Sunday, May 29, 2011

Christians and tipping

Today, my boys and I went out to eat, and it cost us $7, although I spent $12. We went to Friendly's, Graeme's favourite family restaurant, when they were running a special. Buy one adult entree, get a kid's meal free. I also had a coupon, one that clearly said it couldn't be combined with other coupons but said nothing of special offers, that had the same deal. So, we paid for my meal, but got three of them.

I thought it was a pretty clever deal but as soon as I presented it to her (and eventually to her manager, who didn't think the coupon applied), I saw that she was displeased. She thought she knew who I was. I was a Sunday Christian.

Brothers and sisters, I've worked in restaurants and the stories about Christians being lousy tippers are not just stories. I counted cash, which included tips, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, meaning that on Monday I was counting up Sunday's money. Tips average around 4% of the total bill, when the rest of the week they averaged about 10%. Yeah, you could argue that the Christians, who came in wearing their Sunday best, sometimes staying for hours and debating theology over free drink after free drink after free drink, were just the most visible cheap diners, but I disagree.

One afternoon, a deacon from my own church came while I was covering a server's shift. We had a nice conversation as I took his order, and I quizzed him about the Sunday School I was missing. He let me know that a lady at church was looking for me because she needed a city for Friday. It was friendly. My tip, on his $40 bill? 41 cents. Cheapskate.

For those who don't know, waitstaff make less than anyone else in the kitchen, at least based on hourly wage. The difference in their actual rate of pay and what they need to live is made up by tips. It's an inefficient system, true, but it's what we have to work with. I'm of the opinion that if you're budgeting to go out to eat, you budget in at least 10% for tip, more for nicer restaurants where the servers have to do more work. Consider it part of your bill, even if it's not on the receipt.

So, this waitress had decided who I was: a Sunday Christian. She was still efficient and polite throughout the meal. Brandon's meal was delivered with the wrong kind of fries, so she immediately got another plate. When Graeme ordered a soda with his meal (he doesn't like soda), she offered to replace it with another drink he did like free of charge. I never saw the bottom of my water glass. When she stopped, whether to drop off food or just check in (which she did frequently), she talked to the boys as much as she did to me and seemed genuinely interested in the conversation. She was excellent, frankly.

I'd completed my calculations prior to the bill's arrival and determined my tip. I gave her a 20 for the bill and she gave me the change while Brandon still madly attempted to finish his double ice cream cone.

She came back to clean up the table before she left and saw a $5 bill, a little more than 12% of what the bill would've been without coupons, sitting on the table. I told her, "God bless," and the boys and I took our leave.

I don't know what impact that had. I really only did what a good diner ought to do, nothing more, but it's more than some might do. She seemed pleased to see the tip, and I hope that I had some small effect, that I was able to slightly erode her perception of the cheapskate Sunday Christian.


  1. Good for you! I did my time as a waitress (and hostess and bartender) too, and I still remember what hard work it is and what a tiny amount my pre-tip pay was. People who've never done it may not realize that servers don't have to be paid minimum wage before tips. (And at one restaurant I worked at, a percentage of all servers' tips were pooled to give to the busboys & kitchen workers & such). Even though it was years ago, I still remember and make an effort to tip generously.

  2. Hi, this is Wayfarer here.

    It's only recently that the situation changed in the UK so it's now illegal to make up the wages with tips here.

    He does seems to have a rose-tinted version of New York though?

  3. I really don't have a problem with servers being paid minimum wage or around minimum wage and then making tips. Honestly, I think that's a great plan as you're allowing them to be paid at least as much as the busboy while giving them the opportunity to get paid a lot more.

    And, "The Snarkery"? Must check this out . . .