To tip a little, a lot, or not at all
Brigitte Rivera, who works at two Sawgrass Mills restaurants, is a forgiving soul. Half of her customers are stingy tippers, giving less than the 15 percent benchmark. And some don't tip at all. But the upbeat, swift-moving waitress knows it's not because the customer is unhappy -- it's because some of her patrons don't know any better.
''Sometimes, I'll get a table that doesn't tip me at all, and they're extremely happy with the service,'' she said. ``They think it's already included in my paycheck or something.''
Servers across the nation are speaking up about pay. But in South Florida in particular, with its influx of international tourists, servers wait on many visitors who are unfamiliar with the 15 percent tipping custom in the United States. Some restaurants, such as those in South Beach, automatically include tips on the bill because of international tourists. Yet other tourist-heavy areas, including Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, don't automatically include gratuity.
And after years of dealing with paltry tips from international diners, Rivera supports the efforts of an online organization to boost tips.
Fairtip.org is petitioning for all U.S. restaurants to automatically include a 20 percent tip on the bill. The website was launched in May and has gained 3,000 online supporters.
So the story is about wait staff in restaurants supporting a national movement to automatically add that 20% tip to food tabs. One of the arguments in support of the mandatory tip is that here in South Florida, tourists, particularly those visiting from other countries, aren't familiar with our "American" tipping custom. I say that's BS. I don't care if you're from Mars. You know if someone runs around serving you while you eat you need to leave them extra money when you're done.
In general though, I have mixed feelings about this. I like to tip big - not showin' off big, but showing that I appreciate manual labor big.
It's not like I have much experience waiting tables myself. I lasted one week during my junior year in high school at one of those buffet joints that were so popular in the late '80s. I just happened to get stuck with the tables full of people who were too sedity to eat from the buffet and wanted regular meals served to them. Alas, a couple of dropped trays full of food, and I found myself unemployed...and promptly moved across the street to McDonald's.
Anywho, back to the matter at hand. Waiters and waitresses have it tough, especially in popular places, and I'm amazed at how often I see cheap-arsed people get up after an hour or more of service and leave a buck or two on their tables. That is horrible. It's bad karma. And it will one day bite all of those cheapskates where the sun don't shine.
On the other hand, I've seen quite a few waiters and waitresses give really bad service. I mean bad, as in attitude, bad as in only checking on our table once in a blue moon, bad as in taking orders for this and that and either forgetting or neglecting to bring it, bad as in getting orders wrong and then getting huffy about correcting their mistakes. And while I still believe in giving a minimum of 15% just because, those are the waiters and waitresses who don't deserve a penny more.
So a mandatory 20% sticks in my craw.
For my wife's birthday in January we went out to eat with four friends. The six of us had a blast. But our waitress behaved as though she was in high school and we'd just banished her to her bedroom: major attitude, pouting, ridiculously slow service. In the end our tab was well over $200. As we're all doing the math and figuring out our shares of the bill, one member of our party took a close look at the bill and saw that the tab was that high, because a 20% tip had already been added. That was one of those times I wanted to go find a manager and tell him/her that this waitress didn't even deserve a coke and a smile.
Don't be cheap, but if you're a waiter or waitress don't be lazy. Problem solved.