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.