Tipping the Bus

Rolando, our fabulous Chileno busboy, is so busy acting fabulous that he’s neglecting my tables. I’ve been fetching bread and butter, refilling waters, and clearing my tables all though lunch. I’m not above doing grunt work, but Rolando’s getting a healthy chunk of my tips for doing nothing but drink espresso and flip through tabloid magazines with the hostess.

“Ayyy,” Rolando says, pointing to a picture of some celebrity. “Look at that puta! Shes so skinny.”

The hostess, another Chileno expatriate, laughs and says something in rapid fire Spanish I can’t understand.

“I know,” Rolando says, still speaking in English. “Put some meat on those bones.”

“Hey Rolando,” I say, trying to get his attention.

Rolando looks up from his magazine, a cross expression furrowing his fleshy forehead.

“Yes,” he sighs. “What do you want now?”

“Could you please clear table 73?” I ask, a brittle smile gracing my face.

“Si Señor,” Rolando replies, looking back down at his magazine. “Of course he doesn’t move.”

Pissed, I go to the table and clear it myself. Rolando’s high up in the bus boy pecking order. I can’t figure if he’s slow on my tables because he’s lazy or because I’m the new guy. Busboys often wait to see if new hires survive the first few weeks before giving them the same level of attention as the veteran waiters.

That’s actually a bad strategy. What Rolando should be watching is how I handle my tip out. The bussers here get 20% of a waiters tips – if I make a $100 they get $20. Waiters are notorious for scamming bus people on the tip out. By not fully disclosing cash tips or tipping out on a percentage of sales when that percentage yields a total lower tip total than the actual tips received, servers nickel and dime their support staff out of hundreds of dollars a year. I’ve seen it done many times.

Waiters often think this practice is justified when they perceive the bus people doing a slow or inferior job. I’ve heard waiters rationalize tip shaving by claiming that its not in their best interest to reward substandard labor. Once, when I disagreed with this practice, a waiter told me that the bus people should be grateful they were even working in a restaurant and not picking fruit somewhere for $2 an hour. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Waiters can be bigger pricks than the worst Yuppie customer.

If a waiter has a problem with the bus people he or she should talk it over with them, mano y mano. If there’s still a problem, take it up with management. It pisses me off when waiters take it upon themselves to punish bus people by cheating them on the tip out. It’s not a waiters job to take punitive action. Besides, you don’t always know whats happening in a bus persons life. Maybe the owners got his people working overtime picking up dry cleaning, watching his kids, or painting his house. (I’ve seen many restaurant owners, fancying themselves old time patrons on a plantation in the Argentinean Pampas, work back of the house staff like personal slaves.) Maybe the bus persons kids are sick. Maybe they’re tired working 16 hour days 5 days a week. A waiter easily makes double what a bus person makes. Why begrudge them a few bucks?

I’ve never cheated a bus person, even the ones that suck. Thats not because I’m a saint. Its because I know that tactic doesn’t work. If I’m unhappy with a busser’s service Ill hand out the prescribed amount but I’ll tell them why I’m unhappy. Sure, people get their noses out of joint, but, in the long run, they’ll know you’re no fool and respect you. By treating the bus people like adults, they’ll know you respect them. If the BOH staff knows you respect them, there’s nothing they won’t do for you. A good waiter gets tight with his bus people before he even learns the other waiters names.

The lunch shift ends. Its time to tip out Rolando. I hand him thirty bucks.

“Wow,” Rolando says. “It was a slow lunch and you still made that much?”

“Yeah Rolando,” I say. “It was a slow lunch and I still bussed my own tables.”

Rolando’s eyes flicker with anger. “I’m working a double man, he snaps. It wasn’t busy.”

“Working a double sucks,” I acknowledge. “But I’m paying you for work you’re not doing. Is that fair?”

Rolando glares at me. Our eyes lock.

“You gotta do your job too,” I say.

Rolando walks away, a stream of lackluster Spanish curses trailing in his wake. He goes back to the hostess stand to continue his research into yellow journalism.

OK. So Rolando didnt have an epiphany and go “Gee Waiter! I get it now!” I didnt expect him to. These things take time. In the end what’s in his best interest is getting paid fairly. The other waiters around here seem to loathe the bus people. I suspect a couple of them of tip shaving. After a while Rolando will wonder why my tip out is higher than some of the other servers. Things will all work out.

Rolando’s going to be my best buddy. He just doesnt know it yet.

28 thoughts on “Tipping the Bus”

  1. stephanie says:

    Wonderful, I own a little restaurant with my husband and have served for the last ten years and to me it is all about integrity. This was great to read because at the moment I am dealing with several of my servers who are not even tipping out the 10% required to the bussers. They always have excuses, and claim that the busser wasn’t doing thier job. Well i agree that through honesty and communication bussers will now who to go out of the way for and who won’t be getting extra help. Thanks for that I will be posting this at my restaurant.

  2. mark says:

    As a customer it always irritates me to hear wait staff complain about their low wage, then complain about having to tip out workers paid almost as low a wage who do not recieve substancial tips. I can’t express how disgusting I find the hypocrisy.

    You’ve gone a long way to convincing me that maybe there is something to the waiter gig, and that you guys are worth the 20%. This story was well reasoned. If you reasoning is sound here it might be sound in other areas too.

    If a restaurant were to share the tips fairly among FOH/support and back of house I would gladly tip 30%. However, I usually tip 10%, 15% if you are lucky for those very reasons stated above.

    I just wish tips were better shared, thats all I’d love to show my appreciation for a good show. But tipping 20% to a tart of a waitress, while the hard working support staff and cooks go without, is NOT something I am going to support.

  3. Roni says:

    You know what make justify it how ever you like but you are just another shitty tipper.
    Waitresses are not tarts we bring you your food and water and put on a smile while you give us your attitude and unwanted attention. You are probably the same kinda asshole that will grab my ass because you paid for it. Take your ten percent tip and shove it up your ass

    1. Justin Guidry says:

      I’m a busser in a big restraunt servers don’t do shit. The do the least in a restaurant

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  5. scorpio5150 says:

    At the restaraunt I work at now we do not tip out the bussers, hostesess or bartenders each night. However, 3% of our net sales are deducted from our payout at the end of our shift. This works for me, being a server as well as a bartender there. These people see this tip out on their paychecks. This works on many levels. One we, servers, do not have to worry about how much to tip to who. Two, as servers we get our tables cleaned right away, drinks fast and kepped in the good graces of our hostesess. Yes we can tip out more when it is earned, and do, but these people know the more we make the more they make. This seems to set up great teamwork. I say this as a bartender who has been tipped out very, very… poorly from the wait staff at other establishments in the past. (And no. management does not see any of this money at all!!)

  6. SFBartender says:

    Scorpio, I don’t know where you live, but that’s illegal in California. In fact, management and owners can’t even touch the topic of tipping out, and especially can’t tell you how much you should tip out. All they can do is fire the server or busperson if the tip out dynamic is affecting service.

    And waiter, I agree with some parts of your post. I’ve always substantially tipped some of the great bussers and expeditors I’ve worked with. However, I’m also among the people in the industry who subscribe to the “if you suck, I’d rather hustle and keep all my money instead of tipping you out for shitty work” mantra. I’ve worked in BUSY restaurants where there were no buspeople–you busted your ass all night. So if the buspeople don’t wanna work hard for the tip, like I work hard for mine, I’m more than happy to handle it myself. As a matter of fact, if the “busperson” position didn’t provide important jobs for people, I would rather see it eliminated from the restaurant scene–why can’t waiters bus their own shit? Bring their own bread and water? Etc.

    I dunno, maybe I’m just bitter from many years in the industry. I sort of think that pussy “fine-dining” waiters made their own bed, in a sense, when it comes to lazy buspeople. If there weren’t so many waiters who are so reliant on bus people, there wouldn’t be so many lazy buspeople taking advantage of them.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to disagree with you, just offer a different point of view. I don’t know what the laws are in your state, but in CA a tip out is under the same umbrella of the tip–it’s never guaranteed, but, rather, a reward for good service. If I do a bad job at the tabe, I don’t get a good tip, if the busperson does a bad job helping me, he doesn’t get a good tip.

  7. anonymous busser says:

    I am a busser at an italian restaurant that gives us 4% of the total income for the night as a tip. We are a very popular place, so we can get nights, usually Fridays and Saturdays, where I go home with $60. Last night I ended the night with $67, so 4% doesn’t sound like much, but when we make $1500+ on a good night, it can amount to quite a lot. We can sit 200+ people and often turn that over up to 4 or even 5 times on a busy night, so when you get waiters with 3 2tops and a 6top or 4 4tops being turned over 4-5 times, and we only have 3 bussers covering nearly 40 tables, you can understand that waiters at our place need some help and that our bussers don’t just stand around, we work very hard too so we can cover all the different sections. Now that is just the dining area; we also have a bar that sits rougly 40 people, so we have a separate busser work just the bar with the bartender, and now we have a party room that can sit around 40 people, but we don’t have another busser for that, so now we all have that much more to cover. Slower nights we can cut back to just 1 busser and it’s not hard for 1 busser to handle, but on the busy nights, we definitely make our pay, we simply couldn’t afford to stand around and do nothing. Because we have to get so many people in each night, our waiters virtually handle 4 tables leaving and coming in, ordering, etc. at the same time, so when you get 7 or 8 waiters handling this, with food to wrap and glasses and plates to get rid of, bussers are definitely needed, not optional.

  8. Anonymous says:

    wow, what lucky system. was a busser at a chinese buffet that didn’t even pay me minimum wage (was suppose to be 8.75 and they tried to pay me 7.60 which is waiter’s and liquor servers minimum. talked to them and ended up with 8 dollars a hour which is still alot below the minimum wage of 2008). tips was horrible, coupons of buy one get one free were sent out every week which made it worst. the system at my restaurant with the tips works by the cashier counts it all then gives bussers 3% each (we would never have more then 2 bussers a day which is retarded considering the amount of people coming in sometimes) and then the rest is divided evenly among the waiters which is fucking bullshit. on weekdays i walk home with 8 dollars of tip and they go home with almost 100 dollars (included both lunch and dinner tips). you italian and spanish bussers are lucky. fucking chinese employers suck, pay is below minimum,tips is shit,and the amount of people that come in makes it not worth that low pay for all that stress. fuck, i be happy if i was that lazy busboy that got 10%, we get fucking 3% here and get pushed like dogs and they don’t even pay us what were entitled according to canadian laws.

  9. Todd says:


  10. Anonymous says:

    For the first time in ten years I didn’t tip a busser out, but I did not keep the money for myself (I never skimmed either). I tipped out all other support staff their regular share, plus what would have went to the bus person evenly divided among the other staff. I let everyone know what was going on, as well as the person who wasn’t going to get the tip out. My intention was to clearly show that I do not want to benefit from someone else’s loss in the tip pool, but I’m not going to pay some one for their indifference to my guests needs. These actions, as they should always be, were a last resort for me after many attempts to talk and build a better working relationship with this person failed.
    In the past, the management was so passive at my restaurant that they were ineffective at doing anything about the situation. Even in CA, they said that legally they CAN discipline a server based on their tip outs to other staff members, and now it looks like I will be the one in toilet.
    Nothing they do is going to get that lazy bitch her tip out though, and I feel okay because this was a last resort in a long attempt to get results in a more proactive way.

  11. sorefeet says:

    I live in Alaska and just started at a beer and wine restaurant. Last night was my first night and me and the 2nd server brought in $300 in tips. Expecting to get $150, I soon found out that all tips get divided equally among all restaurant workers. Two cooks (one who is the manager) a dishwasher, and us two servers…I went home with $60.00! Is there a law here that protects me from them doing this??? What is the “norm” for back of the house tip out percent? Isnt it illegal for management to take tips? Is there a web site that will inform me of the tipping laws of Alaska?

    1. Tony says:

      Okay really man trust ive worked as a bus boy Since i was like 15 and got tipped by servers which i thought was fair cause i got their drink refills and cleaned the tables, im a server now and i tip everyone without complaining, cause its not fair in my point of view that i keep all the tip money to myself. The cooks and diah washers kill themselves working, their hard jobs and not worth it sometimea for minimum wage. The cook and dish washers are a main priority in a restaurant and without them u cant do your job. Dont be cheap or stingy. If yoyr complaining you ahould try out to be a dish washer or cook and see how unfair it is.

  12. Kevin says:

    Lets face the fact the the entire restaraunt industry is a scam to make Corporate companys wealthier at the expense of the $2.13 per hour server.Apart from the huge sales the server makes for the restaraunt they work for,the company then pays the management Bonuses on top of their salary.The idea of a server tipping out to a bar tender and a busser who already gets a paycheck is scandalous.It is not tipping out. It is paying them for doing the job they are already paid to do.Since their paycheck is so low,restaraunts force servers to pay to make up the difference in their inadequate wage.How do these servers afford health insurance?Their paycheck is a VOIDED paycheck and the payheck paper is worth more than what they get.If the have health insurance it is deducted from their paycheck before tax,therefore their isnt enough tax to be taken out making the server having to owe at the end of the tax year hundreds of dollars.
    No one honestly cares and management recommends that the server tips out. Can the server recommend that the management tip out some of the thousands of dollars management gets during the year on bonuses? Im afraid not.Quite scandalous ah? Leaving your waiter a tip is shared,it is not just the waiter you are giving it to, you are giving it to the busser,the bartender and a food runner and maybe even a host who seats you at the table.It is 2009.Does it not make sense that this sounds inhumane to pay someone in America $2.13 per hour.Servers arent guaranteed tips! They often get walk outs and have to eat the bill because someone doesnt pay for the meal.Or in other instances they get no tip at all as the customer may just cross out the tip on the credit card receipt or just take it with them,leaving the server no tip.Everything is so difficult. If restaurants just PAID the server then tipping would be a perk and having to worry about tipping out would be eliminated.Bussers get minimum wage,regardless if they are using a fake social security number, fake name or whether they speak english or not. Why do you think almost every busser you see is Hispanic?Doesnt it make sense that they will work for almost nothing.Its pretty sad that this is the perfect enviorment to dig the heels into people because they are desperate.Anyway I have said enough.There is no quick fix but remember when you are out there,the smile of your friendly manager is a smile to get your money,not because they care….when in the kitchen they are different people.They want to be nice to get your buisness and return buisness.These are the people who will help you to the bathroom and even wipe your ass if you need them to.Its all for a reason…Its called money.

  13. Joel says:

    Doesn’t anybody realize that tipping out or tip share is just a way that the restaurant steals YOUR tips to pay the payroll? Its called “tip skimming” and its stealing. Server wages were increased here in Ohio and to help pay for this increase restaurants soon after started raising tip share amounts. So, servers were paying more, no change for the restaurant. Sad. I am working on lobbying the state govenment to make a law to protect waiters from this tip out abuse.

  14. Daniel says:

    Where I work in the UK I am thankful that we dont cut our clearing staff in on the tips. I work in a place where we turn tables as fast as we can and the table clearers are rubbish. All resturaunt staff are supposed to do the filling up and wiping down at night but you get some people who just want to stand around to earn money and I’ve lost track of the times where I’ve almost lost my rag because I’ve been asked to stay on untill finish because they are too incompetant to do their job properly. If somone really helps me out I offer to buy them a few drinks in our shifts but many clearers just laze about whilst getting paid more than the waitors.

  15. busser713 says:

    I work at a restaurant in Hawaii as a busser. The servers have to tip us out 2.2% of there total sales for the shift. That is the minimum. We turn lots of tables fast. 2.2 is the minimum but most of the time the bussers go out of there way for the servers and they tip us accordingly. most of the time 3+. On a day shift i can walk with $50 on a real slow day to $80 on a good day and working at night its more like %100 to %160. We are a big family and we all know we need to help others out. I always go out of my way for my servers knowing they are going to appreciate it. I always give new servers the the benefit of the doubt tell they prove me wrong. tell they tip me out **it. If i go out of my way for you and you tip the bare minimum then the next time i work with you your going to get the bare minimum. I wont neglect my work but you not getting any extra help.

  16. busser713 says:

    thats $100 to $160 not %100 to %160

  17. Reese says:

    I work as a busser at a Native American Casino on tribal land. They go by federal laws, not state. Minimum wage in my state is $8.55, you make $7.25 to start. Federal minimum wage. That’s not a living wage, nobody can survive on that. Specially not in my state. They claim that since we are supposedly going to be tipped by the wait staff that it doesn’t matter. We’ll be making good wages regardless. Yeah right, the waiters are urged to tip out their bussers. There is no thought to tipping out the host staff, but that’s another matter. I can’t tell you how many times I have busted my ass for a server for them to turn around and not tip me. So yes I am a little jaded, you better believe me if I know a server tips well and on subsequent tips explains why they can’t tip me that day or tips me very little I’ll understand. I support those servers, I give them all the leeway I can. I get their drinks, I bus their tables in a timely manner, I explain why if I can’t get to their table. I am generally pretty pleasant to work with. For the others, specially the ones who don’t prebus? Leaving a huge stack of dishes on the table while they gab to the other wait staff or the cooks and leave me hanging? While I stare at 12 dirty tables? Because we are understaffed as it is, sometimes it is only me. Staring down 12 dirty tables. Fuck ’em. My ass isn’t doing shit for them. I’ll work slower, and I’ll take my time to get to each one of their tables. Most of the wait staff who do not tip don’t realize we too are taxed on our tips, we just don’t get taxed on our food sales like they do. It doesn’t matter, out of each paycheck regardless if I actually make that much in tips. I’m taxed for those tips I didn’t make. It’s a messed up system. I wish more servers were like you Waiter. Seriously. You rock. I’d be happy to bus your tables.

  18. Emmaleethebusser says:

    I am a busser. Not every busser is like Rolando. If I had to work with him I think I’d punch him in the face.

    I am one of the “good bussers”. I am a clean freak. I always keep busy. I bus a table in 5.7 seconds. yeah… we bussers get 1% of the tip from the server. They sometimes secretly tip me more because I am just that good. The customers give a tip directly to me also because I am working so hard. Yes, I am very rare to find.

    I would talk to the manager about your situation.

  19. odiscordia says:

    name one other industry where the managers/owners make “employee A” give them back some of the money they make so they can turn right around and give it to “employee B” to make up for the fact they are not paying them a decent living wage? name one other industry where you can literally lose money out of your pocket for doing your job (selling product, if you are not tipped at all)…its such a jacked up industry and designed to screw the waitstaff as much as its borderline legal to do so…

  20. Ray says:

    I work at a very busy sports bar as a barback/bus boy.
    Our servers and bartenders just do the bare minimum of their job then have me pick of the slack if they want to socialize or stand around.
    They walk home with $250-$500 a night in tips.
    I make $100 in tips every TWO WEEKS.
    Can I have an application?

  21. Ernesto Moreno says:

    I wondering what law protect the busser from the server and the company. If the restaurant posted a job as a busser paying minimum wage + tips, the restuarant should responsible for the tip that some lazy and cheeters waitres are not paying to the bussers.The busser and runner community is huge, we should create our blig and get united and push some kind of law that protect us and gives the right to claim the fear tip.

  22. Former Waitress says:

    I find it interesting to read everyone’s reactions to this subject.

    I used to work at an OBT in northern VA; the goal of management at this place largely seemed to involve cutting as many financial corners as they could. We never had “proper” bussers – we had bus-tubs at our stations to put dirty dishes into, and had to cart it to the kitchen ourselves. Many of the waitresses refused to do this because “that’s not my job, that’s Eddie’s job.” Eddie was the long-suffering dishwahser who also doubled as food-runner/tub-busser.

    Management eventually got rid of the tub system when they realized that most of the waitresses were simply letting the dishes pile-up until either the tub fell over from the weight or dishes spilled out and broke. So I never had to tip-out a busser.

    I did, however, have to tip-out the bartenders, as all drinks except water and tea were dispensed by the bartender. Management had not declared how much we were required to hand-out, so it was obstensibly up to the waitress.

    Normally, I didn’t mind doing this, and generally gave the bartenders a generous tip-out, especially when I did well, because that meant they had done their part in getting me those good tips. But there were a few bartenders who I either tipped-out poorly or not all, because their performance in addressing my orders affected my performance in serving my tables; a few times, I lost tips because the bartenders went all FUBAR when it came to filling server drink orders, acting like it was such a pain in the ass to fill a pitcher of beer and hand me five mugs, regardless of how busy )or not) they were with their own customers.

    After a while, most of the bartenders figured out that if they took care of me, I took care of them, so they did their damndest. Of course a few never learned that, and always expected to simply be handed money at the end of our shifts. I did get called-in by management about it, and I told them that “gratuity” was derived from the word “gratitude,” and that customers who left gratuities did so only when they were satisfied by the service they received. And since the bartender’s performance affected my abiliy to serve my customer as best I could, I saw no point in giving a portion of my hard-earned gratuities to a bartender who had done a shitty job and perhaps even contributed to lost tips. If they insisted, I would give her something, but I refused to give her an amount equal to what I gave a bartender who did their job and filled my orders.

    Management never tried to reprimand me, and they never called me into the office on that subject again.

  23. eazy e says:

    I am a busser at a fairly new resturant in dayton ohio. I make mininum wage which is 7.70. And I always seem to walk home with no money every nite. Can I still get a tip out even though I make mninum wage. Also I am the only busser.

  24. edwin says:

    im a bus at a mexican restaurant and i help everyone when they need help but there are a few A**hole working there, they complain when they dont get the 20% for serving a table for like 30 mins but then they also complain because they have to give the 2% of their tips for the bus, the dish washer and the bartender, even tho we help them for like 5-7 hours, specially this prick Gerardo, he looks like a mexican milhouse, when im working he thinks that all he has to do is take the food to the tables, refill the drinks and then take the tips, he doesnt help me at all to clean the tables, even when he gets parties of 30 people, like 1 time he had a party of 40 with another waiter hector, when they left the other waiter and i were cleaning up and he was just ignoring us, and then i told the other waiter to tell him to come help us clean, and he was like “tell the busboy to clean it up thats his job” and he is like the one waiter that in my opinion doesnt have the right to complain about giving me a tip, he always needs a favor, out of all the waiters he is the one i help the most and now we have a new manager and he is not gonna take a % from their tips, he is just gonna let the waiters give me what they want so i guess im not getting shit. sorry for any spelling or grammar errors

  25. Anon says:

    Im a busser and i work my ass off but i feel guilty when the servers tip me when its a super slow day because it feels like im cheating and that now i owe them a favor(i dont mind though because they’re awesome). there are times where i do get stiffed by a certain server but i dont mind because he helps me out by pre bussing when it starts getting hectic. at the restuarant i work at me and the servers all get along very well and look out for one another. Reading this article was kinda horrifying… it sure made me appreciate my work place.

  26. Shelly Walker says:

    Our bussers were getting 25% of our tips, but apparently, that wasn’t enough, and now, it’s 4% of sales! They v also put a third server on even tho sales are down, further diluting our tips! Our pay has decreased 20% and the bussers are making the same and more than the second and third server! Absolutely Nuts!! The bussers are all male and the servers all female! Do the math! No one had talked to us about any of this! Absolutely messed up! Time for a lawsuit for discrimination and a new job!

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