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Cashing in on Tips

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Philosophy senior Kate Rollins counts her tip money at Johnny Rockets. Rollins made an average of $8 per hour including tips over the summer, on busy nights Rollins can make up to $20 per hour. Her base salary is $2.13 per hour.
By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 5, 2003

After making the server run laps for an appetizer, two entrŽes, and a couple drinks, you look down at your bill. It's over $80, but your wallet only contains $85. After telling yourself that a 20 percent tip of $16 sounds like way too much anyway, you put $5 down on the table and walk out the door.

It seems these days that tipping in our culture has become an obscure gesture ÷ almost a taboo subject because many do not know what function tipping really serves or how to tip appropriately. But for the men and women who run to fetch that glass of iced tea with the lemon on the side and make sure your burger is well done, just the way you like it, tipping is an important issue that can mean the difference between paying the rent on time or not.

"This is the hardest job I've had," said Jennifer Klein, a server at Fat Tuesday's on East University Boulevard. "You have to deal with people, and if the food isn't top quality it isn't necessarily the server's fault because there are cooks, but it still affects our tips."

Almost all servers in the university area receive the same wage as Klein: $2.13 an hour. Tipping is not a "gratuity" for them. It is the only money they make working.

"On a good two-week span I won't get a paycheck because they tax out for your tips," said theatre arts freshman Charity Powell. "That $2.13 is only to cover your taxes."

"People think we make minimum wage and whatever extra is over the top. We live on what they tip us. If we give good service, (we deserve) 20 percent. Ten percent is not adequate; 15 percent is not adequate either anymore," she added.

There should be a counter rule. If anyone comes out from behind any counter, you have to tip them.

÷ Megan Conway,
English, creative writing junior

Like Klein, Powell also works on University, and she spends most of her nights serving other college students. She said oftentimes, those students do not tip adequately.

Criminal justice junior Lettie Hobbins said she, too, thinks college students are generally poor tippers.

"College students don't tip well usually. You get kids in here that are using their parents' credit cards and want to save their money for stuff they enjoy more, but it depends."

"I get stiffed all the time. I have had people dine and dash where I pay for them out of my pocket," Powell said.

In many aspects, the server is autonomous from the restaurant. If a customer leaves, paying the bill could become the waiter or waitress' responsibility. When employees do not pocket a reasonable amount after a shift, the owner or manager does not compensate.

"A lot of us are putting ourselves through school. We don't have a paycheck; what we make here is what we go home with," said communication senior Stefani Saragosa. "It's unfortunate because they're out having a good time ÷ and that's great ÷ but we're out here trying to make a living."

Pay or stay away

According to several servers in the University area, if customers cannot afford to tip on top of their meal, they should not go out to eat.

"You need to understand that when you go out to eat, you are paying for a service and that service is, at the least, 15 percent," Hobbins said. "If you can't afford that or don't want to do that, then don't go out, or go to eat some place that requires less attention from the service because you are laboring and running around and deserve to make a good base pay."

As a manager, server and bartender, Hobbins has witnessed a lot in her two years at restaurants. For the most part, she enjoys her job and the interaction she is able to have with customers.

"Especially if they are enjoyable and have pleasant personalities and are out to have a good time. It is nice to talk to people and deal with their side of the world for a change," she said.

The relationship between the server and servee is unique. In one aspect, in enables people to temporarily talk with a completely random person they otherwise would never come in contact with. However, there is also a tension in the fact that the server is working for their customers. Customers are not only paying for a top sirloin, but someone to allow them to sit back and not do a thing.

"I am a firm believer that everyone should have to work in the food business at some point," Saragosa said. "Then they (will) know how to treat people. You never have the same two people ordering the same two plates."

Luckily, every student will not be forced to work for tips. Although many servers agree that this would be a rite lesson, since everyone goes out to eat and is a part of this system, it is an unlikely answer to the tipping problem. Students not only ignore the importance of tipping, but also are sometimes confused when to tip. The counters in coffee shops and fast food places now sport tip jars with clever slogans threatening your karma or begging you to help poor working students.

"There should be a counter rule. If anyone comes out from behind any counter, you have to tip them," said English and creative writing junior Megan Conway.

If the conditions deem it necessary to tip, Hobbins said students should remember the minimum.

"It is necessary to tip 15 percent, and if you decide not to it basically just means you're cheap," she said.

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