Opinion: Tip your waiter

What I am about to say is pretty simple: tip your servers after your meal.

Although the polite gesture of leaving a few extra dollars on the diner table is second nature to many, it remains up for debate whether it’s morally a necessity. I know what you’re thinking, this has nothing to do with ethics. But let me explain! I also promise to go beyond the simple fact that at the end of the day, servers control your food.

One would imagine that the average server at a restaurant makes at the least the federal minimum wage, which rests at $7.25. To put into relatable context, Californian minimum wage is nine dollars an hour and with college students averaging 19 hours of part-time work per week, this may bring in a whopping $684 every month. That’s about enough to pay for half a month’s rent, or a few books at the bookstore.

In no way can the average pay of servers be enough to meet the cost of living, and according to the Earned Income Taxed Credit, it doesn’t. EITC claims that employees working at the federal minimum wage 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, with no off or sick days, would still leave a family of three under the recognized poverty line. With this, many workers depend on money made from tips. Reason number one why you should tip: servers may be relying on those few dollars.. to survive.

Believe it or not, servers in 17 states are not even guaranteed minimum wage, technically. Through aggressive conservative lobbying, legislation fine print allows for restaurants to offer a base pay as little as $2.13 an hour, in the mindset that the balance of minimum pay will be made in tips. While there remains a legal obligation for companies to pay the difference if a server’s performance falls short, many workers never see that money.

It is necessary to also highlight the brutal reality of customer service. No one may better understand the slogan, “the customer is always right” than workers caught in the middle of hungry customers and frustrated cooks. While the chefs in the kitchen are ultimately responsible for ensuring quality food is sent out the doors, they are not the one to deal with the situations when the resulting meal missed the mark.

The situation can only get worse if the cook’s pride fails to allow them to admit that the meat under or over-cooked, the seasoning was excessive, or the lettuce used was wilting. This is also when manipulative customers understand servers are at their will for tips and will do anything possible to achieve an extra three to five dollars. Reason number two to leave a tip: most servers truly will do whatever you ask to make your meal acceptable, don’t take advantage of this.

Servers may also have tips to pay out themselves. It is common for servers who interact with customers on the diner floor to voluntarily offer tips to cooks, dishwashers and other kitchen staff. Reason number three to leave a tip: more than one person may need that change.

At the end of the day, or rather at the end of the meal, you are not legally obliged to leave a tip and no one will chase after you to demand 15 percent of your bill. But I highly doubt the person running around at your beck and call is there because serving strangers is their passion and purpose in life. Like the majority of the workforce, servers are merely working to survive the rising cost of living. After taxes, sharing and other expenses, minimum wage isn’t even a guarantee. This is where ethics come into play.

The decision to leave a few dollars as a tip is up to you. But this question also comes with the the choice of helping individuals secure financial stability. This choice comes with the opportunity of supporting college students who did not have the luxury of employment being optional.

This choice also comes with the ultimatum; you can either keep the extra dollars in your pocket for reasons unknown, or give back to the person who literally put food on your table.