I blog by day and wait tables in a New York City restaurant by night. I'm excited to bring you Served, dispatches from the front of the house. Enjoy!
Why is tipping such a touchy subject? Last week I shared a story about asking a group who had left a measly tip if everything was OK. It was the first and only time I have approached diners about a tip during my two years waiting tables. They told me they had made a mistake and left more cash.
Serious Eaters responded with a record 70-some comments, many of which were harshly disapproving. The incident itself felt unremarkable, yet still worth sharing—it was a sticky, uncomfortable situation, and I felt proud having handled it smoothly. The consensus seemed to be that I was not so smooth at all. In fact, I was way out of line.
I learned that many believe a server should never address a customer about a tip: “It’s just RUDE for a waiter to run back and question the tip amount or demand more, no matter how nicely you do it,” mirchi commented. Others chimed in to agree.
A few people declared that they would never return to my restaurant if they were in my guests’ shoes. That’s fine by me. No restaurant likes to host bad tippers. The vast majority of people do tip reasonably. It is a societal standard most of the population understands and abides by. If you are not one of those people, no waiter anywhere will want to wait on you. Even if you are exceedingly nice.
The Way it Works
Waiting tables is a job, not a hobby. In the U.S., we waiters make the bulk of our money from our tips. If diners spend a lot of money, tip decently, and if our tables flip, we have a lucrative night and a lucrative job. If not, we suffer. There will be good nights and bad nights (and good months and bad months), and we get this.