New tax regulations make proper tipping more important than ever

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Students and residents should educate themselves on tipping etiquette in light of a new regulation changing the way large-party gratuity is given to waiters and waitresses.

According to a Feb. 6 University Star article, a regulation enacted Jan. 1 by the IRS classifies automatic gratuities as a service charge rather than a tip, causing many restaurants to do away with automatic gratuities on large parties. Under this policy, waiters and waitresses would receive an automatic gratuity as part of their paychecks that are subject to taxing, instead of simply receiving tax-free tips each night.

Waiters, waitresses and restaurants get the short end of the stick with this new regulation. Working as a waiter or waitress is an involved job. Between memorizing the menu, communicating orders to cooks and ensuring each customer is satisfied with their entire dining experience, working at a restaurant is no easy feat. When a large party of customers is thrown into the mix, a regular night on the job can suddenly become hectic.

Large parties can often take half a shift or more to serve based on their orders and the amount of time they spend at the restaurant. Unfortunately these waiters and waitresses are no longer guaranteed a tip for serving these large parties. The automatic gratuity charged to these parties previously protected wait staff, ensuring they were paid an appropriate amount for the night.

Restaurant owners and managers are also feeling the harsh effects of the IRS’ ruling in regard to accounting for their business. According to the article, many local restaurants are getting rid of the automatic gratuity system because of the nightmare it causes when calculating paychecks.

While the law cannot be changed, those dining with large parties—or anyone dining out for that matter—should keep basic tipping procedures in mind.

Many San Marcos waiters and waitresses are students who need tips to make ends meet and pay ever-increasing tuition costs. Large groups of customers require more work in an often already busy night at a restaurant. Waiters and waitresses can easily turn over several smaller tables in the time it takes to serve one large group. When large parties skimp on their tips, they are being inconsiderate of their waiter or waitresses’ time and efforts. Patrons should keep in mind that while waiters and waitresses are there to provide quality customer service, they still deserve respect and are not personal servants.

Students are notoriously bad tippers. When going out with a group such as a fraternity, sorority or other organization, students need to make sure to break this stereotype and tip appropriately. Waiter and waitress paychecks often come out to mere change after taxes, and so many of them literally live off tips, which is something students need to keep in mind when leaving tips. Many college students know how difficult it is to earn minimum wage while struggling to pay rent, tuition and other expenses and therefore should be especially sensitive to the needs of underpaid wait staff.

Antiquated thoughts on tipping need to be eliminated. Tipping 10 percent of the bill is not appropriate, even for poor service. The lowest tip any waiter or waitress should receive is 15 percent of the total bill.

Although students do not have the power to change the new automatic gratuity law, they can still help struggling waiters and waitresses by following basic tipping etiquette. Many students have been in a position where every last cent counts and should be empathetic to the plight of underpaid, overworked waiters and waitresses.