Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Here's a Tip

I’ve been promising to write an article on the subject of tipping for some time now. My daughters (both are food servers – what we used to call waitresses) have been pressing me for some time to write about the paucity of tipping on the part of church-goers.

I learned a great deal about tipping from my step-father who was a corporate executive. His rule of thumb concerning tipping centered on the quality of service. If the service was okay - ten percent. If it was pretty good - fifteen percent. If it was really good - twenty percent.

So early on I began observing the way my step-father would treat the waiter/waitresses, and then how much he left as a tip, what is commonly referred to as a gratuity today. Pop (that’s what my brother and I called him) had a wonderful ability of making a person feel as though they were the most important item on his agenda. He spoke to everyone in considerate, respectful tones. When food servers responded well to this, a tip exceeding their expectations was forth-coming.

I have attempted to follow his example over the years. I don’t know how food servers regard my tipping abilities – I’ll leave that for them to determine. But my daughters who have grown up watching me just as I watched Pop, nod approvingly when I leave a tip. I sometimes will ask them what they think would be an appropriate amount.

Perhaps because my girls have been waiting tables for a number of years, I have become acquainted with many people in this industry, including restaurant owners. The message I continue to hear is – church-goers are the worst tippers, and the rudest, most demanding of customers.

I’m always uncomfortable when I hear this. Food servers are often high school or college students new to the work-world, trying to make their way through school. Or they are single moms trying to keep body and soul together.

My girls were home this past Saturday morning for one of my world-famous breakfasts. I made my “Killer Pancakes,” so named many years ago by my sister-in-law, Maggie. We had fresh strawberries and Cool Whip to go on top. Or you could have had blueberry, boysenberry, or maple syrup as your choices of topping. I grind my own coffee beans, so there was lots of freshly brewed coffee. I also invited a writer friend, Lynne and her daughter to join us. We had work to do on our respective writing projects after breakfast.

Lynne mentioned a time when she was a teen-ager working as a waitress. One Sunday afternoon, when all the church folks began arriving after services, the other servers looked at her and said, “Here come people like you. You take care of them.”

Why this reaction? Because, as a whole, church-goers are notoriously poor tippers. Why are church-goers labeled with this image across the board? I don’t know the answer. I wish I had an answer.

Typically, church-goers show a disdain toward people working at so plebian a job as a food server. They treat them as virtual slaves, making continual demands, often having the manager “comp” the meal because of all the complaints. Comping a meal is when a restaurant manager picks up the tab for your meal – thus it becomes a complimentary meal – also called FREE. It is less costly, so the thinking goes, they’d rather comp the meal, as to have dissatisfied customers out in the community complaining about their restaurant.

Dear Church-Goers: Here’s something to remember when you eat out this Sunday.
• Food servers are made in the image of God, just like you are. Therefore, they have incomparable value. Treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
• Why they are working on Sunday, the Sabbath, is their business, not yours. Your “Tsk, tsk,” attitude hardly makes them feel welcome in your church, or any church. If you were so concerned about keeping the fourth commandment, you’d be eating food prepared at home beforehand.
• Food servers share their tips with: 1) bussers – the invisible folks who clean off the table after you leave, preparing it for the next diners. 2) cooks – the folks you never see who slave over hot stoves valiantly creating flavorful meals, desperately hoping you’ll enjoy their efforts. 3) hostesses – the folks who run the show while you are there, who smile benignly while listening to your criticisms. 4) bartenders – in those restaurants that have a bar.
• Food servers normally are paid minimum wage. Therefore, your tip can make a significant difference, particularly when remembering they share their tips (see above).
• If there are two of you and you spend $50.00, your tip will be different than ten people at a table spending $50.00. Why? Because of the number of people being served. It should be obvious, but it takes a lot more effort to look after ten diners, than it does two; for instance orchestrating meals so they are all served at the same time. This is why so many restaurants have gone to adding an automatic 15% gratuity for large parties.
• If you have difficulties figuring out the math, just double the tax or consult your cellular phone. Many cell phones have tip calculators in the tool section.

And this final thought. There is a verse of scripture you might want to remember: “In humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5.

Do I think all church-goers are like this? No. But enough of them are to taint all of us. I do know this: this unfortunate perception of church-goers being poor tippers can be changed. It’s up to you.

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