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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Restaurant Magic: Tips or Salary?

There's an interesting debate among restaurant magicians about whether it's preferable to work solely on tips or to take a salary in lieu of accepting tips. Here's a list of the pros and cons of both:

- More restaurants will hire you. (Since you don't work on a salary, the restaurants have nothing to lose in terms of having to pay an entertainer.)
- Magician may work harder than usual, as his/her take for the night is directly related to his/her work.
- Restaurant may lose business, as patrons may resent being "hustled" by a magician during their meal.
- Magicians have no guarantee of making a decent living.
- Waiters become upset having to compete for tips.

- Makes for a more relaxed restaurant (no hustling) and more relaxed magician (no worry about tips).
- No competition between waiters and magician.
- Magicians know how much they're making in advance.
- Magician may find it harder to get a job. (Many restaurant owners may be hesitant to spend upwards of $200-300 to have an entertainer in their restaurant.)

As you can see, it's better for everyone - the magician, the restaurant owner, the wait staff, and the customers - for a magician to work on a salary. I'm not advocating that magicians don't take tips at all; in fact, I would argue that the "Rule of 3" (refuse the tip twice but accept on the third offer) is a nice solution that allows the magician to be ethical but not offend a customer who just really wants to tip (although a magician should, at least for the first few nights he/she works, consider adding those tips to the wait staff tip jar as a goodwill gesture).

If you're still not convinced, consider this: how do you feel when a homeless person asks you for money of the street? You feel really guilty if you don't give the person money and swindled if you do - a negative emotion either way. Magicians working for tips create the same scenario - the typical customer feels guilty turning the magician away and then feels hustled when he/she is guilted into tipping. It's better for the performer and the audience when there's no guilt about tipping involved.

A bonus: explaining this reasoning to the manager of a restaurant has actually helped me secure a few restaurants jobs, as the manager recognized the thought I had put into it and the professionalism I exhibited by doing so. In the long run, getting $200-300 a night guaranteed is much better, I think, than taking a risk each night, regardless of how sure I am of my skill.


  • At 8:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yikes, is this even still being debated? I mean, besides by the guys who've been in magic less than a year but have business cards printed up and "know it all"?

  • At 6:44 PM , Blogger Pagliacci said...

    Actually, you'd be surprised by how many magicians still work for tips. Perhaps I shouldn't have phrased this as a "debate," but I thought that it would be a good way to present to those magicians still working for tips that they should look into changing.

  • At 2:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Great stuff. We don't ask for tips I believe, but after reading this, they should!

  • At 4:31 PM , Anonymous Steve Knight said...

    Singing for your supper is a time-honored tradition.


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