Christians, Tipping, and Grace


by John Ellis

I have so many anecdotes about the service industry and tipping (or lack of tipping) that I could probably write a book. One such anecdote took place during a Sunday lunch shift.

The brewpub where I worked wasn’t known as a lunch destination for the church crowd. In fact, Sunday lunches tended to be slow and sleepy, gradually winding up to the festive mood of weekend-end partiers in the evening. Because of the slowness of Sunday lunch, new servers frequently had their first training shift then.

One Sunday morning, unbeknownst to us, a joint evangelistic service featuring a famous preacher was being held at the large arena a few blocks away from the brew pub. As we straggled into work, sleepy, lazy, and cheerily unmotivated, we shrugged off our missing two co-workers who had called in “sick,” unaware of the perfectly coifed chaos that was about to descend on us. To make matters worse, a brand new server was being trained.

The first few families dressed in their “Sunday finery” prompted little more than raised eyebrows from the wait-staff. At worst, we thought, some of us are going to be stuck constantly refilling tea glasses for very little tip. Beer drinkers tend to be far less work in reference to refilling glasses and they tend to tip well. The obviously lost-churchgoers who had stumbled into our brewpub were not going to be ordering any beer, we rightfully assumed. Of course, our resignation to less tips for a little more work quickly turned into horror as the brewpub began to fill up with suits, dresses, and polished shoes. Lunch shift that day was quickly shaping up to be more work than the usual Friday or Saturday dinner shift, but without the promise of extra-large wads of cash filling our pockets.

To make matters worse, the manager quickly realized that he was going to have to throw the new girl to the wolves, so to speak. On her first day on the job, she was given her own tables. The rest of us were already in the weeds, but we did what we could to help her out.

Understaffed and overcrowded with customers, that lunch shift quickly devolved into a bad lunch experience for all. The new girl had it worst, though. With customers snapping at her because she wasn’t familiar with the menu (even though we informed them it was her first day), men in suits simultaneously flirting with her and scolding her for her glaring ineptitude, and wives wearing flowery dresses and gobs of eye-shadow, mad at their husbands for the flirting, yelling at her, she slunk to the back in tears.

The rest of us each grabbed one of her tables, although we were unable to keep up with our own tables. The manager went after the new girl to console her and to attempt to cajole her back out onto the floor. His efforts worked, and after about five minutes she came back out with a forced smile and blood-shot eyes.

The first table that she approached lit into her. Filled with two families fresh from the joint evangelistic service, they let her know exactly how worthless they found her, how she had ruined their day, and that they would never be back. I don’t know if those families ever came back, but I do know that we never again saw the new girl after that day.

None of us made tips that day anywhere close to commensurate with the work we put in. The thing is, we didn’t expect tips; they were the dreaded church-crowd, after all. Nonetheless, we all worked hard and did our best under bad circumstances to give our customers the best lunch experience possible.

That above anecdote has a point. And that point can be found by clicking on my latest PJ Media article below. Lord willing, my article linked to below will help prompt some to see tipping as an extension of living a life of thanksgiving to God that desires to share the gospel with those that God brings into their life.

(click the link below to read more about Christians and tipping)


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