A guide to tipping from a recent grad

by Stephanie Witt

I’m a recent college grad who waits tables and finally landed a part-time job using my degree. Trust me, it’s not easy finding a job these days that associates with your field of study, and that is why I wait tables. Not only is finding your dream job fresh out of school difficult, it can be aggravating. But what’s really aggravating is that I’m finding it’s hard for people to tip correctly or to leave a tip at all.

The majority of my income and that of the countless others who work in the food and beverage industry is dependent on the tips of others. This is to say: my ability to feed, clothe and house myself is dependent on the “opinion” of customers. Imagine everyone’s pay being on the line with an opinion? In my experience, I have noticed a distinct ignorance in the commonly accepted method of tipping. The importance of tipping is perhaps lost in people who have never worked for or known someone who has worked for tips.

A generally accepted rule in tipping is to leave at least 15 percent of the final bill. For poor service a 10 percent tip is still recommended. This is due to the fact that not all of the circumstances regarding a server’s performance can be directly attributed to that server. For example, the restaurant could be understaffed or the kitchen can get backed up, both causing irregularities in service that are uncontrollable. The time between putting an order in for the kitchen to prepare and when it is ready to be served is controlled by the kitchen. This can cause mistakes such a salad arriving at the same time as an entrée or an appetizer arriving after the entrée has been served. Also, in many circumstances the server is required to give a portion of their tips to a busser, bartender or some other employee of the restaurant at the end of their shift for their assistance.

For service that could be considered above average, 20 percent is considered a good tip. How do you know if you are receiving above-average service? Well, by using a little common sense and paying attention to your environment, you can discern above-average service. A good server would acknowledge you as soon as they are aware of your presence even if they cannot properly greet you right away. They would keep your drinks topped off and would make your visit an enjoyable one. However, if your server has many tables to attend to, obviously she will have more things to do in the same amount of time fulfilling your needs. Now I’m not saying that everyone who goes out to eat tips poorly. In fact, I have had a few customers who go well beyond 20 percent. There is an awesome guy I know, Michael Hall, who tips excellently whenever he goes out to eat. It’s because he understands how to tip. Through his friends and family he knows how it is to have your sole income come from tips. He understands that not everything is the server’s fault and that we all have bad days. Just as long as you don’t ignore him, piss him off and you treat him with respect, he will leave a great tip. It’s just that certain kinds of “ghetto” or “redneck” customers who care less about how rude they are when they go out to eat, don’t tip well if anything at all.

Is it that bad tippers don’t know how to do math? Because there are tools that could help you with this, like a calculator or even one of those tip cards. Rachel here at the office always whips out her tip card whenever she needs to leave a tip. She doesn’t understand the concept of tipping (especially after a few drinks) so she relies on that card. In fact, most cell phones now have a tip calculator on them. Let me give you a tip, it’s not just a dollar per head. When you are finishing up your meal and have received the check, instead of using your phone to call your homies, use it to figure out the tip. Don’t run your server’s ass around when they have other tables and then leave nothing for a tip. If you aren’t going to tip, then don’t be a nuisance. When that happens to me and I get another table that acts like the ones that just stiffed me, oh, they aren’t going to be on my good side. Yes, that is bad on my behalf, but damn it, I’ll stop discriminating when you all start tipping!

To comment on this column, e-mail Stephanie at