There have been recent talks about increasing the federal minimum wage. However, there is a group of waged workers that is often overlooked in this debate: tipped workers. They are subject to the “tipped minimum wage” — $2.13 an hour. In fact, it has been 22 years since Congress raised the “tipped minimum wage.” According to federal laws, if a waitress or waiter makes more than $30 a month in tips, they can be subject to these wages. Out of the 50 states, 18 of these states pay servers $2.13 an hour, 22 of these states pay servers less than $3.00 an hour, and only seven pay them the federal minimum wage. Due to these unfair wages, it is estimated that servers are three times as likely to live in poverty.
There are two personality flaws that I consider to be more or less fatal: being cheap and being unkind to the wait staff.
By “cheap,” I don’t mean frugal. I’m talking about the kind of economic stinginess that goes far beyond being a good steward of your budget and resources. Cheap is miserly, selfish, and, I believe, based in fear. And nothing good is wrought when fear is your motivation.
Another word to describe this kind of cheap is more commonly employed in British English than in our own American lexicon: “mean.” Meanness connotes the habit of being ungenerous and petty.
This meanness is what the first fatal flaw and the second have in common. If you are rude, condescending, or just plain nasty to your server in a restaurant, it is, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon who crossed over last week into the eternity of syndication, a deal breaker.
The only thing worse than being cheap and nasty to the wait staff is invoking your religious beliefs to justify your actions. And that is, sadly, precisely what one pastor did when she attempted to stiff her waitress after church one recent Sunday night at a Missouri Applebee’s.
On Jan. 25, Alois Bell, pastor of the tiny Word Deliverance Ministries church in St. Louis, headed to the local Applebee’s with nine of her congregants – four other adults and five children – for a post-worship dinner. When the unidentified server returned with the bill for $39.43 at the end of the meal, Bell crossed out the automatic 18 percent gratuity (added to parties of six or more), wrote in the tip amount of “0” and the following handwritten message: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” Then she signed the credit card receipt “Pastor Alois Bell.”
Kevin Finch was a pastor's kid and a pastor's grandkid. Two of his uncles were also pastors and so was his cousin. It was the family business. Finch doesn't tell many people that he, too, became a minister.
The idea behind Big Table isn't about proselytizing, praying or preaching. Finch's only goal is to befriend local food industry workers and pamper them at the regular Big Table dinners.
"God is big enough to show up when he wants to show up," Finch said.
As a recent evening of fine dining wound down, Finch picked up the microphone and looked at the 45 people sitting at the big table. Together they had drunk wine and chatted over a lavish five-course meal.
It was time for full disclosure.
"I was a pastor," he said sheepishly, "but whenever I mentioned that to folks in the (food) industry they would stop talking to me. It could clear a table in about 30 seconds."