UnderCover Waitress: Questions and Answers

Monday, December 17, 2012

Questions and Answers

Long time, no see, my friends. I hope everyone is staying warm and earning good tips. 

A number of questions have rolled in and I thought I would do my best to offer answers. 

How much is the waitress expected to tip out? I think in Massachusetts no more than 15% is the law.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no law limiting the percentage a waitress may be required to tip out. There are laws limiting who may receive tip outs, for example, in some states (including Massachusetts) managers and owners may not dip their hands in the till. 

Laws also protect waitresses from earning less than minimum wage. In states that pay less than minimum wage to tipped employees, the employee must leave with at least minimum wage, or she does not have to tip out. The problem, of course, is if she admits she had a bad night, she gets blamed and told she is no good at her job. Some workers choose to make under minimum wage for a shift to avoid being fired. 

I have been a busser for two years, being tipped out from servers each night, but never really thought about how much they are expected to give me. What is the average percentage a servers gives to their busser(s) out of the tips they make?

Restaurant owners and managers make the rules regarding how much a server is required to tip out to different helpers. As management at your restaurant. 

5 or 10 percent of server tips is common for bussers. If a busser is paid minimum wage by the employer, then any tip outs received add to the wage earned. If a busser is paid like a tipped employee, then the busser must be given enough money to bring up the wage to at least the minimum wage. 

Employers like to make paying bussers and other front of house staff the responsibility of the servers, but in reality, it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that all workers make at least minimum wage. 

I am a waitress and I don't get to claim my tips my owner does as I look at my pay stubs it looks like I am makeing WAY more than I really am. What are the laws on that and how much should i be claiming.

You are required by law to claim your income. For example, if you make $100 in tips and tip out $20, you claim $80 in tips. I don't understand what you mean by your employer claiming your tips, but it sounds like it may be that the owner is keeping track of credit card (and cash?) tips and including them in your paycheck. 

Income is claimed once. If your boss includes your credit card tips on your paycheck, then you do not need to claim those tips a second time. 

I am a waitress, I believe my boss takes too much tax out on me. I work 15 a week @3.00 an hour,gross is 45.00 after taxes 33.80. How much tax supposed to be.also pay check is different every week at the same hours.thank you

How much tax is taken out of your paycheck depends upon how many deductions you claim on your W-4. The only reason your paycheck would differ is if you are claiming any tips each pay period. Otherwise, it should be static. This is a question for your boss. Good luck. 

Best to all! 


  1. Just to add a couple thoughts:
    Tipouts vary vastly from place to place. In fine dining, the tipout is usually 35-45%. Ours is only 37% since we don't tip a sommelier or host. The bussers get a full 20% of our tips.
    Taxes- don't mess with the man. Make sure to claim every penny of your documented tips (credit tips-minus tipouts). I know servers who have been audited and have had to pay back thousands.
    I had a boss once who claimed my tips for me and always underclaimed. I thought this was weird too!

  2. Among the many reasons I only lasted two weeks as a server.

    My son worked as a server for thirteen years, eight with IHOP. He finally got a better job at Sam's Club. He gave notice to IHOP and agreed to work his last two weeks there while training at Sam's. Four days before he was to leave IHOP, his schedule at Sam's made it impossible for him to do both, so he called the managed at IHOP. She, predictably, told him to find his own replacement. He wasn't able to and let her know. She didn't tell him she was removing him from the schedule for it. He got up at 4am Monday morning to make the 90-minute commute to Devil's Island, only to find his name scratched off the schedule. He picked up his paycheck and came home without a word to her.

    1. WOW. The thanks he got for doing her a favor and agreeing to work the last two weeks... I am so happy for your son that he found something better!

  3. Hello, under cover... I worked as a waitress for MANY years. In my head the obvious reason your check is different every week is because the taxes from your tips get removed from your PAYCHECK. This means the amount of cash tips you make each week affects your physical paycheck. If you make more tips that week your check will be lower to account for the taxes (so you don't owe anything at the end of the year). My checks always warried from 0.00- over 100 dollars depending on what tips I made. As long as your check has some money on it that is usually a positive sign that you will not owe taxes at the end of the year!!

    1. Hi! If the waitress does not know that taxes are being taken out for tips, she may end up claiming that income twice... ouch. Always best to check with the boss if s/he is taking taxes out for credit card tips. I am used to working with a POS system in which we claim our tips nightly. Therefore, paycheck amounts will vary but we don't have to claim extra at the end of the year. Thanks for writing!

  4. It's one job that I couldn't have managed to do. I wouldn't last.


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