DR. WALLACE: I'm 19 and a sophomore in college. I am a female food server at a relatively expensive upscale restaurant and resort near the university I attend. There are times during my job that I serve a group of all men or conversely, a group of all women. Of course, I'm interested in earning as much money as possible, so I always give excellent service to every single person I serve and come into contact with. I must admit that I'm a superior food server because I care about the people I serve and want to earn good tips and repeat business.
I have to say that men are much more generous when it comes to leaving a tip. Women, on the other hand, are sometimes embarrassingly stingy. For example, the men will often tip between 15% and 25% of the bill while women tip between 5% and 15% — and almost never a penny more. Not only that, women are much more demanding and pickier than the men. Of course, there are exceptions to this tipping pattern, but they are rare. My general comments are quite accurate in my experience.
Women have made great strides in gaining equality with men in many areas, but they still haven't learned to be generous to hardworking young servers who rely on tips to put themselves through college. Why do you think this is? — Server who cares, Greenwich, Connecticut
SERVER WHO CARES: I have never been fortunate enough to be a food server, but I can say that I reward good food service to the tune of about 20% because I appreciate the efforts of servers who have a stressful and demanding job and, as you pointed out, depend heavily on tips to earn their living.
And I can say that from my desk, your experiences are not unique. Please read the following letter reprinted below that I received from another female food server a few years ago. It looks like some female diners may need to work on their generosity when provided excellent service.
DR. WALLACE: I'm a part-time waitress at a nice restaurant to help cover my college expenses. I am also a firm believer in the women's movement. In fact, you can call me a women's libber. I volunteer my time for women's causes and rights, but I must confess something that really bothers me about many women. When it comes to tipping for superb service, women are, sadly, often second-class citizens.
Men usually tip between 15% and 20% plus, with 20% being most common. Women tip from 0% to 15%, and the average is under 10%. Whenever I see a table of four women sitting in my service area, I cringe. Rarely am I surprised at the small amount of tip.
Yesterday evening was typical. Three women, dressed to kill, were seated at my station. They all ordered very expensive meals with two bottles of wine, plus dessert and cappuccino. The total bill was $185 before tax. I was expecting a $10 tip or so (about 5%). Well, my expectations were too great! These "liberated" women left me a grand total of a $5 tip! Five dollars!
Since we want and expect equal rights, we've got to act equally or at least be in the ballpark of equality, especially when it comes to tipping. Please print my letter, maybe some of my liberated sisters will read it. I'm writing about this topic for all the food servers who depend on tips to supplement their income. - Juliette, Newport Beach, California
JULIETTE: I'm printing your letter because if what you said is fact, it indeed will cause some raised eyebrows. If it isn't fact, I'm glad you said it and not I.
READERS: I realize these two young food-serving ladies have indeed had similar experiences, although one was from a few years ago. I'd like to now give the ladies who read our column a chance to respond with their own experiences, be it from the perspective of a customer or a server. Clearly two letters do not represent the entirety of women who tip at restaurants. Send us a letter or an email with your own thoughts and experiences on this topic.
Finally, I'm wondering if technology is increasing the average percentage of tips across the board these days, irrespective of gender. The last few times I've dined out and paid the bill, I was given an electronic screen with pre-calculated gratuities (including the corresponding percentages visible) to select with the push of a button! As this type of technology is used more widely, are tips rising or falling? Provide us your thoughts on tipping, and we will summarize and discuss the results in a future column.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.