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Here’s a tip for you…

Posted on Wednesday, October 4th, 2023

Dave!A couple weeks ago a friend and I were chatting about life and we somehow got around to the worst jobs we've ever had. Mine was easy... picking cherries. His was a bit more complex.

My friend had lost his job when he was in his late 30's. Nowhere was hiring in his field, he needed money to pay the bills, and so he took a job waiting tables. The pay in restaurant work is not great, but when you wait tables you can pick up some fairly good money on tips, so that's where he went.

Then he had to clarify. He actually didn't mind the work at all. It was the job he hated.

Sure it was long hours on your feet spent trying to keep multiple balls in the air... all while trying to serve people who can be less than patient... but there are worse ways to make a living. I understood this perfectly, having had worked in restaurants myself.

The problem could be summed up like this...
One week into the job, he passed a dinner bill off to a couple of guys in nice suits. He was anticipating a good tip, which was money he needed, so he was in a good mood as he picked up the ticket to run their credit card. But when he got to the register, he saw it.

NO TIP! was written on the line that was reserved for it, and he was genuinely puzzled.

He took the receipt back to them to get a signature and said something like "I'm new on the job... can you tell me where I went wrong so I don't make that mistake again?"

The guy who paid the bill looked up at him and said something like "Oh? Were you looking for a tip? Here's a tip... go to college and get a real job if you want more money instead of asking for a handout."

My friend worked at that same restaurant for over a year until he got a job that was profession-adjacent to what his experience was. He eventually used it as a stepping stone to get a job that was better-suited for his training at the same company. Which made the fact that it initially paid less than what he earned at the restaurant entirely worthwhile.

So while the work of waiting tables was okay, the job of having to put up with occasional shitty people was the worst he had ever had.

I wish I could end my friend's story being able to say "Six months later, the guy who treated him so badly showed up asking him for a job, and my friend laughed at him and said HERE'S A TIP: DON'T TREAT PEOPLE LIKE GARBAGE WHO MIGHT BE THE GUY HIRING YOU FOR A JOB ONE DAY! HA HA HA!" But that only happens in internet memes. And in movies, I guess.

A tip is not a handout.

Many states (and all states back then, I believe) pay wait staff something called "cash wage." Which can be something ridiculous like $2 an hour. It was meant to be supplemented by tips so that somebody waiting tables could earn minimum wage. If they did great work and could hustle at a good restaurant, they could do better than minimum wage. Of course now there are states (like my own Washington) where the "cash wage" is the minimum wage... and so a tip is, in fact, a tip. But that's not true everywhere. And it gets worse when you recognize the fact that you don't keep 100% of that tip. You have to "tip out" (share the tip) with cooks, bussers, dishwashers, cleaners, and the like. Some restaurant owners even step in and demand some of the tips you earned.

So, yeah, my friend getting stiffed on a tip by two assholes accusing him of wanting a "handout" might be an amusing anecdote if tips were, in fact, fully additional to minimum wage. But for him it meant something like not being able to put food on the table because he was probably making $2 an hour.

And it wasn't like he wouldn't have rather been working at a "better job," if that was an option, so the "advice" he was given wasn't even helpful. It was just cruel. And can you imagine how cruel it would be if your family didn't have shitloads of money to send you to college so you can "get a real job" and you had to make your way on your own? And I resent the implication that waiting tables isn't a "real job" in the first place. To be a good waiter takes skills that would bury a lot of people. It's an honest job that takes hard work and an ability to be personable and friendly even on your worst days.

In countries like Australia, all wages are living wages. Which actually works out in the end because even though things are more expensive because people can make a living at one job instead of having to work three jobs, it balances out because everybody can do more than just work to live, and they have enough money to do more than just scrape by.

Like eat out at restaurants from time to time.

But here in America? Well, if I can't afford to leave a tip, then I accept that I can't afford to eat out, and instead make meals out of whatever I've got rattling around in my cupboards or stuffed in a corner of my refrigerator somewhere.

Washington State may have a cash wage that's equal to minimum wage, and our minimum wage is pretty good here, but I have no idea what my waiter's circumstances are. They could very well be working to support a family, pay off medical bills, put a parent into a nursing home, or any of a million different things that minimum wage isn't going to touch. Because that's what "entry level, minimum wage jobs" are designed for now-a-days. With the goverment shipping all our "good jobs" overseas, people are doing the best they can with the job they could find.

And I won't tell that person to "get a real job" by writing "NO TIP!" on their ticket.

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Categories: News – Politics 2023Click To It: Permalink


  1. Nicole says:

    That’s such a disgusting take from the guy who didn’t leave a tip. I don’t believe it had anything to do with whether he could afford it. More like him thinking he’s better than everyone else. Probably one of those “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” people.

    I’m so tired of people disparaging people in minimum wage jobs as if they are lazy. You know, the same jobs they wouldn’t want to work themselves, but would throw a fit about if there weren’t enough workers to serve them. Also the same jobs that would have fully supported a family of four back when I was born (70s). As soon as the topic of minimum wage increases come up, before some asshole can even start ranting against it, I say “good, I hope they get over $20 an hour so they can actually afford housing and groceries” because apparently many people haven’t looked at the difference between wages and every other expense out there and how they haven’t risen in proportion to one another.

    We have both the government and the shitty corporate overloads gaslighting Americans into hating each other so they can fly under the radar with their rampant greed. Inflation, my ass.

    Every single person should make a livable wage, regardless of what their job is, and every single CEO should have a wage cap they cannot go beyond so that this inequality stops, or at least isn’t so incredibly far apart.

  2. I always thought it was daft that tipping is essentially those peoples’ sole source of income. Why not just pay people properly and do away with tipping altogether. Sure prices would go up but you’re going to be basically paying the same in the end. Or rather, most people would be paying the same, and assholes like that would be forced to pay.
    (and don’t even get me started on taxes that get applied at the till meaning you have no idea how much something is going to cost)

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