Should I tip the restaurant staff more? Americans Tipped Less During Pandemic: ‘Waiting tables is so hard on your body, and a lot of people don’t appreciate all the work we do’

By Quentin Fottrell

Meanwhile, ‘the client was never questioned or involved in the decision,’ a client told Moneyist

Dear Quentin,

I read your article on tips. I’ve been a server and bartender for almost 16 years now, since I was 18. Serving tables is so hard on your body, and a lot of people don’t appreciate all the work we do. I respect all professions equally, but I feel like so many people look down on me for being a waitress, even though I went to college and prefer working in a restaurant. Not having insurance is probably the worst. I basically work for my dental bills. But I love what I do.

A waitress

Dear Quentin,

The problem with your tipping advice is that it’s a one-sided social contract. The client was never questioned or involved in the decision. In fact, the “contract” states that tips were given for doing a good job. We are stuck with owners of cheap service industries who would rather put the responsibility on the servers and the customer than themselves, like most employers. The original reason for tipping – to improve service – is gone. It is now an expectation. I tip because other people are indifferent and self-centered and that’s the only way servers get paid.

A customer

Dear waitress and customer,

You are both right.

The servers do an amazing job and they are underrated. While many white-collar workers complain and join the Great Resistance in refusing to return to the office, millions of service workers show up for work every day and stand on their feet every day – serving, smiling and anything but bowing. customers every day in order to keep them happy, keep them from writing a scathing Yelp review, and earning tips to pay rent and put food on their own table. Frankly, I don’t know how they do day to day.

And again: tipping is a social contract, and it dates back to Tudor England, where masters tipped their serfs for a job well done. It has an ignominious history and has been used by employers and restaurant owners to exploit workers and pay them less.

But customers have a choice. They can choose to eat at home, choose a restaurant that doesn’t allow tipping — usually because they pay their staff more than a living wage — or go to a restaurant where they know there is a tip. social contract that provides for a tip, as a mark of good service and respect.

Service workers deserve our respect. They have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic while other workers, including journalists, have had the privilege of working from home. We should be lining up to thank every teacher, supermarket cashier, kitchen porter, restaurant server and hospital worker. They kept this country alive during the darkest days of the pandemic. They stocked the shelves, helped the sick and smiled at customers who needed human contact during a time of terrible isolation.

That’s why I’m disappointed with this recent report that says that despite Americans’ wishes to tip more during the pandemic, they haven’t followed through. Although many Americans have pledged to become better tippers due to the financial impact of COVID-19 on service industry employees, a survey of more than 2,600 adults released this week by showed that they had not kept this promise. Plus, they actually tip less now than before the pandemic: 73% of Americans surveyed in the latest poll said they always tip at a sit-down restaurant, down from 75% in 2021 and 77% in 2019. .

“Tipping was already a confusing topic and the pandemic has made it even more so,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at “While more than a third of Americans have pledged to become better tipsters in 2020 and 2021, it appears the sentiment has faded. Inflation is reducing consumer purchasing power and a tight labor market has left many service industry companies understaffed and struggling to deliver top-notch customer experiences.”

People are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. But if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip. I understand Americans are trying to keep up with the high prices, and the digital guilt popping up everywhere from local coffee to ice cream parlors is definitely not helping. For service staff in restaurants who rely on tips to supplement their income, it’s important to honor the understanding — or “social contract” — that tipping is part of that experience.

As this Journal of Economic Psychology article points out, tipping is “confusing” from the perspective of traditional economic models. “The usual assumption in economics is that people are selfish and that they maximize utility under budget constraint by consuming the goods and services that give them the greatest utility.”

In other words, we go against those instincts when we tip and give something back beyond the price of our meal. When a waiter or waitress arrives at work, they may not feel like dealing with difficult or indecisive audience members, but they pull together and – in a sense – perform in order to make the experience enjoyable and memorable customer service. If you tipped 15% or 20% before the pandemic, given all that service staff have been through and knowing that the cost of living has gone up for customers and servers, don’t tip less than this now.

Americans are willing to tip less now than they did before the pandemic in all but one location covered by the survey. The proportion of U.S. adults who report always tipping has declined for sit-down restaurants, food delivery services, taxi/ride-share drivers, hotel housekeepers, cafe baristas, and even takeaway meals. However, around two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they always tip their hairstylist/barber, up from 63% in 2019 and 2021. Assuming there’s more than a grain of truth to that nugget, what can we learn from it? Maybe we like to tip when we’re pampered. It’s not a pretty picture.

Some of us rolled out of bed and turned on our computers throughout the pandemic, while many others went to work on site, despite the risks of contracting COVID-19. The risk of death from the virus was much higher before vaccines became widely available and affected some workers more than others. In 2020, working-age Americans who died of COVID-19 were more likely to be “never remote” essential blue-collar workers in services and retail who had to be onsite and working full days with other people, this recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found.

Remember who showed up during the pandemic. Keep tipping.

Check out the private Moneyist Facebook group, where we seek answers to life’s trickiest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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-Quentin Fottrell


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

06-08-22 1316ET

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