Here’s a tip: stop tipping. The truth behind gratuity.

Should we really be tipping the employees at counter service restaurants when they simply hand us our food and tell us to swipe our credit card?



Employees at entry-level jobs are always required to compensate for their salary with America’s unusual unspoken tipping rule.

My stomach is growling after a long day of Ms. Hasa’s English and Ms. Truong’s Math. Let’s say I walk into the Dunkin’ Donuts at Van Nuys Blvd. and Sherman Way after school. The donuts are calling my name, especially the maple donut. 

The girl behind the counter grabs my donut, bags it, and hands it to me. “That’ll be $2.50, please,” she says with a smile. I hand her my card to pay. 

It should be that easy, but it’s not. Now there’s a conundrum. Do I still tip even if all the person behind the counter did was hand me my donut and tell me to swipe my card?

About six months ago, my family and I went to our favorite breakfast restaurant in Sacramento, Bella Bru. We went up to the counter to order our food, but when my dad swiped his card, he was asked how much he would be tipping. The people working there didn’t do anything besides give us our croissants and enter the number we wanted into the register. We didn’t tip, but from that day on, I couldn’t stop thinking about how — if we had tipped — we would be praising someone for doing practically nothing.

The average tip that you will see counter service restaurants ask for if they are using the Square app and a Square Stand, which is a tablet that a lot of restaurants use as a register for contactless payment, and if the tipping settings are in default, the customer will be asked to tip $1, $2, or $3 for purchases under $10 and for purchases over $10, it is 15%, 20%, or 25% according to the Square app’s support website. 

Suppose that the employee at the counter is earning $19 an hour for a seven-hour shift. They’ll earn $133 a day. If everyone who goes to the restaurant orders something for $10 and tips the recommended amount, everyone will tip about $2. If there are 30 customers every hour, the employee would receive about $420 in tips for the entire shift (if the restaurant does not take a percentage of the tips). They would be earning about three times as much with all of the tips. That’s crazy.

Employees at these restaurants aren’t paid much to begin with, so it’s understandable why people tip them. But here is a crazy idea: pay your employees a fair wage. That way, they won’t have to beg for tips. 

 When visiting an establishment such as Buca Di Beppo, which is a casual, sit-down Italian restaurant, the table service will likely be splendid. They come to fill up water, bring bread, take orders, and ask if everything is okay with the food. This is a justified scenario in which a restaurant should be asking for tips.  Of course, sometimes a waiter or waitress may not fulfill the required services, and that makes a perfectly good reason to not tip the desired amount. . However, tipping at least 15% is generally a good rule of thumb, unless the waiter in question does a terrible job. But if a counter service restaurant employee and a table service restaurant employee are both doing what is expected of them, then tipping them both the same percentage would be the equivalent of spitting in the table service employee’s face.

It’s almost comparable to a kids’ soccer game.  There’s always one player who’s motivated to be the greatest. They go to every practice, perfect their kicks, and are motivated to try their hardest. When the big game comes around, they absolutely crush it, they score the winning goal and beat the other team by a landslide. And yet, some players are completely uninterested, never showing up to any of the practices or participating for that matter.  But at the end of the game, everybody gets the same prize, no matter how hard they worked. The kid who was determined now realizes how it didn’t matter how much they tried. Everyone who plays is treated the same regardless of their efforts. The next time they are at a soccer game, they aren’t going to be as driven as before, and they will feel as though their efforts aren’t appreciated.

Some people don’t mind tipping when there isn’t service, but consider the message that you are conveying to the person behind the counter – they might start to think they deserve tips for the little effort that they put into their job. Rather than praising members of the food service industry who do the bare minimum, tipping workers who truly deserve it is a fact of common sense that many don’t realize.