During my Easter dinner with family, I heard an astonishing story. Apparently, Oprah told her audience that in light of these economic hard times, we should all band together in a grand money saving strategy and decide only to tip 10-12%. Now, my immediate reaction to this news was horror – my sister is a waitress and I was really quite pissed off for her entire industry that a magnate like Oprah would say something so detrimental to a huge chunk of the population. I mean come on – if you can’t afford the tip, maybe you shouldn’t be eating out?
I came home, livid about the thought that people might actually take this advice and start stiffing their wait-staff to save a buck or two and did some research. It seems that Oprah did NOT say what she’s accused of, but it’s a prolific urban myth that’s been spread all over the internet and through restaurants across the country. And it’s an idea that’s very common these days. My sister even told me she’s had people recently write across the top of a $60 bill “I’m sorry, I’m broke”, and leave a dollar tip. I’ve never been a waitress – and I never ever want to. I have great respect for anyone who’s ever been in the restaurant industry and made it through dinner hour without punching a patron in the face. Many people have previously touched on the subject of tipping properly and how to treat your waiter with respect, most more eloquently than I’m about to, but still. For all I know, I’m a terrible customer and waiters hate me – but I hope not. If you happen to be in the industry, please let me know what you think – perhaps I’m doing it all wrong and shouldn’t be dispensing advice. Feel free to say so if that’s the case.
1. Your waiter is just that. A waiter. Not a servant. Not your personal slave for the hour you’re eating. You do not lose the use of your extremities when you enter an eating establishment. If you drop your fork, pick it up. Don’t flag down a waiter to do it for you.
2. Your waiter has many many other things to do that are a better use of their time than standing at your table while you “decide” what you’re having. If you don’t know yet – say so and let them come back later. Yeah, it might take a couple extra minutes because you’ll have to wait for them to come back, but if you are in such a all-fired rush – know what you want when you come in for pete’s sake.
3. If you must bring your children, don’t let them destroy the table. Yes, it’s nice to have something to occupy your kids when you’re out, but letting them play with the sugar and sweet-n-low is not the way to do it. If a child isn’t old enough (or well behaved enough) to sit still and not run around “playing” in a restaurant – get a baby-sitter. Always leave an extra tip when you bring your kids with you. Even the most well behaved children (mine) still require more work on the part of a server. High-chair at the table, crayons, food falling to the floor etc – all of that deserves more $$ in my book.
4. If the food comes out burned or undercooked, it’s not your server’s fault – that would be the kitchen/chef. If you thought you’d ordered a feast for your senses and the food doesn’t live up to your expectations – it’s not because you have a bad waiter. By all means, if you ordered your steak well done and it comes out still mooing, have them fix it – I’m sure waiters would rather get it cooked properly than have you blame them, fume all night and then not leave a tip because of it.But please, don’t blame your server for things they have no control over – and remember…if you stiff their tip, they still have to give out the same % to the kitchen.
5. Tip well. Understand that going out to eat does not mean you will be paying what the menu says. You will be paying the cost of your meal, plus tax, plus tip. Know that up front. The fact that your soda glass was empty for 2 minutes should not mean your waiter’s tip goes from 20% to 5%. Tipping 20% should be the least you do for good service. Seriously. Think about everything that person has done for you in the past hour and a half. Taking the time to tell your waiter how much you enjoyed their care of you, and then tipping 10% is not going to make their night. Say it with $. These people make far less than minimum wage and are taxed assuming they’re getting tips to make up the difference.
If you can’t afford to eat out, don’t. It is utter selfishness to go out somewhere, be waited on and then decide that you can’t absorb the cost of a good tip.