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.

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To Tip or Not to Tip?

no tippingThe tables may have been right next to each other physically, but, personality-wise, the two tables couldn’t have been farther apart. One table was sullen and stand-offish; the other table was jovial, boisterous, and in the mood to talk. Both tables were in my section. And I gave both the same level of service: keeping their drinks filled, making sure their orders were correct, etc. But, I interacted with each table differently, operating under the assumption that the one table wanted to be left alone and allowed to eat without being bothered by their server, and that the other table wanted a server who would join in their frivolity. My ability to read tables and adjust my personality as needed usually served me well, but not that night. After both had left, I retrieved the checks. Upon opening the sullen table’s check, I saw a big fat “$0” written on the tip line. Irritated, I glanced up to see my manager laughing his head off at me.

“That table complained that you were friendlier with your other tables than you were with them,” he scoffed out while shaking his head.

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