Before I get too deep into this treatise that will hopefully open your eyes to reality, let me get one thing out there: I really do not like to give tips to waiters at a restaurant. I find it insulting and beyond absurd that a customer would be expected to ‘give an award’ to someone for just doing their job.
At most, a waiter will size up your table and see if you look like you have a good tip in you. After that, they lurk up and rush you to order some drinks and appetizers. After you hurriedly put in your order, you the customer will occasionally have your conversation with tablemates interrupted by the typically rude waiter, who does not wait for your conversation piece to enter. They will try to hurry and ask ‘how does that food taste?’ or ‘would you like some more of that club soda?’ and then rush off, as if pouring a new glass of beverage or taking visceral credit for a well-prepared meal somehow warrants them getting extra pay.
But I still do tip. I do this for two reasons, one to keep social convention and not to look bad in front of my colleagues. And every once in a while, I am touched by the level of dedication of one of the servers, so I feel inclined to award their hard work. It’s a little ‘very good work’ incentive for them to keep their chin up and keep striving for a better future.
Beyond all these things, however, I’ve received many heated emails since my first expose about the shady, ill-practiced institution of restaurant tipping. Servers worldwide were somehow upset for me calling out the institution of tipping as a bad thing and to me, that is quite shocking.
The first issue I need to clear up is a matter of mathematics. In a scenario I painted out, a woman at a restaurant received a bill of $34.93 cents per meal. The expected tip is 20%, so the tip she was expected to pay is $7.
At most, a waiter will spend only 1 minute total actually focused on waiting your table. This is counting a waiter asking about refills and actually refilling, asking ‘does it taste good’ and carrying away plates when all is said and done.
So that means in total, a waiter takes care of a table for about 1 minute. So if this customer’s tip is supposed to be $7 for one meal, that means she would be paying the waiter an effective rate of $420/hr. This math holds up because there are 60 minutes in an hour and $7.00/minute x 60min/1hour = $420/hr.
Do waiters and waitresses really deserve the same effective salary as a physician or trial lawyer? The answer is always no to that question.
With that question answered, I proceed to the second movement of this quick treatise. Waiters, you deserve better ‘base’ pay.
I received hundreds of actually well written emails, many with sob stories of how the writer was a hard-working student or a single parent, being paid a base rate of $2.64 to $3.19 an hour for their work.
Now I am a capitalist to the core, but there is no way such a base salary should ever be acceptable. I think it is a sad, pathetic shame that any employer would get away with paying such a small amount to anyone. For anyone who dares try to say the practice is fine and fair, here is a nice human-interest eye-opener on Bloomberg and there is a reason this issue is being mulled in Congress.
In my opinion, if a waiter is actually good, skilled and not rushing to get their ‘minute or less’ quota per table, they deserve at least minimum wage. I will go beyond that and challenge restaurants to pay good waiters upwards of $10. Tips earned on top of that are not required or expected, but I can guarantee would still flow in.
When you have calm, inspired workers who are being payed decently, they will work harder to keep their jobs. They are more likely to impress their customers and earn their tips, while in that process building loyalty to customers. As it stands right now, I am never really impressed by wait services and the same goes for my executive colleagues. When tips are just an expected part of the process, service is very robotic and generic.
I know illegal immigrants who are making more than $3.19/hr for their labor. They have hardly any room to negotiate or demand a change in their compensation, yet they are making more than American waiters and waitresses. I think that in itself is reflective on how well-manipulative the institution of tipping has been in this country.
Restaurantiers are laughing all the way to the bank. They know when after a long day of work, I round up some of my good friends for drinks and eats that we will be forced to slice off a bit of our commanding incomes to play into these ridiculous tipping games, lest we not keep up societal niceties in front of our friends. We will pay into the ridiculous hourly salary of waiters, and in the end, the waiter is still coming up short.
And while we are tipping, waiters are stuck at beyond 3rd-world base wages. They are forced to play into an institution of servitude and threatened poverty. I think it is just absolutely horrible.
But until waiters of the world unite with one another and say ‘enough is enough’ to this false entitlement that is called tipping, they will continually be exploited and paid ridiculously poor salaries, while I’m forced to drop shillings to make restaurant owners feel justified in keeping this horrible, antiquated institution alive.