Have you ever wondered why we tip our waiters or delivery person? Why do we tip at all? Tipping is perhaps one of the most “American” customs and it may come as a surprise to the majority of citizens that a good portion of the world does not tip. In fact, in some countries, such as China, Japan, Iceland and Paraguay, tipping is not expected and can be insulting. This brings us back to the question: Why do we tip in the United States?
Tipping in the United States can be seen originating from the early 20th Century. The act was perceived being “un-American” as it was against the principals of a fair and democratic society and economy. Tips were viewed as bribing employees in the service industry to go against the norm by providing larger portions of a meal or drink.
Views on tipping, however, have changed after the 1919
introduction on prohibition which catastrophically impacted restaurants,
hotels and other establishments that lost a good portion of their revenue from
alcoholic beverages. Prohibition not only took away alcohol, but also brought
forth financial troubles for restaurants provoking restaurant managers to
gladly accept tips in order to compensate for the lack of payment towards
servers, initiating the custom of tipping. While tipping is not mandatory, it is
a common practice in America to leave a tip at dining establishments.
tips provide incentive for service workers to provide better service, however
real world studies have demonstrated that there are many factors which effect
tipping. Workers have been tipped at a wide range, often based on factors
outside of service quality such as age, gender race, appearance and breast
size. This not only proves that gratuity is not often linear with quality of
service but is also discriminatory and one of the reasons that gratuity should
argue that tipping is optional and in no way required by a dining
establishment. While this is true, not tipping is highly frowned upon making
tipping essentially paying for the right to leave the establishment “guilt free.” A common argument is that waiters/waitresses earn the majority of their income from
tips. While this may be true in most cases, it is also highly irregular. The
Unites States federal government requires the minimum wage for employees who receive
tips to be $2.13 provided that at least $30 of tips are received by the employee
per month. If the employee does not earn (I emphasize earn as I believe tips
are only to be awarded for extraordinary service) at least $30 in tips the employer
is required to compensate and pay said employee the federal minimum wage of
$7.25 per hour worked.
This brings up the question of why I, as a costumer, should have to compensate for the employer’s lack of pay. Like I mentioned above tipping should be awarded for extraordinary service, not handed out for any service.
Another factor to consider is how much a waiter/waitress really makes if we take into consideration the federal minimum of $2.13. The average waiter at a typically priced restaurant waits around 25-30 tables an hour. The average meal for a couple at such a restaurant ranges from $40 to $45. For our purposes we’ll be using the lower values. Doing the math for a 5-hour diner shift with $2.13 being the federal minimum wage and the average tip being 15 percent of the bill; a waiter earns $760.65. For states such as California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington (state minimum wages are $10, $8.25, $9.25, and $9.47 respectively) which require tipped employees to be paid the state minimum wage (in addition to retaining tips) the employees make much more. The same concept applies for states such as Florida, New York, Arizona, and many more which require employers to pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (as well as retaining tips). These values can go to $1600.00 an hour with some cases going up even higher.
Take some time to reflect on this; is a waiter/waitress, a profession which does not require any skill, knowledge or training really worth over $700 per hour? To put this into perspective a typical paramedic in the United States who went through a basic EMT course as well as completed around 150 hours of training (6 to 9 months) gets paid on average $16 per hour with the lowest being $12 and the highest being $23 an hour (more are paid on the lower end). To add to this, tips are non-taxable.
Simply put serving food is not a profession which is worthy of being paid extra. We need to change our concept of gratuity from what it is right now to what it should be, a gift to be given as one deems fit.