Photo from groupon.com
By Rylie Bernard
As of 2016, tipped workers in the foodservice industry no longer made $5.75/hour while also depending on non-guaranteed tips, but instead made $7.50 cash wage/hour and a guaranteed $2.50 tip credit/hour. This shift in the pay dynamic, however, did nothing to change the fact that foodservice employees who work for tips are still struggling to make ends meet, and even with an hourly pay increase they rely heavily on those tips to supplement their income. But when the customers are mainly broke college students, they neglect to tip enough, or don’t bother to tip at all – a very frequent occurrence in Stony Brook.
On an average night delivering pizzas for the Stony Brook Dominos, 50-70 percent of the people I deliver to are college students and the rest are local, adult residents. Tipping is an expected custom within the United States that is often ingrained in children as they are raised. Along with saying “please” and “thank you,” holding the door for someone, a firm handshake – these things are important and are taught to us as kids. Yet somewhere kids seem to grow up and forget the whole concept of tipping service workers, like waiters, tattoo artists, and barbers. It is seen as an option to pleasantly decline, rather than a necessity to keep the economy functioning.
The adults and local citizens of Stony Brook, most non-students within the Three Villages do tip me when I deliver to them. Average tips from a non-college-student home in Stony Brook vary from 2 to 10 dollars depending on the neighborhood. 1 out of 10 times will I leave one of these deliveries empty-handed. So most nights I make anywhere from $15 to $35 in tips from off campus deliveries alone, depending on the time of day I work and which day of the week it is. Nights and weekends are the busiest times, with the highest amount of deliveries going out and money being made for the drivers.
However, when delivering to college students, whether on the campus of Stony Brook itself or in off-campus housing nearby, the norm is actually NOT to tip. I tend to be pleasantly surprised when someone hands me even an extra dollar on top of what they owe. Some people do offer explanations, some more believable or obviously genuine than others.
I understand financial hardship, and not having enough – I can admit to not always tipping my own waiters or delivery drivers. So as a driver, I will never guilt somebody or give the customer a hard time about it, although sometimes it’s obvious that I’m disappointed or upset. But when you order consistently without ever tipping, or obviously have the money but choose not to tip, you are being rude. Unless the driver did something wrong, was rude or extremely late, or there is otherwise a problem, tipping is not really optional. People depend on earned tips to survive. They expect to be tipped for the service they are providing you. Especially when they deliver $100 or more of pizza and walk away without a cent – that’s unacceptable, yet students on this campus do it daily.
Dominos pays me about 10 cents a mile in gas money. The drive from Dominos to campus is about 0.7 miles, with an average delivery trip on campus (which includes multiple stops) averaging at 4 miles tops. This means that every time I drive to campus and make deliveries, I earn up to .40 cents in gas money. I usually complete about 5 deliveries in roughly 30 minutes, or half of a single hour’s wages. I will go on campus for half of my deliveries in a shift, usually a total of 12-20 deliveries.
This means I’m earning roughly $5.40 per trip to campus, if you include the hourly wage I would be making regardless. Otherwise it would be .40 cents a trip solely in gas money. That amount does not include any tips from the multiple deliveries I will make while there. If every campus delivery tipped me even a single dollar bill with their meal, I could earn about an extra $10-$17 per night, or an extra five dollars every time I went on campus. If everyone tipped two dollars with their meal, the average tip I would expect anywhere else, I could earn an extra $20-27 per night. In total, slow nights I earn $25-$40 (below average to average) and on a “fast” or good night I earn $55-$85 (above average to good).
Even sometimes “fast” or “busy” nights can hurt my tips, depending on why they are. Like the night of Stony Brook’s Homecoming football game, most students I delivered to were so intoxicated they were almost incapable of answering the phone or walking, let alone handling or counting money for a tip. At least it’s hard to be mad at someone for not tipping you when you then watch them struggle to figure out opening the pizza box.
Everyone has been broke enough to understand the inability to tip once in awhile, but a person cannot consistently neglect to tip service workers, or regard tipping as an optional (or even negative) thing. Some people apparently conceive of tipping as a “liberal” or “millennial” scam to make money that they didn’t truly work for or earn. However most service workers would disagree with that and say that the work they provide for people is deserving of a tip, at least a single dollar (but usually more). Especially considering the wage system and our very economy is based on the fact that tipping is expected by consumers to service workers. Tipping is not, and should not, be optional for service workers who are accurately and efficiently doing their jobs.