Tipping: A Problem for Everyone

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Issue 16, Volume 112

By Ava Luan 

A small, white slip of paper lays alongside a pen in the middle of the table, concluding a delicious meal. An electronic screen displays several options for takeout. Both of these situations require a decision of how much to tip. The inflation brought on by the pandemic has caused tipping to become a burden. For many food delivery systems, the service fees are already quite high, and the tip is calculated by not just the percentage of the food, but also the fees and taxes on the delivery. As it gets increasingly harder for customers to pay tips, the workers who already have low wages and rely on these tips will also find themselves in deeper economic trouble. It is time for the United States to get rid of tipping altogether.

Tipping has become increasingly troublesome in recent years because the pandemic has led to inflation, increased labor wages, and reduced business for restaurants. Inflation, which has risen over seven percent since the pandemic first began, has caused the cost of ingredients to rise, forcing food prices to rise in restaurants too. Labor wages in restaurants also had to increase in order to convince employees that working was worth the COVID risk and better than stimulus checks. Restaurants needed to increase food prices to make up for the loss of business during the lockdown when nobody was eating out. With both the labor and ingredient costs rising, food prices had to spike. The side of the costly food bill and the side of the workers who depend on tips can be hard to balance when paying the tip.

When a low tip is paid, servers in food delivery can choose not to deliver or delay the order. In these situations, a large tip is expected, and because it is not delivered, bad service is returned. Orders are delayed because workers need to prioritize their time by choosing orders that pay them the most. DoorDashers can see how much they earn before accepting an order, leading lower-tipped orders to not be accepted. Before the pandemic, the acceptable percentage of tipping was around 15 percent. Now, the average tip that is deemed acceptable has risen to 20 to 25 percent. The standard of tipping has increased as a result of new digital paying technologies. Paying through an app makes it easier to tip and sets the tipping default to 20 percent.

While tipping is becoming less affordable for customers, employees are also harmed because it allows employers to give dangerously low wages. The current minimum wage for restaurant workers is $7.25 per hour, which is calculated after tips. This number consists of $2.13 for which the employers pay and the remaining $5.12 made up by tips. The minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since July of 2009, which means it hasn’t been raised in nearly 13 years. Considering the recent inflation rates, $7 is insufficient for workers to support themselves.

In addition, tipping encourages racist behavior. A poll by the Eater found that white servers get tipped the most and Asian servers the least, with Black and Latinx servers in between. However, servers also have preferences for the tables they cater to. Another study in the Journal of Black Studies found that almost 40 percent of servers admitted to racial profiling and that servers tend to avoid Black diners because they believe that they tip little to nothing.

A solution for both customers and workers would be to increase these workers’ salaries and get rid of tips altogether. Countries including New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan don’t require tips. In Japan, tipping is even considered rude—a big contrast to our tipping culture in America. There, the workers are compensated by their salaries. If we were to get rid of tipping, we would also be able to give workers supportable wages and save customers the headache and stress of deciding the amount to tip. Eliminating tips is in America’s best interest, as it benefits both the customers and workers.