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Why You Need to Tip Your Waitresses and Waiters

Updated on December 10, 2010
catwhitehead profile image

Cathryn is a published poet and writer with articles and stories on ehow, Livestrong, and Hubpages, also ghostwriting stories on Upworks.

The hardest working, lowest paid, least appreciated worker has to be the server in your local restaurant. Waiters and waitresses are only paid $2.69 per hour in many places. The only workers in America that the government doesn't include in minimum wage laws, servers rely on tips from you to pay their bills and support their families. And many restaurants require servers to share their tips with bartenders, hostesses, and bus boys.

Now I'm not saying it's your job to support these workers. They're trying to do that themselves. On their feet for 8 hours a day--16 hours if they're lucky enough to pull a double shift--waiters and waitresses do an assortment of jobs in their work. They not only take your order and bring you your food, they clean, make food items such as salads, sundaes, and shakes, roll silverware, clean tables, refill salt and pepper shakers, ketchup and sauce bottles, sugar canisters, sweeteners, jelly, creamer, and napkin dispensers. They make coffee, refill drinks, pick up, vacuum, fill take-out orders, run the cash register, and clean bathrooms. They try to do all this with a smile and pleasant conversation for you and their other customers while following the rules of the establishment.

Servers try to anticipate their customers needs and wants and try to be available to fill needs and wants they haven't thought of. They converse with your children, bring over booster seats and high chairs, and offer suggestions from their own experiences to make your dining more pleasant. They know their earnings depend on how pleased you are with their service. At least, that's what they used to think.

These days are tough for everyone economically. Food prices are higher, so a couple or family going out to dinner may be presented with a bill that's higher than they expected. Rather than skipping dessert, ordering less expensive menu items, or passing on the appetizer and pre-dinner drink, most of these people are stiffing the servers.

Waitresses and waiters are expected to receive a tip that equals 15% of what the food costs. That's how restaurant owners report their wages to the IRS. One single mother that's been waitressing for ten years said, "I wish I made as much as I do on paper. I could afford to pay my rent and feed my son." Programs made available to lower income workers aren't available to waiters and waitresses in this situation. On paper, it looks like they make enough money to get by, so aren't eligible for help.

I'm not referring to incompetent servers. The waitress who ignores her customers and doesn't even attempt to give them what they need, and the waiter who spends an hour on the phone haven't earned their 15%. But waiters and waitresses who have been praised by their customers and commended to their employers are going to clear their tables and finding a $4.00 tip for an $80.00 food bill. Even someone very bad in math should know that's not even close to 15%. And many people say, "Sorry, I didn't bring enough money," and don't leave anything. The server then has to pay taxes from their $2.69 an hour on the earnings they never received from their customers.

Why don't they quit and find something else?

I'm not sure what the job market is like where you live, but it's been very bad around here for over five years, and it's getting worse. Many servers don't have any options. Something, even if it's only $2.69 an hour, is better than nothing.

At least, it would be if it didn't cost more for gas to get to work than you make.

Remember that your server doesn't prepare the food. It's not their fault if it's not cooked the way you want it or doesn't taste as good as you expected. And it's not their fault that you wanted an alcoholic drink but forgot your identification. Stiffing a waitress or waiter because they can't break the law and the rules of their employers is not only grossly unfair, it shows a complete lack of class.

Look more kindly at the next waiter or waitress that serves you. Are they trying to make your dining experience pleasant? If so, you owe them at least 15% of what you paid for your food. Did they make your dining experience pleasant? Then you owe them more.

My income is lower than that of most people, and I still tip servers. I ask myself, did my server take my order and bring me my food and drink? If so, they'll get at least 15%. If they made pleasant conversation, checked to see how the food was and refilled drinks, they'll receive 20%. The more pleasant my experience is, the more my waitresses and waiters make. If I take care of the servers that take care of me, my next dining experience will be that much better.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I work as a waitress in Australia so the tipping and wage system of America has always intrigued me as I plan to hopefully move there in a few years. Where I work I get $13 an hour minimum wage (I'm 17 and started at 16) and any tips we make must be put into a tip jar that is shared among all staff. Unfortunately this means that tips are shared between roughly 6 people on a slow night and over 10 on a busy night. Tipping isn't common at all here in Australia and so I'm lucky to get $4 a week in tips working Friday-Monday nights. The minimum wage here is better but then again the cost of rent, food, fuel and everything else is a lot more expensive. I don't complain about tips because we do get better pay but I truly understand how disappointing it is to get nothing after working your ass off. I always try to be funny, bubbly and nice to my customers. As a rule I joke with my customers, ask about their day and always ask how their meal was after they eat it. I'd hate to do be like that in America and have people who are cheap enough not to tip.

    • thephoenixlives profile image


      6 years ago

      Shay, If you are a great wait person, there will not be a slow shift for long. You will build a clientele that supports you. It may take a couple of weeks to start, but if you entertain and make their dining experience great, word will spread. Your boss will love you, you people will love you and your bank account will love you.

      I worked at a hole in the wall in central Texas once. When i started, they were going under, and they had shifts just like you stated, but within a couple of weeks, word was starting to spread. I am not attractive, in fact probably below average (probably well below average) and it turned around.

      The food has to be average, but if the wait staff is phenomenal, then that business will grow even absent great food.

      You can play the king or play the joker, it is your choice and only you can turn it around.

      Give it a try, go above and beyond and test and prove me wrong. But half #%%&^% it is not proof that I am wrong. Give a full effort for just two weeks no matter how bad it is and you will have people come in looking for you.

      Secondly, when i walk off the stage, it is time to go home. I have my friends at home, they are my children, not the group that does not care about me or mine.

      I also refused to work at places that shared tips, just FYI.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Phoenix, I get the entertainment thing, but I don't see how you can make the blanket statement of "Everyone should be able to make $100 bucks a shift at least if you work hard enough." For the slow season of the establishment I work at, we maybe get 4-5 tables per shift, if lucky. It's not exactly conducive to making $100 bucks in tips, no matter how stellar your service.

      I would also like to add, if you're one of those parties that sits at a table for hours past closing after receiving your check, just because you want to talk or don't want to drive home yet, tip extra. You wouldn't be too happy if you're boss told you to stay 1-2 hours past the end of your workday without pay, now would you? Servers are required to do so if you won't leave.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I was so unaware of all this. I don't understand why at restaurants they won't give this kind of information to people. It is a very unfair situation, and at least I was one of those people who never left that 15% minimum amount. That was because I did not know about any of this. Next time I got to a restaurant, I'll remember this article and be fair to this people who work just as hard as we all do and deserve to get a good pay.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      well is not on customer to tip,is employer to pay the wage to a waiter ,because they hired them.also they should be protected by law .employer should be forced by law to guarantee a minimum of wage to a waiter .as he screams on you whatever goes wrong .customers deserve to be treated nice as they pay bill to a restaurant .this issue should have been solved long time ago.

    • thephoenixlives profile image


      6 years ago

      I am so tired of the excuses. Don't blame the customers, blame yourself.

      I have walked a mile or two in your shoes and even on slow shifts, I was able to make between 100 and 200 bucks a day in tips alone.

      Food is about atmosphere and entertainment, Period!

      When you approach a customer, make sure you have your game face on. People love being entertained, and a waitress or waiter is the star of the show.

      Anytime you meet and greet, it is showtime! What's wrong with making a dramatic approach.

      I would come almost running up, come to a skidding stop with a huge smile on my face and tell them how excited I was they came to share time with me and our crew for some of the best times you will ever have, and don't worry, the food is even better!

      Tell them what they can expect. Know the menu, joke with them, drop them a few extra mints and tell them you done it "just for them".

      Perception is reality, and if you show them a good time, they will show you a good time.

      You are a sales person, and you work on commission in reality. Once you get that down, your money will increase above your wildest imagination.

      There is a science to making big money waiting tables. Study, read statistics, learn, experiment and no matter how bad a cook, bus boy or manager or owner gets on your nerves, let it roll off and make sure you entertain the customers and you can and WILL make a lot of money.

      Make them remember you, not the place of business. You can even build repeat customers and build a following. I had over 200 people that came to eat because I was their wait person. All in less than a year!

      There are no excuses for not making at least 100 bucks a shift no matter what eatery you are in, and that does not count hourly wages.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I still can not understand:waitresses work for owner of restaurant,but I have pay salary for waitresses as the tips. Do not tell me that they have small wage.It is not my business.I have a lot of problems with my money too,but do not yell everywhere.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I live in a really tiny town and I am 17 and a waitress. I know you guys are talking about how screwed you get on tips. I can make anywhere from 4 dollars to a penny from some people. It's highly disappointing to have to bust your ass just to please them in hopes of them leaving you a decent tip so you have some money. I'm trying to buy a vehicle and save up for moving out. Yet no one tips what they should for the service I give. I'm constantly smiling although I am waitressing, doing the dishes, cleaning the tables, vaccuming, taking garbage out, rolling silverware refilling drinks, writing out the receits by hand, doing the taxes on the receits by hand, holding conversations with the customers, making sure their orders are right, getting them soups, and filling all the things that I have too, all while being sexually harassed by the restaurant owner and his cook. And I can't do anything because there's only the 3 of us and there's no one to complain to but my own family. And I don't know how I'm going to be able to afford my wedding next year. I wish we could have some sort of petition signed by all waitresses and waiters to get people to leave bigger tips but that wouldn't do anything at all.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree completely! At my restaurant, I have to be hostess, waitress, busser, and cashier. I have to open everytime I work and am typically there until the entire second shift is there. I clean every inch of the restaurant and refill everything I'm supposed to plus more. And most of the time, I'm by myself. While I'm doing all of this, I'm still paying attention to my tables and trying to make sure everything is okay with their food, refilling their drinks and bringing them anything they may need. I also engage in a conversation with each of my tables to let them know that I do care about them and that I am not just doing what my boss tells. And, without a doubt, my guest usually only leave me about 5-10% or $2 on $100 bill (yeah I was real happy with that one), or they leave me nothing at all.

      I bust my butt trying to make everyone happy. I do it with a smile, no matter what is going on in my life or how tired I am, I still work hard to make everyone happy. And tables don't even leave 15%!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great article. With the food costs in the USA paying servers minimum wage would raise menu prices by quite a lot. I wouldn't be surprised if a $8 burger jumped up to $15. Mainly because servers are 95% of a restaurants employee's. So to get the same service the restaurant would require the same amount of servers but at a much higher cost. I don't know about you but I would rather pay $8 for a burger plus $1.20 tip (if you only tip 15%) than paying $15 for the same burger with no tip. Also employer's are required to make up the minimum wage difference but most of the time it is based on a 40 work week or a 2 week pay period. So a server could make $3 an hour for one shift but not every shift will be that bad (if so the restaurant well soon go out of business). That being said, if a server only makes $5 an hour for an entire pay period or work week then the restaurant is required by law to make up the difference. Hope that was clear. I believe everyone should work one week in the service industry to see what it's like. If you still don't feel like you should tip after that then you didn't work hard enough.

      Not everyone is going to tip, I know that, so I will continue to tip at least 20% to make up for them.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I would rather tip the cook who made the meal than the gold digger that is overly annoying, bothering me every three minutes trying to get more money.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Josh: You can't be serious - 10% for a BAD waiter? No way man! If the waiter is bad, they get nothing. Why on earth would you pay a gratuity to someone for not doing their job? That is madness!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What is the issue? Tips are not guaranteed, they are discretionary and to be paid only when the service is so good that you want to reward the waiter. This sense of entitlement to a ten percent gratuity is ridiculous.

      You don't tip the person selling you shoes, so why should you with food?

      The cost of waiting staff should be borne by the restaurant in the same way as all other businesses build this cost in.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      If you can't afford to be waited on at a food at Mc Donalds!!!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I think agricultural workers also get a different treatment in minimum wage terms

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent: too bad waitresses in the U.S. couldn't make $14 an hour as they supposedly do in New Zealand. I wonder what an average bill for two is in that country.

      It's good to tip. it makes the economy go around.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I know the law requires the employer to the difference. It is the law. However since the price of just about everything down to the air we breathe has gone up so has the percentage of what a person should tip. It is now 18%. But the minimum wage of the server is $2.13.

      However, even though it is the law most servers are unaware and the employers somehow have found loopholes around it. I'm not sure exactly how, but I know as a server/bartender there have been days where my tips didn't average minimum wage and my employer did not make the difference. My question is with it being the law, how do I get my employer to pay me correctly?

      For example, I was called into work last night. I worked 2.5 hours, and had 1 table. That table left me $4.80. Then I was sent home. How will my employer get away with not paying me minimum wage this pay period? And how do I get them to follow the law???? Sigh, tired of the serving world, over worked and under appreciated..

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't understand all the people saying waiters got it bad. Ive been a waiter for 6 years at 3 very different restaurants. From slow to very busy, cheap and expensive...and i have never wanted to go back to an hourly wage job. On bad nights i still end up making 8-9/hr. 5 hr shift make $35 tip+$2.50/hr=$9.50/hr..and $35 is a very slow night anywhere you work. most restaurants will get you around $50-$80 a shift with weekends getting you well over $100 a lot of the time.

      Im not saying us waiters don't work for this much money, actually we work our asses off and deal with the consequences of things that aren't our fault in the first place. But even shitty customers tip 95% of the time if you try your best to make it up to them

      General Rule of Tipping

      BAD Waiter: 10%

      OK Waiter: 15%

      GOOD Waiter: 20%

      AMAZING: Any amount you want

    • cobrien profile image


      7 years ago from Georgia

      Well said!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      HI guys

      looking at all these comments, and I'm actually quite surprised that the people who work in the " hospitality" industry expect tips , obviously its an american thing cos we sure don't tip here in new zealand neither do we feel obligated to, ,,, if you think your job pays crap go find one that pays better, or get educated get qualified, waitressing here in New zealand is considered something that a student would do ,,, mind you our minimun wagte here is almost 14 dollars so why you'd do a job like that then hope that you get tipped big ,,, is beyond me ,,,

    • catwhitehead profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      That's interesting, Tim--when I waitressed years ago my boss never made up the difference so that my wages were equal to the minimum wage. The servers I spoke to didn't mention this--how about it, servers? Do your employers pay the difference if your hourly pay plus tips do not equal minimum wage?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi i'm 17 and been waitressing for almost a year now and i agree with the article it is hard work especially when i am trying to ulp hold a 3.8 gpa and taking 6 out of my 8 classes are advanced it really sucks when i work late on a school night and get better tips from jerks who stare at my boobs and look me up and down but when i accually do my job correctly i get jipped 5 dollars...i have had old men try to slap my butt when i am at a neiboring table taking an order when i just checked on them two seconds ago so please just give us our 15% and be on ur way and stop complaining to us about ur food or bill because we really cant control anything

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      whoever wrote this is an idiot... YES! Servers need to be tipped. NO! They are not "exempt" from minimum wage standards... they are paid on a "tipped wage" system in which their tips will cover the minimum wage requirement or the employer must pay the difference (if their wages plus allocated tips do not exceed the state requirement they boss pays the difference). NO! Restaurant owners don't report their tips as 15%... they report them as whatever the server decides to claim. If the server only claims 5% in tips, then that's all they claim and all that is reported to the IRS. It is important that servers know that the IRS isn't stupid and will track their credit card tips vs cash tips. If that is off by more than 3%, there's a good chance the server will get audited since you can't manipulate credit card tips. With all of those inaccuracies corrected, the rest of the article is spot on and servers should always be taken care of. I make it a point to tip at least 20% - that's when I get bad service. Guess that comes from marrying a former server and working in the industry myself for the last 18 years!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      you should tip your waiters even alittle because they work hard for you and most of the time it is not there fault if the food is late or if you are not happy it is the chefs, so don't take it out on the servers, they still deserve what they deserve. its not usually there fault.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      As someone who's not American I've always found the logic behind tipping a bit silly. Someone should form a union of waiters and waitresses so that these people can collectively stand up for themselves and put an end to this decaying cycle. I'm sure that if many were to join this union they have their voices heard by other people.

      Who knows, if you get enough people in a union it could very well be an election issue sometime.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i am a server and every single aspect of this article makes complete sence. when others can go out and get drunk while i cannot even pay my phone bill or fill my gas tank, and i took great care of them, and got them that alcohol, it's very degrading. would they like to struggle while they open they're bills so i can sit there and order them around and get drunk then leave them $5??? i don't think so. so next time u go out, think about how u would feel, i guarantee u, u'd change ur mind.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      To the writer: I can speak for 100% of the staff at my restaurant that we appreciate you so much for writing this. Both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer within 6 months of each other & at 16 it was my responsibility to play caregiver & mom to my younger sister at times. Over the last 4 years I've been working in restaurants because without a college degree, which I'm presently working on & using my TIPS to pay for, its hard to find many other options that'll offer the same pay & benefits. It's a tough lifestyle & one that's not meant for most. All I ask is for those of you that don't believe tipping is necessary to stay at home. Many of us are putting ourselves through college & are trying to bust our butts waiting on rude people to do it. So once again, tip your servers. That might be your son/daughter one day trying to make a better life for themselves.. You'd want me to tip them appropriately wouldn't you?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What people don't seem to understand is that there are people with degrees working in grocery stores these days, people that are fully qualified for a job of higher social status but jobs are scarce these days. It seems people look down on the people serving them. For the people who think they're throwing a bone to the lowly person serving them...remember this: A server is taxes on a certain percentage of their sales. So, when a customer comes in and decides that the service wasn't worth the "extra" actually cost them money...they are being taxed on their already small minimum wage check in order to serve you. Does that sound fair? Yes, times are tough and people have kids but remember that the people who are serving your meal have kids too. They are there to make a living not just there for the priveledge of waiting on you. Keep that in mind when you are critiquing their abililties and looking for an excuse not to tip.

    • Writen4u profile image


      8 years ago

      Mel22 and Springboard have good points on this. I would consider myself a good tipper, but I do not "owe" the waiter anything and it seems that waiters and waitresses do not understand this.

      I believe the waiters that don't look at their tips till the end of the night make the most money because they are giving great customer service no matter what the outcome.

      I also understand that the economy sucks right now and a lot of people can't just go get a better job, but I think its ludicrous to state that people are paying more money to go to work than they are making. If that was the case then they can go to any McDonalds and make $7.28 an hour.

      Also if an individual is working for a restaurant that is claiming 15% then they need to talk to the owner. The highest a restaurant has ever claimed for me was 7%. That is working for big chains and small pizza joints.

      Tipping has became a hot little debate subject and I personally think if someone wants a tip then they need to earn it not expect it.

      Good write up though.

      Check out my little rant on tipping to.

    • Springboard profile image


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      This is a tough subject because tipping has become so much a part of the restaurant business. To be honest, I'm not all too sure exactly WHY that is. Somewhere along the line it's become customary for a customer to pay directly the wages of the servers in the restaraunts he patronizes. It is my opinion that restaraunts should be held to the same standard as any other small business. And when servers are unhappy with their workload, their wage, or their benefits on the job, then they should take those issues up with their employers. It is one of the few professions that ever makes an argument for any of the aforementioned causes. It's not my responsibility to directly pay for the overhead and pay for the wages of a company's employees. I expect to do this in the pricing of items I purchase. That's built in. If I go to Wal-Mart I know that I'm paying for my item, but I'm also paying for the shiny sign, the lights, AND worker's wages. I don't anticipate heading to the register and paying more on top of my bill.

      That said. It is the way it is now. But I have very strict rule about tipping. If you are incompetent you'll get nothing. Poor service will earn 10%. Standard service will receive 15%. Exemplary service will earn 20%, and believe me that's rarely given out.

      None of this is to pay any disrespect to any servers. But just a reminder that it's not the customer's responsibility to fight for what's right for the worker's themselves. In other words, servers are barking up the wrong tree. If servers started picketing and walking off the job I think a clear message would be sent to not only the employers, but the customers as well.

    • mel22 profile image


      8 years ago from ,

      I';m actually amazed they are allowed to get away without paying minimum wage. The argument about food prices going higher is probably true but the lower cost meal plus the 15 percent tip equals the same. as the higher price meal. I think tips should be done away with, pay the bottom line and let the waitresses receive a regular pay check with evaluations based on the peoples dining service . Maybe leave quick comment cards at the tables and a drop boz near the register, and if the person feels you did an exceptionally good job then they can leave a tip. I'm pretty poor right now so i leave 10% but now that I know 15% is what the tax reports are done with i'll leave the 15%. Good article.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      9 years ago

      it's so important to tip and since moving here I've had to remind people to give tips.

      For some reason people think these workers are getting minimum wage.

      It would help if the laws were changed so that they could get the minimum

      The argument to raising their wages is that the costs of a meal will increase.

      If the public is expected to make up for the gap in wages,then we already are paying more.

      lets change the laws on these low paying jobs!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I agree that a lot of what a server does goes unnoticed by the customer. At my restaurant I'm expected to be the hostess, server, and busser. I'm expected to keep the entire dining room spotless. I'm expected to run the cash register and answer the phones. I'm expected, at times, to work the cut table and prepare your food for presentation. And if I have time - and believe me when I say I get complained at if I don't have time - I'm expected to do dishes. I make 2.65 an hour. And it especially upsets me when we have a buffet which we do on weekday mornings. I understand that I'm not doing a lot for you. I do what I can; I prebus your table so you're not sitting there with smelly tables and inquire about the quality of the food. I refill your drinks and bring your kids crayons.

      Please tip your servers.

      (And working in a pizza place, tip your drivers too! They're really getting screwed over!)

    • vannarith profile image


      9 years ago


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