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Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • May 28, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • May 28, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Opinion | No one cares that you don’t feel like tipping, do it anyway

Opinion+%7C+No+one+cares+that+you+don%E2%80%99t+feel+like+tipping%2C+do+it+anyway
Fikayomi Olagbami | Staff Illustrator

Every service industry comes with specific challenges, given the variety of services available for purchase. From eyelash extensions to regular table service at restaurants, one grating, ever-present facet is unavoidable. 

If you’re a more regular customer of establishments, you might think this refers to the tip option at the end of every receipt and on every Square card reader or iPad. Suppose you, like the vast invisible majority of people, have to work. In that case, you know that what’s irritating isn’t tipping itself, but rather the constant reminder that you are living and working in economic conditions so poorly and apathetically engineered that you will never be able to afford a decent life. 

I’ve worked a lot of positions in the food service industry, from jobs where tipping might seem obvious, like a server, to positions in kiosks or at takeout counters, where tipping must seem irrational to the customer, given their steadfast avoidance of it. I do, at some level, get the frustration. I’ve seen the endless TikToks about the dreaded iPad questionnaire, and the apparent thrill customers get from carefully writing out a “$0.00” in the “tip” section of their receipt — if all I did was scoop your ice cream or hand you your drink or your order, why would you tip me? It’s not like I waited on your table, laughed at your bad jokes and asked, with a borderline alarming level of interest, if you and your party were “celebrating anything tonight.” Why should you tip me if I didn’t provide the extra-mile service you associate with tipping?

The short answer is this — because we don’t make enough money to live. If you have the option to tip a worker, it’s probably because they’re making dangerously less than either the minimum wage or an actual living wage. The fact that customers may tip workers is a perfect excuse for management to not pay them a decent wage. This further normalizes both the ridiculous middle-man bureaucracy of “management” and the miserable cycle of wage labor as a whole, where our survival within its confines relies not on our ability to complete the tasks within our job description, but to ingratiate ourselves to customers and to management that earns five times as much doing half the work.

Furthermore, that cyclical grip of tipping practices isn’t actually separate from the “legitimate” situations in which to tip. You might think that a five-dollar tip on a $30 tab is fine. After all, you have just probably dished out a lot more money than the food or drinks were worth, but your server doesn’t get a percentage of the meal profit —they get those five dollars and the amount they make per hour, which usually isn’t much more than that.

Your server, in most cases, isn’t actually that bubbly, that interested in your life or that awed by your manicure. If they say it’s no problem at all to take your — perfectly fine — meal back to the kitchen to have it remade, they’re lying. It’s a huge problem, it’s inconvenient for the chefs and for all the other patrons and it’s unbelievably annoying. They’re not actually all that naturally suited for serving — they don’t really have that unlimited patience, that unflinching resolve to smile while you study a menu you’ve had in front of you for 10 minutes like you just learned how letters work in conjunction with each other to form words.

They’re just hoping against hope and experience that you, a person who has decided to go to a restaurant or a bar and pay a stupid amount of money for a drink or a meal, are willing to tip the person bringing you the purchased product, which in many cases costs double or triple the amount they make per hour. If you’re willing to pay for an overpriced pizza or pasta dish, or to shell out $17 for a cocktail, why aren’t you willing to tip your server? 

The problem is twofold. First, we’re in a dire economic situation in a country vehemently opposed to the socialization of labor, so we have to pretend that customers are like overgrown, cranky toddlers that must be appeased at each turn in order to make a sustainable amount of money instead of just receiving a decent, livable wage from employers. Secondly, instead of recognizing the reality of this situation, and the precarity that it implies, a huge number of customers seem to take it upon themselves to interpret the option to tip as a personal, targeted affront on them. 

I’m sorry that it ruined your day when the girl serving you your $6 ice cream cone or $12 boba turned an iPad towards you and you caught a glimpse of your reflection along with your absolute disregard for the living conditions of the people whose work you take for granted. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you to have to tip your server on a $200 check just because she didn’t laugh all that hard the fourth time you made a joke about how you “hated” the food on the plate you practically licked clean, and the service didn’t really feel “exceptional” to you. Have you considered learning how to make your own food in your own kitchen? 

Have Americans considered that their “just a little daily treat” culture is a result of an absence of logical hope for a sustainable future, resulting in an obsessive need to reward themselves for “making it through the day” with the purchase of small, trivial services or products? Has it crossed their mind that in order for them to receive this gratification, this temporary dopamine rush, they have to interact with the working class whose own bleak future, and daily struggle to remain hopeful, is entirely invisible to them? Have they considered that the same workers they do not tip might also rely on that same sort of overpriced, meaningless purchase to get through their day? And that their lack of tip restricts this world of “rewards” to only those who can afford to throw away $7 on a coffee and not those who prepare that drink? 

Obviously, tipping is a short-term treatment for the very old disease of capitalism, and we should all strive for a future where your server doesn’t have to pretend to not mind sexual harassment or ridiculous requests, and takeout workers and baristas don’t have to crack their molars smiling at you on the off chance that you might tip them a dollar. 

But until we entirely do away with the parasitic relationship the bourgeoise clings to, until we can all participate in the social world without worrying about how many hours of work this meal will cost, or if our waitress is really that kind and not depending entirely on our potential tip, until then, tip at every opportunity and try to do it with a smile. Solidarity will always get us so much further than misplaced resentment. 

Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger writes about politics and international and domestic social movements. Write to her at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger, Senior Staff Columnist
Sofia Uriagereka is a senior majoring in Anthropology. She writes primarily about politics, both domestic and international.