Imagine getting a box of cupcakes from your colleagues to thank you for all of your hard work on a project only to have the majority of them ripped from your hands by your boss?
The sheer devastation knowing you’d put your heart and soul into work and were being rewarded only to have that reward taken away would feel you leaving gutted and under appreciated. Am I wrong?
That’s what I can only imagine having your tips taken off you by business owners would feel like. Paying customers none the wiser that their tip, which has been given for the service the staff have provided, isn’t ever going to make it to their bank accounts.
When I worked at a hotel in my Aberdeenshire hometown where I grew up during my school and student days, I’d live off my tips. It was marvellous.
They helped pay for nights out, any public travel I needed to take, new clothes, meals out with my friends, cinema trips, were put towards holiday funds that let me get away for my sixth year holiday to Salou with my best friends, and they even allowed me to fill up my car up with a full tank of petrol.
Could I have done that had my employers taken my tips from me? Not a chance.
Don’t get me wrong, when I worked in hospitality leaving tips on card machines was relatively new and wasn’t as mainstream as it is nowadays, especially as card is the preference over cash as a result of the pandemic.
But for those working in the industry a decade ago, cash was king and we loved it.
We had a communal tip pot where I worked that we’d split with all waiting staff who were working – with a share going to the kitchen staff too – and in my opinion, it was pretty fair. We’d split them whenever a new shift was about to start, or new staff clocked on. It was a fairly simple and rewarding process that ensured everyone felt valued.
Those who worked on functions also did the same, as did the pub staff.
But could I stomach taking a card payment where I would knew that the tips customers were leaving would never see my or my colleagues pockets? Absolutely not. And you’re damn right I’d be telling the customer that, too.
However, so many hospitality staff unfortunately have to endure this awful feeling every service they work.
Card payment tips on the rise
Don’t get me wrong, card payment tips aren’t as straight forward as cash payments, but this is 2021 and if we can wire money across the globe in the blink of an eye, surely we can ensure the staff who work hard for their tips actually get them.
Recently it was reported that the government is looking to introduce a new law that will stop business owners from keeping card machine tips.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to announce a change in the law that will entitle staff to receive all of the service charge. Currently it is up to owners to decide what they want to do with the money, however, they are not allowed to keep cash tips.
Plans to force restaurant bosses to hand over all tips to staff were first announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2019.
Tips on card payments have become more popular. For an industry that employs more than 220,000 people – 8.6 percent of Scotland’s jobs – and, indirectly, a further 120,000 people according to the British Hospitality Association, I think it is about time we treat them with the respect they deserve and give them what they should have always been retitled to.
What can we do?
Just think how many people might stay in the industry longer and picture it as a desirable career if we paid them well and also let them keep their hard-earned tips too.
Customers also need to take note and question business owners on where card machine tip payments are going. Maybe they are put into a separate pot and kept for staff treat days? Or maybe they are lining the pockets of greedy restaurateurs who don’t properly value their staff.
For example, Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela Kitchin have allegedly pocketed thousands in gratuities (reportedly up to £700 a month for five years) earned by front-of-house employees.
Tipping staff is a part of the hospitality sphere across the world. I’d like to think any customer visiting any restaurant should be certain that any gratuities being left would be going straight to the team.
It is our responsibility as diners to question motives and truly make sure we stand up in support of hospitality workers, because if we don’t, who else will?