Why We Should End Tipping

In the United States, employees get basic workplace protections – at least in theory. They make a minimum wage, and if workers encounter sexual harassment or other discrimination, they have plenty of tools to fight back.

But the country’s 2.5 million servers are a glaring exception. Many say they’ve compromised feeling comfortable and safe to get tips. After all, as tipped employees, they’re often depending on customers for a large part of their pay.

And most customers know their power.

Some even take disturbing liberties, like making sexual comments or groping their servers. No wonder the restaurant industry sees five times the sexual harassment cases as other industries.

This reality leaves young women especially vulnerable. Half of all servers are younger than 25, and 70 percent are female.

Small-town Minnesota bartender Ashley Lewis tells The New York Times:

On top of the sexual inappropriateness, race is brought up, so I’ve heard, “I’ve never been with a black girl,” and “You’re hot for a black chick,” and “Ooh Hot Chocolate is working tonight.” It’s really hard to come back with a witty quip when I feel angry and violated.

Lewis says she’s had a customer ask to marry her. West Virginian Brittany Gilbert had a man grab her hand and give her his number when his wife went to the bathroom. Neither said anything because they needed the tip money.

As the Times notes, tips often reflect looks instead of good service. Blonde women with big breasts frequently earn the most compared to other servers, according to a 2009 study by Cornell University. And women of color tend to get fewer tips than white women.

This objectification is unacceptable, no matter who the server is.

Tipping is already a complicated issue

The Department of Labor recently ended public comment for a proposal that could potentially let employers pocket their employees’ tips. Specifically, the pending rule overturned 2011 legislation that stopped companies from collecting their workers’ tips and redistributing them.

In theory, this means that back-of-the-house workers like dishwashers and cooks could get a portion of the tips. However, a number of labor groups think that this could lead to wage theft instead.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates  “employers would pocket $5.8 billion in tips earned by tipped workers each year.”

Take Action!

A Care2 petition asking the department to go back on its proposal has gathered more than 56,000 signatures.

“Servers rely on tips for their livelihood whether they’re making $2.50 an hour or $7.25 an hour,” writes the Care2 team. “While hourly cooks and dishwashers should get a piece of that pie, these new regulations are not the answer.”

For many workers, tipping seems to offer the chance of a better life: provide good service and they’ll get paid handsomely for it. They don’t have to depend on the low wages restaurants offer, instead, they can take advantage of their customers’ deeper pockets.

However, the reality is bleaker. Equally competent servers get paid differently, depending on how they look and how much they endure. There’s also the problem of wage theft; most tipped employees who don’t end up making the minimum wage don’t get paid the difference, even though they should.

Customers shouldn’t have that much power. We should end tipping — or at least rethink how we do it.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo/Flickr

115 comments

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 months ago

A good server can make really good money in tips. I know if we get good service, we tip generously.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Everyone needs a living wage.

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KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

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Debbie B
Past Member 3 months ago

@margaret no @luna is right in california they get paid minimum wage which is 10-12 dollars an hour and thats not including tips tips are just bonuses

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Margaret G
Margaret G3 months ago

The practice of tipping seems, to me, to be just great for the employers, who get away with paying worse-than-starvation wages. I would prefer to pay more upfront for my food and know that the servers are warning a living wage

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Margaret G
Margaret G3 months ago

Is Luna S, who hails from the “red” portion of California, aware that the minimum wage for food servers is $2.13 per hour? One server told me that he sees only $1 per hour of that immorally low amount.

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Angela J
Angela J3 months ago

Thanks

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