OPINION – I’m lucky, I’ve never really had to work for a living.
Other than mowing my neighbor’s yard for a few bucks a week as a kid, I never exercised anything other than my fingertips and brain to draw a paycheck.It’s, in some ways, actually a good thing. I would have been a lousy carpenter because, as a friend once said, “Give him a hammer and he’d beat himself to death.”
If America’s breadbasket relied on me to contribute, we’d all starve, because the only thing I’ve ever been able to grow in my life is zucchini, which, really, is nothing more than a garden weed here in Southern Utah. Anybody who throws a couple zucchini seeds in the ground can be successful. And, as an electrician, I would have been responsible for burning down more houses than Sherman during his March to the Sea.
So, you can see I am qualified neither as a butcher, baker, nor candlestick maker.
I imagine that is why I have such respect for those who break their back for a living. My hat’s off to you, with deepest appreciation.
It’s also why I took particular note of a piece put out by Reuters earlier this week about a new device being employed in some establishments called a DipJar.
The DipJar is a device that allows you to run your debit or credit card through a reader and add a $1 tip at places like coffee bars and others where it is customary to add a little something to your tab for good service.
Apparently, according to the story, because more and more of us are using plastic instead cash to pay for meals, coffees, and the like, the people who serve us are losing money. Because of these electronic payments, those in the service industry are making $2 or $3 an hour less, which is terribly unfortunate.
You see, those who serve our tables in restaurants or bring us drinks in our favorite establishment don’t have the advantage of those who are on the clock. In Utah, service industry businesses where workers are typically given tips from customers are allowed to pay as little as $2.13 per hour. Some pay more, but most cut it pretty low. Now, if tips and salary do not total $7.25 an hour, which is what the state mandates as the minimum for everybody else, the employer is required to pay the difference. The business owner usually, however, does not offer health or vacation benefits. Overtime wages are not significant like in other industries and, often, the work is seasonal.
We have about 180 places in Washington County where workers rely on tips to pay their rent. Sometimes, these are high school and college students, although not always. When the economy is bad, fewer people go out to dinner or for drinks. That drives the wages down. The trend in paying with plastic has, according to the story, also driven wages down. And, you know when the menu notes that a service charge will be added for larger parties? That does not automatically translate into a tip. Finally, if you do use your plastic to pay, take into consideration that the proprietor has to pay a fee to complete the transaction, which could also reduce tips.
I am not encouraging you to pay for poor service. Waitresses, waiters, bartenders, and the barista who makes your drink at Thanks-a-Latte should earn their tips. But, in all honesty, I have rarely had service so poor that I have not wanted to leave a tip.
It’s customary to drop 15-20 percent as a gratuity. However, there is no rule limiting it at that. I have dropped more on the occasions when the service is exceptional.
U.S. wages, in general, are dismal, with miserly 1.1 percent average growth. And, no, you should not bend at the waist when the boss gives you a lousy raise like that because the bottom line is that if you are lucky enough to have benefits, your cost is going to go up a few percent each year and consumer pricing continues to grow, even if it is slow, by several percent, which means even with that 1 or 2 percent raise, you are losing money. This is not, by the way, exclusive to the Obama administration and, contrary to some, not a result of undocumented workers “taking all our jobs.” Those who come here without proper visas are working, for the most part, for less than the U.S.-born worker because the employer wants a larger piece of the pie, and those larger corporations looking to get a little fatter are taking jobs from here and shipping them overseas in an attempt to keep their investors happy.
This greed is not what capitalism was based on, no matter which economic propaganda you read, and it is about as healthy for the nation as Marxism simply because of the greed factor that, despite culture or political persuasion, is a human factor that cannot be eliminated from the equation.
I’m not saying to refrain from paying your tab with plastic. I do it all the time because it is a lot more convenient. However, remember the next time you order a meal, a coffee, or a beer from your local establishment that the person delivering it to your table is dependent on your doing the right thing and acknowledging them for their service.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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