The Catastrophic Impact of the Increased Pressure to Tip

Jenni Young, Staff Writer

Within the past couple of years, food services around the nation have started presenting the option to tip as an inescapable part of the checkout process. Technology has made it easier than ever before to include a tip option before paying for a service, regardless of whether the worker’s service is deserving of that extra financial boost. For food workers, this new phenomenon has been fantastic. But under the surface, problematic managing practices in the workforce go supported as we fail to recognize the purpose of tips. Many Americans are unaware that federal law allows restaurants to under-pay servers below the minimum wage, compensating with the expected boost that comes from tips. When we are supporting the tipping phenomenon, we are supporting this devious custom. This yields a complex, unsettling issue in the workforce that all of us, as everyday customers, need to wake up to. 

To start, the history of tipping in America is a very concerning and uncomfortable topic. When slavery was ended, many Americans who were previously enslaved worked in menial positions such as waiters/waitresses, barbers, or servants. Several of these workers would not be paid by their employers due to the common excuse that guests would offer tips instead. Knowing that the stemming point of this social phenomenon comes from such a discriminatory position is repulsive. Writer Kristina Rowe states that the friction of tipping “got passed on to the customer, along with the burden of subsidizing wages for food service workers, which was already a fraught issue.” Employers in the workforce should carry the responsibility of paying their employees a sufficient wage, and employers cannot keep making excuses to use the norm of tipping as a means to achieve that. As a rising generation of Americans, we are constantly looking for ways to progress our society to become a better place. Yet, the historical history of tipping has gone unacknowledged. But, it’s not too late. If consumers start taking action, the fire of these circumstances will burn out. 

Some argue that tipping has a positive effect on both the customer and worker. One worker states, “If you tip well, I will absolutely remember your name, your face, what you drink, and your little intricacies about what you prefer and don’t prefer, and you will absolutely get better service… end of story.” Nevertheless, if everybody starts to tip because of the increase of expectations, will a tip hold any special value in our society? I previously worked at Cold Stone Creamery, and know from experience that a majority of people tip most workers, no matter what good service they do or do not receive. This gives no incentive to act in a positive manner again, because either way, you get a tip. 

Consumers drive the car to determine the quality of service stores feel they must provide or not. If we want to keep tipping as a drive for better customer service, we must only tip those that demonstrate the very best of it. Etiquette educator Karen Thomas, says that it’s important to look beyond the concept of “that’s what I’m paying for,” and instead consider what you’re receiving from the service and what the person has done to perform it.” Are most of us considering a job well done when we tip? Or is it the cautious press of an intimidating button? Consider that the next time you see a tip option as part of a service checkout and make a difference by actively choosing whether or not to tip a worker based on your customer experience. As we do this, we can bring back the incentive for workers to perform above and beyond in their positions, as well as probe employers to consider raising wages for all workers, when they realize tipping is not a steady source of wage.