Monday, June 06, 2005


I love me some Sonic. Good food, good choices. I am not writing this blog because I have some crazy story to relate, or a bad experience. I just have a question.

Do you tip at Sonic?

I've heard, in the past year, two different radio hosts say yes, tip at Sonic. I think one guy was a sports talk guy and the other was financial guru Dave Ramsey. I heard awhile back, though, that someone who knows someone says not to tip at Sonic.

I do not tip at Sonic, even to be safe. There's only a couple of times I have, and that's when I burden the server with using a credit card, and they have to go back and run it and it slows them down a little. But my reasons are as follows for not tipping at Sonic:

1. They are a fast-food chain that competes with other fast food chains. In their advertising, they mention fast-food stalwarts like McDonald's. You don't tip at McDonald's.

2. I think that just because someone walks to your car and delivers food, doesn't make them a waiter in the traditional sense. A waiter at a fancy restaurant comes by your table numerous times, refilling drinks, offering more food, etc. They have other tables, too, they have to tend to and make people happy. Sonic servers don't seem to have any particular station they are assigned and don't check on you if you happen to stay on the lot. If you want something else, you have to push the red button again.

I mean, I don't want to sound like Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs here, and sound like I'm cheap. But if it's common courtesy to tip at Sonic, I wasn't aware. Servers never seem expectant on tips anyway, and I've never seen one of them huff off like they've been gypped.

So anyone with any answers? I would ask a Sonic server, but I don't think they are objective enough not to lie.


At 6/06/2005 10:52:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Actually my younger sister works at Sonic when she's home from college, and this is what I have heard from her. A lot of people do tip at Sonic; in fact that's why she keeps working there every summer, because most Saturdays she can walk away with a couple hundred dollars. However, it's not like working at a sit-down restaurant where the servers only get paid 2.15 an hour. She actually makes like nine dollars an hour on top of the tips, so I surely don't think it's rude not to tip since their flat pay rate is better than a lot of summer jobs teenagers and college students take on. I usually do tip my change if it's under a dollar, and sometimes I just throw an extra dollar in, but all your reasons are valid. I think you could go either way.

At 6/07/2005 09:36:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

I, on the other hand, not only don't mind sounding like Mr. Pink, but I might even embrace it.

I don't tip at Sonic, and feel pressured to do so by some of the servers attitudes at the one near my house. But like Jonathan says, they don't make crap wages. They make a great wage. And where a waitress brings me not only my food, but also several refills, napkins, A-1 sauce, and everything else I happen to ask for.

Sonic servers just walk out my bag of food. Granted, sometimes they do it when it's 20 degrees outside. But instead of that making me want to tip, it makes me think, "Well, take it up with your corporate office that insists on outdoor service."

Call me stupid, but I only recently learned that it's common to tip hair cutters. Didn't know that. I usually leave a dollar now, but mostly out of pressure I feel...and not because I think they make $2.15 an hour. How much do they make, anyway? Anyone know?

The biggest one that gets me is the tip jar at coffee shops and delis. Bongo Java is one here in Nashville, where they have a tip jar. You served me my coffee and it took you five seconds and I'm supposed to tip you? Why? And there's a Deli in Maryland Farms in Brentwood called Dimples (fantastic food, best BLT ever!!!) that I frequent and they have a tip jar sitting at the counter where you order. The girl or guy writes your order and takes your money...and I'm supposed to leave a tip? Why? Hell, the girl at Kroger scanning my groceries does more work than that!!

It seems to be trendy to put out a tip jar at hip Vandy-type places (Bongo, Fido, etc.) and I think it's because the owners know that the majority of their customers have some money...and they can skim a few extra bucks. But I really hate it.

I tip well--I was a waiter, and I know what they go through--when the service is good. I tip average or below for bad waitstaff service. I tip a dollar at the hair cutting place. If I ever go to a big hotel and a bellboy carries my bags...I'll even tip him. But enough already on the tipping trend. It's like it's showing up everywhere. And frankly, I cannot afford it.

So call me Mr. Pink. Outside of restaurants with traditional waitstaff...I hate tipping.

At 6/07/2005 02:15:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I don't tip. It's a fast food joint. End of story.

At 6/07/2005 03:50:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I love Mike. Whenever you need succint to the point answers you get them. But I just wanted to comment that I have no problem tipping someone who cut my hair; I don't know what they make, but that makes no difference to me. They actually are helping you out quite a bit here; try to cut your own hair. So, no issues with me there. Another funny thing about Sonic is exactly Mike's point; it's a fast food joint. Every other fast food joint for the most part you aren't allowed to take tips, so I'm not sure how Sonic even gets away with it when it comes down to it.

At 6/07/2005 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

It's funny you say that...because I actually did cut my own hair one summer...all summer. Used clippers and scissors.

And I looked like a mental patient every single time, so you're right. But hey, at least I saved money.

At 6/07/2005 04:52:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I've done the mental patient thing to myslef; hence the comment. Maybe that's why I have no problem throwing them a couple of extra bones. A haircut, at least for men, is one of the few things that still costs a resonable amount. However, for women, damn. My fiance can shell out over 200 dollars for a cut sometimes. I don't get it; I just don't get it.

At 6/07/2005 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Good grief! If my girlfriend ever pays that much for a haircut...send in the men with the straightjackets.

Thankfully, my gal HATES to spend money. She'll get water at a restaurant even though she hates it just because the markup on soft drinks make them such a bad value. That kind of financial thinking will be quite the blessing to me once we're married.

$200...that's Presidential.

At 9/17/2005 06:33:00 PM, Blogger Cynthia1972TN said...

The whole tipping thing makes me a little crazy. I waited tables to put myself through I get tipping people who get paid crappy waitress wages...I really do. But I have a real problem with tipping my fancy-schmancy Belle Meade hairdresser who has a vacation house and a boat and all that. I value his service, but the man makes more money than I do! It's the same deal with my massage therapist. That guy charges $65 an hour. He does an awesome job and I really like him...but tipping charts say I should be tipping him 15-20% of the bill. Whaaaat? Why? I'm a teacher...why the hell am I tipping someone for something that costs $65 an hour? Shouldn't there be some cap on this ridiculous pressure to tip? That you, at the very least, shouldn't have to tip people who make more money than you? I know you are SUPPOSED to tip certain service people, but I wish could explain why!

At 12/02/2005 07:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate going to Sonic, I like the food, but making feel I "owe" them something for giving the food I am paying for is crazy.

Tonight I went to the "drive through" at Sonic and ordered a hamburger and onion rings, it came to $4.31, I sat in my car waiting for them to walk 5 feet to my car with my food. I gave the young lady $5.00. She handed me my bag of food. Now did she ask me if I wanted catshup or salt or pepper or a mint. NOOOOOOOOO She looked at me and said "do you want your 69 cents". I looked at her and said yes. The nerve of these people. I wanted to say, no please keep the 69 cents for giving me my food. Geeez, do like What-A-Burger, McDonalds, Taco Bell etc. does and hand it to me through the window so I can drive off. Tipping has gotten out of hand. I don't like businesses that make me feel I need to pay their employees wages because they are too cheap to do so. They might as well sit outside Sonic with tin cups begging for money, because that is what they are doing. Sonic loses a lot of my money because it peeves me to have to give their people a tip to hand me my food.

At 12/06/2005 09:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that we should have to tip at Sonic because they don't give you a choice on going in or being served at your car. The wait staff knows what the job entails and they are getting paid more than minimum wage.

I like the Sonics that have the drive thru windows because I know they can't be expecting a tip there!

At 12/09/2005 03:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I happen to agree with Mr. Pink. Why should I feel pressured to tip someone when there doing there job. The fact of the matter is, if I should be tipping anyone at a restaurant it should be the cooks. If they want, hell, I will go pick my own food up at the counter when the cook rings the bell. I don�t have a problem with that. Yeah, I know it�s just a couple bucks here and there but that adds up. I don�t mind waiters and waitresses, I think they should be paid minimum wage at least and not have to rely on there tips. It�s not my fault it�s done that way. I paid for the food, they force me to take there waiting service so I feel OBLIGATED to pay a tip and I hate that. And I know people will be writing back saying, �waaaaahhh � you�re not forced to take there service, you don�t have to go to restaurants � waaaaaahhh.� Well you know, that�s true, I DON�T have to go to restaurants, but I WANT to go to restaurants, and all I�m saying is that I should have to tip some one for something they are already being paid to do. I want to go to restaurants because the food is better than fast food and better than what I can cook. Witch brings me to a point earlier; I would more then happily tip the cooks because that�s who I should be tipping. Mr. Pink, although you�re a fictional character, your right and I stand behind you.

At 6/04/2006 09:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say "thanks" for this blog. I've never gone to Sonic because I wasn't sure if I should tip or not. I really want a mini banana split. Now I'll get one!

At 7/16/2006 05:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonic chose to design their chain with a drive up 50's style motif. It almost seems that they knew the drive up design would bring in a tip generating atmosphere whereas McDonald's and the like do not. I wonder if I gave a tip to a Whataburger cashier if they would take it and I wonder if they are allowed to take it. So after reading this blog I have finally come to a happy conclusion no to tip Sonic carhops and I will drive away with a clear conscience.

At 6/14/2007 07:46:00 PM, Anonymous Meaghan said...

Well I can actually say that I tip at sonic. Even though i have worked there, I tipped before i work there. In most states I assure you they DO NOT make any kind of 9 dollars an hr.

At 6/20/2007 03:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work at Sonic and here's how it goes: the carhops first must learn how to make drinks/ice cream and how to take orders (they get 5.15-minimum wage)...then, they start carhopping adn must rely on tips to get money. i know some girls who get $150 in 8 hours of tips are a big source of income...however, some girls also know how to cook and therefore they get paid more than the minimum wage and can still accept tips. about them carhops not being "waiters," they are responsible for making your drinks and they are SUPPOSED to check back if u need anything...and they often have to deal with a lot just to get through the day (mean cusomers, idiotic customers, problems with other workers.,etc.)...but some carhops really do not do their jobs, so make ur decision based on the service that u received

At 6/26/2007 04:19:00 PM, Blogger Katrina Van Tassel said...

Okay, so carhops start at minimum wage. The reason we tip waiters in restaurants, is because they DON'T make minimum wage.
They make way less than minimum wage and then get tips.

I avoid Sonic, because I live in Texas and everyone I know tips when they go there... I don't feel like tipping, so I don't go there.

But now, they have credit card swipey things at the car station. I can see very soon that no one will tip at Sonic because of this. I think the only people now-a-days who use cash are geezers and teenagers without bank accounts.

At 7/03/2007 10:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used one of those card swipes to pay for my food. Last time I used the card because I didn't have enough cash. Get this, the carhop handed me the food and my receipt and just stood there looking at me. I noticed her still there after a few seconds, then grabbed my receipt thinking maybe I had to sign it like a credit card, except I used debit. She kindly reminded me I didn't need to sign the receipt but she still stood there watching. So I glance at her again and realize - "Tip! TIP!?!? I can't believe she is wanting a tip - and on a DEBIT CARD CHARGE!"

I managed to scrounge up some quarters and gave it to her. She finally left. I never returned.

At 7/10/2007 12:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always tipped at Sonic, probably b/c my parents always did. There is a Sonic near my house amd that one has a drive-thru, the question is, do I still tip??? They still have to walk to your car b/c Sonic does not have the drive thru window like every other fast food restaurants do. I only feel that it is the right thing to do. What do you think?

At 8/25/2007 04:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work at a restaurant and I know this. You can choose to come in and eat and not tip, but that waitress will remember you and she might choose to give you crappy service the next time you're in her section. I am making a whopping $2.13/hr and then they automatically take out of my tips 2% of the total sales not fair. I believe myself to go above and beyond customer service and then my customers leave 10% behind. So I could end up making only 8% at the end of the day. Then we get taken off the floor at volume to do side duties. I can end up being there another two hours where I only make 2.13 for the two hours.

There was a day this week (given we were slow but still) where I worked 4 hours and walked away with $19.00!!!

If you're going to go out to a restaurant and you receive good service reward your server. PLEASE.

I think more of the problem is people don't believe we are making so little. They think our tips are something extra but really that's what we rely on. I cannot speak for those waitresses that come in just to goof off, but I am there to pay for my college education.

At 8/25/2007 04:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it crazy to assume when you eat out at restaurants to tip 10% if the service was fair, 15% if it was good, and $20 if it was great or if extra effort was taken on the server's part.
You have no idea how hard it is sometimes to get things from the cook. If they make a mistake on a steak or I need more bbq sauce, new fries, anything or just cooking errors. It can take a long time to get it corrected and its my responsibility to get it corrected. The customers can't tell how immature or ridiculous the cooks are. What do the cooks care anyway, they still get the same wage whether the service is good or not.

At 1/01/2008 12:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to work at a Sonic, and some of your points are valid.

We make 85 cents LESS than minimum wage, and we don't get raises. We also, do not cook. I make ice cream, take orders, stock, and deliver food. I personally check back on all my lot customers, just because it's a nice thing. I do know, however, that without tips I would be making a grand total of 5.00 an hour. And, it's ok. I don't get mad at non-tippers. Because for every non tipper, I have 2 or 3 people who DO tip me.

At 5/21/2008 06:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do work at sonic as a carhop and I think it is nice to tip. I dont get mad if I dont get tipped but I think most people with manners would atleast leave the change. It may be fast food but we do more than the people at mcdonalds. We bring it to your car. Most places do not bring it to you you have to go get it. Plus its hard carrying all of your food on a tray. I am sorry I am just a little hostile at people who think its stupid to tip at sonic when they have NO IDEA what is going on. Sonic carhops actually do a lot more then the cooks or anyone else who works there. Who do you think does all the cleaning, re stocking, making ice cream & drinks? And we do not make 9 dollars an hour.. More like 5! I make a lot in tips but i guess its just the southern hospitality in Texas!

At 6/30/2008 02:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work at Sonic. If it weren't for tips I wouldn't do this job. Tips typically are equivalent to 8-10% at the end of the day. There are ones that don't tip and some that tip 100% of the cost of their drink. That is unnecessary but of course appreciated since it helps everything level out. Your carhop is your link to the rest of the restaurant. She should be attentive and willing to provide any extra service needed. I try to check back with my customers and make sure they are ok and enjoying their meal. If your carhop isn't friendly and doesn't assure that you've received everything you need and asked for, then don't tip. I offer to take any trash from the customer when I deliver the order such as an empty cup from an earlier visit to Sonic or another restaurant. Also if you are a regular the carhops will recognize you and start getting your order ready before you ever push the button. What I'm trying to emphasize is that there is a lot of room for personal service at a drive-in restaurant like Sonic (like taking your trash for you and checking back on you). I've never received that at McDonalds or other fast food restaurants. But like anywhere there is no need to tip if service is poor. And the standard tip isn't as high as at a full service restaurant. I believe 10% is a good guide with a minimum of 25 cents so as not to be insulting. If you choose not to tip at all, perhaps for a single drink order when you will be taking it and leaving, then at least have a pleasant, appreciative disposition. I would rather serve a kind person than receive a small tip from a jerk. Another point to explain and support that tipping is customary, is that my Sonic has a tip share. Every time we carhop we put a $1 in a fund that is split with the cooks at the end of the month. Also we pay 1% of the total amount of food we take out back to the restaurant to cover rising food and paper costs. If no one tipped that would mean we are paying to carhop.

At 9/09/2008 06:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan-
Im a semi-new carhop at a local Sonic and just thought that I would throw my oppinon in for ya.
First off, we get paid minimum wage. Its not like we are totally dependant on the tips, but they are great. Tips are the main reason I work at sonic. Im only fifteen and they have me working happy hour Monday thu Friday & I adverage twenty dollars a day in tips. Which is pretty good in my book. Before I started working there I didnt know you were even supposed to tip the carhops & never did.
I regret that though because the job is way harder than expected.
Carrying 6 Route 44 Cherry-Orange-Lime Slushes and 3 Coneys on a thin plastic tray is not the mosy simple task in the world :). Not everyone tips say 15%, most are just like keep the change, and that change adds up.
I guess it can go either way, but as long as you get a nice carhop I think it would be pretty cool to tip them, you never know, their tips might go into a college savings account like mine.


At 12/02/2008 08:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you should tip for the convenience of not getting out of your car and for having someone roller skate it to you. After all, you’re not going there because they have extraordinary fast food. You’re going to Sonic for the experience of going to an old 1950’s drive-in with carhops!

While, yes, carhops do get paid minimum wage, they do a lot more than a “normal restaurant server.” In addition to being the voice on the other end of the curbside speaker, ie. the one who places your order correctly (or incorrectly), they bring you the food. They also have fun tasks like taking out the trash, cleaning the restrooms, cleaning the food and drink machines, keeping the inside clean (sweeping, mopping, windexing), and keeping the outside clean (picking up trash, empty bags of food, empty drink cups, and my personal favorite CIGARETTE butts…gross.) All the while doing these tasks on skates. Ever tried mopping while wearing roller skates? How about taking out industrial size trash?

As far as being helpful and taking your trash away, it is mandatory, every ten minutes, for a carhop to skate to every car and picnic table with the “smile tray.” The smile tray is chock-full of condiments and napkins, carried by a carhop who should also be asking if you need anything else, including, but not limited to “taking your trash.” Believe me, they would rather take it from your sticky ketchup-soaked hands than have to pick it up off the ground where the cigarette butts are!

I hope this answer helps! I worked at Sonic briefly to help pay for a teaching internship I did in England. And let me tell you, I sure appreciate(d) all the tips I received. Customer service is not easy… Especially when a grape jelly packet gets stuck in your skate and enough food and drink to feed five people spills all over your clothes, or the time I spilled the LARGE VANILLA milkshake all over the front of the SQUEAKY CLEAN BLACK Escalade. True stories. Passing food over the counter or through a drive-thru window is far less dangerous and undeserving of a tip. Doing what carhops do- deserving of at least a 10% tip. Plus it’s not just good, it’s Sonic Good!

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