Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where does your tip go?

Over at QueerCents, Mike wrote a fantastic article, "Tipping Etiquette: Why Do We Tip?". He gives a balanced perspective on questioning the tipping system and ultimately that he still does tip his servers because that is the bulk of their wage and the job is physically (and mentally!) demanding. What is seldom mentioned that commenter Mary Sue points out is that servers don't keep all of their tips. It is often split with buspersons, hosts, expediters and/or bartenders. Furthermore, servers have to claim a mandatory 8-10% in tips every night whether they made that money or not. In the comments section, I left a hefty comment that breaks it down:

"As a waitress and bartender, I obviously have some passionate opinions about this subject. All in all, I make very good tips because I go the extra mile for customers. I remember people’s allergies; I offer free dessert if the cook’s take too long on the entree; I bring a refill before you need to ask. That said, I will still have people sometimes that tell me I was fantastic and then leave only three dollars on a fifty dollar check.

What people don’t realize is that I’m being taxed on my overall sales, not the actual tips. If I do a thousand dollars in sales, the government expects me to claim that I made 80-100 dollars in tips (8-10%). In reality, at least a third of people don’t tip 15%. Let’s say I made 120 dollars that night (12%). Out of that, I give 18 dollars to the busperson, another five to the bartender and ten to the expediter (the person who runs out the food). That leaves me with 87 dollars or 8.7% gratuity over the course of the night. What if the food was taking a long time that night and I only made 10% off the bat? I’d be walking with seventy dollars or 7%… yet the government still expects me to have made more. I don’t want to risk an audit so I claim that I made more than I did. I get taxed on money I didn’t even make to avoid an audit."


her said...

I didn't realize waiters and such have to claim 8 percent regardless if they make it or not. That totally sucks!

Strange Bird said...

It is so annoying that people are so stingy with servers. There has been only one time EVER that I have tipped less than 15%, and that's because the waiter left for the night before finishing up our table and didn't tell anybody. He was lucky we even paid our bill after we waited for almost half an hour to get closed out!

Jon said...

I don't know for sure, but I'd say the chances of the IRS auditing you for something like that are about 0%. Especially if you're not *always* claiming like 5%.

Anyway if it makes you feel better, when I was briefly a waiter I made about 10% tips on a good night hehe. I wish I had known back then that restaurants are required to pad your pay so that you get at least minimum wage!