Is it a Tip or Extortion?

What do you think of Tipping?  And no, I’m not talking about getting lit and finding the nearest farm field to sneak up on unsuspecting cows and knock them over.  I’m talking about the practice of leaving 15% of your bill at a restaurant for “good service”.  Except that it’s not left for good service anymore, and it’s not 15% anymore, and it’s not really optional anymore.

It’s expected.  So much so that restaurants pay between $2 and $4 an hour, and they get away with it, even though this country has a minimum wage set somewhere around $8 an hour.  Even if your server has treated you like crap and the food was cold, you are expected to leave something because that server only makes a paltry amount, and that tip is part of his or her wage.

It’s no longer 15%.  Nowadays, leaving anything under 20% earns you the moniker of “cheapskate”, and that’s the nice sentiment.  I’ve seen people go back and supplement the tip at a table where someone else was responsible for paying, but left a ‘less than acceptable’ tip – perhaps the old 15%.  I’ve heard of servers following “undertipping” patrons into the parking lot to shake them down for more money.

There’s a discussion over at The Stir (the site that I’ve switched to from “That Other Site”, since that other site’s comments have been opened up to evil), and the overwhelming response is, “I tip because I used to be a Server, and I know they make low wages, and that’s not fair.”

A further sampling of the responses:

(That which has been bolded is my emphasis, not the commenter’s)

I tip because I KNOW how much servers are paid by the hour.  I made about $2 an hour … and ALL of that was taken out in taxes.  At the end of every night, you must claim to have made at least 10% of your sales, regardless of how much people actually tipped you.  That means, if you’ve had a bunch of crappy tables that tip you $2 on a $50 check, you actually work for NOTHING.

I used to be a server. I still tip way above average. Not for bad service, of course. … There have been times where I have NOT tipped because I know what is an excuse, and what isn’t.  It’s not about not making ourselves look bad. It’s about  providing the server with compensation for the service they’re giving me. Anyone who doesn’t tip just because they are cheap should make their own dinner, and stay away from these poor, hard working people. The server doesn’t deserve to be stiffed because you’re cheap. 🙂

When I was … probably 18, fresh out on my own, I needed to take a taxi somewhere… I paid my fair (sic) and got out and didn’t look back. It was later that I learned that you’re supposed to tip cab drivers. I … felt absolutely horrible about it. What if that gentleman driving the cab was in real need of that tip to feed his children, or keep his electricity turned on…and maybe had to do without something because I had no idea I was supposed to tip him

I tip because I’m a waitress. If the service is exceptional  I always tip 20-30%. I know what it’s like having to bust your butt and only get paid an hourly wage of 2.13 an hour.

Is the government going to mandate that servers get the same minimum wage [as] everyone else? And if they do, and people don’t feel the need to tip anymore, what’s my motivation to give great service? If I get paid the same no matter how good or bad my service is, then why go out of my way to make you happy and comfortable? Is that really what people want? In the long run, I think that yes, tipping might be an outdated and even racist occurance (sic), but would YOU want to sacrifice good service so that you didn’t have to tip anymore?

So what I’m hearing here is that people are willing to work a job for an employer who pays well below minimum wage, but then they feel entitled to gripe about it when someone else doesn’t make up the difference?  That it is not the employer’s responsibility to pay a fair wage?  That it is the customer’s responsibility, not theirs, to see that their bills are paid and their children are fed?  Really?

These people are willing to accept an “outdated and racist” practice, because it’s the way it is?  And these same people see no reason, other than a good tip, to provide good service?  Why, then, are they in that job?  Why are they in any job?  Because isn’t the point, when you have a job, to do the best that you can, in order to achieve not only personal satisfaction, but promotions and raises?

Now, I can sit and argue all day with the merits and pitfalls of a national minimum wage.  Honestly, I’m on the fence about it, but it’s a separate issue, and I don’t wish to argue it right now.  The fact remains that the minimum wage exists, and I would like to know how restaurants get away with not meeting it?  And why do people simply accept it?  We’ve had riots in the streets (Haymarket), and formed unions (SEIU…) to see that people are paid a fair wage, and yet, this practice continues.

And the customer is made the villain when he sees it for what it is – extortion – and refuses to take part.

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16 Responses to Is it a Tip or Extortion?

  1. Joy says:

    I’ve also been a server but not since I was really young. It’s a very hard job and I hated it. There is just no way to please everyone. You can treat everyone the same yet some people complain and others are wonderfully nice.

    What I do has nothing to do with %’s. I can’t figure out stuff like that in my head so I just tip very generously. If someone gives me horrible service, I’ll leave a paltry tip. I could really care less if someone yelled at me or followed me to the parking lot. I’d tell them why and hope they’d learn. Some things really bother me and some don’t. I can’t stand food not coming at the same time or waiting a long time for a drink or the check. Or if they’re out of everything everyone has looked forward to. This might not be all their fault but they’re the ones on the front line and therefore, they get all the heat.

    That brings me to your question of, if they have to feed their family and they’re depending on the customers to tip above and beyond and tip outrageously, then you have to bowl them over or find a different job. I mean I didn’t do a job and then rely on other people to make up the hourly wage. That’s not really right.

    Why is this allowed? What about the cooks and such? Do they make this much under minimum wage? I’m not sure any more.

    I hate to sound cold but I do tip very well. I tip very well for the dog groomer and my hair lady and my cleaning lady. I don’t tip to make up for them not making a certain hourly wage. If they pick that job, that’s their choice but I won’t tip just for the sake of it. I believe tipping is an earned thing.

  2. SKL says:

    99% of the time, I tip between 15% and 20%. I think it is good that they allow lower minimum wages for wait staff and expect the difference to be made up in tips. This should be an incentive for the wait staff to learn and implement methods to make my restaurant experience as pleasant as possible. So for that reason, I will tip 25 cents for bad service. 25 cents means no, I did not forget to tip, YOU forgot that you are here to serve. Do better next time. There have only been a few times when I’ve done that, but I really feel it’s my duty when it’s called for. If the service is mediocre but not horrible, I will tip like 14% just to make them wonder what they didn’t do right.

    When I was on a very tight budget myself, 15% was a lot for me, but I would pay it unless service was bad. If I could not afford it, I did not go out to eat. But once I had a few bucks left over after paying my bills, I started tipping 20% for women who did a good job. Notice I said “women.” That’s because male servers always seem to make more money for less work – usually they work at establishments where the food costs more, etc. If my meal cost $50 and my guy serve did his job right, he’s gonna get a lot more money than a great female server will get where my meal costs $15. I really don’t understand why most servers in the really expensive restaurants are men, and most in the cheaper places are women. You know it isn’t because men generally make better servers or work harder. Maybe there’s an “old boys’ network” at fancy restaurants? Anyway, I try to even it out a little by tipping a good waitress 20% and a comparable male waiter 15%.

    I usually don’t tip outside of restaurants / hair stylists / taxi / maids. Those guys who shuffle your luggage around (whether you want them to or not) probably make more money per hour than I do. I usually do not need their help, so if they decide to help me, I will say “thank you” and they can get their tips from their fellow men (who are probably charging it on their corporate accounts). On the other hand, I will tip for good maid service. Once again, we’re talking about someone who is probably making minimum wage for working her butt off. It makes me sick to think that the man pushing bags around in a shiny uniform is probably making more than 10x what is earned by the maids who clean up after slobs all day, and get fired if they don’t clean fast enough.

  3. LVISS says:

    In almost all hotels here there is a board requesting the customers to pay the bill only at the counters .Not prevalent upto medium sized hotels.Bearers also dont hang around expecting tips.
    Only those people who have lot of money must have started this trend of tipping which is actually paying for the assigned duty twice. This tipping thing is only in star hotels. I never go to any star hotel .

  4. Just a Mom says:

    Tipping has always irked me ever since I was a kid! If someone does a great job they should get a great tip. But if they do a crappy job they should get a crappy tip. I have been known to only leave a penny for very poor service. Maybe they will learn from their mustake and do better next time.

  5. Tasneem R says:

    Well I think it should be completely a matter of choice for the customer . Tipping shouldn’t be compulsory and even if it’s made compulsory , there shouldn’t be any fixed tip , at least this should be left for the customer to decide as to how much he wanna pay.
    Just a fun test –
    Stingy or generous – find out!
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/cheapskate/cheapskate_instructions.asp

  6. Sue says:

    I do tip and it’s usually around 20% b/c I can figure that out quicker! My girlfriends and I go out to eat once a month and there was one restaurant that had the crappiest service EVER! We all left $0.25 and practically ran out of there. I have never been in a job where tips were accepted/expected and I’m glad I wasn’t. I do think that it’s the employers job to give a fair wage. I, as your customer, should not have to make up the difference b/c you, the employer, can get away with it.

  7. starlaschat says:

    I think it would be nice to raise the wage of servers. I was a server for years and the paychecks did not pay for many bills on the stack it was almost laughable. It can be a very stressful job. I use to work at fine dining so the tips were usually good. I still have waitress nighmares every once in awhile. I hope don’t have any nightmares tonight.

  8. Jenny says:

    I would say we tip pretty good. You’re right if they give you crappy service you should give less of a tip! I tip when I get my hair done, I guess I didn’t even think about tipping at a hotel…since we never go anywhere! I’ve never worked as a waitress but as a massage therapist it’s nice to get tips. Not everyone tips, but that’s ok too. I don’t expect it!

    • Joy says:

      I don’t tip at hotels either Jenny. Not that we go to many but I usually only tip when “a person” is doing something just for me. I know when Paul and I rented a cabin on the north shore a few years ago and it was a non smoking cabin but it was a “pet”friendly cabin because we took Ashley and it had a huge wood burning stove in it. Are you going to tell me it would matter?? Anyway, I had a few smokes inside. Not many but a few. I sat right in front of the fireplace and you could see the smoke getting sucked right up into it but I left $100 on the table for the cleaning crew. I felt it was cheaper than if I was going to get a fine. I’m such a rebel!!!

  9. Karen Joy says:

    Up here the servers are paid minimum wage(or more).So I do not feel I MUST tip to make up their wage,thats crazy and shouldnt be.I tip very well when I have great service but I wont tip if its bad.We just had a bad experience on Saturday when we went to a new restaurant..we actually got one meal free after talking to the manager,which we never do but the service was horrible.I even told the waitress her service sucked.I was so fed up I couldnt help myself,she just rolled her eyes at me,I felt aweful after but it really was the truth.It should be OUR choice to tip or not and the employers responsibly to pay decent wages.Ive worked in a restaurant so I am very aware how hard it is.Sometimes when my husband thinks we shouldnt tip because the food wasnt great I remind him its not the servers fault and we still need to tip them.

  10. SKL says:

    I agree that I don’t feel sorry for people who choose a job where the compensation is partly in tips. That is their choice. If they want a flat hourly wage, they can take a different job. It’s not that much different from a corporate job where your compensation is partly (or mostly) in the form of commissions or bonuses. You take that kind of job because you think a lot of your ability to sell / impress. Note that I have never had the guts to take a job like that, LOL.

    Bottom line, I respect people who work hard for their money, but I don’t feel sorry for them. A low-wage job should be seen as a stepping stone to something better. And if the job is done well, it will be. As for bills – best not to put the cart before the horse. Get a paying job before you spend the money. Or deal with the debt. I don’t think it’s an employer’s or customer’s concern if an employee chose a job and lifestyle that don’t match up financially.

  11. Nikki says:

    Good question, but not for me. I’m never the one that pays, it’s Jason. I tip the pizza guy and the hair lady. That’s about it. I know if we get a crappy server, or an unfriendly one, well she may lose her tip. A smile can go a long way! I believe you should earn your money, and that goes for tips. If you choose a job that the tips make up for what you employer should be paying you, then earn it. Just like you earn your hourly wage.

    • Joy says:

      Paul usually takes care of that too when we’re out and he’s a wonderful tipper. There have been soooo many times I would have held back but he’s very generous no matter what. I very rarely go out to eat without him but when I do, I act accordingly.

      • Nikki says:

        About the only time I go out to eat without Jason is every couple months with Jodi. It’s usually around $20 and we give $5-$7. I am like you, I can’t think of percentages that quick in my head, so I just give what I see fit.

  12. mssc54 says:

    I think I look at this a bit differently. I don’t look at as tipping bur rather blessing them. Looking at it that way I find mysef asking wheather or not I want to be a small blessing or a large blessing. Since I believe in the biblical precept of sowing and reaping I tend to “sow” generously. Today I took my mother-in-love to lunch. I paid for the lunch (which was just over $16 and left our our server a $5 blessing! 🙂 It always seems to come back on me.

    • Karen Joy says:

      I wanted to press “Like”but realize thats FB!We need a like button on here.Im with you on blessing people like that.I often want to leave a $50 dollar bill or some big amount just to bless the server but my hubby isnt quite there yet.I have him tipping very well though.You just never know what that may do for that person.LOVE doing this sort of random stuff,it just feels good!

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