I thought about titling this letter “An Open Letter to Bad Tippers”, but didn’t want to discourage anyone from reading. I particularly didn’t want to discourage people who think they’re good tippers from reading, since I’ve come to the conclusion that the ONLY possible way that bad tippers can look me in the eye, engage with me in witty banter, and kindly thank me for good service and STILL tip me so poorly (or not at all), is that they mistakenly think that what they’re doing is socially acceptable.
I’ve been working as a server on and off for about 7 years. I have worked in fine dining, I have worked in amusement parks, I have worked over seas. I am a really good server. Not to toot my own horn but…TOOTA-FUCKING-LOO, I’m good at my job. I can tell when you’re thirsty; I’ll bring free refills before you ask. I know if your kids can’t wait any longer for their meals; I’ll bring over some bread or crackers from the kitchen. I am attentive, kind, and–above all–patient.
And let me tell you, teaching small children for four years has got NOTHING on you in the patience department. Imagine, if you will, that I have seven tables, all needing my attention, all wanting drinks, appetizers, and advice on the menu, or to order dessert or pay for their bill (all at once). Then, imagine that you aren’t sure what you’d like to order, but insist that I stand with you while you peruse the menu, trying to decide (“No, no, one second…hmmmm, lemme think. K, start at the other end of the table. Hmmm, no I’m still not sure! HAHA”). I have other customers, whose tips I depend on for my livelihood. If I cannot attend to their needs as well, you are screwing me by assuming that you’re my only care in the world.
This brings me to my point: tips. Servers in Ontario do not make minimum wage. The expectation is that customers, having received good service, will tip 15% of the total bill, thus bringing the server’s wage up to minimum. So, you see, when I provide you with good service, your tip still only ensures that I am making minimum wage. When you tip ten per cent, or nothing at all, I still have to share 3% of my total food sales with hostesses and bus boys, and 8% of my gross liquor sales with the bartender. This means that when you leave no tip at all, I am paying these other restaurant employees out of my own (less-than-minimum) wage. When you don’t tip me, or tip very little, it’s not as if I am losing out on a bonus. It’s as if I’m paying to serve you.
Please understand that if the service is poor, or if you’re unhappy with your experience, I don’t expect a tip. I understand that I have not made you happy and perhaps I haven’t earned a tip. I’m the first to admit when I haven’t done my job well; we all have off-days.
Last night, you sat at table 61. You sent your drink back twice, but you said the food was delicious. You argued about the price of the bill. You left no tip, and I was sympathetic to that; you weren’t completely happy with your experience, and despite my best efforts, that happens from time to time. But you know what really got to me? The way you flossed your teeth, at the table, after your meal. And when you walked away last night, I had to stay behind to clean up after you. I got to your table where I found–in all it’s disgusting glory–your used dental floss, sitting next to your crumpled napkin and your empty glass.
If your aim was to make me feel like your personal servant and slave, congratulations. You threw my dignity like a dog walker throws a stranger’s water bottle for a game of fetch. You really drove the point home with your biohazardous waste. Way to stick it to the franchise. I look forward to spitting in your food the next time I see you.
Yours in servitude,