… or not to tip

I find that the more I go to restaurants, the more I encounter a sense of entitlement on the part of the servers, the idea that if I don’t tip I’m "sick." When did tipping become a duty? A tip used to reflect good service, not just service. Now tipping is mandatory, or at least that’s how these spoiled waiters and waitresses act.

I will happily tip if the service warrants it, but where’s the incentive to give good service if I’m forced to tip by societal pressure? If there is a societal pressure to tip then there’s no need for the waiter or waitress to go the extra mile for me, the customer.

I talked with a Denny’s waitress named Julia, and asked her if I was in the minority about tipping. She told me, "Most do tip; it really just depends."

I asked if she and her co-workers expected to be tipped. She said yes, but her reasoning surprised me. "You’re in a service that you can be asked for anything and the server needs to run and get that." So based on the kind of service you’re giving you expect a tip. Now there’s a problem, though: If the kind of service given is the basis for tipping, then why don’t we tip a firefighter when they put out a fire in our house?

In fact, most people think that you should tip, in any situation, no matter the level of service. So I asked Julia about that. She explained, "If the person is giving you great service then you should tip." She and I absolutely agree on this one; if the server is handing out great service you better believe I’ll tip. What burns me is the idea that I should tip for crappy service, because it’s expected. These waiters and waitresses get so self-righteously pissed that someone would have the audacity to argue with them on the subject of tipping. What gets me is this sense of entitlement – you deserve more money from me because you hand out food for a living? Why is it that we only tip two kinds of workers – strippers and servers?

I asked Julia to work on a hypothetical rating system of one to ten, one representing a physical need to kill the waiter, and ten representing a physical need to hump them. At what point in this magical rating system is a tip out of the question? I thought she would say it would be anything around two or one. After all, she does work in this industry, and I knew that my name-calling waitress from last week would have said there was never an excuse not to tip. But what did Julia say? She said, "Anything below a five." For god’s sake, that’s what I think!

Five and under, no tip! Six and above, you get something.

Now if you have the idea that these tips support the waiters and without them they go hungry, don’t buy into it. Julia let me in on something: Cash tips go right into the waiter’s pocket, and if the tips go on a credit card they come off the top of the waiter’s check dollar for dollar, so tipping doesn’t give any advantage to the waiter unless they intend to break the law and not report the cash earnings to the federal government.

So if there’s no legal advantage for tipping, why do these guys want it so bad? Julia let me know why she needs it. "For me it’s my fun cash; I use my check for bills, like rent or car payments." So I am required to give you "fun" cash? Why don’t all waiters come to where I work and give me 20 percent of my salary?

You don’t tip at McDonald’s, and boy did Julia not like that comparison. She made the point that she waits on your every need, whereas workers at McDonald’s just toss food at you – a solid argument, but come on, don’t they deserve some fun money too?

We only tip in the restaurant business, and then we have to listen to those who work in the industry complain about how they never get tipped. If you want a tip, give me great service. If you haven’t earned it you don’t get it, simple as that.

If you need the money so bad, get another job. It’s not my job to supplement your income. I realize that we live in a society that encourages people to act like children, but the real world isn’t like that – if you can’t make it on your own, you’re screwed. I for one will not bail you out. Why should I? If you haven’t made it on your own, you won’t appreciate what I give you; you’ll just use it for "fun" money.

Jason Germany can be reached at [email protected]