Gratuities are not synonymous with gratitude

 

By Nigel Flores
Special to The Guardsman

Long ago, tipping was a way to show appreciation for well-performed and timely service. In the United States today, tipping has been our way for so long that it is considered mandatory and almost more insulting than a slap to the face if not given outright.

Initially, tips were created as a kind and unnecessary gesture. Now, customers are stigmatized if they don’t tip and servers are penalized for receiving them.

Despite being a renowned American tradition, researchers say that tipping may have been coined during the 17th century in British taverns. Being tipped was a way of ensuring that your glass would be trending upwards throughout the night and encouraged barkeeps to keep their patrons happy.

It was once a generous act that promoted good service. However, tipping became just another failed British experiment for America, right behind soccer.

Tipping is no more a prize than it is a death sentence. As the result of higher earnings from tipping, many states have elected to only pay servers the federal tipped minimum wage, which is a meager $2.13.

The only way to receive extra money is if earnings from the federal tipped minimum wage and tips do not exceed the earning of what that person would have received under the normal federal minimum wage.

For a brief time, I worked as a busboy at an upscale Italian restaurant in southern California where servers often received large tips from customers who enjoyed grossly overpriced food.

To ensure the decent tip any server would normally expect, they asked for assistance from busboys and had them tend to the requests of their tables. At the end of the night, servers would tip according to the quality of their work.

While some busboys could make 50 percent of a server’s tip in earnings, others earned nothing. Sometimes it wasn’t exactly fair and feelings got hurt, but the point is that quality mattered.

The hustle, the extra sweat, the attention to detail. It all mattered.

That’s what tipping should be about. That’s what it was about in the first place.

But now it simply is about the motions and half efforts.

This isn’t my assault on servers and bartenders, as I have lived in their world before. Phone bills need to be paid, groceries need to be bought and rent is constantly due.

Most people would understand a server’s desire for a little extra cash to become more comfortable, but I believe that desire should translate into a more competitive approach to impress customers.

The ease they seek should come at a stiffer cost than what is being paid today. The only way to influence change is to leave a poor-performing server with a zero in the tip margin.

Even though individuals who have the nerve to leave no tips are ridiculed or mocked, it seems that they are the only honest ones left.