Waitress Fired for Facebook Post Protesting Low TIP Customer

May 22, 2010 — Leave a comment

Shown below is my comment posted in response to a blog article sent to me by email which described a news story about a waitress who was fired due to her Facebook status post, which violated her employer’s social media policy. In her Facebook status update, she had complained about a customer (by name) who left her a lower than expected TIP at the restaurant (named) where she works… Actually,i should say the restaurant where she was FORMERLY employed. I wanted to post this on my own blog because I think the guidance contained in what I wrote has value…

Although I agree that the practice of leaving a TIP (To Incentivise Performance) is discretionary and based on the judgment of the person leaving the TIP, I also believe that employers bear a certain responsibility. I have been asked several times “who taught you how to TIP?” because of the system I use. My father taught me enough about the art and science of TIPping that it probably merits a book about the subject… Anyways, the protest that the waitress you reference is primarily objectionable because she made it publicly visible. Had she posted privately so only her friends and family could see it, she might not have been fired and she certainly would have a more defensible argument. I say this because social media is NOT just about what you post, it is also about where and how you post!

There are so many nuances to what consumers, servers and business owners have done to make a simple practice of leaving or giving a TIP more complex than originally intended…

1. Does the employee providing the service receive direct wage income for performing their job duties that is above minimum wage and subject to review and performance based merit increases?

2. Has the employer used the expected or average TIP calculation as a means of compensating the person hired to do the job, and reducing the wages paid by the employer?

3. As a customer, is this a business that you are likely to use, visit or patronize again in the future?

4. As a server, are you required or expected to share any TIP received with other members of the staff who assist in providing service to your customers who leave or give you a TIP?

5. As a business employing people who receive TIPs, are you witholding taxes or other charges from the employee’s regular wages based on an estimated TIP income determined by the amount of goods or services sold to that employee’s customers? (known as “TIP Credits” that are government mandated)

The variations created by the answers to these and other questions should be considered by all involved… Including the customers who determine and pay the TIP. In cases where an automatic “gratuity” or service fee is added to a bill, such as room service or large restaurant parties, the whole matter becomes moot… I despise such automated TIP or Gratuity systems which I believe punish top performing employees and reward mediocre service!

I experienced a situation this week while in Chicago on business that illustrates my point… When valet parking at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Chicago, the fees charged by the hotel are clearly posted on a sign when you pull up in front. $45 a day for hotel guests and $22 an hour for others. There is a cashier for customers to pay when retrieving your car. The people working there receive hourly pay that has not been reduced because they work on the Valet Parking team and are expected to receive TIPs… As a customer paying $45 a day for parking, I am ONLY going to hand over a TIP if there is something the server does that is exceptional. I retrieved my rental car 3 times during my stay… Twice I left no TIP and once I gave the employee a $5 TIP.

Alternately, I went to a dinner meeting at a Chicago restaurant where a “Free Valet Parking” sign was posted out front and a pair of young and eager parking attendants awaited the restaurants customers… The sign also stated “Gratuities Welcomed and Appreciated”. This usually means the restaurant pays ZERO to provide this service and the people doing it are working for TIPs as 100% of their compensation. I automatically pay $5 for this type of service and add to the TIP for exceptional performance.

My point is that if you are a frequent customer of services provided by people whose compensation includes TIPs as a planned and expected component, then you have an obligation to understand the multiple factors that should impact when and how much to TIP.

And, if you bring a party of 6 or more to a restaurant that does NOT do the abhorible practice of adding an automatic “gratuity” to the bill, then please TIP at least 15% for adequate service, and more than 20% for superior levels of service… If the service was a train wreck, leave 10% TIP and a note stating you wish the service had been good enough to justify the 20% TIP you had planned on paying.

[Sent from Ralph Paglia’s iPhone]

Ralph Paglia
Director – Digital Marketing
ADP Dealer Services
cell: 505-301-6369

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