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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

Should we stop tipping waiters?

The practice of tipping is being debated, and some people want to stop it altogether (Photo courtesy of Global Panorama Flickr)
By Arthur Ferridge—

My family has always been quite keen on dining out. Ever since I was small we have regularly eaten at restaurants, and from a young age, I was taught to always be polite to those serving me and to tip generously, at least 15%. It wasn’t until recently that I learned about the discussion surrounding the concept of tipping and its dubious origins and potentially insulting concept leaving plenty of room for debate.

I speak from experience when I say that few feelings are better for a minimum wage worker than earning a tip. Having worked in both retail and food service for the last five summers, I know that a tip or lack thereof can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. I have never felt as though a tipper was looking down on me, rather that they were thanking me for my service.

Because of my experiences I had never viewed tipping in a negative light; after all, who am I to turn down free money? However, I had never heard of the questionable origins of the practice, in which it was used as a justification for paying women and minorities dramatically less than minimum wage, or sometimes not paying them at all. This practice persists to this day with service workers being paid menial salaries and tips intended to make up the difference. This is completely legal under federal law as long as tips and salary combined add up to the minimum wage over the course of a month.

While the concept of tipping has heavily questionable origins, I believe that it is very close to becoming a beneficial system for all involved. It provides low-wage workers with extra money and their customers with a way to thank those who serve them. It has grown out of its discriminatory beginnings and is now merely a system for waiters and waitresses to earn extra money. The real issue with tipping is the tipped wage law, which makes it legal to pay workers in peanuts solely because they earn tips as well.

This system is fairly flawed and in desperate need of reform before it can be called inherently good. However, tipping does enough good that it would be unfair to abolish it altogether due to a flawed past. The benefits vastly outweigh the detriments, and the loss of tips could do far more harm than good to the restaurant industry.

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