The Student tip dilemma
Living on a student budget, the tip calculator that comes with most cell phones has become a life-saver. Those that don’t want to look cheap in front of their friends (or, heaven-forbid, a date) and math skills aren’t up to par, will constantly be pulling out a cell to figure out 15 to 20 per cent of the bill. Plus, anyone who’s ever worked as a bartender, waiter, or barista can tell you that tips are not only appreciated but necessary with the low pay that comes with the job.
But, as someone living on a diet of free food, ramen, and energy drinks, is it really fair to be required to tip?
Tips were originally meant to reward exceptional service, as a thank you for those going above and beyond at their job. It’s gradually become a social norm to tip, rather than something special. This has become even more of a pitfall now that many employers are using tips to justify paying their employees low wages, factoring the anticipated amount of tips for their shift into their salary. In Quebec, servers are automatically taxed for 8 per cent of their sales, regardless of whether or not they received tips. In the United States, it’s even worse—with some employers paying their servers as low as $1.45 per hour, saying that the anticipated tips will bring it up to minimum wage. This dirty behavior makes you feel guilty as a customer for not tipping, even if you’ve received shabby service.
Cornell professor Michael Lynn conducted a study in 2000 on tipping habits of restaurant patrons. Although Lynn found that restaurant patrons reward better service with larger tips, the study also concluded that exceptional service raised the amount of a tip by only 1.5 per cent on average, a correlation way too small for a waiter to notice. Lynn interpreted the findings as showing tips to be a poor incentive for encouraging good service.
So if tips are a weak incentive for exceptional service, contribute to low wages for servers, and annoy customers, why are people always tipping?
Maybe the next time you buy a coffee, take one minute to write a letter to an employer asking them to raise the baristas’ wages rather than throwing one dollar in the tip jar.