People Tipping Less as Workers Seek Higher Minimum Wage

Created: 03/12/2014 11:03 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- A recent online poll shows Americans are tipping less on their restaurant bill compared to five years ago. So what does that mean for servers who depend on that tip money? It's a survey that could be significant in the fight for a higher minimum wage.

Heather Anderson has been in the restaurant business for more than 15 years. Now a server at Victoria’s in downtown Rochester, "I'm working for money,” she said.  She’s making minimum wage, so most of Heather's money comes from the customers.

"Every table is so different, some do and some don't and some don't even tip,” said Anderson.

A recent survey done by an online coupon site shows the majority of Americans tip their servers less than 20 percent, and that one in ten tip nothing at all. Nearly 60% of those respondents say it's because they "couldn't afford to on top of the cost of a meal."

“I really haven't seen an increase or decrease, it's just to each their own,” said Anderson.

The survey comes at a time when minimum wage is a hot topic at the state capitol. Lawmakers are considering a $2 an hour or more hike this session.

"You want to provide a lot for the customer, but there's only so much coming in and of course things cost money,” said Ryan Tator, Manager at Victoria’s.

A minimum wage hike could create new challenges for restaurant operational costs. Those at Victoria’s didn't want to get into specifics, but other businesses have argued higher wages could mean higher prices for customers. 

But for many depending on that tip money that isn't always reliable, $2 more an hour is much needed. "Minimum wage it's kind of that security in your back pocket,” said Anderson. "An extra $2 is gas, it's cat food, it's taking care of your animals, it's taking care of your household, two bucks is two bucks.

While this survey focuses on servers, it's important to note the big part of this push is for those who don't make tips at all. There's also a push on the federal level to raise minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

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