The Smallest Hill: Waitstaff don’t get paid enough

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“Tip Jar” by nan palmero is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Everyone knows someone that does not tip or, better yet, does not tip well. They demand, nay, expect top-notch service from their server, but compensate them as if they got terrible service. As a waiter myself, I’ve experienced the dreaded “round-up” or the infamous piece of advice or Bible verse in the tip line. Experiences like this happen more often than we would care to admit. The solution for this is to let waiters or servers make the normal minimum wage.

Tips make up the majority of a server’s paycheck. The tipped minimum wage in Missouri is $5.15 per hour, and depending on the restaurant, a server will spend about an hour with a table. During a six-hour shift, that means you’ll only get 18 tables at the most. Those tables can make a $30 paycheck into a $90 paycheck. That amount of change in a paycheck is drastic. 

In our society, restaurants interpret and use tips as a part of the basic duties of the job. In other words, we’ll pay you less because you will make up the difference in tips – in theory. They use this norm to get away with paying their employees less. This model only works if everyone tips, which does not happen.

Servers, without a doubt, work more than other minimum wage workers. The adrenaline rush of sprinting across a kitchen with four diet cokes in one hand and two orders of mozzarella sticks in another while screaming at the kitchen to change your steak from medium-well to well-done is unmatched. The amount of effort and time put in by servers compared to other workers is almost comical. I’m not saying that they are not working hard or their job is not difficult, but anyone that has worked in both fields will agree that being a server is a nightmare compared to working a cash register or stocking clothes. 

I do not ask for much in this life, a free cup of coffee here and there, but mainly just to be treated as an equal. I cannot even begin to tell you how demoralizing it is to explain what wine pairs well with salmon while a child throws french fries at you. That in itself deserves more than a “stay in school!!!” in the tip line. And yes, that happened to me on an $80 bill. 

Receiving a true minimum wage compensates, frankly, for the people that view their servers as inferior. Tips should be the extra payment for dealing with the annoying, immature and terrible guests that feel like they deserve more than the other guests. A tip was designed to be a reward for going above and beyond in the dining experience, not a way for companies to pay someone less.

In all fairness, I have had some amazing guests that tip WAY above the standard 15 percent tip that compensate for the bad tippers. Still, servers as a whole work in a more stress-filled, busy and chaotic work environment and are criminally underpaid. Tips are rewarding that hard work and effort to serve and create an enjoyable dining experience. They should be treated as such on our paychecks. An extra payment because we went above and beyond in the eyes of that customer. 

We can all agree that if you work harder or do more work, you deserve more recognition or compensation. Servers do the work that qualifies them for an equal paycheck compared to their coworkers, and honestly, a little more. It is far beyond time that we as a society acknowledged that being eligible for tips does not mean that a person should have a much lower starting wage. 

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