Tips on Tipping
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
Want a tip? Don’t bet the races! Alright, that’s an old and bad joke, but more seriously, many workers count on tips to make ends meet.
Being from Brooklyn as a native New Yorker, I learned early the value of tipping. My usual is 20% of the check, perhaps more if things were exceptional. If I’m parking in NYC at a garage, I tip first, especially if a sign says the lot is full. A $20 bill usually gets my car parked in the front so that after the Broadway show when hundreds of people are waiting for their cars, I drive out like I own the place.
Who pumps gas? In New Jersey, it’s against the law to have self-serve where you pump your own gas. That’s a great thing about living in Jersey. But young and older adults are typically the gas pump jockeys. With gas prices up – and temperatures down in winter – I appreciate their service and tip them. They’re always very happy to receive it. Years ago, a fill-up might get your oil checked and windshield washed, but while I haven’t been offered either of those services in many years, I still tip.
When you go on vacation, bring tip money for the driver of the car, tour guide, bellhop and doorman. When dining out and/or drinking, gratuities should go to the Maître d’, server, piano player and bartender. At the beach or pool, it’s the towel person, pool attendant and lounge attendant. In hotels, gratuities are appreciated by room service, housekeeping, laundry service, gym attendant, manicurist, masseuse or even just someone holding the door open. Every one of those people is working for tips. This also includes the guys in front of the big Vegas hotels who get a cab for you. Of course, the cabs are all lined up anyway and he just opened the door of the next cab in line with a theatrical kick of his leg, yet he’s tipped by hundreds of people every night. Ah, Vegas…
During the pandemic, many of us wanted to support wait and service staff by giving a little extra. But now as I’m in the airport buying a bottle of water, I’m at the digital kiosk self-checkout and am being asked on the screen to tip on my purchase. Same for takeaway coffee and other purchases previously free from expected gratuities. So, do I now tip myself? Since one popular pizza chain tips YOU when you pick up your order instead of asking for delivery, I guess I can!
How much do you think servers and other tipped employees are making in their minimum-wage jobs? As of Dec. 29, 2022, the federal minimum wage for servers and other tipped employees is $2.13 per hour. Effective Jan. 1, 2023, the New Jersey minimum wage is $14.13 per hour for most workers. By the way, tips are considered taxable income and must be declared.
Businesses today are experimenting more with tips and payment methods, trying to pick up some ground because of rising costs. Lately, I’ve seen many more restaurant checks print suggested tip percentage amounts on the bottom. Some restaurants automatically add gratuity to the tab when there is a party of six or more. I’ve also seen checks giving a discount for paying the bill in cash.
The latest jobs report showed very low unemployment. On the face of it, that news seems good. Underneath, probably millions of people are working two jobs at or near minimum wage to get by. If you do the math, minimum wage won’t get anyone too far for too long.
I suggest we all be more mindful of the people who “serve” us, even when the service isn’t that great, like when the food comes out cold or it takes longer to get your order. Today, many businesses struggle to hire, train and keep people on staff. Whatever went poorly may not be the fault of the server. In other words, “don’t kill the messenger”…nor should you undertip them either. When you are uncertain about what to do, look at those people as if they are your son or daughter working to support their families and fuel their dreams.
So, don’t bet on the races! Use that money for something better!
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011, he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.