Re: DogBoy's comments, waitstaff in Minnesota must be paid the minimum wage, though I think Minnesota is one of the few states in which this is true.

I agree that employers gyp the waitstaff at most restaurants, but if it were up to me to choose between being paid half of minimum wage (which is around $6 right now, I think) plus tips, or an hourly wage at or above the minimum wage, I will take the tips any day. I know people who go home on a Friday night with $200 cash. It would be nice if restaurants paid servers what they're worth, without having a gratuity, but there's no way in hell a restaurant would ever pay their servers $30 or $40 bucks an hour. (A standard Friday shift is usually around 5-8 hours for a waiter, in my experience.)

The people who more often than not get screwed by employers though, are waiter's assistants or bussers. These guys and gals are also paid minimum wage (I don't think they can be paid less in any state, but I may be wrong) and are expected to have servers tip their busser out of what they brought in that night. All too often, the servers are bitchy as hell by the end of a night (I know I was often, when I was waiting tables, though I had no busser.) and under-tip or don't tip out at all. So that can be anywhere from $1-4/hr that the busser is shorted because the server had a bad night, even though they may have done a good job bussing. Thankfully, most employers will come down hard and fast on servers who don't tip out. But some don't.

As sort of a side note, I realize this write-up is in response to Social Responsibility of Tipping Well, and I realize that you are frustrated with "[subsidizing] private business," and I feel the same way, but that's business and capitalism at it's roots. We pay for our luxuries and services. Che sarà sarà.

Re: jbird, I also will under-tip or not tip a server at all, though I am more forgiving than some people I know. I know what it's like to have a long night with ornery customers, or to be a new server, and I'm willing to forgive that. But sometimes, a server's performance is unexcusable. In that case, they get nothing. The rest of the time (assuming good service of course) I tip 15-20% or more.