Saturday, December 20, 2008


Recently, I took on a part time bar tending job as I make the transition into a full time freelancer. It has been years since I have worked in the service industry but, after my conversation last night about tipping with a friend, I felt compelled to speak up.

From the mom and pop diner to the country club to the fine dining restaurant, I have been exposed to the best and the worst that the service industry can offer - both as a server and as a patron. 

If you have ever worked in the service industry then you know that $2.13 and hour places your financial survival at the mercy of every person you serve. Just to make ends meet often requires long hours and double shifts with no health insurance. Don't even think about getting sick!

If you have ever been victim of shitty service then you know that what you leave as a tip is the only way for you to get your point across, short of asking to speak to the manager and hoping that they are not as ill mannered or indifferent as your server.

All of that being said - my advice is this. . .  

If you are a patron - 
- If you can't afford to tip . . . you can stretch those would be dining dollars farther by preparing meals at home

- If you are a lousy tipper - remember that the server you just shafted makes $2.13 an hour and is trying to survive.  And there is a lousy tipper database with your name in it.

- If you can afford to tip, print out this guide. Base the % you leave on the quality of service you receive

- Learn what you can do to receive better service the next time you decide to dine out. 

- When you travel understand the rules of tipping abroad.

If you are a server - 

-Your attitude and attentiveness are everything. 

-Treat every person the way you would like to be treated, with respect. 

-If you are busy - make eye contact, say hello . . . let them know you will be there to take care of them asap.

- Learn how you can increase your tips and build a regular clientele. Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor, has a book that can help.

- Vent your frustrations off duty and away from work. Share your war stories with people who understand.

For more tipping information let William Michael Lynn, a professor at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, be your guide.


  1. I really hate the fact that, because of tips, employers are allowed to pay servers less than minimum wage. I think tips should stop being a necessary part of the servers wage and go back to being a reward for exemplary service.

  2. I agree. It is a vicious cycle that needs our law makers attention.

    But after reading about the 2008 $4,100 a year cost-of-living pay increase that congress accepted. . . I don't think that all the Americans making less than minimum wage is on the top of their list.

    I would *love* to see the whole lot of them work for $2.13 and survive.

  3. I think people need to get behind Ron Paul's bill that would exempt tips from the income tax. That would solve a lot of problems.

  4. I don't know... I worked as a server for a long time and i never really had trouble making money. Even working at places like Pizza Inn I would walk out with decent money every night. I think it's just about how well you do your job.

    I'm not sure about raising servers to minimum wage... I think that would cause a lot of people to stop tipping. I do like the idea of not taxing tips though.