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Should we rethink tipping?

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I was recently in an upscale restaurant in West Hartford, Ct and asked my waitress if tips were pooled. She said management took a cut of their tips! I was wondering if this had anything to do with recent changes in minimum wage laws or something. I have heard that wait staff in some states can no longer be paid less than minimum wage (which is pretty high in Ct). Is this something new? If I thought waitstaff were being paid a living wage I certainly would rethink my usual 20%. After all, tipping is more a tradition than anything else. If you knew waiters were paid $15-20 per hour and that tips went to the owner how much would you tip if at all?

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  1. Bottom line: it's servers who would most resist replacing tipping with a minimum wage.

    I don't know about CT, in MA it's very illegal for the house to take a cut of tips, and places have been busted nastily for doing so.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      Yeah ... even though you always hear about the starving waiters who can't make ends meet with tips, every time this comes up the largest complaints are from servers who say that they make a good living now and would make less afterwards.

      1. re: jgg13

        Well, yes, because they know their asshole bosses wouldn't adjust the costs accordingly and give them raises, they would just pay them minimum wage. If restaurant managers and owners actually paid a fair amount to compensate for loss of tips, it wouldn't matter.

      2. re: Karl S

        In college i waited tabled where the M'd demanded a cut of our tips. If we weren't willing he'd assign us the worst tables and then try not to seat people at them unless he had to.

      3. I wait tables in an upscale restaurant in Memphis, Tn. We do pool tips, but we also still make $2.13 per hour. Tipping is not a tradition for some of us, it's our living. The house taking a portion of tips is awful. I have had experience with this in the past. These are restaurants that don't want to pay their management what they're worth, so they take it out of the waitstaff's pockets, I think people should inquire about this before tipping and not frequent these places.

        13 Replies
        1. re: cookiekelly

          is this legal to do or does it vary by state? right now i'm working at a sushi restaurant in CO and the servers get 21% taken out by the boss for the sushi chefs ( owner is one of the chefs)...i am very against this practice and have tried to do some research but the laws are very confusing...any input?

          1. re: liveloveat34

            Here is California we recently had a court decision ruling it unlawful for management to take a share of barristas' tips,

            1. re: TomSwift

              I think the starbucks case was reversed because the "managers" main duties were the same as the barristas.

              I have always hated tipping [although i always check the bill when my mom is paying to tell her what to leave]. it seems unfair to me that a waitress in a diner works just as hard as a waiter at a pricier resto, but her tips are usually limited by the cheapness of the dishes, while the waiter benefits from the higher meal price.

              In san fran, they make the high minimum wage, so I'm thinking of lowering my tip.

              If insufficient tipping leads to shoddy service, find another job.

              1. re: himbeer

                Yep the smart servers, who are the quality servers, do find a better job and you are left with crappy servers!! I cant believe you dont understand this BAD TIPPING LEADS TO BAD SERVERS WHO GIVE SHODDY SERVICE!!! Upscale restaurants have great knowledgable servers and high prices to match so that HIGH TIPS LEAD TO GOOD SERVERS WHO GIVE GOOD SERVICE!! If you want good service at a restaurant you have to pay for it!!!! Himbeer servers recognize bad tippers so if your getting bad service its because we know you are a bad tipper and we will spend our time on someone we know tips better. Its called common sense!!!

                1. re: vic20

                  There is a thing known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you, for god knows what reason, identify me as a 'bad tipper' when you come to greet me and then decide to act accordingly - well, you'll probably be correct.

                  1. re: jgg13

                    The people who make snap judgments like that don't last long-- too many complaints. Usually you'll either get bad service because you tipped there badly before, or because the service is generally shitty.

            2. re: liveloveat34

              It varies by state. There was just a huge issue with this is my area (MA), which involved a lot of court time and a lot of publicity. It was deemed totally illegal for the house to take a cut of the tips.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                right but what if the house, or owner is one of the chefs? and how does to-go tips work? who should get those?\

                1. re: liveloveat34

                  They're still already making plenty enough money that tips aren't needed.

                  1. re: liveloveat34

                    I've never worked in a restaurant where the chef/cooks are tipped. To-go tips have always gone to the person who rings in the order, in my experience.

                2. re: liveloveat34

                  That's different from management taking a cut of the tips. Essentially the restaurant is pooling the tips and sharing it amongst servers and sushi chefs. Why shouldn't sushi chefs share in the tips?

                  1. re: PeterL

                    there's more to the story, but yes i do agree that tips should be shared between. fwiw, prior to the owner being the chef, a percentage was taken out to go to 'the house'. now this is not necessary.

                    1. re: liveloveat34

                      The sushi chefs most likely get paid a lot more than the $2.13 the server makes. That's why they shouldn't get a cut of the tip. The tip is for the server for serving the guest.

              2. Minimum wage is not a living wage in any state. I tip about 20% as a matter of course, but often tip higher if the service is really good and attentive. Tips should never be shared with the owner, but not tipping at all does not help the waitstaff.

                1. IMO, tipping should be continued (vs a big pay raise) if for no other reason than to provide an incentive to provide adequate to superior service. While there are some who would provide decent service no matter what, I think that service in general would deteriorate drastically if tipping were discontinued. Not to mention that food prices would soar.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: al b. darned

                    considering that you have many people here tell you that you're an evil human being if you tip below 20% for merely adequate service, and then go on to tell you that 99% of all problems that a customer is not the server's fault and thus not dingable, and then take into account how entitled many servers are these days ... i don't know how much incentive tipping really gives any more.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      I wouldn't call them EVIL.... Cheap and arrogant--sure. Better off eating at home and waiting on themselves--absolutely.

                      I think it's your perception that is the problem. I haven't come across many so-called self-entitled servers (that characteristic is usually better suited to describe the ones being waited ON, not the other way around.) Any server who is rude to me does get a reduced tip. The ruder, the cheaper. Being nice is the simplest thing you can do, so if you can't even put in THAT effort.... But mistakes often DO result from the group effort. Serving is very much a team sport. But the server almost always takes full blame for what goes on behind the scenes that is totally out of their hands.

                      Anyway, people look for ways to tip their server less all the time. It's more a matter of selfishness than rationality.

                    2. re: al b. darned

                      I agree. I just came back from Australia where tipping is not the norm. Service was SO slow and just good. I went to all sorts of restaurants while there, ranging from upscale (where I had the worst service) to smaller and more casual restaurants. The chinese place I went to had the best service. An aussie friend made a comment about how she felt service here is so much better because of tipping and I whole heartedly agree.

                      1. re: al b. darned

                        This guy knows what he is talking about!! AGREED al!!!!

                      2. I don't like tipping pools, it gives the slackers a cut of someones deserved earnings. If I go to a place that pools tips, I usually tip minimally then palm the waitperson, via a handshake, with some green to thank them.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: cstr

                          When I waited where there was a pool, we all busted ass to help the other person out. It was so much more positive a place than the place where we did not pool. No one cared if you were in the weeds and miserable since it didn't affect their bottom line.

                          1. re: cstr

                            They will give that money to the pool-- if they didn't, they would be fired very very fast.

                          2. The server was hopefully talking about the tipout mgmt collects to give to the bussers hosts and bartenders. It is illegal for mgmt, cooks, and dishwashers to get any part of your tips. It's also illegal for owners to make you pay for broken glass. It is legal to tip out or pool with bussers hosts and bartenders. If your manager cuts the busser halfway through your shift you can't be made to tip him/her out for the whole night and the tip out percent has to be made known to you if you ask and can't be changed on a whim by mgmt, it is considered an agreement between you and the busser host bartender and is actually voluntary but you can be fired for not participating just like you can be fired for breaking a glass. Remember, when you tip 20% we probably get about 14% and then have to pay taxes on that. A little off topic, but it also illegal for restaurants to make tipped employees not being payed min wage from the restaurant to do janitorial work, ie you can't be forced to spend an hour polishing the cooks side of the line or cleaning bathrooms, but good luck explaining this to your boss.

                            If servers were paid an hourly wage and not tipped diners would not be happy i promise. If a server gets paid the same whether you get your 2 sides of raw onions and extra goat cheese on the side or not, good luck with the special orders or fast service.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: trask

                              Trask, it's tough to make blanket statements when you don't know every state's laws. Unless I'm wrong, I've never seen any federal regulations about this topic.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                It is a matter of state law. There are three thorny issues:

                                1. Appropriation (aka theft) of tips by management
                                2. Requiring tip pooling among server staff
                                3. Requiring tipping out to non-server staff

                                All three are, for example, illegal in New York state.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  the laws are complicated at that- CO says its illegal to tip out to non-server staff such as cooks n dishwashers but sushi chefs are allowed to be tipped out to. i don;t know whether this includes sushi assistants, or if that's considered the same thing?
                                  it's all very tricky, i think my boss gets away with a lot of nuances. ugh wish there was some easy answer!

                                  1. re: liveloveat34

                                    A sushi chef interacts with the costumer in the same way a host or busser would therefore under the FLSA they may participate in a tip pool. I don't think it is a good thing, but it is legal.

                                2. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Check out the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the case law that supports it.

                                  29 CFR 531.35, 29 USC203(d) and (m), Handbook 30d04, Ayers v. 127 restaurant corp, Chung v. Silver Palace, Meyers v. The Copper Cellar Corp, All support that anyone who doesn't have direct contact with the costumer or anyone who is an owner or an owners agent (mgmt) cannot be tipped out.

                                  29 CRF 531.3(d) 29 CFR 531.32 FLSA 2006-21 supports that an employer cannot make a tipped employee cover the cost of doing business (broken glassware, incorrect orders etc..)

                                  29 CFR 203(m) Bonham v. Copper Cellar corp, Chan v. Sung Yue Tung corp, Handbook 30d04, support that a tip pool is voluntary and the employee must be notified of the tip out arrangement.

                                  29 CFR 531.56(e), FOH 30d00e DOL Fact sheet #15 Fast v. applebees, supports that you cannot be asked to do work that is not directly related to a tipped employee earning tips unless they are incidental to the servers normal duties (which is why I was specific to the cooks side of the line). If the server is asked to perform these tasks they are considered a dual occupation employee and must be paid at least minimum wage without taking tip credit while performing tasks unrelated to earning tips.

                                  Some states have more laws further limiting what an owner can do regarding tipped employees.

                                    1. re: trask

                                      does 29 CFR 531.35 apply to owners who are also working as chefs? specifically a sushi chef who can be tipped out?

                                      1. re: liveloveat34

                                        From my understanding of the law basically anyone who can hire and fire cannot get a portion of your tips for any reason at any time. But, I have not yet found a court case that has made a decision on this matter specifically.

                                        I forgot to mention above that if everyone in your restaurant is paid by the restaurant, regardless of tips, the federal min wage the federal laws on tip pooling no longer apply and defaults to the state laws on pooling/tipout.

                                        My advice to you is to make sure every one of your co workers know what the owner is doing is probably illegal and at the least you have a valid case, then, find a new job where the owner doesn't act like that and contact a labor lawyer or just forget you ever put up with that. If you raise a stink while you still work there expect retaliation from the owner (also illegal but nearly impossible to prove). If you make better money at the sushi place then you can elsewhere I hate to say it but you should probably just keep quiet.
                                        Good Luck and remember not all restaurant owners are bad.

                                3. I cannot fathom the house taking part of the tips unless the waitstaff is being paid under the table and the house is just downright thieves. Why would any waitperson hand over their full bank? I would insist nobody tipped me that evening and then every evening beyond.

                                  I am not totally against pooling. It forces all waitstaff to work together. It works out better for everyone if the staff are not singular, mercenary waitrons, but will fetch drinks, clear plates, help get food out promptly on big tables, help a waiter who is in the weeds... BUT waitstaff should have the ability to have someone ditched if they are slackers.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                    You'd get fired if you said you got no tips. They would then claim you were clearly a bad server. If you only handed partial pay, and they caught you, you'd be fired for "stealing."

                                  2. Very interesting stuff, this. How do you all feel about automatically adding a service fee to the bill? This is done locally (Ct) in many restaurants for parties of 6 or more, usually 18%, and is the norm for banquets and such In Europe service is automatically added to the bill most countries. I must confess that I did not feel the level of service was lower than in the US just because a tip was going to be added regardless, even in France! Wages are so poor for servers. Would tipping automatically improve service or make it more spotty? It might be time for this. Waiters often suffer because of failings of the kitchen, bar, bus person and host. Perhaps their tip should be included. Truly - if you have a problem in any restaurant it MUST be brought to the attention of the manager no? What is gained by stiffing the person who takes your order then brings it out?
                                    One more thing. If you sit at the bar and have drinks only do you tip 10% or 20?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: thos

                                      Generally, according to industry discussions, longtime servers oppose this because it would likely mean less income for them. What they would really like is for the base wage to be increased, and keep the voluntary tipping system on top of that.

                                      1. re: thos

                                        I always tip at least 20% at the bar on drinks only, but that is me. I think you can get away with 15% if you want as long as you don't talk to the bartender all night long or aren't a regular.

                                        Gratuity on 6+ is a good thing because some won't leave 15 to 20% of a large tab they think it is too much money to give a server. Adding gratuity to every table wouldn't be too good. For good servers it would be probably be a pay cut. Servers that are already angry, rude, slow or just bad would only get worse.

                                        What would be ideal (for a server and would never happen) is if a server could decide which tables s/he to add gratuity to, like foreigners and the such.

                                        1. re: thos

                                          I understand it completely for large parties....it's much more work and often the cheap people see it as an opportunity to not tip at all or under tip significantly.

                                          I tip 20%+ at the bar, just as I do in the dining room. Several places we go we are regularly comped drinks and then the tip is generally 50-100% of the tab.

                                        2. Do not assume min. wage is being paid to servers because in most cases it is not. Management is not permitted to take a cut of tips and that is a federal law. I really get tired of hearing people complain about tipping. A server can make or break your evening and if they do a good job 20% is reasonable and for those of you that do not tip on wine and the server is continually pouring it...don't order it. If the food takes to long, do not take it out on your server, they are not preparing your food, take it up w/management. Serving is not as mindless and easy as some would like to believe. It would be great if everyone did it for at least a week, you would be amazed at what the job entails. An important thing to remember.. a lot of people believe that servers are beneath them and that is very untrue. Remember something, whatever u are doing today u were not doing before...so do not forget where u came from. The majority of servers are actually college students and many of them are working on their Masters and Doctorate degrees. Please do not assume they lack intelligence because they are smart enough to realize they can work less hours, make a decent living and still work on obtaining an education. How do I know? I am a server working towards my Doctorate.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: sally1926

                                            good point sally - I have one daughter doing a nursing degree and one doing pre-med both with 4.0s and both working in a deli 20 to 30 hours a week as well and more hours in their vacation time.

                                            1. re: sally1926

                                              Whats your opinion on the pooling of tips? I for one in which I have mentioned elsewhere am againt it. If i get good service I give a nice tip. My problem is why should the not so good servers share in this?

                                              1. re: Gold

                                                "Not so good" servers do a far greater share of manual labor.

                                                Pooling also decreases the chances of physical conflicts in the workplace.

                                            2. I live in a country where tipping is not standard. Higher end restaurants charge a 10% service fee, and that's it.

                                              It's wonderful! Splitting the bill is infinitely easier (no tax, either), you don't have to deal with the insidious tip creep (10% -> 15% -> 20% -> ??) that makes eating out ever more expensive, and you know the servers are being paid the same salary no matter how busy the restaurant is.

                                              And I really have not noticed any huge difference in service quality. If anything, I think I've experienced fewer surly or disagreeable servers, and certainly fewer of the incredibly annoying excessively perky/fake-friendly servers than you get in the US.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                Are the servers paid a salary? Do they have a union? Do they get health benefits?

                                                If no to all of the above, then I'm surprised they are not surly and disagreeable on getting 10% (and that's higher end, what do the smaller places charge?). I would be.

                                                BTW, the U.S. servers are paid spit, have no union, and have no health benefits. They deserve my 20%+ tips.

                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                  God, I DESPISE fake-friendly servers!
                                                  I had one recently who just would not leave my sister and I alone. He was a good looking 20-something and we are two average 40-somethings so it was bizarre how he kept trying to josh with us, butting into our conversation, and at one point he actually put his arm around me and squeezed! It was embarrasingly insincere. Finally I came out and asked the young man to just wait on us. I told him I did not want to make friends.
                                                  From then on, we had pure hatred to deal with (sigh).

                                                  What happened to being waited on, where a server doesn't impose their personality on your experience? I miss it.

                                                  And I know waiters who make far more money than I do, as an educated marketer (my son is an extremely well paid server). Personally, I am sick of the tips. I think an establishment should pay their help and the price on the menu is what it will cost you. I do not like the ambiguity of forking out so much (enough? too much?) money to someone for spending a few minutes walking over your food and drink and pretending to like you.

                                                  Obviously I do not mean fine dining where the service is an important part of the experience. But places where the options are really very self explanatory and cookie cutter (think anything from the ma & pa place to Applebee's and Red Lobster) bother me when I am tipping 15%-20% to someone when I could've had the $12 entree, or the $30 entree. What difference to the server does the cost of my meal make?
                                                  I'm tired of being held for ransom.

                                                  As far as health benefits, etc. just like everybody else, they can get a job that pays what they want and has the perks they want. They are free to choose not to live off of tips. Many choose serving because it's instant cash, they can fudge on their taxes, and you can get a job just about any day of the week, anywhere.
                                                  Back in the day I was a server (I was awful), and spent 8 years in commercial kitchens as everything from prep cook to kitchen manager.

                                                  1. re: weewah

                                                    Where I am from (British Columbia, Canada) all restaurant staff are covered by minimum wage laws. I work in a retail store; I work as hard for my $8 per hour as the person serving at a restaurant. Why should people in their job get tips and not people in my job? It just doesn't seem fair or right. When did you last tip a server in a store? Ever?

                                                    1. re: cally

                                                      When did you last tip a server in a store?
                                                      Last week, when the salesman in the menswear department spent a great deal of time with me, rendered personal attention, got on the phone to locate items not in stock, had my suit jacket pressed (without my knowledge) while I was in the fitting room trying on slacks, and offered to have everything delivered to my office so I would not have to carry the parcels.

                                                      The time before--a clerk in Macy's offered to have someone on staff carry my purchase (electric blender) out to my car. I tipped both the clerk and the stock person.

                                                      If a clerk in a retail store giftwraps a parcel, I always tip.

                                                      I tip for service, not for just ringing up and bagging my purchase.

                                                      BTW, in some better stores tipping is not allowed, so I sometimes will hand the salesperson a ten or twenty and suggest they get coffee later, this seems acceptable to management.

                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                        I've worked in retail before, and have many friends who do. Your tip goes to management, who either uses it to adjust the drawers at the end of the day if someone made mistakes, or puts it in the March of Dimes or similar donation bucket. And if they try to hide it, or just didn't realize they were supposed to refuse it (which, since esp. at Macy's tipping is so unheard of, is common) they can be fired if they're caught. In my restaurant (not a sit-down) we are required to refuse three times, suggest the donation bucket, and then if they still push, accept it graciously and put it in the donation bucket when they leave.

                                                    2. re: weewah

                                                      Some people really shouldn't be going out to eat with attitudes like this.

                                                      If you eat out at a restaurant, you're contributing to the problem. Not tipping your server isn't going to miraculously make the industry fair and balanced. It's just going to take money out of the server's pockets. What good does that do anybody? If you don't like to tip, then don't. But don't ask for any kind of service that requires tipping.

                                                      The cost of your meal DOES make a difference to the server. It affects how much in taxes they are required to pay. (The tax amount is a percentage of their overall sales.) As well as it affects the amount they have to tip out (which is also a percentage of their sales.) That's why the more your meal costs, the more you should tip to the server.

                                                      Most people who choose to be a server choose that because it has some of the most flexible schedules of any job. Most servers are going to school or raising kids. Some are part-time servers who work full-time jobs on top of it and are just trying to pay all their bills. Stop acting like they're all just a bunch of losers trying to scam their way through life.

                                                      And while SOME waiters make bank, others don't. MOST don't. How many servers do you really think there are living in nice houses, driving nice cars, going on luxury vacations. Please.

                                                  2. The tipping rend that bothers me is seeing tip jars just about everywhere now. Servers make $2 an hour, so I totally get that they absolutely need it. Plus, they usually really bust their butts at their jobs. It's go-go-go practically nonstop for them, which is unlike most other jobs. But someone who's just standing behind a counter, making AT LEAST minimum wage, is selfish for putting up those tip jars, in my opinion. I only put cash in them if I'm a regular, because otherwise they might treat you (or your food) in an unsavory way. But generally, that trend needs to end, in my opinion.