Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ-
My name is Jeff, and I am a waiter at a delicious, top-the-line restaurant. Our menu prices at lunch are quite reasonable, and our portions are proportionate to the price. You get what you pay for. And then some. I am also a missionary, working with the Church to teach them about Islam and how to build bridges with Muslims in our communities. I am also a Seminary student, a father of two and a husband of one wife, and a worship leader at my church. I am one of you.
So, from an insider’s perspective, let me tell you that what you do when you use a discount card from a local Christian radio station or local mega-church at my restaurant is noticed. What you say, how you treat your waiter, and how you tip. Because, not only are tips a waiter’s livelihood (we get paid a paltry $4.19 an hour), they say a lot about how well we are doing at our job. Every waiter expects 20% every time when nothing has gone wrong. Yes, expects, no matter the size of the bill.
For example, if your bill for lunch was $9.92, your waiter expects $2.00 as a tip. If your dinner bill was $500, your waiter expects $100, provided they did a good job, kept your drinks re-filled, were courteous, etc.
Even more so if you are a Christian using a discount card. My restaurant happens to honor two discount cards from Christian organizations. Both give the purchaser 10% off of the amount of their bill. So, using the examples above, if the person whose bill was $9.92 at lunch, with the discount, their bill would be around $8.93. And if the bill at dinner was $500 at dinner, with the discount, their bill would be around $450. That’s how discounts work. However, the discount you receive has nothing to do with the amount you ate or the service you were provided. The discount is not intended to effect the tip the waiter receives (remember, they still only make $4.19 per hour).
But, with you, it often does. What often happens is that you, my friends, will pocket the savings and tip less than 20% on the remaining balance, which was 10% less than what you ordered and received in terms of service.
Not only does the discount affect the amount that you tip the waiter, you seem to collectively think that waiter’s don’t deserve 20% ever. Your tips, with or without discounts, my brothers and sisters, are almost exclusively the only tips a waiter receives that are not 20%. Sometimes it is 15%, sometimes it is 10%. But rarely is it 20%. So, to re-cap, you rarely tip what your waiter expects to receive when they have done a good job. This has given you, my people, a bad tipping reputation. You are in the same class as Depression-era grandmas when it comes to the way you tip. I will blame Dave Ramsey.
However, when you do use a discount card, a signal that you are indeed a Christian, you have put your faith on display to your waiter. You represent Christ. Your actions towards your waiter, especially the way you tip, tell others how you think Christ thinks about the least of these (your waiter likely would fit into that category in your mind, right?). So, unlike your secular, non-Christian, average friends, you seem to think Christ thinks less of your waiter than they do, based on how you tip. I don’t think this is the message you want to send, especially to the least of these.
Today, I gave two discounts, honoring our partnership with a local Christian radio station, to two women. Both women tipped less than 20% on the discounted amount. They probably walked out feeling good that they were ‘wise’ with their money, and I walked away thinking that I wasn’t surprised. Christians are like grandmas.
Please don’t hear this as greed. This is not greed. This is my wage. I have over 100 people who partner with me in my ministry, without which I would not be able to do the ministry that I do. Their generosity allows me to pay my bills. The same goes as a waiter. Your tip allows me to pay my bills.
So, please consider how you tip always, and especially when you announce by the use of the Christian discount card that you are a Christian. Practice the generosity the Jesus expects of his followers – he doesn’t say ‘If you give’, but ‘When you give’. If you receive a discount on your food and you feel like pocketing the savings, don’t also pocket a portion of the tip that the waiter expects and (in my opinion) earned and deserves. Or, if you save $1, like the first example above, give that dollar to the waiter. Be the blessing that Jesus has called you to be.
Grace & Peace,
Jeff (the waiter, missionary, seminarian, father, husband, and worship leader)