top of page

Wages vs. Tips

by Sydney Collier

Photography by Deni Yacoobian

America relies on the customary system instead of the metric and uses the term "football" to describe a game of helmets and padding. America also pays its waiters and waitresses through tips instead of set wages. Countless pros and cons surround both options, but the question remains: should waiters receive tips as the bulk of their salary or should they have a set income rate compliant with state or federal minimum wage requirements?

Mercedes Cisneros (CGS '19) was a waitress in San Bernardino, California at a family-owned Mexican restaurant called Mi Casita.

"I personally really like the idea of tipping because if you give the customer what they're looking for, it's very likely that they'll tip [well]," she said.

Most restaurants recommend a 15 to 20 percent tip, but the percent given often reflects the level of service. This reward system can motivate waiters and waitresses to provide a high level of service in order to increase their tips, as Cisneros has experienced.

"You learn to recognize faces of who tends to not really like certain things, and if you really pay attention you can accommodate to the customer and teach yourself how to earn tips," said Cisneros.

Andrew Garcia (SAR '19) agrees that a waiter's service can influence the amount he tips. On one occasion, he left a 25 percent tip to an excellent waitress.

"[The waitress] actually messed up the order for my girlfriend, but...[she] was so apologetic and so courteous," he said.

For Garcia, attitude prevails over a waiter or waitress’ mistakes. For others, mistakes such as forgetting to bring out silverware or putting in the wrong order can put a major dent in a waiter's tip.

"Bad service I would quantify as actually being rude to the person," Garcia said. "Waiters are people, so it's not like a lot of the time they're trying to mess it up. It just happens sometimes."

Earning one’s income through tips frequently means making more than on a set wage, but that is not always the case. A tip of 10 percent or lower often boldly states that service needs to improve, but customers may tip a low amount for reasons unrelated to the waiter. The customer may justify a low tip because of personal low income or out of habit if visiting from a country where tipping is non-existent. Either way, tipping high or low is not always an accurate representation of a waiter's service.

Jane Fitzgerald has been waitressing at Sonsie for four months. When asked whether she would prefer receiving tips or a set salary, she responded, "It depends because sometimes you have people who tip you very well, and you can end up walking out with $30 an compromise, I would say [lower] tips and hourly."

For waiters, both tips and wages have advantages and disadvantages. As a result, one might not be better than the other. Since America is currently a society of tips, perhaps the question shouldn’t focus on whether or not to tip, but instead center on a customer's reasoning for tipping: does one tip based on a waiter's accuracy and timeliness or should attitude the determining factor?

bottom of page