Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Venting about a Personal Pet Peeve

I know this post is US specific. Countries around the world do not handle some service jobs the way we do here. My personal pet peeve is really bothering me because of the holiday season.

It has to do with Holiday Tipping. On my FB post, I called it Holiday Tipping 101. For those of you not familiar with being a waiter or waitress in the United States, wait staff here earns a very low base wage of $2.85 (give or take a few pennies)/hour. This barely covers car expenses to get to and from work. Forget it if gas prices go up again which they eventually will do. Wait staff earn the bulk of their pay via customer tips.

Wait staff here earn most of their money via tips. The standard tipping chart (that I was taught) is:

10% Poor service
15% Good service
20% Excellent service

One thing is for sure! I NEVER leave 10% unless the service is awful. Rotten. Extremely terrible. It has to be an "I never want to come back to this restaurant" issue for me. That has only happened once in my life, and I didn't even get the chance to tip because the waitress let us sit in a booth for a half hour and never even got around to introducing herself to start our order. My mom and I ended up leaving and went to another restaurant to eat.

Another thing is for sure. I leave a minimum 20%. Always (unless the service is absolutely rotten, you know!). During the holiday season or near any holiday, I leave 25%, 30% or more. It is, after all, the holidays! Tis the season to give.

Anyway, this was my recent FB post:

"Holiday Tipping 101: Remember this season to be kind to service people, especially the wait staff and bartenders in restaurants. Wait staff earn a paltry hourly wage, something like $2.85/hour (which barely covers car expenses to and from work). During the holiday season, I like to be extra generous and leave 25-30%. Please remember they are working hard to give you a pleasurable dining experience, and tip them accordingly. If you stiff them, may karma bite you in the a$$. And unless you have truly rotten service, leaving 10% (or 10% + $1) is just incredibly rude. Really, if you can't afford the tip, just stay home.

Note: The tip is figured BEFORE using coupons too. Likewise, if you have a complaint about your meal and management gives it to you free, you still tip on what would have been the cost of the meal."

My daughter has been a waitress for the past 2+ years and has worked in the food industry for five years. She has told me stories. There are a small handful of people that say, "Oh, I left your tip on the table." Guess what. They stiffed her royally, and, no, her tips weren't stolen. Others who complain endlessly why the restaurant ran out of a particular food taking up 10 minutes, causing her to lose tables, only to get the minimum 10% tip which wasn't calculated by including the charge of the "free" meal they got from the manager. The wait staff doesn't have control of running out of a particular menu item. Occasionally, she's the target of reverse discrimination. Like the time a lady asked, "Where's that nice (person of a particular ethnic origin) boy who got my leftover box for me?" She wanted to give him most of the tip, leaving my daughter with virtually nothing for everything she did for them. Or how about the late arrivals. The people who arrive at 9:58 when the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. Don't these people know the wait staff has to stay at least an extra hour for them??? They're not making any money off other tables because everyone has left. So you arrive late, the menu item you want ran out, and you leave 10%...why? While the waiter or waitress gives you personal service so late at night, c'mon!

My daughter has stories. Weird stories. Like the one time a party came in and this one girl had to parade around the restaurant with what looked like no pants. She walked around 4X. I'm sure other patrons were rolling their eyes. Then she proceeds to tell (not my daughter) her waitress that they don't have to pay tax on the meal because they are an "indigenous people". My daughter asked, "Does she even know what the word means?" Because, my readers, last time I checked "white" people are not indigenous to our country. "Black" people are not indigenous to this country. American Indians? Yes, they ARE indigenous to our country. And do you know what? The manager took the tax off the meal!!! Unbelievable.

Or how about the patrons that come in on a usual basis to complain about their meal and get it for free. It happens more than you think. Or the parents that come in with kids in tow and the restaurant ends up being out of chicken nuggets or something. The parents carry on like it was the end of the world and state, "My child ONLY eats chicken nuggets!" Sometimes I want to shake my head and ask, "Is that why your child is at least 50 lbs overweight?" Believe me, if a kid is hungry enough, they'll eat. They're not going to starve. And BTW, why don't you just go down the street a 1/4 of a mile and get some chicken nuggets at McDonalds. Why hassle the waitress with your endless rant?

I don't know, everyone. But waiting tables is one of the hardest jobs ever. You deal with all types of people. Everyone should have to work in food service for at least three months. The world would be a better place for it. But please tip well this season, and every holiday season. These are good people doing a hard job. Not everyone can wait tables, not everyone has the right personality. But one thing is for sure. Wait staff see and deal with it all.

Hats off to them!

P.S. And don't forget to tip the bartender too!


Sewfast said...

Thanks for the lesson Kat...I was under the assumption that all states at least had a minimum wage as high as the Federal minimum...I discovered some states do not even have a minimum wage at all! Wow! I always tip at least 15% and if the service is good I give more.

Kat said...

So many people do think this, especially people from foreign countries where the wait staff does earn the minimum wage. Waiting tables is different in the US in that the servers make their money via tips, not the "standard" federal, hourly minimum wage. A big reason for this is this allows restaurants to keep their meal prices low. Paying wait staff the federal minimimum would drastically increase the meal prices. However, when wait staff works for their tips, usually the service is pretty darn good! They're highly motivated to do well so diners have a good experience. I've heard that's not necessarily so in other countries.