Are We Becoming A Nation Of Beggars?

We went to dinner at a local taco fast food place recently and they had me sign for my credit card on an iPad – the kind that many small businesses use nowadays. Prior to signing however, there was a screen where you could select a tip amount to add to the bill – $0, 10%, 15%, 20%, or more. The counter-service employee pretends to look away while you do/do not fill in the gratuity and press ‘complete’.

When did tipping become a thing in a counter service restaurant? Why would I give someone a gratuity for simply punching my order into a computer and letting me swipe my card? There is nothing exceptional in this simple procedure that warrants a small ‘bonus’ to the employee, is there?

I am also see tip jars everywhere now – including many places where they make no sense at all. You’ve always seen them at a cash bar and they have long migrated to coffee places, ice cream stands, and sandwich shops where employees can put a little of themselves into what they are serving up. But I’ve also started to see tip jars – or have been given an iPad prompt for a tip – at gas stations, dry cleaners, salons, and even a hardware store.

Apparently anywhere there is a cash register now seems ripe for someone to place an empty mayonnaise jar to collect customer change. I’m not even sure if these jars are “to insure prompt service” as much as to simply be a useful repository for clunky coins that no one wants to carry around in their skinny jeans and yoga pants.

The Atlantic wrote an article about the expansion of tipping and tip jars and that it is a new front in the longstanding struggle of class warfare. They wonder if it is a visible manifestation of income inequality, but comment that “This tipping is out of control!” and ask “when will it end!?”

The answer is likely that it won’t end. We are quickly becoming a nation of beggars -with tip jars sprouting on increasing numbers of retail counters (and panhandlers on so many city street corners).

There are now thousands of Pinterest articles posted that promise to help retail workers with headlines like “Boost Tips with these 15 Tip Jar Slogans” and “27 Tip Jars Too Clever to Resist”.

I try to be a cheerful giver when someone provides an extra service with warmth & hospitality, but counter service tips for cashiers with witty tip jars are an idea I can’t get behind. How are these beggars ever going to save & plan for retirement themselves?

How do you feel about counter-service tips & tip jars?

Image Credit: Pixabay

24 thoughts on “Are We Becoming A Nation Of Beggars?

  1. It certainly does seem like there are a lot more hands out these days in unusual or unexpected places. I wonder if the whole crowdfunding mentally has fed into this a bit. I don’t mind tipping for good table service, or when someone has gone above and beyond, but I’m not tipping for someone doing their job.


    1. You’re right – the ‘crowdfunding’ mentality seems to fit in here as well. I think that 30-year old guy evicted from his parents home even said he was setting up a Kickstarter to pay his expenses!


      1. I saw this guy on tv, obvious mental health issue — yes, I still advocate for better healthcare in the USA.


    2. this is interesting because the typical waiter in a restaurant has a low hourly wage because management factors in how much they typically earn from tips. Tips are actually considered wages, and tips are taxed. If you don’t tip just because they have done their job and management lowers their wage because they assume you will tip — well then, the waiter just gets screwed.


      1. I’m a cheerful tipper with table service, because the person has a chance to really make you feel welcome and provide exceptional service. I don’t like it for counter service restaurants where the cashier does nothing but punch your order in a computer and swipe your card.


      2. In Minnesota, where both the author and I live, it’s illegal to pay less than minimum wage, even for jobs where tips are customary. I know many states that allow waitstaff to be paid a few dollars an hour.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. In Oregon and Washington wait staff gets at the least minimum wage of $12 per hour. Not all states allow wait staff to get reduced pay.


  2. I agree with the prior crowdfunding comments. I gather even some bloggers are now asking for donations on their blogs. It just seems strange that everywhere people are asking for discretionary added funds. It must be working though or they wouldn’t be everywhere.


    1. Yes – unfortunately, I think it probably is working for them. Or, their employer will just start paying them less in the future.


  3. For many “counter-service” employees, the tip jar is the difference between a good week and a miserable week. Remember that most new jobs are low-paid, with no benefits, and very little opportunity for advancement.


    1. I understand. My son works a job like this. He doesn’t expect benefits or advancement, either. I worry that these jobs will pay less in the future as employers simply adjust to the tipping. That’s what has happened in restaurants – they’ve exempted themselves from minimum wage requirements entirely.


  4. Oh GAWD, don’t tell me that the whole tipping thing in the USA is getting even more undecipherable for us Brits? It was hard enough before trying to work out where a tip was effectively part of someone’s wages and where a reward for service “above and beyond”. And then what an appropriate amount would be. Maybe some of these folks, instead of a begging note, might consider having a straightforward “Dear Brits and the otherwise challenged, this is the deal as regards wages / tips in this establishment…” note?


    1. Agree – it is much less confusing when we travel overseas. Of course, there my wife has me tip the same as at home and that puzzles the waitstaff even more! 😉


      1. Ha! I submit that researching local tipping practices is a demonstration of respect for the culture and demonstrates a culturally sensitive traveler.

        We lived as expats for an American mega-corp in a developing European country for a few years. Our local colleagues would pick up our ( minimal tip by US standards) and pass it back to us saying with irritation, “You’ll go home but you will have ruined it for us locals.” In this country, as in many, being a waiter is a legit profession and not subject to the US two-tiered minimum wage craziness.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Reminds of me of my wedding reception where we had an open bar and we agreed to pay the gratuities at an agreed upon rate, which I believe was 15% or 18%. I was happy to do that, but I also stated that meant there would be no tip jar on the bar. I didn’t want my guests paying redundant tips when the party was on us.

    Of course, the goldfish tank was there waiting for me and my guests. I had them put it away, but I did not appreciate the attempt at double-dipping on the tipping at my own reception.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – that’s a really ballsy move on their part! Either they didn’t know of the agreement, or they thought it was worth the effort to ignore it.


  6. I think the tipping jar is a side effect of minimum wage workers not being able to keep up with cost of living. You’ve probably seen all the reports that say inflation-adjusted wages have actually been going down for the past two decades, especially for lower income levels.

    There is a bigger issue at play. Many areas of the country are instituting minimum wage laws that significantly increase the minimum hourly pay. But it’s causing many businesses to do away with employees. For example, at Home Depot, Target, Walmart, and others, cashiers are being eliminated and replaced with technology. Many minimum wage jobs are going to be extinct years down the road.

    Unlike those who work these jobs for a little extra money, there are many who try to make a living from these jobs.


    1. It’s already happening – My son and I bought candy for a movie at Target self-checkout. We bought the movie tickets online, picked them up from a machine, and got McDonald’s afterward from a touchscreen cashier. The awkwardness with tip jars will help accelerate the change to machines.


  7. I draw the line at counter service. I won’t tip for it unless something special occurred.

    Table service is different with the subminimum wage but even that is hard to decipher as every state has their own law now.

    Bottom line is why are customers being put in the position of determining employee wages? Why does someone have to be tipped to begin with? Even with table service I think restaurants should either raise the prices or include a service charge and if the service is inadequate do what is needed and bring it to their attention.

    I think the USA is on a collision course where all employees will be paid equal or more than full minimum wage and there will be tips expected on top of that. This scenario is unacceptable to me. The wages should be paid by the employer or a service charge noted on the menu.

    We had on our local ballot a proposition to raise tipped minimum to $15 hr and it passed. I voted against it because I dont see tips going away, just prices going up with these folks already make 30-40 an hour in a decent place with tips.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree – In fact, while I’m not a coffee drinker, I just saw that the Starbucks app has a 59c, $1, $2 button built into the app. I guess someone ordering a fancy drink might feel that’s warranted, but given how self-righteous Starbucks has been on labor issues, it seems a bit hypocritical to expect customers to pay their employees tips.


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