Louis C.K. gave an interview to The Onion’s A.V. Club and talked about “recession tipping:”
Tipping is a thing where you can actually steal money from a waiter; you can just not give them any. A lot of people, when they go out to eat during a recession, they just don’t tip, and I’m aware of that.
What Louis C.K. does is tip over 20% because he can afford to as a popular and successful comedian. But the idea of not tipping because we’re in a recession had never occurred to me. According to those in the service industry, tipping is more infrequent and less when the economy is bad.
I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about tipping for terrible service. If the waiter is rude or the manicurist cuts your finger open, they don’t deserve that 20%. And if they’re bullying for a tip, talk to a manager.
But the reality is that the service industry is full of difficult and icky jobs (and often dealing with difficult and icky people), so I believe in compensating a little extra where it’s earned, recession or no recession. A great pedicure (with a foot and leg massage) is definitely worth 20% to me.
My fellow staffer Chris has an alternative view to tipping. He makes the argument that waiters can usually make up the difference between their hourly rate and minimum wage with a minimum tip, and so the service industry’s unspoken tipping requirement shouldn’t be an obligation.
Why are we obligated to tip? Many say people rely on tips because they make less than minimum wage. In Hawaii, minimum wage is $7.25; I was paid $6 per hour. If I received just $1.25 in tips per hour, I would be at the minimum level.
The problem with this is that minimum wage is not a living wage. A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to afford basic needs like rent, food, healthcare, etc. According to Thom Hartmann at The Huffington Post, “given the price increase of pretty much everything over the last few decades (from health care to housing to education) that $7.25 doesn’t get you very far.”
Until service industry jobs pay living wages, I’m a believer in tipping. There are plenty of apps that can help calculate an appropriate tip or you can do it the old fashioned way (by using your phone’s calculator).
In my view, if you can’t afford to tip for decent service, you can’t afford to dine out or get that manicure. Cook or groom at home instead!