Tipping vs. Minimum Wage


Tipping, it's a phenomenon that has always baffled me. How much, when, but mainly why?! I didn't grow up in a tipping culture. Now you might think this might just be a lack of experience on my part (my parents just don't tip, and I have never really worked as a waitress). But our receipts don't show service charges. Tips are not a mandatory aspect to the experience. When talking to my friends who did work in service industries, they can pick out who is going to tip and who isn't. And trust me, it's not likely to be the Dutch. I grew up in the Netherlands, but moved to the UK. And here you tip 10-15%. Is the service here any better? Nope. The waiting staff is just as nice, overworked or rude depending on where you are. But the British culture to tipping is different, and I blame the Americans for that. Have you ever watched Reservoir Dogs? It's a great Tarantino movie for sure, but I'm using it because of one particular scene. The group of men the film focuses on has just had a quick meal at a fastfood diner type of establishment. They are arguing about how much to tip, who needs to contibute how much, but it ends up in an argument about whether they should tip at all. The main argument for not tipping? Why should the waitress get additional money for her work, whereas other staff wouldn't? You can't tip the cook, nor can you tip the people working at McDonalds if you were to go through a drive-through. And they are working people in the service industry too, right? The main argument for tipping? Poor girl hardly makes any money as it is. It isn't odd that tipping took a while to take off in the Netherlands, and still isn't the norm. We are a rather "left" capitalist country; we have a quite stable minimum wage system. Which is something America just can't claim to have. Working on a tipping-basis is just a slippery slope. When you'll need money the most (you're ill, stressed, family is in difficulty), you're actually likely to make the least. Which ill or stressed person do you know that still gives their best service? It would be almost impossible to be on your "best" behaviour whilst the rest of your life is falling apart and the need for money is stronger than ever. So you'll likely make less, get more stressed about that, feel the physical consequences (strain) of it even more, make even less money etc. This is a vicious cycle. And it could easily be solved by having a more stable income to rely on. But don't dare propose that to the Americans, you communist! But there are so many benefits to having minimum wage. There was an article I read earlier (weeks ago), that interviewed people who went from tipping cultures to minimum wage jobs. The interviews focussed on how this change had affected them. To say the effects were great is not a hyperbole. Workers were able to stop working multiple jobs at once and have more time for their families (and that helps the next generation a lot!). It's not just the option to work less hours. Having time left-over can lead to being able to sleep longer, have the time to cook and eat healthier, having time and energy left to exercise. Interviewees listed all of these in the article. To quote "they simply felt better." Now if you are a complete capitalist (read: asshole), you might argue that this slowing down economic growth, making services more expensive. But actually, these type of measures are of a net benefit to the overall economy. Why? Because, the drop-out rate is lower. People on minimum wage are less stressed and overall healthier. As such they take less sick-days, are less overworked and increase their contribution to the workforce. This is a win-win. So can we stop calling it communism and just call it giving a damn about people? I'm not against the tipping culture per se. What I am against is the fact that if I do not tip for what to me might have seemed as the "bare minimum service" I might be taking away someone's opportunity to have three meals a day. That just can't be right. It is not my responsibility to make sure someone who is effectively a stranger to me can eat. I'm only there for a one-off interaction. Their employers are there for so much more. But as long as people need jobs (read: money), they will have to throw themselves into the workforce. Employers know this damn well. And a lot of them take great advantage of this. Do I blame employers then? Not really. Doing business in America seems rough too, as there are no real safety nets in place for business owners either when things get tough. America just doesn't seem to believe in taking of its people properly, it only believes in that sham dubbed the "American dream." I don't think systematically underpaying your workers in the service industry, providing no incentives for business owners to do (pay) more and having no real safety nets in place for either group sounds dream-like at all. Sounds like a nightmare to me. Solution? Proper minimum wage regulations! But as I jokingly said before, that seems a bit too left-wing for the Americans. But there needs to a certain limit, a threshold that people just cannot go below, if only to hold them accountable for exploiting others. Because if there are only benefits and no possible disadvantages to exploiting your workers, well you'd be hardpressed to find a majority still paying what they deem to be a fair wage. And maybe a lot of employers do think what they are paying is a fair wage, because of the tipping culture. But what if that tipping culture collapses? Who is then responsible for making sure workers can actually live? I don't think after decades of neglect, the employers will rise to the occassion. It's never been their responsibility before, so why get into it now? I think it should be a basic human right to have a stable wage to rely on. A wage that has been decided through a democratic process to be fair and livable. The tipping culture in itself leaves too many people at the mercy of the wealthier to just get by, and it takes responsibility away from those who should shoulder it the most. Minimum wages need to be properly instated everywhere, not just exclusively in the service industry. It's just that the difference there just seems to be most obvious. So be kind to your waiting staff. As a business owner, pay them properly, as a government protect them by law. And as a customer? Support minimum wage negotiations. Tipping should not be a norm, it makes no sense. But do tip if the service was excellent. If people do go out of their way for you, there should be compensation on top of minimum wage. I'm not that heartless afterall.

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