I had a shitty night, the kind of night that warrants reiteration of what should be obvious points. Points about tipping, and why you should, like, do it and stuff.
My wage is a paltry 3.00/hour. I am taxed on my hourly wage, 10% of my total sales, and any additional reported tips. All tips I earn via credit cards are automatically reported; I’m supposed to report my cash tips separately, but, well, I usually don’t. Because fuck that. (And most of my tips are credit card anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.)
What this means, then, is that when you tip below 10%, you have not merely denied me a socially acceptable tip; you have actually taken money away from me, because I am still being taxed as though you had behaved like a decent human being. It also means that you have not met the minimum standard of decency as determined by the IRS.
Allow me to repeat: the IRS thinks you are one cheap bastard.
Actually, I have fairly kind feelings toward the IRS. When I was 18, there was a bit of a clusterfuck resulting from the IRS’ mistaken belief that I owed them thousands of dollars in back taxes. The mix-up wasn’t their fault—they had every reason to suppose it was true. Anyway, once I finally obtained the necessary paperwork proving that I was not, in fact, the world’s youngest tax dodger, I sent it in a manilla envelope with a handwritten letter requesting to be reimbursed for the tax return they’d applied to my debt. Yes, a handwritten letter—because that screams professional.
But they acquiesced! They did! Four weeks later, I got a check for the exact amount I’d requested, and a note apologizing for the trouble they’d caused me.
So I don’t mind the IRS. Really, they’re just doing their jobs, and I’m all for apprehending white-collar criminals. But that makes it even worse when you don’t meet their human decency standard.
And you know, I can usually tell a shitty tipper the minute they walk in the door. I think most servers can. But although I was fully prepared for tonight’s murmuring, self-satisfied asspandas to leave me no more than 12%, I did not expect to be stiffed entirely. It’s not like I did anything wrong. They got their food, I checked on them, I refilled their drinks, everything your friendly waitress is supposed to do. And yet—nothing.
My other tables weren’t much better. The very nice but apparently cheap-as-fuck family in the corner? 4.75 on a 65.25 ticket. The two girls with the appetizer, shared entrée, and sodas? 4 on 32. The grouchy family with the screaming toddlers? 8 on 70. My last table left me 15 on 50, which, thank God, because that was the only reason I managed to average over ten percent for the entire night. But.
Bitching about tips isn’t exactly original, I realize. I’ve done it before. But what really angers me is the obvious sexism when it comes to tipping waitstaff.
All of the servers at my restaurant are women. We’ve had male servers, but they’ve never lasted long; they usually get fed up with the management and quit in a blaze of glory. Our cooks are men, and all the bartenders we’ve had have been men.
Our restaurant likes to think of itself as up-scale, but it isn’t; it’s just your typical steakhouse in a small town packed with restaurants. We don’t get many tables, and the food is only sporadically good. (It depends on who’s cooking.) A few weeks ago, I was looking for the blow torch so I could make crème brulee—yeah, we have to torch our own desserts; no, I don’t why—and found it in the hands of Saul, our most profoundly drug-addicted line cook. He was using it to “light a cigarette.”
So the restaurant is average, and the servers are women. This seems typical. If you go to a truly upscale restaurant, you will see plenty of male servers, and they make good money. But the less fancy you get, the more women you’ll find. I don’t mean to make sweeping generalizations, and I realize there are plenty of exceptions to that rule, but it’s still very common.
And it makes sense, because serving at an upscale restaurant requires a higher level of skill, and, well, we can haz sexism!!
Anyway, my point: Serving, especially at restaurants that are not considered upscale, is still widely considered Women’s Work; consequently, the women who work at such restaurants tend to be treated like crap.
The male servers I’ve worked with have been treated much, much differently from the female servers. This isn’t to say that customers consistently treat them wonderfully—they don’t—but there is, for example, a lot less finger-snapping. There are fewer pompous fucks holding their wine glasses aloft and waving them back and forth instead of just politely asking for another. There is less rage when their dining experiences don’t adhere to whatever ridiculous standard they’ve concocted in their heads. There is less overall entitlement.
Then there’s the sexual harassment. Assholes just love to harass female waitstaff. They love it because they can get away with it—not only because you’re at work, and they can complain to the management if you respond by telling them to go fuck themselves with a broom handle, but also because your tip depends on how well you tolerate it. You’re controlled by money, both on a large scale (whether you keep your job) and on a small scale (by what you make off that table).
Of course, tables like that rarely tip well anyway, but if you piss them off they often won’t tip at all. Also, they’ll become even bigger assholes.
Your typical male server will not have to deal with this. I don’t mean to erase any sexual harassment against men, because sure, it happens—but it doesn’t happen often, and not with society’s blessing. But, you know, women in the customer service industry are just asking for it, right? We’re not just here to serve you food; we’re here to serve you. When misogynists go out to eat, they get to imagine, for a brief moment in time, that they are living in their ideal fucking world—one in which tired, underpaid women zip around and cater to their every (food-related) desire.
Well, fuck all of you.
This isn’t to say that sexism is the only factor at work here—there’s also classism, racism…all the same tired, bullshit prejudices. It’s infuriating and exhausting. And every time I get a shitty tip, I want to run after the customers and explain to them:
When you go out to eat, you are paying for two things—food and service. The cost of the food is the price on the menu. The cost of the service is the tip. If you get good service and leave a bad tip, you have effectively stolen from your server. Because you are an asshole. And it’s probably related to your massive amounts of privilege and/or bias.
But why would they listen?—I’m just a waitress.