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Confessions of a waiter: Homophobia shouldn’t stop you from tipping properly
A restaurant bill with no tip Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock
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Waiters and waitresses put up with a lot. For one thing, our job requires us to depend on tips, as most servers are paid less than minimum wage. We understand this, and some of us like it that way — the harder we work and the better we are at serving, the greater the reward. As servers, we also have to suffer through the summer heat while wearing all black, deal with the persistent stench of fried food in our hair and accept the fact that people can decide not to tip us because we might be gay.

Every once in a while, a photo of a restaurant receipt goes viral when a customer believes they shouldn’t have to tip because of the sexuality of the person who delivered their hamburger to the table. Or at least, the perceived sexuality, since I don’t know any server who greets a table by announcing, “The soup of the day is broccoli cheddar and I love me some hot man-on-man action. Do you want any apps?”

Nevertheless, some customers see having a gay or lesbian server as an opportunity to save a few dollars by stiffing them and instead leaving a “tip” fueled by bigotry. In December, a server at a restaurant in North Carolina received a credit card receipt that read: “Our gay waiter made me wanna throw up my food! Ruined my experience [tonight]. Will not be back!”

After the server posted the receipt on Facebook, he was promptly fired for violating the company’s social media policy. In August, a waitress in Rockland, Illinois, got a big fat zero on a $60 check because the customer “can’t tip someone who doesn’t love Jesus!” All this because the waitress had a rainbow tattoo on her forearm.

Both of these stories spread quickly over the internet. But what about all the times the hateful receipts don’t make the news? In these cases, we’re left with a server who is just trying to live their life but gets stuck with an asshole diner who’s part bigot and part cheapskate.

Take, for instance, the below receipt given to a server named Jay.

A credit card receipt left for a server named Jay
A credit card receipt left for a server named Jay Darron Cardosa

His story didn’t go viral and no one started a GoFundMe campaign to help him out. All that happened to Jay was that he had to continue doing his job after one particular customer felt like calling him a “faggot” would be better than leaving a $12 tip.

Then there’s the server who got stiffed on a $49 check and had to figure out a way to pay his bills with a piece of paper that had the word “fag” chicken-scratched onto it.

A receipt left for a server with no tip, just the word “fag” scribbled on the paper.
A receipt left for a server with no tip, just the word “fag” scribbled on the paper. Darron Cardosa

In so many ways, it seems that our country is growing increasingly accepting of LGBTQ communities. It’s been three years since same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states, long enough for same-sex divorce to be a thing now, too.

At the start of June the TV show Pose premiered on FX, making history with five transgender actors cast as series regulars. Every June, cities around the world watch as their pride festivities grow. But still, there are individuals who take offense to the perceived sexual orientation of a complete stranger. And a lot of those people like to go to restaurants and stiff their queer servers.

If you want to leave a server a bad tip, that’s absolutely your decision. Twenty percent of the check is not required by law, it’s just a societal expectation. I would hope, however, that the tip is determined by factors that don’t include the fact that your server has a rainbow sticker on their order pad.

Eating out at a restaurant is a luxury. You are there because you want someone else to prepare your food and bring it to you. As long as the server does their job professionally and competently, then that is what the tip should be based on. If you choose to leave a bad tip or no tip at all just because you assume something about someone’s life, you’re not a very nice person and you should be thankful that servers don’t often have the chance to refuse service to customers.

We are required to serve anyone who sits in our section, whether they’re a nice human being or a bigoted asshole. We just want to do our job and not have our income affected by intolerance.

Don’t want to tip your gay server? Then do us all a favor and tell us that before we waste our hospitality on you. That way we can focus on the customers who are able to appreciate good service regardless of who we sleep with.

Happy pride month. Tip your servers.

Darron Cardosa, who has been waiting tables since 1990, is the author of The Bitchy Waiter and a blog of the same name.