What People Don't Get About My Job: The Waiter

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"If you don't leave me a tip, I have to pay to serve you."

I am a server at a chain restaurant. There are many things most people don't understand about my job. I make 3 dollars and some change an hour. My paychecks end up being around $20 for two weeks, after taxes are taken out. I am one year away from graduating with my bachelors, and most of the people I work with are also in college. I have to "tip out" other employees. Three percent of my total sales goes to the bartender and the hosts. Even if a table doesn't order an alcoholic drink, I still have to pay the bartender. So if you come in and don't leave me a tip, I have to pay to serve you. If you use a coupon or a gift card, please tip according to the full amount of your bill. Kindness goes much farther than anger does. I didn't cook your food, and I did everything within my power to ensure it came to your table correctly. However, people occasionally mess up.

What people don't see is that every second I'm running around in circles as fast as I can, trying to remember to bring a diet to table 23, extra barbecue sauce to 34, more napkins to 26, and the man at 35 is snapping his fingers at me to get my attention while the baby at 21 is screaming and I'm getting sass at table 33. While I'm sweating and trying to fake a smile for you, please don't yell at me because a minimum wage employee cooked your steak to medium instead of medium well. We can easily fix that, and no, the cooks won't mess with your food. Waiting is a fictional movie.

Also, it won't kill you to sit at a table instead of a booth.

We're asking readers to tell us what the public doesn't understand or appreciate about their jobs. Learn about the project here.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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