THE BLOG
09/03/2012 11:25 am ET Updated Nov 03, 2012

How to Get a Raise Without Asking

According to a recent survey done by Glassdoor, employees are getting more optimistic about their future pay. Of those surveyed, 43% expect to get a raise in the next year, which is the highest level in at least four years. The rest of the respondents either did not know or did not expect a raise. It can be difficult to ask the boss for higher pay when the unemployment rate is still rising in many areas, and when prospective workers are lined up for any position that opens up.

On the other hand, those who get tips as a normal part of their jobs often have the ability to write their own raise. It is one of the advantages to what are often seen as low-paid service jobs. Here are some of the ways that tipped employees boost their income.

Work Better Hours

Typically there are shifts that are better for making good tips anywhere where tipping is common. When I worked as a blackjack dealer the best times were the early evening shifts on Fridays and Saturdays, as they are for most service jobs. On a good Saturday night tips might come in at $60 per hour compared with $2 per hour on a slow Tuesday morning. Smart workers look for ways to get more of these good shifts.

Work Faster

One of the ways to get that $60 per hour in tips was to deal faster. As long as the pace was comfortable for the dealer and the player, moving faster meant more hands were dealt and more tips were made. The same is true in most tipped positions. A waitress who quickly serves her clients is not only winning points with them, but is also able to serve more of them in a given shift. This is especially true in places where there is a line of customers waiting to be seated and served.

Be Friendlier

It doesn't take scientific research to guess that a friendliness results in bigger tips, or that smiling can help. But there has been research done on this. One study of tipping behavior found that customers who received compliments left larger tips. Waiters have found that just writing "Thank You" on the bill can increase tips as well.

Dress for Tip Success

Whether or not keeping a shirt tucked in clean makes a difference is speculative (but probably a safe bet), but other aspects of clothing and tips have been researched. One such study on tipping found that waitresses who wore red shirts received 14.6 percent to 26.1 percent higher tips from male customers. That's a nice pay raise.

Pick the Right Customers

As a young man I had several pizza-delivery jobs. All of the drivers knew which of the regular customers tipped well, but interestingly most did nothing with that knowledge. Since we occasionally were able to choose the deliveries we made, it made sense to handle the ones going to the good tippers. This alone was enough to add 20% to my wages on some nights. In a casino setting the equivalent might be a blackjack dealer making eye-contact with any good tipper spotted in the room, so he or she is likely to sit at that dealer's table.

Get the Best Job

In the context of tipped positions, getting hired by the employer who pays the most is not the way to make money. What a prospective employee needs to look at expected total earnings when adding the base wage to the average per-hour tip rate. The current minimum cash wage at the federal level is just $2.13 per hour for tipped positions according to U.S. Department of Labor. But the average rate for tips varies enormously from job to job.

For example, with base rate and tips the median pay for bellhops in the United States is just $20,880 annually. But I have spoken to a baggage porter who makes over $60,000 per year. Naturally, he works at a high-end hotel. In general, tips are higher where bills are higher. Serving $100 meals in a restaurant will generate more tips than serving $10 meals. A roulette table with a $100 limit will yield its croupier more pay than one with a $25 limit.

A Decent Living

Yes, there are many service jobs that barely provide minimum wage even with tips. It is also true that the minimum wage has been unchanged for 20 years for restaurant servers and other tipped employees. Some might hope for a political resolution to these problems, and that could come in time. But for now employees who make tips may have to get a raise on their own by working better shifts, moving faster, smiling more, dressing right, and catering to better tippers. If that doesn't work, a job where there are better tippers might be the solution. Finally, if that isn't possible, some enterprising workers might take learn from one woman's example of how to make tips without a job. She was a tavern customer who served drinks to others in order to pay her own bar tab with the tips she received.

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