April 14, 2024

For the past year, I have worked as a server at a country club. I go to the grill where I am currently employed, bring members their food and drinks, keep a smile on my face when their order comes out wrong and then keep my fingers crossed they won’t leave me a bad review.

If I’m lucky, I get a tip at the end of their meal. If I’m unlucky, I get a dirty look and a “Can I speak to the manager?”

I love serving. I love interacting with people on a daily basis, bringing smiles to their faces and making them happy. I am good at my job, so usually they are happy. One thing I do not love about my job, however, is the pay.

I have never been one of those people that has complained about having a minimum wage job, because let’s be honest with one another — I am a college kid, and the chances of me making more than minimum wage right now ranges from unlikely to nonexistent.

But I, along with many other people in my line of work, are on the receiving end of a very unfortunate legal clause set by the U.S. Department of Labor. That clause says our employers only have to pay us at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages as long as the rest of our tips close the divide between that amount and minimum wage of the state in question.

If my tips don’t make up enough money in one night, only then is my employer required to step in to make the difference.

Many people think the cash they leave at the end of a meal or the tip they write in on the ticket is the “be-all, end-all” for a server’s monetary compensation. What they don’t know is that many times, that 15 or 20 percent is what keeps us going, and even then, individual tips often go into a general pool and everyone gets an even cut, regardless of individual service.

At my work establishment, the company automatically tacks a service charge onto every bill which the members automatically assume is our tip, but that money actually goes to the company instead.

We always get asked the awkward question, “Is the service charge your tip?” The answer, of course, is no, but then we have to try our best to explain the reason to our members without making our company look bad. Nine times out of 10 we just end up looking confused. The other one-tenth of the time we fail entirely and the members get mad at the policy itself, refusing to tip at all.

We all rejoice jubilantly over any and every gratuity we receive, on the rare occasion we receive it.

I don’t mean to complain. But next time you go to a restaurant, keep in mind there are policies in place that don’t automatically mean your server is the richest one in town.

If your server didn’t do a bang-up job, then by all means, it is well within your right to not give him or her a tip. After all, a tip should be based on the quality of service received, and a tip is never supposed to be a guarantee at the end of a meal.

Sometimes servers do not deserve the extra compensation after the service has concluded, and when they see the big fat zero sitting on the tip line, they take angry photos and post them on social media, which results in termination (a fair consequence, if you ask me).

But do not just not tip your server because you think he or she is already getting paid and does not “deserve more.” Unless the law changes to require our employers to actually pay minimum wage, regardless of tipping,

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