Maybe it’s the fact that Black Friday has begun to truly infringe on Thanksgiving. Stores opening Thanksgiving Day? Really? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a wee bit surly about approaching the holidays broke when my husband wants an inversion board and a few other expensive gifts. Maybe it’s the crumbling mountain of debt that lurks over my head or the giant, all caps “NON NEGOTIABLE, THIS IS NOT A CHECK” that I get every other week in an envelope with my paystubs, but last night at work, I noticed a phenomenon.
My tip average dropped about 7%.
Normally, I average between 18-30% tips. Yes, 30%. I work in a bar, so a lot of my sales end up being small ones, and people (generally) don’t give me less than a dollar even if all they bought was a $3 happy hour beer. Sometimes they’re downright generous when it’s regulars I’m serving.
I should also say that I am a very good server. I make sure my guests know I value their experience and that I care if the kitchen decides cheese is okay on a salad where I specified no dairy.
But it’s the holiday season, and aside from the reality that most of us in the industry face of working while people with “normal” jobs get to stay in with their families or go out on the town to celebrate the “most wonderful time of the year,” the last thing we want on top of that is to have our wages slashed. Which, if you didn’t know already, is what our tips are. Those are our wages. I’m not going to get into the whole thing about how the system is flawed because the restaurant/bar should be paying its employees and how messed up is it that consumers are expected to pay our bills with tips when tips are optional anyway? I’ve heard all of that. Until you fix that system, tip your servers.
It’s the holidays. Not only are we expected to roll out with our usual level of excellence, but we are expected to be joyous and optimistic, bright-eyed and elfish in our interactions. Chirpy voices. Holiday cheer for all.
None of that is really faked with me most of the time, but when I open a check presenter to find that yet another person left me four dollars on a $37 check, it begins to turn charming little Cindy Lou Who into the pre-revelatory Grinch.
Also, around this time of year I know there are heaps of promotions and Group-Ons and Living Social yadda-yaddas to slice major bucks from your checks, but please remember that your tip is to be calculated by the full amount of your check prior to any discounts. Yeah. You’re still saving a lot of money, so tip your servers well.
Why, you ask? Partly because of that whole thing about us not getting paychecks except for what you write in the “tip” line on your credit card receipt, but also because if you ring up a massive bill, we are serving you a lot of stuff. Alcohol, appetizers, desserts, getting that mayo you want, switching out that drink you didn’t like twice, cooing at your baby, and just generally waiting on you hand and foot so you don’t have to do all that yourself. Tonight (this happened twice), people came in with $10 coupons. Their bills were each around $40 pre-discount. They each left me five, which is 18% of 30 and not a bad tip, but it’s 12% of 40, and that is insulting. Granted, $40 is not massive, but 20% of 40 is a lot more than 20% of 25, and it adds up fast.
The holidays are about giving. Thankfulness. Kindness. We tip our mail carriers, our trash collectors, our nannies to thank them for their services. Please don’t forget about the people bringing you your food, your beers, and cleaning up after your children when you leave. Please remember that while you’re out to dinner celebrating, we’re working. And most of us have to work all through the holidays — we’re lucky to get one of them off to spend with our families (and with Black Friday encroaching even more on Thanksgiving, more and more people are losing one of the only guaranteed days off per year). I’ll be working Christmas Eve and New Years Eve till the wee hours of the morning. I won’t get to kiss my new husband as we ring in 2012 or open an early present before Christmas dawns, and neither will millions of other servers.
A lot of us do this job because we enjoy it — we like to provide you with an excellent, caring experience and a great atmosphere. So please, don’t forget about us this holiday season. Help us look a little more like this: