Should you tip a server for average service?
The uniquely American cultural practice of tipping is byzantine and puts undue onus on customers, especially when there's an expectation to tip even for mediocre service. Tipping, in general, should be phased out, and being obligated to tip when the service received was nothing more than average should end immediately.
Because it is still allowed, 16 states pay waitstaff only $2.13/hr and an additional six are also below $3/hr. This in itself is unconscionable, but the fact that customers are then expected to make up the difference in those employees' wages is beyond the pale--especially considering that low-paid employees have lower morale and are less motivated to go above and beyond. If their employer clearly doesn't value their time and efforts, it shouldn't become the responsibility of the customer to reward mediocrity.
The custom of tipping exacerbates this issue and allows employers to continue grossly underpaying their staff. The fact that the National Restaurant Association has made a deal to underpay their employees puts customers in a position of being held responsible for the remainder of workers' pay. This leads to higher employee turnover and increased training costs for restaurants. Besides, since that extra wage coverage provided by the customer is often not reported on taxes, it's essentially a 'gift' for the employee having done the minimum amount of work they were hired to do. It may sound harsh, but if your employer doesn't pay you enough, find another job. It isn't a customer's responsibility to cover your wages.
With regards to the financial dependency servers have on tips, it is wrong not to tip an average-performing waiter or waitress. The primary reason for this is because the quality of service is subjective. One's perception of 'good' service might vary drastically from others', which essentially puts the servers' pay in the hands of randomness. This is problematic because people who visit a restaurant with pre-existing emotions (i.e., anger, sadness, stress) might be less empathetic toward their server, which leads to smaller tips.
More importantly, one should always tip because modern-day servers still live off of gratuities. In a study conducted by the National Employment Law Project, the average portion of wait staffs' hourly income from tips accounts for 58.5%. In many states, servers make less than $3 an hour before tips, making receiving gratuities a fundamental means to survival for the 2.6 million Americans in this industry. Conclusively, tipping is essential for servers, and the lack thereof could encourage them to quit their jobs, leading to a gap in this sector of the workforce. Technology is not yet readily available for restaurants to be able to operate without servers, and a societal acceptance of not tipping could lead to challenges for small businesses. A consumer must understand the human aspect of the service that they are getting. Although it should be the responsibility of the waiter or waitress to provide their best possible service, a customer should not have ultimate control over a worker's wages, especially considering that they depend on tips to sustain life.
- The practice of tipping began in the US in the late 1800s when people traveling to Europe would bring back customs they witnessed abroad in order “to ‘show off,’ or prove their elevated education and class.”
- The “anti-tipping movement,” which began in America in the 1890s and lasted until the 1910s, believed that tipping “implicitly created a servile class that depended on the generosity of richer, aristocratic customers—and was therefore anti-democratic and anti-American.”
- The 1994 movie It Could Happen to You was based on the real-life story of someone leaving a waitress a lottery ticket as a tip--that ended up winning $6 million total.
- A 2017 study from Square revealed that Americans on average tip 16.4% of the check; additionally, when coupled with partisan data, it was determined that Republican states tend to tip more than Democratic states.