There’s been a bit of buzz on the web this week regarding what I had no idea was such a hugely contested issue: Tipping. And, while I can’t speak for everyone, or even a majority of people, nonetheless I felt compelled to weigh in. 

First off, I will agree, that food service is at best an anomaly that somehow seems to exist. They are exempt from certain labor conditions that seemingly could only exist in an environment of foodstuffs for moneys brought to you by a person or persons who may or may not be making a shockingly low “minimum wage” of about two dollars an hour.

The folks in the food service industry put in long hours, put up with horrid customers and are the ultimate multi-taskers. There are many who get it very wrong, but the ones that do are so spectacular at their work, you hardly even know they’re doing it. To get an intuitive server, one who understands the questions you’re asking about the menu and can guide you to a truly pleasurable experience is not that rare. However, I do feel that they are underappreciated.

So, with that, I say to every server who ever felt underappreciated or overworked and absolutely underpaid: THANK YOU! But because “thank yous” don’t make rent, I default tip 20% unless the service is completely horrid. Even then, however, I do give the standard 15%. I see a tip as a way to make up the difference in the server’s hourly wage, something which probably doesn’t even include health insurance or vacation time.

I live a cushy, rather self-sufficient life. However, if someone provides me a service, like the bellhop at the hotel grabbing all my luggage including my son’s mountain of stuff we need to bring with us nowadays, a $5 bill is the least I can do. Honestly, I’ve blown $5 on far less impressive things, and so I tip for something that I would be consider a huge help.

The term gratuity seems awfully similar to gratitude, which for me is one and the same. If the service is good, I’m grateful for it, and I’m happy to pay a few extra dollars for it. I realize that in some restaurants, the servers may not see an extra dime over 15%, and the kitchen staff may not get anything. However, I’ve found that engaging the server, or the management in restaurants I frequent more regularly gives me insight on how that money is divvied up.

It’s true that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat the person serving them in a restaurant. You can also tell a lot about a restaurant by the way they treat their own people. If I feel like the servers or bussers are being shafted, I give tips as cash and try to put the bills in the person’s hand, if possible, before leaving.

I do agree that the system could use some revamping to give people in the food service industry a decent living wage so that tips wouldn’t be necessary at all. However, it does seem to be the insurmountable task of the century to get that kind of dynamic change. In the meantime, I try to make a difference where I can. Beyond the tipping, I feel it’s important to remember the reason you tip in the first place, because you’re grateful for the service provided.