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Tip Sensitivity Training: Why You Should Be Tipping Your Underpaid Server

Tip Sensitivity Training: Why You Should Be Tipping Your Underpaid Server


Brynn Talks about Tip Ediquette

Brynn Talks about Tip Ediquette

As a server, I should be making a lot more money than I do .However, thanks to a wide range of reasons; tipping 20% is still the exception and not the rule. Previous misconceptions about servers have led people to believe that bad service is intentional, often resulting in poor tipping habits. Due to the current economic climate, thousands of college graduates have no other option than to earn a living in the service industry.  Combined with a desire to remain profitable and stay open, the standard level of service in restaurants across the country has improved. And yet, tipping habits have not.

Why I’ll Never Work for Anyone Again

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales are projected to total $660.5 billion for 2013, demonstrating that Americans are willing to spend their hard earned money on food but not on tips. Because if everyone tipped around 20%, the 13.1 million servers across the country would accumulate over $1.2 trillion in tips. My math stops here, but I think its safe to say, there aren’t many, if any, rich servers.

The economy is an easy scapegoat for bad tippers. However, in my experience; poor tipping habits are the product of selfishness and ignorance.  Yes, the economy is responsible for smaller budgets but the numbers prove that people are not willing to give up the experience and convenience of dining out. But instead of choosing less expensive entrees or going out one less time a week, people selfishly accommodate their budgets through the tip to the server, because this is the part of their experience that affects them the least. Less offensive, but just as damaging, is the practice of ignorantly justifying a bad tip because of poor service.  Tight budgets are making people less empathetic and more likely to look for reasons to decrease the tip.

I’m 25, Now What? Quarter Life Crisis

Servers are working hard to ensure that you feel good about spending your hard earned money. It is a selfish and ignorant decision to reward that hard work with a bad tip. This problem would be solved (and so would world peace) if everyone was required to work in the service industry for at least one week. Much to the disappointment of bad tippers everywhere, I was unable to get this enforced. Servers are trained to provide a pleasantly memorable experience to everyone they serve. But are people trained to be good guests? I think if there was a poll, most servers would agree, a lot of people are very difficult to wait on. Given all the training servers have to go through for a job they are more than likely over qualified for, maybe people would benefit from a servers perspective.

Tipping Sensitivity Training

Many people are under the false impression that despite having never worked in any type of service industry, the Food Network has clued them in all things restaurant and service related. Unless you are willing to try serving for even just one day, please accept that you do not and will not ever understand. More so now than ever, people are relying on tips to make a living; so despite what you might believe, most people are striving to provide you with perfect service. Often, things that are out of your servers control will be misconstrued as bad service. However, there are times when unfortunately, you just get really bad service.


The most important thing to remember is just like you rely on your paycheck to survive, servers rely on tips. Similarly, they should be earned. After this, you should be able to differentiate between bad service and busy service.

Why 20% Should Be Everyone’s Baseline Tip

  1. In general, a servers base pay is $2.13 an hour.
  2. Depending on the restaurant, most servers will never take home 100% of the tips they make. There are other employees (food runners, service bar, the host staff) that will get a share of their tips. This is called tip share.
  3. Often, tip share is based on a servers total food sales. This means that even if they received no tip at all from some tables, they still have to tip out on those sales. Basically, if you leave no tip, the server just paid to wait on you.

Outstanding service deserves more. Bad service deserves less. Based on the standards restaurants are trying to hold their servers to, bad service should not be something you frequently encounter. Bad service and busy service can look similar. If it’s a busy shift, look around and see if you see your server stopping by a lot of tables. If that’s the case, try and be a little understanding that your drink is getting low. More than likely, there are guests engaging in irritating behaviors described below. If its not busy, and you never see your server…

There are a lot of things going on in the back of the restaurant that servers are responsible for despite the popular opinion that we are back there doing nothing. Just keep that in mind if you need something and your server isn’t readily available. Attitude(caring/helpful but appears busy or lethargic/lack of empathy) can determine if you think you’re getting bad service or busy service.

When Reality Strikes, The Post Grad Blues

Irritating Guest Behaviors

Although they might seem insignificant, here are some behaviors to avoid that drive servers crazy no matter where you are eating and what kind of response or reaction to expect

  1. Don’t give me drink order and ask for peanuts/bread/rolls before you even allow me to say my name.

That’s fine, but since my name isn’t important, I won’t be repeating it and I don’t answer to finger snapping, keys jingling or hand waving.

  1. Don’t try to get my attention by snapping your fingers, jingling your keys, or waving your hand.

I am required to introduce myself. Either you weren’t listening or you interrupted me. If you ask, I will repeat my name…or a fake one.

  1. Don’t tell me you and your 5 guests are ready to order and then you aren’t.

I have no problem answering your questions. And as much as you believe you are…you are not my only table. But unfortunately, I do not have time to list the 12 sides and 12 salad dressings to Every. Single. Person.  I will point them out to you on the menu and tell you I’ll be right back. There is someone snapping her fingers at me.

  1. If I ask you if you would like an appetizer or a starter, don’t ask for the free bread/peanuts/rolls.

Appetizers are something you pay for that not everyone gets. The bread/peanuts/rolls are guaranteed…but it might take longer for you to get them now.

  1. Don’t hold my table for 3 hours, especially on a Friday or Saturday.

I appreciated your business but Starbucks has nicer chairs. Unless you want to pay rent. And in that case, its 20-30 an hour. Which is what I could have made if YOU HADNT BEEN TALKING ABOUT NOTHING 3 HOURS AFTER YOU ATE! And no, you will not be getting a refill. The coffee is cold because I poured it 3 hours ago.

  1. Don’t berate me because your favorite dish was removed from the menu.

Although my server apron and matching staff uniform makes me look dignified, I actually have no direct connection to the important person who makes those decisions. But yes, I will make sure that the VIP gets your complaint Mr. Smith

  1. Don’t tell that I cooked your entree wrong.

I’m sorry I cooked it wrong. I forgot about it while I was out in the dining room waiting on you.

  1. Don’t hand me a credit card and a gift card and tell me to do the gift card first.

SHUT UP!!!! AND THIS WHOLE TIME….I’ve been running the credit card for a random amount hoping that the gift card would have enough to cover the balance! THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION.


Like any profession, waiting on tables is not something everyone can do. The communication skills I have learned are invaluable and it has given me a deeper appreciation for genuinely decent people. Most importantly I have learned how just a few dollars can make or break you. The next time you go out to eat and you think about leaving $8 instead of $10, ask yourself if you’ll ever miss that $2. Despite good service, your server may have been getting under-tipped all day and its not their fault you really didn’t need to come out and eat today. All those $2 dollars add up fast.

Because I am a server, there are a lot of things I do, but really don’t need to be spending money on. However, every time I consider keeping that extra $2 or $3 dollars, I have to remind myself that it was my decision to eat out and my server shouldn’t be punished for my irresponsibility.

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  • Turd Ferguson says:

    What a whiny-ass server. You get no tip. Next time, if you want my money, don’t start by demanding it and finish by telling me what to do. Remember – it’s you who wants something from me, not the other way around.

  • Springs1 says:

    “waving your hand.”

    There’s NOTHING wrong with this since no one is going to *YELL* across the restaurant.

    ” Don’t hand me a credit card and a gift card and tell me to do the gift card first.”

    Actually a server we had messed up that one. Also, it’s not always written in stone. Some people may want to keep part of the gift card to give such as if the gift card has $50 left, they may only want to say take $25 off, so that way they can give the $25 for a gift. You don’t know unless yo have COMMUNICATION what the customer wants.

    “If I ask you if you would like an appetizer or a starter, don’t ask for the free bread/peanuts/rolls.”

    We can ask for what we want. I ask for that stuff when GREETED.

  • angelica says:

    Sorry, but not all waiters/waitresses deserve a good amount of tips. I always tip even if the sservice sucks. However, if you do suck do not expect me to tip over 10dollars. I have tipped over 50 dollars for a 100 dollar meal before for excellent service. If I see you are excellent and love your job I will be more inclined to tip way over the minimum. If you are lazy (busy night or not) and if you act like you are giving US a favor instead of looking at it as your JOB then don’t expect anything. *rolls* Boo hoo you make 2 bucks an hour, but that’s your friggin choice– if you want more then go work for it duh. You don’t deserve tips for being a shitty server. Sorry

  • Wastrel says:

    “Combined with a desire to remain profitable and stay open, the standard level of service in restaurants across the country has improved.”
    Sentences like these (not to mention your attitude toward the people who pay you by tipping you) are why you don’t have a better job, girl.

  • jake3_14 says:

    Let’s just end the tipping BS, shall we? Just tack an 18% gratuity on to everyone’s bill, share the revenue evenly among employees, and be done with it. It’s working at the Linkery in San Diego. http://tinyurl.com/klmfu3p

  • Bob says:

    I almost always tip, as long as service is at least halfway decent. I understand busy waiting rooms and wait staff working on their feet for hours on end. This rant that has been disguised as an article is simply ridiculous. If I tip or don’t tip, that’s my decision. It’s not required. If you are employed by a business that pays you $2 an hour, well, that’s your situation, not mine. I know jobs are hard to find, I myself am an unemployed, retired veteran. I searched for a job for 6 months that paid more than $15/hr, and turned up empty handed. I went back to college, and I’m MAKING money to sit in a classroom and learn. There are all kinds of grants and aid out there for everything under the sun, being a woman, being a single parent, being a war veteran, having family that was in combat, special grants for specialty fields, just to name a few. I make my $15/hr to get smarter, which will eventually give me the tools to get a job that pays more than $2/hr. I’m no fan of the current presidential administration, but under his leadership, a number of educational opportunities have arisen. If you’re not taking advantage of it, then you deserve to live on $2 an hour, just scraping by. If you think you’re not smart enough, or school oriented enough, you need to look into a community college. Some of the dumbest people I have met were at my community college, and many of them graduated. If you take the learning like a job (since it will be your source of income), then you’ll be able to do well. It’s amazing the doors that open up, even just finishing your Associates. Completing a Bachelor’s puts you on par with that middle income family. Sure, it doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it puts you over a lot of other candidates. Working a Master’s in the right field pretty much sets you up for a six figure income. So why are you still waiting tables? Why haven’t you talked to student aid at your local college? Do you like working an under-appreciated job? Does it make you feel good to decide what bills you are going to pay, and which ones you are going to let slide this month? For those who are waiting tables while in college, I ask you to go do some research. There is enough money floating around to make being a student a full time job for years on end, with no other income, go find them. It takes effort, and a lot of letter writing, but it’s easier than waiting tables. I’m not getting as much as I could right now, and I know this. One girl in my English class two semesters ago has a baby daughter, and no man in the house. She was clearing about $4000/month, plus paid tuition. Wait staff, you’re not stupid. You’re not incapable of raising your standards. You are however, the only one who can increase your standard of living. You have to give a damn about the condition of your life enough to make a change. So my tip to you tonight is to get educated, raise your standard, and stop begging me for tips. You can have any career you desire. Is waiting tables that career?

  • Sean says:

    In general, I can’t help agreeing with you in principle. I never did work as FOH staff, though I spent a couple of years in the dishwashing and then kitchen areas of a family-owned restaurant. Just wondering what you guys think of this piece that’s been published over the last month or so: http://jayporter.com/dispatches/observations-from-a-tipless-restaurant-part-1-overview/

    Any interest in working for a place like that?

  • the law says:

    low skilled job = low skilled wages. you take orders and carry a plate 20 ft.

    You can argue all you want but the invisible hand of the market decides all.

  • Tima says:

    Should I call the WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMBULANCE for you?

  • Jim says:

    If you seriously think 20% of $660 billion in sales equals $1.2 trillion in tips then there is a good reason you can’t find any other work.

  • David says:

    “According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales are projected to total $660.5 billion for 2013, demonstrating that Americans are willing to spend their hard earned money on food but not on tips. Because if everyone tipped around 20%, the 13.1 million servers across the country would accumulate over $1.2 trillion in tips. My math stops here, but I think its safe to say, there aren’t many, if any, rich servers.”

    Oh, don’t worry. Nobody believe your math went past there. Actually it stopped with the first calculation. Somehow you think that 20% of the sales is more than the original sales? $660.5 billion times 20% is $132 billion. $132 billion split among 13.1 million servers is $10,083.97 for each of you, if your starting numbers are correct. That wouldn’t even bring you up to minimum wage if you were working full time for that, even including the less than $3/hour minimum tipped wage. Yet, you say you earn $20-$30 an hour per table while complaining about slow tables. If that is true, obviously you are tipped FAR better than what you are even claiming is your deserved 20%, and are seriously maligning some extremely generous customers.

    I would ask for your money back from UGA and GA State. You might get farther with them than you do by berating your customers.

  • Aaron says:

    I’ll tip 5% for bad service. 15% for average service. and 20% for good service. The great thing about a job is, if you don’t like the pay you can quit and get another one. Contrary to the sky is falling media reports, their are plenty of decent paying jobs out there if you are willing use your back and actually WORK. It is not society’s fault that you decided to major in a field that has absolutely no job outlook what so ever. Instead you could have learned a trade and made a decent living. Sorry that companies these days are not hiring philosophy majors and 18th century French lit majors. Quit martyring yourselves at Applebee’s and Outback learn some skills, get a job and let the teenagers wait tables.

  • Cher says:

    This is spot on. If people want to save 2 bucks, they can order a water instead of a soda. But skimping on the tip is unacceptable, ESPECIALLY in these hard economic times. We want to complain about income equality, but then we won’t even give 2-3 bucks to a hard working person who serves us food. This is the heart and soul of the economic crisis: the service industry people you interact with on a daily basis. You want to stiff THEM while complaining about how big business screws you over? It makes no sense to me.

    • Tima says:

      You, like the author of this diatribe, assume that all servers are great servers and “deserve” a great tip.

      It’s funny, the GOOD servers I know never complain about tips. The BAD servers are ones that go on rants like this, always crying “why don’t I make more money”.

      Wonder where the problem stems, the mass of people that you think don’t tip well or the individual server that complains?

  • Matt says:

    I understand a lot of what you are saying here, but you seem to think you earn your tips by walking in the door. Real sorry I didn’t catch your name in the 10 seconds I’ve known you, and sorry I don’t want to yell across a restaurant to get your attention. People are ridiculous in their expectations of servers, but you come across more than a little childish here. FYI about the credit card/ gift card thing, YOU may be competent, but that doesn’t make all servers the same. I have had, on a few occasions, the server goof this up. I did not get upset, or dock the tip as a result. People who say this to you have probably had the same experience. I think your argument about eat at home if you can’t afford tip funny, because if they do that you get nothing. I stand in awe at good servers. The ability to balance 10 plates on your arms and remember 5 jerks specific special orders is a marvel, but maybe the reason you aren’t getting good tips is your attitude toward your customers. I’m more than happy to cut a worn out server with too many tables a break, maybe you could do the same for people who are just trying to be polite.

    • Tima says:

      Not to mention, 99.9% of people going out to eat even CARE to know their servers name. They aren’t going there to meet a new friend, they are going there to eat.

      Sure, you can tell me your name but I won’t remember it and it doesn’t divert my attention to the fact that I WANT TO EAT.

      If it is a restaurant that serves bread or chips, GOOD SERVERS bring those to the table when they first come over to introduce themselves.

  • Janna zahorodniuk says:

    I have worked in hospitality for 18 years. I can read a table from 10 feet away and know if they want to laugh, learn about wine or be served and left alone. 20% for me on a bill is the norm. I expect it. My clients know to expect excellence from me. Good communication with my kitchen, menu knowledge and an accommodating attitude all bring my level of service to the forefront. I always know when someone is going to stiff me. They are the table that ignores you as you politely try and introduce yourself or your menu features for the day. They never look you in the eye because you are ” inferior”. They complain about food that was clearly demonstrated on the menu and don’t understand why you can’t have kitchen make them “a lasagna” in the fly. These people often have proportionately large amounts of jewellery dangling from their hands…in proportion to how many servers they’ve deliberately ripped off in order to pay down their Bentleys and tennis club memberships. The irony is that the best tippers (and its no coincidence the people servers love to serve the most) are often working class blue or white collar people who once had to hack it through one of the toughest industries around to make it out the other side and live a normal life. I haven’t had 2 weeks off of work together in over 5 years.
    I love what I do. Never spit in anyone’s food. But beware bad tipper. I know you. And everyone in that restaurant is watching you and waiting for you to make the same repeat mistake. And some servers do t possess the same ethos as I do about human biological matter in foodstuffs.
    Enjoy your meal.

  • Aaron says:

    You’re trying to take all the blame for bad tips off the servers and you just can’t do that. I don’t care if you had a bad day, check it at the door like everyone else has to do. And before someone goes crazy, yes, I have worked for tips myself. And I have also given no tip before. If my server is in an empty house and is too busy flirting with a bartender to bring the food I see sitting and never refills a single drink.. then yes. You won’t get tipped

  • […] RELATED: Tip Sensitivity Training: Why You Should Be Tipping Your Underpaid Server […]

  • Fayola Garcon says:

    I LOVE this article. No one can truly understand what FOH (front of house) staff members have to go through. If you’re planning a night to dine out on a budget, include the tip! It is absolutely rude, tasteless and selfish not to tip you’re waiter and/or bartender. The average pay for a bartender/ server in nyc is 5 bucks and hour. I’ve worked as a bartender for 2 years and on my worst nights (which was most nights) I would go home with only the $40 from the house in my pocket. On average I made between $80- $100 dollars a day and was lucky if I got more than 3 shifts a week. I never understood how people with even more responsibilities than me i.e. children, rent, car could get by on so little. It made me even more self conscience about my tipping. So tip whenever you should whenever you can, because your tip could mean the difference, in many cases, between whether someone and whoever they are responsible for, is having a hot meal for dinner or a bowl of cereal.

    • Bhop says:

      80-100 a day is not bad for a entry level low skill job. I work as a computer tech (have been for 3 years at the same place) and make 140 a day, If you only work 3 days, get a second job, or third.

      I have kitchen experience, worked for 5 years in the kitchen and started as a dishwasher. Also, the kitchen staff didn’t get tips, just the servers.