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Kane County's tipping point: The ups and downs of gratuity

Servers say their gratuity is based on quality, experience

Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, June 20, 2014 7:56 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Mallory Mroz of Wasco, a server at The Filling Station in St. Charles, chats with customers (clockwise, from left) Dawn Whitney, Nick Dalal, 11, and Nick Whitney, 11, during a recent lunch shift.
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Mallory Mroz of Wasco, a server at The Filling Station in St. Charles, chats with customers including Nick Aicher of South Elgin during a recent lunch shift.
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Mallory Mroz of Wasco, a server at The Filling Station in St. Charles, fills customers' water glasses during a recent lunch shift.

ST. CHARLES – Even with suggested percentages, customers will base their tip more often than not on the quality of service, workers said.

Most etiquette guides and workers agree that a tip should fall between 15 and 20 percent for service at a restaurant – or at a salon or barbershop for a haircut.

Kane County workers and business owners that have received small tips or were outright stiffed did not want to go public when asked by the Kane County Chronicle about their experiences. Others were more willing to talk about the ups and downs of gratuity.

Peter Milligan, managing partner of the Filling Station Pub & Grill, 300 W. Main St., St. Charles, said his servers receive good tips. The customers usually do not "dine and ditch," he said, referring to the practice of ordering and eating food at a restaurant and then leaving without paying the bill.

"Hopefully we're giving good food and good service," Milligan said.

Mallory Mroz of Wasco is learning how that service can make a difference. The 18-year-old began working at the Filling Station as soon as she turned 18 in April.

Mroz has noticed that young couples will generally not tip beyond 20 percent, but families can be far more generous. One party's $20 bill resulted in a $10 tip for Mroz.

Tips are crucial to a server's income, said Mroz, whose base wage without gratuity is $4.25 an hour. A steady stream of tips can raise the earnings to about $10 a hour, she said.

"Before I started working here, I was guilty of not tipping as much," Mroz said during her Wednesday shift. "Now being a server and realizing how much time it takes to do that, I make sure to tip even more than necessary."

Mroz said she has not received a bad tip yet, but she has had tips literally fly away before. The wind can carry off cash or credit slips left on the outdoor patio tables if they aren't saved by the busboys, she said. Without the slip showing a customer's writing and signature, servers can't assume a tip, Mroz said.

Mroz said that even if a negative experience at the business is not her fault, she has to take responsibility if she wants a good tip. When the kitchen is backed up and orders might take longer than usual to come out, she is apologetic to the customers.

Whenever Mroz is courteous, the customers reply in kind. She said she has received compliments from complete strangers about her service written on the back of their restaurant bills.

"Your tip is what you make it," Mroz said.

OUTBOX:

Know more

To read more about tipping, turn to Rick Holinger's column on page 14 of today's Kane County Chronicle.

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