The real reason you should be a great tipper

How many of us have careers in which our perceived value and take-home pay fluctuate from hour to hour, day ...

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 3:45 PM
Updated: Aug 23, 2018 3:45 PM

How many of us have careers in which our perceived value and take-home pay fluctuate from hour to hour, day to day, and are dependent solely on the kindness of strangers whom we will probably never see again? This is the reality for the majority of tipped workers (employees who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips, according to the US Department of Labor) in the hospitality industry.

Tipped workers are forced to accept that their worth and performance are being assessed by customers rather than by the employers who hire them and cut their checks.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Compensation and benefits

Food and beverage industry

Food and drink

Labor and employment

Minimum wage

Restaurant and food service industry

Restaurant industry

Restaurants

Wages and salaries

The new "Tip the Bill" challenge -- encouraging customers to leave the total amount of their bill as gratuity -- that's been growing on social media this year has aimed to show how crucial tips are to those in the industry whose employers don't pay a living wage. It's helped to make clear that instead of tipping from a standpoint of superiority or power, customers should do it in a way that makes them allies in the fight to achieve fairer treatment for tipped workers.

I have been in the service industry for more than 15 years, occupying every position one can hold in the "front of the house" -- from bussing, to serving and bartending, to managing. I recently moved to California, which -- along with Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington -- pays tipped workers the full minimum wage.

But most states have a two-tiered minimum wage system, where tipped workers have a lower minimum wage than nontipped workers. Some states -- like Texas -- set minimum wages for tipped workers at the lowest level mandated by the federal government -- $2.13 an hour.

When I earned a sub-minimum tipped wage, I struggled to earn enough in tips to supplement a nonexistent paycheck. For years I waited tables and my checks would literally read $0.00 after deductions. As a server in Oakland, I no longer have to live off tips alone. I am 32 years old and this is my first time receiving a steady, reliable paycheck every two weeks. For a single mom with a three-year-old daughter, it makes all the difference.

Diners can help tipped workers struggling to make ends meet by letting restaurant owners know -- through Yelp or OpenTable reviews, for example, or by talking directly to the restaurant owners -- that fair wages, paid sick days, and access to promotions are important to you as a consumer.

Encourage them to join other restaurants nationwide that are taking the "high road to profitability," and to support One Fair Wage -- a campaign that advocates for the same full minimum wage for all tipped and nontipped workers (I volunteer for this campaign myself, appearing at community meetings and before lawmakers, to explain what living off tips means). Spend your money with businesses that take care of their workers and have diverse workplaces.

Until we are treated as true professionals and are paid professional wages, with benefits as the norm, tipping continues to be necessary. When possible, tip in cash at 20% of your pre-tax restaurant or bar bill. While it is illegal for employers to pocket tips, wage theft does happen. It's easier for unscrupulous employers to skim tips from credit card payments than from cash directly in someone's pocket.

And for women of color like me, who make up 21% of the restaurant industry, this is especially important because we are paid some of the lowest wages. For example, in California, where I work, women of color only make 71% of what white men earn in the restaurant industry, according to a 2015 report by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Raising the tipped wage to the full minimum wage across all states is not just a matter of economic justice, but also one of gender and racial equity. So, until the restaurant industry is fully equitable, tip your servers and bartenders extra if they are women of color, because others will likely tip way less.

Also, people need to understand that it is common practice for servers to share tips with other support staff -- the dishwashers, bussers, hosts, bartenders, and others who all contribute to a pleasant dining experience. So when the bill comes and it's time to tip, round up -- not down -- when you can.

If you received poor service, punishing your server by refusing to tip will not necessarily correct the problem. Too often, the issue is outside of the server's control: an understaffed front of the house or kitchen, poor management, or a myriad of other business decisions can lead to a perception of inadequate service.

Being a generous tipper is one way to be an ally of the restaurant workers, but the more people understand the reality of living on a server's wages, the more likely we are to transform the industry's wage policies.

For example, when I moved to a new city with a job as a server, it was extremely stressful -- really, next to impossible -- to find housing. Landlords do not see tips as provable or stable income, and a check that reads $0.00 doesn't help you compete with other applicants for an apartment. Applying for a mortgage is completely out of the question, precisely because of our inability to document a steady, predictable income.

While working in both Michigan and Chicago, my wages were so low that I was eligible for food stamps even while working multiple jobs. Factors outside of my control, such as the weather, the time of year, how quickly the kitchen made the food I was serving, and the section my manager assigned me to for the shift all affected my daily earnings.

On top of that, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other implicit biases people have don't magically disappear when they go out to dinner. As a queer woman of color, I have experienced all of the above regularly from customers, co-workers, and management.

When your main source of income is tips, you have to tolerate unacceptable behavior and advances from people with a smile, just so you can make ends meet. Some workers feel they must silently endure being harassed by their co-workers and managers to keep their job. A 2014 study by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Forward Together found that states with a two-tiered wage system for tipped versus nontipped workers have twice the rate of sexual harassment.

Paying a fair wage is also good for the industry. States that have implemented One Fair Wage have higher restaurant sales per employee, higher job growth, and tipping averages that equal or exceed those in two-tiered states.

Finally, to support tipped workers, become a member of Diners United, the consumer association of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United. Diners United mobilizes restaurant diners in support of livable wages and improved working conditions for the nation's nearly 13 million restaurant workers.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1011197

Reported Deaths: 16524
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1359292129
Lake666181167
Allen58254802
Hamilton46498467
St. Joseph44559617
Elkhart36044510
Vanderburgh32333481
Tippecanoe28037260
Johnson25196446
Hendricks23960360
Porter22985367
Madison18820410
Clark18609253
Vigo17530303
Monroe15319200
LaPorte15230252
Delaware15127264
Howard14801290
Kosciusko12410149
Hancock11773176
Bartholomew11695180
Warrick11305189
Floyd11138215
Wayne11023253
Grant10131220
Morgan9506177
Boone8965116
Dubois8281131
Henry8252153
Dearborn823493
Noble8064106
Marshall7981135
Cass7556123
Lawrence7479172
Shelby7216119
Jackson700990
Gibson6614115
Harrison651892
Huntington6447100
Knox6427106
DeKalb6363100
Montgomery6293112
Miami595298
Putnam584179
Clinton579271
Whitley568455
Steuben566876
Wabash5363104
Jasper536180
Jefferson513297
Ripley501987
Adams483777
Daviess4684115
Scott439875
Greene427296
Clay426960
Wells426088
White420964
Decatur4177104
Fayette407387
Jennings390262
Posey377544
LaGrange361778
Washington360451
Randolph3476100
Spencer340743
Fountain336160
Sullivan330852
Starke319171
Owen315571
Fulton313468
Orange295064
Jay285546
Franklin266443
Perry265752
Rush263832
Carroll262434
Vermillion259854
Parke232029
Pike229643
Tipton229059
Blackford195042
Pulaski184657
Crawford160125
Newton159848
Benton151217
Brown147047
Martin139319
Switzerland135311
Warren121416
Union107216
Ohio84613
Unassigned0544

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1524169

Reported Deaths: 23955
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1646591696
Cuyahoga1468932459
Hamilton1056051431
Montgomery742551279
Summit620221111
Lucas56539917
Butler51696718
Stark468601064
Lorain35783585
Warren32903377
Mahoning30927693
Clermont28271330
Lake27179448
Delaware24263164
Licking24027294
Trumbull22993561
Fairfield22438247
Greene22414326
Medina22149313
Clark19920354
Richland18643292
Portage18073252
Wood17505224
Allen16054279
Miami15627306
Muskingum14890185
Columbiana14153274
Wayne13852271
Tuscarawas12777311
Marion12016180
Scioto11497162
Pickaway11386142
Erie10951184
Ross10614203
Ashtabula9809204
Lawrence9783153
Hancock9741155
Belmont9333209
Geauga9008157
Jefferson8600199
Huron8427143
Union822259
Washington8114144
Sandusky7875151
Athens779579
Knox7766144
Darke7695158
Seneca7405145
Ashland6993130
Auglaize681799
Shelby6540115
Brown640091
Crawford6292130
Defiance6241105
Mercer617893
Fulton605196
Highland602899
Guernsey596371
Madison595678
Logan594596
Clinton585193
Preble5730125
Putnam5354110
Williams530888
Perry519863
Champaign514273
Jackson512473
Ottawa490586
Coshocton488383
Morrow460558
Pike435067
Fayette430363
Hardin420780
Gallia419367
Adams417995
Van Wert374082
Henry366972
Holmes3653125
Hocking357582
Wyandot325262
Carroll304365
Paulding280747
Meigs267251
Monroe216254
Noble201247
Morgan194333
Harrison182646
Vinton167225
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 44°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
Huntington
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 44°
Decatur
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 44°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
After a frosty start to the day, temperatures warm into the middle 50s under a mixture of clouds and sun.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events