An Open Letter To People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

I was brought up in a family where any work was considered “real work.” Anyone who was out making a living for themselves was an admirable person. No matter what trade, or where, or when–my parents taught me to respect and appreciate those who could get up every morning and do their part to make lives a bit better–for whatever reason.
When I was young, I was naive and thought that everyone was raised this way. When I began waitressing at the age of 15, I realized–the majority of people don’t.

Working in a restaurant as a server is a job that is underappreciated and undervalued. Restaurants are one of the most fast-paced industries, where you are expected to wear several hats at once. Many times I’d work in restaurants where I was not only the waitress but also the manager, the bartender, the food runner, the expediter. Working in restaurants will teach you so many lessons, and also introduce you to some of the greatest people in the world–but you will realize that some people are nothing but rude.

The first time I waited on a table and didn’t get a tip, I was 16. I was nice, I was kind, I made sure their food was perfectly prepared as ordered and even laughed and told some stories to them–they seemed to enjoy their meal and their time. When I returned their credit card, with receipt, I was hurt to see the line through the “tip” section–and no cash in sight. I asked my busboys, I asked my co-workers–I was flat out stiffed on a $75.00 check.

I was hurt and confused–as it was my first time being stiffed. But, as I continued working my way in the industry–to pay for college, to pay rent, to support myself through my bachelor’s and master’s–I got used to it.

Now, no longer working in the industry at this point in time, I wonder–why do I have to get used to people stiffing me on checks, rather than people getting used to tipping their servers?

Most people who work in the restaurant industry live off of their tips. Many workers get paid minimum wage, or sometimes less than minimum wage. They don’t get benefits, they don’t get paid time off, or holidays off to be with their families. Many servers work more than one job to make ends meet. They are college students who need to pay tuition. They are adults who were laid off and need another gig. They are parents, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews–all looking to make a life for themselves.

When someone provides a service for you, you leave them a tip for doing so. When you get your hair done, when you get your car serviced, when someone pumps your gas for you, when you get your nails done. Eating out is no different.

If you can afford to go out to eat for a meal–ordering appetizers, entrees, desserts, drinks–you should be able to give your server, who provided everything for you, a tip.

Servers are usually on autopilot during a rush. They can’t stop for a second to breathe. Table 3 needs more Ranch dressing, Table 5 asked for refills on drinks, Table 2 wants their steak cooked more, Table 1 is waiting for dessert menus. We run, and run, and run, to make sure that your experience is one that you enjoy–the least you can do is give us what we are owed.

Regardless of how you feel about servers, take a page from the book that my parents gave me. All workers are real workers, especially servers. No matter what trade, or where, or when–people deserve to be treated with respect.

Written by Lex Gabrielle

A writer and teacher from New York City who fully supports messy buns and 3+ cups of coffee a day.