Talking about tipping is just about as contentious as you can get. No one likes to be told how much money they need to give somebody else, but we run into problems.
We don’t know what to pay.
There are standards we all have to live up to as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: morality, friends, movies, music, dancing the list goes on (see For the Strength of Youth pamphlet for a more thorough list).
There are standards we have to live up to as members of the work force: punctuality, deadlines, preparedness, etc. These standards are not new and we’ve grown so used to them, we often don’t think about them anymore, because they become a part of life.
We have the opportunity, and often the responsibility to tip all the time. It comes nearly everyday between going to restaurants, going to the salon, going to a hotel, valet parking your car, catching a taxi, getting anything delivered, going to the spa; the list goes on and on.
Still, we don’t have a universal and immovable standard of how much to tip. If I received good service, is it 10%? 15%? 20%? If I received poor service, should I still leave a tip? How small of a tip is necessary to convey the poor quality of my experience? The answers are never set in stone but let’s say you had a good experience and your server was exceptional.
Then we run into another problem.
Mormons are cheap. And I’m not just saying we’re frugal about our spending or that we are usually responsible in keeping our spending within our means.
I mean we’re cheap to a fault.
Nothing is more dissatisfying as being a server in a restaurant (which I have been) when you do absolutely everything you can for a table: everything from drink refills, cleaning up the root beer their kid spilled for the third time, or even just trying to put on a happy face when the customers are yelling at you for a mistake the kitchen made, and you have a final tomorrow you really need to study for, and you come back to a 6% tip! To put that in perspective, if a big group comes in, with all their very particular orders and anxiously overexcited children and the bill is $100, a 6% tip is $6.
Keep in mind that most servers are making $2-3 per hour without tips, and you just paid your server 6 bucks for their constant service and dedication to your crazy family for the past 2 hours.
A big group + good service + 2 hours ≠ 6%
It’s just that simple.
A tip is not just a compliment, it is a commentary on your service experience with your server.
If they forget to bring your free garlic bread right away, but you had it by the time you got your meal; if some mistake happens with the kitchen, and they want to make you a new dish that will take a few more minutes; if you can see that your server is responsible for 7 tables, and it takes them a few minutes longer to get your drink refill; or even if you don’t jive well with their sense of humor or their personal style, remember your servers are people too, people with struggles and hard days and good days and weaknesses and strengths and everything in between.
I’m not saying that every server should get a “good” tip just because they’re servers. As I said, it’s a reflection of service. So treat it as such. If they are rude to you or someone else in your group, or if they forget to put your order in and don’t go out of their way to make your experience as pleasant as possible with their mistake, don’t just not leave a tip. A 6% tip is a reflection of very poor service, which you should discuss with the server before discussing it with the manager.
Also, never say that you can’t afford to leave a tip. You came out to a restaurant to have food cooked for you and to have it served to your table and to have your dishes cleaned up for you after you leave. It is the right thing to do to pay the person who is rendering those services to you.
You might not think of tipping as being a reflection of Christ-like love, but it is.
It comes back to how aware we are of the people around us and how willing we are to recognize their achievements everyday. Christ’s most intimate and powerful expressions of love came from being aware of the people that others allowed to pass by or even disappear from their sight.
Sometimes we can be guilty of doing that to people who do the little mundane tasks in our lives but nevertheless, help make our days run smoothly and easily. These servers are men and women working hard at a job that often is not the most exciting or fulfilling (I mean think about it, they’re working through the normal eating hours and handing you food when they haven’t eaten since breakfast), but are putting on their best face to make sure that you and your family are having the best experience possible. Show some compassion, because when you have good service, they are working hard and making the effort for your happiness.
Isn’t that what we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are endeavoring to do every single day? In the words of a certain beloved prominent LDS speaker who says things much more directly than I do, I challenge all of you,
“[B]e kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve . . .you [who are] mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.“
The standard we’ve all been searching for for tipping is to be firm in your kindness and firm with kindness.
If you receive good service leave a good tip. A good tip is between 15 and 20% of your total bill (before any discounts) and outstanding service is reflected in a tip of anything above 20%. Sometimes it can be up to you whether or not your server has a good day. Leave a nice note. Draw a picture.
Be aware of the people around you and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Award them for excellent service. Go that extra mile to be kind. All in all, remember that they’re bringing you your bread and butter, but your tips are providing theirs. So be kind, and don’t be angry or offended that I am bringing up the point that sometimes Mormons are too cheap. Give a worthy, honest tip today and prove me wrong!