January 30, 2013

To tip or not to tip: service is the question for most

By Tyler Mercer–

At sit down restaurants, like above, should you tip in relation to the service or your personal idea of a standard tip?

I recently went to a nice Chinese restaurant on Bardstown Road to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We arrived a little late, within thirty minutes of the kitchen closing, but the manager handed us menus and seated us anyway. As we sat contemplating what we wanted to eat and chatting about whatever came to mind, the time between our arrival and our last chance to order before the kitchen closed was dwindling down steadily and without much notice from our party.

Our waiter, who, I must add, took a little too long to bring our drinks finally, came to our table to take our order. While we were going around the table placing our orders and adding or subtracting things from our meals, the manager very rudely barked at our waiter that the kitchen was about to close and we needed to hurry up. At first, I was simply taken aback that the manager would act so rudely to his employee at all, but especially in front of customers.

Up to this point, our waiter hadn’t really paid much attention to us and frankly wasn’t impressing me with his customer service skills. It was the end of the night, so I was willing to give him a little slack – even more willing after watching him get yelled at in front of everyone. He submitted our order and after another long wait, our food finally arrived. Sounds awesome, right? The food is here; we’re hungry and ready to eat. Wrong.

Not only did our food come out at different times, but the restaurant only brought us two bowls of rice for four people. When one of the people in my party asked when the rest of the rice was coming, our waiter told her that we were supposed to portion the rice between ourselves. It was our understanding that each meal included rice. Either way, I was wondering why any restaurant that was being run by intelligent people could possibly expect its patrons to not only share a small bowl of rice, but expected us to portion the rice out for ourselves.

This is a small issue in the big picture and I’m not too worried about it. However, it made me wonder something else. When other people tip their waiters, do they simply give them the percent that is socially acceptable for that time of day or do they let the waiter’s performance determine the amount?

When I was growing up, I watched my parents tip our waiters on what I assumed was their customer service skills. I can remember my mom saying something like, “She was on top of things tonight! She refilled our drinks without us asking and checked in a lot. Let’s tip her well.” While sometimes my dad would say that he wanted to write on the back of the receipt, “Here’s your tip: Get a new job.”

I know they always tipped our waiters, but it seemed that for a job well done, they were always more keen to tip a little extra because they thought our server deserved the extra. He or she had earned that money. If you worked in a furniture store that paid you partially on commission, you would work hard to sell a coffee table or couch. You knew you would have to earn that commission money. Now I know that most restaurants pay their waiters less than minimum wage and most of their earnings come from tips. I get that. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard for your money regardless.

Those who work in restaurants work a customer service position: you serve the patrons of your employer. If part of your pay is coming from the customer, it seems that everyone would treat the customers they are serving with care and respect. If not, why would you expect them to pay for unsatisfactory service? Would you do the same?

Now, take a look at the standard way of tipping. Say you have a general rule of thumb that you will tip 15 percent during the week, but 20 percent on weekends. This means that for a bill of $25, during the week the tip will only be $3.75 and on the weekend it would only be $5.

If you’re a waiter, you know that some nights you simply don’t have that many customers. If each table is only leaving the standard tip amount, you aren’t going to make much money at all. If you had the potential to make a tip of $10, wouldn’t you want to work as hard as you could to make sure you earned that $10 in the eyes of the customer? They will be the one giving you that money, so why is making sure they enjoy their meal such a big issue?

What about the people who simply are not satisfied with the service from their waiter? If they are angry enough, they might not leave you a tip at all, which could mean they won’t return to the restaurant.

So the question still stands: Do you tip in relation to service or your own personal idea of a standard tip? Final Jeopardy: What is both? Servers need tips in order to keep a roof over their head sometimes, but I think that if that is the case they should be willing to earn their money. So while I support tipping everyone, I can’t help but keep their service in mind when deciding whether to leave a few singles or a five.

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Photo: Arza Barnett/courtesy of the Courier Journal

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