SIR!: Service Industry Rants - To tip or not to tip?

Two local service industry veterans talk about the art of tipping, the sluggish economy and what it takes to succeed in the service industry.

A gratuity for services rendered is a social custom that dates as far back as currency itself. Seen and done most prominently in restaurants and bars, tipping as a custom has always been 100 % Americana, until recently. 

Consisting of varying factors--including the current humdrum economy--there is a widening grey area in accurately answering the age-old question: How much is enough?
 
Some casually consider the tip as a reward based on service value, but to others it's a means of living and survival. Ask most service industry professionals and they will most certainly agree with the latter, while some others still consider the action of tipping someone conditional.
 
Ashly Pitt (shown above), 27, popular bartender at Big’s Grill and very recent resident of Fullerton said that while she is on the receiving end of the bar she always tips, even if the service is spotty.
 
“I will never stiff anyone because that…is blatantly rude,” Pitt said. 
 
While revealing that 12 percent is the bare minimum she will leave someone, despite bad service, she still reserves the right to express her displeasure to someone by disclosing to them why they came up short. 
 
“I…understand they’re busy—but if [they] are blatantly ignoring me or doing something that I don’t think is productive, then I will let them know why,” she said.
 
Brian Strayer, a local sales executive, CSUF alum and Fullerton resident, who worked through his college years as a food server has a tipping philosophy that is four characters long: “T.I.P.S. = To Insure Proper Service.”
 
“I tip according to the service I receive,” the 35-year-old Strayer said. “If I receive bad service at a restaurant, I feel tipping them is rewarding them for not doing their job properly and they'll never try to improve themselves, or their service.”
 
Even though Strayer has been out of the industry for a few years now, as he is currently employed by a large office supply chain, he believes hard work is essential for a server to receive the best tip. 
 
“If I get great service, I will leave a minimum of 20%, most likely more,” Strayer said. “[If] they made my experience very enjoyable ...[they] deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. ” 
 
A veteran server and bar keep for the last 12 years, including three years as a hairstylist, Pitt has been working for tips her whole life. 
 
She learned quickly that the service industry and the tipping etiquette associated with it is not as cut and dry as most people think. 
 
She points out that people who typically tip well understand the painstaking work that goes on behind the scenes in places that ensure a quality experience.
 
“It’s definitely a teamwork thing,” she said.
 
Despite her position as bartender, which rests comfortably at the top of the service industry food chain, Pitt feels that a customer’s gratuity always distinguishes a group effort that includes the servers, barbacks and bussers...etc, all of which contribute to the experience. 
 
Pitt said there are plenty of good people in the house that know the proper formula on how to make money. But on the other side of the aisle, she says that working with non savvy or less dedicated people can drastically affect the take home pay for everyone else on the shift.
 
“They’re people who make really good money, and there are people who don’t,” Pitt said.
 
This universal service industry camaraderie not only improved the thickness of Strayer’s wallet at the end of his nightly shifts but it managed to help him secure and develop some meaningful relationships with a few of his co-workers. 
 
“I made some great, lifelong friends there,” Strayer said of his days serving at Mimi’s Cafe in Yorba Linda. “And when you're around all these great people ... [it] makes coming to work so much more enjoyable.”
  
From travel, to entertainment, to hospitality, the persistently weak economy seems to have had a negative effect on almost every industry. 
 
Strayer believes the current state of the economy has a drastically affected the tipping habits of middle-class customers. 
 
“People have less money now-a-days and are stretched to the limit,” he said. 
 
Strayer said for some customers who can only afford one night out a month, “If that experience is negative [for them], I feel [they] will simply walk away without tipping,” he said. “I think they'll just walk away and probably won't feel bad for doing so, either.”  
 
While she is well aware that sluggish economic periods can affect the advertising budgets of some bar and restaurant owners, Pitt doesn’t believe that it actually affects the drink sales of her customers negatively.
 
“I really don’t think the economy has much effect on my job,” Pitt said as she cited that historically during the Great Depression binge drinking actually increased nationwide.
 
What are your thoughts about tipping? Leave us a comment below.
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