The two sides of the tipping coin

By Emma Goodwin

I’ve worked in the restaurant business for three years. Two years as a busboy and one as a waitress at a business-casual pizza place that has frequently won best pizza awards.

We don’t sell pizza by the slice, we have two out of four dollar signs on Yelp and the entire staff is donned in T-shirts. It’s a fairly quintessential pizza restaurant, and the only sit-down pizza establishment in my town.

I love my job and, while the money is good, that’s really not why I work here. Even still, this job is what I depend on to pay my rent at school. Four months in the summer and a month in the winter is the time I get to work here. Those five months of pay are pretty much my savings for the entire year.

Doubling as a stereotypical broke college kid, I’ve done extreme couponing (which for me means using more than one coupon at checkout), saved all my change, and I never eat out, simply because it’s so freaking expensive.

Noodles & Company and Panera Bread have comparable food quality and environments to sit-down restaurants, without breaking the bank. You aren’t obligated to tip, and Noodles & Company also serves alcohol.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    That being said, I cannot understand the fascination with some high school and college kids to go to restaurants that cost more than, say, six dollars a person. Especially when they don’t have enough money to tip.

    While bad tippers come with every age, a survey of 1,000 waiters revealed that teenagers are typically thought to be among the worst.

    Some teenagers either tip really, really poorly or leave nothing at all. Waiters and waitresses might try to pawn them off when they come into the restaurant, because, sometimes, they can be rude and have bad attitudes.

    In my experience, they use their rudeness so it feels more natural to say that the service is poor.

    On the other hand, you also have overly generous younger tippers. They tip at least 20 percent. This is especially common with separate checks, big groups and sometimes when guys pay who are on dates.

    Big tips also tend to happen when the customers are also in the restaurant business.

    I attribute this to wanting to give younger patrons a better name. We all know that our age group is really the pits when it comes to tipping and these people want to make sure their waiter knows they aren’t “that guy.”

    Here’s the deal, the latter group: you guys are awesome. Every dollar that you leave at a table is another dollar that goes towards putting food in your server’s mouth and a roof over their head.

    But, for people who don’t tip or can’t afford it, if leaving a five dollar tip on a $60.00 check is considered breaking the bank, why do you have a $60.00 check in the first place? You see how much money each item costs on the menu, so it should be no surprise when that turns out to be the total.

    Standing in both positions as a waitress and a broke college kid, I’m willing to bet that you probably cannot afford to spend $60.00 on some beer, appetizers and pizza. And that’s OK, but, instead, you could easily spend a quarter of that amount going to the grocery store and everybody would be equally happy.

    Don’t try to convince yourself you have beaucoup bucks by going to a nice restaurant to feel like an adult. This is college kid me, not waitress me, speaking.

    Here is the truth about waiters and waitresses. And when I say this, I mean the nice ones.

    We really enjoy serving you and we are here to do a good job. We do not ever spit in your food or angrily chase after you when you don’t tip us. Our job is to put on a smile and give you a great restaurant experience. We feel terribly guilty if we screw up your order or if your food takes long to get to your table.

    Tips essentially make up our paychecks, and they reflect on the job we do. Most waiters and waitresses in the United States make less than five dollars an hour.

    I know Dwight Schrute doesn’t tip because he thinks he can do the job himself, but waitressing actually isn’t that simple of a job – especially when you realize how huge customer satisfaction is, and how little of what happens in a restaurant we actually control.

    We don’t control how long your food takes. If we’re younger than 21 ourselves, we don’t control when your alcohol is served. We don’t control the volume of other patrons and children, and most of the time, we can’t even control the thermostat.

    If your service is terrible, I understand giving minimal tips, and yes, it would be great if tips didn’t exist. But unless our rules change sometime soon, tipping is something everyone will have to get used to.

    Tipping is an integral part of the restaurant business. If you can’t afford a generous tip on your total bill, chances are, you shouldn’t really be spending money at a nice restaurant anyways.

    Instead, waitress me is going to promise that, whether you tip or not, I will give you the best experience possible. If you do not tip me appropriately, I won’t comment about your inconsideration, the fact that you make me look bad to my boss, or at how you’re taking up tables that could go to people who will tip me the accurate amount of money to cover my paycheck. I won’t spit in the food I give you, but as soon as you hurry out of the restaurant in shame, I’ll shake my head with frustration, and put another smile on for my next table.

    Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].