If you’ve ever had the luxury of eating out at a restaurant or having your bags carried for you from the lobby of a hotel up to your room, you’re probably already familiar with the mistress of the service world—tipping.
It’s a conversation consumers and service providers have been having for years. To tip or not to tip? The answer might be more obvious than we think. The act of directly paying the hands that have served you is meant to be a gesture of comradery. When you tip, you’re not just giving someone a little extra cash. You’re showing your appreciation and gratitude.
The next time you find yourself about to exit a restaurant without leaving a few dollars on the table, consider these five reasons on why you should mull over leaving that extra 15 percent after all.
1. Food service workers are often paid less than minimum wage.
According to the United States Department of Labor, minimum wages for tipped employees fluctuate across the map. In some states such as Wyoming and New Jersey, employers are only required to pay their servers the state minimum cash wage. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, this is as little as $2.13 an hour. If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that mandates for all employers to pay their workers above the state minimum cash wage, you could be making a whopping $9.35 like Hawaii or a humble $2.23 in Delaware. Jurisdictions such as California, Washington and Oregon are fortunate enough to be paid the state minimum wage of $12.00 per hour.
2. Some families live exclusively off of their tips.
In some cases, even receiving the minimum wage on a paycheck is out of the question. If your wages get garnished from the government for an inexplicable amount of reasons (i.e. child support, student loans or unpaid taxes) then chances are you will not have enough to pay the bills, let alone put food on the table. In these instances, many people find themselves seeking service jobs in order to make up the difference with tips.
3. More work goes into service jobs than you’d expect.
It’s not just picking up a plate of food from one location and setting it in another. For food service jobs, being a server means bussing and cleaning tables. It looks like running back and forth for refills. It’s sweeping, mopping and taking out the trash 40 hours a week and often with little recognition.
4. No one has ever complained about someone being too generous.
Apart from it just being a kind thing to do, tipping is essentially lending a helping hand to your fellow working class members. The feeling of being generous should be a good thing. Of course, you are not required to tip (unless eating at restaurants that includes gratuity), but the gratitude your server will feel toward your contribution will live on past your meal. It will be reflected in the bills they pay to keep a roof over their heads. It will taste like the dinner they set at the table that night.
5. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Sometimes, it all comes down to putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine you’ve been working 40 hours a week in a diner that’s busier than traffic in L.A. You bus tables, sit patrons down at that table only to have to bus it again. You’re on your feet for eight hours at a time. You’ve been whistled over, snapped at and degraded three times in the first hour of your double shift. You collect your tips at the end of the day, only to find that you’ve made barely enough to buy yourself a coffee for tomorrow’s shift. You put hope in your paycheck coming through on Friday to cover this month’s rent, but then you remember that you live in Wyoming and one 40 hour week barely gets you $70 after taxes.
You’d wish someone had tipped you too.
So the next time you’re about to skimp out on giving that extra 15–20 percent of your bill, take some time to remember not everyone has the luxury of sitting down at a restaurant for a meal. If you ever find yourself lost in this ancient debate again, here’s a helpful piece of advice to keep in your back pocket: If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.