Always leave a tip, no matter how small

Julie M. Frank

Julie M. Frank

Waiting tables is a common college student’s job and, at times, it is not all that fun. However, it is a job all people should experience once in their life. It teaches patience, composure, respect and understanding for all those people providing a service on your behalf and for those earning a living off of tips.

I don’t work at the typical restaurant where customers come in and order their meal from a waiter. However, I am a server at Carousel Buffet at Jackpot Junction in Minnesota, actually. Unlike most buffets, as a server I provide customers with their choice of a Pepsi product (but we don’t have Dr. Pepper, so quit asking!), milk, coffee, hot/ice tea or water, usually a combination of drinks. In addition, I bus their table and refill drinks as they go through their meal and clean up their sticky syrup, ice cream, ripped straw wrappers and whatever else is left on the table or floor after they leave.

One thing I don’t mind picking off the table (or the floor for that matter) is a tip. It makes that fourth refill or searching through the busy kitchen for salsa-because that customer “just has to have it” only to throw most of it away-worth it.

Many people do not know to tip at buffets. Well, now you do. If you are a returning tipping customer, I will work twice as hard to get you that refill, clear your plates and give you extra mints. I am not demanding the norm of 15 percent of the bill, but a dollar and some respect is not going to break you. If you disagree, come work a shift with me and we will discuss it afterwards.

Thankfully, working in Minnesota gives me the right to earn minimum wage. For those waiting tables in South Dakota, it is another story, and those tips are “vital.”

“A lot of places-especially Applebee’s-are paying us $2 to $3 an hour. Those tips are our income,” said Margaret Geissinger, a waitress at Applebee’s in Brookings since January and has been with the restaurant chain for over five years.

“You have to have a certain amount of patience,” said Rachael Tritz, who has been a waitress for over three years and currently works at Bravos. “Unless you can put in the hard work, you won’t get a good tip.”

Both waitresses agree a 15 percent gratuity is an appreciated amount, but that a tip has to be earned. They said conducting small talk, social skills and the ability to multitask adds to a tip while things that are out of their control, such as quality of food, takes away from it.

In their experiences, most customers tip at 15 percent and the best tippers tend to be males (interesting) ages 30- to 40-years-old. When it comes to college students, “Tips are really good or terrible.”

On the “good” side is sophomore biology major Stephanie Cooper and senior Megan Horan, a pharmacy major, who both say they tip 20 percent.

“I tip really well because I have been a waitress,” Cooper said. “It is a job more difficult then people think.”

Horan says she looks for servers to be kind and courteous, and typically tips even if they are bad.

If you are on the “terrible” side, the next time you go out to eat, think about what is like to be in their shoes and remember a little bit goes a long way.