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Just a Tip: Your Loose Change Is Important

As a barista, there is nothing more disheartening than making several highly personalized drinks for a group of people (especially during a rush) and seeing them choose the “no tip” option when checking out.


Before I started working at a coffee shop, (and instead worked at a retail store without a tipping system) I must admit, I often questioned the importance of adding an extra dollar or two to my bill: “Won’t the workers get paid anyway?” While it is true that your servers will see cash deposited in their bank accounts regardless of if you tip, that extra dollar you and others contribute may be what’s paying their rent. 


❤ Tip Jar ❤ | Conjuring Creations

Credit: Conjuring Creations


Often, restaurants and other eateries do not make enough money to simply raise the wages of their workers. So, as these paychecks may not be enough to maintain a comfortable standard of living, tips are sometimes the final push to provide financial security.


I can attest that I, and my coworkers, use our tips to buy meals as well as other necessities. For myself in particular, using physical tips (dollars and coins) for food and other essential goods allows me to save more money in the long run, as I’m not laying a finger on my digital bank account. I’ve noticed a significant and positive change over time as I utilize tips for smaller purchases instead of allowing them to compile in my bank account and subtract from my paychecks and other saved money. 



Tips are also a means of encouraging good service, as those who perform at their best may earn more than those who give little care to their duties. I personally can concede that being tipped encourages me to work hard and keep a good attitude; especially during a hard day. 


At my place of work, we split the tips evenly, which I appreciate—this creates a sense of teamwork, in that we all must play our parts to the best of our abilities, and we may all reap the benefits. 


On the other hand, at businesses where tips are not split, certain people can be left out in a way that may discourage them from doing their best. For example, at a place that allows tipping on an individual basis, a lackluster waiter may make a sizable amount of cash, whereas a cook in the back (who put the effort into making the food), will receive nothing. 


This, as well as a recent decrease in immigration, and the grueling nature of being a cook, has led to an intense shortage of kitchen workers. Although cooks are often paid a higher base wage than servers, tips (that only the servers receive), have created a significant gap in pay. Tips are also greatly under-reported as they are often paid in cash, meaning the server-cook wage gap may be even more extreme than people realize. The Washington Post posits that tips may add over “...$10 an hour to servers’ salaries.” 


Unlike my place of work where we split tips, the Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t allow this at conventional eateries. This law states that tips may be pooled and subsequently split, but only to workers who “regularly” receive tips– which means cooks are not included. Any attempt to share tips with cooks or other non-servers is illegal by law. Therefore, one of the only solutions to better provide for cooks is to raise their salaries, although as mentioned earlier, that’s usually not an option for these eateries.


A restaurant owner who was interviewed by the New York Times told about his experience with eliminating tips. Some workers said this practice made their work more meaningful, as they weren’t in monetary competition with their coworkers. On the negative side of things though, customers communicated that they would rather tip (particularly to acknowledge good service or to dissuade unsatisfactory service) rather than pay a service charge.


Ohio Employer Law Blog: Don't confuse “tips” and “service charges” for  hospitality employees

Credit: Ohio Employer Law Blog


In this case, the service charge employed by this restaurant was akin to an additional tax (17% at that) and was split between all of the workers– essentially increasing everyone’s wage. So, he solved the issue of higher wages but created tension with some customers who wanted to see exactly who their money was going to.


Customers like to have control, which is demonstrated by their preference for tipping over service fees (80% saying they prefer to tip). They can choose the amount, if none at all, they’d like to give the employees instead of paying a baseline fee that is split evenly between all the employees. 


Whether it is a service fee or a tip, one thing is made quite clear: those in the service industry seem to require an additional means of support. The fact that concepts like tipping even exist goes to show a need to provide additional appreciation, an attempt to fill a hole not already filled by salary alone. 


But how do we provide for all workers, not just the servers? In regards to fairness and equal pay, a service charge seems to satisfy those issues. However, a service charge may be somewhat inaccessible for people: whether it is too high, not substantial enough when ultimately split, or somewhat mysterious to the customers in regards to how they work or who they go to. To me, a method of pooling and splitting tips, as well as tweaking the law to include cooks in the tipping system, may be the best solution.


In the end, it’s up to you, but remember, your pocket change could make a big difference.

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Tags: Business Wage Gap Barista Restaurant Tipping Cooks Salary


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