Those members of our society who don’t tip "on principle" simply do not know how to dine. They do not appreciate the effort and skill it takes to present a flawless meal, and cannot differentiate between a dinner in my restaurant and a trough of slop served at Denny’s. Thankfully, because they cannot tell the difference, they go to the $1.99 Grand Slam outlets more frequently and do not bother coming to where I work. They want cheap food and don’t care how it is served to them. But if they really do not believe in the establishment of tipping, they should never go out to restaurants anyway.
Oregon is a great place to be a server. I moved here from New Mexico, and got a raise from $2.13 to $7.25 per hour. I work 25 hours a week instead of 50, and I make twice as much in tips. I also get health insurance. However, the deductible and the taxes on my tips eat up all of my hourly earnings; I get no paycheck. I take home no more, and no less, than I get tipped by my customers.
The restaurant I work in has $30 steaks on the menu. The service is impeccable and the experience is always impressive for every guest that comes to dine with us. This is a mandate from management; if we do not "wow" every guest, we have not done our job correctly.
On average, I get 20 percent of the check left to me as my tip. This is the money I am paid for my services: everything from making sure the food that the guest is interested in eating comes out in a timely manner to precluding any need to ask for more water. I anticipate every need of all of my tables simultaneously, and I fill them before they need to be voiced.
Now, why would anyone expect this level of service if they were not going to pay for it?
Counter service, a relatively new movement in the food industry, has exploded. McDonald’s and Wendy’s abound, with all manner of basic fare. The food is bad for you and the tray it is served on (or bag it is served in) is less than romantic, but there is no tip expected in its service. These restaurants can easily cater to all the misers who do not believe in paying more than the price of their food, and this is great. Nobody should ever accept a server’s services if they do not plan on paying for them. Fast food provides a viable option for cheap people.
They need to stay out of actual restaurants, because the restaurant industry does not pay servers anywhere near what they are worth. It is left to the discretion of the guest to determine how much the servers are to be paid, and everyone recognizes this, even the federal government. They assume, factoring in the people who do not tip, that I will collect at least 8 percent of my sales in tips, and they tax me on that. Because there are numerous other employees upon whom my customers rely for a pleasant dining experience (bartenders, bussers, hosts, food runners, and most importantly, the cooks), I am required by my restaurant to tip out an additional 5 percent to them for their help. That adds up to 13 percent the American government assumes that I collect, on average, from every meal I sell.
I tip out and get taxed on my sales, regardless of whether my customers actually tip me or not. When people I serve enjoy their experience and then tip me less than 13 percent, they are not only ungrateful, but they are costing me money. This is the base amount I need to keep up with my taxes.
Most customers that comes into my restaurant agree to the implicit customs of dining out in America. I could drop their food on the floor, bring the wrong dish an hour after they ordered, ignore their table for thirty minutes at a time or spit in their face. If I did all this they would still pay $30 for their steak. By not making these mistakes, and exceeding their expectations, my customers tip me well, because they are impressed with the job I do. For those who do not "believe" in tipping, don’t bother coming in my restaurant. McDonald’s is right down the street.
Chaelan MacTavish can be reached at [email protected]