Tipping: Not Required, And Not A Right

Recently, I went out with some friends to dinner. Normally, this small town restaurant has great service, good food, and decent prices. But this time, after we got our table, our waitress came over, smacking her gum loudly, a frown on her face as she asked us what we wanted. Not what she could get for us, or even a ‘hello’, just ‘you know what you want?’.

Well, I was willing to assume we’d caught her off-guard. So I ordered the same thing I always order, as did two of my three friends.

Unfortunately, my third friend is that person. The person who waffles, and changes their mind ten times. She apologized to the waitress as she looked back and forth over the menu, before finally asking if she could come back in a few minutes.

This woman rolled her eyes. Didn’t even try to be inconspicuous about it as she smacked her gum, and sashay-ed off somewhere.

That was the waitress’ whole attitude throughout our meal. After taking our order, she didn’t return until she brought our food, and even then, just set it down, and moved on. The next time we seen her was when she brought us our bill. When it came time, I picked up the receipt, and seen that it was thirty-seven dollars and some change. I told my friends it was $9.25 each.

As we put our money down, one of them grabbed the receipt. “Ashley, you forgot to figure in the tip!” She said, her voice sounding absolutely mortified.

I scoffed, loudly, as I stood. “I didn’t ‘forget’ anything. If you want to reward lousy service, go ahead. Not me.”

Why this particular rant? Was I that upset about the waitress’ behavior? Nope. Matter of fact, it really didn’t affect my day at all. But what did bother me was the fact that my friends couldn’t get it through their heads: it’s gratuity, not guarantee.

My father and uncle both worked as waiters when they were younger. And like them, I typically go into a restaurant planning on leaving a twenty percent tip. From there, it can go up or down depending on the waiter or waitress. If you joke around, smile, and talk to my kids? I’ll probably kick it up to twenty-five percent. If you do your job, make sure to get things to me in a timely manner, and ask me how it was, I’ll leave you twenty. Bare bones minimum of your job? Fifteen. After that, I’m not leaving you anything.

People tell me all the time that my philosophy is mean, cruel, and hurtful. After all, don’t I understand that their minimum wage is less? That they depend on tips for their survival? How could I be so cruel?

But see, here’s how I look at it: you went into a job that depended on strangers giving you an unforced amount of money for a service you’re already getting paid to provide. You knew that going in. Perhaps, then, you should have planned on being at least somewhat pleasant. Does everyone have bad days? Sure! But guess what? When I’m having a bad in the office, I don’t get to just ignore phone calls, and be rude. And I don’t get tips regardless of my behavior!

Gratuity literally means ‘reward’ according to Webster. Reward. Why would I ‘reward’ you for being rude? For ignoring me? You’re getting paid for your job -it might be less than others are getting paid, but nobody else has the option of getting paid a lot more -usually under the table -either. There’s a reason you get paid less. A friend of mine -a smiley, bubbly blonde girl -could easily bring in two hundred dollars worth of tips on a Friday or Saturday. How many people do you know who have that luxury?

So there’s a reason their base pay is less. And there’s a reason why gratuity isn’t mandatory. Again, this is a job that depends on the kindness of strangers -perhaps you should have considered that going in, and at least tried to plaster on a fake smile. We’ve all had to do it before when that one idiot customer comes in, and starts complaining. But for some reason, we feel that we must reward bad service from miserable people, because they just might be having a bad day.

We all have bad days. We all still have to be polite. And we don’t all expect an extra ten bucks for being rude.

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