- Inglorious bastard: no tip at all
- Cheapskate and proud of it: 5-10%
- Fiscally conservative with good intentions: 15%
- Class act: 20% and more
Although tipping is at the discretion of the patron being served, in the United States it's customary to leave 15 to 20 percent of the total bill as a tip. Critics of tipping complain that it's not right for restaurants to pay waitstaff low wages and then expect customers to supplement the server's salary with tips. Restaurant owners argue that the cost of meals would significantly increase if their staff was paid more. It's an old conflict that is unlikely to soon change. The custom of tipping is what it is. People who eat out recognize that fact.
Personally, I leave a 20% tip...even if the service is inferior. If the service is exceptional, I will leave a larger percentage. I base my tipping philosophy on the fact that waiting on strangers, serving food to them and catering to their impetuous, belligerent and capricious culinary whims is not a very enjoyable occupation. Waiting on tables can often provide a fairly decent income and it's not always possible for servers to get other jobs. I am not in the restaurant business. But years ago in high school, I spent one summer waiting tables in a popular local eatery. I have never forgotten the experience nor do I ever wish to repeat it. Many of my customers were pleasant but a lot of them were uppity, obnoxious and rude. I saw the ugly side of humanity from behind my mustard-stained waitress apron. Most patrons left lousy tips to all of us servers even though we worked our butts off. Back then, I even had to prepare some of the food. A popular item on the menu was a moo sandwich. I'm not talking hamburger here. Have you ever shoved a hunk of cow tongue through a slicing machine to make a tongue sandwich? I usually served it with a side order of gagging. Need I say more?
So that's why I have some empathy for those stalwart men and women, young and old, who work in restaurants. Speaking of old...I was having dinner with a friend at a very popular seaside resort restaurant last week and we couldn't help but notice that our server was an extremely elderly woman. I swear she had to be 85 years old. She was thin as a knife edge, wrinkled as a used napkin and was hoisting heavy serving platters loaded with dinner plates. Each platter probably weighed more than she did. Yet she whipped the plates off like they were frisbees, served her tables quickly and raced back to the kitchen for more. I never once saw her smile but she did a commendable job. My guess is that this lady did not enjoy working as a waitress in her golden years but had no other options to make ends meet. And yes, she got a hefty tip from my friend and me even though she screwed up our drink orders...twice. My friend called it the: There but for the grace of God, go us...tip.
If the service at a restaurant is deplorable, I blame it on the restaurant owner or management. They are responsible for the quality of their product and their staff. I readily admit there are some elements of society who simply should not be employed in the restaurant industry bringing food to people. We've all been served by the lazy jerk who acts like he despises mankind and we worry about what he sprinkled on our soup. My question is: Why was he hired in the first place? There are some really incompetent servers out there. For the most part, though, I think these workers do try their best to please the customer.
If a server is sloppy, inattentive or even surly...they might just be having a bad day. Maybe waiting tables is their second or third job. Maybe they got a sick kid at home or they have marital issues or their home is in foreclosure or their car broke down or the chef threw pasta at them. There's a lot of backstage drama at a restaurant...so I'm told. Maybe they are doing the best they can at a job they hate because there is no other work out there. Who's to say? But I try to give even the less-than-illustrious servers the benefit of the doubt along with a decent tip. As for those servers who are capable, courteous and efficient, my appreciation is duly expressed. And I never ever ask for a tongue sandwich. Sphere: Related Content