Monday, March 7, 2011

To Tip or Not to Tip?

I have heard it said that if a server at a restaurant does not perform well, he should be tipped less than standard (or even not at all!). The idea is that a tip is a reward for a job well done. If the job is not well done, a tip is not forthcoming (or at least, not as good as it would have been). It occurs to me that this may be a wrong way of viewing it. Of course, if your intent was to tip $100 on a $20 bill pending good service, and instead you tip $10 on the same, the server won’t know the difference (and will likely be quite pleased).

However, it seems to me that the reality is most of a server’s wages (at least in Florida) are derived from tips from paying customers. In essence, it is an optional price for a customer to pay. That the funds are not demanded nor is the amount disclosed seems to me to be a bit of a side issue; it is generally understood that a tip of approximately 18% will be left (hence the term “customary”).

Now, let it be known I have received poor service before. Occasionally, it is due to a server with a bad attitude, but more often it can be an overworked server, or a new trainee. But suppose you receive especially bad service. Does that warrant leaving pocket change on a dinner? Surely not! I think how we ought to handle this situation is by either speaking to the manager, corporate headquarters, or “voting with our feet” and taking our business elsewhere. By dining at the restaurant, we have entered knowing the cultural expectation that both patrons and the establishment understands: they provide the food and service, we provide the cash and appetites. The server is almost a subcontractor hired to perform the serving of the food. You may honorably tip a poor server less than you would have had they been excellent; you may not tip them less than the industry standard.

However, even supposing it is sometimes justifiable to tip less, I contend it is not for the Christian. We ought to live our lives in light of the Gospel and its impact on the world. We ought to do so every moment of every day. If you leave without tipping, or tip a very small percentage, and that server were to find out you were a Christian, what kind of testimony would that give? Fair or unfair, one has to admit it would reflect negatively on Christ. Sometimes, we need to lay down what we think are our “rights” in the name of reflecting Christ well. Here’s an idea: tip a server with a bad attitude extra, or even double, and leave them a quick note about how God loves them.

Feel free to comment below, including any horror stories from servers or customers!

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