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After my (attempts) to be funny about international travel here, the subject of American tipping has come up several times. My thanks to the amazing June Kearns who commented,

As Brits, we had to be educated about tipping. (Our eldest son lives in San Fran!)

Actually, June, it’s the Americans who are behind the times on this one. My home state of Washington has traditionally mandated the country’s highest minimum wage (currently $9.47/hour or annual salary of $19,698) for all employees including wait-staff. However they are one of only eight states and territories that does so. In the remaining 46 states and territories, wait-staff can legally be paid at or above the Federal Minimum Tipped Wage ($2.19/hour, or $4555 per YEAR!!). They must rely on tips to fund the rest of their wages. That’s why most Americans—and certainly those like me who have had waitressing gigs—automatically tip 20% of the bill, with additional for above average service.

What about paying workers a living wage, providing medical, sick pay, and vacation? After a career in human resources at the executive level, I’m ashamed to admit that the USA is still far from achieving this. So tipping is pretty deeply-ingrained in me, as with most Americans. I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to walk away from any restaurant meal without leaving 20% on the table, even when I’m eating in the UK and elsewhere.

gfxfgcOkay, I do also have to admit it… generally, service in the US is WAY superior to almost anything we’ve seen in the UK or the EU. But while that’s fun for me as a customer in the US, I’m still willing to give that up if it means wait-staff are paid a living wage. And no—I am NOT interested in hearing that they pay less taxes (seriously? on minimum wage?). And I don’t think it’s cute that people leave notes on their bills with bible verses that are “better than cash”, or comments about how they “tithe 10% to God so why should I give you more?” The only note your server should get from you is one telling how much you appreciate their hard work. Preferably, written across Alexander Hamilton’s portrait.

So next time you visit New York, Orlando, Washington DC, etc. please remember that your server is most probably making something in the neighborhood of $2.19/hour. He or she is counting on your tip to make the additional $7-10 needed every hour just to approach a minimum livable wage.

Sorry for the rant! [PLEASE don’t anyone let me get started on gun control…]

From The Oatmeal because it’s funny, and because I’ve eaten in that Red Robin.

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