For awhile now, the debate about whether or not one should tip one’s server has caused pockets of embittered battles across the internet. Here’s the thing: this shouldn’t even be a debate. It shouldn’t be a debate because there’s one clear answer: you should tip your server.
I’m going to skip all of the “you should tip your server because they’re poor” stuff, because that line of reasoning has convinced exactly nobody who is anti-tipping. If you’re anti-tipping, your main point seems to be, “Why should I pay extra and subsidize this person’s existence when nobody does that for me?” and if you’re asking that question, your concern about the poor is probably slim to none. While this way of thinking probably isn’t winning you many friends, it could be a valid question . . . except that it makes assumptions that aren’t true in practice.
One major assumption is that gratuity is on top of the server’s salary. This isn’t true in most states. Gratuity usually is the server’s salary. This is a more important point than just “oh, take pity on servers because they are poor”; it has to do with the system of going out to eat and the compensation of labor. The system of going out to eat assumes that the server will be tipped at least 15% on average, and your meal is priced accordingly. If everyone stopped tipping, that cost would have to be rolled into the price of the food (that means prices go up, FYI) because servers have to get paid. Nobody’s going to come into a restaurant and take orders from you, and set plates of food in front of you while you sit on your ass, and run back to the kitchen because you prematurely ate all of your ranch dressing (and even though there are ten other people waiting, you really need that ranch dressing) without getting a paycheck.
Even if you don’t believe in doing good things to help people, you should be tipping if you want to continue going out to eat and being served by someone else. The expectation is that you’re going to pay the servers; the restaurant isn’t charging you enough to pay the servers out of the cost of your meal. I don’t particularly like this system, either, but that is the system. There’s no magical extra money coming to servers from anywhere else.
If you don’t leave a tip, you’re kinda-sorta also stealing someone’s labor. Pretty much every person who is of reasonable intelligence in America has at least a murky idea that this is how the system works. Because it is assumed at the beginning of the meal that you’ll pay for the labor used, and because bucking this assumption means unfairly wasting the time of a server who could have been serving customers who would tip (maybe customers should start bidding to be served–since the restaurant doesn’t pay the servers, who says you’re entitled to their service just by eating there, anyway? Servers are free agents, in a way), I consider stiffing them on the gratuity borderline theft, unless the circumstances are extreme enough to warrant having your dinner comped.
What about meh service? Yep, those servers deserve tips, too. Even if the server wasn’t particularly bubbly or did an over-the-top job, they deserve some compensation for carting your food out to you and refilling your cups. It’s like buying an off-brand instead of the pricey brand–it may not be as good, but it will suffice. It is, however, still not free.
So. Yeah. Tip your server. If the thought of being generous doesn’t polish your fork, do it because you want to be able to continue going out to eat. Don’t like the system? Fight to change the system at the top, rather than making people go without pay. Boycott the whole restaurant, not the individual who already held up their end of the deal.
(PS, and this is just for me: please stop leaving self-righteous notes about how much you hate tipping. Just, no. That’s like showing off a turd–it’s a damned strange thing to be proud of.)