Why tip your server?


Paige Schneider, Staff Reporter

There’s nothing worse than opening up a book to find a comment card decorated with the words, “excellent service!” and a card for the nearest church replacing the tip. Having been a part of the restaurant business since I was merely 9 years old, I’ve seen just how important tips are to America’s waiters. But tips weren’t always around – at one point in time, American servers were paid set wages just like in other countries. Tips weren’t always expected in American restaurants, and until not too long ago, it was an unheard of practice. In today’s times, though, tipping your server is a necessary thing. What happened?

Before the civil war, no one tipped at all, but after slavery was abolished that changed. Companies still didn’t want to pay released slaves, and so instead of giving them a living salary, guests were required to tip them. This tradition stuck in Europe, and tipping was implemented in restaurants and other places. During the 1850s and ’60s, wealthy Americans would take vacations to Europe and, there, they found that tipping was common in restaurants. When they returned to America, they continued to tip, wanting to flaunt their riches. American diners didn’t appreciate this practice, as they believed it was condescending and classist. America was so against tipping that in the 1960s that the idea moved on to Europe, and eventually nearly knocked out the practice in the country entirely. Tipping wasn’t widely accepted in America until 1919 after prohibition began. Due to the ban on alcohol, hotels lost large amounts of monthly revenue they depended on. Because of tipping, companies were able to pay employees lower wages, which helped them overcome the lower sales. Tipping hasn’t changed since.

The amount someone is asked to tip depends on where they live. Tipping in America is different than tipping in Europe, for example. In America in 2019, clients are expected to tip their waiter 20% for decent service. This is over the entire bill, and it doesn’t include any discounts that may have been added. A larger or smaller tip can be given depending on how good or bad the service was. Tips are so high in America because the minimum wage for servers is $2.50. Tips aren’t just expected at restaurants, but also at golf courses, casinos, hotels, spas, salons, and many other places. The bad view on tipping Europe adopted in the 1860s is still relevant today. A 5% tip is the usual amount for a server who has provided good service. This is because European servers are paid well, and tips are just a bonus and are completely unnecessary.

Of course, servers benefit from tipping. Although they only receive $2.50 an hour, they are always guaranteed minimum wage. This gives them the opportunity to make more than minimum wage on some occasions and to work fewer hours for more money. However, tips are good for more than just the servers – they benefit the restaurant itself and the customers, as well. The better the service, the larger the tip, so servers work hard to do a good job. This results in a good experience for the customer, and if the server is upselling, it also means more money for their employers. Tips keep restaurants from having to jack up their prices, so customers have to pay less for their food. Customers also control how much they want to pay for the service they received, so there’s no worry about overpaying a distracted employee. So, maybe next time you get the bill, you won’t feel so bad about having to leave a couple of extra dollars.