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October 4, 2022

Written by Tatum Mitchell | Opinion Editor

The iPad in your favorite restaurant does what you know very well, and the dreaded question appears: “10%, 15%, 20%” … and the verdict comes after a long and painful pause.

The employee’s face doesn’t change, and you let out the breath you’ve been holding. After a fleeting moment of guilt, the day moves on, your food arrives and all is well.

For the customer, it’s easy to switch from leaving a zero on the top part. For the employee on the other hand, tipping affects both salary and livelihood.

According to the US Department of Labor, employers in Texas are only allowed to pay tipped employees $2.13 an hour. Tipping as a common practice leaves the door open for discrimination and mistreatment of service employees, according to the National Library of Medicine and Sage Journals.

Customers hold the power to pay employees in their hands. You never know what expenses your server has to spend your hard earned money on. Service workers are barely paid enough to survive, and not tipping can have a huge impact on their ability to survive.

The percentage of customers who always tip has steadily declined from 77% in 2019, to 75% in 2021, to 73% in 2022 — according to a study by Credit Cards by Bankrate.

In 2021, the Department of Labor investigated employers in the food service industry and found violations in 85% of investigations. In light of these findings, the Department of Labor renewed a national initiative to hold employers federally accountable and help employees.

My personal suggestion is to leave a basic tip of the normally recommended 20% of the bill. If the service does not meet expectations or you simply cannot afford it, a tip below 20% is acceptable. However, if the quality of service was not up to your standards, it could be due to the fact that the US is suffering from a drastic labor shortage due to COVID-19.

“In April 2022, places to eat and drink still held 794,000 jobs — or 6.4% — below pre-pandemic employment levels. No other industry has a longer path to a full employment recovery,” according to research from the National Restaurant Association.

That said, being able to afford to eat out can be difficult enough, and spending a few dollars more on a tip might not seem feasible. Students face their own financial stress. If you only have a certain amount in your bank account and you wouldn’t be able to afford food plus tip, that’s understandable.

If you’re struggling financially and trying to save money, budgeting for food costs and factoring in tips is a good solution. As a student, I live on a pretty tight budget. Something that has helped me is putting away loose bills and loose change; I keep them in a separate pocket of my wallet and sometimes use them to leave tips.

Your privilege shows if you think employee welfare and pay are not your problem. Everyone deserves to earn a living wage. There is never a good reason not to tip.