Waiting for you

Think economic woes are hitting your wallet hard? Try working for tips for a living.

I am a server in a local restaurant and bar, and I am writing with the hope that my letter might make more people in the community think a little harder when it is time to tip your waiter or waitress.

I know that times are tough on everyone right now, but for us servers, times have been really rough lately. Did you know that most restaurants only pay us a wage of $2.13 per hour? That means that we are depending on your tips. Your generosity and monetary appreciation (or lack thereof) for our service either makes or breaks our day at work. Lately, most of my and my fellow servers’ days at work have, sadly, been break-type days, and our wallets are feeling the pinch. In the last several weeks, most of us have seen our tips drop by half or even more, and not for lack of customers. Yes, business has slowed a little, but the restaurant where I work still has a waiting list for tables most nights. People just aren’t tipping like they used to, or they aren’t tipping at all.

Imagine if your income suddenly and unexpectedly dropped by half or more. This is what many servers are experiencing these days. Many of us have kids to feed, and all of us have bills to pay. And the restaurant does not provide a steady hourly rate to back us up if we don’t make the tips we need. So please try to think of your server, when he or she takes the time to work hard for you, by considering the following things when deciding how much to tip:
• The expected tip is 15 percent of the bill. Please plan to leave at least this much for our service. Otherwise you have essentially asked us to work for you for nothing. Would you be happy to work for nothing?
• If you cannot afford the tip, but still want the restaurant food, consider takeout. Same food, without the need to tip.
• If you sit at one of our tables for more than an hour or so, please leave more than the expected 15 percent. Think about it: If you sit there taking up one of my tables for four hours, yet only leave me 15 percent of your bill, you have just cost me perhaps three or four times that tip amount by preventing me from turning the table once per hour. Please think about compensating me for that potential loss, as well as for my time spent waiting on you.
• We remember you when you tip well, and this will ensure that you get great service every time. Conversely, we also remember you when you don’t tip so well.

Please remember these things when it’s time to pay the bill at your favorite restaurant—and thanks!

— Sabina Ronson

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9 thoughts on “Waiting for you

  1. Liz

    AGREED. Not to mention many restaurants follow a tip share program to pay their host staff, bussers and bar staff, which means the server is essentially paying for them to work there out of the tips they earned.

    The restaurant I work at also charges a small fee for all tips made on credit card charges to pay for use of the credit card machine. Ridiculous.

  2. dave

    you both make reasonable, valid points, but most waitresses I know are single, lifestyle hipsters who spend most their cash on evening drinks and expensive apartments. The ones I know personally bring in pretty good money every day, and often make more than most folks I know. Not to say either of you fall into this category, so dont take it all personal. It’s just hard for me to feel sorry for a waitress in a town like this.

  3. Leigh

    Dave, most servers in Asheville struggle to make a living wage on gratuities ‘in a town like this’. Some locales do yield a higher check average on which gratuities are based but these positions are hard to come by. Please factor in that tourist driven service economies like Asheville are cyclical – it can very much be feast or famine. Also consider that these jobs rarely if ever come with ‘benefits’ such as healthcare, vacations, personal leave, etc. If a server or their kid gets sick and they can’t cover their shift, they’re s**t out of luck.

    Waiting tables is noble work and can make or break someone’s special evening. Thanks to all of you who do this service with a smile day in and day out!

  4. Liz

    I understand that point- I know a good many of those as well. It’s almost like the giving money to people on the street- you take the chance that they’re going to use it for alcohol or cigarettes or maybe just possibly they are going to buy a meal with it because they are starving. Either way, the waitress is providing you a service, and if it is done well, she should be compensated accordingly. If you (in general) aren’t willing to follow this, go somewhere that doesn’t require a service staff.

  5. This letter seemed a little whiny to me, the author has posted unread rules that apply to tips, 15% expected tip more than an hour 20%. Tips should be earned there is no expected tip, I routinely tip 20% for good service, 0% for bad service. The letter writer seems to think that the patron is responsible to pay the server, it is not. Talk to your employer he is the one paying you a ridiculous wage and hoping that I the patron are going to subsidize his employees.

    Fact, most waitstaff do quite well with their tips and they also do not report the income for tax reasons (wish I could do that)

    The waitstaff population needs to get together and ensure that restaurant owners realize that they are responsible for paying a living wage not patrons.

    In Europe and by that matter most of the world do not enjoy expected tips, the waitstaff is payed a decent salary and anything extra is just that, a tip.

    Waiting tables is an honorable profession and deserves a living wage.

  6. dave

    Just as a point of defense- i rarely go to restaurants because i dont like the quality of food, dont think its a very good value, and would rather cook at home. I’ve worked at enough restaurants in my life to know not to eat at them.

    With that said, on the occasion I might go to, say, A Sunny Point, or something, I tip at least 15%. I’m not cheap, or ungrateful for the “service” provided (although I HATE it when i ask for no ice and they still put ice in my water!). Just saying that I know a lot of wait staff who live with far more disposable income than I do as an Independent Contractor. In fact, i know no wait-staff personally who have children to support or anything along those lines.

  7. dave

    In addition, I have washed dishes in more than one greasy spoon in this town in my time, and have seen the waitresses walk out the door with three times the pay in tips than anyone else in the kitchen makes. No offense, but taking orders, smiling, and carrying food is not harder than standing behind a hot line or getting soaked in peoples half-eaten food and dish-pit toxins.

  8. travelah

    Sabina, take heart … you helped the Obamameister … he is gonna help you fer sure. You see, he’s gonna take your tips from all those rich dining patrons and redistribute it to you and your friends so you can buy house, a new car and get free gas!! Life is Good … cheer up!

  9. Dionysis

    “Sabina, take heart … you helped the Obamameister … he is gonna help you fer sure. You see, he’s gonna take your tips from all those rich dining patrons and redistribute it to you and your friends so you can buy house, a new car and get free gas!! Life is Good … cheer up!”

    Oh lookie, it’s the indefatigable travelah, not losing any chance to seize on any topic, no matter how superfluous, to continue to demonize Obama.

    He does offer one tidbit of truth, however: with the ruinous Rethuglicans fired by the public, there is growing optimism that the country will improve.

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