The piece published on Feb. 20 — “Here’s a Tip, Don’t Tip Your Waiters,” raises some valid points about payment for workers in the food industry. I would imagine tipping culture may come off as a bit of a shock to some foreigners since it is not common in other countries. However, the argument doesn’t take into account fundamental characteristics of the service industry. It’s true that racial discrimination affects tipping and that waiters should be paid a living wage given that it is still legal to pay them the meager hourly wage of $2.13 just because they are tipped workers. Nonetheless, refusing to tip waiters and pretending it is for their benefit is not going to help.
Firstly, to answer a question raised in the article, we do not tip the chef despite the chef’s assistance in providing the meal because they are paid far above the minimum wage. In contrast, servers are primarily paid in tips. If a server does not make the standard minimum wage of $7.25 an hour on tips, the employer is forced to makeup the difference. However, as the writer notes, that doesn’t always happen. And even if it did, the difference of $5 per hour that the employer will make up if customers stop tipping comes nowhere near the amount of money the waiters could have made with tips.
A common complaint against tipping is that consumers should not be subsiding the business expense of paying waiters. That is true, but if we do stop tipping, employers aren’t going to simply realize the error of their ways and begin paying servers a living wage.
Finally, there have been articles from and about service industry workers explaining how ceasing to tip adversely affects their daily lives, or how they have been stiffed over ridiculous complaints. The writer points out that waiters are more likely to fall into poverty, but the proposed solution of not tipping waiters will only make things worse for them. Not only do servers make $2.13 an hour, their tips are subject to federal withholding.
Waiters should make a living wage and the consumer should not have to pay their salary, but the way to make this change occur is not to force waiters to suffer more. Instead, we must demand that the tipped minimum wage and the regular minimum wage be raised so that those who work for minimum wage can have a decent standard of living.
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Email Beth Sattur at [email protected].