This is a rant I have harbored for many years.
Anyone who has worked for gratuities is usually a good tipper. I have, over the years, bussed tables, waited, delivered pizza, and tended bar. I always hustled and tried to be personable, so I was typically happy at closing time. I also know the sting of busting your rear end for some Prima Donna, only to get stiffed when they pay the check. It is for that reason that I have always enjoyed the sardonically titled website Bitter Waitress
. Among the features on the site is the STD, or "Shitty Tippers Database," where servers submit the names and locations of persons guilty of being less than generous. Among my favorite entries is this one on Michael Moore
: "Dude, where’s my tip?" Moore appears more than once, as do John Kerry, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Omorosa Manigault-Stallworth of reality TV fame.
My experience is that as ingrained as tipping is in our culture, people do not really understand it. This slob certainly doesn’t get it.
Given that I have some experience in the subject, I will tell you how tips really work in American restaurants.
If you don’t tip the server, they don’t eat. It is as simple as that.
Tips aren’t an option in the sense that they are a compliment. They are literally the labor cost of the establishment. Shift pay, hourly wages, or whatever you want to call it, is simply a vehicle by which the business withholds taxes and social security. Typically, they equal less than minimum wage. The real wages are the server’s tips. I always shake my head when pompous windbags, especially those who are used to the way things are done abroad, pontificate on how tips are some optional, if-I-feel-like-it, discretionary sort of pat on the back for heroic effort. No. Tips are part of the check. If you tip someone less than 15% in the United States of America, and they have given you anything equal to or above acceptable service, you are a jerk. If you are an annoying and unpleasant customer and you tip less than 15%, you are a worthless scumbag. This is why, in many restaurants, parties of 6 or more are automatically charged an 18% gratuity. A table that size is too much time and effort for the server to risk getting stiffed.
I don’t care how they do it in France or Ireland. We aren’t there. If you don’t believe me, come out for a beer on McLean Avenue in Yonkers and we can talk to some Irish bartenders I know. They’ll set you straight. If we were in Ireland, the server would get 15% of the check automatically, so a tip there truly is a generous option. But here we don’t build the cost into the check, it is added on. Chalk it up to the entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe we like risks more, or we’ve gambled that we could do better. I don’t know why, but it is the way it is, and that is 15% or more for anything better than bad service. 17 – 20% for excellent service is in order as well.
In my experience, the best tippers are working folks: mechanics, small business owners, carpenters. The worst? Trophy wives, politicians, government employees and middle management types. Feast or famine: lawyers, doctors, the affluent and celebrities. I say that the world would be a better place if everyone waited tables for at least a summer in their life. Nobody would ever stiff anyone again after that, and they’d certainly never be rude to their waitress or bartender ever again either.
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