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  • Writer's pictureMolly Chapman

What's the deal with tipping?

I have had the conversation around gratuity quite frequently lately so I feel compelled to write about it. With rising costs in every aspect of our lives, it's no wonder this topic is coming up so frequently. We are all looking a little more closely at how we are spending our money and where we can be saving. Should we really be tipping for our takeout food? What about at the coffee stand? With service pricing going up, is "the standard" 20% too much?

Now, I can only speak for myself on this issue. Tipping is a very personal choice and it can depend upon a lot of different factors. I used to hold the mindset that receiving a "bad" tip meant that my client was dissatisfied with my service or just straight up didn't like me. Fortunately for me, I have come a long way since those early days in my career where the amount of tips I received told me whether or not groceries were going to have to go on a credit card. I am now able to look at the concept of gratuity through a new lens. How did this practice even come to start? It is certainly a very "American" thing. Why is that?

While tipping may seem like a very simple and innocent act, the history of gratuity is much more bleak. Wealthy Americans brought the custom back from Europe as a way to show of their wealth and generosity. This fad died off in Europe but took off in the U.S. after the civil war, when former enslaved people began working in service and hospitality. Employers were able to pay these people next to nothing and the employees relied heavily on gratuity. In fact, some employers did not offer an hourly wage at all and employees solely worked for tips!

Tipping became a way to justify lower wages and continued to affect these service workers (primarily people of color and women) for decades. When the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, establishing a federal minimal wage, "tipped workers" were not included. It wasn't until 1966 that Congress created a "sub-minimum wage" for tip workers, meaning employers can legally pay workers as low as $2.13 per hour as long as they are making enough tips to hit the federal minimum (which is still $7.25). There are 16 states that can still legally pay workers this $2.13/hour wage, and only 7 states where tipped workers must be paid full minimum wage PLUS tips.

For me, this history really puts some things into perspective. I feel fortunate that I own my own business and can decide on the pricing of my services. With this new information, I made it a priority to be more intentional about how my services were priced and came up with a plan to pay myself a comfortable wage that felt fair for my 12 years of experience. This has freed me from the thought that a low tip is a reflection of my skill or service. I never find myself treating clients differently based on how they tip, they all get the same level of service from me. I try to go above and beyond for all of my clients, not just the ones that can afford to leave me a higher gratuity! If you find your way to my chair, just know that while gratuity is always appreciated it is never expected.

As a consumer, tipping can feel a bit more complex now. I have had many times in my life that I have needed my tips to pay for basic necessities, and I still can empathize with that. Many tipped workers may not in a position to negotiate a better base wage. But it can also feel like we are bombarded with questions like "would you like to leave a tip?" every time we swipe a card now. I bought a donut the other day and left a tip on my $2 transaction because I don't know how to say no! But if the screen hadn't popped up I honestly never would have thought about it. Is 50 cents going to break my bank? No, but was I really provided a service by the guy handing me a donut? Not really. These are the situations that feel a bit more complicated. I find myself just leaving a tip out of habit, even in places I wouldn't usually. This is going to make me sound so dumb but I even had to google "should I tip my contractor" after having our roof replaced because it IS technically a service in a way and I didn't want to do the wrong thing. The societal pressure to tip is unreal!!

I hope that someday, as a society, we can get to a point where we value all jobs, even the seemingly small or "unskilled" ones (though I actually don't believe there is such thing as unskilled labor). When I enrolled in cosmetology school in 2010 I definitely had my reservations about whether or not I could actually make money doing hair, but I've watched the beauty industry come leaps and bounds in that amount of time. I truly would love to live in a world where the price listed was the price paid and I could keep a little extra cash on hand if I had a particularly great service and was feeling generous. I guess only time will tell!

I'd love to know your thoughts on tipping. Has this changed how you feel about it? Or does it make you uncomfortable to think about not leaving a tip on a service?

How do you feel about tipping?

  • 0%Great! It makes me feel good to leave a little extra

  • 0%I don't mind it but do it out of habit

  • 0%Tipping has always been confusing to me

  • 0%I feel uncomfortable NOT leaving a tip


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2 commentaires

Sarah Hoffman
Sarah Hoffman
24 mai

I was a tipped employee (restaurants) for years. I love tipping these folks, and anyone in a service-based job earning minimum wage. However, when I see the tip request when swiping my card at a bodega in Las Vegas, I'm really questioning what is appropriate, and have a hard time saying no. Thank you for this very nuanced and thoughtful post!

Molly Chapman
Molly Chapman
24 mai
En réponse à

Yes, I totally believe tipping still has a place in this world but it is getting a little out of hand how many people are expecting (or at least asking) for a tip at checkout! It does make it a bit confusing and in some instances I question who that tip even goes to?

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