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Do Waitstaff Hate Change?
October 18, 2007 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I read a guideline in Modern Drunkard's mostly, but not entirely, tongue-in-cheek "Rules of Boozing," and it confused me.

39. Never tip with coins that have touched you. If your change is $1.50, you can tell the barmaid to keep the change, but once she has handed it to you, you cannot give it back. To a bartender or cocktail waitress, small change has no value.
This seems to imply that a waitress would rather have a dollar tip than a dollar-fifty tip, at least if you leave it on the table.

Those of you who have worked for tips, can this be true? Would you rather have a dollar bill than a dollar bill and two quarters? How about a dollar bill, a quarter, a dime, two nickels, and five pennies? Is six quarters for a beer a horrible tip, or is it laundry/parking money? How about two bucks in loose change? If you're speaking from experience rather than conjecture, it'd be nice to know.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg to Society & Culture (51 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've done a lot of fine dining service, where bills are large and most people by credit card or in round amounts in large bills. In those settings, being left a tip containing change was often considered an insult by waitstaff. It is true that too much change weighs down apron and trouser pockets that are already full of pens, pen caps, wine keys, straw papers, corks, check books, and oddments you swept off a table or counter to clean up. A heavy, jangly apron is not comfortable, and it's no fun to go fishing around in a jumble of things like coins for your needed items.

If I were a bartender, I would probably not have a problem with quarters, since the individual orders would generally be smaller.

The general sentiment is true, though - small change doesn't make that much difference and it can be a bother. Most people go into the foodservice industry because they can average $100/night or so. 50 cents does not dent that much in one direction or another.
posted by Miko at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2007


correction: most people pay by credit card etc.
posted by Miko at 8:55 AM on October 18, 2007


I think the implication is that change is so close to worthless that it's not worth the trouble of even picking up when you're a busy bartender/waitress. Going out of your way to give them change is an insult.
posted by mullingitover at 8:56 AM on October 18, 2007


Experience.
In US, our dollar coin is a dismal flop (for the second time). So, the rule, at least where I come from, is that if it does not fold, we do not want it. Often I was too busy to go back and forth to the register and after a brisk night of business, hauling a pocket full of change would be inconvenient and uncomfortable. It might seem needlessly picky and perhaps a bit insulting, and I have certainly accepted my share of coinage when left for me, but my preference was for bills alone.
I was never a bartender, however, so that experience might be a bit different, with the register or a tip jar right there.
posted by oflinkey at 8:56 AM on October 18, 2007


"Fold it or hold it" is a term of art for bartenders.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:57 AM on October 18, 2007


Tipping is a silly custom that comes with plenty of ridiculous cultural trappings: don't ever hand back change; only tip in bills; always tip 20 percent or more; hand it to the waitress with only the most pristine of white-gloved hands; never tip -insert profession here-; always tip -insert profession here-.

Bottom line is that tipping is a nebulous area of our culture, and there really are no steadfast rules other than to tip those in the service industry who make below minimum wage, since they rely on tips.

Niggling over whether or not it is okay to tip with change (let alone change that you have touched or not) is absolutely ridiculous. There is no rule here--bartenders everywhere will react differently to being tipped with change or not. So tip what you owe and forget about it. If they don't like it, don't tip them next time. Money is money, whether it has Lincoln's mug on it or Ben Franklin's.
posted by dead_ at 9:00 AM on October 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well, just speaking from my past experience... for waitresses, change is a pain in the ass. It's bad enough walking around with most of your spending money being wads of $1 bills all the time, but counting out change... especially when people leave you pennies and you've got a zillion customers calling out orders at you? It's just annoying. I often threw tipped change in the community tip jar rather than keep it myself. Not because I didn't need money but because I really didn't have the time or patience to deal with counting and cashing in coins when I was busy working a shift.

The only exception being if I spied a quarter in the pile, was wearing work clothes with pockets and it was laundry day. (I'm so glad I don't have a pay machine where I live now.)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:05 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree with Modern Drunkard. You don't hand back coins once they've been handed to you; it's cheap. Either anticipate the change you're going to receive, and tell them to just keep it (which saves them the trouble of counting it out for you), or just hand them bills back as tip.

The only exception would be if there was an obvious tip jar right there, in which case I think using coins as tip is more acceptable -- you just dump it in the jar, and they deal with it at the end of the night (but even then, nothing smaller than quarters, I'd say). But giving someone back coins that they have to pocket? Obnoxious.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:08 AM on October 18, 2007


There are different ways of thinking about it.

If it's a bad tip, and it's change or contains a lot of change: yeah, pretty much I'd rather get no tip at all. How bad it has to be for this to be true is case-by-case. I used to work at a bar where beers were $2.75 and there were customers who would try to give the quarter back to us (cocktail waitresses). A lot of the time we'd just put it back down on the table.

I'll leave quarters in addition to bills if I want to increase the tip by a dollar or less, or I want to tip a little more but I just don't have another dollar. But I never, ever leave anything smaller than that. In addition to being a pain to carry around, there's this subtle implication that you're tossing your pocket change to someone who should be only too happy to clean it away for you for the price of what the coins are worth. And sometimes that gets taken to its logical next step--that the presence of coins are interpreted as an intentional message from the customer that they didn't care for your service, even if it's not. (I have at least wondered, though rarely assumed).

I have heard, though, of another ritual where at the end of the night, if you really liked your waitress, you'd give her ALL your change (in addition to, presumably, having tipped normally throughout the evening). This is supposed to be a compliment, a gesture of literally giving her every last penny you have. I don't know, but sounds to me like something that only applies to cocktail waitresses or bartenders after a looong night of drinking. The other caveat is that at the end of the night, change isn't as big a deal because the waitress is probably mostly done with her running around.

But overall, there's no real reason to overthink it in practice. Different people see it differently, but as long as you tip well and you're friendly, no one but the grouchiest server is going to have any real probelm with you.
posted by lampoil at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2007


@Kadin2048: But giving someone back coins that they have to pocket? Obnoxious.

Definitely! It is incredibly obnoxious and insulting to include a metallic, heavier element amongst the money you are giving them in recognition of higher service that is above the actual cost of the product! How dare you inconvenience them in such a fashion!

*rolls eyes*

You know, I read on Rustic Boozehound that it is incredibly insulting to give a waitress anything less than a 75% tip.
posted by WCityMike at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


WCityMike, back when I was a busboy, I used to have trouble closing my wallet due to all the ones in it. I can't imagine if people left change. The question isn't about tipping, it's about the meaning behind Modern Drunkard's statement. If you leave the coins behind, it's one thing, but explicitly giving them back has a "You take 'em, I don't want 'em" feel to it that suggests you're not providing an additional tip but an additional inconvenience.
posted by yerfatma at 9:41 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


To the OP, if your desire is to be a well-received customer and particularly a regular customer somewhere, I really think you're right to listen to people who have worked in the business. Something about tipping tends to drive some people batty, as you can see already in this thread, but anyone who has not worked in a bar or restaurant really has no good way to form an opinion about what customs from patrons are welcome or unwelcome other than their own gut instinct.

It's like comparing one data point with ten thousand. An individual restaurant patron has their own experience and philosophy to draw on. Meanwhile, an individual bartender or waitress has ten thousand accumulated customer experiences to draw on. Some behaviors really do work better and make service operate more smoothly. There's no way to understand how small things impact the flow of service unless you've done the job.

Not carrying change around is one. Waitstaff, especially, don't usually have a register nearby. They typically carry all their cash and credit slips on their person until the end of the night, when they 'cash out' and settle up with the restaurant. Until then, you're carrying all your money, as there's usually not time or a secure place to make a 'drop' anywhere. So imagine this waitstaff has $3.00 of quarters in his or her pocket. From a diner's point of view, the waiter looks disorganized and awkward fishing in an apron pocket through that handful of coinage to get out a wine key and open your wine - not to mention the grody aspect of knowing the wine key and now the hands that are uncorking your bottle have been swimming around with the coins and all the unknown finger-slime cooties they carry. This isn't the best customer experience. So if it helps to think of avoiding small change as improving the customer experience for everyone, think of it like that.
posted by Miko at 9:42 AM on October 18, 2007


If enough people are giving you change as a tip that it makes your apron bulge like a leprechauns gold stash then you'd be a fool not to take the change, on the other hand if only a couple of people do it then you'd be a fool not to take the change because it isn't enough to make a dint in your apron.
posted by zeoslap at 9:44 AM on October 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have spent plenty of time in bars, and as a result have any number of bartender friends, and the ones who have actual tip *jars* don't seem to mind change - they just count it out at the end of the night, it all spends. They do, however, strongly object of sub-$1 tips.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:47 AM on October 18, 2007


[a few comments removed -- this is a simple question not a referendum on what you think abou tthe practice of tipping personally. answer the question or feel free to go to metatalk or practice your snark in the mirror.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:48 AM on October 18, 2007


The standard is different for server than for bartenders. Bartenders, who generally have tip jars, are also often responsible for making change for the waitstaff, so an accumulation of change is no big deal. Plus, if a beer is $2.50, a 50-cent tip is practical and appreciated. At the end of a busy night, I might roll up sixty to eighty bucks in quarters alone. Those quarters add up quickly, and though I'd rather see green, I'll take what I can get.

Servers, though, view change as an insult. Round up to the nearest dollar, if they deserved it, or round down if they didn't. They don't have a cash drawer or a group of tip jars; so they hafta carry around the jingle through their shift.

Everyone is insulted by pennies and nickels. Keep them in your pockets, cheapskates, cuz we don't want them.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:50 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm also in agreement with Modern Drunkard.

At least as much as I can be in the land of $2 coins. I still don't feel good about leaving any tip containing a coin, even if it is a buck or two.

I'm also in agreement with Kadin2048 on anticipating the change. There is something too master-and-servant for casual drinking and dining about making a person stand by you and carefully count out $1.39 only so you can palm it, stare, and hand it back with a cheap verbal pleasantry.
posted by kmennie at 10:11 AM on October 18, 2007


as a bartender (in canada), giving your change back is fine, just leave it on the bar, but do not leave anything less than quarters, we dont deal with those at all, they just get tossed in a container under the bar for small useless change and is somewhat insulting, as we round all our drink prices down to a number that doesnt include providing you with change less than quarters. with saying that, a 25 or 50 cent tip on a drink is a irritating, but 1.50 isnt. if we pour you a beer, throw us a dollar, if you order seven drinks for you and your friends during last call and throw us 2.00 thats incredibly insulting, as people usually tip 1.00 to 2.00 dollars on each of those drinks, and we make you seven and you throw us a dollar or two when we could be making individual drinks for all those people yelling and pushing at the bar that are going to give us a decent tip...

as for being a waitress, where i work we dont tote around our money all night long, and i dont really care about change like quarters and such, but its definitely a minor annoyance... being in a hurry and picking up a bill fold off a table and change goes flying everywhere. annoying. again we dont deal with anything less than quarters.

another note on tipping, we make less than minimum wage, and what some people don't realize is that at the end of the night we tip out numerous people....our barbacks, busboys, food runners, kitchen, house, event booker.... so if you dont tip we are basically paying out of our pocket to all those people at the end of the night because we tip them out based on our sales, not our tips, and we also like to tip them out more than the minimum requirement cause we all know what its like to be a slave to tips....
posted by butterball at 10:11 AM on October 18, 2007


I used to deliver pizzas. I'd always have to carry around enough change so that I could give our customers exact change if they wanted it (either to give me an even dollar amount tip or not tip me at all). But by the end of every night, my change accumulation would be ridiculous, and I'd have to carry it around all night in my pocket until I cashed out at the end of my shift. I couldn't really go change it out because that would take time away from my ability to run deliveries (I imagine it would be the same for waitstaff in a busy bar--any time they spend counting up change with the bartender is time they could have been serving people drinks). I would have rather not received change at all, even if it meant going from a $1.75 tip to just $1. So, I was kind of a long-distance version of waitstaff, but I hated change.

At bars, if the bar is stupid enough to charge some amount of change insted of an even dollar amount for a drink, I'll leave the change on the bar if I'm there (since, as BitterOldPunk mentions, the bartenders usually just take whatever you leave and put in a bucket or pitcher), or just round up for waitstaff.
posted by LionIndex at 10:15 AM on October 18, 2007


Also, I once was paid with a $10 quarter roll. Don't do that.
posted by LionIndex at 10:19 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


If they don't want the change, they can leave it on the bar for whomever does.

All of this "Oh, poor me, I have to count change" is ridiculous. Nobody is forcing anyone to carry change around. If they really don't want it, they can just toss it in the trash can. If they can't stand to do that, then they clearly want the change more than they want not to have it.

Alternately, if it's really that much of a burden, bar can stop charging $3.50 for a drink and charge $3 or $4 instead. Problem solved.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:27 AM on October 18, 2007


Change in a tip is always extra. Speaking as a customer, I tip what I would tip if there were no change, but if there is change I might not pick it up. It's not meant as an insult, but I can see how some people might think of it as "Oh, the customer thinks it's worthless money." That's not the intent with me though. Frankly, I never thought about it much.

The one exception is with bartenders. For a beer that costs $3.50 (e.g.), the difference between a $1 tip and a $0.50 tip is the service. If I'm the only one waiting to get a drink and the bartender goes to get ice before helping me, it's gonna be change.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 AM on October 18, 2007


Nobody's saying "oh, poor me." The OP is asking how bartenders and waitstaff feel. The truth is that they feel it takes more time and effort to handle more change. Do they end up doing it? Sure. But what do they prefer? Not having to handle a lot of change.
posted by Miko at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2007


I am a waitress at steak n shake. Since steak n shake is somewhat of a fast food establishment, people like to think that leaving a handful of dimes and pennies counts as a great tip.
It doesn't.
IF you need to leave change, no smaller than a quarter. But personally I would rather get a dollar than a dollar and two quarters.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 10:35 AM on October 18, 2007


Wow. You can really tell who's worked in the service industry and who hasn't.

I waited tables and bartended all through college and a couple of years after. I'm a firm believer in the old adage that everyone should wait tables at least one busy Friday night in their life.

While waiting tables forges tight-knit friendships (I'm still in contact with people I've waited tables with years ago), bartending is a culture unto itself. Bartending gives you a front row seat to the best and worst humanity has to offer; being the only sober guy in a room full of drunks lends a unique perspective.

At any bar worthy of the name, the tender is boss. A happy bartender is your bestest friend, and getting on a bartender's bad side will make for a rough evening.

To Lore's question: No, you do not tip with change you've already touched. If the drink is $2.50, throw a dollar bill on the bar and leave the quarters. Or take the quarters and leave the bill. It's all the same as long as that paper is there. If you take the time to fish two more quarters out of your pocket to evenly tip me a four-quarter dollar for the drink, either you're a cheap asshole or you just spent your last two quarters tipping the bartender. If the latter is the case, you might even get a free sympathy drink because you gave the bartender all you had. If it's the former, you're a cheap asshole.

Thereafter, every time you come back for a drink, if there is anyone else at the bar looking to order, they'll get theirs before you get yours. Hopefully, it'll be three deep waiting to order and you'll wait 15-20 minutes for a single drink. Because you're a cheap asshole, you'll wait while I first take care of the gentlemen who dropped a fiver on their first round tip.

I've worked in bars where if you tip in non-quarter pocket change, you'll get it thrown back at you or it will get loudly thrown on the floor as soon as you turn around. This is to show all of the other patrons 1.) who's the cheap asshole that tips in change, for christ's sake and 2.) don't be a cheap asshole who tips in change.

In the U.S., tipping in change is an insult, no matter that four quarters equals a dollar. It's a passive aggressive annoyance from people who think service staff are beneath them. If you argue this, you either need to get out more or learn to keep your cheap ass at home.
posted by quite unimportant at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2007


This question spurred me to think back to recent tips and, yes, I realize that I've gone out of my way to avoid leaving coins. Just yesterday, I scooped fifty cents off the stacked bills for the tip, and substituted another single.

This is despite my own experience: when I waited tables, my apron had several separate small pockets, the tiniest of which I dumped change into. I was never insulted by a decent tip that included silver with the folding money, though the coin pocket did slap against my leg, and the change was only laundry money.

(Until today, I've never hesitated over leaving singles, though --- the owner and I always swapped my singles, fives, and tens for the larger bills in the register, so he could open the next evening with plenty of small bills and I could walk home with a slimmer wad of 20s and 50s in my pocket. It's instructive to hear that this isn't common practice.)
posted by Elsa at 11:25 AM on October 18, 2007


In US, our dollar coin is a dismal flop (for the second time).
Fourth time since 1970; there have been US dollar coins off and on since 1794, with three different types available between 1878 and 1885. Spanish dollars or "pieces of eight" were American legal tender from colonial times until 1857.

posted by kirkaracha at 11:34 AM on October 18, 2007


When the saca-dollars came out, I used to get rolls of them to use when tipping, and they seemed pretty popular with the servers I gave them to. But I suspect most of those coins were collected, rather than spent.
posted by nomisxid at 12:09 PM on October 18, 2007


If your change is $1.50, you can tell the barmaid to keep the change, but once she has handed it to you, you cannot give it back. To a bartender or cocktail waitress, small change has no value.

I just reread this and would like to get one thing straight: my $1.50 is good if I say "keep the change," but as soon as the coins hit my hand they become valueless? Color me impressed: that's pretentiousness that not even the most ostentatious members of my immediate family can match (and they're bad). Are these people serious??
posted by dead_ at 1:16 PM on October 18, 2007


I generally, if not always, go out of my way to avoid leaving coins for tips, but I have to say that it's never crossed my mind that it's abhorred by waitstaff and bartenders.

But wow, quite unimportant -- you can also tell which people who've worked in the service industry feel that they're above their patrons, and which don't.

I've worked in bars where if you tip in non-quarter pocket change, you'll get it thrown back at you or it will get loudly thrown on the floor as soon as you turn around. This is to show all of the other patrons 1.) who's the cheap asshole that tips in change, for christ's sake and 2.) don't be a cheap asshole who tips in change.

I'm glad you've worked places where bartenders feel it's OK to throw change at patrons -- that's just swell. I can tell you that if a bartender ever purposely threw anything at all at me, I'd probably be the asshole who calls the police and files battery charges, to show all the other bartenders who's the aggressive asshole that commits crimes because they don't like the way I've left them legal tender above and beyond the cost of the goods I've purchased from them.

In the U.S., tipping in change is an insult, no matter that four quarters equals a dollar. It's a passive aggressive annoyance from people who think service staff are beneath them. If you argue this, you either need to get out more or learn to keep your cheap ass at home.

Hmmmm.... and comments like this are more along the lines of service staff thinking that some patrons are beneath them. This is just ridiculous. I'm with dead_ -- why does the change have value to bartenders when I say "keep the change", but lose value once it's crossed the bar? Is there some distinction in there that clarifies whether or not we rubes think of ourselves as better than the folks across the bar from us?
posted by delfuego at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2007


I just reread this and would like to get one thing straight: my $1.50 is good if I say "keep the change," but as soon as the coins hit my hand they become valueless? Color me impressed: that's pretentiousness that not even the most ostentatious members of my immediate family can match (and they're bad). Are these people serious??

Well, yeah. And in my experience, there's a good reason why, although it might not be good enough for you. I'd carry around all my money that I'd picked up all day (as a delivery driver, and then cash out at the end of my shift. Subtract the total amount of deliveries from the cash I had collected, and the leftover is my tip. If you just say "keep the change", you're still tipping me whatever amount of change, but now I'm just carrying it as paper and it'll all get sorted out at the end of the night when my lump sum of receipts gets added up.

If everyone starts throwing change at me, I have to take time out from my job, and earning more tips, to go change it before my pockets start overflowing. I could be making another delivery or serving another drink during that time. In a reductio ad absurdium way, tipping in change could actually mean me making less money and everyone in the place getting slower service.

Assuming that your $.50 is manna from heaven that I should be incredibly happy to receive is pretentious beyond belief for me.
posted by LionIndex at 1:58 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


(an exercise for the reader: please close parentheses after "delivery driver")
posted by LionIndex at 2:02 PM on October 18, 2007


In the example of the $1.50, one simple reason might be that "keep the change" saves the bartender a trip. S/he doesn't have to bring the change back to you, and then pick it up and transport it to the till again once you've selected the amount that you want to take back out of it.

If there's cocktail service, making change is even less efficient, in that it requires either the extra time it takes to stand tableside, pinning a tray sideways under your arm while you dig around in your apron trying to count back the customer's change on the spot, or the time to take a trip back to the bar to get change and then a return trip to bring you your change, maybe across a crowded floor. "Keep the change" saves a whole bunch of time. Let's say you order an $8.50 drink, give me a $10, and say "keep the change." Great - I don't have to do anything more with this transaction until it's 2 A.M. and everyone's gone home and I'm balancing the cash I owe back to the restaurant, at which point I give them your $8 and keep whatever you left me.

If you don't say it, I have to assume you want the change, which means I have to make change myself tableside if I have the ones and quarters, or maybe I have to go get change from the bartender to get your ones and quarters, or maybe even have to ring in your transaction to get a change drawer to open to get the bills and quarters I need. Then if I come back to see you have just deposited the $1.50 change on the table, I may have wasted several precious minutes. If I didn't have to shuffle these quarters around the restaurant three times I could have been serving someone else a bit faster.

The return trips are a big deal when every move needs to minimized to the least number of milliseconds. However, this stuff I'm saying is true for folding money, too -- I think it's just a lot more irritating in the case of quarters.

For the record, if someone left me change when I was waiting tables at a restuarant, I didn't think they were trying to insult me, just that they were either (a) really close to the bone financially or (b)a bit of a rube.
posted by Miko at 2:31 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I used to deliver pizzas. I'd always have to carry around enough change so that I could give our customers exact change if they wanted it

Way back when I delivered pizzas and stuff, almost nobody got exact change from me. If they didn't start off saying "keep the change" or the like, there would be another opportunity to do so while I slowly count out change to the nearest dollar, then on the rare occasions when it got that far, a big awkward pause before resorting to looking for exact change. Worked for me, but then I was in Canada, so it may be different here. That still seems to be the usual procedure for pizza delivery, last time I tried it.

Therefore, doing unto others as I would have them do, in restaurants and bars I'll usually just pay to the nearest five dollars or so (or whatever even dollar amount I think appropriate), not ask for change, and just leave it (ie. not touch it, glance meaningfully at it, or acknowledge it in any way) if for whatever reason they make change anyway. If they have some kind of psychological problem involving small change, and this thread seems to demonstrate that many do, (including me, though my personal distaste for near-worthless coins extends only up to dimes, possibly because quarters are still associated in my brain with the video arcades of my childhood and are therefore real money,) it's their problem then. If I don't have the appropriate kind of cash, I'll ask for change first, as in hand them a ten and ask for fives if I'm wanting to pay five dollars. As one who's given and received many tips, that's the least awkward approach for me, and seems to work anywhere tipping is customary.

All of which is just to say, yeah, the the Rules of Boozing has it right.
posted by sfenders at 5:20 PM on October 18, 2007


[a few comments removed -- seriously, this is not the place for eye-rolling and commenting on how stupid different people's opinions are.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:36 PM on October 18, 2007


Way back when I delivered pizzas and stuff, almost nobody got exact change from me. If they didn't start off saying "keep the change" or the like, there would be another opportunity to do so while I slowly count out change to the nearest dollar, then on the rare occasions when it got that far, a big awkward pause before resorting to looking for exact change.

This is what I did too, but every once in a while you get that one guy that won't tip no matter what, and wants his exact change, and you lose a customer if you don't have it on you. Or, even more bizarre, the person that gets their exact change so that they can then give you an even $2 tip, which actually happened to me a couple times.
posted by LionIndex at 5:37 PM on October 18, 2007


@L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg: To a bartender or cocktail waitress, small change has no value.

I would suggest this opinion — and the opinion expressed by many waitstaff in this thread — is not universally felt by all people in service professions. Shortly out of college, I interned for a year at a theater. During that time, like what happens with some restaurants, I was paid only a bare minimum, and so bartending and coat-rooming at the theater's events brought in extra money.

What I was paid during that time took the form of not only paper money but change. I was happy to get either, because $1.50 > $1, and ($1.50 * 50)/2 people = $37.50 while ($1 * 50)/2 people = $25, and so on.

Additionally, given that during that time, discourtesy to guests would have reflected badly on the theater and possibly gotten me in to trouble, I really can't envision myself having told a theater patron that I was too good to take their change, or that it was an inconvenience for me.

A number of bartending/coat-room "gigs" over the course of a year do not a service profession make, I'll definitely concede. But I think the experience is enough to at least illustrate the point that the opinion being expressed here is one not universally felt. It might, frankly, also be of interest to consult the very people to whom you would be giving said tips how they feel about such manners.

BTW, love the Brunching Shuttlecocks; thank you for "The Bjork Song." :)
posted by WCityMike at 6:03 PM on October 18, 2007


What I was paid during that time took the form of not only paper money but change.

There's a difference, WCityMike. You were being paid a legal minimum wage and tips were over and above that. Bartenders and waitstaff get paid a service wage which is significantly below minimum; they usually don't get a check, because their taxes and government fees are still taken out of that below-minimum wage and it's just enough to cover that legal requirement. All their take-home money comes from tips. You think in increments of $5 and try to make sure no hour goes by where you don't take in at least $10, or it's not going to work out for you in the end.

In a coat room or at a counter, that tip jar is gravy, a nice little bonus over and above what you'd already get. It's not small stuff requiring more work from you that may cut into your ability to work fast enough to meet your hourly average.
posted by Miko at 6:18 PM on October 18, 2007


@Miko: You were being paid a legal minimum wage and tips were over and above that. Bartenders and waitstaff get paid a service wage which is significantly below minimum; they usually don't get a check, because their taxes and government fees are still taken out of that below-minimum wage and it's just enough to cover that legal requirement.

I'm afraid you're mistaken. The reason why I specifically referred to the internship was because the situation was somewhat comparable; I was paid $50 per week, although I had no housing costs during that time (I shared a house with several other interns).
posted by WCityMike at 6:23 PM on October 18, 2007


I still say it's different. An internship and a job carry different expectations. When I was doing table service, my intent was to support myself. It's a bit more serious a profession than the kind of thing you describe - one thing I found in common in the four restaurants I worked in was that the staff were aspirational and needed their money to be decent in order to move ahead with school/house purchase/tuition for kids etc.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on October 18, 2007


The other main difference being that the hustle matters a lot less. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the problem is the time investment and hassle of dealing with the change physically that make change a pain in the tuchus.
posted by Miko at 6:55 PM on October 18, 2007


@Miko: When I was doing table service, my intent was to support myself.

As you might imagine, $50 does not go far, especially in an Ivy League college town (this was adjacent to, but not associated with, Princeton's campus), towards satisfying basic needs such as food, hygienic items, etc. As such, earned money went towards supporting myself, especially given the fact that at the time, my parents were in very tight financial straits.

It's a bit more serious a profession than the kind of thing you describe

While I was not waiting tables on a daily basis, I assure you, the issue of earning whatever extra money I could to satisfy basic needs was quite serious to me.

one thing I found in common in the four restaurants I worked in was that the staff were aspirational and needed their money to be decent in order to move ahead with school/house purchase/tuition for kids etc.

In my case, I needed my money to be decent in order to purchase, well, food.

It should perhaps be clarified that my message is not that you, or the others, are wrong. I am trying to make a point that there are opinions other than yours, and that the original poster should consider that when analyzing the question, perhaps asking those with whom he would interact for their opinions, as he has asked you for yours.

In fact, the opinion of those in the service profession with whom he directly interacts (his favorite diner, etc.) probably would be of greater use to him than the opinion of a more random sampling of service professionals.
posted by WCityMike at 6:59 PM on October 18, 2007


You don't have any experiences I don't have, and yet I have a lot of experiences you don't have, working for tips in four different restaurants. Your experience is simply not the same thing as restaurant service, and so someone who is looking for the opinions of those who have done restaurant service will not find your opinion very useful. I can assure you it is not commonly shared.

he opinion of those in the service profession with whom he directly interacts (his favorite diner, etc.) probably would be of greater use to him than the opinion of a more random sampling of service professionals.

Except that bartenders and waitstaff don't really tell your patrons the truth about how you feel about their tipping habits (orn their manners, conversation, choice of partner, choice of food or drink, habits, or appearance. They are trying to get paid). Service relationships are contextual relationships.

(What's with the "@"? Isn't just "Miko:" enough to indicate you're addressing me?)
posted by Miko at 7:05 PM on October 18, 2007


@Miko: You don't have any experiences I don't have, and yet I have a lot of experiences you don't have, working for tips in four different restaurants. [and so on in the same vein...]

And here we reach the impasse I was hoping you would take us to. When people insist that their opinion is fact and should be treated as same, and that no other opinion should even be considered when examining an issue, it's not a discussion anymore — it's soapboxing. (That's why we don't have political debates any longer, and haven't for a long time.)

Which is really what this thread has become — those Mefites who are in the service profession are taking this opportunity to soapbox about a behavior of customers that annoys them. I think it then becomes a "get your own blog" situation.

~-~-~-~-~@@@@: 10/18/07: 21:08 (-0600 CST): Miko: (What's with the "@"? Isn't just "Miko:" enough to indicate you're addressing me?)

I think it looks a little better now.
posted by WCityMike at 7:17 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't drink alcohol, and a glass of pop at a bar is maybe $2. So I'm supposed to tip $5 (the lowest bill in Canada)? I think a few things need to be considered.

-- are you tipping per drink or on your tab?
-- any reason you can't say "keep the change"?
-- does the waiter have a change/tip jar on his/her tray?
-- is there a tip jar nearby?

I worked in a coffee shop, and all we got was change for tips...and it worked perfectly, because the tips were split equally among the staff. So every week the manager switched out the change and paid us our share in bills. We didn't take home change, and we didn't have to go to the bank for change as often. Win-win-win.

...but carrying change around in your pockets or apron all night? Yeah, that'd be a pain in the ass. Like any tipping, you do what's polite in the situation.
posted by sarahkeebs at 7:22 PM on October 18, 2007


those Mefites who are in the service profession

That's because that's who the question was asked of.

It's as though someone asked "those of you who have worked for commissions as shoe salesmen, can this be true?" and you responded "I haven't worked for commisions as a shoe salesman, but I worked for percentage of interest as a car salesman, therefore my opinion will be as useful as the opinions of all the shoe salesmen who have answered, who are in consensus about your question, and who disagree with me!"

You just don't have any relevant experience with which to answer this question.

But you don't have to take our word for it.
"Myth 4: Bartenders need to earn tips.

We don't—we need to earn good tips. Tipping a dollar per drink is your obligation by virtue of stepping through the door and walking up to the bar. Everybody should be prepared to do it. And that's dollar as in paper—coins scream cheap ass. If you say "Keep the change" and there happen to be coins involved, that's OK. If the coins in any way touch you, however, they're yours. We make minimum wage and rely on our tips to survive, I don't need the extra 15 minutes of parking. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to drink in a bar.

Old AskMe: What do bartenders and strippers have in common? You don't tip them with change.

I can't be bothered to jingle all night long or be weighed down by coins....

"I'm not even allowed to use the tip to round off the bill to the nearest dollar because "wait staff hate when you do that, because then at the end of the night, they have a huge pocket full of change."

There's plenty more on the restaurant-rant-and-gossip sites if you care to search forums.
To sum up: This is not a question of opinion, it is a question of experience. I think we have noted that an intern at a theatre coat check was happy to accept small change in tips. It does not follow that a waiter at a restaurant, or a bartender at a bar, is happy to accept small change in tips.

All that said, though it is slicker and easier for everyone if you don't leave change in a tip, I also never saw anyone burst a vein over it. However, if it's your goal to be a welcome customer who exhibits all the graces, a joy to serve -- then you may want to skip the coinage.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on October 18, 2007


[comment removed. WCityMike your choices are MetaTalk or email at this point, please don't do this here.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 PM on October 18, 2007


I have to side with WCityMike. I bartended and waited tables, when it was busy and when it was slow, for regulars and for total strangers, winter and summer, day shift and night. And I really never cared what form my tips came in, only their size. If the tip was $1 for a $50 meal, it made no difference to me that it was a paper bill. If it was $4 in dimes for a $3 drink, I was thrilled.

The coins piled up, and made a comforting clink in my apron. The bills piled up too, and padded the coins. I kept my pen in a separate pocket, so I wasn't mixing money with tools. It just wasn't that big a deal.

There are other opinions, even from people in the service industry. None of the other servers I worked with ever mentioned coins as being a problem. None. Not even pennies, although we rarely got those. But we sure complained when we got stiffed on the actual value of the tip, unless we had the sense that what we got was all they could afford.

But apparently I represent a tiny minority. Thus in answer to your question, OP, it does appear that the majority of servers don't want your money. So, keep the change. Yourself.
posted by Capri at 8:28 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wait tables now and I've tended bar in the past. At the bar, quarters are fine. It would be more convenient for you to just tell the bartender to keep the change, but the register is right there. Never ever tip a server with change. It's not worth the pain in the ass of carrying it around all night.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:42 PM on October 18, 2007


For people who have a difficult time imagining how waitstaff can be so anti-change, imagine you bought something at 7-11, and the change came out to $.80 or something, but they're all out of quarters, so they just give you a bunch of dimes and nickels. Isn't that a little bit annoying? Now imagine that happened 100 times in four hours. Sure, you're getting the correct change and you're not losing anything in the transaction, but wouldn't it be nicer if they could give you proper change? I think that's all that Miko and I have been arguing. It's not looking down on change for me, and I certainly never turned it down, but it's just less of a hassle for me to not have to deal with it. And that's all the question was really asking--would waitstaff and bartenders rather receive paper than change, even if they lose $.50 on the deal? For me, the answer would pretty much be yes, for the functional reasons Miko and I have listed. It's not really a judgement thing, although it does make you look a little cheap if you tip $.75 instead of just making it a dollar.
posted by LionIndex at 7:46 AM on October 19, 2007


It seems like the two prevailing opinions from waitstaff here are "I hate change" and "I don't mind change". You'd have a hard time finding a server who represents the third opinion--preferring to be tipped in change and hates being tipped with paper money.

So if your goal is to make the server happy (and if you're someone who enjoys a few in a bar, that should be one of your goals), why not err on the safe side and never tip with change? That way everybody's happy.

Also, avoid drinking with people who not only tip with change, but also act indignant when servers complain about being tipped with change. Clearly these are not people who come to a bar to enjoy the company of others. These are people who only want everyone to recognize that they're right, all evidence to the contrary excluded.
posted by turaho at 3:13 PM on October 19, 2007


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