OPINION: Tip your server, or don’t go out to eat

| March 31, 2016


By Adam Floyd | Editor, Valdosta Today

Full disclosure: I have never, not even once, waited a table. I managed to skip food service during my early years by bagging groceries and learning how to be on the radio (mastered the first, still learning the second).

But despite never having worked in the hospitality business, few things infuriate me more than people who do not tip well or do not tip at all.

I’ll try to spare you a Facebook post-styled rant, but tipping is not an opportunity for customers to encourage better work ethic by withholding funds for services rendered (which kind of sounds like theft, right?).

Tipping isn’t optional.

For better or worse, we have adopted a gratuity system in the United States for restaurants and other services. Restaurant servers receive below minimum wage hourly pay and rely on tips from customers for the bulk of their paychecks.

Is it a great system? Probably not. But it is one you agree to be a part of each time you allow a waiter or waitress to take your order. If you do not want to participate, then you are morally obligated not to sit down at that table.

My wife worked as a waitress in Valdosta at one point, and she was stiffed or dramatically under-tipped several times a week. I remember the stories well, and I remember how frustrated she was at the lack of rhyme or reason when it would happen.

And while this is by no means an exhaustive list of guidelines for leaving tips, try to keep the following in mind:

  • Always tip 20 percent. If you can afford to go out to eat, you can afford the extra 5 or 10 percent. If you can’t afford to tip, you cannot afford to go out to eat.
  • Don’t punish your server for bad food. Take it up with the manager. Restaurants sometimes don’t get it right, but it probably isn’t your server’s fault. If the restaurant comps your meal, still tip your server (You can also be a hero by tipping your server the comp amount).
  • Don’t tip $1 or $2 because that’s what you’ve always done. While it might have been generous in 1970s or 80s, tips should really be reflective of the total ticket.
  • Remember that several restaurants have done away with included gratuity charges for large parties. Make sure your servers are tipped for waiting large tables.
  • Be nice. Servers are there to provide a service, not to be your servant.
  • Be understanding. No one is perfect, and you are bound to have occasionally awful experiences at a restaurant. No matter how much blame lays at your server’s feet, I promise it was a mistake, and they will do what they can to make it right. I am certain you’ve had times when you’ve done an awful job at work and still got paid for it.

Valdosta has a large restaurant business scene, and in each of those restaurants there are mothers, fathers and students doing what they have all been asked to do: work for a living.

It is up to us as customers to hold up our end: pay them for that work.





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18 Comments on "OPINION: Tip your server, or don’t go out to eat"

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  1. Rynard says:

    I agree! Up until a few years ago I never realized how poor servers are paid!
    I had a friend in Charleston SC who works for Hooters! She sat with me one day a few years back and we were talking about her college and her major etc because they weren’t busy! When she and I brought up pay checks ! She told me they get 2.14 per hour! Which doesn’t really cover taxes on payroll so if no tips she might as well stay home!
    Anyway since that day if server does a good job I’ll tip sometimes 50 to 100% of tab not the 1-2 dollars many leave! However if service is bad and I have to beg to get drink refills etc then I tip 10 to 20% anyway!
    However if she’s nice friendly and does her job well with a smile instead of like she hates being there they will get 50 to 100 % of tab!
    I even had my bank send a letter one time to ask did I mean to leave a 40 dollar tip on a 38.00 tab and I replied yes! They haven’t questioned my acct since I guess they felt the restaurant or someone had padded the tip or I made a mistake but she was that great as a server! I’ve had 3 occasions that great one at a Hooters in SC one at Twin Peaks in Montgomery Al and one at wing house in Gainesville Fl and one more at outback steak house in Valdosta Ga!
    Please tip something within reason u don’t have to match ur tab but these ladies or most work hard to get through school or to feed their kids!

  2. Morgan says:

    Thank you for this article! If you cannot afford to tip, you cannot afford to dine out! A tip is not a “hey, you did a good job.” It’s saying thank you for a service, it’s paying the person who served you. Some nights servers go home having not even earned the gas money it took to get to work in the first place, all because people do not tip.

    Also, servers should be paid more than below minimum wage!

  3. Robert says:

    While I agree that tipping is a good thing, and for the most part, I tip pretty well. I have very seldom left no tip…even in the worse of cases. But tipping is an “option” and not “mandatory.” Why would I tip someone that has never refilled my drink, which I paid almost $3.00 for? Why tip when the server never came back to check on me to see if I needed any condiments, napkins, or anything else. Why would I tip, when all the server did was take my order, and another person brought out my food? I understand that servers are underpaid, but you still have to work for a tip. Why would I also tip if all you are doing is standing at the register talking to other servers? I appreciate your opinion, but please consider that servers must work for their tip. I’m paying anywhere from $20 or more for the meal and the service is good, meaning they at least fill my drink a few times, they will at least get a 20% tip. I don’t even care if someone else brings my food out, just keep my drink full. That’s all I ask for in terms of food service.

    • Mrs Martinez says:

      Agree! Valdosta has the absolute worst service anywhere! A bunch of kids clumped around talking about hungover they are and overweight lazy managers who are incompetent for the most part. We tried to either cook at home or eat out whenever we went out of town. Don’t get me started on all the nasty smokers!

      • Eric "Da Blacksheep" TrixNDix says:

        If the service you receive everywhere is terrible….maybe it’s not everyone else but you since you’re the common factor.

        • Mrs. Martinez says:

          The common factor is that Valdosta sucks as does your assumptive comment. Another poster said the same thing, but I noticed you didn’t try to give him a rude comment.

      • Rose says:

        As a non-“kid”, non-overweight, non-manager who has spent more time working as a server than I care for, I find your opinion incredibly close minded. I worked in Valdosta with a staff of over 40 servers. Maybe a handful of them talked about being “hungover”. The majority were working parents or post-college young adults who cannot find work in today’s economy.

        But to be honest, I’d rather people like you stay at home anyway. Keep your rudeness out of public.

    • Server says:

      As a sever, I mostly agree with what you’ve said. Just like any other job, a sever should have to work to get paid. However, I would like to point out that many larger restaurants have a food runner on busy nights who’s sole job is to bring the food to the tables. In turn, you’re server is often required to give the food runner a portion of their tips at the end of the night. (Often $5-10.) Therefore, I do not think it is plausible to consider docking a tip because someone else brings the food. Often times it is beyond the servers control and ensures that you’re food is received hot. Other than that, I do agree with your outlook on tipping in most circumstances.

  4. Eric "Da Blacksheep" TrixNDix says:

    Tipping should be done away with altogether as most civilized countries have done. However the definition of Tip= give (someone) a sum of money as a way of rewarding them for their services.

    I tip according to service provided, as stated above..it’s the “Hospitality” business and not the “pay anyway” business. If I go out and the server is good then they receive an appropriate tip. I don’t hold the kitchen’s mistakes against them like some do but if the service the wait staff is suppose to render is below standards then it is reflected in my tip. Also where I dine is reflective of what I tip. If I go to a nice restaurant then I will be happy to tip according to the venue if service is good BUT I am not throwing 20% in tips to the Buffet waitresses when I have to get my own food and such.

    It is what it is and if you’re not getting good tips then maybe it’s not the customer….it’s you.

    • Robert says:

      I agree. Countries like Japan consider tipping as an insult to their services. It is apparent in most the places her in Valdosta, that the service is poor at best, which like another commenter, my family and I go out of town to eat. The Melting Pot is a very good place to eat and I have always received excellent service there. Places that I have not received such great services here in Valdosta. Buffalo Wild Wings for starters. Two things about this place. One, don’t ever be in a hurry to go somewhere once there, and two, be prepared for the food to come to you either cold, or stale, or even both as the servers never check up on things. On the plus side, I am amazed at both Chic fil a’s. You sit down in there and when you start to run out of something, someone that works there will ask you if you need anything. Completely unnecessary, but nice. Yet they don’t ask for a tip or anything in return other than for you to enjoy your meal. Now, if everyone did that, I would eat here in Valdosta more. The food is terrible here, the service is much worse. Even Mom and Dad’s has gone downhill. I also agree that tips should be done with all together. Pay them minimum wage as well and you may just have better servers with higher morale.

      • Mrs. Martinez says:

        The places to eat in Valdosta are reflective of the people who work there, hence the terrible food and service.

      • Eric "Da Blacksheep" TrixNDix says:

        Well while the service industry in Valdosta may not be as good as a 5-star place in New York, it’s on par for the rest of the nation. Having travelled all over I have seen good and bad service from coast to coast. On one hand a lot of wait staff here are either college kids who don’t care or are special snowflakes, single mom’s trying to make ends meet, or old women who’s waitressing golden years passed by many moons ago. All of those are going to be bitter usually. The other side of the coin is a lot of the customers are gluteal chapeaus. Either Air Force jerks, or college kids, blacks who don’t tip(look it up, it’s true), or elitist “old south” jerk offs who treat everyone like trash. Blame lies on both sides of the fence folks and if you constantly recieve bad service then you’re the common variable. I mean if you’re berated day in and day out then you’re not gonna be a ray of sunshine either BUT if you can’t handle the heat then get out of the kitchen.

  5. Gail Williams says:

    This is ridiculous. Very seldom do I not tip , but, it is not mandatory. As the prices for food services escalate, it seems they are relying on their customers to pay their employees salaries. Just raise the prices and pay the employees a fair wage and eliminate tipping altogether. Then if you can’t afford the price on the menu, I agree, don’t eat out. There are people in all sorts of professions I feel deserve a tip that aren’t allowed to receive them. When I see a tip cup sitting on a counter, I purposely don’t put anything in it. If I want someone to have a tip , I’ll give it to them directly. Tips are not an entitlement and after this I will seriously consider stopping tipping altogether.

  6. The Chief says:

    Please I keep seeing you should tip 10-20%. So explain if I go to a local restaurant, order a salad that cost $9.00 I tip $1.80 but if at the same place I order $19.00 steak I tip $2.80 (20%). The server comes to my table the exact same number of times with each meal. So if I get you right I am to tip on the meal I order. I feel that the server gets what they deserve, hard work,a smile and friendly attitude. This person I tip well. If they are the opposite then I tip that way. I pay for a service and if I feel I don’t receive it then why tip. Please tell the owner that you want go and eat at their restaurant because you can’t give a big tip to their employee. Tell me how that goes over.

    • Robert says:

      I assume that you typed and meant to say $3.80 as that is 20% of $19.00. I’ll be honest here. If I go to a place by myself and eat, and my bill is around $20 or less, I generally leave a $5 tip, regardless of the service I get. I say this only because I understand that while the server may not see me as important as their other tables, they can make a bigger tip at the larger table than they do me. Again though, I am a simple person and ask that I always have something to drink while I am eating. Nothing frustrates me more than not having a drink when it is needed while eating.

  7. Business Owner says:

    The lack of tips comes especially if you are the owner and the waitress. About 90% of the time, I get nothing. Valdosta is horrible to the small business owners. What customers don’t realize is that we work harder to please you so you will refer us to others.
    People just don’t understand how much work goes into running your own business and tipping us is greatly appreciated.