How 1 ​Sleazy Guy Convinced Me Tipping Should Be Banned

I'm one of many people who have, at some point in their lives, worked for tips. This week, when we learned that New York State will raise its minimum wage for workers who rely on tips to $7.50 an hour from the dismal $4.90 to $5.65 that it now is, I was one of hundreds of thousands of people who thought: hallelujah

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Not because tip workers shouldn't make the real minimum wage (which will see an increase from $8.75 to $9) and not because Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich can now rest better knowing a real change is coming. But because working for tips is demoralizing.

When I worked as a waitress at a lovely New York City restaurant in my late teens and early 20s, I wasn't worried about making my rent or feeding a family. I had dollar bills stacked to my bedroom ceiling and pouring out of my jacket pockets. My employer might as well have paid me in peanuts—I can't remember the exact salary per (long) shift, but it was laughable. But he wasn't a fool: he knew his waitstaff, which consisted mostly of young women, was going to make out just fine in tips.

And, most of the time, we did. Some customers left exactly double the tax on their check, even if you accidentally spilled soda on their Prada shoes (not that I ever did such a thing), many senior couples missed the mark by a few cents, and plenty of young men left you way more than you deserved.

But every waitress I've ever known has a story similar to the following one—a story that proves working for tips is for the birds.

During a quiet afternoon shift, a much older man took a seat in my section and proceeded to call me over to his table every 30 seconds to ask for something new. Another napkin. A third glass of water. I smiled and complied. I was pleasant and professional.

After I gave the man his check, he asked me if he could take me out one night. I politely told him that I had a boyfriend, but that I was flattered by his offer. He got up, dug into his pocket, and threw a few dimes and pennies onto the table before storming off.

Most customers were the polar opposite of this man. But that didn't make me feel any less dehumanized having to pick up each of his dirty coins (all of which I asked my boss to throw into the cash register because there was no way I was buying a stick of gum with that money).

More from The Stir: The One Argument Against Tipping That Actually Makes Sense (VIDEO)

If I'm a good enough worker to be hired at a restaurant, I'm good enough to be paid a fair wage. I shouldn't have to rely on customers to keep me afloat based on factors that may have zero to do with my service and a lot more to do with how they think I look or how they're feeling that day. Get rid of tipping and pay hard-working people what they deserve—at least $9 an hour.

What do you think about tipping?

 

Image via Shawn Rossi/Flickr

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