Which outdated customs should go?

Nope. Slow nights would be $80. That would be about $44,000/year in today’s money.

So the range is $44,000 - 84,000. The number was between those two. If we say an average of $100/night (and I bet it was a little better than that but I forget…it was 30 years ago) then, in today’s money, that is about $55,000/year.

You won’t get rich on it but certainly something you can live on in some comfort. And you can do that job without a degree. How many other jobs are left in the US that pay as well for someone without a degree (even a high school degree)?

That would be a $26.44/hour wage today. I can’t imagine any restaurant owner paying that except, maybe, the most elite restaurants. I got that at Chi-Chi’s. No freaking way would they pay their waiters $26.44 today in wages today.

You’re assuming everyone involved is a good faith player. That’s not the case in reality. Sure, most of the time most people will be decent, but not always. And when that happens the waitstaff loses first and worst.

With customers, you have assholes that tip poorly or not at all, then snicker about how they came out ahead. Or you have assholes that sexually harass female waitstaff and threaten to not tip if they complain or don’t bear it all with a smile. Then you have customer bias, where a young, pretty waitress gets a bigger tip than an older one even if they both work equally hard and well. Or white waitstaff get a bigger tip than those belonging to a minority even though, again, all are working equally hard and well.

Where payment is cashless and the waitstaff need to collect their tips at the end of the shift instead of picking them up directly off the table you get asshole owners who keep some of it, essentially stealing from the employees. Illegal? Sure. But it happens. Of course, you get asshole employers dicking around wages even without tipping involved. Not sure if one is more common than the others.

A flat rate of pay with no tipping eliminates some of the above, so it’s not a total loss for the waitstaff to go with that. No system is perfect, but most of the world seems to get by without the tipping system. Maybe it’s like Imperial vs. Metric measurement - sure, we can get by with our kludge but most of the world runs just fine on a slightly different system.

Oh god - please, if nothing else, can we stop the idiots who think “tipping” with a Bible tract is somehow a good thing?

If you have an employer ripping you off you know it. Maybe, for some reason, the employer can get away with it (e.g. all employees are illegal immigrants so won’t make a fuss). For us the math was all laid out. We were our own banks for the night and cashed out at the end. We knew what we earned.

As for customers being assholes…sure. That happens. But sometimes you have really generous customers. I’ve had both happen. Assholes happen more than the generous ones but, over time, it all tends to average out. You have good nights and you have bad nights but, in the end, your income is pretty consistent when averaged out over a month or more (give or take a bit).

The female waitresses ALWAYS out-performed the males. A bit of light flirting worked well for them since, more often than not, a guy was paying the check. While occasionally some customer was rude to them (in a sexually forward manner) they rarely got groped or anything worse and, even back then, management would back them up. Mostly the women had it ok. It didn’t happen much at all.

Sexual problems were MUCH more likely to come from their fellow employees.

That’s YOUR experience.

Every waitress I’ve spoken with, from my sisters, to my college roommate, to various friends and neighbors, have told me of a lot of sexual harassment, and every single one of them has had to deal with not only rude comments but customers touching them, groping them, grabbing asses, tits, and every other available body part. And from what they’ve told me no, management did not reliably back them up.

And, frankly, women should not feel compelled to do ANY flirting whatsoever. Nor should male customers be subjected to manipulation to get them to pay more. This sort of sexualized behavior has become so normalized in our society that many people, such as yourself, don’t see what’s wrong with it.

I find your dismissing of one person molesting another - because that’s what we’re talking about - very disturbing.

I’m glad you found waiting tables a rewarding and not unpleasant experience. However, YOUR experience is far from universal.

WTF are you on about?

I worked with these women. They were not traumatized. They were not made to flirt or worse. They were happy in their jobs. What flirting they did was something they did of their own accord and it was really mild.

Check your bias.

What bias?

As I said - I have based this on talking to 1) my sisters, 2 of 3 of whom worked as waitresses to pay for college, 2) my college roommate - same reason, 3) numerous friends and neighbors over the years. The establishments they worked at range from greasy-spoon/truck stops, to “family restaurants”, to bar/restaurants, to ethnic restaurants.

Yes, some establishments are fine places to work where everyone behaves.

Others are cesspits where the female staff are expected put up with things they shouldn’t, from customers pinching their flesh to being told “servicing” the cook at least once a night is part of their duties (yeah, that last one my college roommate just walked out on, but apparently the women working there longer than a few hours were being subjected to that).

Work rules are not made for the workplaces where everyone is a decent human being and follows the rules, they’re made for the places where people can’t be trusted to act humanely.

The women who told me these stories did a certain amount of job-hopping to get out of/avoid the cesspits, but your dismissal of the fact that abuse and molestation do in fact happen strikes me as wanting to believe reality is a prettier place than it actually is. Denial is very common, and that doesn’t make you a bad person (on the contrary - you’re wanting the world to be a nice place because you’re a decent person who wouldn’t do such things) but as I said, your experience is not universal.

I based this on 1) Actually working in restaurants, 2) My sister who worked as a waitress, 3) My brother who worked as a waiter, 4) Numerous friends who worked as waiters (both male and female). They worked from fast food to pretty high end. Even a food truck (that is a lot more recent one).

Certainly not all places are created equal. Overall, they all complained about their jobs (as everyone does) but nothing serious was wrong either.

I worked at freaking Chi-Chi’s. Hardly a high-end joint. But they ran things well.

Sexual harassment was 99% of the time coming from the staff and not the customers. And even that was rare.

I have no doubt there are some really shitty restaurants to work at. If you (general “you”) find yourself at one then quit. Loads of restaurants are out there that will hire you.

What about paying waitstaff on commission? Has that idea ever been played with?

It’s pity the research and the facts disagree with you.

Ending the Tipped Minimum Wage Will Reduce Poverty and Inequality
One Fair Wage States Are Better for Workers in Tipped Industries

A new Center for American Progress analysis shows that setting one fair minimum wage for all workers across the nation, specifically tipped but also for disabled and temporary teenage workers, will help alleviate poverty, sustainably grow the economy, and advance gender, racial, disability, and economic justice.


Ask waiters what they would prefer.

They did. Read the articles.

You’re basing your judgment on a completely atypical personal experience many years ago. You’re drawing invalid conclusions from that.

From your article:

Some restaurants have already attempted an entirely tip-free system, and the results have been mixed. After Danny Meyer fully eliminated gratuity from his restaurants — a move he called a win for back-of-house staff and diners — 40 percent of his long-time front-of-house staff quit. Menu prices were raised, with the additional revenue redistributed in the form of higher base wages for all employees; a lawsuit against Meyer and other restaurateurs alleges that after the switch to a gratuity-free model, money was not fairly distributed between the restaurants and front-of-house staff.

I see this from your other article:

For instance, servers may provide slower service to black diners — or try to turn the table over more quickly.

Which is it? Are the servers going slower or going faster for black patrons? The article suggests both.

Then there is this:

Looks like you didn’t read your own articles, as to why no-tipping failed in those instances.

It didn’t work because a) a general service charge is not allowed in NY. b) no-tipping requires collective action. It doesn’t work if some places have it and some don’t because of the perception of price differential.

And you didn’t read the previous articles and research as to why no-tipping as a general policy is better for workers overall.


Wilma Cespedes-Rivera, a bartender at Blue Smoke, a Union Square Hospitality restaurant in Lower Manhattan, has worked for the company for five years. She said that for servers, the change from tipping to Hospitality Included was painful, and many talented colleagues left for other jobs.

“People understood that the goal was a healthier balance,” she said, “but it wasn’t what we signed up for financially.” SOURCE: Danny Meyer’s Restaurants Will End Their No-Tipping Policy

I have never worked as a waiter, but I have worked in restaurants before and at many other jobs.

With the significant (possible) exception of chains, I would suspect that there is a pretty big variation on which restaurants are desirable to work at, how people are treated, levels of honesty, type of clientele, alcohol policy, customer behaviour and tipping behaviour. I would expect there are excellent waiters and poor ones, some who are very attractive or social and others who are less so.

I would guess that there is some sort of Pareto equivalent where 20% or 40% of the waiters make significantly more money. People often respond to financial incentives - those who do well with merit systems like to keep them; those who do not seek standardization. I am not commenting on the fairness or politics, but suspect many waiters like the tipping system and the ones that do not are less likely to stick around.

So. Serious question. I know people who can get a reasonable mortgage on a 55k income. Would a server be able to qualify for a mortgage based on $2.75 plus tips? I’m also aware of the alleged practice that many servers (and other tipped professions) under report their tip income to the IRS to owe less on taxes. Part of the mortgage approval data is the applicant’s reported annual income. So they’re either going to have to take a smaller loan or somehow convince the bank to allow for “undocumented income”. Neither option sounds like a win for the server.

Anyone involved in mortgage processing feel free to jump in on this one.

As to the thread topic…

Not so much an outdated custom as it is the current standard, but it’s past time for the US to get onboard with the metric system.

The days of under-reporting tips is mostly gone.

In the “old days” tips were often left in cash which was easily not reported. Nowadays they are on the credit receipt. The IRS knows what you made. You had better report it.

While $55k seems pretty solid remember there are NO benefits. No paid time off. No maternity/paternity leave. No anything (probably). Especially no health insurance and that one will cost you. It’s good money for a young person but iffy as you get older. Also not sure how much you are putting into Social Security and there is no retirement plan. Finally, you probably won’t be working that same job until retirement. It is mostly a young person’s game (not always…some places use older servers but not a lot).

Also, the hours suck and weekends are when you want to work (best money). Holidays too. You don’t get them. You work.

When getting a mortgage the bank will look at your income (so what you reported in tips matters…you can’t all of a sudden tell them you really make more than your tax returns say). Mortgages aren’t all that hard to get. Getting a good rate is. I have no idea how being a waiter would play out with them.

It doesn’t cost anything to start the process though. You can go to a bank and ask for a pre-approval for a mortgage. They will do the paperwork with you and then tell you a maximum amount they are willing to loan you and at what rate. Doesn’t cost a thing to do that. That offer is usually good for three months (I think…ask them).

He should be able to make some kind of profit on the deal considering he traditionally paid for the wedding.