ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Business and Employment»
  • Customer Service & Satisfaction

Tips Are Earned, Not Guaranteed

Updated on October 14, 2013

What is a fair tip?

Contrary to belief, tips are not a guarantee. Tips are a personal gratuity based on the quality of service that is provided. If you are in a service profession such as a waitress position, which will be the basis for this hub, don't expect a good tip or any tip if you don't want to provide good service. The amount that you receive is or at least should be based on your performance.

I am going to use the term "she" and "waitress" just for the sake of making my points. These tips also apply to a "male" or a "waiter".

First of all, I do not buy into the idea that I as a customer need to pay the wages for the waitress to make a living. The employer should pay better wages and then he or she would be more concerned and apt to do something about it if the waitress doesn't do a good job. I as the customer could care less what the hourly wage is. I will give a tip based solely on the performance by my waitress. The better she is, the better the tip. If she performs badly, she not only gets a lower or no tip but the restaurant could also lose me as a customer. I am a strong believer in the fact that management needs to take responsibility for their employees and to weed out the bad ones. If they cannot do that, then they should lose business.

I love going out to eat. It is a great way for me to sit down and relax, have good conversation, with a good meal. I often go back to the same restaurant based on a few things.

  • The cleanliness of the restaurant
  • The quality of the food
  • The service received
  • The friendliness of the staff

The first one is pretty clear. If the restaurant is clean, I will eat there. If it looks gross when I walk in, I will leave and never come back.

The quality of the food is a determination if I will eat there again or not, it is not a determination of what amount of tip that I will leave for the waitress. The waitress will have no control over a bad cook, although how the waitress handles the problem is a direct correlation to the tip he or she will receive.

The service received is mainly the service from the waitress, although every employee should be giving good service to customers. The waitress is the direct contact to the customers and the service must be top notch, no exceptions.

Rudeness is not going to make me come back no matter how good the food is, so every employee is responsible for being kind and providing good customer service.

All of the above are factors in determining what is a good restaurant and if it deserves a repeat visit or not, but a tip to the waitress is only based on the performance of the waitress. I have been in restaurants where the food was lousy, I didn't get what I ordered, or the hostess was snappy and seemed like she wanted to go home and I was interrupting her from sleeping. Those sort of things make a restaurant have a bad reputation but I still treat the waitress good by leaving at least 20% for a tip if the waitress did her job.

Tips to earn a good tip!

The following are things that the waitress should keep in mind to maximize the tip she will receive. I will give these tips as if I were the customer.

  • First and foremost, when you approach me or any customer you need to smile and you need to be friendly. I don't care if you are having a bad day or not, it isn't going to get better if you treat me nasty. I am going to be paying a fair price for my meal and I am going to be paying a decent and fair tip on top of the meal. I expect nothing less than a friendly waitress.
  • Don't slap down a glass of water and then walk away. I don't want tap water and I sure don't want it taking up space on my table. The tables are small enough. Ask me if I want the water before assuming I do.
  • Don't waste my time. While you are at the table to see if I want water, you could ask if there is anything else I want such as coffee, or a cold drink before you take my order. It is frustrating to have a waitress slap down water that I don't want, rush off and not come back for several minutes just to ask if I want coffee. I'm ready to order now, you should have asked right away.
  • Now that you brought my coffee, set it on the table gently. Don't spill it and most importantly if you do, clean it up; don't make me as the customer stuck with coffee on the saucer so it drips on my shirt. At the very least give me extra napkins so I can soak it up. Make sure that you have cream with you, especially if there is none on the table. I don't want to wait for you to get cream while my coffee is getting cold because I can't drink it. This should be automatic when coffee is being set on the table. I should never have to ask for it or remind you to bring it.
  • Before leaving the table after bringing the coffee, ask if I am ready to order or if I need additional time. Don't walk away before asking me. I might be ready to order now and I don't want to wait on you to come back in 10 minutes. If I need more time, then you should confirm when you will be back and ask if that will be ok. In other words you should say, "Are you ready to order or do you need additional time?" I answer, "I will need a little more time please." Now you should be saying to me, "Take your time sir. I will come back in about 5 minutes; is that ok? At that point I will tell you that it is ok, or I won't need that much time. Either way you did a good job by asking and not leaving me sit there wondering when you are coming back.
  • Ok, I am ready to place my order. It is very important that you have good listening skills. Don't get side tracked by what another customer is doing or what a co-worker is doing. I don't want you asking me to repeat myself because you did not pay attention. It is different if the noise level in the restaurant is high and you didn't hear me. If that were the case, then make it clear that you are asking me to repeat it because you could not hear me. That is the polite thing to do instead of just saying, "Could you repeat that?". Another reason to have good listening skills is so you bring the correct order back. I should not have to tell you again that I ordered it without gravy, or that I wanted the Roast Duck and you brought me Chicken. There is no excuse for a good waitress to bring the wrong order. Even if the cook screwed up, that order should be checked before it reaches the table. If it is wrong and is going to take additional time because the cook screwed up, it is important to tell me right away instead of making me wait another 20 minutes and then come with the food loaded with excuses. Too late, you already made me angry.
  • After bringing the food to the table, verify that everything is correct before you walk away. If it is wrong and I have to wait for you to come around in 15 minutes, my food is already cold, and I am getting angrier by the minute because I am hungry. A few extra seconds on your part as the waitress will save a lot of frustration and will keep your tip from going down.
  • Don't argue with me or with any customer over trivial things. If I tell you that I wanted the steak well done and there is blood coming out, don't argue. You should be saying, "I am very sorry. I will take it back and have it done the way you ordered it." Maybe I failed to mention "well done" but the end result is that I will not eat it the way it is, and if you argue with me, you will make me angry and then you can kiss your tip good bye. It is best for everyone if you just take it back and have it done the way the I want it. When you bring it back, be sure to smile and apologize again. It really is not going to hurt the restaurant if you offer to make things good by giving a small token of compensation like a free desert or a gift card. You may need to get permission from your manager but that gesture will go a very long way for future service.
  • Come back often to see if everything is ok, or if anything else is needed. It is very frustrating when a customer cannot get the attention of the waitress and they are having a problem with the meal, or want more coffee, or an additional food item. You should be passing through often while servicing other customers so take a few seconds to check in on customers already eating.
  • By all means don't be vacuuming the carpet near where I am eating. I don't want dust in my food and even if the dust is not blowing around, I don't want that noise when I go out to eat. That is rude and a turn off. Unless it is an immediate need because something fell and needs to be cleaned up right away, you should not be cleaning an area where a customer is eating. Close off the area to clean it.
  • Before putting the check on the table, ask if there is anything else that you can get for me or any customer that you are dealing with at the time. When it is confirmed that nothing else is needed, then place the check face down on the table while smiling and thanking the customer.

These things might seem trivial, or depending on your level of service that you are used to, you might think that it is too demanding. I disagree. I believe these things are the minimum that any waitress should do. If you can't perform these simple tasks, you don't deserve a tip, not to mention that you really should be fired. You do not deserve the job dealing with customers.

As a summary, be kind, smile a lot, check back often, and do not argue with the customer. Practice to improve your listening skills so corrections do not need to be made. If you do these things you will get at least 20% of the check for a tip. I for one will start with a good attitude of knowing that I will leave at least 20% for a tip, but I will also cut it down fast if the waitress is rude, abrupt, slow, or has an attitude of not caring. I go by a 3 strike rule. The first strike, I ignore. I usually write it off as a minor error, or maybe you just had a lapse of thought for a minute. Not a big deal to me. I do understand that people make errors but it is how you deal with your errors that either make you a good waitress or a total failure. If there is a second strike, I cut the tip by a third of what I would have given. The third strike you get no tip. I make no apology for that. If you believe that by not giving you a tip ruined your night or your paycheck, well guess what, you ruined my evening of going out to eat. You don't deserve the tip that you could have had. This is a guide for you to improve your skills and make more tips, or a guide for your employer to fire you for not doing the job that you should be doing.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      @bn9900, thank you for reading this hub and for the kind comments. I appreciate the time you took to give me that feedback.

    • bn9900 profile image

      Clayton Hartford 4 years ago from Alger WA

      Allen I agree with everything here, however one of the comments refered to the cleaning near her as she eats. I have eatten in 24 hour eateries and they must clean sometime, but that is my only acception. I tip buy rounding up to the nearest dollar and adding another, if they are really good then its two or three, but rarely is alcohol ordered.

      To look at Jens comment about the poor service that she so obviously provides must because she doesn't care, and if she doesn't care why should she get tipped? Not my Fault is not a reason to be lazy.

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you for reading this hub and for the gracious comments. I understand that people make mistakes and that is why I mentioned that in this hub. You must have missed that part. It has been my experience that when a waitress or waiter gets poor tips for doing a bad job they normally are not employeed that long. They could not live on the hourerly wage alone so either they must do a good job to "earn" their tips or they will be gone in a short time. From youir comments, I can tell that either you are a very bad waitress and are taking your bad attitude out on me because my article hit home for you, or you don't have a clue what you are talking about. Either way, thank you for reading it and have a great day.

    • profile image

      Jen 5 years ago

      You also could not be such a DICKHEAD. If you made a mistake by not saying well done, well that is YOUR fault and you should expect to wait longer because of yourself. Don't blame other people. People do make mistakes. You are NOT as perfect as you may think you are. Servers are people and therefore make mistakes. People who get upset over just food obviously have nothing better to do then to bitch over something so dumb. And if you tip shitty, we hope you come back so you will get feces or other terrible things put in your food. We always remember the face who didn't tip.

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you for your comments vvaleed. If he wants a bigger tip he should do a better job. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      vvaleed 6 years ago

      Hi Allen! i spent the whole day with my friends and at night we decided to take dinner in a restaurant. this was not a reputed restaurant and when we were just leaving we gave him (the waiter) a tip but i guess was not enough,and the waiter left that tip on the table precisely because he was not satisfied with that. then it reminds me of your hub "tips are earned not guaranteed"...therefore i wanna share this with you! thanks a lot Allen!

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      I am glad that you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading it and for the comments.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Well said! I completely agree that a tip is not mandatory and those restaurants that include it on the bill are the ones I don't frequent. I, and not the restaurant, will decide the amount of tip based on the service of the waiter.

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Thank you! Being friendly is the number one quality of a good waitress. I am glad that you stopped by to read it. I also appreciate your comments and the vote up.

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 6 years ago from Southern Spain

      Hi found you in answers ! I agree with you with what you say here . I used to be a waitress & got a better hourly rate than in the USA but was always friendly to everyone . I hate having people clean near me when I am paying for a good meal , it's one thing that really annoys me. Voting you up.

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you Movie Master. I appreciate your comments very much.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Allen, I think I agree with just about all of the above.

      I love eating out, and expect the food and service to be excellent, if it reaches or exceeds expectations I am only to happy to give a good tip.

      Excellent hub thank you for sharing.