Take the 2-minute tour ×
Movies & TV Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for movie and tv enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In The Big Bang Theory, How can Penny afford a one bedroom apartment on a waitresses' salary?

She doesn't seem poor and lives off with free food and WiFi, right? enter image description here

share|improve this question
7  
In a building so expensive that someone with a Ph.D has to rent out the spare room! –  Mathew Foscarini Jun 1 '13 at 2:25
8  
As you note, she freeloads quite a bit, and the apartment is not flashy - the elevator hasn't worked in 7 years. Surely there are plenty of waitresses renting apartments in California. The PhDs across the hall are researchers, not professors, so their salaries may be quite average, and Sheldon keeps a roommate because he needs a driver. –  MJ6 Jun 1 '13 at 19:14
1  
@MaryJoFinch Sounds reasonable, where's your answer? Don't be afraid of once writing an answer that isn't as well researched and backed by facts as your other ones, sometimes common sense can be enough for such plot-hole style questions. ;) –  Napoleon Wilson Jun 1 '13 at 21:06
    
@ChristianRau Thus encouraged... –  MJ6 Jun 1 '13 at 21:36
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Internet searches for Cheesecake Factory waitress salaries range from $27,000-$33000. This may or may not include tips, but tips are shared with the kitchen. As you note, Penny freeloads quite a bit. Her car has had the engine-check light on forever.

Her apartment is not flashy - the elevator hasn't worked in 7 years. The PhDs across the hall are researchers, not professors, so their salaries may be quite average, and Sheldon keeps a roommate because he needs a driver.

Surely there are plenty of waitresses renting average apartments in California.


Additional Info (9/23/13)

On the episode entitled "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification," Penny owes Leonard for several takeout dinners plus a month's rent which comes to "a little over $1400."

share|improve this answer
3  
If we only knew the zip code we could find out the cost of the apartment. average-rent.findthedata.org/d/a/California –  Mathew Foscarini Jun 2 '13 at 2:47
1  
Assuming they all live in the save zip code as the university. The average rent is $1,200 to $1,400 for a 1 bedroom. Zip codes here. ucsf.edu/contact-us –  Mathew Foscarini Jun 2 '13 at 3:11
add comment

I found a potential answer to how Penny gets by here which explains a bit about California labour law and factors in the tips she would earn while working at the Cheesecake Factory;

Just because she is a waitress doesn't mean she doesn't make a decent income. I know a waitress at an upscale restaurant that makes considerably more than I do as an engineer. Let's do a little back of the envelope math:

Penny works at the Cheesecake Factory. At the Cheesecake Factory, appetizers are around $9, entrees around $15-$20, desserts around $9 and drinks around $6. I'm there periodically and for two people the bill is easily $50-$60, often more.

So, let's pretend Penny serves 2 person tables (3-4 is probably a more accurate number). Let's say she serves 5 tables an hour (I think average is 6). If her Cheesecake Factory is anything like the ones here, it is busy all day. The Cheesecake Factory is very high volume. Let's say she works full time.

($50 per table)(15% tip)(5 tables per hour)(8 hours per shift)(5 shifts per week)*(50 weeks per year) = $75,000 per year.

My understanding is that California requires a minimum salary for tipped employees of $8 an hour. That's an extra $16,000 per year.

So, at a gross income of up to $91,000 per year, Penny would be making more than Howard does. Now, to be fair, we know that Penny is not very good at her job, so she is probably not doing that well.

share|improve this answer
2  
I am not familiar with California's labor laws, but usually the minimum wage at restaurants is a bit more complex. The restaurant will pay less than the minimum wage (in this case $8), and it's expected the waiter/waitress will earn enough to make up the differential so they earn more than minimum wage over the course of their shift. If this doesn't happen, then the restaurant needs to pay them enough so they earned minimum wage. So you can't calculate the income from tips, then just add on minimum wage. –  user209 May 31 '13 at 18:23
    
I think a more fair estimate would probably be 5% of how much she deals with. That'd put her around $41k, which still isn't anything to sneeze at. –  DForck42 May 31 '13 at 18:23
5  
$91,000 a year? I think I might need to change professions! lol –  System Down May 31 '13 at 18:50
11  
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the annual mean wage of waiters and waitresses in California was $21,410 in May 2012. –  Oliver_C May 31 '13 at 20:21
4  
In retrospect, I'm not sure there's any point to our comments. The answer was simply lifted from the link, so it's not like we're commenting to the person who wrote it. –  user209 Jun 1 '13 at 0:41
show 1 more comment

This is a very old TV sitcom question. In multiple shows the protagonists live in apartments that are way beyond their means. Often, the apartments are huge or luxurious and in neighborhoods (mainly Manhattan) where the rents are astronomical.

Sitcoms are farce, not real life. The producers create spaces that are visually striking and easy to film around from one point of view; the camera never moves.

She lives beyond her means because theproducers want her to.

P.S.

Notice that the Cheesecake Factory where she works is far more low rent than the restaurant is in real life; because the producers want it that way.

share|improve this answer
    
In regards to "Sitcoms are farce, not real life." and "... because the producers want it that way" I say youtube.com/watch?v=QNBoSk719Hc –  IQAndreas Jan 5 at 20:33
add comment

Unlike Sheldon and Leonard, she doesn't have student loan debts. She doesn't go out much and when she does it's mostly to her job (where she gets a discount). Her car isn't new and need repairs, so she's most likely not paying off a car loan. In comparison, Leonard's crew go to comic cons, buy movie trinkets, stay up with the latest electronics, have nice cars, probably have years of student loan debts, they also have eat out for the majority of their meals. So to live the lifestyle (and probably keep a nice savings) they want, it makes sense for them to have a rm mate. As it's stated in several episodes penny is a mooch, she eats their food and use their wifi. She seems to live paycheck to paycheck, and don't have a savings like them.

I work on tips as a bartender, I understand the struggle

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.