DEAR ABBY: When dining out at an establishment where you order your food at the counter and then they bring your food to the table, is a tip necessary?
DEAR JAMI: Food servers often earn minimum wage, which they supplement with the tips they receive. If your server is efficient and pleasant, you should leave a tip. The usual amount is between 10 and 20 percent.
Coffee shops I'm fairly comfortable with and often drop my change in the cup. But these counter restaurants--I'm picturing Culver's, Noodles and Co., or some Paneras (rare--they usually use pagers for pickup), where you order and pay at the register, get your own drink, bus your own mess, but sometimes take a number to your table and your food gets dropped off. I don't usually (OK, ever) tip in these situations....you don't have the face time to tell if your server is "efficient and pleasant" because they don't actually interact with you--just drop the food (I'm not complaining about this--just suggesting that their job is not the same as "serving").
I also don't typically think of them as "my server," but as someone who works the register, answers the phones, mans the drive-through, mops the floor--and sometimes brings trays over to tables. For example, if there was a problem with my order, I would not go looking for the person who brought my food to me, but would probably go back to the cashier, or whoever was immediately available. If I wanted something additional, I wouldn't ask the person who brought my food, but would go up to the counter and order it--at which point an entirely different person might bring it out a few minutes later.
Of course Abby is right that SERVERS depend on tips because they receive such a low wage. But am I right in distinguishing this kind of broad, hourly service-industry work from that of a person whose ONLY job is waiting tables, and who is only paid (a low hourly wage) to do that task, and therefore expects to make ends meet from tips? Or am I in the wrong here?