We’ve made it through another weekend. I was out with friends recently, and I live in California, so of course we went out to eat at some fantastic places, and some trashy ones. Every time I am out with one of my friends, he refuses to tip. His justification is that tips are designed to compensate people who are underpaid normally, and it is factored into their payroll. For example, if a waiter is paid $6 per hour, the tipping can help compensate them for the additional $2 to catch them up to minimum wage in several states. He said that in these states, it made sense to tip because that’s helping someone’s income to afford everything they need as minimum wage has defined it.
To contrast, in California he refuses to tip because the state requires that all waiters be paid minimum wage before their tips are added. His justification was that it makes no sense to tip a person for one job that deals with people but not another. For example, it doesn’t make sense to tip a waiter but to not tip a sales rep at JC Penny, or a cashier at Barnes & Noble. They have to deal with jerks, annoying people, friendly people, and other shades of personalities. This is solid logic when worded this way. It views food as a just a product, like a t-shirt or a novel. However, I think that it ignores the real reason for tipping.
I think tipping is, for the most part, not just good etiquette, but also something that reflects each waiter. Being a waiter is hard. You are constantly in high stress scenarios, dealing with multiple people at the same time, and it’s very easy after long, strenuous hours to break down at people. We’ve all had those days. Additionally, the waiter is a representative for you. Think about fast food places—they cut out the waiter. The cashier is the closest thing to a waiter, but they aren’t going to bring you a refill. They aren’t even required to care about you. Being able to listen to people, give recommendations, be composed, all the while juggling orders from people, your boss, and so on, is obscenely hard. Think about it. Retail work can be annoying, but at least when those people are taking payments the customers are in a line, so they only have to deal with one person at a time. A waiter has multiple people to deal with at a time. And remember. Who had the Coke. Who had the Sprite? Which table had the bacon and eggs with syrup and which one had the same thing but with egg whites?
Put the wrong plate down, and suddenly that food is technically no longer clean. The food HAS to be trashed, since legally nobody is safe to eat it except the people at that table, as the standards are currently. Which means a mistake could be 20 more minutes of waiting for a customer. That doesn’t happen in retail. A minor mistake can be reversed with a couple button pushes.
All this adds up to a tougher job, and then being able to stay composed. In France, the tip is included with the bill. And I’ve heard that the French waiters are less friendly because of this. They’re more like the McDonald’s employee who past a customer a tray with a burger. Take money, give product. Doesn’t that suck? So tip your waiters. Unless they’ve been absolutely terrible. In which case they didn’t rise to the occasion. But be fair with them. They’re people too.