The United States has a unique tipping culture. It is recommended to leave at least 25% for excellent service or a large party at restaurants. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is only $2. When customers are generous, servers can make good money, but there are always some who try to abuse the system and pay for nothing more than their meals.
After becoming fed up with receiving small tips, one server, Ben Raanan, recently posted a rant on TikTok calling out customers for not knowing how to tip. Ben’s original video, a follow-up, some of the comments viewers left, and an interview can be found below.
Customers on TikTok were recently called out by a server for leaving small tips.
We wanted to know if Ben had noticed an increase in small tips recently, with inflation being so high. He said that a lot of customers will give him small tips in order to act like they are generous because they don’t understand inflation. “Like a lady handed me $10 for a $200 tab and was like ‘There you go honey’ with a smile on her face, and I genuinely don’t think she meant it in a bad way, I really think she thought it was a good tip,” Ben explained. “That’s why I made the video I wanted to raise awareness for people who don’t understand why tip is a percentage.”
Ben was asked if he could explain why earning tips are necessary. “Tips are our pay for our service. The bill is what you pay for the food, and the tip is what you pay for the service,” he said. “The capitalist institution/the restaurant industry has convinced people that tips are optional for some reason, and I believe that reason is that people are happier paying for something when they feel like they’re doing it out of the kindness of their own heart, rather than being forced to.”
Some people who had worked in the service industry agreed with the importance of tipping well.
“And this is a nice thought, and I love that there are people that tip well and feel good about it,” Ben explained. “But in reality, it should not be optional, because just like with anything else, you have to pay people when they do work for you. Yes I get paid for my job by the restaurant, but I make minimum wage and several other states pay their servers far below minimum wage (like I’m talking $2) because they assume tips will make up the rest. We’re told to report at least 10% of our sales, because otherwise the IRS will audit us because they expect us to get tips as well. At the end of every shift we have to do a tipout, which means we give a percentage of our SALES (not our tips), which is the amount of money people spent with us, to the bussers, bar, and other people who work in the restaurant. So whether or not I’m getting at least 10% tips, I’m giving 10% of my tips away every day. This is why it’s so important to 20% of your bill. Because we are paid and treated by the government like tips are a given.”
Ben was asked about the way servers are paid in the US. “Something a lot of people were commenting was that restaurants should just pay servers more, that it shouldn’t be up to the customer to pay our wage, all of which I agree with,” Ben said. “But what people don’t wanna hear is that that would still make you have to pay more. Which you should, because again you’re getting a service, you have to pay for that. But I think people take for granted that the service they get in restaurants is worth money, which is sad that the system has made it seem like it has optional worth. And technically it’s optional for me to try hard, but I don’t want to give bad service. I enjoy working service, which a lot of people seemed to not understand because I was upset. I was not upset because I work in the service industry. But I was upset because I know what my work is worth, and I’m getting short-changed. You would be too. So what I think is that there should be an automatic 20% gratuity on every bill, a service fee, that we keep just like tips.”
Ben said that sometimes it’s good to leave a smaller tip because he knows not all service is good. “But what makes me angry is when I know a table received excellent service, especially when they tell me so, and then they leave a bad tip. That’s what sparked the original video. So I think there should be an automatic 20% gratuity, and if there was really a problem with your service, you should have to ask for the manager to take it off and explain why. Put your mouth where your money is! I think most people hide behind the assumption that people can tip low if the service was bad when their service wasn’t bad, and if they were asked to back it up they couldn’t. That’s how I would change the system. No one’s work should have an optional worth.”
Others thought Ben was angry at the wrong people.
He made a second video to defend his stance.
The tipping culture does not seem to be benefiting customers. If customers were able to pay for their meals and leave a small tip, the experience of eating out would be much simpler. The United States could change its system to pay server living wages like other countries. What do you think about the tipping culture in the US? Do you think it is time for the minimum wage for tipped employees to be raised? We would love to hear from you.