Opinion: Bay Area Tipping Culture Doesn’t Need To Be This Way

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The proliferation of tipping culture in American consumer markets has long been a contention and complaint. It starkly contrasts many countries, such as Japan, where tipping is not customary and is often perceived as rude. So why is it that in the US, adding a 10-20% gratuity fee is considered compulsory despite many being fed up with this paradigm? 

According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, a staggering 72% of Americans believe that tipping culture has expanded to more establishments, while 40% express their disapproval of its current state. In many instances, people are asked to provide a tip for services requiring little to no manual labor, such as grabbing premade pastries from a display shelf or a ready-to-go meal from a café refrigerator. Still, it does not need to be this way, and the fix is quite simple. 

Despite many places throughout the country implementing a more livable base pay, in most parts of the country, the minimum wage is still next to nothing, remaining at $7. Additionally, the rising cost of living in the nation, which is primarily concentrated in states like California, makes the raise in minimum wage to $16 rather obsolete. 

Tipping has gone from an apparatus to encourage above-and-beyond service to a necessity for the well-being of many corporations’ staff. This arises from the issue of heightened living costs and the growing need for increased pay that is not being met. Because of this, employees have liberally asked for gratuity to supplement the small base pay they receive. In order to make sure tips are actually helping employees get by, California law prohibits companies from taking any portion of their worker’s tips. 

Tipping has gone from an apparatus to encourage above-and-beyond service to a necessity for the well-being of many corporations’ staff.

In California, the average tip is 23% compared to the 18% national average, making California noticeably more expensive. The fact that California has the highest gratuity rate and is the second most expensive state to live in, proves that it is not greed driving tipping culture, but insufficient wages.

To potentially mend this issue, the minimum wage should be federally raised, and local counties should raise the minimum wage to be proportional to the cost of living in said area. This would boost the overall economy by putting more money in the hands of low-wage workers and increasing consumer spending. Until then, it is imperative that consumers don’t resent employees, but rather critique their government for the delayed response. 

When these changes are implemented, consumers and workers will see improvements. One of the most common myths surrounding the consequences of raising the minimum wage is that it will cause businesses to simply raise their prices in response. However, there is little evidence that this is true. According to Keystone Research, “A recent study in California found that a 25 percent minimum wage increase raised restaurant prices by only 1.45 percent—in a state in which tipped workers (waitresses, servers, etc.) get the same minimum wage as other workers. In New York City, the minimum wage is now $13.50 per hour—but you can still buy a slice of pizza for $1.” 

Therefore, the local tipping culture, which may seem annoying, could be mended by an increase in the minimum wage that makes it proportional to a livable wage. As of now, the reality is rather poignant, as service workers are asking for gratuity as a means to support themselves and their families, not as the bonus it is meant to be. All in all, until the minimum wage is raised in more places to a realistic amount, it is important to be mindful of when and where you tip. By no means are you required to tip at every establishment you enter, but realize that oftentimes it may be the right thing to do for the people who play an integral part in our economy. 

Niklas is a sophomore at M-A. This is his first year in journalism. He hopes to write about local events and politics. In his free time, Niklas enjoys exercising and going to Coffeebar!

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