My 16 Truths: Expanded – No. 3

3. My primary source of income is the gratitude of my guests, specifically in the form of monetary compensation, for the time I spend with them.

Generally, unless one has been a server, one doesn’t fully appreciate the challenges a server faces, monetarily. Our primary income is our tips. How we get paid beyond that varies from state to state. I’ve only ever served in Illinois, so I can only speak to that. My current, hourly wage is less than $5. I almost never earn a paycheck, even when I work 39.99 hours in a week. (Anything above 32.5 is considered full time where I work. Management obsesses over avoiding overtime.) I do average a modestly livable amount each week, but it’s extremely difficult to budget to that average, because of all the factors I can’t control, such as weather, the economy, the seasons, and popular distractions such as sporting events, or religious holidays.

The one thing I can control, to a degree, is how hard I work to earn a guest’s gratitude. I say, “to a degree”, because of all the factors that govern the level of gratitude a guest can or will show in exchange. I know I can’t control spite, disappointment, inattentiveness, forgetfulness, or any other factor that originates outside my circle of influence. Some guests may not care about me. They may hold me responsible for something or someone who let them down during the course of their visit. They may not be paying attention to the bill, or their level of inebriation. They may have forgotten some resource or responsibility that limits their available funds. The factors are so many, that I often mentally assign any number of innocent possibilities to a poor tip to assuage the sting.

The main takeaway of this truth is a simple one. Servers depend on you. No one else is giving them the resources to clothe, shelter, and feed themselves or their loved ones. You rely on them for a lively experience. They rely on you for their livelihood. Make sure the exchange is a fair one; their time for your money. Enjoy!

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