Full disclosure: I have been a tipped employee for more than 25 years.
“One of my friends said she never tips. You don’t have to. If I do, I tip a dollar or two.” One of my children said. Her classmate is wrong.
My children tip. They always have. They have seen us tip when we go out to eat. They of course, know that daddy’s tips buy them things.
In the US, you need to tip. Period. Tip a minimum of 10%. These days, 15% is pretty standard. While tipping is voluntary, so is eating in a restaurant.
Legally you do not have to tip. But legally servers can be paid $2.13 an hour if they are tipped. How much is $2.13 an hour? For servers at modest restaurants, think IHOP and Applebee’s, $2.13 an hour does not cover the taxes on their tips. A server at either of these places can end up OWEING the shop money on payday to cover the taxes on their tips. $2.13 (up from $2.08 as of 1997) is a part of federal and state law (in most states). The “tip minimum wage” was created in 1967 1 through lobbying by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA will tell you they are looking out for the ‘mom and pops’ of the restaurant world. I quick look at their positions, lobbying, and fundraising will tell you they mean mom and pops like McDonalds and TGI Fridays. The ‘tip minimum boils down to this. “If I were paid minimum wage, I would make too much money.”
Think about that for a second. The US government bailed out banks and their leaders collected millions of dollars in bonuses. But, if I were paid the legal minimum wage, I would make too much money.
For most restaurants, not only do they enjoy paying a large portion of their staff slave wages, it is their policy to fire servers who do not make enough in tips. Under the tip minimum law, an employer needs to make up the difference between the tip minimum and the minimum wage for employees who do not make enough in tips. So, the policy is, if you can’t make about $6.00 an hour in tips, you must be a poor server and you are terminated. Tipping is a poor way to pay a staff. I make more than $2.00 in tips for every $1.00 in salary I make. Guess what? Known good tippers get better service. Freakonomics studied tipping. They found the disparity in tipping based on race and gender of the server and customer to be large enough and repeatable enough to be discriminatory. 2 In a nutshell, white female servers make more than other servers given the same customers. African American male servers make much worse than their co-workers. Likewise, white male customers tip better than other groups. African American male customers significantly less. In essence, two people eating the same meal pay different prices based on race.
Here are your options.
Tip at least 15%. 20% for good service. Learn to tell the difference between a bad server and a slow kitchen.
Don’t go to restaurants or order delivery. Really, eat at home.
But by no means tip poorly or not at all. I will be blunt. Servers have great memories. They also take notes. If you like waiting a long time for a luke warm, small portion and a bad table, leave pocket change. A little delivery secret. Where I deliver pizzas has a known, long time, poor tipper. Their driveway is ALWAYS to slick with snow in bad weather. Always. They are the first people to be told no one will be driving to them in the snow. Neat how that works out.
Oh, floating around online you can find articles on ‘the racist history of tipping’. They really need to learn history better. Gratuities pre-date the slavery of Africans by about 100 years. Being a server was a good paying position for mostly whites until the 1920’s. It was still a good paying position until the 1970’s and the tip minimum.