Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

A Tip Tirade

July 2, 2009

To those of you American’s who have never eaten in a restaurant, I’m going to share with you a little known fact. We servers work for tips. That’s right, 80% of my income comes straight from my generous guest’s pockets and the other 20% ,that my restaurant pays me, goes straight to the government. 

So, no, I’m not being nice to you because I like you. (And chances are, I just might, like you that is.) I’m really being nice to you because you are suppose to tip me 20% of your bill when you are done so I can pay my rent. Not 10, not 15, not double the tax. 20. This is a nice place. I took good care of you. I tailored my service to your specific dining needs. You didn’t tell me to do this, I did it instinctively because I’m good at my job. That shit ain’t free.

Is it a perfect system? No? Is it always easy? Of course not. But ask yourself, is it always easy for my server to flirt with me? Is it always easy for her to laugh at my jokes? Is it always easy for her to drop everything she’s doing because I would like some ketchup, right now? Is it always easy for her to remember that I said I wanted to wait until my meal to have my glass of wine? The answer to all of these questions is no. But she does it with a silly smile on her face. Why? Because you are paying her to do it.

Did you set the table? No. Did you have to get up once to get another beverage? Not that I saw. Did you personally tell the chef what you wanted to eat? Nope. Did you carry the food from the kitchen to your table? Ha.. that’s a no. Did you clear the table when you were done? After every course? Not unless your name is Jose. Did you have to wrap up the leftover’s for tomorrow? You offered, but I insisted. Did you make coffee? Another big NO. And you ordered a skim decaf cappaccino, didn’t you. Did you have to do any dishes? Negative. Did you have to do anything but enjoy yourself? Not at all. I don’t begrudge doing these things. I do them gladly. Its my job after all. I just would like to be compensated. And frankly, if you think you could have done it better, you should have stayed home and done it yourself.

Now… there is a school of thought that believes you have to earn your tip. It’s not a given. “I’ll tip 20 if she does an exceptional job” You want to know what I think of people who belong to this school of thought? One, they have probably never waited tables. Two, they NEVER think the server has done an exceptional job. They are the kind of people who test you to see if you really are capable of serving them. Really, cause they have nothing better to do? If you’ve served, you know the people I’m talking about. It’s almost like they’re being a pain in the ass to see how much you can take and if you can actually get it all right. Because if you can’t, well, it’ll cost you. And if you do, which I do, they’re still not impressed and rarely tip more than 15%.

“But I chewed your meat for you and regurgitated it into your mouth. That’s got to be worth at least 18%.”

There is another school of people who know they are only going to tip 15%. You can tell when they sit down. They are very held. They don’t want you waiting on them too much, being too nice, meeting their needs, because they only signed on for the minimal tip. And feel guilty about it, cause they should, so they fight you when you try to be helpful. They’re the one’s you catch pouring their own wine or insisting on boxing their own food.

Good tippers you can usually tell immediately too. They are usually warm, easy going and have a generous spirit. Actually treat you like a human being… that sort of thing. I would be lying if I said I didn’t give these people better service.

That’s just how it works, you get what you act like you are going to pay for. Maybe we should turn the tables and ask for the tip up front, and then see if your steak comes out Medium plus no butter, no salt.

All I’m saying is tip your server. Sometimes 20% seems like an awful lot of money in this economy, especially after you have already spent so much an tasty food and drink. But service was part of the experience too. And wasn’t it a good experience?Because basically if you don’t pay me… I don’t get paid.

Categories: Waiting is the Hardest Part

Comment (1)


  1. scott says:

    July 2, 2009

    tell it, sister!

    great, great post ("Not unless your name is Jose" = classic!) and I can't wait to read more... Reply

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