I currently wait tables and I have for over a decade. First off, let me say I’m in it for the money! I’m really good at my job and I rarely make less than 20%. When I do get a tip under 20% it can usually be divided into one of three categories:
1) Something bad happened with the food or the service and they blame me so I get a poor tip.
2) They give me 15-18% tips because that is their tipping culture and it is in no way a reflection of their experience having been bad (i.e. older folks, people from rural areas).
3) People of certain ethnic and racial backgrounds and/or foreigners who come from non-tipping cultures tend to tip under 10%.
I work at a neighborhood place with a lot of repeat business–a non-corporate, non-chain restaurant. I do not easily forget a face. I give everyone the same level of service the first time they come in. Now, if I remember someone is a bad tipper I may not pay as much attention to them as I do a table that I know to be good tippers. It’s not about race for me; it’s about business.
I don’t think it is incorrect to do this. Afterall, I’m required to give 25% of my earnings to other people: the bartender, the busser and the food runner. If I net 20% I will only walk away with 15% tips at the end of the night. If a table chooses to only give me a 5% tip then essentially I have worked for free because all of those earnings go to the restaurant’s other staff. So yeah, the last two times I waited on a group of gay black guys they left me less then a 5% tip and after years of experience I can tell you the service on my end was flawless. The next time they come in I will be polite and efficient but I won’t pay a lot of extra attention to them. Why should I when they always make me work for free?
Of course I am polite to everyone but this is business. Afterall, I could wait on the same group of people next week. But after more than 15 years of total experience working in restaurants let me give you the generalizations. Of all ethnic groups, the worst tips I’ve ever gotten were from black people. The second worst tips I’ve gotten have been from Spanish-speaking customers. In the case of latinos, the tip almost always goes up the second time they come in when they find out freckly little me is a Spanish speaker and that I’m married to a latino. And that’s not racist of them?
Thank you Spicy! That was a very well-written account.