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Tipping at Sonic [moved from Chains]

My question is do you tip the car hops at Sonic. My husband usually does, I don't. It's becoming a point of discussion at work. I thought I 'd see what the consensus on Chowhound is.

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  1. I tip them...they're basically servers, but on roller skates.

    4 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Do you hand them the tip directly, or leave it on the tray?

        1. re: Fibber McGee

          Hand it to them directly after they ask me to pay. We never eat in the car, if we go to a Sonic it's because we've been traveling and want to get out of the car so we'll sit at a table.

          1. re: monku

            We either eat there or bring it home. I do not want to eat in my car.

        1. Having worked as a carhop in the era when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I'd say tip the carhop. Most of the tips we got were left on the tray, and they were generally in the 10% range. Of course if it's windy, tip when you pay.

          1. sure, i tip them. why wouldn't you tip a server who brings your order to your own little car window?

            1. Hey, roller skating AND my food brought to me! I tip. And if they'll do a little Roller Derby to entertain me, I tip extra! Saturday night RUMBLE!!!

              1. I leave the change from rounding up to the nearest dollar.

                3 Replies
                1. re: beachmouse

                  So are you tipping 15% or just leaving change?

                  1. re: monku

                    Leaving change, which can actually end up being significantly more than 15% if I'm just getting a drink.

                    1. re: beachmouse

                      Thank you for the clarification.

                2. Your getting served, right? They earn their living on tips, they should be tipped like any other waitperson.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: cstr

                    Forgive my ignorance, but are they earning their living on tips? I have no idea how much they make per hour. Do they get the standard server rate or is it in line with other fast food workers?

                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                      They are paid hourly, most starting at minimum wage, not as servers/the do not work for tips.

                      I use a Sonic card and never considered tipping. Same as Starbucks.

                      1. re: Cathy

                        i think the situation is qualitatively different than starbucks. the sonic folks are "servers" that do more than stand behind a counter and hand you a cup of coffee.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Yes. But the Starbucks employees are also paid hourly wages as are the servers at McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, et al...

                          You cannot walk up to a window at Sonic. Even if you sit at a picnic bench out front, you still have to order at one of the machines and wait for it to be delivered. It's part of the business model of Sonic. Point is they are not working for tips.

                          Out here, if you eat in at Carls Jr (Hardees back East) , you get a number and they bring your food to your table. I don't tip there either.

                          1. re: Cathy

                            Exactly, I was just thinking the same thing. They bring you your food, that's the only face to face interaction. Odds are, I haven't been to a Sonic in ages, they don't check back to see if everything was ok. No talking to you before the order is placed, nothing. I just don't feel like that is worthy of a tip. Would I still leave something? Sure. But never 20% or even 10%.
                            I went to eat in NYC last night at a mac and cheese place, you placed your order at the counter, were given a number to put on your table and they brought out the food, no comments, no one asked how the meal was, same thing in my book. Of course there was a tip jar on the counter where you placed your order, I tipped 10%. I used to work in the service industry so I tend to tip all the time, but less in places like this.

                            1. re: Cathy

                              The difference between Starbuck's and all the rest is that any Starbuck's employee who works half-time or more has health insurance. For the record. But that has nothing to do with tip/no-tip. Just thought you should know.

                          2. re: Cathy

                            I've never been to Sonic, but I do tip at Starbucks.

                        2. re: cstr

                          But are they really servers? I don't know what they earn hourly. What makes them different from McD's or any other fast food place? I don't feel they are a waitperson. One person takes my order, another fixes it, another bags it, and another brings it to me. The only thing is the delivery method is different than tradtional fast food. The only thing they do is take my money and bring me my food. That's it. They don't check back on me, offer refills, and most of the time they aren't even very friendly. And when I pay with a card, there isn't even an option to add tip.

                          1. re: jcattles

                            When I eat at Sonic here, I usually tip. The ones here in Schertz are friendly and ask if you need anything else or what have you. I don't know what they pay them, and most of the ones here by me are girls and they either go to college or high school. I don't mind tipping them. I have gotten better service from the girls or the kids who take out your groceries at H.E.B. Grocery Store
                            than I have at some sit down restaurants.

                            1. re: HollyDolly

                              The grocery store cashier makes change and hands me a bag. I don't tip.
                              The checker at Target makes change and hands me a bag. I don't tip.
                              The Sonic carhop makes change and hands me a bag. I don't tip.
                              Maybe back in the day when a carhop came out and took your order and actually "served" a customer it was a different story. Not now.

                              1. re: Samalicious

                                The drive in I worked at had the speaker system and we carhops brought out the food and took the money (and made change! What a lost art that is!), then of course picked up the trays later.

                                We did get tips, but generally very low compared to a regular waitperson--at the end of the day less than 10% of sales. I made barely minimum wage and the tips were much appreciated but not a primary source of income. To me it's more of a good karma thing to tip at a drive in.

                                1. re: coney with everything

                                  I worked at a Sonic (during college - 15 years old, so this is dated). Almost everyone tipped and almost all the tips were change. At the time we were paid minimum wage - it's a good thing because even a whole shift of tips would bring in about $20.

                            2. re: jcattles

                              Umm yes we are Servers actually we are more than Servers and more than Waitressess!!!

                              I used to be a Sonic Carhop and we only get paid from a range of $3.13 to $3.65 depending were you work. That is not Minimum Wage! Minimum Wage is $7.25

                              We certainly do work for Tips as a daily living way more than you think!
                              Also we do way more than you think all the things you mentioned above seperate people do not do we do it all!!!

                              Me I got paid $3.25 an hour Bi-Weekly and I had to get $50 taken out of my paycheck along with Federal Tax, Social Security, Medicaid, & so forth cause they think we should make up for everything in tips & then I also got 10% of my tips taken away if I even made any at all and if I didn't make any it came out of my Paycheck!!!

                              We Carhop, Stock, Take Orders, Answer the Phone, do paperwork here & there, Check on Customers every 5 minutes with the Happy tray, sometimes have to help the cooks and fountain people, Clean the Restrooms, Clean the Parking Lot, Clean the Windows, Clean the Stalls, Clean the Tables & chairs outside, Clean Trays, & We even have to clean lights and clean bushes!

                              Oh and it is now Mandatory that all Sonic Drive In Carhops have to wear skates no exceptions.

                              We indure the crazy weather conditions and risking breaking our necks on skates and check on you and you say we aren't anything like a Restuarant Waitress???
                              You full of a bunch of BS then people!!!

                          2. I usually don't tip at Sonic, but it's because there's no space to tip on the receipt if you pay with a credit/debit card. I take this to mean that they earn at least minimum wage, since there doesn't seem to be an expectation that they'll get tips.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Naco

                              Trust me we don't earn Minimum wage.
                              The reason there isn't a tip option on the credit cards anymore is due to some bad carhops they would put a tip on there if the person didn't tip and if they did they would add more to the tip so they stopped it altogether.
                              We live off tips, our range of pay is from $3.13-$3.65 depending on where you live.

                              1. re: Jamsmem

                                Thanks for the information, but it doesn't change the fact that my hands are basically tied. I don't usually carry cash, and there's no way to tip when paying with a card.

                                It is pretty reprehensible for them to not even pay minimum wage to the carhops while a) encouraging everyone to pay via card, and b) not allowing tips on any of those transactions.

                                1. re: Naco

                                  I understand I just want everybody to realize we don't just do one thing we do about 12 different jobs sometimes more and don't even get paid have minimum wage it sucks!

                                  1. re: Jamsmem

                                    I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone whose job is only "one thing" we all do many different "jobs" within our day at work. Don't complain, you make at least minimum wage because that is how server wages are set up (minimum wage-average tips per hour=server wage>$2.13) otherwise your employer has to make up the difference.

                                    1. re: NoBeans

                                      How are you going to sit there and tell me what I made? You cant cause you dont know. Maybr some cities make minimum wage well good for them but where I worked I didnt. Of course all jobs have chores and such on the side but what I was pointing out is we do more and have to deal with weather than a regular restaurant waitperson would have to do and everyone tips them so why not tip us? If people stayed long enough you would realize we do check on yall unless that sonic isnt doing their job correctly and we take ur orders help bag them and so forth everything I stated aboce we dont just bring food exchange money and basicaly say bye. At most I made $40 a day somedays I made maybe just $3 and the rest came out of my check for something not aure what though.

                                      1. re: Jamsmem

                                        If your servers wage + tips did not equal minimum wage, your employer should have made up the difference. If your employer did not, he/she was in violation of federal law. As customers, we make decisions on spending and tipping with the assumption that restaurant owners/managers are following the law, and it is unreasonable to expect customers to know or assume otherwise.

                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                          I never have expected customers to guess what I make or to guess how my boss does his job. As I have said a few times now all I was pointing out is you tip people at a restaurant and we do more than thosr waiters/waitresses so why not tip us as well? I never ever in my life had heard of that law everyone I know all the restaurants dont do that so ok I agree there tjats wromg and their breaking the law but most of us had never knew about that law. We just worked our butts of hoping someone tipped us good to have a decent check.

                            2. Back in the day when even a podunk town had a drive in restaurant, tipping of the Carhop was almost universal. I'm talking the 50s & 60s...

                              Shouldn't be any different today.

                              1. Anyplace I eat that brings me food gets a tip of some sort. I was out with my sisters at a Belgian waffle fast food place. You place your order, they bring food and take away empties--it's a paper and plastic service. When we got up to leave--it was my sister's treat--nobody was going to leave a tip. I pulled 2 bucks out of my wallet and tucked it under the sugar, my sisters thought that was fine. (Total bill was about $25)

                                1 Reply
                                1. Question for those of you who worked at sonic... Is it normal for the car hops to write their name on your receipts? I need to know if I'm a giant stud and she wanted to be on a first name basis... Or she just really wanted me to use her name in a review! Lol

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Speedro3

                                    As a truck driver I have eaten at a large variety of restaurants, diners, drive-ins, etc. and I have had waitresses and carhops write thier names on the receipt many times. I believe it is in hopes that you will ask for them next time you come and they can build their own base of regular customers.

                                    1. re: Speedro3

                                      We never did but thats cause at the top it says Carhop: (your name) so why would you?
                                      Other jobs I have worked in like retail we did for the surveys or if they had questions they could ask for us by name.

                                    2. I've only been to Sonic once and won't be back (due to the food), but our Sonic uses charge card readers right in the ordering machine and you have to pay before you've been served. Because the particular Sonic near us (at least according to the guy who brought our food in bags) has had all its car trays stolen, they don't use them any more. I'm not particularly disposed to tipping someone for bringing a bag of food out to my car, but I'd probably do it (the way I tip a small amount for takeout) if the physical situation were more accommodating. Very odd situation IMHO.

                                      1. I do. They are kids are zipping their butts off....zipping in and out and all over. They are so nice and I love their condiment belt. Couple bucks will make there day

                                        1. I worked as a carhop and we get paid less than anyone at drive thru or in the kitchen. $4.25 when I worked there about three years ago. So yes, we are working off of tips. Most people don't know that which made it frustrating because you work harder than anyone else there, in my opinion (as someone who has done every job there). I always asked if I could get extra ketchup or anything and as I took other orders back I always stopped at my other cars and asked if they were doing alright. I also stopped at cars that hadn't ordered and asked if they needed any suggestions deciding. It's always a bummer when you work really hard and don't get anything out of it. In my opinion, if they really do a good job, I would tip (: