Tipping Has Long Passed Its Tipping Point

During the summer of 1996 between my junior and senior year in high school, I worked at the K-Mart in my home town, mostly in the garden center. I spent so many days putting potting soil, compose manure, bricks, garden rocks, flowers, plants, lumber, etc. into people’s cars, I’ve theorized it was the beginning of my back problems. It’s hard to lift with the legs when some Karen or Todd is impatient that you’re not loading 20 bags of 40-pound soil in their trucks.

During this whole time, I was paid $5 an hour, which was still over the minimum wage at the time. I got tipped $3 by two people. One was a kind woman who knew it was hot as blazes out and I was in a room with terrible air conditioning and could use it to buy something cold to drink. The other $2 was given to me by a woman who taught at the high school on two different occasions. Everyone else there pretty much acted like it was my job. I was young and a man. So, I deserved to break my back, literally, for meager wages.

Two summers later, I was bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly. It was a short summer as Georgia Southern University (as most Georgia public colleges) switched from the quarter to semester system. This meant I didn’t get out of school until the middle of June and had to start back toward the end of August. This was during my first and second year and college and it was hard to get summer gigs in a town where most people had been working since the Monday after high school graduation.

My mother knew one of the supervisors at the Pig as we called it and I worked for about six or seven weeks. I made more in tips in one day than the whole summer of 1996. I guess people thought they should tip the baggers. One day, I got tipped a total $17, which was impressive because it was three extra hours tax-free. One preacher in town tipped me a quarter, which they said was generous since he usually used his connection to God as a reason not to tip…or pay for anything. One of the other baggers was only tipped a penny and got the nickname “Pennywise.” I remember one young woman tipped be a dollar and inadvertently gave me a look down her loose halter top shirt that was braless.

Thankfully, I never had to work in the food service or bartending industry through college or in adulthood. But I always tried to tip accordingly. Sometimes it’s hard to tip a lot of money, because I was one of those people who grew up in an environment where people expected 150 percent for the bare minimum of payment. I remember when giving someone $5 as a tip for a party of four was considered very generous.

There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry buys his dad, Morty, a Wizard organizer that his father only use as a tip calculator. This was during the last season of Seinfeld and it wasn’t their best season but the episode cut to the heart is what is wrong with some mindset as Morty says he’ll round down on a cent. It’s funny because I know people, and you probably do too, who will round down on a cent. I mean what difference does a cent make? Who the hell really carries their own bag of change to tip in pennies and nickels?

Author Judy Blume wrote a book, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, where young boys around tween age, will put their tips in their glasses and cups at a diner so the waitress has to go digging in it. They’re awful people, but I believe a lot of people are raised that way. How many times have you heard a parent, uncle, older sibling or grandparent tell you that people only work as waiters/servers past a certain age because “they don’t have a college degree or a special skill/trade.”

It seems we only want to blame people for working in the food service industry because they don’t have this “Can Do Attitude” bullshit. Ironically, being a waiter/server is really about luck of the draw. Usually the better waiters/servers get the better tables or better shifts. So, basically, the factors are against you.

Unfortunately, women sometimes have to prostitute themselves. I’m not talking about Hooter’s or Twin Peaks. Women have to tight pants and shirts while calling men, “Darling,” “Honey,” and “Sweetheart” in hopes of getting a bigger tip. At the same time, you got these people who think they it’s not their “responsibility to pay your bills.” But you’re eating at a restaurant that is paying people to cook your food, wash the dishes and cutlery, and keep it clean. Their using that money in turn to pay their bills.

To open up a restaurant to be a franchisee, a lot of owners have to have a huge capital outlay before they can even break ground. It takes a lot to run a restaurant. One of the places I used to eat at in Wagoner, Okla., where I worked hired mostly family and friends. They had something breakdown thankfully on the day they were closed and had to have it fixed by the time they opened or else they had to lose another day. They also had to have the money in savings for that.

I’ve seen a lot of restaurants and eateries fall within one year because they can’t keep the doors open. One of the first stories I wrote in Americus, Ga., was a restaurant celebrating its one-year anniversary in their Plains, Ga., location because they often didn’t make it till one year. My stepmother helped her family run a restaurant that was only open for lunch crowds and said it was a lot of work.

So, some franchise owners may not be prepared for all the expenses that arise while operating a business. And they expect customers to pay their staff extra. This puts the staff at the mercy of people who act worse than kids throwing tantrums in the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart. The church crowds come in to eat lunch and treat the staff terrible. A lot of elderly people think $1 for a table of four is sufficient. And of course, people eat more than half to 75 percent of their food before saying it doesn’t taste right or finding something wrong with the drink. They wanted regular and you got them diet. They prefer Pepsi and you only sell Coca-Cola.

There are just some people who live to badger and harass those in the food service industry. Stopping tipping and paying waiters/servers a regular wage will stop this. They won’t need to kiss your feet for money. My brother was disappointed after returning from Italy because he said the wait staff wasn’t too good at their jobs. I don’t think he realized that they are just serving your food. If you want a refill, you have to ask for it. You have to ask for a lot of things, he said.

On the flip side, people from other countries come here and they say, they will get automatic refills while not being asked. Or they say they waiter/server will repeatedly come back to their table to ask them if everything is okay, which they find annoying.

Personally, I much prefer waiters/servers who leave me mostly alone. I don’t want someone hanging over me, trying to suggest that I have the jalapeno poppers. If they want to wear 15 pieces of flair or no flair, then so be it. As long as my food order is accurate and hot and tastes great, I don’t need someone shoving a cocoanut cake for me order for dessert. And that’s why the waiters/servers are there. To get the customers to buy more things. But at the same time, the owners can’t pay them.

Stories making the round on social media include a waitress who was fired after being tipped $4,400 at a Bentonville, Ark. restaurant. Other people have posted a receipt at an Applebee’s where they were were only tipped $5 and some change on a dinner bill that was over $74. If the family had enough to eat out on $80 in Staten Island, New York, they had enough to tip her $15 which is over 20 percent.

The other day, I went to the Rafa Burrito Co. in nearby Tahlequah. I’ve driven by it several times but never went in. I bought a steak burrito with a lot in it so before I left, I left a $5 in the tip container for the three workers on staff. It’s only what $1.66 a person but I’m guessing they get paid regular wage. Anyway, it’s Christmas. If $5 is going to break me, I should’ve just stayed home and nuked a burrito in the microwave. It’s really about the atmosphere and I don’t hardly go out to eat.

Even when I take advantage of Sonic Drive-In rewards, I’ll tip the car hop $1. I can always go through drive-through but it’s better to to tip. Of course, an issue raised in Reservoir Dogs was why can’t we tip the people at McDonald’s. And of course, this is being spoken by Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) who is getting a free meal and only being asked to tip $1. Even in 1992 dollars, that wasn’t too bad. The irony of these guys discussing tipping etiquette and having sympathy for a waitress hours away from a diamond heist that turns into a bloodbath is why Quentin Tarantino is an impressive filmmaker.

But if criminals and killers can dig into their wallets to help out someone, why can’t other people? This is another issue that is about generational gaps. There are some people I know who I’ll refuse to eat out with as they will cause problems. They’re the “Did you have to go kill that cow or chicken?” people if the food isn’t brought to them in a timely manner. I was asked a Mexican restaurant where a Todd came over and began berating our waiter for not having any cutlery. They’re in their own bubbles. And they obviously didn’t think that others in the restaurant are eating food too.

Granted some waiters can be jerks. I’ve had a few who I was almost certain did something to my order regardless of my behavior. Some people just don’t have the demeanor. At our senior prom, several of the other people in the party got up and walked out because the wait staff were being rude. They were. This also raises a bigger question of why do waiter/servers at more expensive affluent restaurants think they’re better than a bunch of high schoolers.

Also, with take out orders, DoorDash, UberEats and mobile orders all coming at once, people can only do so much so I can understand their frustrations. One of my favorite Chinese restaurants has had to take longer on my orders the last two times I went there. Yes, I went during peak times, lunch hour one time and around 6 p.m. the other time. So, I wait.

It’s just wrong any way you look at it to ask people to work extra hard in the food service industry then refusing to give them money if they’re operating by your own personal schedule. I hate people who always stand at the back of a line and act like everyone in front of them should pay for their stuff. No, just because you got somewhere later or they got there sooner doesn’t mean they should have to pay for you.

Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for all those in education to plan ahead when the kids go on a field trip. Last month after my monthly doctor’s appointment, I bought a coffee and went and sat out near the college enjoying a warmer than usual Fall morning at the park. It didn’t take me long to see there were several buses of students from all over this region taking a tour of the campus at Northeastern State University. As I was leaving and going to a Carl’s Jr. on the way home to take advantage of a digital coupon, I noticed the buses were lined at many of the eateries along the way. I told the clerk to be on the lookout.

I know good and well that anyone who works in the food service industry hates a school bus. When we went on a marching band trip to a game that was quite a distance away, they organize a deal with a McDonald’s or Burger King to prepare foods so most of the kids would stay on the bus. It’s not a bad idea because you’re hitting a business at one of their busiest times.

There’s nothing wrong with helping people out and being kind. Just because someone works in the service industry doesn’t mean they are an indentured servant.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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