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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Yesterday, while attending a luncheon at a Cleveland party center, I stopped by the bar to ask about tipping policies.

I do this because I learned a decade ago that sticking a tip into a jar does not necessarily mean the gratuity goes to the person who is serving you.

This is true where you live, too. I’ve learned that from experience, too. Regardless of what city I’m visiting, it’s a fair bet that I will find yet another story about yet another restaurant or banquet hall that skims — no, let’s call it what it is: steals — tips from servers, valets and bartenders. Most of them are hourly wage earners who depend on tips to make minimum wage.

Businesses get away with this egregious practice because most patrons never think to ask, especially when the jar on the counter says “tips.” Never trust that little sign, by the way. My first column on this issue, in 2004, was about a large jar marked “tips” at a coat check in Cleveland. After making small talk with the weary clerk behind the counter, I discovered that not a cent of the jar brimming with bills went to her or her co-workers.

When I called the party center the next week to ask how that could be, three different managers told me, “Nobody cares who keeps the tips.”

Boy, were they wrong.

This week, sure enough, the bartender had a similar story. In this case, she was allowed to keep cash tips. She wanted me to know, however, that tips left on charge cards never found their way to her or other servers.

All too common practice: Customers mistakenly think that mandatory “service charge” is the tip, or they leave the gratuity on the charge card but don’t make clear that it’s intended for the men and women who waited on them.

Yes, I know. You would think that if you write the gratuity next to the word “tip,” everyone would agree on who’s getting that money. The only way to be sure it goes to the service employees is to insist.

Better yet, check on the policy before you book your event — and spread the word if you find out they don’t treat their servers fairly. Nothing changes bad business practices faster than a bunch of potential customers making clear why they’re taking their business elsewhere.

Something else you should know about tips left on charge cards: In many restaurants, managers deduct from tips the service charge they must pay credit card companies.

That’s why, whenever possible, you should tip in cash.

33 Responses to Tip In Cash, And Don’t Be A Jerk

  1. Nice of the old boys’ club at the NM to let a lady write about waitresses and stewardesses, tips and Buzzfeed gossip. No woman could possibly exceed their boys’ club member in discussing Republican wrongheadedness about Iran or President Obama’s address on inequality.

  2. I think Connie Schultz could have managed to write an edifying piece on farm subsidies without inserting a raspberry–before even the second paragraph–as Jim Hightower did, one of the NM’s pampered Old Boys. Even on the kind of feature piece Schultz is allowed to publish in the NM, like this one about waitresses and stewardesses and ladies who go to luncheon–she writes better than a misogynistic anti-intellectual bully, like Gene Lyons, who thought it was hilarious to end his puff piece on Southern regional expressions with “tittin’ around” and then complained when I called him on it. The NM would be a lot better journal of political commentary if Alison Brito, Cynthia Tucker, and Connie Schultz were to pull a little more weight around here, at least until the Old Boys stop shooting the breeze, bullying low-level posters on the comment threads, and squandering their chance to contribute to public discourse as serious journalists, instead of writing material that makes them sound for all the world like sophomoric frat boys. They are ruining what made the NM unique–something worthwhile to read each day.

  3. It’s happened to me a couple times where I write the tip on the receipt only to find that it was not deducted from my account, only the charge (without the tip) was deducted. What’s up with that? I feel like i’m stiffing good service. IHOP restaurants has a strange way of charging. They automatically add a 15% gratuity. I tried adding my gratuity but it was not deducted from my account. Had to review the receipt to make sense of it. These restaurants would do well to explicitly state their tipping strategy up front so everyone can go home happy.

    • I’ve noticed that often the charge for only the meal is processed immediately and shows up as such on my account. Later, a corrected charge is registered that includes the tip.

      • I ate at a TGI Fridays in Niagara. There were 12 of us in the party so the bill included the additional 18%. When paying in cash, the manager asked me if I want to leave a tip. I asked him isn’t the 18% a gratuity as marked on the bill? He said yes. So I said I will have my change please. Greedy little people.

        • Yeah, for Bob Evans CARRYOUT they asked if I wanted to leave a tip. Are cashiers paid the $2.13/hour? because I NEVER leave a tip on carryout… wtf?

  4. Thank you for writing this. I had no idea that servers did not always get their tips, but I really should have known this! My son was a server and he told me that management would “sometimes” (often) “accidentally” (on purpose) short servers’ pay either by miscounting hours worked or withholding more than they should. Terrible!! From now on I will give cash directly to the server. Thanks again.

  5. I can’t make heads or tails of this article. I have MANY bartender and server friends. Their tips are part of their hiring; most of them can never go back to the job market, tips are too good. True, at banquets, the service charge is divvied up including floor managers and such. You know the deal when you take the job. Impractical to have guests tip at a wedding for example, but nothing wrong with an extra fiver. I do.
    But what’s your point? Is this another employer=bad, poor worker = ripped off?

    • What other topics do you find boring besides stories about employers stealing from employees? Mistreating elderly people? Mistreating women? Preventing people from voting? Animal abuse? Too many stories about the ills of the world getting old, are they?

    • Yes, and there are many workers (the serving staff and bartenders) whose managers simply steal their money. When Herman Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association he wrote a bill that passed through Congress. It allowed the next raise in the Federal minimum wage, but disallowed it or any future raises from applying to the restaurant service employees. The result? Your waiter is paid the 1996 miimum wage ($2.13) and your tips make up the difference. “When servers work lunch, they have to show up at 9 am, or earlier, to do what’s called “sidework,” which consists of cleaning the restaurant, setting the tables, rolling silverware, and lots of food prep. They get paid that $2.13 an hour for all of that work, even when the restaurant isn’t open yet. That’s insanely cheap labor, and it creates an incentive, for the business, to overstaff their lunches, which dilutes the amount that can be earned by each server. It also means scheduling less kitchen workers, who earn a relatively higher wage.”
      A second issue dealing with these theives is that a waiter’s W2 usually includess an estimate of the tips they “received” as part of the pay their employers report to the Federal Government for income tax purposes. When they steal the tips, do they deduct their theft from their employees’ reported income? Not on your life. So the employee gets to pay the income taxes on the amount their employer stole from them.

    • Some places may not stiff their workers. Others are certainly going to. Just safer to give to the person doing the actual work is all.

  6. For Veterans Day several restaurants were offering “Free dinners for Vets” so I stopped in at Olive Garden wearing my “U.S.S. [ship] ” hat. The waiter was impressively ass-kissing and I had a wonderful meal. He brought me a bill that said $00.00 so I left him a fat tip. I got a $20 meal for $10 and he got to stick the $10 in his pocket. Semper Fi, working class!

  7. I checked with my pizza guy tonight, who works for a large national chain while he’s going to school. He gets the tips that get put on the card. If he didn’t, I know he’d tell me.

    • it’s going to vary, nut when i pay for the pizzas on the card, i tell them I’ll tip them when they bring the pizza, and always do, in cash.

    • So… by that rationale there should be no waiters or waitresses? I mean face it, what you are saying is if you can get a non-tipping job, good, if not, fuck you.

      Why not just stop being a douchebag and tip people appropriately? I guess it’s not enough that some people work their asses off. Have we really gone from “get a job” to “get a BETTER job you lazy ass”??

      • I tip, if I get good service and most of the time these people take it for granted a tip is coming their way, so they give you lousy service. If you go to some places to eat you order your food and pick it up yourself, and those places don’t have to hire waitresses. McDonald, Burger King ring a bell. I am not lazy just someone that is retired and now am enjoying my retirement, while others bitch about not getting a good wage or a tip.

        • I’m a tipper. In Europe, they have largely replaced the system with salaried and unionized wait staff. Good luck getting a second cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, service is much better in restaurants frequented by Americans, who tip anyway even if it says “service included”

  8. Most states (if not all) already have laws that make these practices illegal. The IRS itself has rules about this sort of thing too. Any business doing this can find themselves in a hell of a lot of hot water.

    • Yeah, sure. And who is going to prosecute them? The guy making four bucks an hour going out and hiring an attorney. Theft of hours and wages is rampant in this country, and tips are no exception. It was rampant in the U.S. Postal Service, where laws are severe, and the unions are vigilant when I worked there, and is notoriously bad in places where no unions exist.

      • IRS doesn’t care about the worker (nor would the worker really be involved). They would care about the company cheating on their taxes. They love going after small businesses.

  9. When the confusion of liberty and power confuses liberty with wealth, more demands for “liberty” can be conjured up to attack true liberty.

  10. I hate tip “SHARING”. I am a bubbly gal who tends to get pretty good tips. When I would work with a sour puss, who doesn’t give a rats butt about anyone, they got to split the we all tips made equally. Plus, our GM was included in the Tip share program..the GM, who makes 50,000.00/year. That’s not right.

  11. Way back in the 1970s we lived in Miami, which as everyone knows is a big tourist town. We regularly ate at one diner-priced restaurant chain and knew the waitress, whom we tipped well, of course. One day she asked us a riddle: What is the difference between a canoe and a Canuck? A canoe is liable to tip.

    The origin of this riddle is that Canadian restaurants INCLUDE a reasonable tip in the bill, and they actually PAY that to their workers in most cases. Canadian tourists in the United States may not be aware of the difference between our restaurants and theirs, and some of those who do know pretend not to know, apparently feeling that being Canadian will get them excused. For whatever reason, this waitress (and probably many other servers) do not receive tips from very many Canadians, even when the service is great. So it’s hard to blame the waitress for using the slang term (which, to be fair, Canadians apparently consider a term of honor, since they use it for their hockey team in Vancouver).

  12. I went to a restaurant yesterday and ordered some food to eat there. I never saw the waitress after the first contact with her, so did I leave her a tip? No! I had to go to the front and pick up my food, and it wasn’t a self service restaurant. I usually leave a good tip, but this time I bought some scratch tickets with the tip money and won $55.00. The meal cost less than ten dollars.

  13. We tend to forget that the distributed nature of civilization makes use of more knowledge than any person or group could hope to control.

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