Valentine’s Day Tips, More or Less
Hope you had a splendid Valentine’s Day! Here is a bit about tips and tulips.
Earlier this week, we were at a local coffee place where the baristas share ownership and serve. Being regulars, we were chatting with the barista. We were noticing three one-dollar bills left by the register, as he was preparing our drinks. The barista explained. They’re the tips from the previous customer, a construction worker at a nearby place. That worker, he said, insists on leaving lavish tips because he thinks the barista’s needs are greater than his own.
I was at a flower store to get Valentine’s Day flowers. There was a crowd and the people serving us were clearly overworked and busy. I was waiting my turn in line and contemplating buying roses. They were priced right for my wallet. The store also had beautiful tulip bunches, priced at about half the price of the roses. I decided to buy the tulips. When they handed the tulips to me, I gave them for tips the money I had saved by buying tulips instead of roses, to their delight. When I brought home the tulips, also delighted was Valentine because I didn’t buy her routine roses!
Tips are not a bonus to service workers. They are an unpredictable component of their routine wages. Is it reasonable for our society to force service workers to earn a part of their wages through tips? As customers of services, we may see tips as a way of exercising control over our service. Alternatively, we may wishfully believe tips make for better wages, because we tip well. We may hear stories of grandiose tips and on special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day. . Unfortunately they are the exceptions and not the rule. The tipped minimum wage in America, established in 1966 by the Congress, remains frozen at an unbelievable $2.13.
If our own wages, not to be confused with bonuses, are partly determined by the whims of those we serve, wouldn’t we quinch? Would we be thrilled if we are paid three quarters of our salary and told that the rest is to be earned through tips by pleasing who we serve? Tipping is not all it is advertised to be.
I have spoken to baristas and I have heard. No, they don’t want our unpredictable tips. They want reliable wages for their work like the rest of us. Would it increase the price of our coffee? Would stores that adopt a model to compensate their service workers directly without tips, lose customers? Would service workers make more with tips? Not really. Certainly, not in the long term. Tipping is a legacy of slavery. Let us abolish it. It is just one more societal tool to keep the underprivileged service workers on their toes. Let us compensate service workers fairly for their work just like the rest of us.
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