Not optional: Always tip service workers

By Tatum Mitchell | Opinion Editor

The iPad at your favorite restaurant does that flip- around you know all too well, and the dreaded question appears: “10%, 15%, 20%” … and the verdict comes after a long and painful pause.

You select “no tip.”

The employee’s face never changes, and you release the breath you were holding. After a fleeting moment of guilt, the day goes on, your food comes and all is well.

For the customer, it’s easy to move on from leaving a zero on the tip section. For the employee on the other end, tipping impacts both their paycheck and their livelihood.

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

Customers hold the power of employees’ paychecks in their hands. You never know what expenses your server has to spend their hard- earned money on. Service industry workers hardly get paid enough to survive as it is, and not tipping can have a huge impact on their ability to get by.

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 survey from Credit Cards by Bankrate.

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

My personal suggestion is to leave a baseline tip of the normally recommended 20% of the bill. If the service doesn’t meet expectations or you just can’t afford it, then tipping under 20% is acceptable. However, if the quality of service wasn’t up to your standards, it could be due to the fact the U.S. has been suffering drastic labor shortages since COVID-19.

“As of April 2022, eating and drinking places were still 794,000 jobs — or 6.4% — below their pre-pandemic employment levels. No other industry has a longer road to reach a full employment recovery,” research from the National Restaurant Association shows.

That being said, being able to afford eating out can be hard enough and spending a couple extra dollars on a tip might not seem doable. College students face their own financial stress. If there is only a certain amount in your bank account and you wouldn’t be able to afford food plus tipping, that’s understandable.

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

Your privilege is showing if you think an employee’s well-being and paycheck aren’t your problem. Everyone deserves to earn a livable wage. There is never a good reason not to tip.

I am the Opinion Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. I'm on the equestrian team at Baylor (I'm passionate about defying the horse girl stereotype), and last semester I was a News Writer on staff. I was also a part of Bears Helping Babies, a student-led fundraiser for the children and families of Ukraine. I'm so excited for another year participating in athletics and in the journalism department. Before college, I was the Editor-in-Chief of a student newspaper and was on a competitive journalism team for news writing. I love designing, writing and everything about working on a student newspaper. Over the summer I was an intern at The Plaid Horse magazine. I wrote press releases, features articles, managed social media accounts and took part in a weeklong non-profit event for young equestrians. Combining my passion for horses and journalism was a great experience. In the future, I'm hoping to be immersed in the professional multimedia environment and eventually go to graduate or law school. I'm looking forward to another year on staff and learning alongside everyone!