Why We Should Give Tipped Workers Good Tips

Every so often, a family member (usually my mom or me) is out with a friend, and the family member argues with the friend about how much of a tip to give when we’re at a restaurant. My mom and I argue for a high tip, while our friends sometimes argue for a significantly lower tip or no tip at all, regardless of the quality of service.

After seeing what minimum wages are for tipped employees in every state, I feel both vindicated and saddened. I feel vindicated that my stance on this topic is such that the higher tips mean higher wages for workers, but also saddened that these workers earn poor wages without tips.

Actually, the term “poor wages” would be a disgraceful understatement of how some tipped workers are paid before tips. Given that numerous states have a minimum wage for tipped workers at an utterly shameful $2.13 an hour, it’s the tips of consumers that could have a major impact on the economic well-being of people. So for consumers in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina, you all had better give generous tips if you feel that $2.13 is too low of a wage for people to earn.

While I just directed my last sentence at the consumers of six states where tipped workers only earn $2.13 an hour before tips, consumers from the other U.S. states and territories aren’t off the hook. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

I say this because many tipped workers earn below a living wage. The MIT Living Wage Calculator says that the living wage in the United States is $15.12 per hour for a family of four.[1] Waiters and waitresses (a form of tipped work) could earn a wage around or above the 75th percentile without having a living wage (national living wage is $15.12 per hour while the 75th percentile pay for a waiter/waitress is $13.30 per hour).[2] If we want our tipped workers to earn living wages, we need to give them generous tips.

When I bring up these points, some people say that it’s not fair for us, the consumers, to compensate for the fact that tipped workers are given poor wages. While I agree that it’s not fair, the injustice of giving tipped workers a little extra compensation pales in comparison to the injustice that would happen if we all gave low tips, or no tips at all. Even if certain employers don’t pay the kinds of wages they should, it doesn’t excuse us from paying the kinds of tips we should. The ultimate injustice with tipped workers is that the people who serve us would earn so little money that they couldn’t serve themselves and their families.

It’s our choice. Do we want humane and living wages for our tipped workers? If so, it’s time for us, the consumers, to step up our games. And yes, that means I’m going to continue paying my 20%+ tips.


[1] I should note that this is the national average. The living wage varies widely between states (and even municipalities within states) depending on factors such as cost-of-living. For example, the living wage in New York City for one adult and one child is $30.86 per hour while the living wage for two adults and two children in Boise, Idaho is $15.68 per hour. Source: http://livingwage.mit.edu/articles/19-new-data-calculating-the-living-wage-for-u-s-states-counties-and-metro-areas

[2] Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes353031.htm

31 Replies to “Why We Should Give Tipped Workers Good Tips”

  1. Sadly, the “food (service) industry” will never change until we change the whole tipping mindset. As long as we continue the practice, the employer won’t make up the difference.

    That being said:
    I seldom give less than 18% and sometimes I give as much as 50%. So yeah, I should practice what I preach.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think the solution is to give lower tips or no tip at all (which is my understanding of what you are proposing). In the end, all that does is hurt the workers financially in some cases (Do we want people to really earn less than $3 an hour?). Additionally there are some states that cover the difference between the wage earned and the minimum wage (as I recall…I wrote my original post awhile ago) so giving a lower tip won’t really do anything in those cases.

      Like

      1. Yep! I totally agree that the answer is the employer giving a living wage to the employee. But I don’t think all employers will do that out of the goodness of their hearts. Call me cynical for saying that. There need to be laws mandating such wages, and in order to get the laws, pressure needs to be put on lawmakers.

        Like

  2. So, I agree but disagree. First of all – I think it’s absolutely SHAMEFUL that the minimum wage for tipped workers is so low!!! Wowzers. In Canada, at least we don’t have to worry about that. But an employees salary should never be DEPENDENT on other people’s generosity. At that point, why not just sit out in the street and beg for money?

    That makes me angry. Instead the companies pass on their expenses to their customers, most who probably don’t have a lot of money to begin with because they’re also servers and common people who also get shit on in the economy. There needs to be some major reforms here.

    I always try to tip, but I generally stick around 10%, and my tips do change based on the quality of the service. In Europe and abroad tips work as they should – dependent on quality of service. Man that makes me angry about that minimum wage for tipped employees. WOW.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that it is shameful that the minimum wage for tipped workers is so low. Anyone who’s worked in food service as a waiter or waitress, for example, can affirm that the work they do is NOT easy at all! You should be angry.

      I anticipated that there would be some division about the attitude that we, as consumers, take towards these low wages that tipped workers earn. Obviously, the first and foremost solution is to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to a living wage, and then let tips determine how much else they earn beyond that base living wage. In the absence of a living wage for tipped workers, my suggestion is to tip generously. But, the burden is then on consumers, some of whom don’t have tons of money either. Thankfully, you all abroad don’t have to worry about those choices.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 🙂 Without our gracious tips, those restaurant workers would be unable to pay their rent or meet their basic needs of living.

    It is quite unfortunate that a lot of people do not understand the woes of living off of a minimum wage salary.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, Renard. And that’s what tugs at me. Even with tips, it’s difficult to make ends meet. Without them, it’s impossible.

      You’re right about the woes of living off a minimum wage salary. I don’t think it would be possible to live in New York City (where I am) or many other places with a minimum wage salary. Many in government would probably be too scared by special interests to address this, so this consumer, at least, feels a responsibility to tip generously.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree with that overall, though I’m concerned that the minimum wage in many places (as it stands) isn’t enough to be a living wage, even once you add tips. I doubt that $7.25 plus tips in the DC suburbs of Virginia is enough to make ends meet there, unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For some reason this comment landed in spam…

        But you’re right. And it’s even more atrocious where the minimum wage for tipped workers is lower than the regular minimum wage. I don’t see how someone can be expected to pay bills with wages that low.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am like you. I tip 20% or more if I really liked the service. My daughter works in the serving industry and has told me stories of her working her ass off for a group of 15 because they were running her ragged, and they don’t leave more of a tip based on the fact that there’s a percentage of a tip charged with the bill. This group was her only table for the night, and she lost whatever tips she could’ve made from other tables. It’s ridiculous.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Paula-Thank you so much for adding your insights through your daughter, who was in the service industry. Stories like your daughter’s show why it really is important to give good tips. Yes, we need employers to pay more to our tipped workers. But we also need to tip our tipped workers quite nicely for a job well done.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kally! Feel free to reblog this and link it back to my blog. One of the little-known things (at least in the states) is how little our servers are paid and how much their livelihoods can rely on our tips.

      Like

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