Article: “New Jersey waitress receives ‘LOL’ instead of tip on receipt” (Can’t find the original one I read so I’m linking another article on the same issue.)
And here we are, blaming either the server for wanting tip despite the slow service not being her fault or blaming the diner for not leaving any tip despite having a bad experience. (Yes, the ‘LOL’ was rude; I also understand the frustration of waiting an hour for dinner.) People, it is MANDATORY that EMPLOYERS MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE IN STATE MINIMUM WAGE AND TIPPED-WORKERS’ MINIMUM WAGE IF SERVERS DO NOT EARN THE DIFFERENCE IN TIPS. It is ILLEGAL to have the server be paid $2.50/hr if she got no tips.
Why are we blaming the affected parties and not the one who failed to pay her the mandated minimum wage?
The current minimum wage in NJ is $8.38. If the server got zero tip in an hour, she legally does not earn $2.50; she earns $8.38 just like any other worker since the restaurant is LEGALLY OBLIGATED to make up the difference of $5.88. In other words, she legally has to be paid the same minimum wage as any other hourly-wage worker if she got no tips.
So if she gets paid $2.50/hr without tips, should customers take pity on her and be obligated to tip? Should the customers be responsible for her livelihood? In my opinion, HELL. NO. Yes, reality sucks and there isn’t a (-n adequate) monitoring body to check if employers of tipped workers are actually making up the difference so servers never earn less than what they should for their jobs. It sucks even more because even though wronged employees can file a claim at the Department of Labor of their state (in this case, NJ) or the Department of Labor at the federal level, many probably don’t because they need the job and this isn’t worth losing the job over. Yes, it absolutely sucks that people are actually earning a deplorable wage of $2.50/hr and have to depend on tips to make a living. This should not be happening.
But who is allowing this to happen despite the illegality?
It makes me sad that the debate of who’s wronging whom involves the server and the diner and even the kitchen staff without really mentioning the employer. It’s also upsetting that the public seems to perpetuate the wrong idea – or rather, not mention – that employers are responsible for making sure their servers make at least minimum wage with or without tips. Even Fox, a major news platform, did so as well:
Nowhere in the article does the author mention that employers must make up for the difference between the tipped workers’ minimum wage and the minimum wage if tips do not. Deliberately? Or due to ignorance?
The diner should not tip if they do not want to since tips should never be mandatory (despite social norm telling society otherwise.) The server should not have to depend on the generosity of diners or the social norm of blindly tipping at least 10% to make a living they’re legally protected to make. But most importantly, the restaurant should not be paying her less than minimum wage.
Why has it become okay, even normal, for restaurants to pay their servers so little? Why are restaurants not scrutinized and criticized widely and condemned for not abiding by the wage laws even though the truth of their paying low wages is so prevalent in our lives? Why aren’t waged workers being protected like they should?
I don’t blame the diners who expect a good experience when dining out at a restaurant (and hence take disappointments on often-faultless servers), nor do I blame the servers who sometimes have to go as far as demand tips to make a living. So who do we look to to fix this problem? Should the restaurant owners who violate minimum wage laws be blamed? Maybe. It seems to me that if the servers were guaranteed minimum wage like they should be, we’ll start solving this problem.
A big reason why people are concerned about this issue because it seems unfair for someone to not make a livable wage (and whether minimum wage is a livable wage…that’s for another post.) The current system we have in our society is that diners tip. Why? Because without tips, servers can’t live. Because others would condemn me if I don’t. Because society says so. But as I said before, tipping should not be the entity that ensures livelihood of these servers. Make it fair for these workers. PAY THEM WHAT THEY’RE ENTITLED.
As for what we, non-restaurant owners, can do, we can start by spreading the idea of the existence of a non-obsolete law (albeit, unfortunately, unenforced) protecting the minimum wage of servers, and the notion of restaurants being required to make up the difference between the tipped workers’ minimum wage and the actual minimum wage in case of no (or not enough) tips. We are a part of perpetuating the situation and I believe our participation is part of what is allowing this ‘is-it-ever-okay-not-to-tip’ debate to continue without coming to a solution. How about instead of arguing on social media about who’s right or whose fault it is, we use it to make these facts prevalent? Through that, why don’t we make people see that it is absolutely unacceptable for employers to underpay their servers?
NOTE: Personally, I believe tipping should be extra and everyone should just get the same minimum wage, tipped or not, since our world is not perfect and tipped workers like servers often get paid $2.50/hr (or whatever the tipped workers’ minimum wage in their state is) whether they’re tipped enough to get minimum wage or not. Tipping has lost its original meaning, which was to really thank the worker for great service or ‘to insure promptitude.’ It’s saddening to see that customers are socially required to pay tips no matter what and it’s even more saddening to see that currently, nothing can be done to drastically change the situation, since right now, tipped workers depend on tips to make a living even though tips, even now, SHOULD BE EXTRA. /run-on