Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Paying" Wait People

If we hired a babysitter, we would pay her, right?  (not that I've hired any babysitters for awhile, but I did, back in the day). If we hired someone to clean our house or work in our yard, we would undoubtedly pay them.

What I think some people don't understand is that our so-called "tip" to a wait person at a restaurant is not really an "extra" for "extra service". Maybe there was a time when it was...back when I was a little child, perhaps; I really didn't know enough back then to know. I do know that today it is not something to give them just if we feel like it, if our budget isn't too tight, or if we're in the mood. People who work in restaurants - who have to remember all our requests, who carry hot, heavy plates and trays, who put up with numerous complaints, who work on their feet all day long - are not highly paid individuals.  I once saw the minimum wage for wait people, and I was so shocked! It's way below the regular minimum wage. It's based on the idea that the person will get tips so therefore he or she doesn't need to get paid much by the employer. Crazy concept but it's how it works.

So, if we don't tip, or if we leave some insultingly small amount of money, that person may actually be short on their bills or have trouble buying gas. They might have trouble getting to work. They might have trouble smiling as they serve next time...especially if we come back to their restaurant. 

But what if we're short on our own bills? What if we ourselves have trouble buying gas?  Doesn't that make it okay to not tip - or to only tip a little?  Well, actually, we have other options. We can go to a fasts foods restaurant or to what I call a "deli restaurant" (think Panera Bread, Chipotles, etc.). Or we can go to a buffet, where it might be acceptable to only leave a dollar or two for the person who clears your plates.

Now, on the positive side of the coin, I know a lot of people who are very thoughtful as restaurant customers. For example, if they are going to just have coffee or dessert, they will tip as if they had a meal...because they sat down to a table, the same table someone would have used to have a meal. Likewise, some people, if they spend extra time visiting after the meal, will tip double to make up for the fact that someone else could not use that table (and tip) while they were there.

How much should we tip?  Please don't tip what your parents or grandparents tipped when you were younger. Remember inflation. We have been to a couple restaurants recently that automatically charge an 18% tip for five or more people.  That gave me the idea that we are not too far off when we automatically tip 20%...regardless of service (and if they automatically add the 18%, we "up it" to 20%). If the service was exceptional, we might want to add something to that and give more. And hey, it's an easy number to do (even for this numbers challenged woman). Just figure 10% and double it. But please, don't take that as a maximum, or as the amount for all time. Please do the research yourself, keep up with inflation, and give more if you want.

If we can afford to go out to eat at a restaurant, we can afford to tip. Let's do our duty, first of all, and then sometimes it might even be fun to make up for the people - and yes they do exist - who leave little or no tip. Let's have a fun evening for all.

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