Soap Box: The Opposite of Bad Tipping – the Entitlement Mentality

Wow.  Just… wow!  No tongue-in-cheek tonight.  I’m serious.  A ‘Soap Box’ post.  This is the second post in a row where we talk about tipping, and this one wasn’t planned, but I read something tonight that annoyed me so much I felt the need to comment on it immediately.  Before we start I want to make sure a couple things are clear regarding my attitude about tipping.  The Disclaimer, if you will…

  • I tip.  I tip well.  Most often 20%+.
  • I don’t begrudge paying a tip, per se, but I do get annoyed by the constantly moving target aspect.
  • All but five states (I think) allow tipped employees to be paid less than minimum wage.  I think that’s wrong.  Minimum wage should be minimum wage.  (I don’t think tips should be taxed as income, either.)
  • The biggest annoyance regarding tipping in general is how it’s turned into an entitlement mentality.  That’s what this post is about.  I recently read on a forum where a server talked about how the tip was her money before the customer even gave it to her… but this is even worse than that.

I am going to do something that may or may not be kosher.  I am going to post this person’s post from another forum in it’s entirety, as posted and unedited.  I feel that to properly understand the depth of unethical behavior here it all needs to be said.  (I’ll elaborate further down.)  I am not including the name, though I suppose if you’re internet savvy enough you could probably find it on your own.  So, without further ado, here we go…

The question was:  How do waiters and waitresses handle “regulars” at restaurants who are terrible tippers?

The server’s answer was:

I handle them in a very simple way. I slip a service charge on their receipt. I always go under the “usual” good tip, I put 15% on. I get paid solely in tips. I don’t get tips, I basically don’t get paid. One bad tip isn’t going to ruin my day. But if I wait on you hand and foot to get $2 on an $85 bill and you do it every week, you bet I’m going to put a service charge on.

I had this couple that always came in. I was actually cashiering this night, another server got their table. We all know how horribly they tip, and dread getting them. They take up all of our time, asking for suggestions, pretending we forgot something when they never asked for it in the first place, multiple refills, etc. They tip $3 no matter what the bill is. I’ve seen their bill go up to $78, still a $3 tip. She put a service charge on them. Oooooh boy. They came up me at the front and demanded to know what this charge was. I told them “it’s an automatic service charge, it’s an automatically calculated tip to your server.” She was livid, “this is WAY higher than I would normally pay! Why is this on here?!” Uhhh m’am it’s because your bill was $45 and you still would have tipped her $3. I notice she went back and forth from the kitchen to your table at least 7 times with a smile. I think she deserves at least a 15% tip.

I don’t feel bad. We make $2 an hour. Until that changes and we get paid fairly, you can afford to leave a decent tip. If you can’t, don’t go out to eat. If your server sucks, by all means leave a small tip. If you leave $3 every time, I’m going to put a service charge on. And no, I won’t take it off and neither will my manager.

EDIT: I turned off comments because I’m not looking to argue. I wrote my answer, if you have a different opinion then write your own answer. No, automatic gratuity is not illegal. There is no legislation against using service charges. Usually they are only added to large tables, 6+ people at 18%. (hence, my adding 15% is a low amount) The IRS made a decision that starting in 2014 automatic gratuity would be a service charge, meaning it does not count as a separate income as a tip to the server, it goes to the restaurant and they have a choice in giving the money to the server as a tip or keeping it for themselves. This means the customer does not have a choice in paying this amount. Since posting this I’ve gotten multiple comments saying this must be illegal, I felt a need to clarify.

Again, just… wow!

I get there are bad tippers.  There are also wonderful tippers.  I’m not defending bad tippers, especially chronic bad tippers. If you’re a chronic bad tipper, screw you, you’re a cheapskate, but it’s still your money until you decide if/when you tip.

Think about the hypocrisy.  If someone tips  35% does she chase them down and give back the excess?  Ha!  I bet not.

She talks about her actions being legal.  I question that.  Maybe.  I know service charges are legal when stated up front, but afterward as a surprise, and at random based on her whims?  (I would have spoken to her manager at another time, and if that didn’t get satisfaction I just might file a small claims suit against the restaurant solely to make my point.  She’s an agent of her employer and it would get her employer’s attention, more so than if I sued her.)

Notice at one point she says, ” I notice she went back and forth from the kitchen to your table at least 7 times with a smile. I think she deserves at least a 15% tip.”  You think?  YOU think?!?  Not only are you deciding if they tip, but you get to decide how much?  Entitlement much?

She turned off comments to her post.  Basically she knows her attitude is sketchy and she doesn’t want to have to defend it.

This, THIS, is exactly the type of entitlement mentality that our tipping culture has degenerated to, ‘If you don’t give it to me I’m going to take it.’

Tipping: Why a percentage?

Today we are revisiting the art of tipping… sure as hell isn’t a science… and we are asking the question of why do we tip a percentage instead of a flat amount?

Let’s consider the following scenario:  Let’s say you go to John’s Steakhouse twice in one week, and the scenario breaks down like this…

  • On Monday you have a ribeye meal with a baked potato, broccoli, roll, butter, and two beers. Price: $50.
  • On Thursday you go and have a grilled chicken dinner with a baked potato, broccoli, roll, butter, and two beers. Price: $30.

If the tip were 20% (easy math) the steak dinner tip would be $10. The chicken dinner tip would be $6.

Why? Why the difference when the amount of work and effort by the server was exactly the same for both meals?  Don’t whip out the emotional guilt trip of not eating out if you can’t afford to tip, that doesn’t even address the question.  Don’t sidetrack to the fact that in most states (not all) tipped employees get paid less than minimum wage, that’s an entirely different subject about why we tip at all.  This question acknowledges we tip, just questions why a moving target of meal value is used rather than effort, work and/or service performed. Restaurant owners don’t pay servers based on sales values, why should we the customers be expected to?  Be articulate and come up with something reasonably rational.

Standard disclaimer:  I tip and I tip pretty well.  Usually over 20%.  Be that as it may, I am still put off by how tipping has become an entitlement mentality, and how it seems to continually creep up.  Was 10%, then 15%, then 18%, now people are preaching 20%+.  If sales tax were 20% you’d scream bloody murder, and tipping is really nothing more than a private tax because most states (not all) allow tipped employees to be paid less-to-nothing.  Hmmm… I smell another post.

Tipping: Part 2

It’s been roughly six months since installment number one, but here we go.  As always, since so many people have the impressive ability to take a moderate statement and see only the most extreme (and incorrect) interpretation, let me reiterate that I have no issue with the concept of tipping… in general.  Leaving something extra for people for providing good service is a good thing.  That being said, tipping has gone too far.  It’s no longer viewed as an earned reward, it’s viewed as an entitlement… to the point that many people admit to giving a pre-emptive tip just so they won’t get screwed… even in occupations that aren’t legally paid less than minimum wage.  With that being said, let’s cover a couple more subtopics…

Tip Jars:  😐  Really, who thought this up?  Worse yet, why do so many people fall for it?  I suspect this may be one of those subjects that most people will claim they never do it, like shopping at Walmart or eating at McDonald’s, yet just as those businesses are hugely successful (somebody’s shopping/eating there!), you see tip jars almost always full.  And there’s a social peer pressure in tipping, especially if the tip is somehow going to be known to people around you.  Almost being held hostage for your change, or a public shaming, if you will.

I think the worst example of a tip jar that I have ever seen is one on a shelf outside a fast food drive-thru window.

Nothing is absolute, I get that, and there are a few situations where a tip jar is totally legit.  A piano player in a bar, for example.  That’s a simple matter of practicality, the player’s hands are busy and you don’t want loose bills falling to the floor getting scattered around.  But the idea has grown absurdly since the smoke-filled piano bars of the 1960s.  Now tip jars are ubiquitous.  They’re everywhere.  Go to Dairy Queen for a cone?  There’s a tip jar.  Pick up your dry cleaning?  There’s a tip jar.  Grab a soda… 100% self serve, no less… at the local convenience store?  Damn, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting another tip jar.

Tip jars are essentially a passive form of begging.  Somebody has to take a stand, and I guess it’s me.

Tip sharing:  Let me be up front, I have never worked as a server.  I have never worked a job that depended on tips.  But, I do have a lot of restaurant experience from my younger days and casually chatted often with servers, and I was married to someone who labeled herself a “professional server”, and *our* income was tip dependent to some degree.

That being said, I am not a fan of tip sharing, where the server “tips out” other employees.  The other employees are certainly important to the success of the operation, but in most states they also get minimum wage where the servers do not.  I’ve seen places where the servers were expected to tip out the bartenders for drinks, as the bartender was crucial to the server’s success was the reasoning, but the bartender was not expected to tip out the server for people who ate at the bar and the server had to deliver the food.  How is that fair?

Plus, it’s really not fair to me as the customer.  The server is the face of the transaction, the person I dealt with and the person who made the impression that influenced how much I tip.  That’s the person I’m tipping.  Furthering this concept, there’s a national steakhouse chain where you get a server who takes your order and gets your initial drinks, then other people actually serve your food (usually having no idea who gets what, I still don’t understand this).  Other people get drink refills here and there.  You never see your server again until it’s time to deliver the check and pitch dessert.  Who am I tipping?

Bottom line:  I want my tip money to go to the person I think it should go to, and I don’t feel unreasonable in expecting it to be for something more than the basic job description.

Soap Box: 10 Things Servers Shouldn’t Do

The internet is replete with articles about rude customers and how people should be considerate to servers. And let’s be fair, serving is a hard job. I won’t dispute that.  There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to treat a server poorly.  If you think you’re better than them, the hard truth is probably the opposite.  But these articles make it sound like the customer is the only one ever unreasonable. Not so. Servers themselves do things that are unnecessary, if not outright rude, and equal time is called for. Here are some of the primary things, in no particular order, that servers need to stop doing…

1. Don’t scowl when I order ice water for my drink. Yes, it probably cuts into your tip, but either the customer wants to be healthy, or they don’t want to pay over-inflated drink prices. $3 for a soft drink is unreasonable, outrageous really. That’s $6 for two people. If that’s the issue you need to take it up with your employer, not the customer.

2. Don’t make it an issue if the customer doesn’t want to sit at the table you want them to sit. As long as the customer is not requesting a room or large section that is obviously closed and segregated from all other activity, the customer should be accommodated and made comfortable. It is not the customer’s concern whether they are upsetting the carefully planned rotation.

3. Don’t beg. If I pay in cash, do NOT ask me if I want my change. Ok, you’re busy, I get it, but it’s still my money. Asking this is equal to begging, to panhandling. It’s undignified. There are times that I will, of my own choice, say “Keep the change.”, but that’s my choice and I do so freely. If you are quick on the draw and ask if I want my change I will automatically say “Yes” just as a matter of principle and just to make you make that extra trip… even if I intend to leave it all as a tip anyway.

4. Don’t try to force me into leaving a larger tip than reasonable. The bill is $9.62 and all I have on me is a $20 bill. You bring me change of a $10 bill and 38 cents. (Some will bring two $5 bills.) What am I supposed to do with that? Too many people are too timid to say anything and will leave the larger tip. Unless your service was absolutely fanatbulous… which would be pretty impressive, and rare… I am not leaving a 50% tip. And no way in hell am I leaving a 100% tip. Ever. I now have two choices, basically stiff you, which you will misinterpret as me just being cheap, or make you go back… again… and bring me some ones. Bring me a five, five ones, and 38 cents, the first time and we’ll all be happy.

Side note: I once had a server ask me if I wanted my change when I paid with two $20 bills for a $22 tab. I’m not leaving an $18 tip for a $22 meal. I’m sure they weren’t even paying attention, but it was still insulting. And yes, I made her bring me my change, and I tipped accordingly.

5. Don’t tell me how tired you are, or how you can’t wait to get off work in an hour, or how much you hate your job. Let me be clear on this: I… don’t… care. Not only do I not care, I am now annoyed and put off that you have expressed to me that my presence has inconvenienced you. You are not earning my sympathy, I have a job, too. Oh, and I don’t want to overhear you saying these things to your co-workers, either. Be professional.

6. Don’t stop serving prematurely. In other words, when you believe that my visit is winding down, or you want to hasten my exit for whatever reason, don’t ignore my empty glass. (Doing so will affect your tip.) At least ask if I want a refill. Often I do, but if I don’t I’ll be honest and politely decline. At least then I will know that you were still paying attention and doing your job.

7. Don’t mislead me. If I ask for a Diet Coke, don’t say “Ok” then serve me a Diet Pepsi.  By just saying “Ok” you are allowing me to believe I will be getting a Coke product.  The two are not the same, not to mention that businesses actually do get into legal trouble if caught doing that. Normally I will notice, but even in the times that I don’t, you’re still being dishonest by doing this. It’s called lying-by-omission.

8. Don’t use absurd adjectives. Nothing… and I mean that quite literally… is ever “perfect”. When you ask, “Is everything perfect?”, you are insulting me by asking me to knowingly lie. Granted, it’s usually at the insistence of management, but you don’t have to be so enthusiastic about it. I would even suggest you don’t even have to do it at all. Rather, just ask how my meal is and let me answer for myself.

9. Don’t stand silent if I request a substitution that adds an extra charge. If I want to substitute soup instead of french fries, and there’s an “upcharge”, tell me right then. Allow me the the courtesy to consider my option. Don’t surprise me with a bill later where I’ve been nickle-and-dimed.

10. Don’t be difficult. Don’t tell me a certain substitution is not allowed when other servers have done it for me many times. Worse yet, don’t argue with me when I point it out that it has been done before. The customer isn’t always right, but neither are you. If in doubt, excuse yourself and go check… then be adult enough to admit if you were wrong.

Tipping: Part 1

…of 193, probably. Ugh! This is going to be quite the series. LOL! I have strong opinions on tipping. Yer shocked, nay, dismayed, I can tell… that I have strong feelings about something.

TIPS: To Insure Prompt Service. Phfft!  Yeah, ok, whatever, I’ve never believed that is the actual origin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. For true service, and good service, I am good with tipping. Many people hear my thoughts on tipping and think I’m a spendthrift and a curmudgeon… wherever would they get that idea???, I mean really!… but I actually tip well. I’m usually in the 20-23% category, sometimes higher, and my wife can back me up on this. I even usually sometimes tip more than they actually deserve when they provide lousy service, I’m still around 15% even for that (though I know I shouldn’t). So what do I kvetch about? Let me tell ya…

1. Entitlement Mentality: This is probably my biggest pet peeve regarding tipping, the entitlement mentality that has developed. It’s no longer an appreciated gift for having done a good job or providing a worthy service, it has evolved to become an expectation and if you don’t live up to their unknown and possibly unreasonable expectation you are treated as a pariah. Scorned and scowled at if you ever go back and they remember you. Simply for not lavishing them with the remnants of your bank account.

The entitlement mentality goes both ways, from some servers and from some businesses. They’re taking advantage of people and getting what is virtually free labor because the state allows them to get away with it.

As things generally go, this entitlement mentality has expanded to other professions that might not deserve a tip. Everyone seems to think they’re special. Which leads us to…

2. Who gets a tip?: Tied to the entitlement mentality, which professions should get a tip? A server in a sit-down restaurant? Sure. They’re running around basically catering to your whims. They are your servant for the moment. Regardless their hourly wage, that’s worth something. Don’t be a tightfisted chump, treat them well. We’ll get into wages in a future installment, but they often are legally paid less than minimum wage (in most states), and that is and should be a factor, but just one factor of many.

How about the person who cuts your hair? Should they get a tip? Yes? Why? I say ‘no’. I do tip, albeit because of the societal guilt trip involved with not tipping, but I shouldn’t have to. I go to independent barbers. They state their price on the wall. End result, they are paid in full, and set their own price based on what they feel their service is worth. That’s fine. But it’s also somewhat dishonest. They know most people will throw in some extra. I say if you want or need more money, then raise your price. I’m still going to pay it, but it will save me the bother of having to wonder if I gave too much or too little. Yeah yeah yeah, you can say that you aren’t forced to tip, no one’s holding a gun to your head, blah blah blah. Societal guilt tripping and peer pressure is powerful, and that’s a fact. A set price would actually be more respectful to both parties.

How about “servers” at buffets and picking up ‘to go’ orders? I say ‘no’. A case could be made for a ‘to go’ order, and it’s true they may get paid less than minimum wage, and there is some effort involved in putting the order together, but it’s far less than table service. As such, a smaller tip would be appropriate, maybe 10%.

Having said that, with a buffet I’m literally serving myself… and isn’t that the point of a buffet… variety and that I serve myself? <shrug> They might get drinks and clean the table afterward (or they might not looking at a local buffet I frequent [they do have good food and they’re cheap]), but that is small compared to literal table service. No, if I’m doing virtually all my own work, the person standing in the corner watching me eat is not deserving of a tip.

The way we’re going, I fully expect bridge toll takers to start getting tips any day now. <insert eye roll here>

Conclusion: So that’s it. That’s the end of Part 1. Future installments will include (in no particular order)… tip jars & counter service, tip sharing, wages & laws, the amount of the tip, the effort put forth, people who don’t tip and/or are rude to the servers, and more. Stay tuned. 🙂