Talking About Tipping

Not THAT kind of tipping [Via Flickr user tracy_n_brandon]

Not THAT kind of tipping [Via Flickr user tracy_n_brandon]

Recently, Gothamist posted an article saying that you must tip a dollar on your coffee. Naturally, since we just had a big post about tipping, we had a few thoughts (what else is new) on the subject:

Victoria: Dirty lies!!

Jaya: Hahahahaha

Victoria: Also, IDK about smaller coffee places but my last investigation into the subject was that Starbucks pays at least several dollars over minimum wage and also has health insurance for employees (this might not be true, I realize!).

Jaya: Absolutely. For smaller places you may not be able to know, but Starbucks might negate that “tip to bump up hourly pay to minimum wage” thing. But yeah, it’s hard to know.

Victoria: Yeah. Well technically only actual servers in restaurants are not paid minimum wage. All coffee shops and ice cream places and whatever MUST pay at least minimum wage. Although this brings up a good point about bars- why do we tip at bars? (IDK about how bartenders are paid).

Jaya: Dunkin Donuts seems to hover around minimum wage too (I  can’t see city specific stuff). Not that minimum wage is perfect. I think bartenders are paid more like waiters at most places, like $2-3 dollars an hour and then tips.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, certainly tip if you want! But then like, why aren’t you tipping someone who helps you find the perfect dress at Macy’s? It just seems so arbitrary, the whole tipping thing.

Jaya: Because those sales people get commission often! Like, at stores where they asked if anyone in particular helped you, that’s commission.

Victoria: Oh! right! I guess I forgot about that. But then, like, Target? Sometimes they help me a bunch. And I know fancy stores do commission. But like, your basic Macy’s?

Jaya: It really does get confusing. It becomes the consumer’s responsibility to understand the salary plans of each place they go to.

Victoria: Lol which is totally nuts. And, like, at a busy Starbucks- if everyone tipped a dollar, that’s a SERIOUSLY huge amount of money.

Jaya: But right, most of the reasoning behind tipping in this country is based on the assumption that the person serving you is making much, much lower than minimum wage. But if they are making that or above, what is the incentive? Just being nice? A recognition that minimum wage isn’t a living wage? Basically, the system’s fucked.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, I guess the point is to reward good service. But if you are literally pouring me a coffee because I have come into a coffee shop and ordered coffee…does that REALLY deserve a tip? I mean, I get if you walk in and they start on your order right away and maybe sometimes they sneak you a free muffin. But just doing the bare minimum of your job?

Jaya: Right, I do think tipping has become detached from the idea of it being a reward. And being on your feet all day and up early and dealing with people is a tough job. But lots of people have tough jobs that don’t have the opportunity for tip jars. Jobs that also don’t pay well.  I so wish we could have a real, living wage minimum wage, and that food workers were paid it, so I didn’t have to worry that not having a dollar on me that day means they can’t make rent.

Victoria: Yeah, that’s what I hate about tipping, it’s so stressful.

Jaya: Right. Sometimes I don’t have extra cash. And I hope that my local coffee shop won’t hate me if I don’t have change on me a few times.

Victoria: And then, like at weddings, when there’s an open bar people are tipping and technically, the host should be tipping at the end of the night so the guests are always a guest and never has to open their wallet.

Jaya: No see that’s good because you slip them a $5 at the beginning of the night and all your drinks are hella strong.

Victoria:  Lol, I have really never noticed a difference. And at MY wedding (n.b. I am in no way getting married anytime soon), I won’t allow the staff to except tips because its ridiculous for my guests to be tipping them when I will also be tipping them at the end.

Jaya: Hahahaha

Victoria: Also I didn’t really see anyone doing it at your wedding. But other weddings I have.

Jaya: I didn’t even notice if there was a tip jar. But from the papers I signed, I know all the servers were paid well!

Victoria: There wasn’t! But I’ve never seen a tip jar at a wedding, I’ve only seen people hand it to the bartender. But exactly my point- you were the host and you saw to it that the people you hired were well paid for their time! As it should be. I’ve actually read that some hosts find it insulting for people to tip at weddings, because it implies that people don’t think the host is paying the staff adequately. Not that I agree that that’s what’s going on

Jaya: Oh god I’ve never even thought that hard about it. I’m just on bartender=tip autopilot.

Victoria: Lol yeah. I mean, everyone has the best intentions, I’m sure. But like, what if you had a fancy party at your house where there was a bartender and waiters and someone doing dishes? And like, why should the bartender get tips when the waiters don’t?

Jaya: We had that once! My building hosted a building-wide holiday party a few times. It was 5 units so it wasn’t nuts.

Victoria: Yeah, and wouldn’t it be weird for someone to tip someone who was working in your house?

Jaya: Definitely, because yeah, we handed them a check with a tip included.

Victoria: Yeah! Exactly.

Jaya: I mean, if someone thought they were doing that really great job, it’s not on me to PREVENT someone from tipping. Because again, I don’t think anyone would do it in an assumption that I wasn’t paying well enough. I don’t know, it’s so interesting to me that tipping remains this one thing that is so inconsistent across different job sectors, and so disagreed upon. Like, that core “just be a good person” thing about etiquette, no one can figure out what that means with tipping. I guess you can just walk into every establishment, ask what the average hourly wage is for their servers, and decide accordingly. Totally practical.

Victoria: HA. Yeah, and then corporate chains such as McDonalds don’t allow tipping even though you can be pretty sure they are paid as close to minimum wage as possible.

Jaya: Yes! And then it just devolves into this argument over who deserves it and who doesn’t and all the drama that comes with that.

Victoria: Yeah, it’s so nuts.

Jaya: When really, it just comes down to everyone deserving a living wage. And that’s on the company, not the customers. Or at least, should be.

Victoria: Totally. And to an extent, I feel some classism in it- like you will tip at the fancy coffee shop where the staff probably grew up middle class and went to college and follows the liberal arts major=barista stereotype, but you won’t tip at Dunkin Donuts/McDonalds where the workers are more likely to be immigrants or working class.

Jaya: Yesssss

Victoria: So you want to support people “like you” who are just “kids trying to get ahead.”

Jaya: And I mean, I’m sure that’s part of the bigger companies too if they don’t let you tip. So the original Gothamist article mentions Cafe Grumpy, a very good but also very chichi cafe chain where apparently STARTING pay is 50% above minimum wage.

Victoria: Yeah! And I can’t read the original NYT article but apparently the thing was that they were suggesting a $3 tip on a $4 coffee.

Jaya: Well they have one of those SquareSpace iPad readers where you just click a suggested tip button. And I agree that’s pretty presumptuous but you can type in your own, or choose not to do it.

Victoria: Ahhh. I mean, still, a lot of people feel pressured by “suggested” amounts, like that they will be a total cheapo if they go lower. *ahem* The Metropolitan Museum of Art *ahem*

Jaya: Hahahahahaha. But right, there is no way to come up with a uniform policy. If it’s based on their hourly wages, then you have to make sure you know what they are. If it’s based on service, then great, tip every single person that serves you in some way, equally.

Victoria: Omg and then never go anywhere because you are going to be broke.

Jaya: Well we solved it. How to tip: just die already.

Victoria: What IF, everyone tipped so much that service jobs became the new upper class and then everyone tried to be a service worker and then there were too many service workers and not enough people to buy stuff and the service jobs had to become minimum wage and it was an ugly cycle. That’s my new dystopian novel.

Jaya: I was just gonna say that!!!!!!!

Victoria: Also every single thing I read about tipping, it’s like half the commenters are like, “well I ALWAYS tip a minimum of 40%” and it can’t POSSIBLY be true otherwise servers wouldn’t complain so much.

Jaya: Hahahaha. It’s true! Everyone is ready to be the MOST GENEROUS.

Victoria: I also find something icky about the type of guy who tips ostentatiously. Like, just tip like a normal amount. (Not to begrudge servers and stuff).

Jaya: Right like, he heard too many stories about how women don’t like men who are mean to servers, so he swung the other direction.

Victoria: The “nice guy” of tipping.

Jaya: The more I think about it, the more tipping frustrates me. I mean literally, this is the genesis of shit like Uber and whatever. It’s systems that put all the risk on the employees and customers and not the employers.

Victoria: Hahaha yesssssss.

Jaya: And you can’t win against that. Arguing about how much to tip and social norms and generosity doesn’t change the fact that it should be the company paying a living wage and giving good benefits (or maybe the government taking care of health care).

Victoria: Totally. And then we can be like the paradise that is Europe where a tip is just a little extra.

Jaya: I’m not normally one to romanticize all things European, but this is one thing I will.

9 thoughts on “Talking About Tipping

  1. You are so poorly informed. Most Starbucks employees are paid a very low hourly wage and actively prevented by management from consistently working enough hours to qualify to buy into the health insurance.
    If you are concerned about “etiquette”, remember that the essence of good manners is to consideration of others.

  2. “Well technically only actual servers in restaurants are not paid minimum wage.”
    Absolutely not true. Servers are often responsible for sharing tips (or ‘tipping-out’) bus and bar staff at the end of each night as both of those positions are also paid below minimum wage.

    You must be a special type of ignorant scumbag to try to figure out when and why its appropriate to tip in the U.S. (Europe has its own customs, as I’m sure many other regions do).

    I hope every server, barista, bartender, bar-back, busser and etc it is their misfortune to meet you is constantly spitting in your food, drink, and or face.

  3. Reading some of your comments, I feel like I should apologize for humanity. You got yourself some totally undeserved feedback here for basically saying the whole system is screwed up and there aren’t any easy answers.
    The important thing is you said that in a thoughtful and entertaining way, so here, have some thanks to balance the criticisms.

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