By Cadi LaCourse, President
Many UMF students are working their way through school with jobs as restaurant servers. I am sure that those students, as well as anyone that has ever depended on tips for a living, will agree that tipping your server is not optional.
For those that feel that tipping is unnecessary, I would like to inform you that the servers that wait on you in restaurants and bars depend on tips for the majority of their income. It is a common misperception that servers are paid minimum wage in addition to the tips they receive. This is not the case. In Maine it is only required that tipped employees be paid half of the legal minimum wage, which is only $3.75 per hour in this state. Servers and other tipped employees depend on tips for over half of their income. When people take the service they provide for granted it can cause great financial hardships for the servers.
If a tipped employee does not make enough in tips to bring their income above minimum wage their employer is required to make up the difference, however this is generally calculated on a weekly rather than per shift basis. If a server does not receive enough tips in a single shift to bring their earnings above minimum wage for a particular shift, but make over that amount in another shift that week, they will not be compensated for the time in which they worked for less than the minimum wage. This means that the server has to hope that the customers that do tip will make up for those that don’t.
It is common practice, if you receive proper service, that you should tip the server at least 15% of your check total. An easy way to approximate this amount would be to double the tax amount, for instance in Maine, the tax in restaurants is currently 8% equaling 16% if doubled. If your server provides above average service it is customary to increase the tip amount beyond the 15%.
Speaking as someone that for 10 years, between high school and enrolling at UMF, was dependent upon tips for the majority of my income, I can say that it can be very frustrating when customers do not properly compensate you for the services you provide. I can also say that if you receive sub-standard service that you should reduce the tip amount to whatever you feel is appropriate, however if your server is friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient you should compensate them accordingly.