A tip on tipping

Oh, for fuck's sake. Arun Sethi in CiF complains about the poverty of tipped employees in the USA:

Across the country, advocates are organizing, rallying, and speaking out in support of raising the US tipped minimum wage of $2.13.
Yes, you read that right. Tipped workers include parking lot attendants, bellhops, baggage porters, manicurists, and barbers. They also include many people in the restaurant industry – waiters, waitresses, and food deliverers. They haven't seen a raise since 1991.
That's a rise in their employer-paid minimum wage. Why aren't they deserting these roles in droves for a (federal, hence minimum across all states) minimum wage of $7.25/hr, say at the local Taco Bell? Well it might just be because retail prices are rising rapidly, and the tip % is rising independently. All that employer minimum wage covers for salary is slack hours when you're doing nothing; as soon as you get a customer, tips come in to play.

If you haven't lived in America, here's a primer on tipping. A reasonable tip for most roles is 15%-20% of the purchase price - and in the past 10 years this has moved closer to 20% than 15%. For bartenders it's $1-$2 per drink (glass of wine, shot of regular spirits, pint or bottle of beer). If you go out to a restaurant for a family meal, say 4 people at a table for 1 hour and a bill of $50-$80 then you'll pay a tip of $10-16. If the waitress only serves one table per hour she'd be way over minimum wage. Realistically she's covering more like 5-10 tables - she'll do really well out of this; not as well as the figures suggest since she has to "tip out" (pay a % of tips) to the busboys and kitchen staff, but still a very comfortable wage. She certainly won't get the high rates during the 2pm-7pm slot, since the customers drop off, but even two occupied tables per hour should keep her quids in.

Attendants, porters and bellhops get $1 per bag (ballpark); I don't know much about their baggage carrying rate, but they should clear minimum wage without any problems and should be able to make $12/hour (one customer with one bag per 5 mins) just fine during moderately busy periods. Manicurist charges are about $20/30 mins, so 20% yields $8/hour; this is by no means extravagant, and unlike waitressing is capped at one customer per 30 mins or so, but is still above minimum wage. They get screwed over by slack periods of course. But compare "service" at a restaurant in the UK versus one in Manhattan, Dallas or Minneapolis and you'll see just how well financial incentives work.

If by "parking lot attendants" Sethi means "valet" - you don't tip the person in the booth at the city parking lot - then they do staggeringly well. At a hotel with valet you pay $10-$20 per day and tip $1 min, $5 max per fetch (5 mins). Valet 8 cars per hour with minimal tip and you're still ahead of the game. I've typically tipped in the $2-$3 region, and the valets I've seen are busy for most of the day.

Note that fast food staff aren't covered by this since you don't normally tip at McDonalds, Five Guys, In-N-Out, Wendys, Taco Bell; they get regular minimum wage.

You don't tip gas station attendants; postal workers and gardeners get a one-off Christmas tip. Taxi drivers get 15%-20% and do just fine - try leaving a 10% tip for a Manhattan cabbie and learn inventive new words. And only assholes don't tip at all; I've left a sub-15% tip on maybe 5% of occasions, and only for service that was well below "adequate" and tending to "derisory".

Who is this mendacious clown?

Arjun Sethi is an attorney in Washington, DC, and a frequent commentator on civil rights and social justice related issues. He is a member of the Minimum Wage Coalition, a consortium of more than 40 groups, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations, working to increase the wage.
Wow, certainly no conflict of interest there. I note that he doesn't add "and conspiring to reduce employment" to that description, despite that being the net effect of his lobbying; highly-qualified and privileged asshole that he is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are subject to retrospective moderation. I will only reject spam, gratuitous abuse, and wilful stupidity.