Servers are usually only serving for some extra money or to pay the bills. Some people serve because they like it, others because they need to or their kids will go hungry. Usually the only people who know of this reality is people who work (or have worked) in a restaurant themselves. The average customer doesn't even think about this when they choose to hijack tables or sit where they want, they only think about themselves and how hungry they are. Granted, when you come into a restaurant you should be hungry, but not completely self-absorbed, I mean come on! You shouldn't be totally pigheaded to not realize that all the employees working are just like you and trying to earn a living. You don't know their history or background, you think maybe they're working at a restaurant because they dropped out of highschool or they didn't go to college. Did you ever stop to think that maybe they're working in a restaurant to pay their way through college?
Maybe someday we'll be like the rest of the world and pay our servers a real hourly rate and won't have to tip at all, but until that day, please keep in mind that your server is doing his/her best to keep you happy and make a decent living. Where I'm working now, servers are lucky to make $80 a night. Usually, a server's shift is about five or six hours long, more than that if they are a "double" or "volume". Now, you might be thinking that if a server makes $80 in six hours, that's more than ten dollars an hour which isn't so bad (it's slightly above minimum wage in Maryland), but you've also got to consider that six hours serving can feel like a lot longer. There's always running involved, there's always a customer or two who aren't totally happy, there's always something that goes wrong, there's always stress when it comes to serving. Mostly, servers make around $2.38 an hour plus whatever tips they can get, and mostly, their paychecks are zero (or close to it) because taxes on their tips get taken out of their paychecks. On top of that, servers usually have to tip out at the end of the night, bussers, hostesses (in some places), bartenders, food runners, etc. So a server usually goes home with a fraction of what they received in tips total.
I hate hearing servers say "That table only left me 36 cents for a tip" because it bugs me how some people can be so ignorant and self-absorbed not to leave at least a 15% tip (which is unfortunately still optional). If your servce was "okay", then leave a 15% tip, if it was really horrible, that's when you leave a smaller tip, and it you had a wonderful experience, then by all means tip more than 15%. But come on, tips that aren't even a dollar are a joke and most servers want to just shove it back into the guest's face and say,
"Thanks but I don't need your pity, you obviously need that more than me".
Just something to keep in mind the next time you eat out...