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I'm genuinely not trying to be rude here, but it's a rather strange way of looking at your pay. Tips are bonuses for doing a good job. If you get more than 15% (the full 20%) then you should see it as a bonus, but not something to expect.

Personally I think you're lucky to be in an area of customer service that gets such regular bonuses at all.


And that is the point that I'm trying to make. It isn't a bonus, it is how we get paid. I know people don't wanna hear "20% means we've done a good job" but it is the truth. I'm not talking about 20% as a base, I'm talking about 20% indicating you've recieved good service. Maybe I'm jaded since I work in a place where the quality of service is higher, but I'm just showing you the math here to indicate how we get paid. It isn't a bonus, it is how we are paid.


Please excuse my potential slowness here, but you don't get a base pay at all? It's only tips?


That is correct, Ted, and that is the standard in the restaurant industry. California is the exception, I believe, which requires employers to pay the 5.15 minimum wage, but all 49 of the other states do not have to. I recieve an hourly pay of 2.13 an hour, which doesn't even cover the taxes on the tips I make.

So, you see, tipping is how waiters make their money. It isn't a bonus, it is the salary of the employee. Now, some people might see this as bad, and it has its downsides. On the other hand, you can always have cash on hand, and, if you need extra money, you can always pick up a shift and know that you will bring home cash. But that is all you make, and so, when you arbitrarily knock down the percentage of our tips you take money out of my "paycheck" so to speak.

I'm not saying that you should tip 20% automatically, I'm just saying, if the server does a good job and does everything you hope he or she is supposed to do, 20% is not an unreasonable tip. If 15% is the base for average service, then decent or good service should be 20%.


Fair enough. That is absolutely shocking though. A modern, supposedly civilised country exploiting works in such a way (lack of a reasonable minimum wage is exploitation). It doesn't happen over here. Waiter's don't get a huge pay, but they certainly get enough to live off from base pay.


It isn't a lack of civilization, as much as an economic system. That is why 15% is the base and 20% means good service. It is a variable wage (not unlike commission, in that respect) but it isn't slavery. It is a flexible profession that allows many people to live in a nice lifestyle.


Ted -- the thing to remember also is, that in a restaurant that isn't upscale (like where Dylan works) the base pa is the same -- $2.13. I worked at two popular casual dining restaurants where the average ticket for 2 people was $20.00 if they didn't order alcohol. Keeping in mind that if I only make $2.13 and people tip even 10% -- I make no money. Average was 20 tables a night and on a good night I walked away with $60. When you consider a waiters shift is often from 4-12, that's 8 hours, no breaks, and $60. Comes out to $7.50 per hour after taxes.
Kinda shitty money. And that's only if people tip well.


You mean... people don't tip on WINE??? WHY THE HELL NOT??

People are so effing cheap. Like I said in another waiter's blog recently - I make a relatively low income. Less than 25k/year. I tip 15% for passable service, 20% for great service. If I sit in the seat a while longer than normal 25%.

Why is this so hard for people? And is it true that people with lots of money tend to tip less?

Geeze. I feel ranty and I am not even a server.
myssk at mindspring dot com


I always used to tip on wine until a couple of years ago.
I still do most of the time - however if the wine markup seems particularly over the top I object to paying doubly for the markup.
I realise that many restaurants make most of their profit on drinks but when you have a markup of 200-300% on the wholesale wine cost it's pretty rough to be then expected to add another 20% of the marked up price to the tip (20% now being 60% of the original wine cost). Especially as my friends an I usually have 2-3 bottles of good (i.e. none cheap) wine between the 3 of us.
I don't believe I'm being cheap just because I object to being gouged.



I hear what you are saying... the point that I'm making is that, by not tipping on the wine you are ordering, you are only hurting the waiter, who has nothing to do with the markup of the wine. If you object to the markup of the wine, or are not prepared to tip on it, then you shouldn't order it.


Seems to me that the waiters are being screwed by the managers (who don't pay a legal minimum wage) and the IRS (who demand tax on earnings that the waiters may never have received - because the tip system is open to abuse by the waiters underdeclaring what they receive) and the customer is the one being asked to foot the bill.

If I shouldn't be ordering something I'm not willing to tip on the tip is not really an optional gratuity, why not cut the crap and include the costs properly.
Then customers can see what the meal is really going to cost.
Waiters can be paid a proper wage by the managers.
The IRS can tax the waiters on true earnings and not guess at what they really earn .

The current system is obviously stacked against the waiters but as an exceptionally stubborn individual I object to being pushed into the position of sorting out other peoples problems.
Is it really unrealistic to expect the government to remove whatever exemption allows restaurants to underpay their waiters?
It would cause turmoil for a while to be sure but once people reduced their tips to reflect the 'service included' charges waiters would be genuinely rewarded for above average work, not penalised for a normal day.


Irregardless of what you may think of the legitimacy of the system, (i.e. Minimum wage for tipped employees being 2.13 and hour), it is the economic system in this country. You can disagree with it, and feel sympathy for the waiters (although I doubt your concern is really for the waiters, and more for not wanting to pay out for the privilage of being waited on), then perhaps you should try to affect change in this area, by writing your congressman or something like that.

But, as it stands, this is the system as it is set up. I'm not saying that you should tip 20% as a base, I'm saying you should tip that for good to great service. Most of us that take our jobs seriously also take pains to give good service worthy of such a tip. As such, I get paid well. Having worked for many years in this industry, I've worked my way up to a higher end restaurant. I make 15-20 bucks an hour in most cases. It is precisly because of my good service. The reason I wrote the post in the first place was because of the people who seem to think that great service is the norm, and does not need to be rewarded.

It would appear you are one of those people.


We obviosuly disagree (although I think less than you may believe).
I don't consider great service the norm at all. I consider most service to be less than acceptable and am very happy to tip when I get good or excellent service.

As for writing to my congressman - why would I? The current system actually benefits people such as me who are willing to upset a waiter by not tipping well if we didn't receive good service. Those who are penalised (the waiters and those who feel obliged to tip 20% regardless of how good or bad the service was) should be trying to change the system.
Even though I benefit from the current system I don't think it is truely fair and equitable.
Lastly, I'm pleased to hear that in good restaurants waiters are able to earn a reasonable wage at least.


"You can disagree with it, and feel sympathy for the waiters (although I doubt your concern is really for the waiters, and more for not wanting to pay out for the privilage of being waited on)..."

That is what I said, because I know your concern isn't for the waiters involved. You just don't like feeling guilty about not tipping on the things you buy in a restaurant. And that's fine: I'm not going to convince you, obviously. But hopefully I've helped enlighten some about the service industry, and those who work in it.


I am a little late joining this conversation. I am a big tipper at full service restaurants. Always 20%. More for exceptional service and/or if my party was extra obnoxious.

However, I have a question about fast casual/fast food restaurants. What is customary there? Do you know?

Here is the scenario. I place my order at the counter. A cashier takes my payment. (Dinner for two is usually $15 - 20). They give me a plastic thing with a number on it and someone brings the food to our table or they hand us a bag for take-out. We get our own drinks from the soda fountain. They usually bus the table after we leave. Sometimes I am inclined to leave a dollar but often I only see the employees for like a millisecond so I am not sure who or why I am tipping.

Even at Starbucks, I hesitated to tip, since I feel like the service should be included in the high price of the drink. But recently, I found out that part of their salary is tips. Where I live, it's $7.50 base + $2 tips/hour to start. That's a pretty decent salary for a coffee shop employee, I'd say.

What do you think about this? Do you have an opinion or any advice?


Yeah, that's a tough one Ms. Q... I have the same quandry with Sonic.

I don't really have a set answer for you on this one, but for me personally, I normally drop a dollar in the jar if the person was mostly pleasant. If I get any attitude at all though, then no tips for them.

That's a tough one though, and part of the pliable, bendable tipping discussion, I think.


Well, Sonic. That's entirely different! My first job was at Sonic. I roller skated out to your car (well, not YOUR car, but you know what I mean). I carried a heavy tray with milkshakes, drinks and burgers. I poured your soda, I squeezed the limes into your cherry-limeaid, I made the milkshakes. I made the change by doing the math in my head, not by looking at the amount on the register, and I skated away from your car, thereby giving you an excellent view of my smoking hot 16-year-old ass. I seem to recall that old men were the best tippers. In fact, the other thing I did was put up with totally inappropriate comments about my ass. That alone should have been worth something! Anyway, since minimum wage was only about $2.75 back then, those tips help a lot.


If I don't make a comment about my Sonic girl's ass, (inappropriate or not) is it ok not to tip her? :)


I'm a little late here too, but I've just got to add my two cents (not sure if that's 20% or not, but hope it will suffice).

I always tip at least 20% at full-service restaurants, and for good-to-exceptional service I have been known to tip upwards of 30%. Mostly this is when I am by myself and have ordered a $6-8 meal, and I feel like a tip of 20% doesn't really cover it, since they've spent the same time with me that they have with a party of 4 or 5. It's only fair, right? However, I've been known to tip 30% on a large bill as well. If the service is absolutely abysmal, I still leave at least 15% (though this is rare), and this is in California where they have the minimum wage law (currently $6.75/hour).

Starbucks is where I become a little dicey. This comes from my days of working in a coffee shop. It was a mom-and-pop place, but it was as fully-functioning as any Starbucks, perhaps even more so because we roasted our own coffee onsite. That's another story, though. We all know (and I from personal experience) that there is not a lot of overhead at a coffee shop, save for payroll. Coffee is cheap, simply put. The most expensive drink at Starbucks, I believe is currently $4.25, costs about $0.40 to make; their cheapest drink, I believe to be about $1.60, costs about $0.13 to make (both figures include some sort of pro-rated labor charges for the employees, cups, coffee, water, electricity, etc.). Much like Starbucks, our tips were collected in glasses. However, unlike Starbucks, we didn't include it as part of our payroll, we distributed it evenly amongst the employees each night.

Here's where I have the problem. Tips would be split evenly no matter who was doing what. In other words, I would get the same $10 for slaving my ass off through a line of 50 people as the guy who sat in the back on a 40-minute smoke-break. No democracy, no pro-ration, no authority to make a change to the system. And because coffee is not exactly a tip-friendly item, tips were often very scant. And so, you have four employees jockeying in line for their $2 or $3 when they've been parked on their butts all night, and I'd get the same $2 or $3 for running the show while they kicked back.

I would imagine the predicament to be approximately the same at any given Starbucks. Don't get me wrong. I tip them nonetheless because I feel it's the right thing to do, and I know they count on it as part of their income. However, it's kind of the same argument as the wine issue (yes, I always tip on that too). I know what the markup is, I know how rich the stockholders are getting off of the insane profit margins. By extension, I know damn well that Starbucks can afford to pay their employees $12+ per hour and still make a helluva lot of money, and the tips would then just be a nice little bonus. It's mostly that tipping on such a huge markup seems almost criminal, and in the end the people that really get the shaft is the employees AND the customers.

Of course, as a corollary to what you said about the wine, I could always just refuse to purchase coffee at such a ridiculous price. That would be so much easier to do if they didn't put heroin, or whatever it is, in their coffee! It's too damn good. I guess what I'm saying, is that I should just shut up and continue doing what I'm doing without bitching about it, or give it up. Easier said than done.

PS - I will not be surprised at all, in however long it takes to find out, when the whole world is let in on the truth of the connection between Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and the several different drug cartels that supply them.


In Washington state wait staff has alway had a base wage and to my knowledge as a business owner ALL states are required to paid FEDERAL MiNIMUM wage for each hour any server works.

The only exception is of the State Minimum wage is higher and than they are required to pay that.

So in Washington State a server working your 7 hour shift would be paid $51.45 from the company, receive (at your low end) $62.50 in tips for a total of $113.95 for a 7 hour shift.

That wait staff would in fact average $16.27 for every hour they worked that shift and their employer would have to paid employment tax on the entire amount.

For a job that requires no college degree that is damn good wages and I for one think you should not misinform people about 'other states' when you do not know what you are talking about.


As I mentioned in the email I wrote you, Cheryl, the Federal Minimum Wage provides for tipped employees to receive $2.13 an hour. If Washington State provides for a higher wage than that, then that makes it one of only two states that I'm aware of wherein that is the case.

I've never imagined that this post, which I wrote almost a year ago, would create such tension and animosity among those who come across it. I've had very few posts that have consistently and continuously garnered more attention.


For an accurate picture of what states do you might try looking at this site:

Just so we understand each other I do not believe that any state should be allowed a 'tip credit' but there are more than two that do not.

The Minimum wage for tipped employees is 2.65 . also, it seems ridiculous to me that people wouldn't tip on wine because of the markup. well, i'll tell you guys one thing, EVERYTHING IN A RESTAURANT IS MARKED UP! DUH! that spaghetti you pay 12.50 for probably costs 50 cents. in america you tip 20 percent of your bill not 20 percent of what it costs the restaurant or 20 percent of what it would cost in the grocery store. that just sounds ridiculous. if you don't like it, nobody said you had to go out to a full service restaurant. crank open a bottle of wine at home and serve your own damn self!

I Meant to say 2.65 is the minimum wage for tipped employees in michigan. i'm sure its different in every state but its usually in the 2 dollar range. cheryl i have heard that in washington servers get Paid hourly and i was amazed. so don't think most states are like that because before i heard about washington that was the first i'd heard of that. its no myth, i can show you my pay stub. we really do only get 2.65


I realize that it's been appx a year since your comment but, I still felt it necessary to eluminate how brilliant your insite was...cudos

p.s. Starbucks die!! (although I do drink their coffee occasionally....cough...cough)

Food Service Ninja

basically Dylan likes to pay without tipping when he can get away with

basically he tips well except when he drinks a personal bottle of wine with his friend but he admits he sure loved his Sonic tips

I eat out a LOT with the exception of fast food almost all my experiences are good to excellent. And when they arent good it usually the fault of an employee of the restaurant BESIDES my server.

I will tip a barista anyone who mades an endless stream of bevs with up to 10+ adjectives ie spec instructions deserves more than their wage

the loop hole on hour wage is you MUST earn more than the hourly min wage in your local when tips per hr are added to the min wage.

Even the worst shithole place will provide on avg the $3 something and hour to get to the fed min wage.

In short you tip on the wine period-one of the reason wine is marked up high -you have to pay for the alcohol up front and the carrying costs add up on a bottle of wine the restaurant is self cellaring.

And baring a major legislative change tipping is the way restaurants will operate with servers funding everyones wages via tipshare

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