Why You Don’t Deserve A Tip

I’ve seen a number of blogs and posts lately about the various types of customers that servers hate. There’s even a Facebook Page dedicated to the pet peeves of bar and restaurant staff. Having worked front-of-house in bars or restaurants from the ages 14 until 22, I get it. I’ve seen every type of shitty customer mentioned in those “Why Servers Hate You” posts, and yes, I hated each and every one of them.  I highly recommend that every person work a service industry job for a while, if only long enough for them to learn how not to be an asshole when they’re back on the consumer side of the counter.

However, just because you work in an industry where tipping is often customary, that does not make you entitled to receive a tip. You must actually do your job, and you must do it well. I worked very hard as a server, and I earned all the tips I got. I expect you to do the same. If you can’t handle the stress, and you can’t manipulate a bad situation to work in your benefit, then perhaps serving isn’t for you. It’s certainly not for everyone. So, from a former server, to the tip-entitled generation, here’s Why You Don’t Deserve A Tip: 

  • YOU LOOK LIKE YOU HATE YOUR JOB

You’re not an Ethiopian child in a commercial with a Sarah McLaughlin soundtrack. There is a great deal of acting involved in serving, and if you can’t leave your problems at the door and muster a smile, then you shouldn’t be here. If it’s a tragedy, tell your boss you can’t maintain composure enough to work. If he won’t accept that, he’s not the kind of manager you want to work for. If it’s not a tragedy, you need to suck it up.

  • YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR MENU

Don’t just read me what the menu says, I can do that myself. You should have tried most of the items on the menu and be able to say what they taste like, how spicy/sweet/etc. they are, and what alterations or accompaniments you recommend (a great chance to upsell!). A really great server knows everything about the restaurant– all the ingredients and cooking methods, the rarely-used bar stock, and even things about the company history, building and local attractions. Most servers will have to outsource to the kitchen staff or management for information like this, and that’s okay. However, if you have to go to the back to confirm what type of salad dressing you have, then you need to reconsider your employment.

  • YOU TAKE TOO LONG TO GREET YOUR TABLES

Within 5 minutes or less (and that’s generous), you need to greet your new tables. Longer than that, and they get fidgety. But hey, sometimes shit hits that fan and your section gets really slammed. It sucks, but sometimes it happens. Say it with me servers: “Hey guys, I’ll be right with you!” It only takes a second to swing by, put a hand on the table, smile, make eye-contact, and say that phrase.  It’s actually best done while you’ve got your hands full. That way they know you’re aware of them, and they can see that you’re busy, not texting your friends from the break-room. Typically, this phrase will get you a response of “Oh, no worries!” and will actually grant you a little extra time. When you return, apologize, and start your usual welcome spiel.

  • YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU’RE WORKING

This is especially true if my glass is empty, or I have some sort of request. If you have nothing to do, do not stand around and chit-chat unless you have already swung by every table and checked to see if they need anything. You’re still working. Do your job before you socialize. When you walk, walk briskly. Look like you’re awake, perhaps even energetic! And hey, if your section is calm and another is busy, would it kill you to clear some plates for your coworkers? Maybe fill a water or two?

  • YOU’RE OBLIVIOUS TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Don’t walk around with your head in the sand! Always be scanning your section, in case someone is trying to get your attention. If a guests’ eyes are wandering around the room instead of looking at their companions, there’s a good chance they’re looking for you. If you’re busy, just catch their eye, smile, and nod. Then at least they know you’re aware that they need something, and will be with them as soon as you can.

  • YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO HANDLE COMPLAINTS

When something goes wrong, you will inevitably be the messenger that gets shot over it. Accept that ignorant customers blaming you for things that are out of your control is just part of the package. Learn to apologize gracefully and sincerely, regardless of fault. Don’t try to point fingers at the kitchen or the hostess, even when they’re to blame. You just look immature. If you can’t handle customer complaints gracefully, maybe you should be in the kitchen. 

 If you avoid all the above things, you’ll probably do well as a server. As a customer, I’ll usually give 20% or higher for great service (or if my table was a hassle), 15% for average-good service, 10% for sub-par, and it goes down from there. You don’t get tips just for putting on the name tag– you get tips for doing a good job. If you’re a server who gets shitty tips as often as you complain about getting shitty tips, perhaps it’s a sign that you’re a shitty server…

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6 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Deserve A Tip

  1. I find it quite interesting that you posted this and linked my article, because I’m not sure if you even read my entire post. I LOVED waitressing. My managers and boss all told me they thought I was an excellent waitress (albeit only being there for a month) who was really warm and friendly towards all customers, even nasty ones. I loved it, and I think I did my job and did it well.

    I agree with you that there are bad waiters, and that the above things should as far as possible be avoided, which is what you would have realised were my sentiments if you read my post properly.

    Another thing, there is no culture of tipping in my country. That means I’m doing my job well not for the money, but because I want to and I love it.

    I therefore dislike the insinuation you’re making here by linking my blog. Please remove my blog link from your post. Thank you.

    • I linked your post as related content because both our posts discuss things learned from working in the industry. I agree with most of your points, actually, and didn’t mean to insinuate anything negative. I only listed your post as related content, which it is. But I’ll remove it for you.

      For the record, I actually loved serving too. I was good at it, and on some nights, I made more money than I do now. It just bothers me that some servers think they deserve tips just for existing, without even doing a good job. There are many cultures, like yours, that DON’T tip, and those servers are still expected to work just as hard.

  2. I also despise the whining and excuses that somebody didn’t get a tip because of a cultural difference. For example, here in Canada, servers will always use the excuse “oh, they’re [English|Australian], that’s why they didn’t tip. Yes, tipping culture is different and in those countries tips are not relied upon to supplement a poor minimum wage – as much – and this can often be the reason they didn’t tip, but don’t always assume. As an Englishman in Canada, if I didn’t tip it was because you sucked. I at least understand the system so if you didn’t suck to the point of disgrace I covered your tip out so it didn’t cost you money to serve me, but I’m not going to just give you free money for not doing your job, or doing it very badly. In fact, that’s normally my way of saying “hey, I do tip, here’s a customary amount to cover your tip out, I just didn’t tip any more because you sucked” which I believe makes more of a statement than not tipping at all as then they lump you in to the “international” category.

  3. Customer service is customer service in any industry….I have worked in retail for 17 years on and off part time or full time—i do it because I actually like talking to customers…I am a people person so I do it by choice so firstly…we don’t get tipped…we deal with difficult customers, assholes, attitude..everything and anything that goes with serving customers…my point is why do we even have to tip servers? What are they doing different than any other customer service industry workers? I have to tip when I pick up my take out order? I have to tip when I get my coffee? I have to tip when I get my nails done? Oh and a party of 8 or more is automatically charged 15-18% on their bill?? Is that even legal? Service is usually sub-par in a group setting….I don’t even understand why I have to tip a bellhop….don’t you guys get paid to do your job?

    • I agree! I’ve been a cashier and front end supervisor at a grocery store for five years and my God I definitely deserve to be tipped more than many of the servers I’ve seen for all the crap I’ve had to deal with. First of all … servers are doing a job, which means they are already getting paid! It’s not like they’ve come into the restaurant and offered their free time to bring food to my table and serve me drinks… someone is already paying them. And many times they are not doing anything extra like making suggestions or whatever. But even then I don’t see why tipping servers has to be such common thing because I have definitely gone out of my way on daily basis to make a customer’s experience better and I don’t expect a tip.. part of the job is doing it well. I often have to walk people around the store showing them to an item, I have to know where every. single. thing. in the store is, I may have to come around from the cash and pick up heavy things for customers who can’t, and I would say the ratio of terrible customers at my store is much higher than at many of the restaurants I’ve been to.

      I’ve never heard of a table of 8 being charged 15-18% automatically, maybe because I’m in Canada? but if that is the case it’s absolutely ridiculous! Tipping is about giving someone a little extra BECAUSE YOU WANT TO, because that server (or any person helping you) gave you such a good experience that you feel they deserve something special – tipping should NOT be an obligation that happens with every transaction!

  4. Pingback: Thoughts on tipping | Happy Sushi Belly

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