by Kris Mason
If misery loves company and there truly is safety in numbers, then waiters and waitresses are possibly the most miserably like minded people in the world. Whether you are currently waiting tables or have done so in the past, when a group of servers gets together we all try to out do each other with a story of how bad it can be in the trenches, or at least how horrible it was for them. We swap stories like old drunken sailors or hardened war veterans. I have never gotten together with fellow servers and talked about how smooth a shift ran or how I worked all day without getting a bad tip.
The rise of social media has given those of us in the service industry a global format to whine and complain about their interactions with their nemesis, the public. From Facebook’s If You Can’t Afford to Tip, You Can’t Afford to Go Out and Eat page to Twitter’s Server Problems to www.TheBitchyWaiter.com, there is now and endless supply of public sharing of restaurant horror stories, waiter “rants” and snarky memes to satisfy even the most bitter server. Most of it is very amusing, even if you have never waited on someone. As much as it all seems harmless it is casting a shadow on an already dark mindset within the industry and amongst my co-workers.
"I probably get stiffed once or twice a year..."
I’ve seen a great number of posts across all social platforms that suggest the reason that somebody should feel compelled to tip me is because as a server “I only make $2 an hour” and I rely solely on tips for my income; and although this is mostly true, I don’t think that it’s my guest’s problem. I’ve been waiting tables for the better part of 30 years now and I have never been concerned about whether somebody will tip me or not. In that time, I can tell you that I probably get stiffed once or twice a year on average? How could the number be so small? I can also tell you (honestly) that in each of those situations, it was because I deserved it.
If something happens so infrequently, why waste so much time and energy focusing on it? The truth is, life is a self fulfilling prophecy. Check your belief system. Are you good at anything that you profess to be horrible at? When you walk into a shift and announce to your co-workers, “Tonight is going to suck and I’m not going to make any money,” do you ever leave with a ton of cash in your pocket? So, what do you think is the result of a mindset that says, “I only make $2 an hour?”
How long is your list of negative statements? How often do you stand in your station and say…
“I don’t have any tables.”
“They skipped over me.”
“I got sat.”
“I got sat again.”
“They double sat me.”
“They triple sat me!”
“All my booths only have two people in them.”
“They have kids.”
“Not another big party.”
“All they want is water.”
“They’re splitting it.”
“They want separate checks.”
“I don’t want to wait on them.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know what they really wanted?”
“That’s not what she said.”
“I’m not going to make it through this shift so hung over.”
“My schedule sucks! I’m hardly working.”
“I don’t have a day off until next week.”
“I’m stuck in the crappy section.”
“Why are they cutting me this early?”
“Now I’m going to be stuck here all night.”
“I gotta close.”
“I’m stuck opening.”
“I’m working a double.”
“Who the hell took my pen?”
“There goes my tip.”
“They’ll never tip.”
“Those people never tip.”
“I’m going to get stiffed.”
I have always known that if a person claims that they can’t do something, they’re right. Nobody ever got rich by claiming to be poor. In my second month of waiting tables I began to proclaim that people couldn’t help themselves from throwing money at me. They have been faithfully doing so for the past thirty years.
I categorically reject the $2 an hour myth. Yes, my hourly wage for payroll purposes is $2.13 per hour and yes, I live off of my tips; but do the math people. $2.13 is a server’s rate of pay to be combined with their cash tip income… to at least be the equivalent to minimum wage. In my state, it would take only $5 and change per hour to hit that benchmark. That works out to having around $25 to $40 in sales. I have never earned the minimum wage waiting tables. On my worst day I earn $30 an hour in tips; at this point in my chosen career field, I am happy to say, I would have to take a 75% pay cut to earn the minimum wage.
A little friendly advice to my fellow servers, if you find yourself working in a restaurant where it is impossible to achieve the $25 to $40 per hour in sales, to generate the $5 to $7 in tips, to add to your $2.13 in wages to equal your pathetic, government mandated, yet somehow heralded minimum wage, don’t waste your energy running to social media with a sarcastic blog or article about how tough it is to live off of your tips.
Take my advice and quit. If you can’t ring up $40 in sales per hour, you are working at a restaurant that won’t be open in a few months anyway. Brush up your resume and go to a place that is actually doing some business. Finally, if you are getting stiffed more than you’re getting tipped, you might have to turn inward to locate the real problem. It’s not them, it’s you.