Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tipping: It's Not a City in China

Before I start this post I know that some asshole is going to post an anonymous comment talking about how whiny I'm being.  And to that, I say: shut up and go somewhere else.

A Little Background:

Now, on with the show.  If you don't already know, I'm a server/bartender at a fairly upscale restaurant in my area.  I've been there for almost four years and, for the most part, I love my job.  I grew up with a single mom who was a bartender for years, and I remember seeing how difficult it was for her to support us, and now I'm finding myself in her shoes.  (Seriously, when was the last time you had to make the choice between buying groceries and paying rent?  If you've ever been there, you know how terrible that feels.)

Seriously, I didn't buy groceries for six months one time.  I lived off of leftovers from my mom's house and free meals my friend in the kitchen provided because he felt bad for me.  Oh, and peanut butter sandwiches.

August - October are notoriously slow in the restaurant industry.  My manager gives us the same spiel every year- "Save your money, turn as many tables as you can, etc."  I get it.  I have a daily budget.  I'm not an idiot.

But when I work five days a week and consistently make 10% tips, avoiding homelessness gets pretty difficult.

I'm Good at This:

Now, let me just say that I am awesome at what I do.  I'm one of four certified trainers for my job.  That means that every server we hire is trained by me.  It took me three years to work up to a bartender's position, because we only promote from within.  In my manager's words the bartenders "are the cream of the crop."  I've been employee of the month.  I'm good with people.  I'm NOT one of those jerk waitresses who doesn't give a damn about you.

I understand that your tips pay my bills.  More importantly, I generally like you (unless you're rude).  I honest-to-God want you to have a good time while I'm waiting on you.

Cutting Corners the Wrong Way:

But these last couple months I've noticed a really disturbing trend: people are still coming out to eat, still spending the same amount on their bill, and are tipping less.  Um.... what?  If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to go out to eat!

Salary?  What's a Salary?

In case you didn't know, I DO NOT make minimum wage.  In fact, I make $2.13 an hour.  Yes, you read that right.  Two freaking bucks an hour.  AND I tip out 3% of my total sales to the bartenders/bussers/hostesses.  AND I pay taxes on those sales.

So when you come out to eat and have a $75 check, don't leave me $5!  How is anyone supposed to live off of $5?  Where I used to average $500/week, I'm now averaging less than $250.  That's over a fifty percent pay cut.  Imagine your life if your salary were cut in half, without notice.

Wednesdays are one of the busiest days of the week in my restaurant.  With my sales, I should have made around $100- $120 last night.  I made $39.  Last Sunday,  I made $18.  Eighteen.  Dollars.  I sat in my car and cried when I got off work.  

I don't know how many times in the last four years I've gotten the "Thank you so much for your service!  You were wonderful!,"  followed by a tip like the one below.  Hint: A verbal compliment (or what we in the biz like to call a "verbal tip"), while very much appreciated, DOES NOT pay my bills.

Not my finger.
This is just unacceptable.  Trust me, if I could find a full-time day job, I would.  But I'm putting myself through college, with classes during the day, so I can't.  I have rent.  I have bills.  I have a grownup life I'm trying to live and pay for. 

The "Standard":

I'm sure at some point you've heard that the tipping standard is 15 - 20%.  What exactly does that mean?  That means that 15 - 20% of the total bill is what you should leave as a tip.  Now let's get real: 20% is actually the standard these days.  Living is expensive.  I give great service, and I'm disappointed when I get a tip that's less than 20%.

I Suck at Math!  Help!:

Now, the easy way to figure out 20%: Take your total.  For an example we'll use the one from the picture above - $89.00. 

Now move the decimal to the left by one place.  That gives you $8.90; that's 10%.  

Now multiply that by two.  That gives you $17.80. 

Now go out there and start leaving 20%.  And for the love of God, if you get terrible service, TALK TO A MANAGER about it!  I've left two bad tips in my entire life, and trust me, they were warranted.  However, the problem was brought up to a manager beforehand.

If you've stuck through the rant this far, thanks.  Sometimes you need to get something off your chest before you're forced to start pouring bleach into people's sweet teas.  Totally kidding.  I don't poison people because that's illegal. 

4 comments:

Ashley - The Christian Wife Life said...

I've never been a server, but I worked as a hostess for a while and would get so disappointed for the servers after seeing them work so hard for so little. It's NOT easy. Some people just don't think about it I guess. Thank you for telling others from your perspective!

Much love,
Ashley

Hi, I'm Casey said...

It is really stressful. The thing that has amazed me most are learning that most people think we made minimum wage. I wish it were so.

I always tell people that waiting tables is a lot like playing Russian Roulette, you either win big or come home with nothing.

Lacie Josephine said...

I hope things get better for you. I can't believe that only tipped 3 on that bill. They should be ashamed!

Casey @ {My Semi-Grownup Life} said...

Fortunately it wasn't one of mine, just an image I pulled off of Google. However, last week I got a 64-cent tip on a $39.46 bill. I'd rather just not get a tip at that point!