Wait Staff, Tips and Minimum Wage – Updated

I keep coming across different blogs and people in general that always talk about how little wait staff get paid and how you should always tip.  While I agree you should tip wait staff for good service, I do not agree that it is mandatory.  I think many people do not realize that wait staff MUST be paid a minimum wage.

If a person gets paid $2 something an hour plus tips…that does not mean they are not entitled to, at the very least, the Federal Minimum wage.  The way the law is written is this…if your tips do not make up enough to bring you to minimum wage hourly, then your employer must make up the difference.


What is the minimum wage for workers who receive tips?

An employer may pay a tipped employee not less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equal at least the federal minimum wage, the employee retains all tips and the employee customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.

Some states have minimum wage laws specific to tipped employees. When an employee is subject to both the federal and state wage laws, the employee is entitled to the provisions of each law which provide the greater benefits.

See also: U.S. Department of Labor Website and  Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)

In other words, if you are a waiter/waitress and are not making min wage in one way or another…then you need to talk to your manager or the Dept. of Labor.

Now for my 2 cents…

I will tip 10-15% (or more around the holidays) depending on service.  If I get bare minimum service (I have to work to get a refill or find out what is taking so long on my food), you get 10%.  If you give good/great service expect 15% or more (sometimes on holidays or if the server seems particularly busy, but still did a wonderful job we have been known to give as much as half our bill as a tip).

However, I do not feel obligated to tip for the above reason.  If you do sub-par work, then I am not going to contribute to you getting more than minimum wage.  I realize it is hard work to be a server…I have been there.  I also realize it can suck a*ss to deal with the public…been there as well.  That doesn’t mean you have the right to be rude to me.  If you hate your job that damn much that you have to take it out on me…get a new job.

I don’t care if you are going through a divorce or your dog died or your car broke down no more than if you care if the same things are happening to me.  I have been the one to has literally went through a divorce, had a dog die, and my car break down all at the same time…and I can promise you the people I had to deal with would not have had any reason to complain about me.  I am not asking you to be happy and cheerful…but you can at least be civil and courteous.  That is your job…to wait on people…to get them drinks…to bring them their food…etc.

I will be at least civil to you…I expect the same.  It is simple common courtesy.  And remember folks, many of these people you are rude to may end up being (or not being) regulars at your establishment.  If you are at least civil and the people come back, they will know you and be more likely to tip a bit more if you are having a good day and treating them well and more likely to complain often to the management and put your job in jeapordy if you don’t.

Just some things to think on.


UPDATE:  I found this on the Emily Post Institute Website and thought it would be helpful is anyone is confused about tipping:

Finer points of tipping

A tip should always be earned. Reward good service generously and reduce the tip proportionately for indifferent or rude service. A good rule of thumb is ten percent if the service is mediocre and eight percent if it’s really poor. That way, you help to raise the standard of service. Leaving no tip does not correct the problem of poor service.

Treat servers with respect. Leaving a generous tip doesn’t make up for ordering someone around or treating them dismissively. While tipping augments servers’ incomes and rewards them for a job well done, treating them kindly is just as important.

When in doubt about whether to tip, ask in advance. If a department store is scheduled to deliver a new sofa, call and ask someone in the furniture department whether tipping is customary; in a hair salon, ask the receptionist. In some situations, leaving a tip could be seen as demeaning. Taking the time to find out what’s expected can spare you an embarrassing moment.

Tip on the pre-tax amount of the bill, not on the total.

Tip discreetly. Tipping is a private matter. Don’t act like a “big spender” and flash a lot of bills.

Money is the tip of choice. Sometimes a small gift, usually given during the holidays, can be substituted for cash. In the case of a hairdresser, for example, this gift can “top off” the cash tips you’ve given over the year.



Filed under General, Work

6 responses to “Wait Staff, Tips and Minimum Wage – Updated

  1. Where did that comment come from?

    [No clue, Dee. Obviously has a lot of anger built up and just took it out on my blog I guess. Now I realize they may have been talking about your comment about the penny tip..but again, they obviously didn’t really read anything and would have known that a penny wouldn’t be a normal tip.]

  2. nicole

    I hope one day… that your server throws your penny right in your face. Tipping is not “required” but do onto others as you would like done onto yourself. Serving can be a very demanding profession, and we work our butts off to make you happy. Just because we work in the service industry doesn’t mean were stupid, or that were drug addicts. So you shouldn’t treat us like the gum on the bottom of your shoe.

    [Wow, not sure where all this hostility came from since I never said anything about giving a penny…and actually said we try to tip very, very well and usually tip well even if the service is bad. All I said was I do not feel obligated to tip.

    And again, not once did I ever say that anyone in the service industry was stupid or drug addicts…so I am thinking that you are actually replying to something someone else said, but it ended up here, on my blog because I said I don’t feel obligated to tip and trying to make everyone (servers included) that they should be making minimum wage.

    There are many servers out there that didn’t know that their pay wasn’t dependent on their tips alone and that if they are not getting enough tips to bring them up to minimum wage then they need to do something about it.

    I also never said that I treated anyone like the gum on the bottom of my shoe. I do my very best to treat servers with respect and say please and thank you and generally be pleasant. All I ask is the same in return…so the do unto others thing should actually be reversed since I said I didn’t tip well if my server wasn’t at least civil to me and did their job.

    I am actually appalled when I see people treat wait-staff horribly and if they are someone we know we try not to eat out with them often for that reason. Everyone deserves respect as long as they give respect to me.

    And for the record…not all servers “work their butts off” to make their customers happy…and of course those ones aren’t the ones that are going to be making the big tips. Coming to my table to take my order, and to give me the check and sending someone to give me my food and NEVER brining me another drink is hardly working their butt off. There have been times we have sat for our entire meal drinking the water the ice left because we couldn’t our server to our table…even after asking OTHER SERVERS to get our server for us.

    So, I guess I am saying you really need to read what I posted before you start making an ass of yourself. You are attacking me for things I never said and making the assumption that I feel this way…when I never said or even implied it.

  3. ENM,

    I do the same thing. In some cases we have left a written “tip” as well ie: don’t ignore the customer or tip is commiserate with the quality and amount of service.

  4. I do not believe that anyone is ever obligated to leave a tip for bad service.

    I always leave a penny for bad service. Otherwise, they might think I just forgot to leave a tip. If the service is decent, they get 10%. If it’s good, they get 15%. If it’s great, they get more.

  5. Liz

    With me, every waiter/waitress starts off getting 20%. If they’re rude or make mistakes without apologizing or trying to make it up to me, that percentage dimishes drastically. On the other hand, if they’re absolutely wonderful? I’ll leave even more.

  6. I tip 15-20% if the service is good because I have been in their shoes. If the services is ok the tip drops to 10%. If the it is very good I will talk to the manager and provide a compliment. If the service is bad I will tip a penny and trust me I will talk to the manager.