‘Waiting for tables is so hard on your body and a lot of people don’t appreciate all the work we do’: Americans have stopped tipping during the pandemic. Were we right to tip less?

I read your article about tipping. I’ve worked as a waiter and bartender for almost 16 years now since I was 18. Waiting is so hard on your body and a lot of people don’t appreciate all the work we do. I respect every profession equally, but I feel like so many people look down on me as a waitress, even though I went to college and would rather work in a restaurant. Not having insurance is probably the worst. I mainly work for my dental bills. But i like what i do.

A waitress

Dear Quentin,

The problem with your tip advice is that it’s a one-sided social contract. The customer was never asked or included in the decision. In fact, the “contract” states that tips were given to do a good job. We are dealing with cheap service industry owners who, like most employers, would rather put the blame on the waitstaff and the customer than on themselves. The original reason for tipping – to improve service – is gone. It’s an expectation now. I tip because other people are helpless and self-absorbed and that’s the only way wait staff are paid.

a customer

Dear waitress and customer,

You are both right.

The waiters do an excellent job and are underestimated. While many employees are complaining and joining the Great Resistance by refusing to return to the office, millions of service workers show up for work every day and are on their feet every day – serving, smiling and almost bowing to customers every day to keep them happy, to keep them from writing a stinging Yelp review, and to earn tips to pay the rent and put food on their own table. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it on a day-to-day basis.

Correct again: tipping is a social contract, and yes goes back to Tudor England, where masters would tip their serfs for a job well done. It has a nefarious history and has been used by employers and restaurant owners to exploit workers and pay them less.

But customers have a choice. They can choose to eat at home or choose a restaurant that doesn’t allow tipping — usually because they pay their employees more than a living wage — or go to a restaurant knowing there is a social contract that expects a tip as a sign of good service and Respect.

Service workers deserve our respect. They have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic while some other workers – including journalists – have had the privilege of working from home. We should stand in line to say thank you to all the teachers, supermarket cashiers, kitchen porters, restaurant waiters and hospital workers. You kept this country going through the darkest days of the pandemic. They kept shelves stocked, helped sick people and smiled at customers who needed human contact during a time of terrible isolation.

That’s why I’m disappointed by this recent report saying that despite vows to tip more during the pandemic, Americans have not kept them. Although many Americans have vowed to become better tips because of the financial impact of COVID-19 on service industry employees, a opinion poll of more than 2,600 adults released by this week showed that they failed to deliver on that promise. What’s more, they actually tip less today than they did before the pandemic: 73% of Americans in the most recent survey said they always tip at a restaurant with seating, compared to 75% in 2021 and 77% in 2019.

“Tipping was already a confusing topic, and the pandemic has exacerbated it,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at “While more than a third of Americans have vowed to become better typists in 2020 and 2021, sentiment appears to have waned. Inflation is hurting consumer spending power and a tight labor market has left many service industry companies understaffed and struggling to deliver superior customer experiences.”

People are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. But if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip.

Americans are willing to tip less now than they were before the pandemic in all but one location covered by the survey. The proportion of US adults who say they always tip has declined when it comes to sit-down restaurants, food delivery services, taxi/carpool drivers, hotel housekeepers, coffee shop baristas, and even take-out food. However, about two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they always tip their barber/stylist, up from 63% in 2019 and 2021. Assuming there’s more than a grain of truth to this nugget, what can we make of it to learn? Maybe that we like to tip when spoiled. That’s not a pretty picture.

Some of us rolled out of bed and opened our computers during the pandemic, while many others commuted to local work despite the risks of contracting COVID-19. The risk of death from the virus was far greater before vaccines became widely available, affecting some workers more than others. In 2020, working-age Americans who died from COVID-19 were more likely to be “never removed” service and retail sales workers who needed to be on-site and work with other people all day. this current study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Remember who showed up during the pandemic. keep drinking

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I received an inheritance of $130,000 from my mother. My husband says it’s mine to spend. What should I do with it – and why do I feel so guilty? ‘Waiting for tables is so hard on your body and a lot of people don’t appreciate all the work we do’: Americans have stopped tipping during the pandemic. Were we right to tip less?

Brian Lowry

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