Man holds telephone while woman yells at itI keep reading story after story about restaurant customers leaving mean, unnecessary comments in the place of tips. Let’s recap a few from this year alone:

  • In September 2013, a 19-year-old Red Lobster waitress in Franklin, TN was distraught to find customers had left these words on their $45 bill: On the “Tip” line they wrote “none” and on the total line they wrote “N—r” (the N-word).
  • In October 2013, a sever at a Carabba’s Italian Grill in Overland Park, KS discovered the following note on the back of a customer’s bill: “Thank you for your service, it was excellent.  That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God.  May God have mercy on you.”
  • Dayna Morales, a server at a New Jersey restaurant, claimed a couple refused to tip her on an almost $100 bill because she is gay. Someone supposedly wrote, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle.” The couple (who believe it was their receipt) has recently said they did in fact leave a tip and never wrote the comment.
  • An Alabama fan wrote “Roll Tide!” on the tip line of a restaurant bill after the server, Tigers fan, allegedly bragged about Auburn’s 11/30/13 win over Alabama. The person also wrote, ““Don’t talk about being proud of Auburn to an Alabama fan. There’s your tip.”

These stories are just plain sad, especially because low wages are already a reality for many (or should I say most?) working in the food industry. Case in point, a real, live example:

My friend (let’s call him James) works as a server for a local restaurant. He earns $2.15/hr plus tips.

James works five 8-hour shifts per week, which totals $86. Let’s say his tips for that week add up to $300, but James has tip out busser “bust-boys” and the bartenders, which leaves him with $200 in tips.

Now, for taking orders, serving food and dealing with sometimes rude and unmannerly customers, James is compensated $286. And just for fun, let’s say this is the norm for James, meaning at $286 per week, 4 weeks per month and 12 months per year, our friend James doesn’t even break $14k for his annual income.

Do you know how difficult and darn near impossible it is to live on a salary of less than $14k per year? Or to work in an industry dependent on tips, yet receive none?

This is why as I read more and more stories like the ones above, I become more and more unsettled. Every employee wants (and deserves) to be compensated for his/her work and time. Just like you wouldn’t walk into the office and complete assignments day after day for no compensation, the same holds true for those in the food industry. Although many would argue “but you’re not required to leave a tip” we all know this extra “bonus” is a huge part in a server’s earnings.

One may think because he or she is the customer that his or her needs and opinions come first. But I’m here to tell you, morally, the customer is not always right. Leaving a tip is a part of the dining out experience. If you know you can only afford the cost of the meal and not the tip, refrain from eating out until you can.

It’s time many folks put themselves in others’ shoes. Almost all workers would be up in harms and running to HR if instead of a check or Christmas bonus, they received a note saying, “Sorry, because of your hair, race, religious preference, sports preference, body type, age, sex and/or sexual orientation we cannot compensate you this pay period.”

Again, the customer isn’t always right. But, just in case you’re extremely hung up on popular phrases, here’s a different one you can live by:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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