Tipping as Witness

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

December 2, 2009

My grandparents are notorious for being cheap at a restaurant, but they are always sure to include a tract or Christian calendar with their $2. It frustrates me so much that I always slide an extra $5 or $10 under my plate before I leave. It's as though they remember the days when $2 was a legitimate amount to tip - but forget at tip-time that inflation over the last 40 years has eroded the value of the $2! Apart from tipping in a restaurant, my grandparents are the most generous people I know, which only compounds the issue!

December 2, 2009

Bethany, it's easy to look at a topic like this and simply brush it away as a petty issue - but I agree with you 100%. I don't know how often we've gone out after church with a medium to large group of friends (well we don't so much now, but we used to frequently) and once everyone was done nary a dime would be left on the table. Sadly, some of those friends are mutual friends. I'm not pointing fingers, and I can't speak for those in the group that may have paid with plastic, but I generally was observant of those who paid with cash. And I don't care to remember how often I felt obliged to leave more of a tip than my customary 15-18%.

That said, I am a proponent of quality service. If the service is substandard, my tip will reciprocate - but the service has to be VERY substandard for me to lower my tip. And I agree with you that those service projects changed my entire outlook on service. I wonder how many of our mutual friends feel the same? And I wonder if it has changed their outlook on how to leave a proper tip?

December 2, 2009

To you (general) it's a couple of extra dollars. To your server, who may wait on upwards of 30 tables on a busy Sunday, that's an extra $60 for bills. Because most people aren't working their booties off on a Sunday just for the fun of it. They are folks just trying to make a wage.

I have been a server in the past. I always tip 20% unless I'm just flat out ignored.

December 2, 2009

As someone who worked in the food service industry for 9 years before ministry, let me say quite authoritatively, DO NOT EVER leave a Gospel tract in lieu of a tip. You could not possibly find a more effective way to turn someone off to the message of the cross than by doing that. And if you're going to pray for/witness to/leave a tract for a server - TIP BIG!!! Intentionally verbally thank them for their hard work, even if things weren't up to your particular standards. They're on their feet all day long making far less than minimum wage.

December 2, 2009

This past June, the denomination in which I am a pastor, had our annual general assembly in Orlando. One evening, a group of us went to Outback for appetizers and beers. (We're presbyterian. It's okay.)

A couple interesting things happened. First, we talked with several of the servers about Christians and their tipping habits. We heard a lot of complaints about the Sunday crowd, like this post mentions. Since we were the only group in the restaurant, they wanted to talk with us.

Second, the bartender couldn't believe a bunch of pastors were sitting at his bar. We had to show ordination and business cards before he believed us. We were also able to engage him in some really good Gospel conversation.

Third, he made sure we knew that those tracts people leave behind get thrown in the trash.

We did leave a good tip.

December 2, 2009

One of the reasons servers depend on tips is that the minimum wage laws provide a lower base pay for them, on the ground that, after all, they are getting tips. A really Christian thing to do would be to demand that our legislators and congress reps remove this distinction. Then, tips really could be a little extra, for good service, rather than an essential part of their living. Of course, minimum wage isn't enough to live on either. It is my personal experience that a single person making twice the minimum wage can live comfortably and have something to contribute to others. I don't know how anyone with a family to support does that.

December 2, 2009

Man I'd be fuming if I got a tract in lieu of a tip. Partly because I'm a christian already (and I don't find tracts particularly effective anyway), and also because if I were waiting tables I'd be worried about trying to make ends meet. I've only ever been involved in the Hospitality industry a handful of times (during university holiday a few years ago), and man I do not envy people who work there. People are very rude when they've had a few drinks.

December 2, 2009

Great post Bethany. One of my favorite churches, a large charismatic congregation in northern California, has a pastor that regularly encourages people from the pulpit to over tip. He also encourages people to secretly pay for another diner’s bill. Consequently the people of that congregation take great delight in blessing restaurant staff. And more often than not, receiving a $20 bill (or larger) is often an answer to the server’s prayer. When that’s the case, no evangelistic tracts are needed, actions speak so much louder than words. Our pastor in Portland has also encouraged us to give to those begging on freeway exits and entrances. It has come to the point that individuals seeking a handout station themselves on the corners of avenues leading to church Sunday morning because they know Christians are generous. And again, no sermon or tract is needed. They get it. It doesn’t matter greatly what they do with the money, the larger point is that they know someone loves them.

December 2, 2009

Being a waitress for many years, (and a christian even longer), I use to hate working Sundays knowing we would get the church crowd in. They were rude, messy, demanding and their kids were out of control. And to top it off, they were the worst tippers of any group of people we had come in, and they caused us the most work.

As a Christian, it frustrated me the kind of example of GOD they were leaving on the other waitresses/waiters. Hypocritical actions and attitudes from them left a negative impression. I wish more people would address this problem. Thanks for the great article

December 2, 2009

AGREED...They are running on their feet. Half of us in America can't even walk around the block, let alone for 10 hours on concrete, tabulating what 30 different people need in constant flux. Most of the time if an order is messed up, the kitchen is responsible, yet the server loses the tip for it. People need to stop acting needy or pious when they go out to eat. We all have friends that are a little flighty, yet we still love them. Servers come in many varieties. I remember the sunday crowd putting myself through college. Christians should remember the food they are praying over is being sent to them by what is god's also.

December 3, 2009

When I was a server, I had to continually apologize to my fellow wait staff. They knew I was going to college to study ministry and would come to me with tons and tons of questions. Also, they'd show off the cheezy tract that someone left.

It actually became so much of a joke, that they would tear out pages and tape them inside of their notepads.

December 3, 2009

Wow, d'ya think this resonates a bit? I would agree that it's not the "single most damaging phenomenon" but that it's pretty clearly a problem, and a pretty universal one too. I waited tables (as the single breadwinner with two dependents while going to school fulltime) and Sundays were miserable. I'd have to work a double shift on Sundays—opening the restaurant at 11 AM and closing it at 1 AM—just to make up for the meager tips from serving Christians in the morning and early afternoon.

Years later, the president of a company I worked for would occasionally take me and a few other staff members out to eat. His point about tipping was to never let anyone walk away with the impression that Christians, of all people, are cheap. He's right: for us, who have been given EVERYTHING, to skimp on a couple of bucks is downright shameful. And that's not to mention how we TREAT servers in the first place...

For those two reasons, I also tip 20% to start and go up or down (but never below 15%) based on the quality of service.

December 6, 2009

COOK YOUR OWN FOOD. Its cheaper, healthier and you don't have to break your head on how much tip the server deserves.

Do you tip at KFC, Mcdonalds, Burger king?

Dale Fincher
December 6, 2009

I have a hunch that it isn't just "Christians" who undertip (though "Christians" may be the ones who leave the dreaded tract)...

If we just stick to normal tipping practice, we'll be good to do. 15% is standard. I usually leave 20%. If the service is abysmal, I'll leave 10% (they should get out of the serving business). These are generally accepted practices affirmed by seasoned wait-staff that I know and etiquette gurus.

Bethany, I don't think it's "radical" to say love does not always include a "gospel presentation." It's usually only conservative (fundamentalist) evangelicals who hold to this view... which is actually the more "radical" one. We must customize our love to each person, which usually means we need to learn how to talk to people and see where they are and who they are before we start to push our views on them. It is not considered "loving" to propagandize.

Michael H
December 7, 2009

Over the last few years, I've thought of tipping by its more formalized (and seemingly mandatory name, if one judges by "parties of 8 or more" bills): gratuity. Gratuity as such is etymologically linked to the Latin word gratia; that is, grace.

The reality is that the servers are paid by the restaurant. They are executing a job and being compensated for their time and effort according to the agreed upon rate at the commencement of said employment. I do not for a moment consider tipping mandatory. Nor do I consider excellent service meritorious of a tip. Is it not the discretion of the employer (or the customer) to give those who worked from the 11th hour the same as those who worked all day?

At the same time, however, we are called to be people of grace, and more biblically, a royal priesthood--one who stands between God and man. I do not calculate tips--15%, 20%, 10%, 50% makes no difference to me. I have found myself without money after covering a tip because I did not calculate how much it would impact my income immediately. This might be considered poor stewardship, but it has never actually impaired my ability to cover fixed costs: rent, phone and general living expenses. It only impacts my discretionary income.

At the same time, I have also at times refrained from giving a tip without giving it a second thought. This isn't about service; it is about the motivation of my spirit and the means I presently have on hand. (I do not operate in credit; all my purchases are in cash.)

With all that said, the Sunday afternoon crowd becomes a different issue. It is not like a Wednesday night dinner with friends. Those who are obviously coming after church are being viewed as churchgoers, and therefore as representatives of Christ. To properly display the grace of Christ is a responsibility. One should tip in this case--and realistically, one might tip 100% for it is Christ who covers above and beyond what is expected and demanded. Of course, practically, this isn't really an option.

But there are other methods of displaying the grace of Christ--prior to even eating, ask your server if you may pray for them in your pre-meal grace, and then leave the customary tip. You have displayed an interest in their life and personal struggles and also addressed their practical, concrete needs in money.

Michael H
December 7, 2009

In Washington state, the minimum wage is $8.55 per hour. During a 40hr/wk, 52wk year, one earns $17,784 before taxes. The "poverty line" in King County (Seattle) is $22,000.

Two friends earning minimum wage living as roommates earn over $35,000/yr. Realistically, minimum wage serves its exact function in this situation. It allows one to live--as long as it is done within their means; I calculated the cost of living month-to-month on pure fixed costs, and figured an individual could live on $16,500 per year with no discretionary spending. (As a college student, these calculations are relevant to my decision to live at home or move into my own place.)

Michael H
December 7, 2009

Tip=gratuity (gratia, grace)

NEVER break your head on how much tip the server deserves. It's not about deserving; it's about grace. As Christians, we are called to be people of grace. We SHOULD tip, and generously.

December 8, 2009

I just have to note again, since you cast it aside, that wages in the restaurant industry are consciously lowered, as are their minimum wages, precisely because of the assumption that they will be getting tips. If it were not so, then it would indeed be an additional increment of grace, not to be expected.

December 8, 2009

I can't quite tell if you're saying that minimum wage is enough. You have a higher minimum than most of the country. We don't all have room-mates sharing costs. I've been known to live on $7000 in a year, and even travel a little, but I'm in good health, and I have no children to support. In the job where I earned almost twice the minimum wage, I certainly had more than pure fixed costs, but, I don't know how some of my co-workers with 2-4 children managed it, and some of them were single parents. I live in a tiny studio that rents for $350 a month. Three bedrooms generally goes for three times that around here.

December 11, 2009

As a former food server I can attest to the fact that tipping does get the attention of the food server. As a Christian I understand that what we have belongs to God and He gives it to us. Therefore, we can't outgive God. It would be neat to leave a tip along with a note that says, "Thank you for the service. Both God and I want you to have this. God Bless You". I believe it would turn some heads as well as peak interest. OVERTIP monetarily as a tract doesn't pay the bills.

December 11, 2009

I have worked in the service industry for the better part of the last 13 years, working at mostly 3-4 AAA Diamond hotels. Unfortunately when a church related groups are notoriously known for their poor tipping habits. That of course discourages me, a follower of Jesus, and presents a horrible testimony to those who serve them.

On the other hand, working in the service industry also challenges my faith because I get to go to work and depend on God for my daily bread.

After reading a few posts understand that those who are good at their jobs in the service industry don't need anyone's sympathy for their "below minimum wage" hourly rate. It is a lot like sales, the ceiling can be high and the floor is low. Most know that going into that line of work.

December 12, 2009

It's not just a question of witness, in my opinion... it's a question of JUSTICE. Service workers of all kinds are underpaid in our culture (as are virtually all who actually labor for their day's bread, while CEOs rake in millions of dollars that no amount of labor could possibly earn). Since service workers are vastly underpaid, it behooves those who follow the God of justice - and *particularly* those who have been blessed with riches - to tip above and beyond the world's standards. (I think it also behooves those who follow the God of justice to follow Dr. King's lead and agitate and advocate for a more just system, even to the point of self-sacrifice and nonviolent civil disobedience, but that's another post.) For me, 20% is the minimum, and I'm a person of relatively modest means. It isn't a matter of *giving* - as if the tip is an unearned gift - but rather one of ensuring that the worker is paid the wage he or she rightfully deserves for his or her labor. Since our economic system rewards restaurateurs who underpay their workers, it is our job to ensure that they receive their full wage - as well as to advocate through consumer action and through governmental action that they be paid more fairly.

Jesus Murillo
December 13, 2009

we have to remember they are serving us, even though it is their job, but alot of people like it because they have the attitude and kindness to serve others, i believe what we leave them is a blessing from what Jehova has provided for us, by doing so we show Gods love in us.

December 18, 2009

We are blessed of God if we have accepted Christ as Lord, regardless of our income level. If you choose to eat out, count the cost of the tip as part of your total cost, and if you cannot afford it don't go. If you have gone on a Sunday, and you are all dressed up, they assume you are (churchy) christian, so show off a good and gracious God, tip well, and if the service was less than stellar tip even better, be like God " while we were yet sinners (poor service if you like) Christ died for us"

March 5, 2010

Right to the point I could not of say it better myself....

March 7, 2010

As a server/manager/chef for over 15 years, let me clue any Christian diner out there.. we know who you are. At least we should, right? If we are to be lights in this world it should be very apparent that when we go out to eat, go in public, etc.. that we are Christians. So tip one - if you leave a tract, tip big! I see no problem with leaving a tract; some are clever and well done and they usually get read - no matter what they say - that is, if you leave a great tip. Unless you plan on leaving 25% minimum tip - please for the sake of God's name and Christians everywhere - DO NOT: pray at the table, leave a tract, ask your server about their faith, act 'churchy' , or do anything else that would identify you as a Christian - better yet just stay home. There has seriously been more damage done by Christians than good when it comes to this situation and if you don't plan on going drastic, better just not go. If you have a problem with the service consider it an offering - it's God's money anyway right?

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