Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Service Industry, Tipping and Your Classist Ass

While many folks in the service industry enjoy the work and the people, everyone has off days, or days where they’re understaffed, or days when customers are particularly nasty.

So, I did my bi-annual posting over at Geek Girls Rule! about tipping and why you should do it.  So far the comments have mostly been people supporting the post, and wondering why on earth I have to tell anyone to tip, and voicing dismay that geeks have a bad rep for tipping.  Also one person who’d had a restaurant down around the convention center where PAX Prime is held in Seattle, who verified the bad reputation of PAX attendees.  I firmly believe that a lot of that is because many geeks have never worked service industry.  At least here in Seattle, they tend to go directly into IT, given the fact that we have Microsoft, Nintendo and more start-ups than you can shake a stick at.

Someone who had worked on a web graphic site about tipping sent it to me.  It’s a really good guide for when to tip, how to tip, what to tip, and why you should tip.  Go check it out.

Anyway, I want to talk about the privileged bullshit that leads people to tip poorly or not at all.  Many, many people in our culture in general, and geek culture in particular, have never worked service industry and don’t understand what a grueling job it actually is.  Federal Minimum wage laws allows that people who work for tips can be paid a much lower minimum wage, in the belief that tips will make up the difference.  However, tips are exceptionally variable depending on a variety of external conditions.  Weather, if the weather is shit and no one’s going out, you don’t make tips.  If you’re stuck with a party of people who don’t understand tipping culture, or who are still tipping on a 1950s scale (dollar-wise, not percentage-wise), you can be completely boned, because your boss has no obligation to make up the difference if tips don’t.

Waiting tables, bussing, bouncing, bartending are all really grueling jobs, physically and emotionally.  You spend hours on your feet, carrying trays of food and drinks, or bus tubs full of glassware.  You have to smile and be friendly with everyone no matter how much they suck, are creepy, mean, nasty, or treat you like you aren’t really a person.  And many people who work service industry jobs can’t afford to take time off when things happen like the death of a family member, pet, friend, so they have to soldier on through the grief and the pain, still smiling, still flirting, still putting up with stupid, insensitive comments about your appearance, your job, the speed of the cooks in the kitchen, over which you have no control.

As stated above, the federal minimum wage for servers is substantially less than the federal minimum wage for everyone else.  And frequently when I bring this up, people will tell me they feel no compulsion to tip because it’s not their job to pay the server’s salary, and “if everyone just quit tipping, they’d have to pay them more.”

Well, no, that’s actually not how it works.  You’d just force servers to work longer hours, more jobs and it would harm them and their dependents.  Because you not paying them isn’t going to make the service industry pay them more.  Some of them will leave and find other types of work, but some people work service industry because of the flexibility of hours so they can more easily arrange childcare and other family matters like elder care and the like.

Would it be nice if everyone just got paid what they were worth, with benefits, but that isn’t how it is.  And punishing workers isn’t going to make their bosses pay them enough to live on.  So knock it off.

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This entry was posted on July 14, 2012 by in Class, Featured Articles, Labor.

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