Here’s why you need to tip, and generously: Waiters and waitresses are screwed if you don’t.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the national subminimum wage, or “tipped minimum wage,” for employees receiving tips, is at its lowest inflation-adjusted level ever. The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 and has been since 1991. Allowing for inflation, it is at its lowest point since it was established in 1966. While 6.3 percent of all workers live below the poverty line, 16.7 percent of tipped waiters are officially poor. Nationally, the subminimum wage is only 29.4 percent of regular minimum wages, the lowest share on record.
Since the hourly wage paid to tipped workers is lower, allowing for inflation, than it was in the Sixties, tipped employees have only survived the last four decades through the kindness of their customers—some of them, anyway—who have gradually made 20% the standard tip rate.
As journalist Howard Owen writes on his blog “Truthiness,”
“Unless your server spills soup in your lap or asks for your wife or husband’s phone number, it’d probably be nice to tip generously. He or she probably needs it.”
Call it an ethics tip.