America is on the tipping point of tipping

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Servers in the United States routinely rely on tips, rather than wages from their employees.

Sara Stager | Staff Writer

Jan. 26, 2023

The system of tipping employees in the United States is a outdated and inconsistent way to pay workers. It is a sneaky way for employers to pay their staff less than they deserve.

The minimum wage on a federal level is $7.25, meaning the least amount an employer can pay in this country is $7.25. The exception is the food industry. They are able to pay certain members of their staff significantly less. Restaurants can get away with this exploitative practice by implementing tipping.

Customers, not the employer, are then responsible for making up a large percentage of the employee’s income. This puts pressure on customers to leave large tips in order for the employee to have a decent pay. The dynamics between server, employee and management create a constant cycle with the only party benefiting from it being the employer.

Many can relate to the struggle of working a minimum wage job and relying on tips to make a decent paycheck. The frustration that comes with all the hard work put in to keep up with a busy and stressful shift only to be let down by the lack of tips can be heart-wrenching.

It’s a story shared by many.
One anonymous student, when asked about the tipping situation at their workplace, remarked, “My actual wage was close to $3. The inconsistency of receiving tips was a problem. I never knew how much money I was going to make because of it and if working a particular shift was worth it at the end.”

This also shows that while tipping can, in theory, be a good thing for servers, the inconsistency of customers tipping creates a sporadic history of paychecks. The inability to know how much money is going to be made on a shift, makes budgeting extremely challenging.

This is especially problematic given the current economic climate.

This situation could all be avoided if a higher, livable wage was set for establishments so that tipping is not desperately needed in order to make wages “fair.”

By raising the minimum wage that includes restaurant workers, servers will no longer have to guess and worry if their pay is going to be higher or lower than usual due to inconsistent tipping from customers. Their wage will now be more consistent, and worry can be alleviated.

I have devised two possible solutions to rectify this ongoing problem of properly compensating servers.

The first solution is that a slightly higher minimum wage could be set so that tips are not needed as badly to make a wage adequate. Instead of the $2 or $3 minimum wage that it currently is with servers, how about doubling it?

This in turn, would mean that most of the worker’s pay comes from their employer and does not rely on the kindness of strangers. The tips could be treated as a bonus, rather than a crucial and unreliable part of one’s income.

The second solution would involve raising the minimum wage high enough that a tipping system is unnecessary. The increase in wages would compensate for the difference for the missed tips. This would also mean that the employer would be responsible for paying their employees instead of relying on their customers.

There are pros and cons to both proposals. Servers, like the rest of us, want to make the most money possible. The removal of tipping could provide stability, but could also mean making less money.

Tipping also provides a level of feedback for servers. If they do a good job, they are compensated for it, as one would if they worked a sales job with commission.

The necessity of the current tipping system also only primarily exists in this form here in the United States. In Europe, while there still is a tipping system, it is nowhere near as stressed nor as high as it is here. This shows that while it might be difficult to initially change the way that American retail and food service industries are economically set up, it is not impossible. It is possible to do so as there are other places in the world that use a much milder system of tipping.

Overall, we need to do something about properly compensating the employees that serve us our food. This is a nationwide problem that can be fixed. People should not have to be guessing or stressing about how much their paycheck will be during a shift or multiple shifts because of how generous a person decides to be on a given day.

Change, and I’m not talking about the metallic coins that people use to leave cheap tips, needs to happen.