So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Why waiting tables isn’t like your job…

One of the things that anti-tip trolls always trot out is, “I don’t get tips for the job that I do – why should you”?

Well, let’s compare your job.

Are you paid minimum wage or less for your job?

Are you required to read the mind and mood of your customer? Do you even have a customer or are you simply beholden to a boss in an office? If so, is your day to day income dependent on the the mood of your boss? Obviously the job itself could be be dependent on that, but very few jobs are in jeopardy if you piss off the boss on any particular day.

Are you sometimes told that you aren’t needed that particular day and you should just stay home and not make any money? Or are you told halfway through your shift that you aren’t going to be needed anymore that day and you should just go home and not get paid?

Does your product have the cost of your employment folded into the price of the product? Or is the customer expected to make up the difference between the selling price and the raw cost of manufacturing, shipping and warehousing and are they expected to pay you directly for your service to the company?

Could you go to jail for selling your product to the wrong customer?

Could you accidentally kill someone by simply selling them your product?

Do you serve your customer the entire time that they use your product? In other words, if you sell someone a TV, are you available a year later when something goes wrong with the product? Are you held personally responsible when your product doesn’t satisfy the customer?

Are you required to serve 20 customers simultaneously? Or do you get to serve them one at a time?

Do you get a paid vacation? Is it paid at your full salary or is it paid at minimum wage for only a portion of a normal 40 hour week?

Does your job require standing, walking, and carrying during the entire shift? Or are you allowed to sit down and take breaks?

Do you get enough tax withheld from your check so that you don’t have to pay the IRS large amounts of money out of your own pocket either quarterly or at tax time?

The answer to these questions, and even more, will tell you why you don’t get tipped at your office, retail, engineering or other “conventional” job.

Another thing that people trot out (but it’s a funny thing – you never hear these questions in real life, only on the internet) is”You are already paid to do your job. Why should I pay you for doing your job”?

Well, no, we aren’t “already paid for doing our job”. Actually we are paid just about enough to cover some of our tax burden, but only a portion of it – for instance, I only get about 1/5th of my Federal income taxes covered by my “paycheck” (which, in my state is ZERO). The hardest thing for “civilians” to understand is that the cost of their meal doesn’t cover very much of the actual payroll. It’s this fact that keeps menu prices where they are. If restaurants had to pay a full wage, the price of your food would skyrocket.

Additionally, we aren’t given a certain number of hours a week like the majority of workers are. We aren’t “40 hours a week workers”. We work according to the level of business.

Don’t get me wrong – waiting tables is satisfying and rewarding and one can earn a better than average wage. But it’s an often challenging job. It’s not a job that “a monkey could do”. Many people aren’t suited for it for a variety of reasons. 

There’s a reason why waiters generally make more money than other service jobs. We earn it. Every day. 

For those who say that it’s insane for a waiter to make $15 – 25 an hour while other “service jobs” might only make up to $15 an hour, don’t forget – the market has spoken. This is what the very consumers of our services have determined that we are worth. the fact that there are a tiny fraction of lamebrains who let others subsidize their dining shouldn’t deny the effectiveness of an employment tradition that has lasted for many many decades.

And finally, there’s something interesting about people who write things like, ” Why? Who cares? EVERYONE’S job is hard! EVERYONE has to deal with crappy customers… no special treatment!”

or “Tipping is just another example of the uneducated working classs trying to rip off the public because they’re too dumb to have a job that contributes in a meaningful way to society. Having to serve a
meal to someone for a living is obviously a low class way to get by, so servers desparitly try to appeal to our sense of empathy to solicit as much money from us as possible. It’s like they are
trying to take revenge upon us for they’re own shortcomings.If you ask me, I say if it’s going to be like that then two can play at that game. I recommend that all of you out the who are tired of
being victimized by greedy servers do the following:

Go out to the nicest restaurant in town and run up a huge bill.

When you are finished, leave without paying. Most “fine dining”
establishments don’t watch for this kind of thing, so it should be relatively easy to slip out unnoticed.

Servers are required to pay for “walk-outs” at most places” 


“uh, what? the waiters are already being paid!
more like, you don’t tip your
doctor or your mechanic do you”?

…yes, these are verbatim anti-tipping trolls…there’s also the classic generic, “If you don’t like making 2.13 an hour, get another job”.

What’s the interesting thing, you ask? Well, eventually, you’ll get something like:

i took my Girl out for a nice supper, steaks, wine…the whole shabang! i noticed the waiter was slightly irritated and not keeping tabs on our table (not really doing his job) he only had about 6
tables to keep tabs on!

i gave him the benefit of my doubt and left him 10% on a $200.00 bill…

So, here was a guy who was expecting a special dinner with his “Girl”. He dropped a couple of bills on it. Seems like dining out is more important that even the trolls think it is. Who do they expect to serve them dinner if we all take a powder and “get another job”. Do they really want their special dinner or their “lunch in 30 minutes so that I can get back to work without being late” served by someone making $7 an hour? How easy do they think it is to wait on “only 6 other tables” while trying to provide a $200 dinner to a deuce? What do they really think “keeping tabs on a table” means, especially in a place where you can spend $200 on  “steaks, wine…the whole shabang”? I’m not dissing the last commentator for leaving 10% on the bill because, perhaps the waiter deserved it. But he “gave him the benefit of the doubt”? Nah. If he had “given him the benefit of the doubt”, he would have tipped 15% (or more). Leaving 10% on a table where you didn’t get reasonably good service is what you should do.

So, boys and girls, before you make boneheaded statements on the Internet, think before you do so. If you are just trying to get a rise out of someone, that’s one thing. But if you really believe some of the stuff that I’ve quoted, then, shame on you. Walk a mile in our shoes before you make judgments like that (that will be about the first hour of a typical waiter’s shift, BTW). And think about the unintended consequences of eliminating tipping in the US. You think you’re unhappy now?

You ain’t seen nothing yet…


4 responses to “Why waiting tables isn’t like your job…

  1. K-funk Parizza April 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Not to mention how many years we spend randomly accumulating our knowledge. No course schedules, no “instructors” in the classic sense (a mentor if you’re lucky), no one pointing you in the right direction. Learn on the fly, or burn for a few years in Purgatory (which I would imagine is a Denny’s). If you want “Minimum Wage Service” eat at fast food joints, don’t expect knowledgeable responses to questions, and get your own water refill Whenever you want, via the fountain.

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  4. writethecheck March 15, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Last night I read nearly 100 pages of a book on existentialism and honestly was it was not a stretch for me to understand it. Every day I write and people pay me to take photos. Today, I had a table that was incapable of deciphering a two page menu (with pictures, no less). What twisted and screwed up line of reasoning does one have to follow to decide that I am the stupid one?

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