The whole topic of how much to tip has been done to death in my opinion, but are “the rules” always the same for everyone? To be honest, I still don’t completely understand the whole notion. The concept of tipping always makes me feel awkward and nervous no matter what I do, and I simply wish restaurants would pay their employees a little more if that’s what the free market determines a good waiter or waitress is worth, and then pass the costs on to me as a consumer through the cost of my meals. Because there is this weird, grey area of compensation right now, it makes it very difficult to determine what is fair, especially when you are a poor student. If you have student loans and are rationing your discount beer should you still be expected to tip? On the other hand, I’ve heard it convincingly argued that if you can’t afford to leave a tip you probably shouldn’t be going out to eat.
Don’t Eat Yellow Snow?
In my anecdotal experience, I find it interesting to note that students are often pretty good tippers, and if we measured tips on a per income basis, I’m sure students would be near the top. This is likely due to a couple of reasons. First, I think it’s because so many students work in the service industry themselves and have empathy for others that have to do so (and if they don’t, most students personally know several friends that do). The other main reason likely has to do with the fact that students in general just don’t value money much because they live in this hyper-inflated world of student loans and debt to be paid back in some vaguely defined place called the future. This type of mindset obviously makes leaving a generous tip a little easier to stomach, especially when juxtaposed against someone working to pay their bills and make their payments.
Since I’ve never worked a position in the service industry that received tips I can’t really comment on if the expectations are different for people of different ages or income levels (maybe some of you out there can enlighten me). I would think it would be difficult to tell if someone was employed full time or not in many
situations, and consequently making assumptions about how much someone “should” leave is probably pretty difficult. Should this make students feel guilty for not leaving a tip since they are almost assuredly leaving behind a disappointed waiter/waitress?
Tippin’ Ain’t Easy
Of course eventually we come full circle back to the idea of how much should anyone tip, and how the heck did this whole thing start anyway? If tipping is truly done to reward above average service, then why is it now expected? Also, my question for all of my server friends is, “Who decides what jobs deserve a tip and which do not?” Why does someone stocking shelves or working the till at Wal-Mart not deserve a tip, but the waitress does? Naturally when I ask questions like this I am told I must be cheap, and a jerk, and that I just don’t get it. I’m not sure why enquiring as to the nature of compensation levels at various jobs makes me a jerk (especially when some types of compensation such as tips are tax free, while others are not), but it seems to be a pretty broad consensus across the serving community that anyone that questions the concept of tipping is a cheap asshole. If that is true, then do students get any leeway at all?
I guess I can see both sides of the equation. Restaurant owners can’t just unilaterally change the pay structure for the entire industry, so as long as people are used to seeing low prices on menus, and then adding a tip on at the end, instead of simply paying what the service costs, then tipping will remain the preferred means of compensating waiters and waitresses. On the other hand, assuming that a tip will be given for below average service is ridiculous in my mind, and even more so if the tip is going to go on your credit card balance or line of credit. Does anyone else out there experience this weird sensation when the bill comes and you feel that you will be judged by what kind of tip your provide regardless of the level of service you received?