Do you suddenly feel pressured to leave a tip everywhere you go and for almost everything you buy? Are you unsure, frazzled even, after running in to buy a cup of coffee and being prompted by a screen to choose how much of a tip you want to leave?
For a very long time, there has been a basic understanding that tips make up the bulk of the money that servers earn. The minimum wage in Rhode Island for tipped employees is $3.89. Their tips account for most of their income and we, the customer, understand that we offset that low hourly wage with an average tip of 20 percent.
And it’s not only sit-down restaurants. We have also long been accustomed to tipping the hairdresser, the barber, the housekeeping staff in a hotel, the manicurist, the cab driver, the valet and the pizza delivery person. Coffee shops and ice cream places often had a small cup or a big jar on the counter labeled “college fund,” a friendly and pressure-free way to welcome tips. Lots of people would throw their change in there, others would throw in bills. No one was obligated to answer a specific question about tipping right in front of the person who just scooped their ice cream or made their coffee.
This change in tipping expectations is largely a consequence of electronic payments becoming the norm. A feature of the machines increasingly used to process credit and debit card transactions is to ask customers if they’d like to leave a tip. Usually, the options are 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent, “customize” or “no tip.” This means that in order to complete a transaction at almost any establishment that serves food and beverages, the tip question is required. The transaction literally won’t go through and the receipt won’t print until the customer answers the question. It can be uncomfortable.
My sense is that this trend of asking the public to tip for so many more things could be headed for a bit of a backlash, not only because it feels like overkill but also because basic expenses have risen so sharply. I recently purchased a bottle of water at the airport. I got the water myself and walked it over to the counter to be rung up. Then I was prompted to leave a tip. For what, exactly?
Of course we are all free to hit the “no tip” option, and occasionally I do, but there are lots of people who can’t bring themselves to do that because of the awkwardness or guilt they feel, knowing that the person standing in front of them will immediately know they pressed the “no tip” button. Customers feel like they are put on the spot. And they are.
There will inevitably be readers who think I’m being ungenerous or cheap, but neither is true. Instead, I’m just raising a topic that people increasingly seem to vent about a lot. They’ll say, “we ordered take-out to save money and now the guy who takes my order over the phone asks me if I want to leave a tip.”
If you’re wondering what most customers do, a young woman working at a local Subway reports that almost no one used to tip and now, since they got the new machines, nearly everyone does. The question is, will those who leave a tip every time but grumble about it afterwards keep giving, or will the fatigue of being asked all the time lead them to finally take the leap and hit that “no tip” button?
Sanzi is the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education and a former educator and school committee member. She writes at Sanzi.substack.com
Some of the machines used for cards are kind of demanding as well. Kay’s Restaurant which is always great, the card reader’s tip screen lists 30%, 25%, or 20% presets… you have to manually change it. Should be 15, 18, or 20%. They serve strong drinks so after a few drinks, tips must be good. I usually tip more anyways, but that should be a personal choice.
Tipping serves one purposes.
If allows "job creators" of both parties the benefit of not paying a fair wage.
Wow...a whole industry that benefits people who don't shop, eat, cook, or clean after themselves but they don't want to pay for the and blame it on the people doing the work.
I suppose paying restaurant staff and other service workers a living wage, so they can pay their rent without grubbing tips, is way too complicated for America.
Minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. Progressives conflate the two. Minimum wage is for students, and young people still living with their parents, and others who haven't developed the skills to make more yet. When I lived with my parents, I didn't need to make a living, my parents provided for me. They developed the skills they needed to afford raising a family and paying a mortgage before they had children.
I do agree that restaurant staff who perform well should make more, and often do, and it is those who provide a good service who are worthy of good tips.
I'm confused by your response. Having read it 5 times really trying I'm interpreting what you've commented is admitting that you both lived with your parents well past the amount of time most should of, but that they also flipped your bill for it all out out affluence.
In response to Automaton Hunter's Feb 3, 3:36am comment, thank you for asking before jumping to conclusions and creating a false narrative. Not that my personal life should matter, but I lived with my parents while attending college part-time which I paid for myself. I was the only one in my family that attended college. I started making minimum wage when I entered the workforce at 16 while still in high school, but increased my value as I gained skills. My parents where not affluent, but had a strong sense of work ethic and a deep sense of personal and family responsibility which they instilled in me and my siblings. I was privileged to have such a strong family unit that supported my growth in my youth.
Anecdotes are not data, Bob.
In response to Derrick's Feb 3, 12:55pm comment, I am not sure what data you are referring to (that would have been helpful), but this conversation was about how minimum wage differs from living wage, and how the ability to grow your personal income comes with hard work, determination, and personal development (as well as the support of a strong family) rather than the entitlement mentality that is more prevalent today. Just as no one is entitled to a tip, the same is true for a living wage. Those things are earned.
Re: RKL Feb 2, 2023 10:55pm
In his State of the Union address in 1934, President Roosevelt stated, "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country." He went on to explain that "by living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level - I mean the wages of decent living." The minimum wage, as a living wage, was one of the cornerstones of his New Deal plan. To me, Roosevelt is clear that the minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage. The policy was well-intentioned, especially as the nation was recovering from the economic disaster that was the Great Depression. Today, though, considering the health of the economy (compared to the Recession and Depression, which both featured high employment), I question whether or not it is ultimately harmful for the very workers it was meant to help. As we seem to be heading for another recession, there is a discussion to be had about this, and other New Deal-era holdovers. In his State of the Union address in 1934, President Roosevelt stated, "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country." He went on to explain that "by living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level - I mean the wages of decent living." The minimum wage, as a living wage, was one of the cornerstones of his New Deal plan. To me, the policy was well-intentioned, especially as the nation was recovering from the economic disaster that was the Great Depression. Today, though, considering the health of the economy (compared to the Recession and Depression, which both featured high employment), I question whether or not it is ultimately harmful for the very workers it was meant to help. There is a discussion to be had about this, and other New Deal-era holdovers. The lack of a living wage is due to decades of Congressional hesitation in raising wage floors, due to concerns over the significant costs it would impose on employers and the economy. Currently, Democrats appear to be focusing solely on one aspect of the minimum wage problem, which is not yielding any results or benefits for workers.
My best story on this topic was at a self-serv coffee shop in the Narragansett area. The cashier pressed a button on the register for a large regular coffee, gave me an empty cup, and turned the 20 inch screen toward me prompting me for a tip. Yes, I felt that sense of awkwardness as the dozen or so customers in line behind me watched as I chose the $0 option, all the while thinking to myself, "are you kidding me?"
Bob, you’re always a class act. No workers rights and you can’t even be bothered to tip $0.88.
Thanks for sharing, Derrick.
Welcome to the discussion.
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