Here’s a crystal-clear signal that you can’t afford to eat out

A friend recently took a job as a restaurant server to stop a mercifully-brief bout with unemployment.  He’s a quick study: after only a week his tips are averaging 20% and only one server is doing better.  Not a poor server by any stretch.

A few days ago comes this little gem in his updates:

“I got an 18 cent tip today!”

Not 18%.  Eighteen cents, as in a dime, a nickel, and three cents.  He later apologized for appearing ungrateful — as he is very thankful for the job — but this was my response:

“That’s BS.  If you can’t afford a decent tip, you can’t afford to be eating out in the first place.

Tips are customary and optional, but they’re an integral part of a server’s income.  Eating out and leaving a lousy tip when the service was good is without excuse.  Period. It’s certainly without excuse if the tip can be easily afforded.  But I also think it’s without excuse if you can’t afford it.

Workers are worth their wages.  They’re entitled to at least the same minimum wage that non-tipped employees are entitled to, but there’s no reason to help ensure that the employer needs to chip in the shortfall.  And some (dishonest) employers may not even do that.

Eat a less expensive meal.  Use a coupon.  Eat at home.  Anything but skimp on the tip.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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  1. says

    one of my rules is, if I can’t afford to leave a good tip, I don’t eat out until I can. I eat at home.

    that is sad. an insult. even if I got poor service I would tip better than that.

  2. M&M says

    Personally I think the tipping system is messed up. For example: if I go to a restaurant and order a burger and fries for around $10 I am expected to leave a 10-20% tip that is $1-2. If I order a prime steak and baked potato it’s $20 and I’m expected to leave $2-4. Here’s why that doesn’t work for me. The waiter did the exact same amount of work bringing me the burger as they would the steak. It required no additional effort on their part. I think wait staff should be paid at least federal minimum wage same as everyone else, and tips should not be based on a percentage of your meal price.

  3. says

    I remember years ago when I was a waitress at a small local family-owned diner. I had 2 of the loveliest elderly gentlemen come in each afternoon for lunch. They were a couple of gems and I enjoyed them greatly. However, when it came to tipping they had long since got off the boat. Each day they would each leave a quarter by their plates for me. The thing is I truly think they meant well and in their minds this was sufficient. I sucked it up through the years as it never changed and figured that my just having the pleasure to know them and their delightful company was tip enough for me.

    However, that being said…TIP your servers!

  4. says

    No matter what, giving someone eighteen cents is not cool. However, sometimes I feel that I have to give waitresses tips out of pure obligation. I mean, most waitresses does less than the bust boys or food carriers. Why should I have to give a waitress any money at all if the exchange is no more than, “hello. May I take your order. Your drinks will be right up. Your food is being brought soon. How is everything? Will you be having dessert? Thank you, come back again.” If anyone should get a tip, it should be the cook. But, maybe I’m just ignorant about the industry.

  5. Lisa says

    Remember that servers must split their tips with the host or hostess who seats customers, the servers who bring out food, and the busboys who clean up afterward.

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