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Why Tipping Is Actually a Good Thing



Historically, and to a degree presently, tipping can be seen with a lot of negative connotation because of its history. Though tipping can arguably be traced to the medieval era, the United States didn't really start practicing the act of offering a gratuity until just after the civil war. The reason for this is largely due in part to the fact employers would hire menial laborers for little to nothing with the idea the customer would pay a small amount for their work. The real problem at the time, was that employers knew that most menial jobs could be made up from hiring a previously enslaved black population. At this point in the history of the United States "free" slaves with little to no education and no money had to do what ever they could to earn a living. Knowing this, employers would take advantage of their work by paying them very little and if a customer was highly impressed with the laborers work they would pay them extra for a job well done. This essentially forced the predominantly black population to work harder for less. Some states would fight against this practice into the 1900's until about the prohibition era. During the prohibition of alcohol, people involved in the trade would often tip the delivery boy for the trouble. Following prohibition and at the start of WWII in 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt would sign into law a federal minimum wage that included wages for tipped workers. The idea was, that tipped workers would make up the difference in their abysmal pay to meet the minimum wage standard. This applies to present day with each state having its own laws on minimum wage.


The Argument Against Tipping

In modern day United States, tipping is still viewed by some as a systemically racist practice because of its history. There is data available online that shows statistically, black people tend to make less on average in the service industry compared to white people. Unfortunately, racism is still very prevalent in the United States. As such, there can be a tendency toward racial profiling, leading tippers to tip less to those of a different race or background. Employers may also take advantage of this by giving the higher tipping positions to those of a similar race and background as the majority of the customer base that visits the establishment. Another argument against tipping is that it fosters a higher rate of sexual harassment. The observable majority of dining servers are female, and they may often encounter a customer using their willingness to tip as a tool to harass the employee. Worker exploitation is another big problem. Some employers have been sued for not compensating workers the rest of their wages when their tips don't make up for minimum wage. There are also examples of employers using tip pools instead of tipping the worker directly, allowing the employer to take advantage of the tipping system in favor of bias or lining their own pocket. These are just some of the main talking points against tipping, and they are fair arguments. However, an argument can be made in favor of tipping as well.

The Argument in Favor of Tipping

As a person who spent several years working to earn a living on tips, I am personally in favor of tipping. In my experience, earning tips for a living has allowed me for most of that time to earn more than minimum wage. As a pizza delivery driver in Michigan, I averaged around $14-$17 per hour at various locations. Not bad considering Michigan's minimum wage was less than $9 per hour at the time. As a customer, I also don't mind tipping given that in my experience, the employee tends to work harder and provide a better service to earn their tip generally. There is a certain amount of freedom that comes with tipping a person. If the individual provides poor service than I can tip them less to reflect that. If the person does an exceptional job I can give them more. I can do the same based on how strapped for cash I am as well. If I have been earning more money than usual, I may be inclined to tip more simply to spread the wealth. Often the practice of tipping is seen as an employer being greedy by not offering their employee a full wage. Though in some cases this may be true, I would argue this also keeps costs down. The more an employer has to spend on labor, the more they are almost guaranteed to charge for the service. This may put those less fortunate incapable of enjoying some simple luxuries like delivery. I also see tipping as a great opportunity to pay it forward. Some of us may be a little gratuitous with the amount we pay in our gratuity. Really, it allows us all to contribute to an infrastructure and job market that most of us would really like to have available. Despite its flaws, tipping allows for performance based pay, global cost reduction, affordability, and services that may be too hard to maintain without the option to tip. As a final note, at this point tipping is far too ingrained into our economic system to be eliminated, so though it is your choice to tip or not, refusing to tip really only hurts the employee and does not effectively help make changes to the system that do need work. Answer yes in the poll below if you prefer having a tipping system available or no if you would rather the employers pay the full wage.

To Tip or Not to Tip?

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