Tippers a dying breed

Low wages mean generosity crucial to servers

In previous generations, everything deserved a tip. From making a hotel bed to pumping gas, a few coins were always slipped to a helping hand.

Today, tipping is less common, but for those who still earn wages based on the generosity of others, spare change makes a difference.

Waiting tables is one of the few remaining occupations where income is dependent upon tips, because many tipped employees in Colorado earn only $2.13 an hour. The positive side is that employees only have to claim a small percentage of their tips on their annual tax returns.

Jackie Welch has been a waitress at the Golden Cavvy restaurant on and off for 10 years.

"Nobody wants the waitress job, but at the end of the day I'm happy," she said.

Welch said the best part of serving is being able to keep exactly what she earns.

"Your tips are only as good as the job you do," Welch explained. "There are days when I am off, and my customers let me know."

Some servers in town are lucky enough to work at restaurants that pay minimum wage plus tips.

Beef & Peppers restaurant is one of only a few Craig restaurants that pay their wait staff Colorado minimum wage, which is $5.15 per hour. Owner Peggy Satterwhite said it makes a huge difference in her employees' performance.

"I want employees to like to come to work," she said. "They don't mind if they have to clean the bathroom or help out another waiter so a customer is taken care of."

Aside from servers, just about everybody else who might get a tip makes at least minimum wage. Tossing extra change into a tip jar is simply a nice bonus for such employees.

J-Lea Driver, owner of Serendipity Coffee Shop, said that even though contributing to the tip jar is optional, most people leave something, though there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how much.

"I'm often surprised by how many people leave a dollar bill for a $2 drink," she said.

Everyone working at Serendipity splits the tips evenly, which usually comes to about an extra $5 per person.

Mike Cramer, general manager at the Craig Pizza Hut, thinks people should tip for a service provided.

"A lot of people don't know that our drivers only make minimum wage and should be tipped," he said. "You would tip a server for bringing food to your table, we provide the same service, but your table is a lot further away."

Cramer said that Pizza Hut delivery drivers do not get paid mileage. Instead they receive 50 cents per delivery, which may or may not cover expenses depending upon where the deliveries are. Drivers are responsible for all of the maintenance and service to their vehicles.

Stephanie Braselton, 18, works at the Snowie snow cone shop during the summer and said she doesn't go out of her way to earn a tip.

"It doesn't really matter, because I get paid anyway. Tips are just nice," she said.

So how much is a good tip? Extra change is considered fine for a tip jar, but in sit-down restaurants more exact figures are expected, according to The Original Tipping Page at www.tipping.org.

Fifteen percent of the bill is considered average. These days, people tend to stick to that figure as opposed to adjusting it to reflect their server's performance.

"It has to be a pretty big mess-up to tip under 15 percent," said Craig resident Steve Miller. But an outstanding server deserves every penny, he said.

"Once I bought a $4 burger, and the service was incredible, we got treated like royalty. So I left a tip that was more than the burger," he said. "A good wait staff is a dying art form."

The Original Tipping Page reminds readers that a tip is still just a gratuity, not a necessity. But for those who count on gratuity to supplement their income, a little something extra to acknowledge their hard work is greatly appreciated.

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