I’ll never forget my first tip: there I was ensuring the guest was comfortable and enjoying his experience (doing my job). When all was done and it was time for him to leave, he looked at me, thanked me, then shook my hand — passing Mr. Benjamin Franklin in the process.
(If only that were true.)
He did tip me a $10, though, and I was elated because my lunch was paid for.
But, wait. He paid for my lunch? Shouldn’t my boss be the one giving me the money to pay for lunch?
Not when I’m being paid 2.13 an hour.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tip is defined as:
a gift or a sum of money tendered for a service performed or anticipated
If a tip is just a gift, then why do most American servers consider it as actual pay?
Tipping only started about 250 years ago in the United States. After the civil war, newly rich Americans saw the practice done in Europe and decided to bring it to the US to show off that they were wealthy. Ironically, while tipping was borrowed from Europe, American servers get low “tipped salaries”, while European servers are still paid a straight salary.
When tipping became a habit to Americans, many opposed the habit — criticizing that it goes against American ideals of equality. In his book, “The Itching Palm”, William Scott wrote that the practice was “unamerican” and continues that:
“Every tip given in the United States is a blow at our experiment in democracy.”
Washington was actually the first of six states to pass an anti-tipping law in 1909, but that didn’t last long as all anti-tipping laws was repealed in 1926.
Then, going forward to 1960, congress agreed to paying servers lower wages at 2.13 per hour — this is obviously where the problems started.
In their report, the National Economic Council (among other parties), found that servers are nearly 3 times more likely than other workers to go into poverty.
Also, while minimum wages in America have generally increased, servers have been receiving less in wages throughout the decades.
But that’s okay, because people tip to compensate for the short pay, right?
Vouchercloud.net polled 2500+ people about how much they typically tip on their bill. Only a whopping 23% of those people have admitted to tipping the recommended 20% or more on their bill. Furthermore, about half of those people said they tip less than what they did 5 years ago. But that’s not surprising as research has shown that the growth of disposable income of individuals have slowed down tremendously since 2007.
With all of that being said, it’s easy to see that the tipping culture really affects our servers. But how does it ruin the restaurant industry?
Firstly, from the customer’s perspective, how many times have you personally received your check and wonder:
“How much should I tip?”
Well, why don’t you tip him based on the service you received?
Oh, because even though you had mediocre service, you noticed that it’s been a slow day and you know his pay is terrible? Because if you don’t tip him enough he’ll probably resent you the next time you visit? Because you’ll feel bad if he doesn’t get enough tip by the end of the day?
This war between employee and customer has overshadowed the fact that the employer takes all responsibility for the welfare of their workers and the overall experience for the customer.
Secondly, (female) servers conform themselves to modern slavery just to get their bills paid. A Washington Post article (among many others) posted last year that female waiters were more likely subjected to sexual harassment from rowdy patrons. While these servers are more likely to stand up for themselves outside of work when faced with any kind of rude and suggestive comments, they fundamentally modify their responses at work because they know that one wrong move could affect their tip. Additionally, the amount of tip that a patron tips a female waiter is proportional to the size of their breasts (you guys are sick).
Finally, the tipping culture promotes waiters to profile their customers. In peak hours, servers are more likely to pay more attention, smile more and offer better services to the white man in the suit, than the black man in the t-shirt. The survey, conducted in North Carolina, revealed that an unbelievable 40% of waiters admitted to doing this practice — because they think that black people “don’t tip well”. This is absolutely immoral and wrong.
So what’s the solution for this?
Let’s get one thing straight first:
I’m not against the practice of tipping as a reward for good service — I encourage it. If a server gives you excellent service and is pleasant, then tip her! She deserves it.
What I’m really against is that, in the US…
…the tipping culture justifies employers to pay servers a low wage for a high-stress job.
A tip given should be the result of good service. The low pay that servers get force them to focus more on a certain type of customer, and, at the same time, allow customers to abuse their power on certain types of servers. There is a feud between customer and server — and this tension will not be relieved until something is done about it.
Something like what Jay Porter did with his restaurant “The Linkery” as Slate had reported it.
(Hint: He raised the wages and got rid of gratuities.)
(Double hint: His profits and the service got better.)
But let’s not go that far ahead as to completely abolish gratuity.
My solution: Raise the minimum wage for servers.
Then let’s see what happens from then.
Stay beautiful people.