December 2, 2016

Restaurants reach their tipping point

When you go out to eat with a group of friends (let’s say there are eight of you), the bill comes at the end of the meal. The bill shows you the cost of the eight meals, plus tax.

It also shows that automatic gratuity has been added to your bill. Gratuity on large groups was common until Jan. 1 2014.

The International Revenue Service (IRS) is now enforcing a law that if restaurants choose to add gratuity to bills, then it must be classified as a service charge rather than a tip.

When servers wait on tables, they pocket the tips they receive and at the end of the night, they must “claim” their total tips so that they are properly reporting their income to the government.

According to Huffington Post, half of all states allow resturants to pay waiters $2.13. That’s under minimum wage. Once you take out taxes and figure the hours I work at my waitressing job, I’m lucky if my paycheck is $100 after a two-week pay period. Many servers experience this same thing, and live off of the tips they make, assuming the customers even tip.

As of Jan. 1, most restaurants have done away with gratuity altogether. Now that gratuity must be classified as a service charge, this means that instead of pocketing that money, it is going straight to the servers’ paycheck.

Any money in a paycheck is taxed, so servers are effectively making less off of big tables than they were before. It’s hard to live off tips when you only see them after your two-week pay period.

The restaurants that will continue to have gratuity will have more paperwork, turning a lot of businesses off to the idea. The ones that got rid of the system leave servers not wanting to take big tables because it’s now a gamble as to whether or not they’ll get tipped.

I love my job. I love the small talk, the fast-paced environment and, of course, I love the money. What I don’t like is when I outdo myself serving you, coming at your every beck and call and then you don’t tip me. Multiply this one person by ten, and you can understand why servers no longer want to take that risk on big parties.

What customers don’t always realize is when we’re serving a big party, we’re usually not taking any other tables. So that 45 minutes to an hour and a half that party sits there, we only made $3.63.

Automatic gratuity made this okay because we had assurance that we would get compensated for the four dollars short we were of minimum wage. Now that gratuity is gone, I have to live on a prayer that this group will tip me the standard percentage of their bill so that I  am properly paid for the time I put in.

Many customers argue that gratuity is the restaurant’s way of predetermining that the customer was satisfied with their visit and believe their server deserves that percentage as a tip. Some people also think that they shouldn’t have to tip because we’re just doing our job, not anything extraordinary. I can understand that argument but I can also refute it.

Everyone knows that restaurants expect you to tip. There is no way that anyone can plead ignorance there. When you come in on your cellphone, cut us off, and demand things, servers have no choice but to put up with you. When I say “Hi, my name is—” and you say “water,” that’s not my name. This is a situation where you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Next time you go out to eat, take these things into account. We don’t make very much money, we’ve already been at work for eight hours, and we’ve probably gotten stiffed on at least five tables before you. You getting waited on is your privilege, not your right.

To avoid frustrations on either side, I would suggest you show some respect and some extra cash. Yes, it’s true that we’re the ones who picked this job. But if you can’t afford to tip, then you really can’t afford to go out.

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