Tip Ethics Are More Critical Than You Thought

She needs that 20%

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.

13 thoughts on “Tip Ethics Are More Critical Than You Thought

  1. I have and always will tip according to the service I am given. If you give poor service, I will give a smaller tip but I still tip.

    Rarely do I feel it necessary to deny a tip. I can remember two times it happened. One more recently than the last. The first I was in Las Vegas at a buffet and the waitress ignored us for an hour or so after she gave us our first drinks. The second time was in the past couple of months at an Applebees. I gave the money the money to pay for dinner and he never returned with my change so I could tip him. He wound up with less than a dollar in tip because he wouldn’t give me my change. I had a five dollar bill with his name on it.

    There obviously needs to be something done about the lower minimum wage for waitresses and waiters. People need to be able to survive.

  2. I can’t think of any time I’ve had such poor service, I’ve even thought about reducing the tip, much less forgetting about it altogether. If it’s THAT BAD, then the tip should be to avoid that restaurant, which is worth tipping that waiter.

  3. Though I tip well (typically 20 percent or more), I would suggest the numbers are a bit off. I know many in the service industry that under-report their cash tips (often employers will estimate it’s 10 percent of each waiter/waitress’s sales each day and that’s what will get reported to the IRS). Bartenders do the same as well.

      • I meant about the numbers living below the poverty line, not the hourly wage. When I was in the food service industry, in addition to our low hourly wage, we had to report a specific percentage of our sales as our tips, which are taxable income, just like the hourly wage. By under-reporting tips, your getting additional income without paying income tax on it. The result is that the reported income is lower (sometimes significantly) than actual income, which could place the earner in a lower income bracket than they truly belong in.

  4. Some years ago I paid the rent by waiting tables. It’s a difficult way to make a living: rush-rush high pressure, hard on the back, etc., for very low wages. That’s why I always over-tip. Been there, done that.

  5. I always tip well. If the service is REALLY crap, you get a note with a small tip, telling you WHY exactly I tipped poorly. I have waited tables and been complimented on my service, even going so far as to let management know they loved me, but STILL left me $1 or less. Some people are tacky about tipping. And if you get bad service but don’t tell the server WHY his/her tip sucks, that server will never improve AND might not take the hint to find a different profession. I should also add “As G-d is my witness, I will never wait tables again.”

  6. I think many of the people here are missing the point. People should be paid what they are worth. What is it worth to take your order, bring you food and ensure your coffee cup is full? This service cannot be worth much more than minimum wage. Many servers make $50 an hour. Does this make sense?
    Why is tipping based on a percentage of the bill? If a waitress brings me a $150 bottle of wine did they work harder than if they brought me a $25 bottle of wine? Do they deserve a bigger tip? I don’t think so.
    Restaurants know what waiters and waitresses are worth and that is why they are paid minimum wage. servers are a dime a dozen. It is a job that you take when you don’t have an education or when you don’t want to take on a real job.
    It is the restrauts job to pay their staff – not the patrons.

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