‘Guilt-trip’ restaurant sign sparks debate over tipping in the US

‘Guilt-trip’ restaurant sign sparks debate over tipping in the US
Shutterstock / Sean Locke Photography

A restaurant sign which some said was an attempt to “guilt trip” customers to tip more has gone viral after being shared on Reddit.

Posted to the thread r/MurderedByWords, Redditor u/mialunalight shared the restaurant flyer that said the following:

“Servers make state minimum wage which is only $5.65/hr, most of which is taken away in taxes! They rely on your tips to make a living! When you don’t leave a tip, they would have served you for the duration of your meal for nothing! Take care of those who took care of you!”

But the Reddit poster said: “The server wage is bad enough as it is, but you don’t have to make it worse by trying to guilt your customers into over tipping when you could very easily take the mark up you’re making on a side of potatoes alone (three dollars if you were curious) to pay a livable wage. Your staff is taking care of your restaurant; you would think that you take [care]of your staff in return.”

The restaurant apparently hit back at the complaining customer in what looks like Instagram messages, saying that it was “bold” of the customer to assume that their employees aren’t being taken care of.

“If you’re upset with a restaurant price mark up, you should be just as outraged that restaurants charge $3 for a fountain drink. When you go out to eat, you pay for a luxury at a premium. If you don’t want to pay restaurant prices, stay home and make it yourself,” the restaurant wrote.

The customer then noted that if the servers at the restaurant are happy with their treatment, there is no reason to tell customers to tip.

“As someone else stated in these comments, tipping is a uniquely US problem, but that is another part of restaurant culture we as a consumer expect. I’ve been in many restaurants, but you are the first one I’ve ever seen to post such a tacky flyer on their door, given the respectability of your restaurant beyond that,” said u/mialunalight

They added: “Point being, you made yourself look tacky by the wording alone on your flyers, but your response just reinforced it.”

Despite the original poster blurring out the company’s name, they described the restaurant as an upper-class restaurant in a nice area.

“Being willing to pay the price for a place like this means you expect a little more tact and a little less guilt trip. I understand and support the tip system, my parents owned a restaurant growing up, and everyone in my immediate life has worked for tips at some point or another,” they said.

They also noted that the cost of some of the meals at the restaurant, such as seafood boils that start at US$10 and go up to US$50, without drinks or sides included, should make it easy for the restaurants to pay their servers at least two dollars an hour to meet the federal minimum wage.

Since this was shared to Reddit, the post has gained 72,600 upvotes and 3100 comments which created a debate on the views of the United States tipping system.

“This is why I have mixed feelings about tipping. I worked a minimum wage job for years in an industry that didn’t allow tipping, so when I hear about servers being paid at or even below minimum because of tips, I’m kind of sympathetic but also jealous, but when the business is making money, and they’re paid above, yeah, sorry no I don’t give a s**t that service really like those busy days and they can make bank on tips,” said u/zorbiburst. 

Someone else wrote that asking for the minimum has the potential to get you fired if you’re not careful if it’s a high turnover business, meaning you’re easily replaceable.

“Most people making tips underreport their earnings, so they don’t get taxed on all of them. They’re taxed automatically on their hourly wage and credit card tips, so most underreport cash tips,” added u/BreadyStinellis.

Overall, some states require employers to pay tipped employees a minimum cash wage under the fair labor standards act, valued at $2.13 an hour. The tipped employee must still receive a minimum wage with combined cash wage and tips.

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