Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Christians and Tipping. Part 2.

I have to admit that I'm a lot more mellowed out about Christians and tipping then I used to be. Last year, such discussion could easily bring me to the point of rage. Now I just feel a profound sadness, regret about how my brothers and sisters in Christ continually hurt the cause. Jay made a good point in his comments that it's not just the cheapness that makes Christians look bad, but the way servers are treated. What is it about Christians that makes them think that they can act so contrary to Christ's commands when they enter a restaurant? I really would like to know this! Some initial theories:

1. Christians feel like they can take a break from being a Christian when they are in a restaurant. "Whew, what a relief! It took a lot out of me to be so pleasant at church. Now where's that waiter . . ."
2. Christians assume there server is not a Christian, is not part of "the club," and thus doesn't have to be treated as well as brother so-and-so.
3. Money spent on a tip could better be spent on missions. (Don't laugh, I've actually heard this one before . . . the thought of it still chills my blood.)
4. Christians just forget about the fruit of the Spirit or don't think that it applies to servers. It's scary but maybe we are more talk then walk. Christians are good at "saying" but less good at "being."

What do you think is the reason?

Ironically, tipping is I think just a cultural practice as this article notes. I think of it as something we are stuck with doing. Servers shouldn't expect a tip if they give poor service and guests should tip if they have a good experience. In the meantime, please be gracious and generous to your server the next time you dine out. Maybe someday in heaven they'll thank you for it.

May Light increase!


Chad said...

I will admit that my family used to be this cheap, working the server kinda hard type table, i don't think we were ever really rude or anything but we had this mentality. but since my sister became a server, she set us straight. id like to say we are quite generous now.
ps. yeah our trip is going to be sketchy(awesome) we are going to fly from london to salzberg on ryanair, probably the most budget airline out there, im not kidding, i think our flight from london to salzburg cost like 25 dollars including all the taxes a adventure in itself
and yes ill bring you back a weapon, if i have room

Mark said...

Hey Chad, perhaps that is what is needed; people who are close to us, telling us what it is like for servers and what those servers are saying/thinking about us. Your story encourages me - all is not hopeless.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tipped for rude bad service?
It's worth it! We watched a waitress sputter and turn completely speechless after receiving a good tip knowing that she had been completely out of line. I'm certain that she did not expect or even want a tip from us that day. She just simply did not care. It was a most uplifting experience for us and hopefully a good lesson in it for her as well to not judge a couple of rumpled looking bikers!!!!
Guess Who?
PS...there's a lot of really bad service out there too and I agree it need not be rewarded by a tip but this was one of those special "God moments" where we just knew we should be generous even though she may not have deserved it that day.

Jay Boaz said...

There are two kinds of bad service. One is where the server just doesn't care and does a lousy job. The other kind is where the server is getting slammed and doing their best and it's just not working. I actually encourage not tipping the former personally (though good job throwing that server for a loop :)), but I will still tip well for the latter (this is known in the industry as the "pity tip" :)). I don't know how easy it is for someone to spot that isn't in the industry, but I always cut slack for people just getting slammed as well as for newbies who are trying their best and just haven't learned everything yet.

Mark, of course, always falls into the pity tip, I mean, Mark always gives the best service! :)

Jay Boaz
(And for those of you who think I was serious about that last comment, I was the one who got Mark his job at the Olive Garden so I woudn't have recommended him if he wouldn't be great!)

Stacey said...

I can't believe the comment that "christian" actually uttered to you!

I don't know, my fellow christians have been letting me down on a myriad of levels lately. It's frustrating and I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Maybe I'll post my thoughts on my blog some day...

I tip the norm or above the norm for very good service or a good experience altogether. I agree with your friend Jay... and even if you're not in the 'industry' (I have never worked in a restaurant in my life) you can tell the poor servers who are overwhelmed because they've simply been assigned too many tables or the restaurant was not expecting a booming night and was caught understaffed... or the new people. The new people are always so easy to spot... and yes, they get the "pity tip".

I know who you are you "rumpled biker"... and that was a very generous thing to do... I'm not sure I could have got myself over blatant poor service/attitude and still left a tip... but I appreciate your thought and I'll remember that next time!

I really like your blog Mark... it's very thought-provoking, a nice mix of humour thrown in... well done!

Have a great weekend,
Stacey in TO.

Mark said...

"Anonymous": Tipping well in spite of poor service/attitude. Pure genius! I think in many ways that is probably the most Christian response. Being blessed when you deserve punishment , where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, that's the definition of grace . . .

Jay: Ah, the pity tip. Can't say I've never earned one. And yes, when you receive it, it makes you feel both humble and like there is still good in the world.

Stacey in TO: The whole Christians and tipping thing does bring up the issue of the weakness/hypocrisy of Christians. Being let down by unbelievers is much easier to stomach then brothers and sisters in Christ. A very difficult issue, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Thanks for your kind words about my blog! Yours is great too, people should check it out.

Keith said...

Ahh Mark, you know this is the first comment I've ever left on a blog so I hope you feel really special! Okay here's my deal, why are we expected to leave a tip at a rexturaunt? I've obviously never worked in one so you might have to fill me in.... I realize it is a polite thing to do but is it a generous thing to do when it is expected and almost demanded? It really doesn't make sense to me.... I could go on and on about different people that provide services that do not recieve or expect a tip ( and when one is recieved it is genuinly appreciated ). Many of these jobs are not high-paying jobs. Please don't take this as condoning rude or stingy behaviour especially from christians! I wish I would get tipped when I load or unload a truckers trailer for him but it is not expected or part of our "culture" to do that. I don't know...I think I would tip better if it wasn't such an expected thing. ( I don't respond to pressure well :) ) Anyway Mark, please feel free to impart your wisdom with me and try to restrain yourself ( and Jay! ) from any physical retaliation! BTW my name is Fred Brown from New Yrok City.

Mark said...

Keith (or should I say Fred from New "Yrok"!): Nice to hear from you! I indeed feel honored and special that you would make your first blog post on my humble blog. You know, its weird, but I wondered when you would write in on this subject. I appreciate the honest way that you are asking about this topic. I know that you aren't an ignorant person, indeed I think you are a better man than I am! So anyway, here's my top 10 list on why you should tip servers.

1. It's a cultural norm. Whether you like it or not, it's expected. North Americans have generally agreed that servers should be tipped as a way of encouraging excellent service and as a way to pay them for their services. Most people thus assume that you if you aren't willing/able to pay a tip, you shouldn't be dining out. There are places like MacDonald's that don't accept tips. Being served by a server in a restaurant is at a different level, with a different norm.
2. Servers depend on the tips for their income. Because of reason number one, employers do not pay adequately for servers; they thus pay less (ah capitalism) because of this cultural norm. This makes the server dependent on people upholding the norm to get a decent income. When they don't, they suffer. Unless you are in sales, most people get paid their full wage, no matter how hard they work. Servers only get paid a portion of their wage in an hourly wage, the rest depends on the cultural norm (which 95% of people uphold).

3. Tipping well reinforces to servers that good service=good tips, thus they hypothetically should provide better service. Contrary to opinion, most servers don't expect to be tipped well if they don't give good service, though they hope people will be gracious.

4. Not tipping when there is a cultural norm sends incorrect messages to the server. Servers don't pick up an empty billfold at the end of the meal and think "ah, they are upholding their principle of not tipping because after all, where does one draw the line?" Instead they get the message of "I didn't measure up as a server because these people should have given me a tip" or "those people are cheap" or "that person got service and stiffed me." Because of the aforementioned norm, it's a slap in the face. It feels like being robbed.

5. Because of the cultural norm that servers ought to be tipped for their work, when people don't, the server asks why. When the server sees you praying before a meal, they assume you didn't tip because you are a Christian. After this happens several times the message is clear Christians = ungenerous, cheap, mean. Every time a Christian doesn't tip, it reinforces the stereotype.

6. For some reason, Christians have been more guilty of going against the norm then other groups. Thus to try to negate this terrible image, Christians should tip more then the norm.

7. Tipping shouldn't be only done based on genuine feelings of generosity anymore then any other time when you are expected to give gifts. Tipping is a habit; you can choose to reinforce tipping or not tipping. I don't always like buying gifts for everyone at Christmas, but sometimes I do it because it is the norm, and others would be hurt if I didn't.

8. Not tipping someone because you work hard and don't get tipped is not an adequate reason not to tip. There is not a cultural expectation that you will be tipped for many jobs and people do not expect to be compensated for their labor in addition to their wage. Serving is different. It is expected.

9. Tipping works. Think about what serving is. It is relatively simple to take a person's order, bring them their food, and take payment. It is doing it well that justifies the tip. When one is served a meal, one wants not just the money but an experience. The incentive for the server to provide a good service is based entirely on the tip system. Seriously. "Being fired" is not enough of an incentive for servers to do what they do. They need something else.

10. People who tip are more pleasant people. Seriously. It shows they have a sensitivity to their servers, a humanity that is hard to put into words. For the most part, the more people tip, the more pleasant they were to serve and help. Often servers can sense a non-tipper through the way they treat the server. Getting into the habit of tipping well will almost certainly help you to enjoy your experience more. You will feel more connected to the server, just as any giver feels more of a connection to the one they give to.

Hmmm . . . it was late when I wrote this, hope it makes sense. Maybe someone else out there can help me out?


Anonymous said...

I don't get tipped working my job, so why should I tip someone else. Honestly, I figure waiters and waitresses should get paid far more and leave the tipping out of it. I mean it probably sucks getting paid 9.00/hr. But there are hundreds of other jobs that pay less and there is no chance of tipping for those. I guess I should get enraged when I preach a sermon and I don't get a honorarium. hmmm. go figure.

Mark said...

"Anonymous": I think of the Biblical principle that "the worker is worth his wage." What does this mean? I think it means that anyone who works deserves to be paid decently for it. What is decently? I agree that there are hundreds of jobs that pay less with no chance of tipping. At first glance, one might assume that then that means one shouldn't tip servers either. I disagree.

As you know as pastor/speaker let's face it there are a lot of churches that don't give an honorarium to speakers. This is sad, however there are a lot that do. I have personally been paid this and it always encourages me and makes me think higher of the church. I wouldn't ask anything of my church for speaking because I feel it is the least I can do for them considering how much they've poured into me. But visiting another church, yes, an honorarium is nice for the time and energy I put into preparing a sermon/speak. When I speak somewhere and I am not at least offered an honorarium I feel like I wasn't worth it.

Servers are kind of in the same boat. The general societal consensus is that waiters are worth the tip (wage). Almost all servers get paid minimum wage because of this societal understanding. And whether we like it or not, it all boils down to this point; society expects people to tip a server fairly, society admires people tipping a server generously, and lastly society sees Christians as doing neither and that it is seriously harming the Christian witness. So I tell people they have three choices:

1. Live by the principle that because everyone doesn't get tips you don't have to be generous. This puts your personal ideology over the fact that you just killed any possibility (trust me on this) of being any kind of witness for Christ and reinforced a terrible stereotype.
2. Tip the bare minimum but harbor bitterness in your heart that you "have" to do it. This is better then option #1 but gives you no real benefit but instead negative feelings and thoughts dangerous for a Christian to have.
3. Choose to embrace tipping wholeheartedly and plan to do it. It seems many of the negative reaction comments on tipping were due to the "unexpected pressure" of it. If you plan ahead to always tip, this is no longer an issue. If you plan to tip, you factor that in ahead of time and so you can truly be generous when the bill comes. It also gets rid of the resentment because you've played it out in your own mind ahead of time and come to peace about it.

Embracing the tipping system seems to me to be the most psychologically healthy thing to do considering the circumstances of the system. I find that happiest, carefree, fun-loving tables are the almost always the most generous. I think this is because they've embraced tipping and then are free to really enjoy themselves. The ones who tip poorly or not at all almost always look a little uptight, seem to not fully enjoy their experience, and don't connect well with their server. Here's an experiment I dare any non-tippers out there to do. Choose to plan ahead to tip well the next time you go out (even if you disagree with it). If you think you can't do this you are wrong, you have the choice to embrace it or not. Then see how much you enjoy your experience!

To sum up, tipping has some problems associated with it, but not tipping has WAY more! Stiffing a server kills/harms the cause of Christ, tipping grudgingly is bad for your dining experience/mental health, and embracing tipping makes you and the server feel great. Hope this is helpful!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous to a certain degree.

For example you quote "the worker is worth his wage" well then it's up to the restaurant to set and honour that wage, irregardless of tips. It's not up to the customer to have to make up for a restaurant owner's stingy practices.

You have overspiritualized tipping in general. It would appear that you are now adding tipping as one more duty Chiristians are obligated to do. I'd rather just go our for a nice lunch, not say grace, avoid the church crowd and give no indication that I am a Christian and not tip, making me a stingy/cheap/non-chritian bastard, rather than go out to lunch, feel obligated to demonstrate some way that I am a Christian, and tip generously, while not feeling motivated or desiring to do it... making me a stingy/cheap/shallow Christian hyprcite.

-Sleeps with Rayna

Mark said...

Hey Mike: you said "you quote "the worker is worth his wage" well then it's up to the restaurant to set and honor that wage, irregardless of tips. It's not up to the customer to have to make up for a restaurant owner's stingy practices."
I would respond that it is everyone's responsibility to fight against injustice; restaurant, staff, and guests. But you are right, it is not all the guest responsibility. Would you agree that it is also not NONE of the guest's responsibility? If you do, then I would ask you what form taking responsibility would look like for yourself?

You also wrote:

"You have overspiritualized tipping in general. It would appear that you are now adding tipping as one more duty Christians are obligated to do."

I don't think I have ever advocated "people must do this" especially as a duty. I am trying to show the effects of not doing it and I am advocating the embracing of generosity. You may feel I am implying that good wholesome Christians always tip, but I never actually said that. I know some great Christians (better then me) who don't tip. Do I think they should tip? Absolutely. Not as a show of spirituality though. I just think it's the best thing one can do considering the cultural expectation.

You are making it sound like you only have two choices here;
1. "stingy/cheap/non-Christian bastard"
2. "stingy/cheap/shallow Christian hypocrite."

There are other options as well that include one's frailty and embracing generosity. I think that there is choice involved in one's response. If one chooses to one can dwell on the lack of freedom/choice one feels because of the cultural expectation. You can hold onto it and all of the feelings of victimization, lack of control, duty, unfairness etc. All of these may be true and have some element of truth to them. But I wonder if the benefits of focusing on these really does person a lot of good? How does it really benefit them?

For anyone out there who is uncomfortable with the whole tipping thing, you have to work it out for yourself. I think that myself and others have reflected what is like to be on the end of not being tipped when one is hoping for and expecting it. I have also hopefully made a few points on why it is good to tip and what some of the results are. But everyone has the freedom to do as they see best. I sense that this is an issue where logic is not the way to convince someone to tip or not; tipping is not just an affair of the wallet but of the heart too. But at least you've gotten one waiter's perspective (and some counterpoints as well), do with it as you will!