Recently my son went to a fast food place where they bring the food to your car. The price was $7.15 and he gave the waiter $7.25. When the waiter did not come back with change, he thought it was bad service but began to wonder if the waiter thought the ten cents was a tip. After talking with the manager, he found out they were supposed to be tipped. He was horrified that he had never tipped at this place before and that the poor waitress thought some jerk gave her a ten cent tip.
When I was in my 20s, I waited tables at a Chinese restaurant. It was pretty hard work – certainly harder than I thought it would be. It was definitely the best customer service training I ever got. After all, my income depended on my being helpful, knowledgeable, and pleasant each time I worked. It also required me to be attentive and pleasant when other people were not.
My salary was $1.30 an hour, plus tips. Tips were only good on Friday and Saturday nights when husbands and boyfriends were trying to impress their spouses and girlfriends. All in all, I probably made about $55 each week. I thought I was earning a lot of money in those days.
Recently, I read Congress is thinking about raising the minimum wage again. Some unions are protesting the new wage level. With my son’s experience and all the controversy, I started reading about the debate.
While I cannot image how someone lives on a minimum wage salary, I did not realize that minimum wages are not the same everywhere. The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. However, states can make their own minimum wage higher but cannot go lower. Vermont just passed legislation that will raise the state minimum wage to $10.25 over the next four years.
There is an exception to this rule. Servers are not required to get minimum wages because their tips can make up the difference between minimum wage and what they earn – which is $2.13/hour. This wage has gone up $1.01 since 1960 when minimum wage applied to everyone. I could not imagine living on $2.13 an hour plus tips.
I am sure employers are out there saying that servers augment their salaries with tips which make it more than $7.25 in a lot of cases. They may be right. There are some server jobs in high-end restaurants that will get you big tips. Most people will tip 15-20% in most cases, but there are lots of people who think tipping should only be a dollar or two, even for great service. I have met those guys and had lunch with them.
Some servers don’t get tips when they should. Did it ever occur to you to tip a server at a fast food restaurant? While most fast food restaurant do pay minimum wage or better, some themed fast food restaurants have servers who are paid at the $2.13/hour salary. At some pizza delivery places, the drivers are paid like servers at the $2.13/hour rate as well.
So here is my tip for today: if you did not get the food yourself, tip the person who brought it to you.
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262
By: Wanda Campbell