You know, there are still some unanswered mysteries that I think about when I can’t fall asleep at night: how the pyramids were built, whether UFO sightings could be real, what happened to Amelia Earhart, and… why American servers and waiters rely on tips instead of getting a proper, solid, stable wage that’s fully paid by the company they’re working for. Tipping culture continues to baffle me because it puts the financial burden on the customer instead of on the employer, and the one paying the price is the employee.
One brazen example of just how dystopian things can be, is currently making the rounds on the internet, including on Reddit. A seafood restaurant in Florida, is under fire for their poster, urging customers to tip servers because they don’t make much money without these tips. “Take care of those who took care of you!” sounds nice until you realize that it’s just a way to dodge responsibility and guilt you out of your money.
Oh, and here’s the thing—the minimum wage might be rising in the US, but it doesn’t always apply to those people who are classified as ‘tipped employees.’ To be fair, the seafood restaurant also provided some extra context about the poster and claimed that all of their employees are very happy with their jobs and that their actual current wages (tips included) are very good. And while we might disagree with some of the restaurant’s politics, remember, dear Pandas, that it’s an endemic problem, and not the fault of a single business—that’s why we’re keeping things anonymous.
The author of the original post criticizing the restaurant, who preferred to remain anonymous, went into detail with Bored Panda about her “confusing” experience at the restaurant, tipping culture in the US, and how the restaurant’s management responded to her. She also noted that while the food was truly good, the management’s attitude was far from high quality.
“I don’t think tipping culture will ever go away entirely, at least not in our lifetimes, nor am I really sure it should entirely. If someone goes above and beyond, absolutely tip them, regardless of whether they’re a server, a cook, a retail worker, an installer whomever,” the restaurant customer-turned-critic said. “If there were no distinction from a nontipped minimum wage, that would be a start, followed by the attitude of, “Tips are appreciated but never expected.'”
A restaurant in Florida is under fire for this poster that’s trying to guilt customers into tipping their servers because the minimum wage they get is very low
A customer called the restaurant out in a recent post on Facebook
And the restaurant replied to the allegations
“Who in their right mind is going to tell their boss, ‘No, I’m unhappy with the way things are going?'”
The author of the post shared with us that she has since responded to the restaurant management’s replies that gave everyone a tad more context. “I was less than impressed with the response, despite it being more polite.
“If the poster was truly made with the intention of education, then suggested percentages of tips should be posted. There’s been multiple studies into increasing minimum wage versus the cost of living that left no significantly large impact on the business. Markup is expected, but when it’s present, by ordering the food I am accepting the markup,” she said.
“The reason I even mentioned the cost of the potatoes in the post (which I misremembered. The cost of 3 extra new potatoes was $2, the cost of three pieces of corn was $3) was because, with the markup present, it would be expected that their staff shouldn’t have to ‘work for nothing’ as the poster claimed.”
The original poster also pointed out that even though the restaurant claims that all of their employees are happy, this doesn’t in fact confirm anything. “Who in their right mind is going to tell their boss, ‘No, I’m unhappy with the way things are going and deserve to be paid more’ when publicly placed under a microscope? If their employees were so unhappy they requested the poster be made, why didn’t management respond with, ‘Sure, but let’s word it politely’ or, ‘let’s not post statements that are untrue?’ If business is so bad, then make an effort to compensate the servers during that time, or at least acknowledge that if they don’t get tips, the restaurant still has to pay them out to minimum wage.”
The quality of the food and how the restaurant is run are at odds with each other
“My experience at the restaurant was a little confusing, honestly. I ordered takeout and only posted the flyer online because I found it rudely worded and factually incorrect, not because it applied to me in any way. I did notice that when I entered, two hostesses were standing up front, neither of which greeted me or looked up from their conversation and I wandered over to where a bored-looking guy stood with some paper bags and asked if this was the right place to pick up my order, which makes me wonder in retrospect if the staff wasn’t being tipped for other reasons,” she told Bored Panda in detail.
“I was surprised to glimpse the flyer on my way out with my order. I actually turned around and went back to the door to read it because it was scotch-taped on and flapped in the breeze like the health department had walked by and slapped a notice up,” she continued. “Growing up, my parents owned a restaurant. I worked customer service a decade before medically retiring, some of that in restaurants, most of it as management. That tone was never going to sit well with me, nor was intentionally misleading consumers.”
According to the customer, she neither expected the attitude she got from the restaurant’s management, nor was she expecting to start a debate over tipping. She simply wanted to call attention to the rudeness of the flyer.
“I was very excited to get my food home to try. The crab was perfectly cooked and able to be hand-cracked with minimal effort, and so was the shrimp. Their seasoning blend was to die for good. While the food was incredible and the restaurant very clean and tastefully decorated, the attitude of management was enough to put me off ever going back.”
Tipped employees don’t get the same minimum wage in the US
The minimum wage divide is rather unfair to tipped employees. For instance, as of January 1, 2021, Florida’s minimum wage rose from 8.56 dollars to a whopping 8.65 dollars per hour (oh, Dear Lord, imagine all the things you can buy with those additional ten hourly cents!). For reference, the federal minimum wage stands at 7.25 dollars per hour, but states can take it upon themselves to raise it higher as you can see in this handy chart by Statista right over here.
However, the minimum wage for tipped employees in Florida grew from 5.54 dollars to 5.63 dollars per hour. “Florida employers, meanwhile, may still continue to take a tip credit of up to $3.02 per hour for those classified as tipped employees,” The National Law Review explains.
“However, this will not be the only minimum wage increase for 2021. In November, Florida voters passed a Constitutional Amendment which will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2026. Specifically, the state minimum wage will increase each September.” The minimum wage (not for tipped employees, though) will rise to 10 dollars per hour on September 30 of this year, rising by 1 dollar per hour every year until it hits the 15-dollar-mark in 2026.
The restaurant’s General Manager fully acknowledges that the tipping system in the US is “a flawed concept,” however, he’s also realistic about the fact that the business needs to survive as well.
“[The tipping system] allows restaurants and bars to pay less hourly to servers and forces servers to depend on customer tips to make a living. I look towards the Canadian system and other European systems as well and I would much rather follow a similar system that pay my servers a living wage that doesn’t require them to depend on tips but such a system cannot happen without widespread reform and I’m sure we all know reform is hard to achieve. Not to mention, increasing server wages is easy but in order for companies to sustain themselves while doing so without laying people off would force us to raise prices drastically,” the GM wrote.
What’s more, he added that the restaurant is a small business and noted that they treat their employees “like friends and family” because it’s a tight-knit local community.
“As far as wages go, servers do start at food service minimum wage which is $5.65/hr but many of our staff have been with us long enough that we’ve given them raises. With that and the tips they currently make, my servers typically make in the ballpark of $30/hr. We also pay our bartenders a good bit above base pay as we recognize their wider skill set and also get a handsome tip out. Our hosts and bussers make well above minimum as well and receive tips and tip out on top of that,” he gave some additional context, adding that “you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t like their job here.”