I watched the two men I was serving pass the debit machine back and forth, talking in what they thought was a whisper.
“Option three, right?” “Yeah, no tip.”
I was crushed. Without the tips of these men, my total tips from what was already a dead shift wouldn’t match my daily goal.
A hard lesson I learned while working as a server last summer is that the world of waitressing is frustrating, competitive and unstable.
Tipping your server at least 15 per cent on a meal is a well-known custom. Still, many people only feel obligated to tip a server if they’ve done a great job serving them. This sounds correct in theory, but restaurants and government regulations, unfortunately, have a different idea.
Many people don’t realize that servers work under a different minimum wage system than other workers. In Ontario, a server’s minimum wage is only $9.55 an hour, unlike the $11 an hour wage most other employees receive.
This leaves a significant dent in a server’s wages — especially for those who live off that wage alone.
Assuming that every customer will tip 15 per cent or more isn’t fair to servers who take care of customers who don’t realize they have a lower minimum wage.
Servers aren’t even allowed to keep all their tips. Many restaurants require servers to “tip out” to the bartenders and kitchen staff, which is a nice way to reward their non-serving co-workers for their hard work.
Some restaurants, though, take the tip-out percentage from a server’s overall sales — not from their tips. This means servers have to pay out of pocket if a customer doesn’t tip them.
Watching the two men deny me a tip meant I had to pay out of my own, hard-earned tips in order to compensate for the tip-out I owed. This happened to many of my co-workers as well, creating an uncomfortable, competitive environment between us to serve the customers who do tip.
If your server isn’t great, then it’s fine not to tip a lot — but at least give enough to compensate for their tip-out and the reduction in their wage. Everyone deserves to go home with a fair amount of money.
Leigh is one of the Journal’s Copy Editors. She’s a second-year English major.
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