Sometimes It’s NOT All About The Benjamins.

As a waitress my income relies on people tipping appropriately. Across the United States a standard tip for a “job well done” is 15% of the total of your bill. Typically people are pretty generous tippers where I work and I always strive to excel at my serving job in hopes that it’ll reflect on the tip line at the end of my guest’s time in my section.

You see, serving is a lot like running your own miniature business within a larger corporate business. Let me try to break it down for y’all who have never waitressed before. Each day your server is assigned a section of tables. (The number of tables in each section is determined by how well the server performs and how many other servers are working that night.)

So let’s say your server has a section with five tables. Each table in that section you’re essentially “renting” from the main company and you try to make as much money as you can off those five tables during your shift by “flipping” them. (The more tables you can have in your section during your shift the better. In order to have more tables you have to turn them over or “flip” them. More flipping = more tipping) At the end of your shift most places require you to tip out bussers and bartenders based on your total sales. (That’s what I equate to “renting” your section out for your shift.)

In order for the server to profit they must make more money than they have to tip out. This is where is can get tricky. Let’s say a table had a $100 tab with their server and for whatever reason they didn’t leave a tip. Where I work 4% goes to the bartender and 4% goes to the bussers and hosts. If you add that up that’s $8 that your server just PAID OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKET for you to sit there and enjoy a meal so they are expecting you to tip 15% = $15 so that they still make a profit off of serving you. (PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND WHEN YOU GO OUT TO EAT)

However, I am also here to tell you how it’s NOT always about the tip and how I was reminded of that recently.

There is an older gentleman (and I mean waaay old) that I served a few months back who sat in my section for three hours and only ordered a side of French fries and a Dr. Pepper. He sat in my section for three hours and had a tab that came up to about five bucks. (Typically waitresses expect the customer to factor the amount of time spent in their section into the tip. Because remember, less flipped tables = less tabs to be tipped on). In this particular case I was expecting a $5 tip to go along with his $5 tab because (just being totally honest here) three hours is a long time to wait on someone.

Much to my surprise after the customer left there was no cash tip left on the table and the tip line was crossed out on the receipt. I found myself getting upset until I flipped the receipt over and there I found a note in place of my tip that thanked me for hard work, kindness, and for my positive attitude. You see – this man had just lost his sister to cancer and he wasn’t really coming into the restaurant to eat.. he was coming in as a way to escape the shitty reality of just having lost his sister to a shitty disease and I helped him escape that for a few hours on a random Monday afternoon through telling jokes, listening to him when he wanted to share memories of his sister with me, and encouraging him that he would see his sister again someday in the future. How can I be mad I had to pay a whole .40 cents for him to sit there.. when in my heart I genuinely know that I helped turn this guys day around – even if only for a few hours?

Now this customer comes in every other week to see me and we are on a first name basis. I’ve gotten to watch him heal through his sister’s passing, I’ve gotten to celebrate with him on the birth of his newest grand baby (he always has pictures and stories about his grandkids to share with me), and I’ve had the opportunity to exchange stories, advice, and prayers with this gentleman. Each time he never tips and never once have I felt as though I had been stiffed.

There are plenty of people who come in and don’t tip. Most of them I want to follow out into the parking lot and yell the amount of money I just spent out of my own pocket for them to sit there and enjoy a nice meal. Shoot – sometimes I even want to trip them on their way out the door. (I would never ever ever ever EVER do that in a million years though, so don’t worry).

It can be really suck the joy out of your job when someone stiffs you. Sometimes that tip determines whether or not I get to eat dinner or fill my tank up on the way home from work. I will admit I’ve cried over tables not tipping me, I’ve gotten angry, I’ve wanted to quit. But at the end of the day there are plenty more people who DO tip generously and so it evens out for the customers, like my regular, who tips me in good conversation, encouragement, & serves as a good reminder that life is just way too short to worry about things you can’t change.

So to all my fellow servers out there – keep in mind the next time you serve “that one table who never tips” that there may be more to the table than just their wallet. Get to know them. Make it your goal to find out how they tip you in another sense that isn’t monetary value. Maybe they’re special needs and going out to eat alone is their only sense of feeling independent. Maybe they are lonely and rely off limited – dwindling social security checks month to month and you are the only time they get to enjoy the company of others outside their home. You just never know ones story unless you make it a point to know. I can’t promise it will pay your bills but I can promise it’ll mend your character.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way shape or form advocating that you don’t tip your waitress simply because y’all had a good conversation. When you go out to eat – please still take care of your waitress and keep in mind they live off of what you leave behind. I was just trying to point out that sometimes it’s more about helping other’s than selfishly filling your own pockets.

Much love and positivity,

Ashlyn Sullivan

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