OPINION: Servers deserve to make a living on wages, not tips


Would you like to leave a tip today?” I’m asked as I hand the Bahama Bucks worker my card in the drive-through. I understand tipping your restaurant workers and even carhops, but drive-through workers seem very foreign. Can you really blame them though?

Tipping can be seen as a common courtesy. You get a haircut, tip your barber; get your nails done, tip them; go to a restaurant, tip. The question is, where do we as a society draw the line? Should we be tipping on our $7 coffee every day?

Roughly 4.3 million people work in tip-dominated fields, according to the National Employment Law Project. This means that not only do your servers and bartenders live off tips, but your baristas, carhops and delivery service workers do too.

headshot of Noami Rodriguez
Noami Rodriguez

On average your favorite local coffee shops pay anywhere between $7.50 to $10 an hour. Let’s say you work there part-time for 30 hours a week. Before taxes, you earn $300 but you still need to get gas, which is $3.20 a gallon. You also need to get groceries for the week because eating out plus tipping is too costly (although buying groceries is probably the same amount with recent inflation.) This doesn’t even include bills.

This is where tips will come in handy. You can see that no average person, especially with other monthly bills, can live off that wage alone. Knowing you’ll have extra money on top of an hourly wage definitely helps ease the mind, but it should not have to be that way. As consumers, we should not have to be pressured to tip for everything we do. We should be at ease knowing the service workers get paid enough to be able to provide for themselves and then some.

Tipping was introduced as a way of showing appreciation for the service you were given. It was never meant to be a form of wage or a burden to workers and customers. 

After the pandemic, we saw a massive influx in places leaving tip jars or mandatory screens to tip in the most obscure places too. While we cannot blame people for trying to earn a dollar, we must be mindful of our own dollars.

This being said, one way we could decrease the culture around tipping is by adding an option to round up your total. While this is similar to tipping, you are only spending an extra few cents to make your total even, and those few cents can go toward the workers. A prime example of this is at Sonic. The restaurant has the option on its checkout app to round up your total and at the end of the day, those tips get dispersed into the workers’ checks.

But that is a temporary fix. The result we should aim for is a higher minimum wage so workers are not worried about earning enough tips to survive the week and we as customers are not pressured into tossing cash into every tip jar we see. It is harmful to let this culture build up to the point where the 7-Eleven gas pump asks you to tip.