It’s happened more times than I care to remember.
I return to grab the check presenter off a table at my restaurant job where I just served customers, only to find the credit card receipt marked with a fancy signature and not a speck of ink on the “tip” line.
Or worse yet, I collect the book after customers have paid in cash only to find there is hardly more than a dime left behind.
If you’re thinking about going out to eat a nice meal, but don’t feel like tipping for the service, I suggest you go to McDonald’s instead.
Or better yet, stay home and make a salad.
As someone who pays her bills and gets through school off of customers’ generosity, there is nothing more discouraging or frustrating than free riders — people who feel entitled to enjoy the benefits of eating out without paying for them.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour while the current California minimum wage is a bit higher at $8 an hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
However, also under the federal minimum wage law, the minimum wage required for employees who earn tip income is just $2.13 per hour.
That’s right. Two whole dollars and 13 cents.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are allowed to pay their employees $2.13 so long as they make the $7.25 minimum wage when their tips are included.
If they do not, the employer must make up the difference.
Also under the FLSA, employers are permitted to claim the difference between these two wage numbers as a tip credit.
Luckily for servers in some states, such as California, tip credit has been eliminated and therefore ensures that employees who rely on tips have a higher minimum wage payment and at least a slightly higher income overall than in other states.
Even so, based on my personal experience, working as a server or bartender is one of the most difficult, demanding jobs a young adult can have.
Servers tend to work long shifts, sometimes as long as eight hours, while being on their feet the entire time.
They often work late nights, early mornings and holidays.
They constantly juggle multiple requests and are forced to maintain a smile while dealing with inexplicably ill-mannered customers, resisting the urge to make them wear their Pepsi rather than drink it.
It’s hard work.
It’s even harder when a server is going to school and struggling to make enough money to pay for it.
It feels like a slap in the face when a professionally dressed businessman on his lunch break, who is making significantly more money in a day’s work than I will, signs his credit card receipt and leaves the tip line empty.
Stranger yet is when a customer is pleasant and kind, giving me nice sentiments about my service, but leaves only a five or ten percent tip.
While I do appreciate kind words, they’re not going to pay my bills.
The standard tip percentage, assuming good service was received, is in the range of 15 to 20 percent. Period.
Note that I don’t mean to include servers who are blatantly rude or inattentive.
They have not earned their tip.
But if a server was kind and waited on you adequately with no major issues, there is no reason for them not to receive a decent tip in return.
If there was an issue that created an unpleasant dining experience, consider the server’s role in that issue.
Was the food unsatisfactory?
Was the table next to you loud and disruptive?
Did your favorite sports team just lose and now you’re in a bad mood?
These are issues that are completely out of the server's control and therefore should be taken up with a manager if necessary, not factored in to the tip the server receives for their role in your dining experience.
It sounds simple, but it's truly surprising how many people fail to understand this concept.
Consider also those who work in the restaurant industry in states such as Texas that only require that measly hourly amount of $2.13 be shown on their paychecks.
All servers, regardless of their hourly pay, are required to tip out bussers, bartenders and food runners at the end of their shifts.
If they happen to have a bad night full of low- or non-tipping customers, they could essentially be paying out-of-pocket for their customers' night out.
This simply should not happen.
To those restaurant patrons who do provide the standard suggested tip regularly, on behalf of all servers and bartenders, thank you.
Your generosity is appreciated and I owe a portion of my well-being to you.
However, if you are a frequent low-ball tipper, I invite you to put on my apron and try doing my job for a day.
You just might reconsider that $2 tip you felt was appropriate for your $60 tab.
And for the record, gentlemen, don’t ever leave your phone number and a lousy tip. That cute, bubbly waitress will never call you. Ever.