Some Tips on Tipping

To tip or not to tip? No, that’s not the question. It shouldn’t even be posed in question form. In fact, let’s forget I ever asked. 

Okay, so here’s the thing: You should tip. No, really. And not just a measly buck or two -- kick out some substantial cash for your hard-working food servers, homie.

You know those servers who balance all those plates and remember your order and keep your glass of Coke Zero filled and sparkly, all while pretending to smile and care that your mother birthed you X number of years ago? Those stalwart beings have to put up with cranky customers whose orders get messed up, folks who demand substitutions in everything and then complain about their food taking too long, and people who don’t feel waiters and waitresses are worthy of the social graces we usually afford others in social situations. All while remaining on their feet for eight hours straight. 

Let’s show ‘em a little love.

If social propriety doesn’t move you, perhaps economics will. I live in South Dakota, where restaurant owners can get away with paying their servers $2.13 an hour, which, my students tell me, often means their post-tax paychecks can be as small as a few dollars. In other words, these people subsist solely on our generosity. And oh no, South Dakota isn’t the only state that allows restaurants to foist the bill for their employees* onto their paying customers; a large number of states have adopted this practice.

Will someone think of the children?!
In case you’ve not yet heard of this esoteric “tipping” phenomenon, please allow me to lay down the rules. Please note my rant applies especially to servers; while I’m always a generous tipper to every single person whom social convention requires I tip, I’m not as sympathetic to bartenders and tattoo artists as I am underpaid and oft-abused wait staff. So here’s the cardinal tipping rule: If in doubt, tip 20%. If you can’t do this math, do what I do: figure out 10% (super easy – just move the decimal point on your check total one number to the left) and double it. If it’s someone with whom no check gets generated (e.g., bell hop, gaming dealer), I tend to toss out a five-spot, but then again, my spending establishments are usually pretty low-rent. (Unless, of course, you travel with my partner, who likes nicer places than I do and whose luggage can literally fill an entire luggage cart on its own. Then, a little more is in order.)

If sheer economics doesn’t melt your cold, anti-tipping heart, let’s try one last point: People like me will judge you. Oh, I know judging is mean. I know what goes around comes around. I don’t care; I will judge your tiny-but-significant, Scrooge-y act. I will look at you differently, wonder if you’ve ever experienced economic hardship, ponder whether or not you know about the two bucks per hour your server just earned while filling your coffee mug 84 times.

Case in point:

Before settling down with my current, be-luggaged partner, a date and I had dinner at a diner chain. We laughed, we munched fried foods, we bonded over our philosophical overlaps. Then came the check. I’d paid last time and we agreed to go back and forth on dinner bills. All while joking with me, my date paid the bill and left a... wait for it... one dollar tip. A. One. Dollar. Tip.

Moments later, while my date ambled happily out to the car, I excused myself to the bathroom. After using the gender-segregated facilities, I emerged and found our table had been cleared. I hunted for our server, and when I finally tracked her down, I slipped her a five-dollar bill. “I am so sorry for the crappy tip from before,” I said, and then scurried away.

That was our second – and last – date.

So, in short, should you want to date me – naw, just kidding. Should you want to help servers and other tipped employees do fun and frolicsome things like, oh, pay bills and eat, you might consider making the 20% tip an unquestionable convention, kinda like paying tax on your food. In response, if I ever see a tip jar outside your workplace, whether you work as a cashier in a bagelry or a public accountant, I promise to toss some cash in there.

What goes around comes around.

* This is a sweet deal for restaurant owners. I wish I owned a business where I could toss my employees a few bucks a week and allow my customers to pay their wages. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, LJ. I figured you would appreciate this topic. :)

  2. LOVE it!! I allllways look to see how people treat waitstaff!!! And I often do 15% tip but I definitely am gonna do 20 from now on!

    1. Awwww! You're such a compassionate person. <3

  3. Our serving staff are better paid here....they have to get at least minimum wage. Some employers did try to use electronically paid tips to 'top up' to Min wage, but when the general public caught on & started leaving cash, the loophole in the law was closed. It is normal here to leave 10%, which I am happy to do IF the service is good. If I get a rude waiter, or am not satisfied with THAT PERSON's service. I don't tip. But if the food is bad you need to complain to the restaurant....the waiter can't help the crap chef!

    1. MJJ:

      I couldn't agree more about not punishing the servers for the cooks' mistakes. And my personal policy is to always tip 20%, since everyone has an off day. I've snapped at classes a couple of times during my teaching career, and no one docked my pay. I'd hate to see wages become contingent on people's whims.

      That said, you are, of course, in charge of your own practices. :) Thanks for the comment!



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