you? And do you feel a lot better when you walk out the front door than when you came in?

    And finally, while some might disagree with this, great service isn’t necessarily “perfect service”. Great service can still happen with a hiccup. It’s a distinction that many people miss when they let a single problem “ruin my evening”.

  160. My god! I honestly can’t believe these comments. Tips are a “reward”? For EXCELLENT service? What are you people, communists?

    Are you completely unaware of the realities of how difficult it is to wait tables? Ever been deep in the weeds?
    I waited tables ONE summer when I was in high school (so…20 years ago), and since then I am like a COP tipper. My MINIMUM tip is 20%, and it goes up from there.

    And yeah, I live and eat out in NYC. Basically every time my boyfriend and I go out to dinner it ends up costing us at least $80 or more.

    We are not rich, by any means, but we deal with it.
    I was a TERRIBLE waitress, and it has given me such an appreciation for the work the waiters and waitresses in the (mostly mid- to nice-ish) restaurants we eat in are doing.

    Those of you who are stiffing your waiters? Or leaving $2 tips? I hope you are getting chased out onto the sidewalk and YELLED at.

    I have left tips in Europe as well, and been heartily thanked for them.

    Oh, and this one broke my heart – we were in a restaurant in Sarasota, FL. My bf was having a blood sugar crash, and our waiter brought him an OJ stat, and then was just basically a super server, all through lunch.
    I left him a 25% tip, around that. HE followed me out onto the sidewalk to THANK me.

    THAT is WRONG, people. As we say in the entertainment biz, DON’T FORGET TO TIP YOUR WAITERS!!!!

    It’s not a bloody acronym, don’t be idiots.

  161. Holy crap! That’s a lot of comments. I was always taught to tip around 20 to 25%, unless the service was bad and then it usually dropped to 15%. That being said, I have been to many countries where the servers actually get paid a decent wage and I have not found the service worse. In fact, in many cases, it was better. I also had a more pleasurable dining experience oftentimes, because I did not feel rushed out the door so they could clear the table and get the next customer in.

    Also, the first commenter makes an extremely well reasoned point, the impact to the customer should not be an increase in price, as the tip would be included in the menu prices.

  162. “Holy crap! That’s a lot of comments. I was always taught to tip around 20 to 25%, unless the service was bad and then it usually dropped to 15%. That being said, I have been to many countries where the servers actually get paid a decent wage and I have not found the service worse. In fact, in many cases, it was better. I also had a more pleasurable dining experience oftentimes, because I did not feel rushed out the door so they could clear the table and get the next customer in”.

    So really, you didn’t find it worse or better, just different. That’s the thing – the vast majority of Americans wouldn’t abide leisurely service day in and day out. They might enjoy it while they’re on vacation in the US, but most demand a much speedier service than you find overseas because they’re eating on the run. That’s why the way we do it in the US accomodates our dining habits better than an “understaffed” sort of situation that you get when the restaurant is paying a salary.

    “Also, the first commenter makes an extremely well reasoned point, the impact to the customer should not be an increase in price, as the tip would be included in the menu prices”.

    But what you don’t consider is the higher payroll taxes (unemployment, etc.) that would have come out of the bottom line before anything else happens. Also, hours aren’t constant as they are if you’re, say, designing an automobile. You pretty much have a fixed payroll cost that you build into the price of a car. You know pretty much exactly how many manhours, from engineering staff to factory workers, you’re going to need to meed the payroll pressure on the product. It’s not as easy when you have such variable payroll costs due to having to basically overstaff the restaurant in order to get the restaurant open and closed and to meet the demand during the rush. The restaurant must have the ability to expand and contract its workforce to meet these demands. If you fold in the payroll costs to the menu costs, you lose a lot of this flexibility. It might or might not average out over time when you have to pay a person $15 – $25 an hour to only wait on two tables because it’s a slow night and you have to send them home early. Once you fold all of that extra income from the autograt in, it becomes a slave to the metrics of the restaurant. Finally, this system would eliminate many fine independent restaurants that already have trouble getting financing from conventional sources. If you have to meet a full payroll from the very beginning, during the first year or two when you’re at your most inefficient, the difficulties in getting financing increase exponentially (it’s almost impossible to get bank loans for such projects – most of the financing has to come from private investors and venture capital). Plus, you increase the chance of failure dramatically as well. It usually takes a new restaurant at least a year to get on its feet without having to pay a full payroll. Imagine the problems when having to meet a weekly payroll that’s as much as hundreds of thousands more than they’re having to meet now.

    I was going to be more specific but had to just use broad strokes because I have to be at my restaurant in 30 minutes for the lunch trade.

  163. dave

    thanks for your response(s), you said ” And do you feel a lot better when you walk out the front door than when you came in? ” – yes, but because i typically have wine with my meal !

    my meta-meassage is regarding the sense i get from some customers re: tips is that a server is merely doing a job they are supposed to do and like in the olympics scoring of gymnastics the scale starts at ten and deductions are then calculated which implies the server at best can only screw things up and never enhance the experience (or ever score higher than ten)

    all i know is most servers work very hard as i personally observe many running around non-stop but i also must add i don’t know what one does different than the others or as anything particularly special. i dont mean this derogatorily, only as an observation.

    for example, should a server check that the table is ready (ie table clean, silverware clean, glass clean, napkins, menu, water, etc)[a noted wine mag says dirty glass is the reason more often than not for off wine] because i have encountered so frequently spotty silverware i am on the verge of bringing my own when i go out to eat !

    and when the food is served, is the server responsible for making a check to see if its correctly cooked, presented, what was ordered, and most important, has the table been cleared of the previously course. (i have on more than one occasion literally been handed my entree plate when the salad/appetizer plate left no room for me to put it anywhere)

    i could go on but i think you get the idea.

    frankD

  164. I think the wage that servers are paid should be increased to minimum wage, so that slow shifts, problems beyond their control, etc., do not prevent them from making at least that amount.

    To offset, I think the amount of the tip could be slightly reduced — perhaps back to 10%. This still offers the best servers the most reward, but also makes sure even they don’t walk away from a hard night’s work without at least basic compensation!

  165. To FrankD,

    Well, yes, of course for the things you mentioned. Except that in the case of restaurants that bring sliverware to the table as needed (instead of having rollups), it’s usually the server assistant’s job to make sure that all silverware and glasses are properly polished, even though ultimately it’s the server’s responsibility according to management (everything that happens at the table is *ultimately* the server’s responsibiility). However, the server doesn’t usually have the time to proof all of the silverware placed on their table during the rush (we usually polish our tables for opening so we’re directly responsible for that). And, in some restaurants, the servers polish the silverware that somes from the dishwasher during the shift. And sometimes it’s the server assistant’s job.

    In many restaurants, the server doesn’t actually see the food when it comes out of the window. Food runners take it to the table as given to them by the expeditor, so in those cases, no the server can’t *necessarily* be held responsible for incorrect food. That doesn’t mean that they might not have rung it up incorrectly though. But there’s a possibility that the expo gave the wrong temp steak to the wrong food runner. Or the food runner might forget their pivot points and have to auction the food at the table (you might think that the server rang it up in the wrong order, but they didn’t). A little common sense goes a long way in evaluating the server.

    “i also must add i don’t know what one does different than the others or as anything particularly special. i dont mean this derogatorily, only as an observation”.

    Well, if you don’t know after my previous comments, then I don’t know if I can explain it to you. It’s mostly a matter of style, smoothness, personality and competence. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but servers have these qualities in varying degrees. A server who screws up occasionally but who has a great personality and is able to read a table to a tee might actually give better service than a robotic server who never gets anything wrong but who has the personality of a lump of coal and who doesn’t know when to stay in the background or act as an entertainer or chaperone.

    I don’t know how else to explain it really.

    As to the Olympics metaphor, I would simply say that customers (read, guests) have it wrong if they don’t start at a baseline and go up or down. I’ve heard of some starting at 20% and working their way downward with each perceived “flaw” (like, my drink took 5 minutes instead of 4, etc.) Personally, I think that’s a rather inane way to do it. Start at average and work in either direction. Average is still 15%. If they don’t do anything to merit more (i.e., the simply tell you the specials and get your food to you without much interaction)., by all means, leave them 15%. There are plenty of things that they can do for (or to) you that can merit more or less. Simply appearing to care throughout the meal goes a long way to seperate it from average, “don’t give much of a shit” service. If you have a lot of special requests that they handle without attitude, why not reward them? Of course, if you think that just because you patronize the restaurant means that you are entitled to “anything goes”, this might not have much of an effect on you. You might not see it as anything other than “average service” for the server to have to go back and ask the chef to rewrite the recipe that he or she has worked so hard to perfect. You might not see it as anything out of the ordinary to expect the server to know your favorite drink from the time they waited on you 6 months ago.

    That’s why tips are usually explained as 15% for AVERAGE service. It usually isn’t explained as 20% unless you screw up. I know that some of us experienced servers talk about the average tips we see as generally 20% but that’s because we’re that good. And that’s not bragging. We have gotten to the point where we provide engaged and professional service most of the time. And when we screw up, we’re able to bounce back and adapt enough where the guest still feels like they’ve been taken cared of by a great server, not a scared rabbit or a defensive, newbie-appearing nervous nelly.

  166. Many years ago (over 30) I spent my sophomore year in college in Copenhagen. When you went out to dinner you paid 18% tax and 18% service charge on your meal. No tips, but real sticker shock for a 19 year old kid from the states who didn’t have much money to begin with.

  167. dave,

    i hope you don’t think i’m picking on your statement, but you seem to know what your taking about so i’ll ask –

    you said…..” In many restaurants, the server doesn’t actually see the food when it comes out of the window. Food runners take it to the table as given to them by the expeditor, so in those cases, no the server can’t *necessarily* be held responsible for incorrect food. “…

    from a guests point of view, when the food arrives at the table without the person who took the order present to oversee the transition, it appears as though the server has abandoned the MOST critical part of their job, which is SERVING what was ordered, how it was ordered, and to whom it was ordered by.

    i would hate to be a runner ! it seems only bad things will get all the attention since if all goes well most likely the guest won’t notice.

    moreover, if i was a guest and had to RE-explain to the runner my order i have two concerns 1) why did i waste my time giving an order to someone who is not currently present ?and 2) where is this person now ? – which of course could lead to the inevitable question of why do i need a server anyway ? why not just fill out a little questioneer bubblingor checking boxes and hand that into the kitchen myself ?

    again, i hope you don’t take offense.

    frankD

  168. dave,

    sorry, again, but i would like to complete my thoughts on tipping and your following statement is possibly as good a summariziation as i’ve read –

    you said….” It’s mostly a matter of style, smoothness, personality and competence. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but servers have these qualities in varying degrees. “…..

    i could not agree more !

    i’ve had many memorable experiences where the food, the atmosphere, the occasion, the cost were all contrary to a pleasant time but were saved by the people working the tables. on the other hand i’ve also had experiences of great food, terrific atmosphere, happy occasion, worth the cost all under one roof but the servers could not have been worse amateurs.(so apparently has frank brunni of the NYTs !)

    let me try to explain – one definition, to me, in the difference in being a professional or being an amateur is the pro will accomplish a task expertly even when they don’t want to (or have no incentive to do so) and an amateur cannot accomplish that same task expertly even when they give it their best (and have a large incentive to do so).

    if that is true, and i don’t know one way or the other, but if so, it appears much of the vitrol in the guest v waiter debate may be that no matter how HARD some servers will try they just aren’t servers. conversely, of course, there will be those fortunate enough who are real pros with very little effort on their part on the “style, smoothness, personalty and competence” measurement.

    it’s a tough business and even tougher considering how hard it is to follow-up repeatedly and consistently on a good “show” but those who master the psychology of it seem to come out ahead while other who may really try hard as well “just don’t get it” and become frustrated.

    frankD

  169. I once heard of the crew of a sailing boat in the Carribean who wore tee-shirts to remind their clients that… “Tipping is not a place in China!”

    Not sure if it worked or not – would love to see a waiter/waitress try something similar, though!

    I did a bit of waiting when I was younger and my experiences of dealing with a drunken chef and, often drunken, custards (a cross between Customers and B*stards!), taught me more than any Harvard MBA course could ever have done!

    All the best with the writing

    Keith Eckstein

  170. I work in a 2-star restaurant. I make decent money but not enough for the long hours and aggravation. Even with the occasional “no-tips” or less than 15% I do pretty well. However, I pay 6%!! of my sales out to the busboys, the runners, the bartender, the sommelier, and even cash to the maitre d’ because the owners refuse to give them a decent wage. Actually, this is extremely high for any restaurant….even a 4 star restaurant. I never receive a paycheck because my tip average takes up all of the taxes, and last year I ended up owing $2000 more in taxes at the end of the year. I’m a pragmatist and have accepted my lot in this restaurant….I could go to another crappy restaurant and make less money and be much more miserable. But something I wanted to bring up happened tonight, and it hasn’t been the first time. A customer walked off with both credit card receipts. The normal procedure is to put in a $0 tip and close the credit card receipt, i.e. you lose the tip. Normally you would deduct the sales from your tipout. However, my restaurant forces us to include those sales in the tip-out calculation and taxes me on it at the same time. I know there is a law against this but haven’t found it yet. So, all I am trying to bring to everyone’s attention is that there is a credit card receipt that needs to be signed and goes to the restaurant and the other copy is yours. I don’t know why anyone, especially a New Yorker, would take the wrong copy let alone both copies of the credit card receipt.

  171. As a child in the 1950s I used to shine shoes for ten cents a shine. My tips though averaged 100% or more so that my average income per shine was about 25 cents. I then came upon the idea of offering “free” shines telling my potential customers that I just needed to keep myself busy. My average income went down a bit but my total take for the day increased dramatically as men who would normally turn down a shine would what-the-heck get one anyway.

    I have no idea how this relates to tips in the restaurant business.

  172. Have you ever been to Mother’s in New Orleans? Big prominent signs “NO TIPPING”. You wait in line to order your food but someone is supposed to bring it to you. Awful service, staff looking right through you, orders come out willy nilly in no particular order, most of the time you need to clean off the table from the people who were there before you.

    And the wait lines are out the door.

    Yeh, the food is good once you get it but I’d rather tip if it guaranteed getting my meal when it was ready and hot.

  173. FrankD wrote:

    “let me try to explain – one definition, to me, in the difference in being a professional or being an amateur is the pro will accomplish a task expertly even when they don’t want to (or have no incentive to do so) and an amateur cannot accomplish that same task expertly even when they give it their best (and have a large incentive to do so)”.

    I think that you’re missing the true distinction between professional and amateur – a professional does it for money and an amateur doesn’t.

    You’re actually trying to cross definitions in that you’re mixing up “amateurish” with “amateur”. I think there’s an important distinction to be made between the two terms. An amateur presumably does his or her “work” purely for the love of it and commercialism doesn’t come into it (or shouldn’t, although the lines are being drawn). An “amateurish” person is someone who hasn’t attained a consistent level of competence. If you were to use the former definition, you’d have to have someone who could independently support themselves and yet wait on you for the pure love of serving you dinner, maybe somthing like a “professional” banker who waits tables on his or her own time for free. Not very likely, wouldn’t you say?

    While we might astrive to be the best we can simply because we have a high work ethic, the bottom line is still paying our bills. Even that altruistic Aussie server who claims to work because she (I think it was a she) loved her job and was not “working for a tip” would have to admit that this love would die if the paycheck from the restaurant ran out. Her implication was was that we were basically whoring ourselves out exclusively for a tip. Well, all of that high-minded talk about working for the love of it would dry up the instance the restaurant’s money dried up, so there’s really no real distinction to be drawn there.

    Thanks for the comments, Frank…don’t think I don’t get your confusion about service. If I have time, I’ll briefly address the food runner thing…

  174. I wrote:

    “An amateur presumably does his or her “work” purely for the love of it and commercialism doesn’t come into it (or shouldn’t, although the lines are being drawn).”

    That should obviously be “the lines are being BLURRED).

  175. Great story, Bernie. Like you, I’m not sure if it has much to do with tipping – probably more to do with marketing and CEO compensation structuring :chuckle:.

  176. I can’t agree that the price of food would go up that much. Restaurants in WA state are required to pay waiters the minimum wage, regardless of the fact that they earn tips.
    As far as I can tell from my travel to other states, it doesn’t cost more to eat out here in WA than it does in states which don’t have to pay waiters the min wage.

    However, I do have to agree that, by and large, the service here is not as good as in other states. That, in my opinion, is more of a sub-culture in the NW than as a result of getting minimum wage, though it could certainly be part of the picture. The “Seattle Chill” manifests in many ways, one of them is sometimes the service industry. There are, of course, great places and wonderful waiters here, but the aggregate experience is less customer-centric.

    BTW – my boyfriend and I have followed your blog for a while and we just finished the book and greatly enjoyed it! We both hope you find something to inspire book #2 :)

  177. “I can’t agree that the price of food would go up that much. Restaurants in WA state are required to pay waiters the minimum wage, regardless of the fact that they earn tips.
    As far as I can tell from my travel to other states, it doesn’t cost more to eat out here in WA than it does in states which don’t have to pay waiters the min wage”.

    It’s 9% higher already. Just go to some of the nationwide chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s and compare menus between Seattle and Nashville. Create a random 4 course meal and you’ll see. And that’s just to make up the difference between $7.60 and $2.13. That’s an additional payroll of only $5.50 per server. And that costs the guest an extra 9%? Imagine raising my hourly wage another $15 (technically, since I work in an expensive and venerable restaurant, they’d have to raise it another $22 for me to stay at the same income level, but I am talking about the average dinner server here in Nashville). Generally I think that menu prices would have to rise close to 30% to make up the difference if tipping were abolished. There are a few stratospheric restaurants that pay salaries. One is Charlie Trotter’s. Dinner without beverages run about $120 just for the food on their prix fixe menu. Then they still tack on a 17% autograt. Or you’ll run into the same thing at Per Se or French Laundry. Those restaurants have the luxury of being able to pay their servers a salary. And the service is impeccable and the food sublime, so the cost is worth it. But it’s a different level of restaurant that we’re talking about. For the rest of us schlubs, losing tipping would just send our dinner checks about 10% higher than what they are now with tipping included, or it would mean a reduction of service levels due to understaffing. It’s just basic economics. Let’s not forget that the average return on restaurants is about 7%. It’s not like there’s a heck of a lot of fat to trim.

  178. I think all the waiters here are little too harsh about the subject. I have a feeling that most of the waiters want half of my bank account just because they came and took my order. Only 5% servers are actually nice. Remaining are phonies with their phony smile and condescending nature. The main problem are the owners who don’t want to pay up to people who are collecting orders and doing other stuff. And while doing so they have somehow convinced waiters that’s it’s customers fault that he is not forking over extra cash for them.

  179. Tipping_Sucks, I think you’re being a bit harsh about waiters. If only 5% of servers are really nice, then you are eating in the wrong places.

    But frankly, I think you’re holding us to a higher standard tan you might hold yourself or others. If someone took a poll of everyone that you meet during a week, they might say the same thing about you, that you’re only “genuinely nice” about 5% of the time – the rest of the time, you’re just going through the motions. We encounter anywhere from 10 – 50 people a night (that’s somewhere around 200 people a week). I’m not sure that even YOU could be “genuinely friendly” toward that many people, even if it were your job.

    I like to think that I’m one of those 5% people that you talk about. However, whether I’m “genuinely nice” to a person depends a great deal on how they respond to me. If they are annoying (yes, people can be that way, even me), if they are demanding, snobby, rude, inattentive, etc., I’m going to slap on the phony smile and, depending on how they interact with me, I might very well be condescending. So, if I were you, I’d wonder if the fact that you seem to get 95% phoniness and condescending service might have something to do with your own behavior in public.

    Your own screen name indicates that you have a chip on your shoulder. You might want to brush it off, mate. You might find the percentage of “actual nice” service increase exponentially.

  180. To FrankD,

    It’s certainly fair to consider a muff when the food runner brings the food. The best thing is to look at the whole experience though. Usually you can tell if your server has been struggling. If so, then it’s likely that they could have screwed up the order. If everything has gone to perfection, then it’s possible that the runner or expo screwed up. And you probably won’t really be able to tell for sure either way, unless someone admits fault.

    For me, when I eat out, it’s no big deal if they have my entree switched with my neighbor. If they have to ask me, it’s no big deal to me, even though I know that seat positions should be honored. However, I’m sure that some people would consider that a fault to be deducted, regardless of how great everything else was. Me? I’m just not that anal.

    If the food is just plain wrong, that’s certainly reason to consider reducing what might have been a great tip to one less so. If your steak isn’t cooked to the correct temperature, it’s likely that the broiler person screwed up. It’s also possible that the steaks got switched during the running process. It’s even less likely that the steak was ordered at the wrong temperature, but it happens. I know, because I’ve done it once myself. I’ve even ordered the wrong steak twice (what can I say, I’m human!). Both times, my guest was generous. One decided to eat what he was given and the other was patient while I got a replacement. They didn’t dock me as far as I could tell (I think one was an 18% and the other was a 20% tip), but I would have understood a 10-12% tip. I think the fact that I was otherwise my usual genial, caring and professional self kept me from getting docked.

  181. dear dave

    thanks for all your responses above and nice discussing this issue with you.

    as a summary here is what i posted on a NYT discussion of the industry…..Having been directly or indirectly involved in the recent closings of roadhouse grill, bennigans, evolution (david bouley south beach ritz carlton) and others in the less recent past, i can say the dining scene has been negatively affected by the shifting economy.it is just too difficult, if not impossible, to remain consistent in preperation, service and at a competitive price in this economy.The restaurant industry began its decline when it was no longer required a guy to take a gal out to dinner as a prerequisite for sex.

    frankD
    — frank, ft lauderdale

  182. Wow. Quite a kerfuffle, as promised.

    @Tipping_sucks–really? Only 5% of the waitstaff you encounter are pleasant? I live in NYC, and eat out a fair amount, and I would say that I tend to have the opposite experience entirely: only 5% are nasty. Same thing when I travel, here or abroad. It strikes me that your unpleasant dining experiences may just be a reflection on yourself.

    I’m a librarian now, but I was a bartender for 15 years here in NYC. Do you know what I used to see 95% of the time?
    Me [smiling widely]: “Hi there! How are you doing?”
    Customer [not even making eye contact]: “Vodka and tonic.”
    The vast majority of humanity treat restaurant staff as nothing more than automatons.

    Anyone who actually thinks “tipping sucks” has clearly never worked for tips. Seeing how most people treat waitstaff, and having actually to support yourself on tips–that might change your tune. Those of us who’ve been in the business tend to treat our waitstaff like fellow human beings, even if it’s just to smile at and thank the busboy who keeps refilling your water glass. Maybe that’s what makes OUR dining experiences so much more pleasant than yours.

  183. A few, fairly obvious points, in random order:

    - Stop whinging your arses off. If you rely on tips for your salary so much, you also realise there’ll be some crap tippers. Deal with it. If earnings really are as crap as some people say, given the system as it stands (i.e. 15-20% tipping), there’s something wrong with the system.
    - How does tipping guarantee better service if it’s expected that 15% is a minimum tip? Surely that makes it no different in effect from other countries where a tip is for good or exceptional service. A tip for good service in the UK may be 10%, in the USA 25% – the outcome is still about the same, it’s just the starting point that’s different.
    - Food in the UK is much more expensive than the USA. Hence a 10% tip is actually pretty reasonable over here. Yes british tourists should be better aware of the local customs, but don’t assume they’re tight-fisted.

  184. “A few, fairly obvious points, in random order”:

    And a few obvious answers to a few obvious points:

    “- Stop whinging your arses off. If you rely on tips for your salary so much, you also realise there’ll be some crap tippers. Deal with it. If earnings really are as crap as some people say, given the system as it stands (i.e. 15-20% tipping), there’s something wrong with the system”.

    In reviewing the previous posts, I don’t see people saying that “earnings are really crap”. Just the opposite. I made 23.4k pounds last year. But that’s based on MOST people doing the right thing, which they do. Even my last British guests did the right thing and tipped me 20% for my presumed “great service” (at least that’s what they said to me).

    But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t complain when people do the wrong thing. Don’t confuse complaing about the occasional bad tipper as global dissatisfaction with the system. I’m sure that if you had a forum that touched on your work, that you would complain about a few things as well.

    And you guys should “quit whinging” about who pays us or that the restaurants should pay us our full salary. Why should YOU care, especially if it keeps your menu costs lower when you visit the US? But don’t worry, we have a few malcontents who live right here in the US that are willing to be “welfare dining babies” too. They’re willing to let the next table over subsidize their meal.

    “- How does tipping guarantee better service if it’s expected that 15% is a minimum tip”?

    15% isn’t the “minimum tip”. It’s the starting point – the expected tip for “average service”. If the service isn’t up to snuff it falls.

    “Surely that makes it no different in effect from other countries where a tip is for good or exceptional service. A tip for good service in the UK may be 10%, in the USA 25% – the outcome is still about the same, it’s just the starting point that’s different”.

    The difference is that WE DON’T GET A SALARY (how many times do I have to say this?) It’s quite an incentive to get at least an “average tip”, far more incentive for a UK server to get a 10% tip for good service.

    “- Food in the UK is much more expensive than the USA”.

    Bingo! That’s because of the difference in systems. So, guess what? When you come here, TIP THE GODDAMN WAITER AT LEAST 15% (unless the service sucks – then feel free to adjust downward). I don’t know why you can’t get this, but a tip is both an incentive based payment, but it’s also the bulk of what we make. I’ll remind you again that I make 1.20 pounds an hour. NO server makes more than 4.20 pounds an hour (and that’s only in a few selected states where the cost of living is like living in The City). Just do the right thing. It’s obviously in the best interest of you, the guest, to pay the customary tip instead of the restaurant paying the server’s salary because our dinings costs are even lower than yours (even with the current exchange rate factored in).

    “Hence a 10% tip is actually pretty reasonable over here”.

    Yes, but we’re not talking about “here”. In the US 10% tip here is considered a sign that the service was bad (or the mark of an insensitive diner who pays a substandard tip for superior service in the case of someone who has actually received said service). 15% is considered the “average tip for average service”. 20% is considered an appropriate tip for great service. This system assures that you get a bargain when you dine here as opposed to eating in your home country. Just follow the local custom, just as you would by not slaughtering a cow in public when you visit your former colony, India.

    “Yes british tourists should be better aware of the local customs, but don’t assume they’re tight-fisted”.

    I don’t assume that they’re tight-fisted, I assume that they’re either willfully exploiting the tourist status even though they know better, or, they’re too self-absorbed to read a simple tour guide to learn about social customs before they come here. In either case, it’s worth pointing out how much the average server fears the average British/Australian/German/etc guest. Maybe it might get a few of you to realize that you’re exploiting the local labo(u)r. But don’t worry, we get the same thing with some American tourists, who like to stretch their vacation dollars on the backs of servers and their fellow diners.

    IOW, quit acting like the “Ugly Americans” who trample on local customs wherever they go. Be shining examples of your wonderful country and culture. You’ve shaken off the Imperialist Paternalist image, now shake off the image of the “mean diner who doesn’t tip”.

  185. I think your point about the differing annual costs should restaurants pay servers minimum wage is very interesting, the difference is huge! However, I do wonder how other countries manage it? I am from England and our national mimimum wage for those over 22 is £5.52 or there abouts and it is illegal to pay anyone less than this, and while I admit that from what I hear of tipping in the U.S. us Brits may not be so generous and there tends not to be any general tipping rules here, most people will tip when they go to a restaurant. I work in a bar and though the principle is different again, with even less stigma attatched to not tipping a barmaid, I do still make a fair amount, and get holiday pay and get sick leave. So if this system works in England, why would it not in the U.S?

  186. I would turn it around and ask you why our system wouldn’t work in YOUR country. I’m sure you’d trot out as many justifications to show why it wouldn’t work there as I could to explain why your system wouldn’t work in ours. I’ve already enumerated plenty of them in this thread. One big thing is the the fact that our systems are engrained systems to our respective dining publics and they have become customary. Yes yes, I know. Customs aren’t always good. Look at slavery, you say. Look at the lack of women’s sufferage, you say. Well, except for a few malcontents who will likely bitch in any work situation that they find themselves in, few of us US servers feel like we’re being exploited, mainly I guess because we make far better wages (thanks to our dining public, of course) than we do in other service-related jobs. We lose a few perks like paid vacations, but those are becoming fewer and fewer and less worth taking in the American workplace anyway.

    Unless you make more than £13k- 45k (including your holiday and sick pay), I’m not sure that we US servers are being terribly exploited as compared to you guys. I use that range because around $23k is on the lower end for a full-time server with more than a few months experience (it’s pretty trivial to be able to make that much money working in any decent restaurant and we usually do it with a 30 hour week). $45k is toward the upper end (but there are quite a few servers who make more than that – I’m speaking generally here).

    There are certainly drawbacks to our system, but I think that there are probably drawbacks to yours as well. Please try to remember than your full-service restaurants are usually on a much smaller scale than ours. That makes it a bit easier to pay salaries.

    I think I’ll leave it at that because I’ve already pointed a bunch of things out in previous posts. Feel free to review them.

    PS, it’s not about generosity per se. It’s about simply paying for service a different way in the States than you do in the UK, and being a good traveller who does their homework when they travel. We don’t do inclusive VAT either as they do in many shops and restaurants in Europe. That doesn’t seem to confuse anyone.

  187. From reading far too many of these comments than I should admit, I have come to the conclusion that those who are Waiters in the U.S will never be happy! There are various people complaining about the tiny minimum wages of servers and then when someone suggests that the U.S change to systems like those in Europe or Canada, people complain that then their tips wont be as good! make your minds up!

    my stance is, tips should be given if the service is good. I work in a bar and, being from the UK, dont really expect tips. When I get them, its a pleasant suprise and nice to know my service is appreciated. I will generally tip other bar staff and servers if I feel they have gone out of their way to provide good service, I’m afraid, and I know I shall be heckled for this, but I don’t see why I should tip someone for merely doing their job.

  188. For goodness sake dave, get that stick out your arse.

    You know that tourists typically don’t tip well, so that’s just part of the economics of your business. I guess all you can do about it is make sure the tourist tables are shared around so it doesn’t come down on one waiter harder than another.

    And by the way, I’m not talking about what the tourist should or shouldn’t tip. I’m talking about your ridiculous reaction to it. If it bothers you so much, then change the system, but if it’s not a significant enough issue to do that then you just have to live with it.

    “It’s obviously in the best interest of you, the guest, to pay the customary tip instead of the restaurant paying the server’s salary because our dinings costs are even lower than yours”

    It’s not obvious to me at all. Unless you don’t have to pay taxes or whatever on tips, I don’t see why the resultant cost (tips vs additional salary) should be any different.

    (Oh and believe me we’ve shaken off the Imperialist Paternalist side of things, and are concentrating on the drunken yob image these days.)

  189. “For goodness sake dave, get that stick out your arse”.

    I”d take it out of my mouth if I were you Bob. After all, you know where it’s been.

    “You know that tourists typically don’t tip well, so that’s just part of the economics of your business”.

    I guess that makes it all right or that I should accept it at face value. When you say this, you ignore all of the righteous indignation from your side of the pond. You know – all of this “Restaurants are exploiting the worker/our system is better and more rational/how do you yobs put up with it/why should the guest have to subsidize the restaurant/etc.) It’s obviously not *just* a “tourist” issue. If it were, I’d simply say, “You British tourists suck eggs” and leave it at that and, as soon as one of you opened your mouth, you’d drop to the lowest rung of my service priorities because I’d certainly take care of everyone else first – I’d give you just enough service to get you your food in a fashion that wouldn’t cost me my job. Of course, I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, so I don’t do that, and a low/no tipping British guest then becomes “The Exploiter”. I’ve acknowledged that we have problems with American/Canadian tourists as well – that doesn’t mean that I stop criticizing poor tipping behavior or try to educate people as to WHY they should do the right thing. Of course, the problem is, as soon as you open your mouth, you’ve pegged it as a 90% chance that you’re a tourist, whereas, I don’t always know whether one of my “normal sounding” poor tipping diners is just cheap/ignorant or a tourist.

    “I guess all you can do about it is make sure the tourist tables are shared around so it doesn’t come down on one waiter harder than another”.

    It’s not as big of an issue for most servers as you make it out to be (or you think that *I* I make it out to be, although it’s probably more of an issue for my fellow servers in Vegas or Orlando). Really, all I can do is “nibble around the edges” – IOW, try to educate people and correct mistaken and ignorant impressions.

    “And by the way, I’m not talking about what the tourist should or shouldn’t tip”.

    Of course you are. Otherwise, it wouldn’t even be an issue.

    “I’m talking about your ridiculous reaction to it”.

    Why is my reaction “ridiculous”? Or, why is it more ridiculous than YOUR reaction to my posts? For you, it’s only a little tip – for me, it directly affects my pay, whether it be a minor blip on the radar, as it is for me, or whether it might be the difference between deciding between paying rent and buying baby formula as it might be for others.

    “If it bothers you so much, then change the system”,

    I would counter – if the tipping system in the US bothers YOU so much, simply eat at places where you don’t have to tip, or where they tack on an automatic service charge so that you don’t have any moral dilemmas. Then you won’t have a moral conflict, a conflict that you seem to have, or you wouldn’t give a flip about whether servers get paid properly or not.

    “but if it’s not a significant enough issue to do that then you just have to live with it”.

    Of course I do. I have for almost 15 years. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to continue to prod people to do the right thing by providing information that some people obviously don’t know – considering the sort of questions and assumptions that I’ve seen in this very thread.

    ” ‘It’s obviously in the best interest of you, the guest, to pay the customary tip instead of the restaurant paying the server’s salary because our dinings costs are even lower than yours’

    It’s not obvious to me at all. Unless you don’t have to pay taxes or whatever on tips, I don’t see why the resultant cost (tips vs additional salary) should be any different”.

    That’s because you haven’t been paying attention. I”ve already given you concrete numbers that point out the effect of payroll on menu costs. Of course, you might be totally ignorant of the concept of the cost of business. I’ve already pointed out not only the difference between the cost of dining out in the UK/Australia vs the US, but also the difference between the cost of dining out in the US between a state that pays 2.13 an hour (mine) and a state that pays $7.60 an hour (Washington State).

    “(Oh and believe me we’ve shaken off the Imperialist Paternalist side of things, and are concentrating on the drunken yob image these days.)”

    You need to work a little harder.

  190. “From reading far too many of these comments than I should admit, I have come to the conclusion that those who are Waiters in the U.S will never be happy! There are various people complaining about the tiny minimum wages of servers and then when someone suggests that the U.S change to systems like those in Europe or Canada, people complain that then their tips wont be as good! make your minds up”!

    It’s funny. Most of the “complaining” seems to come from your side of the pond. I haven’t seen too many posts from US servers agreeing that the system should be changed. Most of us like it just the way it is. And we aren’t “complaining” about the “tiny” minimum wages – we’re pointing it out because apparently there are some people who don’t know it and know the reason why tips are ‘expected” and that the “standard tip” is 15% for average, workaday serice. Our minds ARE made up – we don’t want to change the system – we aren’t worried about “tips” not being as good – we’re worried about our BOTTOM LINE income not being as good.

    “my stance is, tips should be given if the service is good. I work in a bar and, being from the UK, dont really expect tips. When I get them, its a pleasant suprise and nice to know my service is appreciated. I will generally tip other bar staff and servers if I feel they have gone out of their way to provide good service, I’m afraid, and I know I shall be heckled for this, but I don’t see why I should tip someone for merely doing their job”.

    This isn’t a heckle – you should tip someone in the US appropriately (according to the accepted guidelines) because if you don’t, you’re NOT paying them for “merely doing their job”. You’re really only paying for the food. You’re not paying for the service as your guests do when they pay the check in the UK without tipping – because the cost of employing you is already bundled in the cost of that bitter, or that roast and pudding. I don’t know how many times I can say this – the menu cost DOES NOT cover any but the tiniest part of the “salary” of a server in the States. That’s just the way it is. Wishing it would change isn’t going to change the reality of it.

  191. Dave,

    - Waiter writes article moaning that tourists don’t tip well enough.
    - People say, “Well you don’t have to do it that way you know.”
    - You (and others) get into a big tizzy fit saying, “The system’s just fine thank you, we earn decent money.”
    - I wonder why you complain about it so much if you’re still doing so well.

    Let me make it very clear – I have no problem tipping. I get annoyed at my friends in the UK who never leave tips because I realise that most waiters are on minimum wage, and it is part of our custom to tip up to 10-15% if the service is good. Last night I tipped 10% on top of a service charge of 10%, it was that good. (And I can feel all smug about how generous I am). I ‘get’ tipping.

    I think people commenting here are genuinely confused why people such as yourself seem to make such a big deal about lousy tippers, whilst also defending so vehemently the system that enables it. You can’t have it both ways.

    And it is still worth your while giving good service to the tourists, you might not make as much from them as people who know what they’re doing but it’s the difference that matters. If you provide indifferent service normally you may get 10%, and 20% for good service. The tourist may give 0% for indifferent service and 10% for good. The money you make for giving that good service is still 10% either way.

  192. RE Traveling Tippers

    let me make two observations –

    1) the current corporate reimbursements to travelling employees including per diems are drastically reduced or eliminated entirely compared to days past – so this may account for some stinginess – i for one can recall, now for the most part gone, the days of corporate wine and dine without regard to costs including hefty tips

    2) the exchange rates may induce sticker shock leaving the annonymous and never to be seen again server to bear the brunt of it – let me say if i was in a foreign country and just paid the equivilent of eight US dollars for a single 16 ounce can of coke, well, i don’t want hate mail, but let’s say i would pause at leaving a tip on that transaction.

    in any event, the server is a the mercy of the traveler, and if the compensation is not sufficient, and i would tell this to any server friend, find another server job somewhere else. ya can’t fight city hall or economics.

    frankD

  193. Bob,

    Here’s the deal. We don’t complain about it THAT much.

    Sure, we bitch about people who don’t do the right thing. Why shouldn’t we? Should we enable bad, anti-social behavio(u)r? Should we reward it? Coddle it? Or should we attempt to educate people who might not understand the significance of their behavior?

    Just so you understand, it’s been my experience that about 96% tip appropriately (they either leave at least an average 15% tip or tip better or worse based on the level of service). Half of the remaining 4% seem to leave 20% even when the service is less than stellar. The other 2% are what I would call “bad tippers” – people who skim the tip by leaving 13% even as they tell you what a great evening they had and they thank you profusely for the great service. Or they leave 10% for no apparent reason. Or they don’t tip on the full amount of a meal where they pay with a gift certificate. Or they are tourists who are taking advantage of the fact that they can slink away and save money for their paperweight Eiffel Tower equivalent because, well, they aren’t coming back and who cares about the people in this community anyway – they are only there to provide vacation entertainment and photo opportunities. Or they are spoiled sorority sisters who will order $200 worth of takeout food and not leave a single penny for the person who had to bag up 8 grocery sacks full of food for them and spend 40 minutes doing it (yes, I’ve seen it in person).

    It’s the natural reaction of people to bitch about some parts their jobs. That doesn’t mean that they want to completely overhaul it.

    What I have to wonder is – if it’s no big deal to tip or not to tip, or if it isn’t an important deal to do the right thing, why would you get annoyed at your friends who don’t tip? Because you know it’s wrong, that’s why. And this even occurs where servers presumably get done right by their restaurants and get paid a salary. So this points out two things – first, it’s wrong (at least from your standpoint) not to reward good service with a tip because it’s an accepted practice in the business – the only thing is that here in the states, we are paid far less, but apparently have the opportunity to earn more money because we deal with far more guests per server than there (part of the difference between our two systems – more volume). And second, it makes me wonder why YOU (and other Brits) get in such a tizzy over the issue. If you didn’t know that menu prices don’t pay for the service, it would be one thing. But even after being given the facts and some hard statistics, you still get bent out of shape simply because you pay most of the “service salary”, not the restaurant. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I dunno. But it seems unreasonable to me. You wouldn’t balk at having an unknown amount of commisssion bundled into the price of a car and yet, you freak out at doing a similar thing in a restaurant. The difference of course is that you pay a single price for the car whil(st)e you pay the “commission” separately in the restaurant. And yet, you’d think that you’d welcome the transparency that the latter offers. You get to determine the payment for the service that you received, based on a long-standing benchmark. You get to adjust it up or down, and, if you’re a scoundrel, you don’t have to pay it at all without any legal ramifications. And yes, that’s a risk I have to take. But in the thousands of tables that I’ve waited on in my career, and the tens of thousands of guests that I’ve served, I’ve only gotten a zero tip 2 or 3 times. Statistically speaking, it’s been a virtual zero number of times, a blip. In the past year, I’ve only gotten a 10% tip once or twice (neither really apparent as to the reason).

    So, when we “get in a tizzy” or start “whinging”, keep in mind that this is the internet. I’ll bet we could find people doing the same about your occupation, whatever it is. Whether it’s lawyers having to defend scum, or doctors who complain about hypocondriacs, or engineers who bitch about the bean counters, or the bean counters who bitch about the engineers, or the Harrod’s clerk who moans about stupid American tourists with their loud shirts and hanging cameras, there’s going to be whining. I’d suggest that you get over it and quit whining yourself (with all due respect).

    As to your last point, if a tourist gets in the way of providing excellent service to the rest of my section, it’s shouldn’t be worth it to me to give them any more than cursory service. It’s not worth trying to save a 10% tip to lose 5% on three other tables. But as I said, I don’t do that anyway. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. However, if I have a known great tipper or if I’m in the weeds, I’m going to bend over backward to serve them and my other tables play second fiddle or if in the weeds, I’m going to prioritize my service in terms of triage. And the tourist goes to the bottom. That’s just business. You give your best customers the best deals and you play the odds based on your experiences with certain people like tourists. Just as a tourist can skim a tip because they know they won’t be back, I can reciprocate and skim the service if necessary because I know that they’re not going to be back. I’m always going to give my absolute best efforts to the people that I know. That’s just human nature.

  194. Tips ensure good service. In the high end restaurant where I work (it consistently gets $$$$$ in the local publications)I recognize those customers that have historically not tipped, and those who tip fantastically. Guess who get top priority?

    Mr(s) poor tipper; who do you think is responsible for polishing your glassware, silverware, and dishes? Who do you think is responsible for knowing the ingredients of every food item on the menu, and if you mention an allergy I work around it as best as possible? Who keeps track of religious customs for Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists to make sure I don’t serve something with the wrong hand or during an inappropriate time of year? Who helps you pick out a wine that will go well with your food? Who recommends things to do and places to go after dinner? Who double checks your food before it goes out to your table to make sure it was made correctly and is fresh and the appropriate temperature? Who directs you to the bathroom when you clearly have no idea where it is located? Who rushes over with a pile of towels when you spill your beverage?

    That’s right, your $3.00 an hour server.

    The tipping system is also good for the restaurant because I, the server, now have a vested interest in selling that additional glass of wine and dessert with coffee to each table. If I am making a “livable” wage what incentive do I have? Zero. In my place of employment, I see servers talking customers into ordering more, and consequently the servers make much more money, and the company makes more money.

    Its like any other customer who works on commission, the more you sell the more you make.

  195. I know I’m really late to this one, but…

    $2.13/hr.

    no bullshit. I seriously get paid $2.13 an hour to wait tables at an overpriced steakhouse.

    The sad thing is I want to go work somewhere else, but NO ONE IS HIRING because of this whole economic crisis thing or whatever.

    I’ve been at my current job for almost 3 years, and the only way I keep my head above water is because the majority of my customers are regulars that I have had the opportunity to develop more personalized service for. I don’t understand how the newbies are making it. *shrug*

  196. - i don’t know that this post will continue the discussion here but i’ll add it anyway (it is based on two recent NYT stories) –

    ………………”Saigon Grill,…the restaurant’s delivery workers had walked out, complaining of inhumane and illegal working conditions. And indeed, this week a federal judge ordered Saigon Grill to pay $4.6 million in back pay and damages to 36 delivery workers. The judge, writing that the owners “showed no regard whatsoever” for minimum wage and other labor laws, decided that some deliverymen had been so cheated that they were entitled to as much as $328,000 each.”

    …………….”BOSTON — The luxury Canyon Ranch Spa in Lenox, Mass., where patrons pay thousands of dollars for services including facials and tai chi classes, has agreed to pay $14.75 million to hundreds of waiters, massage therapists, yoga instructors and other employees who said the spa denied them tips they were owed. The settlement, which was completed Monday in Federal District Court in Springfield and awaits a judge’s approval, is thought to be one of the largest wage cases in Massachusetts history.”

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  199. My understanding of the situation is this:

    1) Patrons like the option to tip because they can choose to leave no tip which is essentially a “discount” over what the price would have been, had tip been included in the food price.

    2) Waitstaff like the option of a tip because if they get tipped 15%+, they actually end up (even with your typical shitty nights) making over their state’s minimum wage. I’ve heard the phrase, “Full time job on part time hours,” before when referring to waiting tables. Oh, and waitstaff doesn’t want to have to deal with the bitching that some customers are bound to do if tips were included in the food price.

    I get both points. As a customer, who wouldn’t like the ability to (however wrongly) feel that you could “economize” on the tip. And as a server, who wouldn’t like to make over minimum wage.

    However, the fact that servers try a misdirect to the customer bitching thing (rather than pointing out that it would be a pay-cut) when the concept of included tips comes up irks me.

    Just be honest. The tipping system is a win-win for all involved.

  200. ok so i can get where your coming from, you should tip you server for the job they did for you. but i’m a chef and if i saw some server doing anything to the food i spent the entire day prepping then finally cooking…….. Well lets say they wouldn’t be happy with the end result. Then would it be worth doing for a lousy 20 bucks?

  201. I just say you on Oprah. Glad you have another occupation, because as a waiter it sounded like you needed to be fired and your restaurant put out of business. The manager deception bit was shameful. Do you get that businesses only exist b/c of the customer? They kinda tend to go out of business without them.

    If I wanted to be told to sit down and shut up and take whatever I was given, I’d go back to public school or ride the bus with Ms. Crabtree. I wouldn’t spend my hard earned money going out.

    And 20% tip? Are you kidding me? When I was a kid, and I’m still young, 10% tip was very generous. And that’s a percentage for you that adjusts with inflation, unlike the revenue of those on a fixed income.

  202. Let me posit a hypothetical –

    Let’s say that a new restuarant opens, one that pays it’s wait staff $25000 per year, including holidays and health benefits and lets it’s customers know that tipping is not required.
    Would it get a massive influx of applicants for waiters? Or are American wait staff to brainwashed into thinking they need/deserve tips that they wouldn’t consider working in such a place?

  203. I’m aware that the system in the US is not going to change, so what follows is a purely theoretical explanation.

    I’ve been reading up on the blog for a while now and it seems to me that the tipping system causes waiters more than one frustration. Is not just customers either, we have a whole series of managers trying to skimp waiters and even senior waiters giving the juniors the worst tables.

    Many of the supporters of the current system says that if there would be no tips, the incentive to do a good job goes out of the window. To that I answer: waiters are NOT the only customer support work in the WORLD. I’ve been in technical support for years and I do not get tips, geez, how come I do my job good? Customers notices, my boss notice and I get a RAISE. (same for ALL other support serviceman out there not fueled by tips, that in the Old continent are about all, varying from country to country)

    Or more benefits, or whatever else you can think of.

    Think about it, what is the first and foremost impact a customer has with the restaurant? Is it the food? is it the chef? NO! it is the waiter. Waiters are the face of the restaurant to the customer. A bad waiter will do same money at start, but the customers will complain how bad he was, soon he will be relegated to worst job or fired. A good waiter is an asset, restaurant owners are business man and they are there for the money.

    No customers = No money. Good waiters bring in customers equally or maybe even more than good food.

    European restaurants do this all the time and the price of food here, while varying from country to country, is definitly not thrice the cost than in the US. I do not have an indepth knowledge of how waiters work here in Europe, but I have been out to eat and the waiters, especially in proper restaurants are NOT barely adult students, so they must be able to survive somehow.

    In conclusion, I realize the tip system is not going to change and If I ever will head to the USA, I will tip accordingly, but the possibility of a non-tip based system being viable is right there in everyone’s face and you do not have to go to Europe to see it, just check the other service professions not covered by a tip and ask how they do it.

  204. I’ve… lost the will to read the comments, but I’ll chime in and say that while I can see a reasoning for “Waiters should be paid a living wage”, that’s the stupidest excuse ever for failing to tip. Whether they should or shouldn’t, they aren’t, and all that not tipping does is ensure they have that much less money to live on.

    Also, there’s a rather ridiculous air of hypocrisy about changing things “for the better” against the protests of people who you think you’re trying to help. If waiters don’t want the system to change, that’s reason enough not to change it.

  205. If you don’t believe in tipping and don’t want to tip, that’s fine. Patronize establishments that don’t require it – self-serve buffets, delis, fast food etc. However if you contract a server for their services – ie dine in a restaurant – don’t bitch about them “getting a real job” when you’re done. You can’t tell a landscaper to “get a real job” when he’s done with your lawn. Pay up or don’t use it. Those are the options. Anything else is akin to theft far more than “principles”. Principles would have you eating elsewhere.

  206. I really don’t understand why customers feel it’s ok to stop tipping just because they don’t agree with the system. In what other industry would this be acceptable?! Why would you choose punish the workers?

    You’re not making a statement. You’re cheap. Like it’s been said over and over again, when you stiff me, you’re making me pay out of pocket to serve you because I still have to pay taxes on a percent of YOUR bill. Do you know how this gets made up? By other customers. The customers who are not asshats tip 20%, and in the end I can use that to cover your shit.

    And for those of you who think 20% is exorbitant, 15% is still acceptable. Just to put it in perspective, when I started waiting tables, minimum wage in my state was $4.75 per hour. I was paid $2.13 plus tips. Since then, minimum wage in my state went up to $7.80 per hour. But waitresses still get paid $2.13 plus tips. 15 years have passed, and the base pay remains the same.

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