My life has been enriched and I am so grateful for every courteous word and every gracious tip bestowed upon me by
reasons and have been rewarded greatly.
When I started bartending, people told me that I could not make a career out of this type of job. I naively asked why
not. Twenty-five years later I can answer that question myself, probably better than anyone who gave me that
warning so long ago.
Working for tips is demeaning and detrimental to one's self-esteem. It is reprehensible the way people take advantage of
the tipping system for their own greedy benefit and the idea that an employee must tolerate the daily abuse of rude that they
would surely not endure themselves or consider allowing such disrespect to be inflicted upon their loved ones. The
customer is not always right and sometimes they are even a jerk. It should be illegal for an employer to require employees
to withstand any type of behavior that would be considered abusive in any other situation.
There are specific skills at handling unsatisfied customers and they should be implemented as often as is required.
However, some patrons have no valid complaint, rather they choose to degrade an employee, who is in an unfair position,
for their own pleasure and entertainment. When one feels unimportant they may challenge someone in an inferior seat to
boost their own ego. How just is that?
High standards of service should absolutely be expected from employees. With that in mind, it is doubtful that any server
who performs below par would be allowed to remain on staff, thus no customer should be permitted to insult, chastise or
stiff any employee. Nor should anyone be allowed to take advantage of the tipping system for their own greedy benefit.
Years ago, when the system of tipping began, it was assumed that people were honorable and would tip according to the
services performed. This may have worked ages ago, but today is a new day. These times are tough, prices are high
and wages are low. If one dines out, the cost of valet parking, dinner, drinks and gratuities can be quite pricey.
However, many people have found that one way to save money on the cost of a night out on the town is to cheat or
altogether stiff their server.
Since there is no compromise on the price of dinner, drinks and parking, the only way to pinch pennies is to leave an unfair
tip or none at all. Some people do so with no conscience and others justify such behavior by using an arbitrary excuse,
like “She didn’t smile enough, so she doesn’t deserve a tip.” This attitude insinuates that servers are not people, but
trained animals to perform on command. Yes, service with a smile is better, but so is a 25% tip.
Restaurant and bar owners are guaranteed fair compensation for their products, as they do not rely on the honor system for
payment of dinner and drinks. However, the waiters, waitresses and bartenders who serve these products must depend
on the charity of their patrons. You see, tipping is no longer a system that is measured by service, but simply by the
generosity, or not, of the customer.
Is it that people are no longer honorable, or are they just ignorant? The standard tip for good service is twenty percent,
yet there is no minimum gratuity. Some economically challenged customers argue that servers and bartenders are
already paid minimum wage by their employers, so they don’t feel that they must leave a tip, since the prices are beyond
their budget. On the other hand, servers would rebut that perhaps these patrons should stay home and serve themselves
to keep within their spending limits, rather than cheat the server.
Additionally, these jobs require skills beyond the pay of minimum wage. Servers are generally required to be friendly,
patient, efficient, well-groomed, knowledgeable of products, great salespersons and, also, entertaining. That’s a lot to
expect for minimum wage. If minimum wage were acceptable for these positions, only very young, inexperienced or
uneducated people would work for such compensation, which is inadequate for anyone to live on. This would also cause
a need for more workers due to inefficiency and lack of expertise, and would reflect in the prices of the food and spirits.
Both sales and service would be greatly compromised.
Service jobs are very stressful, extremely physical and take a great deal of patience. Bartending requires training and
demands skill at handling large sums of money, knowledge of hundreds of recipes, expertise of liquors and spirits, and
proficiency at making drinks. Waiters and waitresses are also put under a great deal of pressure and depend on the
cooperation of the chef and the bartender for their service. These jobs may look fun and easy, but they are made to be
very difficult by moody patrons who expect the impossible, and demean those in service with their egotistical demands.
Furthermore, servers must tip the busboys and bartenders, so they do not even pocket all of their tips. Bartenders are also
required to tip the barbacks, who assist them throughout their shift. These tips are calculated by set percentages,
regardless of how cheaply or generously their customers have calculated their gratuities. Patrons are not aware of the
work done by many employees who are not seen, and all servers and bartenders before the doors are open for business
each day and after they close for the evening.
When a server asks a patron if their service was inadequate or if they had offended the customer in some way, after
viewing a meager tip, the server is politely asking why they have been cheated out of their much-deserved gratuity. Is that
rude? If anything, it is degrading to the server to have to practically beg for the money that they have rightfully earned. It is
ridiculous that there is no minimum gratuity included for sales of all food and beverages. If there were, then a customer
could add an additional gratuity for superior service, but would not have the rude option of cheating or stiffing the server.
The cheating of servers by some customers nullifies the generous tips, as those bonuses only make up for the stiffs.
Hence, the fair and generous tips, which are meant as gifts for great service, become part of the average and, in a way,
cheat the benevolent patrons, too.
If a standard gratuity was included on all food and drink sales at bars and restaurants, there would be greater incentive for
servers to increase their sales and serve with a smile. Additionally, the government could fairly tax these wages (tips,
commissions) on a more accurate basis. The system currently in practice permits people with no honor to cheat those in
the service industry, giving servers no recourse. For those who have made this type of employment a career, there is a
residual effect on the heart each time a patron has taken advantage of the kindness of their service. This, sadly, effects
one’s self-esteem, which is why these jobs are not considered desirable or long-term career choices.
What if everyone worked for tips? Your boss could pay you whatever he felt like over minimum wage, with no
consideration of your performance. Instead of the steep labor charges we must pay our mechanics and plumbers
(regardless of their gruff demeanor, bad smell, or lack of haste), we could tip them (or not). When we buy a car, we could
cut out the pushy salesman’s commission to reduce our monthly payments, if we so desired. Fortunate for them, these
businesses have set prices and commissions and their employees are paid accordingly and regardless of your complaints
about their service.
Any server will tell you that these days many people are quite generous, but many others are not honorable, can’t seem to
calculate percentages and are just plain classless. No one wants to feel like a charity case. Servers just want fair
compensation for each day of honest, hard work.
**If “TIPS” stands for "To Insure Prompt Service," then why do we pay our gratuity at the end of service?
**If you can’t afford the tip, then you can’t afford the place.
East LA College
|Gratuity or Charity?
by Kellie Nicholson
|Inexperienced Bar Owners Pay the Price
The uninformed decisions made by bar owners are the greatest reasons for staff misery. This causes
waste, disloyalty and even theft. Here are the most common mistakes new bar owners make:
1. Poor Bar Design-makes a difficult job even harder. Rather than pay a few hundred
dollars to a professional bar consultant, many bar owners will pay a contractor, who has no
clue, thousands of dollars to design a bar that needs correction later.
2. Over Staffing-causes lack of motivation for staff and slices the tip pie into narrow pieces.
Bar owners wonder why the staff doesn't care about their jobs.
3. Product Overload-more product doesn't mean more sales, it means more choices to
discuss with indecisive customers and more bottles to collect dust.
4. Supporting Non-tipping Customers-bar owners will often side with a customer who has
cheated a server out of their tip, but watch how they react if the customer runs out on the tab.
5. Believing the Customer Is Always Right-allowing customers to disrespect their
employees will guarantee a disloyal staff. The customer is always right..... when paying for
their product, they should always be satisfied with the item purchased. However, it is abusive
to allow a patron to disrespect an employee, which is usually only a ploy to get some type of
6. Making Bartenders Pay for Drawer Shortages-the ones who are stealing won't mind
paying up, as this further justifies their reasons for stealing. The ones who are honest will feel
resentful for not being permitted to make a mistake when selling large volumes in short
periods of time.
|The Ugly Truth about Why Bartenders Steal
by Kellie Nicholson
When I began to bartend in the early eighties, every customer gave a fair tip and, as far as I saw, few
bartenders scammed for tips. They didn't have to! As times have changed and customers are no longer
to make an honest living.
Bar owners will not enforce mandatory service charges, thus they leave their staff to fend for themselves.
Some bartenders see a way to make the customer happy and make their money at the same time. They
use the alcohol to bargain for tips. Now all customers expect it. These days the most popular
bartenders are often the biggest thieves.
For a bartender with integrity, this is a losing battle. If one doesn't participate in these dishonest
practices, then the result is far fewer tips and some customers will even go out of their way to make
complaints against the bartender, of course not mentioning that the real reason for dissatisfaction is that
the bartender made them pay for their cocktails.
The other dilemma for the honest bartender is that the scamming bartenders won't want to work with an
honest bartender, knowing that their share of tips will not measure up. Then, if the honest bartender
reports the truth to the bar owner or manager, this bartender is then ostracised by the others. It is almost
impossible to be an honest bartender any more.
What is the solution?
Just like every other sales job, bartenders and servers should be paid a commission on their sales. This
means that the tip would be included in the cost of cocktails and food in the form of a commission.
There would be no debate over what the customer must pay and the bartenders and servers have
incentive to charge for every item sold, in order to receive their commission. The bar owners would be
assured that their employees are doing their best to sell the product, rather than using it as a ploy to get
This is similar to the system used in every other country in the world. Tipping is a degrading way to
make money and other cultures frown upon it. Allowing customers to use the honor system to pay
employees does not work. That's why businesses don't use this system for payment of the products they
The argument that service will suffer doesn't fly. If an employee is negligent in any way, they should be
reported to a manager, just like with any other type of service job. What I have found as both a manager
and a bartender, is that almost all complaints revolve around money. The customer is trying to get out of
paying the bill or leaving a tip. I think that there will always be challenges in finding good employees, but I
also believe that service will often improve from those who know that they will receive payment for their
services, rather than hang at the mercy of each and every customer, which creates apathy and bad
Those who whine that they can't find good, honest help are the ones responsible for this situation. It is up
to bar owners to make the change. I continue to teach my bartenders the honest way, but secretly relish
the day that this seedy, ugly side of the business goes up in smoke, just like cigarettes in bars.
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