Tipping: An Overview

A quick thanks to all my fine readers. It has now been just a little over a year since I started this blog and it has been quite an adventure. For those late-comers, I started this blog as part of an assignment for a class on Internet and Direct Marketing. At first I had some reservations due to the general outline of the assignment. We were to start a blog and use some of the tools we had been reading about to amass some subscribers. This would be a pretty cool project over a couple of months (which is a better reflection of properly executed marketing plans) but since it was a summer class, the project itself only lasted a couple of weeks. It essentially boiled down to a popularity contest, especially since the content of the blogs was not considered at all.

To cut to the chase, I did very well for the class and I am pleased that after a year, I still have something to contribute to this project. While I have not had the opportunity to use it in a more professional purpose, nevertheless, I still think I have gained a lot from the upkeep of this blog. Trying to keep up regular writing is important and I think there will be definite upsides in keeping those skills polished (despite having no real critic or grader) I still think I’m developing a voice.

On that line, I wanted to finally divulge my opinion on a topic I place a lot of importance on: Tipping.*

*And it was one of the first topics I really wanted to write about on this blog. I even promised it more than once near the beginning on this blog with no delivery. Until now. Better late than never? Decide for yourself.

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This isn’t really meant to be a large scale debate about the validity of tips in your international country. Just kind of an overview and my opinions regarding being a good tipper. As a side note I’m writing from a perspective of a service worker and I know that is a little biased. Okay a lot biased. But still it doesn’t make what I say incorrect.

A quick synopsis thanks to Reservoir Dogs (Caution NSFW language):

A couple of points to consider before we discuss further:

In the United States, employees who are tipped can be (and frequently are) paid less than minimum wage. When you go out to a restaurant, it is basically social obligation to tip. (The amount is a point of contention but we’ll get to that here in a moment.)

There are such things as good servers and bad servers. And if you’ve read my previous post (Garcon), you know that the job is being made increasingly redundant so it is easier to pass on these so called “unskilled labor” positions to a new workforce due to the relatively high turnover in the industry. There are also many things that are not in the control of the server. They act as the liaison between the customer (you) and the establishment (kitchen).* Throughout this constant interaction, this play back and forth, they have to strive to strike a remarkable balance of friendliness, time management, efficiency, and accuracy. It doesn’t always go as planned. (Team efforts and all that.)

*I really didn’t think about this before but maybe that is why I have felt pretty comfortable in my new position. My job is generally to act as the intermediary between the company’s requirements and what is provided by the end customer. Going a step further, my position also lies somewhere in the middle of the different departments (inbound, correspondence, processing, client facing) having a good amount of interaction with each, attempting to satisfy the requirements of one or the other and helping route items to where they need to go. On an even larger picture, the company I work for is a transfer agency that serves the mutual fund companies acting as the intermediary between the customers (you and me) and the establishment (bank and company). What is the term when you have just blown your own mind? “Cobain-ed?” **

There are also such things as good and bad customers (that is you). Customer moods can be dependent on a lot of things and some of those things are in the control of the restaurant. For example, I would wager you see a lot fewer drunk people falling asleep over their food at Morton’s Steakhouse than say, Waffle House. That is in the control of the restaurant, Morton’s isn’t open 24 hours a day and given the price range and locales (generally in downtown upscale urban locations) they can have a bit of say about what customers walk through the door. Other things are directly under the control of the customer. Maybe you’re in a bad mood. Maybe you’re celebrating a crowning achievement or trying to impress a date.*** Maybe you’re out to ruin someone else’s day because you have led a miserable life and your husband drinks a lot and hits on the chesty bartender and your kids are spoiled and your dog is overweight and when the server tells you they are out of the fish for one reason or another, you are so ready to snap and you lay into him thick.****

**That is a really terrible joke and I apologize.

***Let us make a pact, not to date people who are mean to servers. Especially on a first date. Something tells me that isn’t going to go well in the long run.

****Country Clubs are fun places to work.

A sidenote about tipshare:
Tipshare is also known as pooling tips. This refers to what happens to the tips at the end of the shift. Places that pool tips put all the tips gained into the middle and parse it out from there. Then there are places that place a certain amount out to the people that help out the server (10% bussers, 15% bartender, 10% hostess, etc). Finally there are places that don’t tipshare at all, where everything that you pick up is your own. This is an establishment by establishment policy that generally is not explicitly stated. It can also be a reflection of the culture of that restaurant and depends on the size of the staff and how the shifts are sorted. Obviously larger places generally have some sort of tipshare, (team efforts and all that.)  Those little diners where the server is doing pretty much everything, they generally keep all the tips.

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Okay, I’m going to give it to you straight up, no chaser*. I start at 20% of the total bill when tipping and use that as the line.

-If the server is great, my needs were met and you were courteous and professional, you will bump up from there. (Ceiling is 30%)
-If the server is was unavailable, unprofessional, or rude/discourteous, it obviously scales down. (Floor is 10%)
-If just drinking, $1 a drink straight up, bonus if I’m treated like a human being.**

*Also the name of a rather successful a capella ensemble. Check them out here. And my favourite song (not particularly in season but still: Christmas Can Can)

**If you’ve ever been to a bar or a nightclub when it is busy you know what I mean. Bartender is under a lot of stress and there are many people to his/her one person. Professional tip? Cash or Card in hand (preferrably cash), look directly at the bartender until you catch his/her eye (don’t look away/frustrated). Lean in a bit and speak clearly when ordering and know what your drink is before you order. Don’t expect a timely second round if you get the bartender’s attention and then spend the next three minutes discussing with your buddy what kind of wicked shots you want or what options are on your margartia/martini.***

***Does not apply if you’re drinking scotch. Cause apparently anyone discussing/drinking scotch is either classy as hell or a horrendous hipster of the highest order. I wouldn’t know much about either.

Things that you should not discount the tip for:
-It is super busy and your food took a long time to get to you.
-Your food not being made to order.
-You are having a crappy day.
-You have no more money (In this situation, do not go out to eat/drink. You are a terrible person for doing so. Get $5 off the dollar menu at your favourite fast food joint and eat it at home where you pat yourself on the back for how awesome you are for not being a total asshole and not tipping a server at some restaurant.)

Things that you should discount for:
-The waiter gives you incorrect information regarding the menu (i.e. “Yeah we can totally add grilled jalepenos to your teriyaki salmon and then put it all on top of a side of mac and cheese for no additional cost” and then 5 minutes later “Yeaaaaah, we can’t really do any of that and we’re out of cheese”.)
-You are given something you didn’t order.****
-The server didn’t come by to ask if you need anything else/refill your drinks (3 is the magic number for drink refill requests)
****Okay there is a line here between this and the second item on the first list “Your food not being made to order”. In the first situation, the food was ordered correctly and given to the kitchen who messed it up. The server apologizes and asks to fix it for you (and maybe brings you a scoop of ice cream on the house). In the second scenario, you ordered a medium rare and the server places it front of you saying, here is your well done steak. This is the error of the server and he/she should be held accountable. 
Also note that you should also leave a tip for your hotel housekeepers. Not a whole lot, a couple of bucks a day unless you made a huge mess/pissed your sheets (Jared) then a five spot is appropriate. This helps ensure your room gets an extra touch. But remember to leave a note and make it clear you are leaving a tip, otherwise, the housekeepers are legally required to leave it alone.

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In closing, I do agree with Mr. Pink in the above clip. I would fully support any measure that would bring servers’ wages to meet the minimum wage. I think this will bring more labor in the industry which should improve the overall skill and general experience when working at a restaurant. While I do believe that money is a terrific incentive and that trying to earn the highest amount of tips based on good work ethic, skill, and personality is a noble cause*, not enough people in the industry are striving for that level of excellence and instead are relying on social obligation to help them pay their bills. Until something is done, however, I’m going to stick with my rule and that way I can sleep more comfortably at night.

*Shout out to David Hayden, author of Tips2: Tips for Improving Your Tips. He is a terrific server, really knows his stuff. For those up and coming waiters, this is not a bad resource to improve your skills, especially if you plan on being a lifer in the industry.

Thanks to Cracked.com for the assist on this post. Read one my sources here and check out this handy infographic on treating waiters like human beings. Alright, now you should be able to go out and act like a decent human being yourself.

Thanks so much again for following along for my first year. I will work to deliver more content to you here in the coming months, again I hope you’ll tell your friends, share a post if you like it, comment if you feel like it. Until next time, space cowboys.

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