What it’s like to be a tipped worker when nobody knows how to tip

Graphic by Jessica Mouton

Graphic by Jessica Mouton

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Most tipped workers spend long, grueling hours on their feet. They work with the general public, which is known to be quite unpleasant at times, and are expected to be polite and keep a smile on their faces at all times. 

With this being said, in many states, employers of tipped workers are still only required to pay $2.13 per hour if that hourly wage plus tips equals the federal minimum wage. If not, the employer has to pay the difference. Certain states require employers to pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before tips. However, Louisiana is one of the states where the minimum cash wage payment is the same as the federally required $2.13 minimum. 

In some cases, employers do not keep track of this, and this law is not always enforced. Many people would argue that this is simply not a living wage. A living wage would be defined as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their most basic needs. Minimum wage can certainly fail to meet those very basic requirements that are necessary to get by.

College students trying to buy books, pay rent and still have cash leftover are scrambling to make ends meet, most of them opting to work multiple jobs while still maintaining their status as a full-time student. 

Single parents balancing part-time jobs and raising children barely get by. For example, a single parent earning $7.25 per hour would need to work 139 hours per week in order to earn a living wage. Those are more hours than there are in a five day week.

As someone who works at a coffee shop, my hourly pay is more than that of a server. However, the majority of customers don’t realize they need to tip—either that or they just don’t care to. I also just so happen to be one of many who have a second job, but I digress. 

Before I became a barista, I had no idea they worked mainly from tips. I’d only ever really tip them if I had extra cash in my wallet. With my acquired firsthand experience, I now know how much baristas actually do. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that is necessary to keep a coffee shop running. We are expected to clean, bake, stock the store and prepare coffee, to name a few things. 

I actually worked a double yesterday and only came home with four dollars in cash tips. That’s very disheartening when you arrive home to only collapse on your bed with throbbing feet and tense shoulders.

I love my job, but I wish that more people tipped. Saving money has proven itself to be difficult. I have help from my parents, but not everyone is that lucky. 

So many people have tip-based jobs, such as servers, bartenders and delivery drivers, and are scraping to get by. It’s easy to get discouraged or frustrated when you feel as though you’re working hard for not very much.

It’s easier when you’re doing something you enjoy. I truly enjoy making drinks, being kind to customers and being around my lovely coworkers. I can’t say the same for others in different tip-based positions, mainly because I have support from family. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that people should be aware of the low wages of people with tip-based jobs. They are providing a service and (most) are doing all that they can to provide customers with a pleasant experience. And to those like me, who are in these positions and saving up for your future, keep moving; you’ll get there.

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