Let’s Talk About Tipping—Here Are The Jobs That Actually Rely On Your Tips To Make A Living
Since the pandemic, it’s more common to see cashiers and hourly-paid workers spinning the iPad around with a tip option. While there’s no harm in tipping whenever you can, I have to wonder if this over-tipping culture negatively affects those who truly rely on your tips to make a living.
It’s getting harder to tell at what kinds of places your tips are really needed. It seems like post-lockdown, everywhere you go gives you the option to tip. When we were in the thick of the pandemic, we weren’t sure yet how deadly the virus was, so it seemed that anyone who had to go to work was really putting their life at risk. Tipping someone during that time was basically our way of saying, “Look, you risked your life to be here, so here’s some extra money.” But now that life has mostly gone back to normal, we need to be aware of our finances, especially as inflation continues to get worse.
You might wonder why it’s even worth discussing this topic, but there are certain fields of work in which you will not bring in enough money to make a living unless people tip you. So when everyone has to discern where their tips are really necessary, the lines get blurrier as more places give the option to tip. I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t tip if they want to and have the money to do it, I’m just saying it’s worth knowing what type of work relies heavily on your tips.
So if you’re curious about which kinds of places it’s more than a courtesy to tip, here you go:
Servers and Bartenders
This one seems the most obvious to me because I feel like everyone knows about it. But it’s still worth pointing out because there are many people who still don’t tip or tip very poorly. As a server or bartender, you make around $2-3 per hour. Their employers are allowed to pay such low wages because it’s expected that everyone will tip, to make their wages equal to those who get paid the federal minimum wage.
Not only that, but these people are waiting on you personally, and usually have multiple people to serve at a time. They’re the middleman between you and the kitchen, and are on their feet all day. Then at the end of the night, they have to tip out (or cut, as it’s also referred to) some of the other staff. It’s common practice to tip when eating at a restaurant or going to the bar, so don’t be that annoying customer who is super picky and then doesn’t leave a tip.
If they’re commission-based, people who provide cosmetic services won’t make money without getting customers and building up a regular clientele. And they’re only receiving a percentage of the service cost. This is near and dear to my heart as I am a hairstylist full-time. On paper, I make less than 30K a year, and that’s the average for hairstylists. I’ve seen some online forums debating this topic, and occasionally someone says, “Just charge enough per service to make a living without tips.” But guess what? Unless you’re your own boss, a commission-based hairstylist doesn't get to make that decision, and most salon owners don't go by that, considering customers expect to tip for cosmetic services. It’s the same concept for barbers, nail techs, and estheticians.
You might argue that someone like a fast-food employee makes the same kind of money per year, so why wouldn’t we tip them the same way we tip a hairstylist? But your hairstylist (or other cosmetic worker) had to get an expensive education to get a license to perform these services. In my small town, it costs $21,000 a year to go to beauty school. It’s also a life-long career. Anyone can be a fast-food worker if they choose. That’s why so many teenagers do it. You only get a little bummed when your McDonald’s order is wrong, but if your hair color is botched, you’re going to be much more upset!
I’ve always tipped people who deliver me food, but after talking with people who do this job, I now know I wasn’t tipping enough. Most of them do not make the federal minimum wage, and some only make what you tip them. My husband was a Chinese food delivery guy when he was younger, and his boss didn’t even pay for the gas he spent on delivering food. I couldn’t believe it! This concept also goes for people who work for companies like Grubhub or DoorDash. They’re basically considered contractors for these companies, and they might get a couple of dollars from the company to deliver the order, then they hope for a tip to make it worth the drive. Then during tax season, they can make gas a deduction, but depending on how it works out, they may or may not break even.
Taxi drivers and drivers for companies like Lyft and Uber are also in this category. Most taxi drivers are commission-based and only get a percentage of the ride cost. And drivers for Lyft and Uber hold similar practices to DoorDash and Grubhub, so the driver gets a small fee and tips, and hopes that the drive was worth the gas. A valet is another example of someone who needs your tips, because depending on the place, they might just get a small payment from the company, with the expectation of tips.
I don’t golf, so I can’t say I knew anything about this. But apparently golf caddies rely heavily on tipping. PGA gives some advice on this topic, stating, “a caddie should be tipped about 40 to 50 percent of the green fee. And the group should split the forecaddie tip evenly, usually between $50 and $100 in total. But what if you can't find out beforehand whether a club allows tipping or not? If cash is taken in any area of the club, then it is safe to assume you can tip." Some clubs don’t allow tipping because they probably already pay their employees a high amount, but that’s not the case for all country clubs, so it’s better to find out ahead of time.
You should want nannies to be paid well because they’re taking care of your children. Nannies that are hired out by a company are usually paid a commission. They aren’t always paid very much by the company because it’s common for the customer to tip around 20%.
Some nannies are their own boss, so they can set their own prices. That might mean tips aren’t necessary, but it’s worth comparing their price per hour to a company that hires out nannies, so you know if you should tip them. Many nannies are certified in first aid and CPR, or have done some sort of schooling, which makes them qualified to take care of children. They should be compensated for that.
Hotel Housekeeping, Doormen, and Concierge
The hotel housekeeping staff is not always seen, so sometimes they get overlooked. But they’re providing a service, just like the hotel valet or bartender. If you aren’t sure what the normal tipping range is, The American Hotel & Lodging Association recommends leaving $1-5 per day for the housekeeping staff. These people are hard workers and have a lot to take care of in order to keep things clean and up to par.
Don’t forget about your doorman and concierge. You won’t always see these types of people unless you’re staying at a nice hotel or resort. But if you’re paying the cost of staying at a high-end place, consider the cost of tipping that goes with it. They are making your stay more comfortable and convenient.
There are certain careers that rely on tips for income, and I think they should be recognized in a world where tipping has become so popular. I’m happy to tip someone in the drive-thru or a barista, but I want to make sure I don’t overlook the people who spent time and money getting an education for their career, or who make less than the federal minimum wage. Money is a little tighter with inflation being so high, so we have to budget and be conscious of how we spend our money. If we know the difference between the services that rely on tips versus those that don’t, we can have the right mindset when going to these places.
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