After a nice brunch out with friends sipping on mimosas or after a fancy dinner with a significant other, the first thing to do after the check is placed on the table is some quick, rough math to figure out the tip. It’s simply a part of what dining out is in America. However, another factor of living in America is the stride for equality, but the unequal pay that tipped workers face goes directly against that.
Only seven states have the same minimum wage for tipped workers as non-tipped workers. Tipping is not the problem at hand, it’s the fact that in a large majority of the country, tipped workers have a lower minimum wage and therefore end up making less than those who receive the normal minimum wage, even with their tips included. Now that just isn’t right.
Pay Inequality Is the Problem
Those of us who have been servers at some point in our lives know that a great tip is really appreciated, but there will be people who run out of the restaurant without leaving an extra cent to spare. It happens.
At the federal level, the minimum wage is $7.25 for those who do not receive tips and $2.13 for those who do in the 43 states with pay inequality. With a minimum wage as small as $2.13, it is no wonder why many servers rely on tips to support themselves. This puts servers’ welfare in the hands of their customers and supports a system of inequality. Tipping should be a bonus for good service... not a means of survival.
Many servers are female and the fact that they end up making less than those receiving full minimum wage widens the gender pay gap. Because much of the female wait staff in these 43 states must rely on tips, they could potentially need to put up with degrading and crude behavior from male guests and coworkers. This causes the restaurant industry to contribute more sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission than any other industry.
If tips weren’t what servers relied on for income, tolerating crude and demeaning behavior wouldn’t be necessary and the restaurant work place would become a less hostile environment.
Tipping Is Not the Problem
Tipping is essential to have in our restaurants in order to maintain the great service that is expected from higher-end dining institutions in America.
European countries don't require tipping and after spending two months dining at various locations for study abroad, I realized that the service quality is not nearly as attentive and precise as their American counterparts. Tipping gives servers the incentive to go above and beyond in providing quick service in order to have more customers at their tables.
Not only is tipping beneficial to those receiving the money, but also to customers. It puts the customers in control and allows them to non-verbally rate the service. For a server who goes above and beyond and pours just a little more champagne in your mimosa than expected, a healthy tip should be awarded.
If a customer was completely dissatisfied with their experience—aka 90% orange juice, 10% champagne—little to no tip should be offered.
It may be argued that if tipping were to be done away with entirely and all states offered the same minimum wage for all workers, then inequality would never have to be worried about again and tipping wouldn’t be an issue.
However, the seven states that have an equal minimum wage for all workers fare better than those that don’t. More restaurant growth, higher gross sales, and often a higher tipping percentage are seen, meaning that when servers aren’t dependent on tips, they and the restaurants they work in actually perform better.
Keep Tipping But Get Rid of Inequality
Tipping is not the issue the restaurant industry faces today. The fact that servers need to rely on tips to support themselves is giving the practice of rewarding good service a bad stigma. The 43 states that have a lower minimum wage for tipped employees need to follow suit of the seven states that have it right by doing away with the unfair minimum wage.
After that, tipping can resume its role as a bonus to superior wait staff rather than a reliance servers have to support themselves. In that case, it’s a win-win for customers who will continue to receive incentivized service with control over how much they tip and also for employees who don’t have to worry about making ends meet if they don’t receive enough in tips. Tipping and equality are two things that belong in our restaurants; fortunately, we can have both.